Tag Archives: Brian Doherty

“Here I Am. Tell Me I Didn’t Do The Things That I Did.”

Sharyl Attkisson at CBS News:

Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.

He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?

“Yes ma’am,” Dodson told CBS News. “The agency was.”

An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, Dodson’s job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen.

Investigators call the tactic letting guns “walk.” In this case, walking into the hands of criminals who would use them in Mexico and the United States.

Dodson’s bosses say that never happened. Now, he’s risking his job to go public.

“I’m boots on the ground in Phoenix, telling you we’ve been doing it every day since I’ve been here,” he said. “Here I am. Tell me I didn’t do the things that I did. Tell me you didn’t order me to do the things I did. Tell me it didn’t happen. Now you have a name on it. You have a face to put with it. Here I am. Someone now, tell me it didn’t happen.”

Agent Dodson and other sources say the gun walking strategy was approved all the way up to the Justice Department. The idea was to see where the guns ended up, build a big case and take down a cartel. And it was all kept secret from Mexico.

ATF named the case “Fast and Furious.”

[…]

On Dec. 14, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down. Dodson got the bad news from a colleague.

According to Dodson, “They said, ‘Did you hear about the border patrol agent?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And they said ‘Well it was one of the Fast and Furious guns.’ There’s not really much you can say after that.”

Two assault rifles ATF had let go nearly a year before were found at Terry’s murder.

Dodson said, “I felt guilty. I mean it’s crushing. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Sen. Grassley began investigating after his office spoke to Dodson and a dozen other ATF sources — all telling the same story.

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

When Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered by drug smugglers in Arizona last December, Tom Tancredo revealed that Terry’s BORTAC unit (the Border Patrol’s equivalent of a SWAT team) were armed with bean-bag rounds in their weapons:

Here’s the part Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Border Patrol management are trying to hide: Border Patrol Agent Terry and the BORTAC team were under standing orders to always use (“non-lethal”) bean-bag rounds first before using live ammunition. When the smugglers heard the first rounds, they returned fire with real bullets, and Agent Terry was killed in that exchange. Real bullets outperform bean bags every time.

At the time, the government denied such “bizarre Internet-fueled rumors”:

“There was no order given to CBP law enforcement personnel – now or in the past – that dictates the use of less-than-lethal devices before using deadly force,” stated CBP’s Southwest Border Field Branch Office of Public Affairs.

Oops:

Records show agents fired beanbags in fatal border gunfight
Brady McCombs Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2011 12:00 am

Border Patrol agents shot beanbags at a group of suspected bandits before the men returned fire during a confrontation in a remote canyon, killing agent Brian Terry with a single gunshot, records show.

And an illegal immigrant wounded in the gunbattle who is now the only person in custody linked to the slaying contends he never fired a shot, according to FBI search warrant requests filed in the U.S. District Court in Tucson.

The documents provide the most detailed version yet of what happened in the deadly gunbattle Dec. 14 in Peck Canyon, northwest of Nogales.

The documents say the group of illegal border entrants refused commands to drop their weapons after agents confronted them at about 11:15 p.m. Two agents fired beanbags at the migrants, who responded with gunfire. Two agents returned fire, one with a long gun and one with a pistol, but Terry was mortally wounded in the gunfight.

Border Patrol officials declined to answer questions about protocol for use of force, citing the ongoing investigation.

Bryan Preston at PJ Tatler:

It seems highly unlikely that officers would choose to load beanbags instead of live rounds. That’s not the kind of thing field agents come up with. It’s a policy that’s so stupid it had to come from Washington.

And even worse than Washington’s policy stupidity: No one will be held to account for the killing of BP agent Brian Terry

The Jawa Report

Brian Doherty at Reason:

Presented as an interesting case study in the way law enforcement actually thinks–not to say that it is an essential task of U.S. law enforcement to “keep guns out of Mexico.” Our real culpability in Mexican gun violence lies, of course, in our drug prohibition, as see Jacob Sullum from earlier today.

Patterico at Patterico’s Pontifications:

How were they tracing the guns across the border? Was this murder also the result of guns that the Obama administration deliberately allowed into Mexico?

Keep a close eye on this one.

Regardless of whether that is the case, it is clear that this was a stupid idea in any event. Who knows how much violence has increased due to the new availability of thousands of assault rifles and other powerful weapons?

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

But, don’t worry.
Barack Obama says the border is as safe today as it’s ever been.

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Filed under Crime, War On Drugs

Yes, We Know That Hammer And Slammer Rhyme

John Hudson at The Atlantic with the round-up:

In a long fall from grace, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison for “conspiring to direct laundered corporate money” to seven state house candidates in 2002. In his prime, DeLay was one of the most powerful men in Congress, holding the second highest spot in the House of Representatives. “What we feel is that justice was served,” said lead prosecutor Gary Cobb in the aftermath of the ruling. Meanwhile, DeLay firmly maintained his innocence. “I can’t be remorseful for something I don’t think I did,” he said. He promised to appeal the ruling. Did the former House majority leader get off easy?

Jen Doll at The Village Voice:

DeLay was taken into custody, but will be released on a $10,000 bond pending appeal after he’s processed, which means he could remain free for months or years as his appeal goes through.

National Review:

The man who should be on trial in Texas is Ronnie Earle, the unethical Travis County prosecutor who went after DeLay as part of a political vendetta fueled by his bizarre belief that business owners’ political activities are “every bit as insidious as terrorism.” (Tell that to the almost 3,000 Americans who were murdered on 9/11.) How do we know Earle believes that? Because he had a documentary film crew follow him around as he pursued the indictment of DeLay, producing a film called The Big Buy that Earle used to try to win higher office in Texas. He used the same unprofessional and unethical tactics to prosecute Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (her case was thrown out by a judge) and former Texas attorney general Jim Mattox, who was acquitted and won reelection.

This was a phony prosecution from the very beginning. It took Earle three separate attempts before he could get a case that a grand jury or a judge would not throw out. Then he got DeLay indicted for behavior that was perfectly legitimate under campaign-finance laws, identical to the kind of fundraising done by practically every campaign committee and candidate in the country.

DeLay solicited $155,000 in contributions for a political-action committee he headed and contributed $190,000 to the Republican National State Election Committee (RNSEC); the RNSEC then contributed $877,000 to 42 state and local candidates in Texas in the final two months of the 2002 campaign, including seven recommended by DeLay. For this routine act of campaign financing, DeLay was charged with and convicted of criminal money laundering, a crime defined by knowingly using the proceeds of criminal activity. Since these contributions were all legal, the most basic element of this supposed crime could not be met; nonetheless, Earle drove the case forward in one of the most outrageous prosecutorial abuses of criminal law that we have seen in decades. Meanwhile Earle indicted a number of companies, including Sears, that had made perfectly legal contributions to DeLay’s PAC, and then sold those companies dismissals in exchange for donations to one of his favorite charities.

Government prosecutors have a duty and an obligation to enforce the law judiciously and fairly. The power they are given by society is immense, and so is the damage they can do when they abuse that power. Ronnie Earle has showed in case after case that he is a self-serving ideologue, a crass opportunist who uses his power as a prosecutor to pursue his own political and ideological agenda.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

I bet he comes out of this advocating prison reform. It’s a cause that badly needs more high-profile conservative advocates.

David Frum at FrumForum:

I won’t pretend to any expertise on this question but … Doesn’t Citizens United raise at least some question about the campaign finance laws on which Tom DeLay was convicted? Seems an obvious challenge on appeal and at the Supreme Court. What do readers think?

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

He spoke to the court prior to sentencing, saying “I fought the fight. I ran the race. I kept the faith.” Former Speaker Denny Hastert also testified as a character witness on behalf of DeLay. Prosecutors showed a tape in court of DeLay’s comments after conviction, when he said, “Maybe we can get it before people who understand the law.”

I’d expect an appeal, so whether or not DeLay sees jail time right away depends on the judge’s decision to allow his release on bond.

Brian Doherty at Reason:

Undoubtedly DeLay as a former leading congressman is a criminal. Whether this particular interpretation of a law blocking free support and expression in politics is a proper bludgeon, I’d say no.

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Filed under Crime, Political Figures

America Has A Little Less Splendor Today

John Hudson at The Atlantic with the round-up. Hudson:

Acclaimed comic-book author Harvey Pekar died Monday at the age of 70. He’s best known for his autobiographical comic series American Splendor, which was made into a 2003 film starring Paul Giamatti. In 1999, James Hynes described him as “thoughtful, articulate and, above all, angry, a rare and precious attribute in his age of yappie nihilism.”

Mel Valentin at Cinematical:

In sad, but not entirely unexpected news, Harvey Pekar, best known for his long-running American Splendor underground/indie comic book series, passed away early this morning at his home in Ohio. Pekar had been suffering from multiple illnesses, including prostrate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure, and depression. He was 70.

Pekar began American Splendor in 1976 to document non-superheroic, everyday life, including his own, in his native hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, often with a caustic, acerbic, self-deprecatory wit. Pekar’s work attracted some of the most-respected and well-known names in underground and mainstream comics, including Robert Crumb, Alison Bechdel, Chester Brown, Greg Budgett, David Collier, Dean Haspiel, Josh Neufeld, Joe Sacco, Eddie Campbell, Gilbert Hernandez, and Ty Templeton. American Splendor’s last issue appeared in 2008.

Outside of underground comics, Pekar was best known for a recurring stint on the David Letterman show in the late 1980s. NBC eventually banned Pekar from appearing on the show due to a combination of Pekar’s open, combative style and repeated criticisms of NBC’s parent company, General Electric.

Popeater:

Pekar’s third wife is writer Joyce Brabner, with whom he collaborated on ‘Our Cancer Year,’ a graphic novel autobiography of his struggle with lymphoma. He lived in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, with Brabner and their foster daughter, Danielle.

Pekar’s ‘American Splendor’ comics, which he began publishing in 1976, chronicle his grousing about work, money and the monotony of life. A wide range of illustrators contributed to its pages, most famously R. Crumb, who first met Pekar in Cleveland in the 1960s and encouraged him to turn the stories he gathered on his travels through the city into comics.

The books gained a cult following, ultimately helping change the way comic books were perceived. They were adapted into the 2003 film ‘American Splendor,’ starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar.

Kevin Fallon at The Atlantic

Kate Ward at Entertainment Weekly:

Following the sad passing of famed writer Harvey Pekar, friends have begun issuing statements mourning the beloved author of the American Splendor series, who passed away at age 70.

Paul Giamatti, who played Pekar in 2003′s American Splendor: “Harvey was one of the most compassionate and empathetic human beings I’ve ever met. He had a huge brain and an even bigger soul. And he was hilarious. He was a great artist, a true American poet, and there is no one to replace him.”

Jonathan Vankin, an editor at Vertigo who oversaw American Splendor and The Quitter: “I am terribly sad today. Working with Harvey Pekar was one of my first experiences at Vertigo and it’s still one of my best, not only in comics but in my life. Underneath the well-known gruff exterior, Harvey was a deeply compassionate person and of course, a brilliant mind. He created, almost single-handedly, an entirely new kind of comics and his commitment to what he did was absolute and uncompromising. We’ve all suffered a huge loss today, in comics of course, but also in American culture.”

Robert Pulcini, co-director of American Splendor: “Harvey Pekar was one of the few originals I’ve met in my life. He deserves to be remembered as the patron saint of Cleveland.”

Shari Springer Berman, co-director of American Splendor: “I am so sad. There will never be another Harvey Pekar. I hope he is in a place where there is a great jazz soundtrack, lots of good books, and he can make plenty of money.”

SEK at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

Harvey Pekar wasn’t included on the list of people I’m officially allowed to mourn, but that doesn’t mean I won’t mourn his passing anyway. I first came to American Splendor too early—when I started reading Love and Rockets and Cerebus in 1993—and then too late—after the release of the film American Splendor in 2003—so while I understood it, I never truly “got” his appeal. I appreciated his ear for language, but as a teenager thought what it captured unworthy of print, and as a literary scholar had encountered many similarly talented ears and was, therefore, less impressed by it than I should have been. But when I read the news of his passing earlier today, I realized something:

I knew Harvey Pekar.

I didn’t know him know him, but like all of his readers, I knew him as well as you know me. Pekar was a proto-blogger, if you will, because he turned his life into something worthy of public consumption. Our Cancer Year is a grueling read not because all cancer entails struggle, but because the patient stricken with it is someone whose failed dreams, stunted career, and intimate thoughts are familiar to us. We may not have known Harvey Pekar, but we knew “Harvey Pekar,” and unlike artists for whom the distance between characters and self is meticulously kept, in this case it really is just a matter of quotation marks.

Rest in peace, Harvey. Lord knows you deserve some.

Brian Doherty at Reason:

He was a great and original jazz critic, an entertaining movie inspiration and “star,” the smartest and sharpest of David Letterman’s 1980s gang of real-world curiosities, and the prime original creative force and inspiration for one of the most important (though its dominance is sometimes overstated) trends in modern literary comics, the quotidian autobiography.

He was Harvey Pekar, and he died very early this morning at his Cleveland home.

Pekar was one of the few writers of whom I can say I can and do read everything he writes with great pleasure, whether it’s about the music of Sonny Stitt, the writings of I.J. Singer, or his trip to the market to buy bread.

I reviewed Pekar’s graphic biography of libertarian troublemaker Michael Malice at Reason Online.

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Filed under Art

There Was A Very Heavy Fog Of War Today

Warning: Above video is not for children.

BBC:

WikiLeaks has posted a video on its website which it claims shows the killing of civilians by the US military in Baghdad in 2007.

The website’s organisers say they were given the footage, which they say comes from cameras on US Apache helicopters.

They say they decrypted it, but would not reveal who gave it to them.

The WikiLeaks site campaigns for freedom of information and posts leaked documents online. There has been no Pentagon response to the video so far.

High-quality video

The video, released on Monday, is of high quality and appears to be authentic, the BBC’s Adam Brookes in Washington says.

It is accompanied by a recording of the pilots’ radio transmissions and those of US troops on the ground.

The video shows a street in Baghdad and a group of about eight people, whom the helicopter pilots deem to be insurgents.

It then shows the individuals on the street being shot dead with the Apache’s cannon.

Then, a van drives onto the scene, and its occupants appear to start picking up the wounded.

It, too, is fired upon. Altogether, around 12 people die. Two children appear to be injured.

Dan Froomkin at Huffington Post:

None of the members of the group were taking hostile action, contrary to the Pentagon’s initial cover story; they were milling about on a street corner. One man was evidently carrying a gun, though that was and is hardly an uncommon occurrence in Baghdad.

Reporters working for WikiLeaks determined that the driver of the van was a good Samaritan on his way to take his small children to a tutoring session. He was killed and his two children were badly injured.

In the video, which Reuters has been asking to see since 2007, crew members can be heard celebrating their kills.

“Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” says one crewman after multiple rounds of 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street.

A crewman begs for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants, even though it has done nothing but stop to help the wounded: “Come on, let us shoot!”

Two crewmen share a laugh when a Bradley fighting vehicle runs over one of the corpses.

And after soldiers on the ground find two small children shot and bleeding in the van, one crewman can be heard saying: “Well, it’s their fault bringing their kids to a battle.”

The helicopter crew, which was patrolling an area that had been the scene of fierce fighting that morning, said they spotted weapons on members of the first group — although the video shows one gun, at most. The crew also mistook a telephoto lens for a rocket-propelled grenade

Andrew Sullivan posts a reader’s e-mail:

A reader writes:

Soldiers are trained to kill and sometimes in the heat of combat they will engage in killings that are not strictly justified, for example, at Haditha.  But this — all of it — was simply gratuitous and the killing of the wounded journalist and the shooting up of the minivan trying to pick him up to save his life went beyond gratuitous and was just plain sadistic murder.

Forty years ago, when Charlie Company went into My Lai to inflict some collective punishment, a helicopter pilot watching from above saw the carnage and did something to stop it.  Nowadays, helicopter pilots make movies of their killings and beg a wounded man to make a suspect move so they can pump more 1 1/4″ rounds into him.  How completely depraved.

I served four years in the Armed Forces of the United States and was always proud of my service.  Not anymore.

Casual Observer at Firedoglake:

This video (Origin Wikileaks via arabic_news on Twitter) will speak for itself, just a couple of comments.

First, Greenwald has a related post up today regarding the chronic nature and scope of American war propaganda currently holding sway in our media. Highly recommended.

Second, President Obama just minutes ago tweeted that he is planning on “Opening the 2010 baseball season with the first pitch at Nationals Park today.”

The disconnect between our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and our awareness of them here at home is staggering.

John Cole:

They engaged several Reuters photographers, claiming the cameras were weapons, giggling the whole time. Then, when a van came to pick up the wounded, they claimed they were going for weapons and got permission to shoot the people picking up victims.

Fog of war, bitches. Fog of war.

Charli Carpenter at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

I will definitely be using this film in my class next year. But as an example of what I haven’t decided.

The disjuncture between the images captured by the camera and the information being verbally reported by the helicopter crew is striking. (For example, the crew reports that they are seeing adult males armed with AK47s, but the men on the ground appear unarmed.) Could the film be a fake, and how would we know? (Wikileaks has provided almost no information on its website about the video’s source other than a non-working link. The big “Click here to donate” link above the video on the Wikileaks site works fine, which is troubling.)

I am not saying I don’t believe some Apache gunners made gross errors and the military covered it up, only that user-generated content should always be verified before conclusions are drawn, and Wikileaks’ confidentiality policies make that difficult.

If the footage is completely genuine, what cognitive process is at work here that is leading the pilots to so drastically misinterpret what they are seeing? Or are they in fact wilfully mischaracterizing it and why?

What fascinates me the most is the almost relaxed professionalism with which the chopper crew and ground troops are operating. Does this allow us to infer anything about the rules of engagement US troops were operating with around that time? What can we infer from such footage that can help us in other low-intensity conflicts?

One thing is certain: this doesn’t look like a “firefight with insurgents” that the DoD claimed. BBC has a story about the video with some useful links. Michael Collins at The Agonist has more.

Richard Oppel in NYT:

After initially denying involvement or any cover-up in the deaths of three Afghan women during a badly bungled American Special Operations assault in February, the American-led military command in Kabul admitted late on Sunday that its forces had, in fact, killed the women during the nighttime raid.

The admission immediately raised questions about what really happened during the Feb. 12 operation — and what falsehoods followed — including a new report that Special Operations forces dug bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the nature of their deaths.

A NATO official also said Sunday that an Afghan-led team of investigators had found signs of evidence tampering at the scene, including the removal of bullets from walls near where the women were killed. On Monday, however, a senior NATO official denied that any tampering had occurred.

The disclosure could not come at a worse moment for the American military: NATO officials are struggling to contain fallout from a series of tirades against the foreign military presence by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who has also railed against the killing of civilians by Western forces.

Matt Steinglass at DiA at The Economist:

When one hears about something like this, it forces one to think about what the essential character of the American intervention in Afghanistan is. It’s possible to contextualise this sort of slaughter of innocents and subsequent mendacity as accidental collateral violence, followed by terrified stupidity. Perhaps these kinds of incidents are inevitable in war, and should not undermine America’s dedication to the overall effort. Or perhaps they can be prevented through technical measures; as Spencer Ackerman points out, General Stanley McChrystal has curtailed night-time raids and taken closer personal control over special-forces operations precisely to avoid any further such mistakes.

Or, on the other hand, this kind of unfortunate waste of human life may be the basic shape of the NATO intervention, while the noble mission of beating back misogynistic theocracy and building a stable, reasonably democratic government is in fact a fantastical utopian sideshow. This was the fundamental shape of the moral argument that rent American politics in two during the Vietnam war. The men who could never forgive John Kerry for his testimony before Congress were infuriated because he treated the war’s pointless slaughter and periodic atrocities as its essential character. In the view of many who fought, including many South Vietnamese, those things were collateral damage; most of those who fought were honourable, and the fundamental cause was just. But history has sided with Mr Kerry: the pointless slaughter was the essence of the Vietnam war, while the cause of a free and democratic South Vietnam was a weird fantasy.

Spencer Ackerman at Washington Independent:

The statement has a vague explanation for the February report about the women being bound and gagged: “this information was taken from an initial report by the international members of the joint force who were not familiar with Islamic burial customs.” Presumably that means the women were shrouded, but that’s hard to square with U.S. forces being responsible for the actual killing. Additionally, The New York Times further reports that the “lack of forensic evidence” about those dead women civilians may be attributable to Special Operations Forces digging “bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the nature of their deaths.”

Last month, McChrystal, himself a former Special Operations commander, took greater control over the Special Operations chain of command in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s move was an attempt to end a semi-autonomous war effort that can too often place a giant asterisk on his strategy of prosecuting the war through protecting the civilian population. One area he apparently left untouched is detention operations. Will there be further clarifications in the future about ultimately-untrue statements about the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan?

Glenn Greenwald:

What is clear — yet again — is how completely misinformed and propagandized Americans continue to be by the American media, which constantly “reports” on crucial events in Afghanistan by doing nothing more than mindlessly and unquestioningly passing along U.S. government claims as though they are fact.  Here, for instance, is how the Paktia incident was “reported” by CNN on February 12:

Note how the headline states as fact that the women were dead as the result of an “honor killing.”

[…]

All of this is a chronic problem, not an isolated one, with war reporting generally and events in Afghanistan specifically.  Just consider what happened when the U.S. military was forced in 2008 to retract its claims about a brutal air raid in Azizabad.  The Pentagon had vehemently denied the villagers’ claim that close to 100 civilians had been killed and that no Taliban were in the vicinity:  until a video emerged proving the villagers’ claims were true and the Pentagon’s false.  Last week, TPM highlighted a recent, largely overlooked statement from Gen. McChrystal, where he admitted, regarding U.S. killings of Afghans at check points:  “to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. . . . We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”  And as I documented before, the U.S. media constantly repeats false Pentagon claims about American air attacks around the world in order to create the false impression that Key Terrorists were killed while no civilians were.

UPDATE: On the Iraq story, Ed Morrissey:

In the video, starting at the 3:50 mark, one member of this group starts preparing what clearly looks like an RPG launcher, as well as some individuals with AK-47s. The launcher then reappears at the 4:06 mark as the man wielding it sets up a shot for down the street. In 2007 Baghdad, this would be a clear threat to US and Iraqi Army ground forces; in fact, it’s difficult to imagine any other purpose for an RPG launcher at that time and place. That’s exactly the kind of threat that US airborne forces were tasked to detect and destroy, which is why the gunships targeted and shot all of the members of the group.

Another accusation is that US forces fired on and killed rescue workers attempting to carry one of the journalists out of the area. However, the video clearly shows that the vehicle in question bore no markings of a rescue vehicle at all, and the men who ran out of the van to grab the wounded man wore no uniforms identifying themselves as such. Under any rules of engagement, and especially in a terrorist hot zone like Baghdad in 2007, that vehicle would properly be seen as support for the terrorists that had just been engaged and a legitimate target for US forces.  While they didn’t grab weapons before getting shot, the truth is that the gunships didn’t give them the chance to try, either — which is exactly what they’re trained to do.  They don’t need to wait until someone gets hold of the RPG launcher and fires it at the gunship or at the reinforcements that had already begun to approach the scene.  The gunships acted to protect the approaching patrol, which is again the very reason we had them in the air over Baghdad.

War correspondents take huge risks to bring news of a war to readers far away.  What this shows is just how risky it is to embed with terrorists, especially when their enemy controls the air.  War is not the same thing as law enforcement; the US forces had no responsibility for identifying each member of the group and determining their mens rea.  Legitimate rescue operations would have included markings on the vehicle and on uniforms to let hostile forces know to hold fire, and in the absence of that, the hostile forces have every reason to consider the second support group as a legitimate target as well.   It’s heartbreaking for the families of these journalists, but this isn’t “collateral murder” — it’s war.

The Jawa Report:

They’ve even embedded it on a site they call “Collateral Murder.”

These people are beyond stupid, they’re evil.

Worst case scenario this is a few innocent being accidentally killed in the fog of war.

But the video doesn’t even appear to be worst case scenario. It appears, in fact, that the video shows armed insurgents engaging or about to engage US troops. The Reuters camera men had embedded themselves with the insurgents. This makes them enemy combatants themselves and should have been shot.

Reuters has a long history of its local stringers embedding themselves with terrorist forces. Perhaps they do this because they are sympathetic, perhaps they do this to get “the story“, but it matters little to those engaging insurgents.

When you embed yourselves with terrorists you know the risk. You are producing propaganda for them. You have become one of them.

Anything less than this understanding is purposeful naivite about “objective journalism”. In war there can be no objective journalism. You’re either with us or the enemy. If you want to stay neutral stay out of the war zone.

As for those who went in to pick up the bodies? Perhaps they were innocents. I’ve no idea.

But you drive your van into an active military engagement? What the hell were you thinking?

You are stupid. Innocent, but stupid. You’re asking to be killed.

And if you brought children into the midsts of an ongoing military engagement that makes you more than stupid: it makes you criminally negligent.

“It’s their fault for bringing their kids to a battle,” says one of the Americans on the video. Indeed it is.

People, this is war. This happens in war. It can’t be avoided. If you want to end civilian casualties then end war. Start by asking armed Islamists to put down their weapons. But you won’t do that because your real objection isn’t war, it’s America. Which is why anti-war activists around the globe never protest al-Qaeda, only America.

They’re not anti-war, they’re anti-American.

Gregg Carlstrom at The Majlis:

There are really two separate issues connected to this incident. One is the cover-up — opening fire on the ambulance, the Pentagon’s refusal to divulge how these people were killed, or to release the video — which is simply inexcusable.

And the attack itself? If you watch the entire video, one or two of the men in the square certainly appear to be armed (though it’s hard to tell from low-resolution gunsight video). Chmagh and Noor-Eldeen presumably knew the risks of standing with armed men in a public square in Baghdad in 2007, and the pilots presumably were on edge (east Baghdad was the site of a major coalition offensive at the time).

None of the men move to engage the helicopter, though; they’re not “committing hostile acts” or “exhibiting hostile intent,” the two conditions under which U.S. forces were authorized to use lethal force in 2007.

Clearly the second condition includes a lot of wiggle room — but I’ve watched the video twice, and I’m hard-pressed to identify anything in the video that appears to be hostile intent. The Apache also made no attempt to “use graduated measures of force” — warning shots, for example — as required by the rules of engagement that were in effect in 2007.

UPDATE #2: Sullivan with a round-up

Bill Roggio at TWS. More Roggio

James Fallows

James Joyner

David Kenner at Foreign Policy

Matthew Yglesias

Brian Doherty at Reason

UPDATE #3: Jawa Report

Megan McArdle

UPDATE #4: Stephen Colbert

Jawa Report on Colbert

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite on Colbert

Jules Crittenden on Colbert

Moe Lane on Colbert

UPDATE #5: On the arrest, Uncle Jimbo of Blackfive

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker

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Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT, Iraq

Evidence Of Inflation Unseen

Michael Kinsley in The Atlantic:

In short, I can’t help feeling that the gold bugs are right. No, I’m not stashing gold bars under my bed. But that’s only because I lack the courage of my convictions.

My fear is not the result of economic analysis. It’s more from the realm of psychology. I mean mine. The last time I wrote about this subject, The Atlantic’s own Clive Crook called me a “fiscal sado-conservative.” I would put it differently (you won’t be surprised to hear). Maybe, at least on economic matters, I’m a puritan. The recession we’ve been going through did not occur for no reason. Even though serious misbehavior by the finance industry triggered it, sooner or later it was bound to happen. For a generation—since shortly after Volcker saved the country, and except for a brief period of surpluses under Bill Clinton—we partied on borrowed money. We watched a real-estate bubble get larger and larger, knowing but not acknowledging that it had to burst. Then it did burst, and George W. Bush slunk off to Texas, leaving Barack Obama to clean up the mess. Obama has done the right things, mostly, pushing through a huge stimulus package and bailing out a few big corporations and banks. Krugman says we need yet another dose of stimulus, and maybe he’s right.

But this cure has been one ice-cream sundae after another. It can’t be that easy, can it? The puritan in me says that there has to be some pain. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been plenty of economic pain. But that pain has come from the recession itself, not the cure.

My specific concern is nothing original: it’s just the national debt. Yawn and turn the page here if you’d like. We talk now of trillions, not yesterday’s hundreds of billions. It’s not Obama’s fault. He did what he had to do. However, Obama is president, and Democrats do control Congress. So it’s their responsibility, even if it’s not their fault. And no one in a position to act has proposed a realistic way out of this debt, not even in theory. The Republicans haven’t. The Obama administration hasn’t. Come to think of it, even Paul Krugman hasn’t. Presidential adviser David Axelrod, writing in The Washington Post, says that Obama has instructed his agency heads to go through the budget “page by page, line by line, to eliminate what we don’t need to help pay for what we do.” So they’ve had more than a year and haven’t yet discovered the line in the budget reading “Stuff We Don’t Need, $3.2 trillion.”

There is a way out. It’s called inflation. In 1979, for example, the government ran a deficit of more than $40 billion—about $118 billion in today’s money. The national debt stood at about $830 billion at year’s end. But because of 13.3 percent inflation, that $830 billion was worth what only $732 billion would have been worth at the beginning of the year. In effect, the government ran up $40 billion in new debts but inflated away almost $100 billion and ended up with a national debt smaller in real terms than what it started with. Ten percent inflation for five years (if that were possible) would erode the value of our projected debt nicely—but along with it, the value of non-indexed pensions, people’s savings, and so on. The Federal Reserve is independent, but Congress and the White House have ways to pressure the Fed. Actually, just spending all this money we don’t have is one good way.

Compared with raising taxes or cutting spending, just letting inflation do the dirty work sounds easy. It will be a terrible temptation, and Obama’s historic reputation (not to mention the welfare of the nation) will depend on whether he succumbs. Or so I fear. So who are you going to believe? Me? Or virtually every leading economist across the political spectrum? Even I know the sensible answer to that.

And yet …

Matthew Continetti at The Weekly Standard:

Welcome to the team! Slight addendum: Contrary to Kinsley, one guy has put out a way to get out from under the national debt (though right now he might not be in “a position to act”).

Brad DeLong:

If Kinsley seriously believes that inflation is on the way, he and his wife could take their entire household portfolio and go short 20-year Treasury bonds @4.43% and long 20-year TIPS @2.11%. Each year over the next 20 that inflation is above 2.32% they make money.

I’m not one who pledges to always believe that markets have gotten it right. But I do believe that someone who doesn’t think that market prices are aggregating information needs to tell a story about why markets have gotten it wrong before they set pen to paper.

That is all.

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:

First, inflation doesn’t just chew up the debt. It also swallows the value of non-inflation-indexed savings. For savings tied to inflation, like Social Security, inflation would in nominal terms cost tax payers more money down the line.

Second, inflation at a level high enough to quickly reduce fiscal deficits could spiral out of control back home. If you’re setting prices in an economy where future prices are expected to rise, your temptation is to set prices higher. In this way, inflationary expectations can outrun the Fed’s target.

Third, there’s a decent chance that inflation won’t actually reduce our deficit in the first place. If inflation begins to creep up, investors will demand higher interest rates on US debt to beat expected inflation in the future. As Anne Vorce, director for the Fiscal Roadmap Project of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget at the New America Foundation, told me this morning, “Our creditors would go nuts. The Chinese premier specifically said he was concerned about inflation in our debt. Inflation is tempting in the short run. In the middle or long it has costs.”

Matthew Yglesias:

So neither leading economists nor Michael Kinsley himself believe that hyperinflation is just around the corner, and yet the thesis of Kinsley’s piece is that “when and if the recession is well and truly over, there is a serious danger of another round of vicious inflation” and that “[t]his time, inflation will be a lot harder to stop before it turns into hyperinflation.”

I note that not only does Kinsley’s column explicitly discuss the lack of evidence for Kinsley’s thesis, but it also details the theoretical error Kinsley is making—thinking too moralistically about the economy. He says “on economic matters, I’m a puritan.” And also that “The recession we’ve been going through did not occur for no reason.” He feels, metaphorically speaking, that it was sent by God to punish us for our overindulgence. And that while we’ve had plenty of economic pain over the past 24 months, that’s not enough: “that pain has come from the recession itself, not the cure.” Kinsley’s view is that recovery has to come with some episode of ritual purging and mass suffering over and above the suffering caused directly by the recession. In his view, a greater punishment must be over the horizon for the sake of the moral order. And since recession is, by his lights, not enough the only other economic calamity on the menu is inflation. And so, he deduces, we must be heading for inflation, even though he himself recognizes the reasoning as so specious that he won’t use it as the basis for investment decisions.

Andrew Leonard at Salon:

Matthew Yglesias does such a scintillating job of eviscerating Michael Kinsley’s bizarre hyperinflation hyperventilation in the April issue of The Atlantic that it would be unsportsmanlike to pile on and offer my own line-by-line exegesis of his confounding nervous-nellyism. I’ll just note that it requires some very clever rhetoric to explain how you can’t sleep at night because of your inflation fears, even as you acknowledge that there is no evidence that your nightmare is something to worry about right now, and all the economists you respect don’t see it as a significant problem. Kinsley is a heck of a writer, but he’s not that good.

Paul Krugman:

Hyperinflation is actually a quite well understood phenomenon, and its causes aren’t especially controversial among economists. It’s basically about revenue: when governments can’t either raise taxes or borrow to pay for their spending, they sometimes turn to the printing press, trying to extract large amounts of seignorage — revenue from money creation. This leads to inflation, which leads people to hold down their cash holdings, which means that the printing presses have to run faster to buy the same amount of resources, and so on.

The kind of inflation we had in the 1970s, the famous era of stagflation — high inflation combined with high unemployment — was quite different. Deficits weren’t the issue — actually, US deficits were much smaller in the inflationary 70s than in the disinflationary 80s. Instead, what you had was a combination of excessively expansionary monetary policies, based on an unrealistic view of how low the unemployment rate could be pushed without causing accelerating inflation (the NAIRU), plus oil shocks that pushed up inflation across the board thanks to widespread cost-of-living clauses in contracts. There was never any risk of hyperinflation; the only question was whether and when we’d be willing to pay the price in high unemployment of bringing inflation back down.

Kinsley seems to be confusing the logic of the natural rate argument, which says that expected inflation gets built into price-setting, so you need an accelerating inflation rate to keep unemployment below the NAIRU, with the very different logic of hyperinflation, which is about people fleeing money.

Brian Doherty at Reason:

Those with reasonable doubts as to the stability of this whole freakin’ system are in the unenviable position of, if struggling to be “prudent,” making lots of big decisions that are going to seem really short-sighted, depending on whether or not things go seriously awry. That is, going gold will make you either King of the World or the nuttiest of chumps. Well, that’s what hedging is all about, I suppose, but most hedging is done within the ol’ dominant paradigm. Gold seems more like a “all bets are off” bet.

Kevin Drum:

I’m going to defend Kinsley a bit. One reason is that although he freely talks about the inner demons that prompted his heresy, he does, in fact, also offer up a concrete reason for his fears: “My specific concern is nothing original: it’s just the national debt….We talk now of trillions, not yesterday’s hundreds of billions.” This is not a completely nonsensical concern, even if it would be better expressed as a percent of GDP rather than in raw dollars. What’s more, if Kinsley had wanted to write something a little more sophisticated, he could have spent some time on the Fed’s likely problems unwinding its trillion dollar balance sheet over the coming years, something that has at least the potential for sparking inflationary pressures if it isn’t timed pretty delicately.

But that’s not the real reason for defending Kinsley. The real reason is this: I sort of agree with him. Is it because we were both around for the 70s and remember what happened then? Maybe, though Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong were around then too and they’re not worried. And intellectually, like Kinsley, I agree with them: inflation just doesn’t seem like a big issue right now. But what about a few years from now? It really does look as if our political system is going to find it next to impossible to control our long-term federal deficit, and at the same time the dollar is going to have to come down in value eventually. Both of these things, along with the Fed’s operations, pose inflationary potential. And I have a fairly healthy respect for the proposition that if the Fed loses its reputation as an inflationary hawk, it’s much harder to get back than you might think.

So here’s the question: if all the people you respect say that inflation isn’t a big issue; if all the market evidence points toward moderate inflationary expectations; and if your fears of inflation are almost certainly grounded in demons from your youth — if all that’s true, but you still feel the fear anyway, what should you do? Nothing? Or should you write about it, being honest along the way about what’s driving you?

UPDATE: Kinsley responds to Krugman:

Krugman says that I mistakenly conflate inflation and hyperinflation, although “textbook economics…makes a real distinction” between the two. I will confess that I was not aware of this distinction. I thought hyperinflation was inflation out-of-control. Mea culpa. However:

(1) Krugman should stop bullying people with accusations of economic ignorance. I would never pretend to know a tenth of economics Paul knows. But if he means, in calling this distinction a matter of “textbook economics [subtext: you idiot],” that economic textbooks make this distinction, he is wrong. Or at least no such distinction between inflation and hyperinflation is made, despite an extensive discussion of inflation, in the leading economics textbook, by Harvard Professor Gregory Mankiw.

(2) Krugman’s definition of hyperinflation–“when governments can’t either raise taxes or borrow to pay for their spending, they sometimes turn to the printing press”–is more or less precisely what I wrote that I was afraid of. I suppose there’s a difference between the government printing money to pay off its debts (Krugman’s definition) and the government printing money to reduce the real value of its debts (my fear). But not much of one.

(3) Krugman, Brad DeLong, Matt Yglesias and others make the point that there is no current economic evidence of inflation on on the horizon. I conceded as much in the original piece. But using Krugman’s definition, hyperinflation is the result of explicit policy choices by public officials. There is a “real distinction” between this and inflation ordinaire, which results naturally from the interplay of economic forces. Therefore, the fact that there is no sign of inflation today says very little about whether there may be hyperinflation tomorrow.There are reasons to worry that our political leaders may opt for inflation even if there is no economic evidence of it happening naturally. (Of course the interplay of economic forces can force the hand of public officials. But if we go down this road, we are muddying that key distinction between hyperinflation and inflation.)

I have been waiting for Paul Krugman to tell me how we are going to handle the debt, once we get this recession out of the way. No, really. There’s no economist whose judgment I trust more. (About economics, that is.) I’ve been all for the stimulus and the jobs bill and even, I guess, the sundry bailouts. But don’t we at some point have to start paying the money back? And how are we going to do that? Krugman’s failure (unless I’ve missed it) to give us an answer to that question is one of the things that makes me worry.

Ryan Avent at Free Exchange at The Economist:

Contra Mr Kinsley, there is a massive difference between printing money to pay off debts and printing money to erode the real value of debt. In the immediate postwar period, America experienced annual rates of inflation up to 10%, which eroded the value of America’s war debt by some 40%. Hyperinflation was never a problem. And there is a big difference between governments that are reluctant to opt for painful budget fixes and governments that absolutely cannot do it. Moreover, the pain of hyperinflation is every bit as bad as and worse than the pain of tax increases, or spending cuts, or default. No politician would risk it, and even if the politicians were willing to, America’s independent Fed wouldn’t let them.

The truth about hyperinflation is that it isn’t so much an economic phenomenon as a political one; it corresponds to the complete breakdown of a country’s political institutions. It is no coincidence that episodes of hyperinflation are typically associated with very poor developing nations, those exiting major conflicts, and those suffering from other major economic dislocations (like the end of Communism).

To get from America’s current situation to one in which hyperinflation is a realistic possibility, one must pass through an intervening step in which America’s political institutions utterly collapse. And I submit that if Mr Kinsley has reason to believe that such a collapse is imminent, he should be writing columns warning about that rather than the economic messes which might follow.

Felix Salmon:

The logic here is that simply running large fiscal deficits is an “explicit policy choice” by officials who “opt for inflation”. Just by spending money, the government is pressuring the Fed to, um, what, exactly? Keep interest rates too low? Print money?It’s true that the Fed isn’t looking particularly independent these days, but that’s largely because inflation isn’t a problem, and therefore the Fed is rightly concentrating on the second part of its dual mandate, which is reducing unemployment through loose monetary policy. Fiscal policy and monetary policy should both be pulling in the same direction right now — which is the direction of trying to extricate the country from the deepest recession in living memory.

It’s also hard to see the dynamics by which hyperinflation — or even plain old ordinary high inflation, for that matter — could emerge. If there’s a panicked run away from the dollar and dollar-denominated assets, that would hurt both the stock market and the bond market, hitting wealth hard. It would also send the cost of imports up. But the US doesn’t import so much that import-price inflation would pass through into domestic hyperinflation. And with the markets in turmoil, weak unions, and unemployment surely rising, I don’t think that workers would be in any position to ask for double-digit wage increases on an annual basis. In any case, to have any hyperinflation you need a maniac helming the printing press, and Ben Bernanke is not a maniac. Yes, he’s expanded the money supply significantly, but only when disinflation was the greatest risk facing the economy. It’s almost impossible to imagine the Fed continuing to print money once consumer prices start rising sharply on Main Street — and, frankly, it’s hard to imagine the Obama administration putting pressure on the Fed to do so.

As Krugman notes, it’s instructive to take a hard look at Japan, which ran enormous deficits for many years and which still has no sign of any inflation any time soon. Deficits, in and of themselves, do not cause inflation. And while Kinsley is right that there’s no obvious way out of America’s current fiscal problems, he’s wrong that politicians can simply choose inflation as an option. Just as the Treasury secretary does not control the value of the dollar, the president does not control the trajectory of consumer prices. So in order for his fears about hyperinflation to be remotely justified, Kinsley first has to explain how the Fed is going to transmogrify into the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. And he hasn’t come close to doing that.

(h/t Sullivan)

UPDATE: Paul Krugman responds

UPDATE #2: Kinsley again

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Filed under Economics, The Crisis

Rothbard, Dogma And Conservative/Libertarian Camps

Brian Doherty at Reason:

Let’s put it this way: When the likes of F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman died, conservative flagship National Review could and did praise them pretty unreservedly. But when Rothbard died in 1995, his old pal William Buckley took pen in hand to piss on his grave. Rothbard, Buckley wrote, spent his life “huffing and puffing in the little cloister whose walls he labored so strenuously to contract, leaving him, in the end, not as the father of a swelling movement…but with about as many disciples as David Koresh had in his little redoubt in Waco. Yes, Murray Rothbard believed in freedom, and yes, David Koresh believed in God.”

Things look a little different now when it comes to Murray Rothbard’s influence, though it’s unlikely anyone at National Review will note it—except maybe in the context of an attack on Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). The rise of Paul and his loud and enthusiastic and young fan base, which Buckley could not have foreseen (I, who was writing an intellectual history of libertarianism from 1996-2006, also failed to see it coming), contradicts Buckley’s contention that Rothbard’s divisive radical intransigence doomed him to irrelevance.

The Paul movement, the largest popular movement motivated by distinctly libertarian ideas about war, money, and the role of government we’ve seen in the postwar period, is far more Rothbardian than it is directly influenced by the beliefs or style of any of the other recognized intellectual leaders or influences on American libertarianism. The Paul crowd is the sort of mass anti-war, anti-state, anti-fiat money agitation that Rothbard dreamed about his whole activist life.

The Paulites stress Rothbard’s key issues of war and money, with that populist hint of what he called “power elite analysis”—and that the uncharitable call “conspiracy theories.” Indeed, as I learned from my reporting on the movement during Paul’s primary campaign, a majority of them are pretty much learning their libertarianism directly from Paul himself, and the Internet communities surrounding Paul. But Rothbard was a friend and influence on Paul, and central to the Paul Internet community is the very Rothbardian Mises Institute website and the personal site of Mises Institute President Lew Rockwell, who was a close partner of Rothbard’s in the last decade of his life.

The Mises Institute has just issued an interesting (though regrettably brief, for this fan) collection of unpublished Rothbard writings. They are essays, letters, and memos written with a specific purpose—to advise various libertarian education and funding groups in the 1940s and ‘50s (mostly the Volker Fund, the most important supporter of libertarian intellectuals in the that era—they funded the academic berths of both Mises and Hayek, sponsored the conferences for which Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom was largely written, and kept Rothbard alive with various grants and tasks) on whether specific works or authors were worthy of promotion as good libertarian education or propaganda (in the neutral sense). Because of this practical purpose, Rothbard’s writing here highlights a still-important faultline in the larger libertarian project, both as an intellectual operation and a sales (of ideas) operation.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

Obviously, Doherty’s allegiances are to Rothbard, and that’s fine. And Buckley may have overstated the case against Rothbard here, particularly for an obit. But Doherty makes it sound like the fault all lies with Buckley, and that’s unfair. The two men had been “pissing” at each other for decades. As Doherty well knows, and acknowlegdes later, Rothbard was hardly above being mean and pissy himself. If the two men had died in reverse order, does Doherty doubt that Rothbard would have poured at least as much invective on Buckley? It’s not a big deal, but reading this passage — saying Buckley was his “old pal” for instance — an uninformed reader would think worse of Buckley (who was unsentimental in a great many eulogies for friends and foes alike) than is warranted.

Jim Manzi at NRO, responding to Goldberg:

I agree — that Brian Doherty essay is extremely interesting. I did a blog post a few months ago at The Daily Dish (guess I’ve already broken the proposed embargo, but I’ll reproduce it here) that tries to describe this fundamental divide within libertarianism, and explain why I think it matters so much:

I’ve been attending a fascinating series of monthly dinners here in Washington, in which liberals and libertarians exchange ideas. One thing that has become clear to me through these dinners is that there are two strands of libertarian thought. In somewhat cartoon terms, one strand takes liberty to be a (or in extreme cases, the) fundamental human good in and of itself; the other takes liberty to be a means to the end of discovery of methods of social organization that create other benefits. I’ll call the first “liberty-as-goal” libertarianism and the second “liberty-as-means” libertarianism. Obviously, one can hold both of these beliefs simultaneously, and many people do. But in my observation, when pushed to develop a position on some difficult issue, most self-described libertarians reveal a temperament that leans strongly in one direction or the other. Again, in cartoon terms, I’d describe the first temperament as idealistic, deductive and theory-based, and the second as practical, inductive and experiment-based. To lay my cards on the table, I fall squarely into the second camp.

Liberty-as-means libertarianism sees the world in an evolutionary framework: societies evolve rules, norms, laws and so forth in order to adapt and survive in a complex and changing external environment. At a high level of abstraction, internal freedoms are necessary so that the society can learn (which requires trial-and-error learning because the external reality is believed to be too complex to be fully comprehended by any existing theory) and adapt (which is important because the external reality is changing). We need liberty, therefore, because we are so ignorant of what works in practical, material terms. But this raises what I think of as the paradox of libertarianism, or more precisely, the paradox of liberty-as-means libertarianism.

Start with a practical question: should prostitution be legal? The canonical libertarian position is that this is a consensual act between adults, and should be legal. The liberty-as-means position is far more tentative. We don’t know the overall effects of legalized prostitution. Some people have the theory that it will make people happier, provide incomes and stabilize marriages. Others think it will lead to personal degradation, female victimization and societal collapse. It is very hard to know which theory is right, or if there is only one right answer as opposed to different best answers for different social contexts, or if the relative predictive accuracy of various theories will change over time as the environment changes. What the liberty-as-means libertarian calls for is the freedom to experiment: let different localities try different things, and learn from this experience. In the best case this is literally consciousness learning from structured experiments, and in the weaker case it is only metaphorical learning, in that the localities with more adaptive sets of such rules will tend to win out in evolutionary competition over time.

Goldberg responds to Manzi:

Often, that impulse drives conservatives to call for limiting or repealing the role of the state. But sometimes it doesn’t (as the revived debate over abstinence education shows). Much of the argument between these meliorists on the right and meliorists on the left boils down to how each side views traditional institutions and arrangements. The meliorists on the left tend to see traditional arrangements as hindrances to social betterment. The meliorists of the right tend to see such arrangements as bulwarks of social order and repositories of social and intellectual capital. Left meliorists think they’re smarter than the spontaneous order, right meliorists think the spontaneous order has much to teach us. Obviously, these are sweeping generalizations.

My own view is that the Right is intellectually healthier and more creative because its dogma remains unsettled (yes, I’ve written about this a zillion times). The Right is divided between those who are (in Irving Kristol’s formulation) anti-left and those who are anti-State. Those who believe that the government is bad because it’s working from leftist assumptions, and those who believe that the government is bad because it is the government. (Most conservatives share both outlooks to one extent or another, but usually fit more into one camp than the other. If you’re wholly in the government-is-bad camp you’re more properly a libertarian, but still on the right). There are those who believe that liberty is an end and those who believe that liberty is a means. For more than a half century now, modern conservatives have been debating and redebating the question of where to the draw the lines between freedom and order, liberty and virtue. And because that line continually needs to be redrawn given the evolution of attitudes, changes in technology, etc, conservative intellectuals (though not necessarily conservative activists, politicians and the like) are constantly revisiting first principles and philosophical assumptions or are at least capable of acknowledging the good faith of their philosophical opponents). I do not think you can say the same thing about liberals (again, as a wild generalization). What unites most, if not all, factions of the Left, from socialists to DLC moderates is a dogmatic acceptance that the government should do good when it can and where it can.  Hence the debates on the left tend to be procedural, wonkish, and technical or rankly political. The Right has such arguments as well, of course. But they do not define and dominate political discussions the way they do on the left. And that’s because our dogma is still unsettled.

E.D. Kain at The League:

I like thinking of conservatism in these terms – as an “unsettled ideology.” This gets at the bohemian conservatism I was talking about last week.  Russell Kirk was a self-described “bohemian Tory” and I think the intellectual wing of the conservative movement, with its distrust of centralized power and so forth fits that term nicely, if the red-meat activist wing does not.  The “unsettled dogma” concept seems so far removed from the conservative movement’s attempts at purity tests and activism that it’s a bit hard to reconcile the two.  And of course I’ve always been more attracted to the intellectual struggles within the ideology than with the political processes themselves, healthcare blogging notwithstanding.  But I think this can also be a trap for conservative intellectuals, or at least for bloggers with an intellectual streak (I am not really an intellectual as far as I know). More conservatives need to focus on policy and wonkishness if only to provide their ideas with a tangible foundation, but also because the effort to dismantle or reinvent the welfare state – to really limit big government – requires if anything even more policy and wonkishness than the other side.

Addendum: I’d like to point out that I in no way endorse some of the more caricatured views Goldberg expresses here vis-a-vis liberals.  Gross generalizations are not really my cup of tea, whether they can be applied to certain people within the larger group or not.  I will, however, note that so far the conservative and liberal response here has been hostile.  That means I’m doing something right.  Re: purity tests and so forth, it’s not so much that ideological groups shouldn’t set out some standards for membership, but that the standards become awfully silly and rigid in a political climate like the one we now have.

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Filed under Conservative Movement, Go Meta

Old McDonald Had A Supreme Court Case, E-I-E-I-O

second amendmentSCOTUSBlog:

Taking on a major new constitutional dispute over gun rights, the Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to decide whether to apply the Second Amendment to state, county, and city government laws.  In another major case among ten new grants, the Court said it will rule on the constitutionality of one of the government’s most-used legal weapons in the “war on terrorism” — a law that outlaws “material support” to terrorist groups.

The Court had three cases from which to choose on the Second Amendment issue — two cases involving a Chicago gun ban, and one case on a New York ban on a martial-arts weapon.  It chose one of the Chicago cases — McDonald v. Chicago (08-1521) — a case brought to it by Alan Gura, the Alexandria, VA., lawyer who won the 2008 decision for the first time recognizing a constitutional right to have a gun for personal use, at least in self-defense in the home (District of Columbia v. Heller).  A second appeal on the Chicago dispute had been filed by the National Rifle Association (NRA v. Chicago, 08-1497).  Presumably, the Court will hold onto that case until it decides McDonald; the same is likely for the New York case, Maloney v. Rice (08-1592) — a case in which Justice Sonia Sotomayor had participated when she was a judge on the Second Circuit Court.

Megan McArdle:

It looks like we’ll soon find out; the Supreme Court has accepted cert on McDonald v. Chicago, a gun rights case brought by Alan Gura, the lawyer who won the Heller case.  The court has been dodging the twin questions of whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms, and whether it can be incorporated against the states, for decades.  It looks like the question will finally be settled–at least as much as Supreme Court decisions ever settle things–in the next year.

Brian Doherty in Reason

Roger Pilon in Cato:

Thus, the so-called incorporation doctrine will be at issue in this case – the question of whether the Fourteenth Amendment “incorporates” the guarantees of the Bill of Rights against the states. The Bill of Rights applied originally only against the federal government. But the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, left open the question of which rights states were bound to recognize. The modern Court has incorporated most of the rights found in the Bill of Rights, but the Second Amendment’s guarantees have yet to be incorporated.

Moreover, a question that will arise in this case is whether the Court, if it does decide that the states are bound by the Second Amendment, will reach that conclusion under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause or under its Privileges or Immunities Clause, which has been moribund since the infamous Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873. In its brief urging the Court to hear the McDonald petition, the Cato Institute urged the Court to revive the Privileges or Immunities Clause.

C.J. Ciaramella at TWS

UPDATE: Orin Kerr

Mark Thompson at The League

John Lott at Big Government

Jacob Sullum at Reason

UPDATE #2: George Will in WaPo

Stuart Taylor at National Journal

Damon Root in Reason

UPDATE #3: Instapundit

Ilya Shapiro at Cato

Jack Balkin

Ed Morrissey

Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money

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Filed under Guns, Supreme Court, The Constitution