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Saturday, April 19, 2003


MORE ON THE MEDIA'S (MIS)COVERAGE OF SADDAM HUSSEIN'S IRAQ: It wasn't just CNN, it seems. Check out this passage from a fascinating report by John Burns in Sunday's N.Y. Times:
  A tacit understanding, accepted by many visiting journalists, was that there were aspects of Mr. Hussein's Iraq that could be mentioned only obliquely. First among these was the personality of Mr. Hussein himself, and the fact that he was widely despised and feared by Iraqis, something that was obvious to any visitor ready to listen to the furtive whispers in which this hatred was commonly expressed.
  The terror that was the most pervasive aspect of society under Mr. Hussein was another topic that was largely taboo. Every interview conducted by television reporters, and most print journalists, was monitored; any Iraqi voicing an opinion other than those approved by the state would be vulnerable to arrest, torture and execution. But these were facts rarely mentioned by many reporters.
  Some reporters bought expensive gifts for senior ministry officials, submitted copies of their stories to show they were friendly to Iraq, or invited key officials like Uday al-Ta'ee, director general of information, for dinners at the expensive restaurants favored by Mr. Hussein's elite.


GETTING ONE'S HISTORY WRONG: Via comics god Neil Gaiman, an article from the Guardian about rewriting history textbooks to make Europeans appear always to have been one big happy family. (The reference in the post's title is to a comment by Ernest Renan, in his famous address "What is a nation?", that getting one's history wrong in order to airbrush out past divisions-- the St. Batholomew's Day massacre of Protestants, in the case of France-- is an essential part of developing a sense of nationhood.)


THEORY: I just got back from a daylong seminar with a terrific bunch of graduate students, on "the state of political theory." (I was doing the reading for that seminar over the past week, which certainly influenced my blogging.) I see that Lawrence Solum and Nate Oman have chimed in with posts on theory, philosophy, and law-- they percieve an intra-law distinction that parallels the one I described between political theory and political philosophy, though Nate is troubled by it and Lawrence less so. They put very well what I put much more briefly when Aeon Skoble e-mailed me to ask "What about law profs?"

Some other points from Aeon's e-mails:
As to the "philosophers-rigor/theorists-richness" bit... I would say that work that most deserved to be taken seriously is both. A rich but non-rigorous work, like Spheres of Justice, doesn't accomplish much. But the same author's Just and Unjust Wars is both rich and rigorous. Narveson and Schmidtz are both. On the theorist side, surely some are both.
I'd still stand up for the accomplishment of Spheres, but Aeon is certainly right to say that richness and rigor together make for especially important and impressive work. One person I'd mention in that light is Nuffield College (Oxford)'s David Miller-- a first-rate example, by the way, of Tom Runnacles' point that at Oxford things are sometimes different. (Only sometimes; Oxford can also be the world headquarters of pure analytic philosophy approaches, and has housed some of the most important pure political philosophers and legal philosophers in the world.)

In addition to the mechanism I described about graduate training in the two different disciplines, Aeon noted
This is amplified, though, by the fact that courses one is asked to teach typically will differ. When I teach upper level courses on the nature of rights or different conceptions of authority or the development of the liberal tradition and its critics, I imagine I'm doing the same sort of thing you might do, and vice versa. But I also have to teach intro to philosophy, basic ethics, logic, etc., whereas you'd be asked to teach (I'm guessing) intro to american government or the american legal system ot intro to comparative politics or what have you. Prepping those different courses also plays a role in shaping how we think about and approach issues, no?
To which I replied: The teaching part varies a lot. I'm certainly not expected to teach comparative politics or American government; I could spend all year teaching Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau in one context or another. I have some political scienc-y and some legal interests, so I don't do that; but it's not my teaching requirements that keep me attached to political science. Indeed, at Chicago it works the other way 'round. Everyone has to teach in the Common Core, which means that even the most quantitative political scientist will probably have to teach Tocqueville or Hobbes or Plato once per year, and even the most analytic philosopher of mind will probably teach a history of philosophy once per year-- in other words, the teaching requirements keep the political scientists and philosophers tethered to political theory/ political philosophy/ history of ideas, which is part of what makes this place so much fun.

Finally, Aeon thinks that the dominance of Oxford-Harvard analytic ethics within political philosophy is
starting to change...There's a revival of interest in Scottish-enlightenment/moral sense theory, the neo-Aristotelian wing has both libertarian and communitarian sub-groups, and the range of offerings in history of ideas seems to be expanding.
Aeon's a philosopher and I'm not, but I don't yet see evidence of that change percolating through to the top journals or top philosophy departments. Sometimes such places are slow to sense major intellectual changes that later crash on top of them, but they also maintain substantial agenda-setting power themselves. (Note that, for now, I'm agnostic on whether the dominance of the analytic style within philosophy is a bad thing; as I said before, it allows for considerable rigor and for argument-in-common-terms that permits of refutation. I am, as it were, not a citizen of philosophy and don't want to commit myself to a view about the direction philosophy as a discipline should be going.)

On the three-way dynamic among political theorists, political philosophers, and law, I can't help but plug an academic organization I'm affiliated with: the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, which produces the annual series Nomos. (The most recent volumes: Child, Family, and State; Moral and Political Education; Designing Democratic Institutions.) The ASPLP's thematic annual meeting rotates: one year it's held in conjunction with APSA, the second with the APA-East, and the third with the AALS. Each thematic meeting consists of three major papers-- one from each discipline-- with substantial comments from members of the other two. (Those nine people then write the core chapters of the volume.) This occasionally requires some forced classification, since (naturally) many of the participants have joint appointments and border-crossing intellectual agendas. But, along with the migrating meeting, that structure keeps the association firmly tied to all three groups. I'm going to AALS for the first time next year, because that's where the ASPLP meeting on "Toleration and Its Limits" will be held. (I'm looking forward to meeting some of the law profs I now know only electronically-- Eugene? Will you be there?)

Other contributions: Brian Weatherspoon (permalinks shot-- search for "Wednesday") on philosophy of language, linguistics, and the intra-philosophy hierarchy (I stand corrected). Brad De Long, Matt Yglesias, and Stuart Buck on Nozick. (Incidentally, I just read a paper that cited work of Brad's, for the first time that I'm aware of.) Julian Sanchez, making the case for rigor. I'm really enjoying reading everyone else's posts on these questions; I'm learning a great deal.

Friday, April 18, 2003


D.C. TRAFFIC CAMERA LAWSUIT: Talkleft points out a Washington Times article on a lawsuit filed recently claiming that it is unconstitutional for the District of Columbia to issue tickets based solely on the use of automated traffic cameras. I took a look at this issue back in August 2001 when the D.C. traffic camera law was first enacted. At first blush, the law certainly struck me as constitutionally suspect, and I was all set to make a big stink about the issue. Then I read some of the relevant cases. It turns out that the D.C. Court of Appeals has held that traffic violations in the District of Columbia are civil violations, not criminal violations. The difference gives the government much more flexibility, and makes challenging the traffic law very much of an uphill climb. Not completely impossible, but an uphill climb. (And hey, if you're a D.C. lawyer specializing in defending traffic cases, filing this lawsuit is a terrific way to generate business no matter what happens.)




TODAY IN CLASS, one of the problems involved the Ku Klux Klan challenging a law that bars people from appearing in public in masks. The question was whether this law violates people's rights to speak anonymously, but the case was different in some significant ways from the Court's past anonymous speech cases -- and I wanted the students to identify those differences. Which of course led me to ask:
How is this knight different from all other knights?


BIASED POLL: OxBlog powerfully and aptly criticizes this question, from a Washington Post/ABC News poll:
8. How do you feel about the possibility that the United States will get bogged down in a long and costly peacekeeping mission in Iraq? Would you say you're very concerned about that, somewhat concerned, not too concerned or not concerned at all?
Not quite kosher . . . .


CONTRACT CANCELLATIONS MOTIVATED BY SPEECH: Reader Kevin Connors e-mailed me a pointer to this story, which alleges that the government cancelled a computer contract based in part on the project leader's antiwar statements:
The unused portion of a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to fund development of the open-source operating system OpenBSD has been pulled for unspecified reasons.

The project's leader, Theo de Raadt, said Thursday he was informed by email that the remaining portion of the $2.3 million grant has been pulled. An e-mail from a professor who is managing the grant did not provide a reason, but de Raadt said he believes the cancellation was prompted by concerns about the money going to too many foreign developers and to antiwar statements that de Raadt made to reporters. . . .

Earlier this week, de Raadt said he was told that officials from DARPA were concerned about statements appearing in press reports that indicated most of the grant was being funneled to foreign researchers, an apparent no-no for government-funded projects. Moreover, de Raadt believed that the U.S. government took exception to comments he made indicating that the money spent on his project meant that fewer cruise missiles were being built.

"In the U.S., today, free speech is just a myth," de Raadt said. . . .
     I have no idea of what DARPA's true reasons were, but if indeed the contract limits the degree to which the money can be used by foreign researchers, and those limits -- or other limits -- were violated, then it would make perfect sense for DARPA to breach the contract. I tend to be skeptical of people's speculations about how they're being persecuted for their speech, when there's another quite plausible explanation at hand. Among other things, canceling a contract tends to cause considerable bureaucratic headaches (as well as losses in efficiency) for the people who cancel it; I suspect that most government decisionmakers wouldn't act that way just because of a fit of political pique. Moreover, it's a natural human tendency to blame things on others' malign intentions, rather than on the errors that one oneself might have made. This surely doesn't prove de Raadt is mistaken, but it does lead me to suspend judgment rather than just crediting the allegation.

     On the other hand, if DARPA's action was motivated at least partly by de Raadt's speech, and the government would not have cancelled the contract but for de Raadt's speech (for instance, if the government tends to overlook these sorts of breaches in most cases, and would have overlooked it here were it not for de Raadt's statements), then this would be a First Amendment violation, see Board of County Comm'rs v. Umbehr (1996). The government generally may not discriminate in choice of contractors based on the contractors' political views or political expression, unless it shows that the contractors' speech materially interferes with the government agency's operation.


GOOD NEWS: Pedro's back.


MY THEORY OF FOODCRIME: If meat is murder,
then chicken is manslaughter,
eggs are kidnapping,
and milk is sexual harassment.

Thursday, April 17, 2003


JUDICIAL TOURNAMENTS: My former colleague Mitu Gulati has cowritten an article describing an intriguing and novel proposal for selecting Supreme Court Justices; fellow lawprof Larry Solum critiques it on his Legal Theory blog. Very interesting stuff.


VOLOKH IN SLATE ON CUBIN: I'm happy to say that Chatterbox (always one of my favorite Slate authors) gave me honorable mention for my hypothetical defense of Rep. Barbara Cubin -- see here for the whole story; my answer is at the end.

     I express no opinion on just how likely it is that Rep. Cubin meant what I suggest she might have meant; that would require more knowledge about Rep. Cubin than I have, or than I care to get. Nonetheless, it sounded like she was in need of a good defense lawyer, so I tried to rise to the occasion.


E-MAIL: I'm afraid I've been getting a good deal of blog-related e-mail, at the same time that I've been swamped with a bunch of other non-blog stuff. I thought I'd therefore mention that I may be unable to respond to some of the messages I get, and may be very slow to respond to those that I can respond to. My apologies.


A BIT MORE ON THE ABU ABBAS AMNESTY CLAIM: Several people also pointed out that even if the Oslo accords covered Abu Abbas, and even if they bound parties other than Israel and the PLO (and I believe that they don't cover him, and don't bind other parties), they would in any event only say that Abbas "will not be prosecuted for offenses committed prior to September 13, 1993." Abbas has already been prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced in absentia (to five terms of life imprisonment) by Italy, so extraditing him to Italy would not be covered by the Oslo accords in any event.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the U.S. might indeed want to try him -- and, as I've mentioned before, I think the Oslo Accords would be no barrier -- because it might want him to get the death penalty, if the U.S. federal death penalty law as of the time of the crime (the early 1980s) would so permit. I'm not expert enough on federal death penalty law, though, to tell whether that's so.


LYNNE STEWART, THIS TIME AT SEATTLE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: Yes, she's back -- Lynne Stewart has now been invited by some groups to give a talk to students and faculty at Seattle University School of Law, plus a public lecture for which an admission fee will be charged. Stewart, as you may recall, is under indictment for passing messages between her client and his terrorist associates (in violation of a court order, and far beyond the scope of her right to represent him as a lawyer). She also endorses domestic terrorism:
I dont believe in anarchist violence but in directed violence. That would be violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism and sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions, and accompanied by popular support.
And she endorses Stalinist repression, too:
[Interviewer]: Lets say you were part of a government that you actually trusted and supported, and your country held political prisoners. At what point would you think monitoring and controlling these people was acceptable?

[Lynne Stewart]: Im such a strange amalgam of old-line things and new-line things. I dont have any problem with Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous. Because so often, dissidence has been used by the greater powers to undermine a peoples revolution. . . .
Odd that a group called the "Center for Human Rights and Justice" should be cosponsoring her talk; other sponsors include the National Lawyers Guild. (The law school is also listed as a sponsor, but the Dean reports that the law school generally opens its classrooms and provides its name for a wide variety of speakers, with no "endorsement of the viewpoints expressed"; if this is so, and I have no reason to doubt it, then I have no objection to the law school's role in this, which is much more limited than what nearly happened with Stewart at Stanford.)

     The Seattle University Federalist Society is putting out leaflets with quotes from Stewart (basically, the quotes I give above); they don't have a Web site, so I've uploaded them here and here. Let's hope lots of students read the leaflets, and get a sense of Ms. Stewart's character.

     Incidentally, here's the mission statement of the Center for Human Rights and Justice:
In unity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we believe that the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Our mission is to promote and protect human rights, broadly defined, through legal research and advocacy, coalition building, education and activism.
I wonder: Where does directed violence, and "Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous" fit into this?


CONDEMNATION VS. BOYCOTT: By the way, I want to make clear one important point -- I think that publicly responding to speech, and condemning speech, is ethically permissible (so long as it's done fairly, without mischaracterization or excessive vitriol). And of course if someone's speech is exposed as being foolish enough, people may be less likely to do business with that person. That's certainly true if the person is in the business of selling that speech: If people point out than an author's book is wrong, then others may be less likely to buy the book; that's fine. And it might even be true if the person is in the business of selling other material: If people point out that a singer has been saying really foolish things, some consumers might just not want to have anything more to do with the singer.

     But I think there's an important ethical distinction between simply responding to speech -- even if it may foreseeably hurt the speaker's pocketbook -- and trying to organize a boycott that's aimed at punishing the speaker, or at deterring speakers from saying such things in the future. Again, perhaps some such boycotts (or even all such boycotts) are also permissible. But they are, I think, at least potentially more intolerant, and more practically harmful to well-functioning public debate, than mere condemnation and disagreement.


PRIVATE RESTRAINTS ON SPEECH: I've gotten some interesting messages about this complex question, and I hope to blog some more about it in the days to come. But I just want to respond to one particular claim: Organizing boycotts, the argument goes, is proper because
by supporting financially or otherwise the speaker of unpleasantnesses, we support his actual speech and any action stemming therefrom, and/or we are, however incrementally, associating ourselves with it. Which, of course, we would not want to do.
I understand the appeal of this argument, and I think it reinforces the propriety of keeping such boycotts legal. But I'm not sure that it shows the boycotts are generally ethical.

     Here's a simple hypothetical: Imagine that a company employs someone who's a noted Republican activist. The company's sole owner fires the activist, saying the following:
By employing this person, I'm supporting him financially; in fact, part of the money that I'm paying him ends up being used for his activism, so I'm supporting his actual speech and any action stemming therefrom, and I am, however incrementally, associating myself with it. Which, of course, I would not want to do. I will therefore fire this person.
Whether or not this behavior is legal (and I think it should be), I think most of us would rightly condemn it as intolerant and therefore improper. Yes, if the employer retains this employee, he may be indirectly supporting a cause with which he disagrees; and perhaps by firing the employee, he may in some small measure weaken that cause. But tolerating people means that sometimes we should do even those things that indirectly help causes we dislike -- pay a salary to supporters of those causes, decline to ostracize them, even in some situations (for instance, if we're a private university that's dedicated to academic freedom) provide an equal forum for them as we do for other groups.

     This, I think, suggests that the "We should boycott these people's products, because otherwise we're indirectly supporting their speech" argument doesn't really suffice. There might be some arguments that do -- I hope to blog some more about this in coming days -- but this one doesn't.


"THE LEFT DOES IT": A few people defended private restraints on speech -- such as boycotts of some antiwar speakers -- on the grounds that the Left does it against speakers on the Right, so it's only fair that the Right do it against speakers on the Left. And indeed, as my original post pointed out, there have been some such boycotts from the Left, including some (such as the attempted boycott of Larry Elder's advertisers) that were aimed at speech that should be well within the tolerable zone for tolerant people both on the Left and the Right.

     But I don't think this works. If the Dixie Chicks had once urged boycotts of pro-war singers -- or for that matter, of anyone -- and someone was now urging a boycott of the Dixie Chicks for their statements, then indeed it would be hard to feel that sorry for the group. I suspect, though, that the Dixie Chicks had never supported such boycotts in the past; relatively few people have.

     And in ethical questions, like legal ones, I think that arguments based on group guilt and group responsibility on the part of The Left or The Right or The Libertarians are generally improper. If some on the Left have acted intolerantly, this doesn't justify intolerance against completely different people, whose only connection to the intolerant Leftists is that they're both on the same general side of the spectrum. (Incidentally, some on the Left have also spoken up against certain boycotts, for instance -- if I recall correctly -- defending Larry Elder.) Likewise with regard to the Right; that some conservative groups urge boycotts of companies that advertised on Married With Children doesn't mean that somehow all conservative shows should be fair game for similar boycotts.

     Now of course, as some of my correspondents suggest, perhaps such boycotts are perfectly proper in general; but if so, then the argument that "the Left does it" is superfluous. But if at some point this sort of economic pressure aimed at preventing certain speech is improper, then the argument that "the Left does it" is inadequate. Either way, I think we shouldn't be importing notions of collective responsibility into the analysis.


IS THE ACLU TELLING THE FULL STORY IN ITS NEW ANTI-PATRIOT ACT ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN?: The ACLU has recently unveiled a new advertising campaign against the USA Patriot Act. (You can read the ACLU's press release here, and view a sample advertisement here). The current campaign targets so-called "sneak and peek" or "delayed notice" search warrants, which are search warrants issued by a judge that do not require the government to notify the target that the search has occurred until some period after the search occurred (usually a few days later). For example, if the government needs to scout out a bad guy's apartment to confirm his participation in criminal activity before making an arrest, the government may be able to obtain a delayed notice warrant, execute the warrant when the suspect is out, and confirm the suspect's participation before making the arrest a few days later.

     The ACLU campaign suggests that this law enforcement power was granted by the Patriot Act, and that its existence is a good reason to oppose the Patriot Act and future government requests for additional surveillance powers. Thanks to the Patriot Act, the ACLU says,
  Now, the government can secretly enter your home while you're away . . . rifle through your personal belongings . . . download your computer files . . . and seize any items at will.  
  . . .
  Under the USA Patriot Act, the government can invade your privacy even if you're not suspected of terrorism or any other crime. And, because of the Patriot Act, you may never know what the government has done.
     It's an effective advertisement; I'm sure it will scare lots of people. And it's certainly legitimate to oppose the surveillance provisions of the Patr thority to conduct sneak-and-peek searches since long before the Patriot Act. The ACLU's advertisement makes it sound like the Patriot Act introduced sneak-and-peek warrants. But it didn't. The courts have interpreted the Fourth Amendment and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to allow sneak-and-peek warrants since the 1980s. See, e.g., United States v. Freitas, 800 F.2d 1451 (9th Cir. 1986); United States v. Villegas, 899 F.2d 1423 (2d Cir. 1990); United States v. Simons, 206 F.3d 392 (4th Cir. 2000). The Patriot Act explicitly codified powers that the courts had created by judicial interpretations of Rule 41 before the Patriot Act. On balance, the Patriot Act did expand the sneak-and-peek authority slightly: but it's quite incorrect to suggest that the Patriot Act created this authority.

     2. A federal judge must authorize the sneak-and-peek warrant after a finding of probable cause and reasonable cause to delay the notice. While the notice can be delayed, it must be given. The judge must not only find probable cause to believe that evidence of crime is located in the place to be seized, but the judge must also find that there is a good reason for notice to be delayed, and the delay must be only for a limited time. The statute, 18 U.S.C. 3103a(b), says:
With respect to the issuance of any warrant or court order under this section, or any other rule of law, to search for and seize any property or material that constitutes evidence of a criminal offense in violation of the laws of the United States, any notice required, or that may be required, to be given may be delayed if--(1) the court finds reasonable cause to believe that providing immediate notification of the execution of the warrant may have an adverse result (as defined in section 2705);
(2) the warrant prohibits the seizure of any tangible property, any wire or electronic communication (as defined in section 2510), or, except as expressly provided in chapter 121, any stored wire or electronic information, except where the court finds reasonable necessity for the seizure; and
(3) the warrant provides for the giving of such notice within a reasonable period of its execution, which period may thereafter be extended by the court for good cause shown.
     3. The same Fourth Amendment protections that apply to the execution of other warrants also apply to sneak-and-peek warrants. The ACLU advertisement says that "the government can secretly enter your home while you're away . . . rifle through your personal belongings . . . download your computer files . . . and seize any items at will." But they can't. The Patriot Act does not authorize such a search, and such a search would plainly violate the Fourth Amendment. Under the Fourth Amendment, the warrant must specifically name the place to be searched and the items to be seized. The warrant must be executed in a reasonable manner; if the police use the warrant as an opportunity to conduct a 'fishing expedition' for any kind of incriminating information not named, all of the evidence obtained pursuant to the warrant must be suppressed.

     To be clear, I'm not necessarily defending the Patriot Act's sneak-and-peek provisions. I would have preferred more clear standards in the statute instead of the mushy "reasonable cause" and "good cause" standards. I also think such powers should be used only very sparingly, if at all. However, the ACLU's campaign seems to misrepresent this area of law considerably, as well as the role of the Patriot Act. Which to me prompts a question: If the Patriot A t is as bad as the ACLU says, why would they need to misrepresent the effect of the law in their advertising campaign?


MORE ON THE NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED AND ROMAN HISTORY: Iain Murray reflects further on one of the errors. Again, this alone is hardly a big deal -- but the sheer number of different errors in that op-ed (which was written by a professional historian) reflects badly both on the op-ed itself and on the Times.


THEORY AND PHILOSOPHY, CONTINUED: Further follow-ups from Tom Runnacles (about Oxford-- I'm going to try to say more about the distinctive place of Oxford in all this), more from Russell Arben Fox, and a funny one from John Holbo. I've been enjoying reading everyone else's thoughts on these questions; I want to take some time to think about what I've read before leaping back in (I know that violates the spirit of blogging, but people have written thoughtful responses and I want to do the same...) UPDATE: Tom's permalinks don't seem to be working (welcome to the wonderful world of blogger!) but as of right now the relevant post is at the top of his main page. FURTHER UPDATE: Chris Bertram, back from his blogging hiatus (Chris, did you get some real work done?) chimes in with a nice post on the dynamics of separtmental socializing, and socialization-- the ways in which where your departmental home is can affect your intellectual agenda.
If you are in a philosophy department then people expect you to have a rough idea what they're talking about concerning all kinds of topics (is the past real? am I (literally) the same person I was twenty years ago? is the moral "shapeless" with respect to the non-moral? etc etc) whereas if you go to lunch with political scientists a whole different range of topics comes up (is bicameralism an antidote to cycling? is consociationalism a viable model for ethnically divided societies? and so on). All of these are questions that interest the political philosopher-theorist, but being in one social group rather than the othe tends to draw you into taking some questions more seriously than others partly because other people make you see the point of them, and partly because you don't want to be the guy who has no idea about X.
I certainly recognize myself in this; I more-or-less consciously shy away from settings in which I'll be expected have a view on questions like "is the past real?"


PATRIOT ACT DISCUSSION ONLINE: You can watch my appearance on C-SPAN's Washington Journal program this morning from this link (Real Player required). The segment on the Patriot Act lasts about 50 minutes, and starts at about the 02:09 mark. It was a pretty good discussion, I thought; topics ranged from the effectiveness of the Patriot Act to proposals to end Patriot's sunset, the proposed Patriot II, and more general issues involving security, surveillance, and civil liberties.


APPOINTED FOREVER, CONTINUED: My recent posting about the Bar and Grill Singers' (quite hilarious) take-off on the Turtles' "Happy Together" stimulated some interesting correspondence from readers. Paul Cremona, author of the song -- nice work, Paul! -- pointed me to the Bar and Grill Singers' website; anyone looking for legal-related entertainment should check them out. (Among other things, Paul tells me that they've raised over $300,000 for volunteer legal services over the years from CD sales and appearances, so I'm happy to plug 'em . . .). And on the very day of my posting, as Melissa Davis pointed out, David Broder's column in the Washington Post had a reference to this very song -- weird. Must be in the zeitgeist or something . . .


THE PULP FICTION GUN SAFETY CHALLENGE: A while back I noticed that Pulp Fiction would make a great gun safety training film. After all, the scene in the car, which causes our anti-heroes so much trouble, helps illustrate two of the three basic rules of gun safety:

     1. Keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot.

     2. Never point your gun in an unsafe direction (among other things, never use your gun as a pointer or wave it around).

     This does omit the third rule, treat every gun as if it were loaded (the Travolta character surely knew that the gun was loaded), but another scene, where Travolta gets his comeuppance, illustrates a different safety rule:

     3. Don't leave your gun where unauthorized people are likely to come across it.

     And, of course, the "miracle" scene illustrates a point that is indirectly a gun safety point, since after all the use of the gun there proved quite unsafe to the would-be defensive user:

     4. Learn how to use your gun effectively.

     So here's the challenge: I think it would be pretty amusing to excerpt the relevant scenes, introduce some voice-over and some text describing the rules (or at least the text, probably in separate frames that precede each scene), and post it on the Web as the Pulp Fiction Gun Safety Video. If it's done completely noncommercially, I think there's a good claim for this being a fair use under copyright law. I tried to do this once using a videotape version, but the video quality wasn't as good as it should be; but I think that if you work off a DVD, the results should be much better. (UPDATE: Several correspondents mentioned to me that DVDs are generally encrypted, something that I hadn't thought about, and on which I have no knowledge; I'm certainly not encouraging anyone to violate the DMCA, which may, depending on the circumstances [and I don't have the time to go into detail on that] prevent unauthorized decryption; so this might mean you may need to work off a videocasette after all.) Any takers?


LITMUS TESTS: Last week, Senator (and Presidential candidate) John Kerry said that he'd only appoint Supreme Court Justices who support abortion rights, and said that "That is not a litmus test" (I'm quoting the Boston Globe, Apr. 9, 2003). He went on:
Litmus tests are politically motivated tests; this is a constitutional right. I think people who go to the Supreme Court ought to interpret the Constitution as it is interpreted, and if they have another point of view, then they're not supporting the Constitution, which is what a judge does.
This, it seems to me, makes virtually no sense, and Jeff Jacoby explains why it doesn't. Jacoby is right on this, and Kerry is wrong, regardless of what one thinks of abortion rights.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003


GUN POLICY DEBATE AVAILABLE ON THE WEB! The debate on Gun Policy and the Second Amendment, held at Harvard Law School on April 8, 2003, featuring Eugene, Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, Dennis Henigan of the Brady Center, and moderated by incoming HLS dean Elena Kagan, and co-sponsored by the HLS Target Shooting Club and the HLS Democrats, is now available on the web.

Click here to see the video of the debate on Real Player.

Also, HLS blogger Adam White notes the funny title of the debate announcement on the HLS web site: Constitutionality of Gun Ownership To Be Debated at Harvard Law School. Hmmm....


A COOL ASHLEIGH BRILLIANT QUOTE: "I don't have any solution, but I certainly admire the problem." I've always liked that one.


ABU ABBAS AMNESTY? Various readers pointed out one reason that Abu Abbas might have thought he was safe: According to CNN,
Palestinian Cabinet member Saeb Erakat said Wednesday that the United States violated the Oslo peace accords when it apprehended Abbas. Erakat pointed to the Oslo accords, signed by Israel and the PLO and witnessed by the United States, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, Norway and the European Union, of which Italy is a member. That agreement specified that no member of the Palestine Liberation Organization will be arrested or brought to court for any action that happened before September 13, 1993, the day the first Oslo accord was signed, Erakat said.
But actually the text of the accords says (huge but I think irrelevant chunks omitted):
The Government of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (hereinafter "the PLO"), the representative of the Palestinian people; . . .

HEREBY AGREE as follows: . . .

Confidence Building Measures

With a view to fostering a positive and supportive public atmosphere to accompany the implementation of this Agreement, to establish a solid basis of mutual trust and good faith, and in order to facilitate the anticipated cooperation and new relations between the two peoples, both Parties agree to carry out confidence building measures as detailed herewith:

1. Israel will release or turn over to the Palestinian side, Palestinian detainees and prisoners, residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The first stage of release of these prisoners and detainees will take place on the signing of this Agreement and the second stage will take place prior to the date of the elections. There will be a third stage of release of detainees and prisoners. Detainees and prisoners will be released from among categories detailed in Annex VII (Release of Palestinian Prisoners and Detainees). Those released will be free to return to their homes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

2. Palestinians who have maintained contact with the Israeli authorities will not be subjected to acts of harassment, violence, retribution or prosecution. Appropriate ongoing measures will be taken, in coordination with Israel, in order to ensure their protection

3. Palestinians from abroad whose entry into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is approved pursuant to this Agreement, and to whom the provisions of this Article are applicable, will not be prosecuted for offenses committed prior to September 13, 1993. . . .

Final Clauses

. . .

4. The two sides shall pass all necessary legislation to implement this Agreement.

. . .

8. The two Parties view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, the integrity and status of which will be preserved during the interim period.

. . .

Done at Washington DC, this 28th day of September, 1995.

For the Government of
the State of Israel
For the PLO

Witnessed by:

The United States of America
The Russian Federation
The Arab Republic of Egypt
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
The Kingdom of Norway
The European Union
A few thoughts:
  1. One question is whether Abu Abbas qualifies as someone "whose entry into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is approved pursuant to this Agreement" -- I have heard it said that he entered Gaza in the mid-1990s, but I'm not sure whether his entry was "approved pursusant to this Agreement." This, though, ties into the next question.

  2. Is Abbas someone to "whom the provisions of this Article are applicable"? The "Article" is Article XVI, which is to say the three numbered items I cite above. But unless I'm mistaken, Abbas isn't one of the people whom Israel released (paragraph 1), nor is he someone who "[has] maintained contact with the Israeli authorities" (paragraph 2). If that's so, then the Article isn't applicable to him, and he gets no amnesty.

  3. Finally, the agreement is by its explicit terms an agreement between Israel and the PLO, "the two sides," "the two Parties." Thus, it doesn't bind any other parties, whether or not they are witnesses; "will not be prosecuted" has to be understood as referring only to prosecution by Israel (and maybe by the Palestinian Authority). So it's just not possible for the United States or Italy to violate these accords -- the accords impose obligations only on "the two Parties," not on any other country.
     I am not an expert on the subject, so I might have missed something important -- but this is what things look like to me right now.


THEORY, PHILOSOPHY CONTINUED: I've updated (and am continuing to fill in links and references in) my political theory and political philosophy post. Russell Arben Fox very helpfully and insightfully provides what I admitted that I omitted-- a way to bring the continental- Anglo-American distinction into the picture. Matt Yglesias follows up:
To use myself as an example, I go to Harvard which is considered to be a quite historically-oriented [philosophy-- JTL] department by American standards. Nevertheless, the list of authors I've never been assigned in a philosophy class include not only the post-Kantian German idealists and the continental postmodernists, but such seminal figures as Aristotle, Kant, Hume, J.S. Mill, Descartes, and William James. I've also never been assigned anything at all from the long period between Plato and Hobbes or the shorter, but still big, period between Adam Smith and Frege. At the same time, the only authors I've ever been asked to read in translation are Plato, Frege, and one page of Wittgenstein. Of course I've read many of these authors, but when they've been assigned it's always been for non-philosophy courses.

What's especially odd about this is that I could tell you all about many of these people since they're often commented by the authors I am assigned and because it's very common to label such-and-such a position as "Humean, "Kantian," "Platonic," "Cartesian," "Aristotelian," or "Millian." 'Round the Harvard way "Kantian" more-or-less means "correct" whereas "Humean" means "clever argument but he's wrong" "Aristotelian" means "go ask Michael Sandel in the Government Department, we don't talk about that sort of thing here" and everything else just means "wrong."
I had thought about including a comment in my post that said philosophers were more likely to be interested in proper adjectives-- the Kantian position, which translates as the best (i.e. Korsgaard's) reconstruction of an argument that Kant seems to have made, the Humean argument, etc-- while political theorists were much more likely to write about proper nouns, talking about an historical person's range of arguments in a way that makes it difficult to extract an adjective from them. I couldn't figure out whether that was fair or not, so I left it out. I was trying hard to write a comparison of two closely-related and friendly but non-identical fields of inquiry, not to write an apology for theory or a critique of philosophy. It's reading Rawls and Nozick that got me started in this game, after all. But what Matt says seems to me broadly representative (with important exceptions).

Maybe I subconsciously chose theory because my name ends in a pronounced vowel and so is ineligible for conversion to an adjective ("Levyian"-- shudder). My first name ends in a consonant, but "Jacobin" and "Jacobite" are both already taken, and neither is something I want to be remembered as...


The Snopes Verdict: This appears to be true. (Thanks to fellow lawprof Myron Moskowitz for the pointer.)


CHIEF MOOSE AND THE WASHINGTON SNIPER BOOK: The Montgomery County Ethics Commission advisory opinion that says Chief Moose may not get money for writing a book about the Washington sniper shootings, and for consulting on a movie about the subject, is here. My First Amendment analysis: Close call -- the test for when the government may restrict speech of its employees is notoriously mushy, and there are no precedents that squarely dispose of this case. (It is, however, clear, that the County can't get out of the First Amendment issue simply by saying that Moose is free to speak, just not for money: The Supreme Court has specifically held that the freedom of speech includes the freedom to speak in exchange for money.)


LANGUAGE POLICE, BIGOTRY ACCUSATIONS DIVISION: Bill Adams persuasively debunks the New York Observer's allegation that the National Review's use of "shyster" is somehow inherently anti-Semitic.


AN ANALOGY THAT I HADN'T THOUGHT OF: But then again it is from a reader who calls herself Little Miss Attila:
A Hitachi Magic Wand [EV: I assume this is a vibrator] is essentially the sexual equivalent of a Ruger .357: it equalizes the sexes, allowing a woman to do something -- with technological assistance -- that comes more easily to a man.
That does shed an interesting light on the subject.


PRIVATE BOYCOTTS/FIRINGS AND "THE FIRST AMENDMENT": Over the last several weeks, many people have pointed out -- quite correctly -- that private boycotts and firings don't violate the First Amendment. The First Amendment only binds the government; originally, it bound just the federal government, but the Fourteenth Amendment has been interpreted as applying the First to states and local governments as well. Private universities, private employers, private landlords, private householders, private Internet Service Providers, and so on aren't bound by the First Amendment. (This is the so-called "state action doctrine," a term that covers federal as well as state and local action.) Some federal and state laws do partly constrain private parties' ability to retaliate economically against people based on their speech, but the First Amendment doesn't, and those federal and state laws in the aggregate provide much narrower protection than the First Amendment does.

     What's more, some forms of speech that help accomplish this economic retaliation, such as calls for boycotts of offensive speakers, or for boycotts of companies that employ such speakers, are themselves protected by the First Amendment. If you try to organize a boycott of the Dixie Chicks, or of their record label, (1) you aren't violating their First Amendment rights, and (2) you are actually exercising your own First Amendment rights.

     This, though, disposes only of the constitutional question -- whether such private retaliation actually violates the First Amendment. But many people who are making the First Amendment argument, I think, are actually making (or at least are also making) an ethical and pragmatic claim: That this sort of private speech-restrictive conduct is unethical, because it wrongly punishes people for speaking their minds, or harmful to society, because it deters people from saying things that might be valuable to public debate. This argument cannot, I think, be disposed of simply by referring to the state action doctrine. It's proper to say that "private boycotts violate the First Amendment" is technically false, and it's proper to point out that private action is not legally or morally identical to government action. Still, that doesn't respond to the deeper underlying ethical and pragmatic argument.

     A classic situation where many people see the ethical and pragmatic argument arises when private universities impose speech codes. These speech codes don't violate the First Amendment (though in California they do violate a state statute, called the Leonard Law); but many people properly complain that they violate academic freedom principles. These principles, which are often understood as applying something like the First Amendment to the relationship between private universities (at least those that claim to espouse such principles) and private university students, are ethical and pragmatic principles: They rest on the theory that it's wrong for universities to be intolerant of certain views, and that the universities function better if bad speech is answered with counterspeech, rather than with suppression. It's wrong to criticize these speech codes on the grounds that they violate the First Amendment, because they don't. But simply saying "no state action!" in response to such criticisms doesn't really reach the heart of the objection.

     Another classic situation arises in our everyday lives, and our judgments of the actions of others. If we hear that a friend refuses to have dinner with people who are Nazis or Communists, we'd probably think he's acting properly; we might think the same if he refuses to do business with them, or perhaps even if he refuses to hire them (though I suspect that some people may have a different view as to the latter). If we hear that he refuses to have dinner with people who are Republicans, or who were for the war -- or a different friend refuses to have dinner with Democrats or anti-war people -- we'd probably think he's intolerant, and we'd think that even more if he refused to do business with such people or hire them. We might conclude that he has the legal right to act this way, but we'd think that this isn't how open-minded, decent people should generally act. And we'd shudder at the thought of a society where more people acted this way, partly because life in this society would be too combative, partly because people in this society would largely lose the benefits that come from hearing the views of friends who disagree with them, and partly because such a society would pressure people too much to be quiet about their political views.

     But when exactly is it bad -- not illegal, but bad -- for private entities to fire people (or otherwise termiante their business relationships with people) because of the people's speech? When exactly is it bad for others to try to pressure those private entities into doing so, especially through threat of organized boycott? Was it wrong, for instance, for the critics of Larry Elder (a black libertarian talk show host in L.A., whom I very much like) to try to get him off the air by trying to organize boycotts of his advertisers? See Jill Stewart, Free This Man; Can Black Conservatives Speak Their Minds in America? Ask KABC Talk-Show Host Larry Elder, the Target of a Black Nationalist Group in L.A., New Times (L.A.), July 3, 1997. Was it wrong for people to try to organize public pressure aimed at getting Andy Rooney suspended, and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder fired, for making allegedly racist comments? James Warren, Andy Rooney Suspended, But Denies Racist Comment, Chi. Trib., Feb. 9, 1990, sec. 1, at 3; Jerry Berger, Kennedy Decries Reagan Civil Rights Policies, United Press Int'l, Jan. 18, 1988, available in LEXIS, News Library, UPI File.

     Likewise, is it wrong for critics of the Dixie Chicks to try to cause economic harm to them because of their comments about President Bush? Is it wrong for people to organize boycotts of movies that star loudly (and perhaps rudely) anti-war actors? Of course, there's nothing wrong if someone is so disgusted by someone's speech that he just doesn't want to buy it any more. But that's not necessarily the same, from an ethical and pragmatic perspective, as the person's trying to organize a public campaign to get others to stop buying that material, or buying material produced by the speaker's distributors or advertisers.

     I don't have a good general answer to these questions, which is one reason why I haven't blogged about this issue until now. But I do think these are tough questions. They don't relate to constitutionality or often even to legality; but they do relate to other important though not legally enforceable values, such as tolerance, and the ability to speak without the fear of losing one's livelihood as a result. Those values aren't always the most important values, and other concerns may override them; but I don't think they can simply be pooh-poohed by the assertion that "I'm just exercising my right not to buy your products, and to try to persuade others to buy your products." Sure, we all have this right, just as we have the right to burn flags, to publish vitriolic attacks on public figures, and so on -- but that doesn't mean that it's always ethically and pragmatically proper to exercise such rights.

     So, here's my narrow proposal: We should indeed resist claims that private boycotts and firings violate the First Amendment -- those claims are legally incorrect. We should also resist the assumption that the First Amendment provides proper ethical and moral standards for the behavior of private actors; sometimes, as with private universities, it might, at least to a large extent, but sometimes it doesn't: If you want to say the Nazis were right, you have the First Amendment right to do that, but I'll kick you out of my house, and generally won't do business with you. But we should also look behind the erroneous claims of First Amendment protection, and take seriously the deeper arguments that generally underlie such claims -- the arguments that it is indeed unethical and in the long run harmful to try to economically retaliate against people in certain ways based on certain kinds of speech. And perhaps this inquiry might eventually give us some sense of what the right ethical and pragmatic guidelines should be here.


C-SPAN APPEARANCE: I'm scheduled to appear on C-SPAN's Washington Journal program tomorrow morning from 9 am to 10 am EST, discussing surveillance law, the Patriot Act, and the possibility of Patriot II along with Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies.


A SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT TAKE ON FEDERALISM: This piece talks about an often overlooked component of federalism: not clashes between states and the federal government as such, but rather clashes among the states, when one state's policy has unwanted effects on another. An interesting analysis, dealing with matters from punitive damages to gay marriage to the death penalty and beyond.


KNOW THE LAW, IF YOU WANT TO ENFORCE IT: As I've mentioned before, one problem with members of the Language Police is that they often object to usages that are perfectly proper even under standard prescriptivist rules. They claim that something is wrong (not just inelegant, but wrong); but when one checks all the authorities that, according to prescriptivists, are supposed to prescribe the rules, one sees that all the authorities actually approve of the usage.

     One reader, for instance, writes me:
I know that this one has been screwed up so often that it is now acceptable, but that is the essence of the search -- the ones that get abused badly become acceptable usages.

Seeing till instead of 'til just bugs me. This is just a blatant incorrect usage that happened so often that the rules changed.
Sounds like a powerful objection, at least to a prescriptivist -- but according to my Webster's Dictionary of English Usage,
Till and until are both venerable words, and are both highly respectable. The notion that til is a short form of until is erroneous: till is actually the older word, dating back to at least the 9th century. Until was first recorded around 1200.
My New Shorter Oxford cites one modern meaning ("up to the time of (an event)") as dating back to Middle English (1150-1349), another modern meaning ("until") as dating back to the late 16th century, and the earliest meaning ("To (expressing position, direction, relationship, etc.); as far as") as dating back to Old English (before 1149); I suspect that Webster's is referring to the latter meaning when it talks about the age of the word. If "till" was once "a blatant incorrect usage," that was at the latest in 1550 or thereabouts. Since then, it has been quite blatantly correct.

     The moral of the story: If you are going to be a prescriptivist, and are going to object to words on the grounds that they're newfangled, check to make sure that they really are newfangled. Get a dictionary that lists when words were first introduced, and look the word up before you object to it. Also, get some good usage dictionaries, and use them as well. If you really care about The Rules, you should check to make sure that you're applying the real rules, and not fictional ones.


PACIFISM: Several days ago, I favorably quoted Dave Kopel, Paul Gallant, and Joanne Eisen, who wrote:
A popular bumper sticker says "If you can read this, thank a teacher." If you're a pacifist who hasn't been murdered or enslaved, thank a soldier.
Reader Christopher Monsour responds:
Of course, many pacifists believe that it is better to die than to kill another (and, presumably, better to die than to have someone else kill on your behalf). So they wouldn't want to thank a soldier for saving their lives. (For example, it's possible to read Jesus as holding something like this view -- and if you believe in an afterlife, it can make a lot of sense.)

Anyway, I certainly don't agree with this idea -- but I don't think that you can argue against pacifism just by pointing out that you might die if you adhere to it.
     Well, I think that in practice very many self-described pacifists would, if they were candid with themselves, thank the soldiers who fought and killed to keep them from being murdered or enslaved. But even if I'm mistaken, and most pacifists said "No, I never asked you to kill anyone to protect me from murder or slavery, and I'd rather that you hadn't," what about their loved ones who were saved from death or slavery by what a soldier did?

     If someone decides that it's better to die, or be enslaved, raped, or tortured than to have someone else kill on his behalf -- well, that's certainly not my approach, but if that's his own personal decision, then that's fine. But deciding that it's better for one's son or daughter to be killed, enslaved, raped, or tortured than to have someone else kill on the child's behalf is a deeply immoral form of pacifism.


APPOINTED FOREVER: A group of performers known as the "Bar and Grill Singers" has put together a truly hilarious set of lyrics poking fun of federal judges, "Appointed Forever" (sung to the tune of the Turtles' classic "Happy Together"). The song (a nice performance, too) is available here (scroll down to 'Bar and Grill Singers'). [Thanks to Laurie Nelson for pointing me to this] The lyrics:

Imagine me as God, I do
I think about it day and night
It feels so right
to be a federal district judge,
and know that i'm
appointed forever

I was anointed by
the president
and revelation told him I
was heaven-sent
And congress in their wisdom gran-
ted their consent

Appointed Forever

I'm a federal judge and I'm smarter than you
For all my life
I can do whatever I want to do
For all my life

Bring to me
no matter what the issue is
I guarantee
Somebody will be sanctioned as
the penalty
and there'll be no error

CHO: My decision's cannot be questioned by you
I'm always right
And my wise discretion is never abused
For all my life

Think of me as royalty
When you appear before me fall
upon your knees
All-knowing and omnipotent
its nice to be
Appointed forever

Even at
the very worst
if you decide to take me up
to get reversed
you'll have to get the circuit court
to hear you first
and that takes forever

Appointed forever ...

Tuesday, April 15, 2003


QUESTIONS: If you were Abu Abbas, master terrorist, why would you stay in a country that was being taken over by the rather competent military forces of one of your arch-enemies? Possible answer: "A Palestinian source told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Abbas tried to flee to Syria, but was turned away at the border and was captured about 50 miles west of Baghdad." But why not flee earlier, before the war? I assume that Abbas, who has been able to get away from some pretty angry people for many years, is no fool, and didn't believe the Iraqi Information Minister. He must have known what was coming; why not high-tail it for Syria or Yemen or some such earlier? Did they not want him? Even if they didn't, couldn't he have bribed someone?

     These aren't rhetorical questions -- I just don't get it. I'm happy we caught him, but surprised.


UCLA ANTI-WAR RESOLUTION: So about 200 of my UCLA colleagues (out of 3300 members of the Faculty Senate) voted 180-7 for what seems to be the following resolution (I couldn't find the official final text, but this is what it appears to be):
We, the assembled members of the faculty of the University of California Los Angeles, say to the President of the United States, that we:

1. condemn the United States invasion of Iraq;
2. deplore the doctrine of preventive war the President has used to justify it the invasion;
3. reaffirm our commitment to addressing international conflicts through the rule of law and the United Nations;
4. oppose the establishment of an American protectorate in Iraq; and
5. call for the establishment of a post-war representative government in Iraq, answerable to the United Nations, which guarantees to Iraqis inalienable personal, political and civil rights.
     Why, you might ask, should anyone care about such a resolution? Would it be for the force of its reasoning? Well, no, because no reasoning is given.

     Would it be because of the expertise of its supporters? No; it seems extremely likely that the great majority of people in that room were not experts on international relations, Middle Eastern politics, international law, or any other relevant fields. Without such expertise, it makes no sense for the voters' bare statements ("We condemn . . .") to have any persuasive force.

     Would it be because this is somehow representative of UCLA faculty generally? No, since there's absolutely no reason to think that the 6% of faculty members who split 180-7 on the issue were at all representative of the faculty -- and even if they were, why should we care what a faculty containing musicologists, lawyers, dentists, chemists, political scientists, and art historians thinks?

     So the resolution has no real relevance to anyone's decisionmaking process. All it really says is that a small fraction of the UCLA faculty decided to use the faculty decisionmaking process to express their own personal views, on which I strongly suspect most of them had no real academic expertise, while trying to buttress them using the imprimatur of our institution. OK, colleagues, if that's what you wanted, that's what you got. But tell me, please: As between (1) the reputation of the UCLA faculty strengthening the persuasiveness of your resolution, and (2) the resolution weakening the reputation of the UCLA faculty, which do you think is the more likely?


BONUS: Terrorist Abu Abbas has been arrested in Iraq.


MORE ON THE ALLEGED "BAPTISMS FOR BATHS" ARMY CHAPLAIN INCIDENT: According to an e-mail I got that purports to quote the Religion News Service (note that I haven't found the original text on the Web, but I haven't looked very hard),
A U.S. Army inquiry has determined that a Southern Baptist chaplain in Iraq who reportedly was giving baptisms to dirty soldiers has not been using coercion.

"I am confident that Chaplain (Josh) Llano does not, has not and will not use coercion in the exercise of his official responsibilities," said Chaplain (Col.) Al Buckner, director of operations at the Army's chief of chaplains office at the Pentagon, in a statement.

A report from the Knight Ridder news agency about Llano's possible exchange of baptisms for baths prompted strong criticism from organizations concerned about church-state separation.

That news story stated that the 32-year-old chaplain, who described himself as a "Southern Baptist evangelist," told a reporter: "It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized."

A statement from the U.S. Army's Office of the Chief of Public Affairs said Llano does not recall making such a statement.

"He did make some of the remarks the reporter attributed to him, but not all to her, and not in the context or with the intent the article appeared to suggest," the statement reads.

The Army said soldiers at Camp Bushmaster were not suffering from a water shortage and the chaplain was only given water for baptism after water needs of the soldiers were met.

"Soldiers had no need to resort to being baptized to get clean," the Army said.

Mark Seibel, managing editor of The Miami Herald, defended the original story by Meg Laughlin, a Herald reporter who is covering the war in Iraq for the news agency.

"I don't think the story suggested coercion," he said. "That's just how some people want to read it. ... We stand by the story as it was written. He made the remarks that he made and Meg was not the only person who heard them." . . .

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Eric Wester, spokesman for the Army chief of chaplains office, said the Army report was based on information from a commander, public affairs office and supervisory chaplains in the region. . . .


POLITICAL THEORY AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: This will be a little meandering, inductive rather than deductive, and impressionistic rather than precise. But that, as we shall see, is part of the point! [Links, and conclusions, and more, to be added later.]

(One qualifier before I begin: In order to compare Granny Smiths with Golden Deliciouses, I'm going to emphasize Anglo-American political theory and political philosophy. Adding the Anglo-American/ Continental distinction to the mix makes matters more confused still. I think political theorists are typically more open to Continental approaches than are political philosophers, sharpening the institutuional differentiation; but among Continental practitioners, the theory-philosophy distinction is less sharp than it is among Anglo-American types. If that didn't make any sense to you, ignore it and move on.)

Political theory and political philosophy... at the conferences I attend, the tendency for discussion to come around to this dictinction eventually so strong as to rival Godwin's Law. What is it that differentiates John Rawls, Christine Korsgaard, Thomas Scanlon, Brian Barry, Thomas Nagel, G.A. Cohen, and Joseph Raz, and their students and admirers, from Michael Walzer, Judith Shklar, George Kateb, Sheldon Wolin, and their students and admirers? (These lists are only meant to be illustrative.) Why do the former often look at the latter and say, "Where's the argument?" Why do the latter often look at the former and say, "What's the point?" Where does some one or another figure (Isaiah Berlin, Will Kymlicka) "fit in"? And so on.

In the U.S., we start with the obvious difference. Political theorists ordinarily receive their PhDs from, and ordinarily teach in, political science departments. Political philosophers from, and in, philosophy departments. The two groups study much the same questions, read and write for much the same journals, and attend many (not all) of the same conferences. They are intellectual next-door neighbors; to mix metaphors, the wall between the humanities and the social sciences distinction is very thin at this point. But they have different institutional homes. There are some exceptions. Some philosophy PhD s are hired directly into political science departments, though the reverse is almost never true. Some philosophers' interests gradually migrate toward more empirical or historical work (about which more below), and they switch over. And those who receive degrees from outside the U.S. are sometimes difficult to pigeonhole and are able to move back and forth across the division. (Some of them are difficult to pigeonhole and therefore fall between the cracks, satisfying neither set of hiring committees.)

Given the structure of American doctoral programs, this means that a political theorist and a political philosopher-- even if they have complete overlap in their core interests-- will be differently trained. The philosopher will almost certainly study formal logic, very likely study ethics and moral philosophy broadly rather than political philosophy narrowly (and, often, legal philosohy as well), and study at least some topics from philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaethics. The theorist may well take statistics and/or formal theory (i.e. rational choice and game theoretic mathematical models). The theorist will certainly study one or more of American politics, comparative politics, and international relations in some depth, and may also study American or comparative constitutional law.

All of this means that theorists and philosophers, even when thinking or writing about the same questions, have different intellectual backup resources. To put it crudely: a political philosopher is much more likely to appeal to a higher level of abstraction (to general ethical theory, then to metaethics, then to epistemology...) while a political theorist is much more likely to appeal to a lower level of abstraction (empirical findings, history).

Relatedly—though this is probably the weakest tendency I’ll mention—theorists tend to be more interested in institutions, in normative analyses of political systems as a whole, and more willing to think that politics is importantly distinct from other realms of ethics. Sometimes “political philosophers” are simply ethicists and moral philosophers who apply their familiar tools to new situations. What a policymaker should do is treated as a special case of what the person standing at the trolley switch should do. This is not true of Rawls, and indeed isn’t true of many of the most prominent political philosophers. (Interestingly, it is sort of true of Nozick.) Moreover, some theorists tend this way themselves. But (as Matt Yglesias notes), for this sort of reason theorists have a loose tendency to find the turn to “political liberalism” in late Rawls both more comprehensible and more justifiable than do philosophers.

Matt Yglesias said (in a post I can no longer find to link to, due to his MT troubles) that the Andy Sabl piece on Micah Schwartzman's blog, like many arguments by those who dirty their hands with empirical claims, left him not quite able to sort out the level of abstraction at which the argument was supposed to operate. That's a fair comment about a lot of political theory. The bad news is that that can allow a certain slipperiness of argument and a mishmash of approaches. Turning a normative question into an empirical one can happen at lots of different points in the argument. (It's usually more transparent, and done for more narrowly-defined reasons, when one moves from a normative question to a metaethical one.) The good news is that it allows theorists to be very open to the messiness of the world. Throwing around excessively stylized or stipulated or hypothetical facts gets you into trouble when you're surrounded by social scientists (other than economists and economist wanna-bes). There are many empirical questions that are relevant to many normative ones-- questions about the short- and medium-term stability of the political coalition that would support the normatively-preferred policies, about the kinds of institutions that could bring them about, about the moral psychology or social psychology being assumed by the policies, about macrohistorical changes like industrialization and globalization that might render the policies obsolete or counterproductive, and so on.Knowing which facts about the world to accept as given and which to treat as subject to deliberate reform in a normatively desirable direction-- this is tricky, complicated, and not prone to satisfactory resolution. As a theorist, I think that that means messiness is likely to characterize the best normative arguments. But I also recognize that it deprives those arguments of a great deal of their rigor.

One way I have described the philosophy-theory distinction is as one between rigor and richness. Compare Rawls' Theory of Justice to Walzer's Spheres of Justice. (Ah, to have been at Harvard in the 1970s, able to hear Rawls and Nozick and Sen, Walzer and Shklar, all at the same institution!) In the original position, rational agents understand the Humean conditions of justice, and know nothing else about the society they are entering (not even the stage of history it occupies). Rawls aspires to the construction of a very determinate theory from quite minimal premisses, and proceeds with great rigor and sophistication. Walzer moves back and forth across space and time, telling lots of fascinating stories from lots of places and moments. He constructs a list of "blocked exchanges" that one prominent commentator referred to as an unparalleled exemplar of the idea of "category mistakes," throwing together goods that can't in their nature be sold, goods that Walzer thinks oughtn't be sold, goods that can be given away but not sold, and things that aren't really goods at all. It's extremely hard to get a grip on any real arguments. But there's a richness and nuance that is missing in Rawls, an engagement with moral psychology and with the interaction of different bits and pieces of a society.

A rigorous argument has the capacity to be definitive and right. It also has the capacity to rest on an unexamined, unmentioned premise that is false, or to commit a fallacious leap-- and then to be simply wrong. A rich argument is unlikely to be convincingly, compellingly, finally right. Many readers of Theory of Justice have felt "Eureka" moments, or felt compelled to change their minds. If you don't already share Michael Walzer's intuitions about a lot of things, Spheres of Justice is pretty unlikely to move you toward them. But a rich argument is also unlikely to be simply refuted or shown to be flatly wrong. (This disqualifies it from being Popperian science-- but Popper never claimed that ethical questions were relevantly like science.) And many readers of Spheres of Justice learn something important from it, and bring away significant lessons or changes in their understanding of things, even without being moved to adopt Walzer's normative conclusions.

Nozick had a funny but thoughtful recurring riff about "coercive" and "non-coercive" argumentation, the difference between making arguments that seem, if they succeed, to require assent in the listener and making those that are suggestive or inviting or provoking rather than compelling. We ordinarily mean it as a compliment about an argument if we describe it as a "compelling" one. Nozick asked us to think about that a bit more, most memorably with his image of the perfect philosophers' argument, on the "coercive" model, being the one that was so definitively correct that it would set up sympathetic vibrations in the listener's brain and physically force agreement. This has been the object of some derision and much puzzlement. (For a very sympathetic and thoughtful account, see David Schmidtz's introduction to his new edited volume, Robert Nozick.) Insofar as the model for a philosophical argument is a mathematical proof, it seems bizarre to talk about one's freedom to continue to disagree with a successful argument-- one might have both the physical capacity and the legal liberty to disagree, but one is simply wrong. Among political theorists, the aspiration to mathematical proof-level certainty is much less in evidence; the hope for finality much diminished.

One political consequence of all this: philosophers are much more willing to be radical in some important ways. Theorists are much more likely to insist on remaining tethered to some core intuition or some (relatively unexamined) political or moral virtue. A philosophers' argument seems to have the potential to accomplish more. It can show that all persons have the right to an unconditional basic income provided by the state, regardless of fitness to work and availability of jobs. It can show that those with no eyeballs have a right to have one, even if this requires coerced organ donation from those who have two eyeballs. It can show that there's no such thing as deserving. It can show that masturbation is morally intolerable (to tie this post back to recent discussions on the Conspiracy), that the wealthy in the west are guilty of murder for not transferring all of their available wealth to the starving and ill in the developing world, and that adult rats have higher moral standing than human newborns. Theorists are more likely to stick with a core moral notion—revulsion at cruelty for Shklar, individuality for Kateb, something like individuality in Sabls’ response to Cohen—and to build a theory around it. Perhaps the most interesting case here is Walzer, who tries to extract normative principles demanding radical change from thick understandings of what he takes American’s shared moral convictions to already be—not to compel agreement by argument, but to show, like prophets used to show, that his audience at some level already agrees with him.

To be more precise: philosophers (at least since Rawls introduced reflective equilibrium) typically own up to relying on one or more intuitions. But they aim to have those intuitions be parsimonious, a la axioms in mathematics, physics, and (ostensibly) economics. The aim is to be able to go a long way starting from fairly little. Theorists remain more closely tethered to intuitions for longer.

There are debates within ethics that look like this. Kantians and radical utilitarians have always said to intuitionists and sentimentalists that our gut-level views about the wrongness of the conclusions reached by Kantian or utilitarian theory don’t constitute any argument against them. There’s no reason to think that our intuitions and conditioned prereflective responses really reflect the demands of morality; the point of moral argument is to be able to unsettle our unreflective responses and practices. There are, of course, both intuitionists and moral-sentimentalists among philosophers. But the major Anglo-American political philosophers have mostly been either Kantians or utilitarians—the two schools of ethics that are most universalistic and promise to be able to do the most by way of argument. There are good reasons for this. For someone concerned with the quality of arguments, there’s bound to be something unsatisfying about final reliance on either intuitions or sentiments. Kantian and utilitarian universalist arguments look, well, more like real arguments. Theorists are—as a very loose and general rule—less eager to follow either of these rigorous (in both senses of the word) paths, and more willing to hold tight to familiar political virtues.

Political theorists are notoriously more interested in the history of political thought than are political philosophers. This has on occasion led to mutual mocking: a political theorist doesn't know what he or she thinks unless he or she can first tell you what Hobbes or Rousseau thought; a political philosopher with a clever thought won't notice that it's a 2,500 year old thought, unless that fact has been mentioned in a recent issue of the Journal of Philosophy or Ethics. (Related: jokes about reading Rawls' "Justice as Fairness" article counting as historical work; after all, it came out before 1971.) There are some very distinguished historians of moral and political philosophy in philosophy departments-- Jerome Schneewind, Knud Haakonssen, etc, many of them recently assembled for this conference on the history of philosophy-- but they are rarely the avowed political philosophers. When political philosophers turn to the history of political thought, it is typically to extract an argument, not to study a particular person or group of persons or set of influences. Theorists, sometimes sloppily and sometimes enrichingly and sometimes both, move back and forth between historical and contemporary or normative arguments. This gives us, I think, a rich vein to mine, a constant infusion of new-old ideas into current debates. When contemporary debates show signs of becoming too formalistic and procedural in their analyses of democracy and democratic institutions, there is a reawakening of interest in Tocqueville, or in Madison's writings beyond Federalist 10, or in Rousseau beyond the Social Contract. When arguments about multiculturalism get stuck in a rut ("individual vs. group rights," for example) there's an opportunity for someone to bring Montesquieu or Herder or Constant to bear and to reframe the argunments. This is all partly because of the fact that there can be relevant empirical claims at all sorts of levels of abstraction or genera ity. So what we extract from Tocqueville isn't a syllogism in ethical theory, but a very complex web of causal arguments about social and polticial change, about what changes go together and what trends-- perhaps independently normatively desirable-- don't. Of course, like the back-and-forth between normative and empirical claims, this also encourages a certain slipperiness and sloppiness, an unwillingness to let claims be tested according to either historical or philosophical rules.

Relatedly, political theorists and political philosophers have somewhat different historical canons, and pay attention to different works within them. Montesquieu and Tocqueville figure much more prominently for theorists than for philosophers, Kant the reverse. Sidgwick remains almost unwritten about among theorists, Sidney among philosophers. Mill's On Liberty is shared by the two groups, but his Utilitarianism has priority for one group, Representative Government for the other. And so on. Theorists are more likely to take an interest in political pamphleteers or activists or statesmen than are philosophers, and more likely to take an interest in the apparently-minor-and-of-the-moment writings by a canonical thinker (Rousseau's Government of Poland). Philosophers care about the best-developed version of a philosopher's core arguments; that means that they look at the central works very closely. Theorists often care about a thinker's political engagement and position, about context that can be provided by minor works and correspondence and works by contemporaries. Some theorists follow this path all the way to Cambridge school contextualism; most do not.

Not all theorists (or all philosophers!) have the same canon, of course. Students of Leo Strauss put an emphasis onto Francis Bacon and Maimonides that is pretty alien to the rest of the discipline; I'm unaware of any significant Straussian treatment of Constant. (NB: Those influenced by Strauss are somewhat anomalous in other ways. They place great weight on a practice they identify as "philosophy," but mostly they study others who have engaged in that practice rather than engaging in it themselves. They are strongly pro-philosophy (as they understand it) and at least sometimes serious critics of social science. Yet almost without fail they are located in political science rather than philosophy departments, and few do work that contemporary philosophers identify as philosophy.) But the general trend is that theorists cast a wider net in the history of ideas, while overlooking some figures in the history of ethics who are treated as central by those philosophers who care about the history of moral philosophy. And, of course, there is a tradeoff between breadth and depth. As Kieran Healey has noted, philosophers reading a major historical (or contemporary!) text in a seminar will proceed argument by argument, paragraph by paragraph, trying to sort out exactly what's going on. A theory graduate seminar is much more likely to race through a major work or two, several minor works or letters, and some secondary literature, trying to get a sense of the theorist's major claims, what they were arrayed against, and why they were thought to matter politically. (Again, Straussians are an exception here.)

The intellectual genealogy of analytic political philosophy travels throguh Rawls' argument about the autonomy of moral theory back to conceptual analyses of concepts such as liberty (think the first few sections of Berlin's "Two Concepts;" Berlin was later to abandon analytic work, and his later writings are more like the final sections of that essay). This in turn brings the geneaology back to the Oxford analytic school of philosophy, whence also grew analytic jurisprudence-- note that H.L.A. Hart's seminal book is called The Concept of Law. The sub-discipline of analytic political philosophy is relatively of a piece with the other sub-disciplines that grew out of the Oxford analytic turn in philosophy-- which, in many departments in the English-speaking world, are considered the whole of philosophy excepting only the history of philosophy. (This doesn't mean that other philosophers necessarily wholly accept them. In many departments, ethical, normative, and political philosophy are considered decidedly poor cousins to philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and epistemology. Harvard and the University of Arizona are two of the departments where that has not traditionally been true.

Political theorists are situated in and trained by political science departments without ever being so completely of them. The study of normative political thought and the history of political thought is not an outgrowth of the same social-scientific turn as the other sub-disciplines in the field. The relationship is often uneasy, and a political theorist is much, much less likely to self-identify as a political scientist than a political philosopher is as a philosopher. I do; but I give my former advisor George Kateb hives by doing so, and for reasons I understand. The two groups do share some common intellectual ancestry: Montesquieu and Tocqueville are shared with the comparativists, Hobbes with IR, Madison with the Americanists. There are many people who combine political theoretic and political scientific approaches, and some do it very well. But the rule, I think, is that political theory sits much farther from the center of gravity in political science than political philsophy does in philosophy. The relationship works nonetheless, partly because the theorists have been in "government" and "politics" departments since before serious statistics were even developed, and so they were always there even during the height of the behavioral revolution, and partly because political science has an especially subfields-based structure in general, both at the departmental level and at the overall professional level. Still, at the many conferences that have political theorists and political philosophers, and not philosophers of mind or statistical voting behavior scholars, there's an air of "ah, now here are people who understand each other." And, mostly, usually, we do...

Further updates here and here, including links to responses from others.


WHY MINORS IN CAMBRIDGE MAY NOT SHAVE WITH MANUAL RAZORS? Readers Graeme Hein and Brett Coffee point out that the Cambridge ordinance I mentioned yesterday (Cambridge, Mass. Municipal Code sec. 9.16.110) also seems to prohibit the selling or giving to minors of manual disposable razors (and possibly some manual nondisposable ones), since these are literally "razor blade[s] fitted with a handle." I'm sure it wouldn't be applied this way, but it still shows that this wasn't a first-class drafting job; surely they could have at least put a length requirement on it, as many laws that ban the carrying of razors do:
A. Findings. Violent incidents perpetrated by and upon young people in Cambridge have brought to light the relatively each access to and widespread availability of weapons or instruments that can be used as weapons. The City Council determines that reasonable measures are needed to prohibit the sale of items whose primary purpose is for use as weapons again[st] people. State law prohibits the manufacture and sale of certain types of knives, but does not address other dangerous instruments of concern.

B. Sale Prohibited. No person shall sell or expose for sale, exchange, give or loan to any person under eighteen (18) years of age any of the following:
1. springback knife;
2. fixed or locking blade knife;
3. dirk or dagger;
4. ice pick;
5. tool or implement having a point similar to an ice pick and a shaft; or a
6. straight-edged razor or razor blade fitted with a handle.

C. Exemption. The work-related use of any of the instruments detailed in Section B of this ordinance shall not be deemed to be a violation [of] this ordinance.
Oh, except if you work, and you're shaving to be presentable at work, then maybe you'd be exempted.">Eric Muller agrees that the length of the commander-in-chief clause (see several posts down) tells us little about its importance, but suggests that size sometimes does matter:
It is, of course, true that some constitutional provisions are short because they don't need to be longer. But the length of a constitutional provision doesn't necessarily mean nothing about its importance. For example, the Constitution devotes a lot more words (and clauses) in Article I to describing and specifying the Congress's military powers than it does to the President's in Article II. From that fact one could surely argue that the distinction in the lengths of the provisions shows that the Framers envisioned more of the military power residing in Congress than in the presidency. (Of course, one could also argue that there's more in Article I than in Article II because Congress felt that the legislature needed greater specification of its powers in order to limit them -- but that, too, is an argument that draws meaning from length.)
I don't think this is quite right. The length of a constitutional provision, it seems to me, is chiefly related to the amount of detail that Congress feels the need to use, which in turn has to do with (1) the inherent complexity of the question, (2) the degree to which this complexity can be left to future politicians and judges to resolve, as opposed to having to be very clearly set out in detail, as election rules (such as the Twelfth Amendment) need to be, and (3) the degree to which this complexity can be resolved just by referring to tradition, since traditional practice can generally be maintained quite tersely just using a reference to that tradition. So when the Framers anted to maintain existing rules, they needed less space than when they wanted to change the rules.

     The English practice was that the Executive (there, the king) had very broad military power; according to Justice Joseph Story,
In Great Britain, the king is not only commander-in-chief of the army, and navy, and militia, but he can declare war; and, in time of war, can raise armies and navies, and call forth the militia of his own mere will. So, that (to use the words of Mr. Justice Blackstone) the sole supreme government and command of the militia within all his majesty's realms and dominions, and of all forces by sea and land, and of all forts and places of strength, ever was and is the undoubted right of his majesty; and both houses or either house of parliament cannot, nor ought to pretend to the same. The only power of check by parliament is, the refusal of supplies . . . .
See also St. George Tucker. The Framers decided to shift some of this power to the legislature, and to acknowledge some power of the states (which of course didn't exist as quasi-sovereigns under the English constitution) over the militia; the change in traditional practice necessarily required more space than merely preserving to the Executive its familiar power as commander-in-chief (what Blackstone called being "the first in military command").


TYRANNY: Mark Kleiman wonders about what he takes to be an idiosyncratic use of the word, and concept, "tyranny" on Pascal's part.

So these expressions are false and tyrannical: "I am fair, therefore I must be feared. I am strong, therefore I must be loved." Tyranny is the wish to have in one way what can only be had in another. We render different duties to different merits; the duty of love to the pleasant; the duty of fear to the strong; duty of belief to the learned. We must render these duties; it is unjust to refuse them, and unjust to ask others.

And so it is false and tyrannical to say, "He is not strong, therefore I will not esteem him; he is not able, therefore I will not fear him."
For a book-length defense of the idea that this is more or less precisely what tyranny means, see Michael Walzer's invaluable
Spheres of Justice.

Update: D'oh! I see that Kieran Healy and Antidotal had the same response. Remember, though, that Spheres isn't only about the so-called tyranny of the market; Walzer maintains that ordinary political tyranny is of this sort, too-- the tyrant is the ruler who seeks to use the powers of rulership in order to gain goods that are properly distributed according to something other than power, i.e. love, divine grace, honors, and the property of others.


THE ERRORS JUST KEEP COMING: Another error in the New York Times op-ed mentioned in the last few posts (starting here), pointed out by reader Richard Nieporent; check out this line:
Indeed, none of the presidents who governed this country during its great wars defined themselves as commanders in chief -- not Washington, not Lincoln, not Wilson, not Roosevelt.
Washington was, for pretty fundamental reasons, not one of the presidents who governed this country during any of its great wars.

     This isn't a huge error on its own, of course, and if it were the only error, I wouldn't make much of it. But take this small error of early American history, add the small error of recent American history as to Reagan, add the three errors (if I'm not mistaken) of ancient Roman history, and add the unsound approach to understanding the Constitution, and you've got a pretty seriously flawed piece. And that's pretty much on the relatively uncontestable facts alone, without even getting to the inferences and the judgments.


ROMAN HISTORY: While I'm on the New York Times op-ed mentioned below, here's the last paragraph:
When the Roman republic gave way to empire, the new supreme ruler, Augustus chose to name himself not "rex," king, but "imperator," from which our words emperor and empire derive, even though its original meaning was more like commander in chief. Thereafter Roman emperors came to depend increasingly on their military. Will our future presidents? Let us doubt it. And yet . . .
Now most of my knowledge of ancient Roman history is derived from historical novels, so I can't claim to be an expert on this -- but I'm sure that some of our readers are. So let me mention my understanding of this phase of Roman history, and please correct me if I'm wrong. I'd normally be reluctant to argue with a historian (John Lukacs, the author of the op-ed, is a historian and a biographer of Churchill), but given his other errors, I've lost my reticence on this score.
  1. Augustus didn't call himself "rex" because for centuries the title of "rex" was abhorred by Romans as quite foreign to their constitution; "imperator," on the other hand, was a familiar and well-accepted title. Augustus wasn't deliberately choosing a military title over a civilian one -- he was choosing one that allowed him to maintain a fiction of constitutional continuity, rather than one that would have clearly stood for an utter repudiation of several centuries of tradition.

  2. The original meaning of "imperator" was not like "commander-in-chief" (a term that's crucial to Lukacs' op-ed, and therefore one that he should be expected to use precisely); rather, in the words of the 1913 Webster's Unabridged, it was "originally an appellation of honor by which Roman soldiers saluted their general after an important victory. Subsequently the title was conferred as a recognition of great military achievements by the senate, whence it carried [with] it some special privileges." The title was not understood to confer command over other general, and you could have several generals around each of which had been hailed as "imperator," and none of which would be "in chief" relative to each other or to other generals.

  3. Roman emperors depended on the military from the beginning; in fact, leading rule through control of the legions continued pretty much nonstop starting with Caesar's takeover. The rulers' use of military titles, if it did begin with Augustus, thus followed the conversion of Rome into a military dictatorship, rather than preceding it.
The biggest error in the closing paragraph is actually not one of these -- rather, it's the utterly unfounded assertion that the behavior Lukacs describes (Presidents saluting soldiers, personally unmartial Presidents being supposedly more interested in using the military, and so on) is even remotely likely to push America into military rule. That, though, is an error of judgment; the errors I describe above are, I think, errors of history, and because of that are more clearly errors. If the errors are mine, please let me know. But it sounds to me like the errors are the historian's.

Monday, April 14, 2003


AT LEAST THEY'RE CONSISTENT: The recent developments in Iraq have changed a lot of minds about the Bush Administration and their foreign policy. At the very least, it has caused many people to rethink their assumptions. But most of the columnists at the N.Y. Times haven't changed their tune a bit. To Bob Herbert, it's still all about oil; to Paul Krugman, it's still all about cover to allow the passage of tax cuts; and to Maureen Dowd, well, actually it's kind of hard to tell what it's all about, but a lot of it is about Maureen Dowd. (At least we still have Tom Friedman; in case you missed his latest from yesterday, here it is.)


A NY Times Op-ed attacks Ronald Reagan's military salute as "puerile", and says:
But about 20 years ago the militarization of the image of the presidency began. It started with Mr. Reagan, who had no record of military service and who spent World War II in Hollywood (something that he tried on occasion to obscure).
It is hard to see how the NY Times could make such an egregious mistake about one of our greatest presidents. From Grolier's encyclopedia:
Reagan interrupted his acting career in 1942 and served for three years in the U.S. Army, for which he made training films. After he was discharged, with the rank of captain, he began turning toward a political career.
. . .
Schlafly goes on to challenge (quite persuasively, I think), some of the op-ed's other criticisms of Reagan. Seems like a sloppy bit of work for the newspaper of record.


WHAT A STRANGE ARGUMENT: An op-ed by John Lukacs in the New York Times contains this remarkable assertion:
Yes, Section 2 of Article II of the Constitution says: "The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States . . ." Thereafter that very paragraph lists other presidential powers that have nothing to do with military matters. The brevity of the mention of a commander in chief -- it is not even a full sentence -- suggests that the country's founders did not attach very great importance to this role."
Huh? Since when do we measure the importance of a constitutional provision by its length? Was the long Twelfth Amendment, which changed the rules for electing the President and Vice-President, somehow thought by its framers to be more important than the short Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery? Was the power of Congress to regulate commerce among the states -- also not even a full sentence ("To regulate commerce . . . among the several States . . .") -- thought to be somehow unimportant? Some provisions are short simply because they're relatively clear and require no elaboration, especially in a relatively tersely drafted Constitution; that means nothing about their importance.

     Thanks to reader David Throop for alerting me to this remarkable assertion.


OPENING PRAYERS IN FRONT OF UTAH GOVERNMENT BODIES: The Utah Supreme Court held last Friday that Utah government bodies that allow some opening invocations at the start of their meetings must allow all sorts of invocations, including nonreligious ones. That, the court held, is dictated by the Utah Constitution, though several years before a federal appellate court in Utah held (Snyder v. Murray City Corp., 124 F.3d 1349 (10th Cir. 1997)) that it wasn't required by the U.S. Constitution. Since state and local governments must abide both by the federal and the state constitutions, and since state constitutions may impose greater constraints on state governments than does the federal one, the Utah Supreme Court's decision is dispositive in Utah, and may also be influential in whatever other states choose to follow the Utah approach.


GOOD NIGHT... At 2000 words and counting, I've hit 'pause' on my political theory and political philosophy post. It'll be done sometime.


MORE ON GETTING COOPERATION FROM A DOCUDRAMA'S SUBJECT: Reader Don Gordon, a lawyer who works on reality shows and docudramas, points to another nonlegal reason why producers buy the rights to a person's life story, or more accurately buy the person's cooperation -- publicity:
Life story agreements generally require the subject to go on a press tour in conjunction with the airing of the docudrama. Someone like Pfc. Lynch could undoubtedly get booked on the top shows on the morning talk show circuit like Today and GMA. The publicity value of such appearances are what justify the rights fees . . . .
Sounds accurate.


VIBRATORS: Naturally, I got over 45 responses to the vibrators post:
Imagine that a close single female friend (just a friend) mentioned to you that she has a vibrator that's shaped like a highly stylized penis. It's not too anatomically correct, just a normal vibrator. Assume that this came up in a suitable context . . . . What would you think?

     I suspect that in my general circle -- coastal, relatively socially liberal professionals -- most people wouldn't think much of it. We expect that many women use vibrators occasionally. We've heard about them often enough that they're hardly shocking. If anything, some men might find the idea a bit exciting, perhaps because they see it as a sign that the woman is at ease with her sexuality.

     OK, now imagine that a close single male friend (just a friend) mentioned to you, under similar circumstances, that he has a vibrator that's shaped like a stylized vagina. What would you think then?

     My sense is that many people will think it's a bit icky, in some hard to pin down way. Not everyone would; some people won't care. But I think that a much higher fraction of people -- again, at least people in my social circle -- would be put off by the idea of a man using a vagina-shaped vibrator than a woman using a penis-shaped vibrator. . . . Is that so, and, if it is, then why? Why is this sort of sexuality seen as fine for women but not for men? . . .
I can't summarize them all, but let me mention some of the main theories:

     1. Probably the most common theory -- and the one that I had before I blogged the original post -- is what we might call the Signaling Lack of Sexual Success theory. If you hear that a woman wants sex but doesn't have a partner, what do you think? She's picky; she's afraid of being emotionally hurt; she's getting over a bad break-up; she doesn't have the time for a serious commitment; she's worried about pregnancy; she doesn't want to be thought of as promiscuous. If you hear that a man wants sex but doesn't have a partner, what do you think? He can't get a woman to sleep with him. A vast overgeneralization, of course, but it has some truth to it. Therefore, a male desire to use a vibrator is evidence that he's sexually unsuccessful, in a way that doesn't apply the same way to women. Hence, women with vibrator = sexy; man with vibrator = pathetic.

     2. The Signaling Too Much Interest in Sex theory, Anatomical Division: Women, several correspondents told me -- and this seems right, though naturally I lack personal knowledge -- often find it hard to get an orgasm (at least the way they like it) without a vibrator; men generally find their hands quite adequate to the job, simply because male anatomy is different from female. Therefore, a woman with a vibrator is showing merely a natural interest in sexual satisfaction, while a man is showing a bit too much interest. I'm not sure whether this is right; I think most people of my circle wouldn't be that troubled if a woman told them that she was using some special, extraordinarily stimulating vibrator. But perhaps this ties in to the next theory, which is . . . .

     3. The Signaling Too Much Interest in Sex theory, Social Division: Some people assume (whether rightly or wrongly) that men are more interested in sex than women are, and that in fact men are too interested in sex, and women are not interested enough. I do think this is a fairly common assumption, though I express no opinion of whether it's accurate. If that's so, then when these people hear that a woman is more interested in sex than they expected (which the vibrator comment signals), they approve, because it shows that she's more likely to have the supposedly right level of sexual interest. But when they hear that a man is more interested in sex than they expected, they disapprove, because they assume that he's even more sex-obsessed than they think men are and ought to be.

     4. The Aesthetics theory: Naked women having sex are attractive and sexy. Naked men having sex are ugly (at least to heterosexuals, both men and women, and again I realize that this is a vast overgeneralization). If you hear about someone using a vibrator, you visualize them using the vibrator; if the resulting image is unpleasant, then you're more likely to disapprove.

     Now I suspect straight men do perceive things this way, but the tough question is whether straight women perceive it, too. My tentative sense is that at least many women do, at least as to some extent; but then the question is why they do. Part of the reason might be that straight women are less interested in men's looks than straight men are in women's, but I'm told that straight women are indeed at least somewhat interested in men's looks. So I suspect that this ties into the signaling theories -- if the image of men masturbating with an artificial vagina is unappealing to women, it's probably because of what this signals about the man.

     5. I also saw some Political theories, such as radicaling feminism has led people to disapprove of masculine sexuality; I'm skeptical, because I doubt that most people in my circle have really bought these theories. There were also some theories that using artificial devices for attractiveness (makeup, jewelry, hair dye, plastic surgery) is more permitted for women than for men, for whom anything beyond clothes and cologne still raise some eyebrows(though note clothes are a very important artificial device for attractiveness), and that this carries over to using artificial devices for sexual pleasure -- but I'm just unpersuaded by the asserted psychological connection between tolerance for attractiveness-enhancing artificiality and tolerance for pleasure-enhancing artificiality. There were some Harmful Psychological Effects theories, mostly suggesting that some people fear that use of vibrators is dehumanizing, and that since men are already more likely to have emotionally disconnected sex than women, that fear would be more so for men. But I don't quite buy that, either, since masturbations seems equally emotionally disconnected with toys as without. There was even the Rugged Individualist theory ("I'm a man, and I can do it myself, without any commercial assistance!"). And there was the Familiarity theory -- we've just heard more about vibrators for women, and are thus more used to them; if enough men come out of the closet about their artificial friends, we'll become as jaded about this as we are about female vibrators.

     So my favorite theory is still #1: Real men have sex with real vaginas. And masturbation? Oh, no, no, we won't tell, and don't ask.


"DOES PFC. JESSICA LYNCH OWN THE MOVIE RIGHTS TO HER LIFE?" I ask and answer this question in Slate's Explainer today. Thanks to reader Kevin Connors for suggesting the idea.


VERY COMMONLY MISSPELLED WORDS ON THE WEB: An interesting list (though it makes no pretense of being complete).


"REHABILITATION": Orin's post from Saturday (which points to an article about how a mafia don apparently duped some extremely respected psychiatrists into believing that he was suffering from dementia) offers a good example of why many voters -- including those who support laws such as Megan's Laws or Three Strikes laws -- aren't persuaded by arguments that some people have been "rehabilitated."

     "This criminal has been rehabilitated" at best means "this criminal has persuaded a psychiatrist or two that he has been rehabilitated." That sort of inquiry is hardly an exact science, and it's not surprising that many people don't put much stock in its results.


SNEER QUOTES: Alan Jacobs (a professor of English) makes a very good point about language and rhetoric:
Scare quotes have two functions, the first of which is quite straightforward: They allow their users very easily to express incredulity about, and often contempt for, the views of their political opponents. But they also allow those users to avoid the hard work of thinking up their own descriptions of events or people or ideas. And they're parasitic: They suck all their nourishment from the host words, contributing nothing of their own. Fisk's sneer quotes -- he's not as scary as he'd like to be -- allow him to express his revulsion at the very notion of describing what's happening in Iraq as "liberation," but relieve him of the obligation to say just what he thinks is happening in that city. Is it (as many left-wing critics have said) a new form of colonization? Ah, but that is a claim too easily refuted, unless one wishes to stretch the term beyond all historical recognition. Is it occupation? But if so, we would need to have a conversation about the purposes of occupation, some of which can be better than others. This is all too complicated; it's so much simpler to wheel out the trusty old inverted commas.

(I have a suspicion also that many journalists, even those most addicted to the scare quote, would say that it's their job merely to report, to describe -- leave it to the editorialists and news analysts to offer positive explanations. But it is surely a curious understanding of reporting that allows the journalist merely, and just typographically, to cast doubt on the claims of others, without offering any reasons for that doubt or any alternatives to those claims.)
This is similar, I think, to my criticism a few months ago of the excessive use of metaphors or other figurative usages: All these rhetorical devices often hint at a substantive argument without making it explicit, and thus without acknowledging the need to justify the criticism explicitly.

     Jacobs gives other examples; you should read his whole piece. Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.


"SMALL SUCCESSES OUTWEIGHED: Confusion, looting and tension about Syria overshadow the few achievements of this war." Yup, that's The Guardian's headline today. What more can one say about that, other than to quote it? Thanks to Jeff Jarvis and InstaPundit for the pointer.


TURKEY: I'm working, intermittently, on my big political theory and political philsophy post. In the meantime, a quick expression of astonishment at this bit of nastiness at NRO, about Turkey. I've had plenty of very critical things to say about Turkish policy toward the Kurds, and I think that Turkey's Jacobin interpretations of secularism and of nationalism continue to be real problems for the country's political culture. But let's keep some perspective, and not engage this Crusaderish essentializing about The Turk and his permanent character: "Turkey's relations with the West have historically been characterized by ideologically driven enmity, dating back to the jihads of the Seljuk and Ottoman conquerors of Christian Anatolia and southeastern Europe. Open hostility has been tempered only by either Turkish military defeat, or the need for short-term tactical alliances." Gah!

To begin with,
In the First World War, Turkey proclaimed a jihad and allied itself with Germany against the United States and its allies.
The United States, you may recall, was the late entrant into WW1. Turkey didn't ally with Germany against the United States; the Ottoman, Hapsburg, and German empires allied against a countervailing alliance of the French Third Republic and the British and Czarist empires. The United States eventually took a side. The Ottomans and the Czars had flatly opposed security interests; one could hardly have expected the former to ally with the latter's allies. I don't recall that "proclaiming a jihad" entered into the system of pre-war alliances; if jihad there was, it was against imperial Russia, not against the United States.Next:
The power structure of the Turkish state bears a striking resemblance to other unstable Islamic allies of the United States, especially Pakistan. Ever since military strongman Kemal Ataturk founded the modern Turkish republic in 1923, real power has been wielded by generals.
The Turkish military has too much power in Turkish domestic politics, and the generals do serve as ultimate judges of some important constitutional questions. But military rule has been the rule in Pakistan, the exception in Turkey; the former has been ruled by the usual model of offiers' coups, the latter by a unique model of the army as a whole sometimes taking control and then ceding it again. Even a Pakistani military leader governs neither the country's security services nor many of its provinces. Pakistan is a bunch of corrupt and squabbling fiefdoms one of which has nuclear weapons. "Unstable" is an understatement. Turkey has regular elections, a stable governing structure and constitution, and a stable chain of command.

Ah, but apparently the elections are the problem!
The Islamic tradition of the Caliphate also permeates Turkey's political culture. The election of two Islamist governments within the past ten years — including that of the current prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan — points to a dangerous revival of sharia-inspired political Islam.
One would think that at some point it would be worth mentioning that the Turkish generals' primary mission in Turkish politics is to keep political Islam in check. Anyways, far from permeating Turkey's political culture, political Islam sits very uneasily within it, and has only recently become a significant force at all. And there is no sign of Turkey's succession of Islamic parties becoming Islamist or sharia-driven. A party that can barely muster the will to push to allow women to wear headscarves in public buildings isn't comparable to the governments that require a head-to-toe burka, forbid women to drive, and execute rape victims for adultery. "Islamist" is a lie, "sharia-inspired" a slander.

Eibner bizarrely runs together the Caliphate, the Ottoman empire, the Kemalist secular generals, and the political Islamic parties of today in order to create a bogey-man Turkey. The unifying theme seems to be that Turks have been unkind to Christians-- from the invasions of the Balkans centuries ago to the Armenian genocide to the invasion of Cyprus. (He works for an outfit called "Christian Solidarity International," not necessarily the place to look for dispassionate analyses of the Middle East.) That the Orthodox Christian lands to Turkey's north and west have an almost precisely parallel history with regard to Muslims doesn't enter into it. The revolutionary changes that accompanied the transition from the Empire to the Kemalist republic are a figment. The thought that Greece or Russia (hardly traditional friends of the United States either!) might ever have been at fault in any regional quarrels seems not to have crossed his mind. And the fifty-year alliance with the United States is dismissed as a "short-term tactical alliance." During the Kosovo campaign, NR saw the Russian-Serbian-Greek Orthodox Christian axis as the main problem. How quickly the lessons of five hundred years of history have changed!

UPDATE: In fairness, the new NRODT has a much more pro-Turkish piece by John O'Sullivan. The cry that Christians are being oppressed may be enough to get published on NRO these days, but would presumably not be for the paper magazine.


IRAQ: THE NEXT LEBANON? That may be Syria's aim, according to this report (link via The Corner). If true, it's a scary thought.


PRESCRIPTIVISM VS. DESCRIPTIVISM: Matt Rustler, a convert to descriptivism, explains things well. (If that link doesn't work for you because of the Blogger archive bug, click here and scroll down.)


LUCINDA WILLIAMS: I'm listening to Williams' new album (World Without Tears); as usual, there are quite a few songs that just don't do it for me, but one is an absolute stunner, Those Three Days. Here are the lyrics, which of course don't do the song justice -- but if you're considering buying the album, definitely listen to this track:
You say there's always gonna be this thing
Between us days are filled with dreams
Scorpions crawl across my screen
Make their home beneath my skin
Underneath my dress stick their tongues
Bite through flesh down to the bone
And I have been so fuckin' alone
Since those three days

Did you only want me for those three days?
Did you only need me for those three days?
Did you love me forever
just for those three days?
For those three days

You built a nest inside my soul
You rest your head on leaves of gold
You managed to crawl inside my brain
You found a hole and in you came
You sleep like a baby breathing
Comfortably between truth and pain
But the truth is nothing's been the same
Since those three days

[Repeat Chorus]


ANOTHER KIPLING POEM: I ran across another Kipling poem that I had unfortunately forgotten; it was written in 1916, prompted by the Battle of Jutland. As with the quote Friday, I am not posting this as a comment on recent events; I just like the poem (notwithstanding the fact that it works less well, in retrospect, as to World War I than it does for some other wars, such as World War II), and hope you do, too.
The Verdicts

Not in the thick of the fight,
Not in the press of the odds,
Do the heroes come to their height,
Or we know the demi-gods.

That stands over till peace.
We can only perceive
Men returned from the seas,
Very grateful for leave.

They grant us sudden days
Snatched from their business of war;
But we are too close to appraise
What manner of men they are.

And, whether their names go down
With age-kept victories,
Or whether they battle and drown
Unreckoned, is hid from our eyes.

They are too near to be great,
But our children shall understand
When and how our fate
Was changed, and by whose hand.

Our children shall measure their worth.
We are content to be blind . . .
But we know that we walk on a new-born earth
With the saviours of mankind.


A FUNNY SORT OF "SELF-DETERMINATION," OR FAR LEFT ANTI-AMERICANISM AS ETHNIC ESSENTIALISM: Incidentally, the De Genova interview cited below mentions the following familiar but in my view incomprehensible concern about "self-determination":
Q. Your comment about wishing for "a million Mogadishus" has attracted the most attention. I read your letter in the "Columbia Daily Spectator," which gave some more context, but I have to confess I don't see how the context changes the meaning of that statement.

A. I was referring to what Mogadishu symbolizes politically. The U.S. invasion of Somalia was humiliated in an excruciating way by the Somali people. And Mogadishu was the premier symbol of that. What I was really emphasizing in the larger context of my comments was the question of Vietnam and that historical lesson. . . . What I was intent to emphasize was that the importance of Vietnam is that it was a defeat for the U.S. war machine and a victory for the cause of human self-determination.
     What in heaven's name do the actions of a warlord in Mogadishu have to do with decisionmaking "by the Somali people," or "human self-determination"? What did the Saddam regime have to do with "human self-determination"? The U.S. invasion at least yields some possible hope that the Iraqi people will determine for themselves who will govern them -- the Saddam regime offered no such hope.

     Or does "self-determination" by "[a country's] people" somehow mean "decision by [the country's] warlord," on the theory that he somehow innately represents the people whom he is ruling by force? And this representation must obviously flow just from ethnic connection, since there's no other foundation through which he's a more suitable ruler than, say, you or I.


INTERVIEW WITH NICHOLAS DE GENOVA, in the Chronicle of Higher Education (free section). The culprit, apparently, is "a devious yellow journalist," though apparently (1) for all his deviousness the yellow journalist actually reported De Genova's remarks (though not the spin that De Genova is now trying to place on those remarks) quite accurately, and (2) some of De Genova's fellow panelists, who heard his remarks in person rather than filtered through this journalist's account, seemed to disapprove of them, too.


A SEINFELD FILIBUSTER? Byron York reports on the Democrats' intra-party debate over whether -- and why -- to filbuster more Bush judicial nominees: "The short version of the debate is this: Would it be more effective for Democrats to launch a filibuster about something, or about nothing?" The story is yet more evidence that the publicly stated reasons for the filibuster of Miguel Estrada have absolutely nothing to do with why Estrada remains unconfirmed.

More broadly, the deadlock over judicial nominees is shameful -- and both parties deserve some blame. During the Clinton Administration, when Republicans held the Senate, Senator Leahy proposed legislation to regularize the consideration of judicial nominees. After the Jeffords defection (if not before) Republicans would have been wise to resurrect the Leahy proposal -- and to stick with it after they retook the Senate. Such a plan was proposed, but internal GOP divisions prevented its adoption. The parties bicker, and the courts suffer.

UPDATE: A Fort Collins lawyer e-mails to suggest that the politicization of judicial nomiations can be traced to the 17th Amendment. As I understand the argument, direct election of Senators makes them more partisan and concerned about appeasing various special interet groups. It's an interesting argument, but I'll defer to the blog's in-house 17th Amendment expert.

Another theory, suggested by Justice Scalia, traces the politicization of judicial nominations to Roe v. Wade. As Scalia argued in his Casey dissent: "Roe fanned into life an issue that has inflamed our national politics in general, and has obscured with its smoke the selection of Justices to this Court in particular, ever since." The controversy over Justice Owen's nomination to the Fifth Circuit seems to bear this out.


WHY CAMBRIDGE KIDS MAY NOT COOK, or doing anything else that requires a knife: According to Cambridge, Mass. Municipal Code sec. 9.16.110,
A. Findings. Violent incidents perpetrated by and upon young people in Cambridge have brought to light the relatively each access to and widespread availability of weapons or instruments that can be used as weapons. The City Council determines that reasonable measures are needed to prohibit the sale of items whose primary purpose is for use as weapons again[st] people. State law prohibits the manufacture and sale of certain types of knives, but does not address other dangerous instruments of concern.

B. Sale Prohibited. No person shall sell or expose for sale, exchange, give or loan to any person under eighteen (18) years of age any of the following:
1. springback knife;
2. fixed or locking blade knife;
3. dirk or dagger;
4. ice pick;
5. tool or implement having a point similar to an ice pick and a shaft; or a
6. straight-edged razor or razor blade fitted with a handle.

C. Exemption. The work-related use of any of the instruments detailed in Section B of this ordinance shall not be deemed to be a violation this ordinance.
Sounds plausible in theory -- wouldn't we want to keep dangerous weapons away from kids? But unfortunately, subsection B(2) prohibites, among other things, loaning to anyone under age 18 a "fixed . . . blade knife" (except for work-related uses). Unless I'm mistaken, all normal knives, including kitchen knives and steak knives, are "fixed-blade knives." The term isn't defined in the Cambridge Municipal Code, or in the Massachusetts statutes. I've looked around and found no other legal definition. And the standard definition appears to be simply a knife with a fixed blade, which, as I mentioned, covers the great majority of cooking knives, plus of course knives used to whittle wood, cut ropes, and do a huge range of other things. And there's of course no exception for parents or guardians loaning knives to their own kids, for instance to cook the family dinner.

     Now it's true that subsection A does say that "reasonable measures are needed to prohibit the sale of items whose primary purpose is for use as weapons again[st] people," and one could argue that subsection B should be read in light of that. But:
  1. Subsection A is just the findings, not a definition section, and subsection B doesn't explicitly refer to A. Subsection B says no loaning of fixed blade knives to under-18-year-olds, no ifs, ands, or buts; and subsection A doesn't say the contrary.

  2. Subsection A condemns both "weapons" and "instruments that can be used as weapons." Presumably "items whose primary purpose is for use as weapons against people" are the "weapons" part of this duo -- but kitchen knives (though probably not steak knives) would fit well into "instruments that can be used as weapons." So even if subsection A limits subsection B, it may well still allow subsection B to be applied to kitchen knives and other very sharp knives, though it might exclude steak knives and butter knives.

  3. Given that one category listed in subsection B, "ice picks," seems to go beyond "items whose primary purpose is for use as weapons against people" -- I believe they are still often sold to break ice -- it stands to reason that the other categories, which I stress again have no qualifying language attached to them, would also be categorically prohibited, even if their primary purpose isn't for use as weapons.
     My challenge, then, for interested readers, especially ones who live in Cambridge: Get in touch with the City Attorney's office, and ask them whether it's OK to loan a cooking knife to an under-18-year-old who's planning to do some cooking. If they say it is OK, ask them why. Is the knife not a "fixed blade knife"? Is loaning not "loaning"? Get an answer in writing, please, and pass it along to me; I'd love to report further on this.


The Army's chief of chaplains has begun an official inquiry into reports that a Southern Baptist chaplain in Iraq has been offering U.S. troops baths in exchange for being baptized.

"It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized," Josh Llano, a 32-year-old chaplain who describes himself as a Southern Baptist evangelist, told the Miami Herald.

According to the newspaper, Llano required soldiers to listen to a 90-minute sermon before taking part in an hourlong baptism ceremony featuring Bible quotations.

Lt. Col. Eric Wester, spokesman for the Army Office of the Chief of Chaplains, said Army Chief of Chaplains Gaylord Gunhus "was very concerned about the appalling report as presented." . . .

"I cannot verify that he's encouraging people to be baptized in order to obtain a bath," Wester told Religion News Service.

"What I can say is that the Army chief of chaplains has requested additional information about the accuracy of the quotations and details of the actions of Chaplain Llano."

John Yarbrough, vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, issued a statement Wednesday saying that the board is disturbed by the report but has not been able to contact the chaplain to ask him about the story's accuracy. . . .
Very glad to hear it, for reasons I mention here. Thanks to read James Foster for the pointer.

Sunday, April 13, 2003


SCRAPPLEFACE IS ESPECIALLY GOOD TODAY, thanks to Den Beste for the link.


THE LATEST FROM CONGRESS: We haven't gotten rid of Howard Coble yet, and we've already got yet another one. Eric Muller, who by now has practice at this sort of thing, has the best coverage.



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