Cash for comment in the US

In a US case reminiscent of our own cash for comment scandal, Cato Institute Senior Fellow Doug Bandow has resigned following the revelation that he wrote (for pay) articles promoting the interests of Jack Abramoff’s clients, including the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands and the gaming interests of the Choctaw tribe. This is disappointing – I liked Bandow best among the Cato crew (unless you count Julian Sanchez). And the amount of money involved was piddling – $2000 a pop or about $24K all up. A few quick-and-dirty consultancy jobs could have brought in a similar amount, without raising the same conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the Institute for Policy Innovation is sticking to his job despite taking Abramoff’s cash. No surprise there.

But the question that really strikes me is this: If Bandow’s relatively minor ethical lapse is a sackable offence, how can Cato continue to harbour Steve Milloy? He’s not only a corporate shill of the worst kind, but a walking offence to civilised standards of behavior. Cato Institute President Edward Crane, who has failed to sack Milloy, ought to resign before Bandow.

Update IPI responds, confirming the basic facts noted above, but criticising other aspects of the Business Week story I linked.

What I'm reading and more

Civil Passions by Martin Krygier. An interesting set of essays on a wide range of subjects. I was particularly struck by his observation on Keith Windschuttle’s claim to be a fearless seeker after truth, as opposed to the ideologically-driven history of his opponents. Writing in 2003, Krygier observed that Windschuttle had not yet done the research for his promised volumes on Queensland, and asked ‘Who can even conceive Windschuttle saying after a few more years in the archives “Whoops. Got it all wrong. Hats off to Henry.” Unless of course he has yet another across the board ideological conversion’. This, I think, says everything that needs to be said about Windschuttle*. Krygier (a second generation Cold Warrior) also has some fascinating things to say about the collapse of communism

I also went to see Red Dust, a film about the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, from a novel by Gillian Slovo, which I found compelling. I saw it at the Schonell theatre, a Uni of Queensland institution that is under threat of closure as a result of voluntary student unionism. If you live in Brisbane and have been vaguely thinking about going, do so now while you still have the chance.

* As my last sentence implies, I don’t feel like engaging in another long debate about Windschuttle. I’m going to delete (or, at my discretion, disemvowel) any comments defending him, or criticising his opponents, unless the author is willing to state that they think it reasonably likely that Windschuttle might reach, and publish, the conclusion that Henry Reynolds and others were broadly correct in their assessment of the situation in Queensland. The same will apply to any meta-discussion about my position on this. I’d ask those who agree with me not to feed the trolls by piling on.

Update Since readers have been unwilling to abide by my requests, I’m closing comments on this thread.

What I’m reading and more

Civil Passions by Martin Krygier. An interesting set of essays on a wide range of subjects. I was particularly struck by his observation on Keith Windschuttle’s claim to be a fearless seeker after truth, as opposed to the ideologically-driven history of his opponents. Writing in 2003, Krygier observed that Windschuttle had not yet done the research for his promised volumes on Queensland, and asked ‘Who can even conceive Windschuttle saying after a few more years in the archives “Whoops. Got it all wrong. Hats off to Henry.” Unless of course he has yet another across the board ideological conversion’. This, I think, says everything that needs to be said about Windschuttle*. Krygier (a second generation Cold Warrior) also has some fascinating things to say about the collapse of communism

I also went to see Red Dust, a film about the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, from a novel by Gillian Slovo, which I found compelling. I saw it at the Schonell theatre, a Uni of Queensland institution that is under threat of closure as a result of voluntary student unionism. If you live in Brisbane and have been vaguely thinking about going, do so now while you still have the chance.

* As my last sentence implies, I don’t feel like engaging in another long debate about Windschuttle. I’m going to delete (or, at my discretion, disemvowel) any comments defending him, or criticising his opponents, unless the author is willing to state that they think it reasonably likely that Windschuttle might reach, and publish, the conclusion that Henry Reynolds and others were broadly correct in their assessment of the situation in Queensland. The same will apply to any meta-discussion about my position on this. I’d ask those who agree with me not to feed the trolls by piling on.

Update Since readers have been unwilling to abide by my requests, I’m closing comments on this thread.

Iraqi elections

The Iraqi elections appear to have gone well, with a high Sunni turnout. Hopefully, the post-election haggling won’t take months like last time, now that there is no longer a requirement for a two-thirds majority.

The big question now is whether this will lead to a US withdrawal, either because the new government demands it or because the Bush Administration decides to declare victory.

Among the possible victory conditions, the holding of elections is the only one likely to happen any time soon. There’s no reason to think that the insurgency will end as long as the occupation continues – similar insurgencies have lasted for decades in many countries.

As for training Iraqi troops, it’s clear that the problems here are not going to be resolved simply by the passing of time. Basic training for US marines takes 13 weeks, and (IIRC) the Iraqis get less, so obviously there has been plenty of time to train troops. The real problem is that any serious armed force is bound to be under the control of one or other of the militias, which might turn against the US.

A staged withdrawal would probably lead to an intensification of the insurgency in the short run. But the end of occupation would reduce support for the insurgents in the long run. It’s not a great option, but it’s hard to see a better one.

After the riots

There’s not much to say about the riots that hasn’t already been said, but one point that hasn’t been stressed enough is the small numbers of people actively involved. The crowd at Cronulla on Sunday was large, but it seems that only a couple of hundred were engaged in violence. Similarly, forty car loads of thugs were said to have been involved in the subsequent round of attacks on Monday night. That’s alarming but again it amounts to a couple of hundred people. The same was true in the French riots, which mainly consisted of small groups burning cars under cover of darkness. The availability of mobile phones makes organising this kind of thing a lot easier, and calls for a response. I hope that, in addition to those already charged, the police will pursue everyone involved in this shameful behavior. Many of them have been recorded on film and ought to be easy to identify.

Then there are the instigators of the violence. The senders of SMS messages will no doubt be hard to trace, but there’s no doubt about the role of talkback radio and 2GB in particular. It’s unclear whether Alan Jones or his talkback callers have committed a criminal offence, as suggested in comments here and elsewhere, but if he hasn’t, then the government’s spanking new sedition laws are clearly a dead letter.

The laws governing broadcasting are also relevant. Radio stations like 2GB get free allocations of valuable spectrum under a system of licensing which includes a prohibition on broadcasting matter that is likely to incite violence. If this system is to be maintained, 2GB should be stripped of its license by the Australian Broadcasting Authority for broadcasting people like Jones.