Political Economy and Justice

Political Economy and Justice:

In recent news, an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency has been fired for leaking classified information to the press. (Hat tip: Michelle Malkin.)

Before I learned anything about the material leaked (or the identity of the leaker), I remembered that I'd seen commentary about leaked information--both here at the Hall and elsewhere.

The complaint has always been that any low-level person who releases classified data to anyone faces stiff fines, imprisonment, and loss of security clearance. However, people who are politically well-connected are shielded from such problems when they leak.

In this particular case, a politically-connected leaker appears to have been brought down. (If we can trust the leak that told the NBC about this...)

This is indeed a sign of hope that sanity might return to the treatment of classified information.

Opposition to this possible return to sanity could be manifold, though. From my long-distance observation of life inside of the Capitol, an illicit economy exists with information playing the role of currency.

The commodity traded for is influence and prestige in the social structures of the Capitol. Thus, a high-level staffer (defined as someone who handles and sorts information that must be passed to the decision-makers in the department) has a lot of valuable currency on hand. Purchases of influence can be made by giving some of this currency--inside information--to a few other people who might have need of it. Reporters, Congressional staffers, and friends of friends of Cabinet members all fit the description of people who might need inside information. In return for valuable information, they become noticed as good sources. The other party to the transaction is encouraged to reckon it as debt, to be repaid with favors--information, budget decisions, influece on policy changes, and the like. This will keep the information flowing in the proper direction.

Reporters play a role in this economy--but they tender payment in terms of positive and negative spin, focus in a news story on events relating to the department/agency, and a tendency to ask for the "unofficially official position" on stories that relate to the leaker's department or agency.

Prosecution of leakers who deal in classified information is a good way to clamp down on these illicit transactions. Especially where the transaction produces costly repurcussions on the international stage.

Will this illicit economy ever be truly eliminated? That is something I won't hazard a guess about at the moment.

God Save the Queen

God Save the Queen:

Mark Steyn celebrates Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday. Allow me to extend my respects to the lady. Some may object that an American owes no deference to the Queen of England, and that is true; and I expect Joel may wish to remind me, again, of the affection of my family for the Jacobite cause. True, all true.

Yet I will never forget that this queen had the Coldstream Guards play "The Star Spangled Banner" at Buckingham Palace after 9/11; or that she sang it, herself and from memory, at a religious ceremony not long after. So long as she is the Queen, may God defend her; and so shall I, according to my own poor power.

9th circ 1st A bad viewpoint

The First Amendment Doesn't Protect You:

The Ninth Circuit rules that the First Amendment only protects approved points of view. Volokh points out that this is a far worse ruling for freedom of speech than previous restrictions:

Harper's speech is constitutionally unprotected, the Ninth Circuit just ruled today, in an opinion written by Judge Reinhardt and joined by Judge Thomas; Judge Kozinski dissented. According to the majority, "derogatory and injurious remarks directed at students' minority status such as race, religion, and sexual orientation" -- which essentially means expressions of viewpoints that are hostile to certain races, religions, and sexual orientations -- are simply unprotected by the First Amendment in K-12 schools. Such speech, Judge Reinhardt said, violates "the rights of other students" by constituting a "verbal assault[] that may destroy the self-esteem of our most vulnerable teenagers and interfere with their educational development."

This isn't limited to, say, threats, or even personalized insults aimed at individual student. Nor is there even a "severe or pervasive" requirement such as that requirement to make speech into "hostile environment harassment" (a theory that poses its own constitutional problems, but at least doesn't restrict individual statements).
The Ninth Circuit wasn't content to rule on the specific case, either. They are happy to provide examples of other sorts of speech that the First Amendment doesn't protect, so that future jurists and administrators can project a nice penumbra of forbidden speech.
Part of a school’s “basic
educational mission” is the inculcation of “fundamental values of habits and
manners of civility essential to a democratic society.” Fraser, 478 U.S. at 681
(internal quotation marks omitted). For this reason, public schools may permit,
and even encourage, discussions of tolerance, equality and democracy without
being required to provide equal time for student or other speech espousing
intolerance, bigotry or hatred. As we have explained, supra pp. 28-29, because a
school sponsors a “Day of Religious Tolerance,” it need not permit its students to
wear T-shirts reading, “Jews Are Christ-Killers” or “All Muslims Are Evil Doers.”
Such expressions would be “wholly inconsistent with the ‘fundamental values’ of
public school education.” Id. at 685-86. Similarly, a school that permits a “Day of
Racial Tolerance,” may restrict a student from displaying a swastika or a Confederate Flag.
Schools do indeed require discipline, and the school is in the right to remove hostile messages so that education can continue. I agree that far.

Yet the ruling is wrong in its assertion that a ban of this type leads to "fundamental values of habits and manners of civility essential to a democratic society." What would lead to those things is an open and respectful discussion of differences, in which one's right to think a certain way is protected -- as is the right of others to dissent. Stating that "discussions of tolerance [and] equality" are to be encouraged is fine and dandy, but this ruling does exactly the opposite of promoting tolerance and equality. It creates one point of view that is the official one, and one point of view that is totally banned from even symbolic representation. Not only can you not say it, you can't even wear a t-shirt with a symbol representing it.

That doesn't lead to an idea of tolerance or equality. It leads to an idea that ideas with which we do not agree must be silenced -- completely suppressed, so that not even their image offends our eyes.

Just as it does not lead to an idea of tolerance and equality, it doesn't lead to an actual situation of tolerance and equality. It's not only that the courts favor one viewpoint over another. It's that the people who have the disapproved points of view are forced to gather and express themselves outside of the public square. That leads to division within society, distrust between those "secretive" groups and people outside of them, the splitting of society into hostile factions.

How different if they been permitted to express their views in a respectful setting, in which their right to their views was protected but so also was the right to dissent! For one thing, that really would teach the habits of tolerance and respect necessary for a society in which people with competing interests and different upbringings have to live together and make space for each other. Also, in that situation, the "negative" views might be challenged and perhaps even changed. If they are wrong and you are right, what do you have to fear from the contest? You ought to welcome it.

As it stands, what we shall get is "discussions of tolerance" in which the opposing view is condemned without being presented. That will convince no one, because without an advocate for that view there is no chance of the view being presented fairly. If you don't speak to the actual point of view, or take time to understand what it is, you can't begin to persuade the people who hold it. It's like trying to push a rock when you don't know exactly where the rock is.

But don't we know everything we need to know about this rock? Why should we try to understand these points of view, which are -- so the Ninth Circuit tells us -- so wrong as to be outside the realm of protected speech?

Perhaps it is because our idea of them is incomplete. The purpose of education surely includes expanding our awareness of competing points of view. Should we not hear them?

I don't understand the particulars of this student's point of view well enough to advocate for him. He should speak for himself -- the very thing the court says he has no right to do. But I do understand the particulars of another one of the banned forms of speech, so I shall speak for it instead.

Consider the mention of "the Confederate flag" as a banned symbol. In the opinion of the court, it is the equivalent of the swastika. That seems to me like a point of view that ought to be fully argued, rather than simply asserted. To me, the Confederate flag is a positive symbol that represents nothing so much as the concept of home. It meant home to me, both physically and culturally, long before I'd ever heard of a Civil War or a place called the Confederacy. As I've argued recently, love of country -- of home -- is as natural to a man as love of father and mother. It's an honest and proper thing to love home and its symbols, and to feel inspired to defend them. Being asked to feel ashamed of your country is as likely to distort and deform the mind as being ashamed of your family.

That point of view, which is often summarized as "Heritage not Hate," is apparently not to be presented in a public school; while the point of view that the Confederate flag is the moral equivalent of the swastika is approved. The Confederate flag rarely gets a fair hearing, and is generally presented from a one-sided-negative point of view. That's the case even before this ruling.

I respect that there are people who have strongly negative views about it, just as I have strongly positive ones. I am willing to meet them halfway. They might be willing to meet me halfway, if they understood where I stand and why I stand there.

Now they shall not, because they will never have the argument presented to them. What they will have presented instead is an unfair version of the argument, a straw man stood up only for the purposes of tearing it apart.

Where we might have had tolerance and mutual respect, we will have suspicion and hostility. We might have had engagement and a finding of common ground. Now any ground in between shall be No Man's Land.

There is a great deal at stake in the courts right now. There remains much to do.

Test Pilot

A Test Pilot:

JHD sends an obit for a test pilot of forty years' experience, who died recently in the crash of a single-engine private plane. It's a good story, the kind of story we hope our lives will leave behind us when we die. Thanks to Scott Crossfield and the men like him, whose courage is written across the sky.

EMP Iran

On Iran:

I imagine some heavy-duty "what if?" planning is going on in corners of the military establishment, trying to develop a military option for Iran. It's not that we desire to attack Iran; it's that, given Iran's history and ideology, we can't afford for them to become a nuclear weapons power. They would probably use it, either to create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) designed to wipe out the United States' continental electronic grid, or to simply wipe out Israel (something they seem very eager to talk about in front of microphones).

However, there are reasons not to invade, and traditional military war games have turned out badly in the past. InstaPundit says he thinks the EMP threat from Iran may be overrated, citing a Federation of American Scientists report that a credible EMP weapon requires a megaton device.

So here's a little concept I've been working on: Iran may not be able to produce an EMP, but we can. Why isn't that an option for us? I can't think of much that would throw a bigger monkey-wrench into your nuclear weapons building than having to stop and replace your entire power grid. Unlike other military options, the death toll would be small -- the greatest threat would be to those who depend on the infrastructure for food and medicine, but we could provide such aid via airdrops, or allow nations that wished to do so to go in on the ground and do it.

It would create a clear example. It would, of course, inflame much of the world -- but any attack on Iran will inflame much of the world. Because it would involve the use of a nuclear device, it would infuriate the transnationalist crowd, which argues that the US must not be arrogant and behave as if it weren't subject to the same rules as other nations. Nevertheless, as a practical matter, the US is different from other nations, and must behave differently as a result -- the idea that we're no different from France or India is laughable. The world has come to, and indeed has decided to, depend on us to provide worldwide security. It can gripe about how we do it, but you don't see anyone else (except China) stepping up to do it differently.

As an additional practical benefit, the FAS article notes that we have a problem devising EMP-resistant hardware because we have very little data on EMPS. We haven't conducted a high altitude nuclear test since 1963, when we didn't really understand very well what we should be examining. This would be an occasion to get fresh data with modern instruments, that would help us prepare against some future possible use of an EMP against the United States.

Sounds to me like a military option.


A Close Shave:

This is outstanding. It's an article on shaving by Andy Crouch of Christianity Today, and it is everything I want an article on any topic to be. This is the right way to approach life, in large things and in small. You'll understand once you've read it.

Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily.

Press Right, Bush Wrong

Press Right, Bush Wrong:

The BBC has a story today on North Korean counterfeiting of US $100 bills. It's an interesting story on a serious problem, but it begins with a little jab at the US government:

The US is cracking down on what it terms North Korea's criminal activities.
The BBC is quite right. North Korea is not engaging in "criminal activities," because there is -- as Al Gore put it -- no controlling legal authority. There is, to put it plainly, no such thing as international law. There are treaties and obligations, but there is no law in the sense that law exists for individuals. States can't be criminals.

No, counterfeiting of a state's currency by another state is not a crime.

It is an act of war.

A Good Idea

A Good Idea, Shot Down:

Via Southern Appeal and Orin Kerr, I see this excellent, if poorly written, motion:

COMES NOW counsel for Defendant...

Shaun Donovan and John Conner have consistently maintained that it was perfectly right, legal and moral for the stronger Matt Palagi to beat up Demetrius Joslin. They have maintained that Joslin did not have to worry [about suffering grave injury or death] because Matt's drunk and stoned friends would jump in and protect Joslin.

The defense team disagrees but would love to give Donovan and Conner a chance to stand up for the principle.... Therefore, the defense moves that... there be a fist fight with one side being Mr. Coroner and Mr. Donovan and the otehr side being Kirk Krutill and Bill Buzzel. For further insurances, that Coroner and Donovan don't get beat up to bad, an group of defense attorney's drunk and stoned friends will be there to assure Conner's and Donovan's safety.

All errors same in citation. The judge is not amused.
While counsel for the State are confident they could acquit themselves respectably if it were necessary to settle any part of this matter by means of a physical contest, ancient methods of trial by fire, water and the like no longer have any place in our system of justice.
As a historian, I'd have to chide the judge in turn for failing to understand that "trial by fire, water and the like," properly known as trial by ordeal, were an entirely separate business from trial by combat. Leaving aside the point, however, the fistfight might really be clarifying -- particularly if the counsel for the State were given knives, and asked to judge what a proper amount of force really is.

The problem is that a stabbing knife -- which the facts suggest is what was used here -- is a poor weapon for self-defense. Oh, it will kill a man just fine: a single stab to a major artery or organ can be fatal. The problem is that, when you are defending yoruself, the point isn't that the other man die -- it's that the other man stop what he's doing that justifies the act of self-defense. If he dies, fine. If he lives, fine. But he's got to stop.

A stab wound is likely to be fatal, but it's a death that takes a while. The wound relies on bleeding, and mostly internal bleeding, to drop blood pressure or induce shock to the point that the attacker will stop. However, as Daniel points out, the body undergoes two changes in a fight that make it harder for such a wound to act on you: it shrinks the surface blood vessels ("vasal constriction"), and it dumps adrenaline into the body. Thus, you really have to hit a major organ or artery to kill, and even then, you have to wait until blood pressure really drops -- which can take seconds, or minutes, depending on the severity of the wound.

During those seconds or minutes, the other guy is still pounding on you. Yes, you've dealt him a lethal wound. He just doesn't know it yet. He's bigger than you, and his friends have you surrounded. What do you do?

Stab him again, since all you've got is the knife. Stab him again until he drops. Maybe the pain will finally get through to him, or maybe the extra wounds will speed the point at which the blood pressure drop hits him. Either way, if you were justified in stabbing the first time, you're justified for keeping it up until he stops what he was doing.

This is a point that the State is either trying to obscure, or doesn't understand. The fist fight motion should have been granted, if only for the purposes of education.

From a personal point of view -- and with an eye toward the recent post on Flight 93, and our potential duty to put ourselves in the breach to stop a terrorist -- we also have a lesson to learn. The lesson is: bring the right tool for the job. You want a knife that will slash, so you can attack tendons and make long cuts, rather than stab wounds, in nerves and major blood vessels. That is far more likely to stop an attacker quickly than a stab wound, even though it is less likely to kill him. The best choice is a proper Bowie knife, or a Randall Mk I style combat knife.

I continue to recommend Bowie & Big Knife Fighting System as an entry point into the study of knife fighting. As it shows, these are excellent choices for a fighting man -- at the kind of ranges in which self-defense combat is most likely according to FBI statistics, as good or better than any handgun if you have the strength and the skill.

If you don't, a large-caliber handgun is also a good choice. Again, you aren't worried about killing so much as stopping the foe -- a bullet that will break bones and joints, or reach through the body to the central nervous system, is what you need. A .38 Special will kill a man just fine, sooner or later. If it comes to it, you need something that will stop him regardless of whether it kills him -- and stop him now.

And, of course, for home defense or to keep in the truck, a good rifle or shotgun. Pretty much any rifle will do.

So, the motion proves to be educational even though the fistfight didn't happen. Pity it didn't, though. A little trial by combat would probably improve the system. The current "modern enlightened" system is certainly not impressing me much with its ability to rehabilitate, after all.

Some Poetry

Some Poetry:

It's been a little while since Grim mentioned it--I've been meaning to write something of my wn about G.K. Chesterton, and The Ballad of the White Horse. (The poem can be found online here. I originally found it as a part of this collection of Chesterton's writing.)

Chesterton wrote this piece of epic poetry to celebrate the victory of King Alfred over a band of Danish invaders. The struggle is as much a religious struggle as a military one: King Alfred is a Christian, as are his people. The invaders are pagans who worship strange, warlike gods. Chesterton's openly admits that he isn't writing precise history; he is writing about a historical man who cast a legendary shadow across the ages.

The central character in the story is Alfred, a Saxon king in Wessex. He is a king without a kingdom, it seems--his armies have been crushed, invaders roam the countryside, and his authority only holds in a small area.

The tale of the Battle of White Horse Vale is told as a microcosm of Alfred's long fight with the Danes. It is also told as a microcosm of the religious struggle of the time: the attitudes and ideas of Christians as opposed to the Danish beliefs and practices.

One of the strength of Chesterton's poem is the way it introduces people, cultures, and events. Short vignettes pepper the story; each vignette describes the subject in a way that is memorable.

The Vikings are introduced thus:
The Northmen came about our land
A Christless chivalry:
Who knew not of the arch or pen,
Great, beautiful half-witted men
From the sunrise and the sea.
Their gods were sadder than the sea,
Gods of a wandering will,
Who cried for blood like beasts at night,
Sadly, from hill to hill.
When king Alfred prays to the Blessed Virgin; he worries about the death of a culture and the end of a kingdom:
"When our last bow is broken, Queen,
And our last javelin cast,
Under some sad, green evening sky,
Holding a ruined cross on high,
Under warm westland grass to lie,
Shall we come home at last?"
The response to this prayer isn't a promise that all will go well.
"I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

"Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?"
It is this mention of the hope that underlies Christian faith that galvanizes Alfred's resolve. He gets no promise of the survival of Christian culture in England--or of his throne in Wessex. But he is reminded that the Christian culture he supports cares little for the fate of kingdoms; but this attitude paradoxically makes the Christian culture more resilient.

One of the legendary tales that the poem draws on is one of Alfred entering the Danish camp alone, and singing at one of their campfires. One Danish prince mocks the Christian culture and the remnants of Rome in this way:
"Doubtless your sires were sword-swingers
When they waded fresh from foam,
Before they were turned to women
By the god of the nails from Rome;

"But since you bent to the shaven men,
Who neither lust nor smite,
Thunder of Thor, we hunt you
A hare on the mountain height."
Other princes sing tales of the sadness of the earliest gods of the Vikings, and of the futility of struggle for dominance in a world where all are brought equal by death.

Alfred responds to these songs with the joy and hope that seem baseless to non-believers. He holds that the Christian culture had more heart to run than the Danish culture had to pursue; he holds that the followers of Christ were more fullfilled with their fasts and hardships than the Danes were with their feasting and wealth.

Lastly, he reminds them that "only Christian men guard even Heathen things."

The battle of the White Horse Vale is told as if to follow this outline. Several epic encounters are described. The mighty men of both armies fight well. However, the leaders of Alfred's armies are killed and their men are beaten back. But Alfred rallies them in the forest, and manages to set upon the Danes who have become disordered and unwatchful in their celebration of victory.

The tale ends with Alfred as an old king,ordering his people to keep the chalk outline of the White Horse visible in the hill that overlooks the White Horse Vale. Many victories are hinted at; battles that stretched far beyond that first victory near Wessex. Alfred is said to warn about days when the enemies of faith will come as men of learning, rather than as men of war.

The poem captures the drama of the struggle between the Vikings and the Saxons for the control of England. It also describes contributions of Gaelic and Roman culture to the survival of Christian culture in England.

As Grim mentioned, the poem can also be used to describe the current struggle between the Men of the West and the Islamists who wish to remake the world after their vision of perfect Islamic culture. Their culture appears strong, but it has denied itself access to outside sources of culture and philosophy. It has forgotten the cultural sources tha came from outside of itself. It is weakened in its ability to learn from other cultures.

The culture of the West openly deals with outside sources at its deepest levels. Greek philsophical thinking and the Judaic roots of Christianity are both remembered and referenced in the West. These sources--and the conflicts that they engendered during the long development of Western culture--give the Western world its distinct strength.

Paradoxically, this strength looks like a weakness to the non-Western world.

We would do well to remember this strength. We would also do well to remember that cultures are neither created, destroyed, or fundamentally altered in a day. As Chesterton said in his introduction, the long struggle between Christian culture and the nihilism of the destructive invaders was the work of centuries. The characters he drew stand as symbols for the various forces at work over those centuries.

This is the lesson that I read in the Ballad of the White Horse. Strength may appear to be weak; weakness may appear to be strength. Clashes between cultures and civilizations may take a century to reach a conclusion. And the battle to preserve the Western world is not to be abadoned, even when hope seems foolish.