1. Europe’s Ancien Régime returns Jäger and David Adler, London Review of Books
  2. Monetary imperialism in French West Africa Ndongo Samba Sylla, Africa is a Country
  3. In defense of George W Bush Feaver & Inboden, War on the Rocks
  4. Justice Ginsburg on Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh Jonathan Adler, Volokh Conspiracy

Strange Historical Facts

Not long thereafter, they erected the first sawmill in what was to become the state of Washington on a site by the lower falls of the Deschutes River. Much of the capital for erecting the mill apparently came from George W. Bush, Washington’s first black resident. The cut of this mill, it has been claimed, was marketed through the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Nisqually and found its way to Victoria and the Hawaiian Islands. The first shipment was supposedly made on the Hudson’s Bay Company steamer Beaver in 1848.

Um, wow. I don’t know where to begin. This excerpt comes from page 25 of a 1977 book by historian Thomas R Cox titled Mills and Markets: A History of the Pacific Coast Lumber Industry to 1900. Aside from the interesting anecdote quoted above, it’s not very good. I picked it up because of the possibilities associated with such a subject, but instead of a theoretical narrative on globalization, identity, state-building, and property rights, it is a book that reads a lot like the excerpt I quoted above (the local history aspect I have enjoyed, though; local history is one of my secret pleasures, the kind of stuff that never makes it into grand theoretical treatises but always lights up my brain because of the fact that places I know and places I have lived are the focus of the narrative).

I blame it on the year it was published, of course. 1977 was at the height of the Cold War, which means that scholarly inquiry was inevitably going to be policed by ideologues, and also that works appraising global or regional scales and scopes just weren’t doable. For instance, there was virtually no mention of Natives in the book. (See archaeologist Kent Lightfoot’s excellent, highly-recommended work – start here and here – for more on how this is changing.)

War criminal Watch: Condoleezza Rice now on dropbox’s board of directors.

Yesterday the company that specializes in remote file sharing announced that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is now on their board of directors.  This is troubling news for a number of reasons.  The first, more pedantic reason, is simply that she played no small role in the deaths of several hundred thousand people throughout the middle east as well as the unnecessary deaths of thousands of US soldiers.  More practically though she was a member of the presidency that pushed the PATRIOT Act and is now working intimately with a company that has access to millions of personal files.

For those of you who do not know the dropbox software essentially allows you to put files in a folder on your PC where they are synced to the “cloud”.  You, or anyone else, are then free to download those files from anywhere in the world as long as you know the link to said file.   It is a handy way to transfer files that may be too large for an E-Mail attachment or that you simply do not trust google having access to.  From this point forward I would question the security of any file transferred with dropbox.

Oh and by the way. Snowden documents from last year state “that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider.”  

PRISM, of course, being an NSA program “which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats,”   

How many more “coincidences” that just happen to violate rights, privacy, security and safety are we going to sweep under the rug?

The State of the Union and the State of our Liberties

Nevertheless it is important not to fall into the delusion that President Obama presents the greatest danger to the culture of liberty. A historian looking back a hundred years from now is likely to group the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton presidencies together as an era when the state receded or at least did not grow, as measured by regulatory and fiscal burdens on our lives. But Bush II relentlessly increased domestic spending and created more government involvement in health care with the Medicare D program for prescription drugs. It was President Bush who initiated many of the NSA programs.

In short, there are more similarities between Bush II and Obama than their supporters or detractors care to acknowledge. And almost all of the similarities suggest that the risks to our liberty today transcend the actions of any particular politician.

From John McGinnis. Read the rest.

Bush’s War

“Since March 1996, Iraq has  systematically sought to deny weapons inspectors from the United Nations Special on Iraq Commission (UNSCOM) access to key facilities and documents, has on several occasions endangered the safe operation of UNSCOM helicopters transporting UNSCOM personnel in Iraq, and has persisted in a pattern of deception and concealment  regarding the history of its weapons of mass destruction programs […]

On August 14 — the President signed Public Law 105-235, which declared that “the  Government of Iraq  is in material and unacceptable breach  of its international obligations” and urged the President to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligation […]

It should be he policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of  a democratic government to replace that regime.”

The first paragraph is from the Iraq Liberation Act of ___  .

The second and third paragraphs are from  Public-Law 105-235.

The president who signed both items was ___________?

This is lifted from the Wall Street Journal of 3/19/13. The bolding is mine.

Both pieces of legislation were enacted in 1998.

The primary reason given by the Bush administration for the attack on Hussein’s Iraq was to search there for weapons of mass destruction. We now know there were no such weapons on any significant scale. I keep arguing on this blog that:

  1. There were many other reasons to destroy the Hussein regime and,
  2. There were very good reasons for any reasonable person to be misled about the existence of such weapons in Iraq.

Mostly, it was that the Hussein regime sabotaged the inspection process to which it had agreed as a condition of peace following the first Gulf War. It would be hard to understand the high risks taken to hide things by one who had in fact nothing to hide! (Read this sentence again.)

The important persons and organization who were fooled into believing in the existence of the non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were numerous and varied. They included several western intelligence services and many important politicians.

In 1998, a prominent member of one of the two main American political parties (prominent then and prominent now) said the following,

“Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”

I am not faulting the politician who said this for blindness then but for irresponsible, dishonest amnesia now.

The politician in question is __________________________

(Answer below as a “Comment.”)

The quote is lifted from the Wall Street Journal editorial on 3/20/13.

The Predictable Failure of the Iraq War

I’ve gone over the knowledge problem associated with foreign policy before, and I believe it is sufficient to say that libertarians were right in deflating predictions by hawks that the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq would go over smoothly. Hawks on both the Left and the Right oversimplified the situation in the Middle East. Their condescending tone towards both the Iraqi people and the broader Middle East guaranteed failure from the outset. Anybody who believes that a state – no matter how wealthy and powerful – can just waltz in to another state – no matter how poor and weak – and impose its will upon it is a fool.

Gene Healy reports from DC:

In a 2001 debate on Iraq with former CIA Director James Woolsey, my Cato Institute colleague, then-Chairman William Niskanen, argued that “an unnecessary war is an unjust war” and one we would come to regret having fought.

Niskanen was right. A new report from the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University tallies up the costs: nearly 4,500 U.S. troop fatalities, an eventual budgetary cost of some $3.9 trillion and more than 130,000 civilians as “collateral damage.”


Bill Niskanen, who passed away last year at the age of 78, never tired of reminding conservatives that war is a government program — and an especially destructive one at that.

If you add up the harsh economic sanctions imposed upon the Iraqis by the Democrats earlier in the decade, the 130,000 civilian toll increases significantly (to about half a million, most of whom were children).

Only a foreign policy based around commerce, peace and honest friendship will succeed in both the short and the long runs. Luckily for us, it appears that there is a growing consensus on this argument among the population of the United States. It helps that most advocates of the war are either remorseful or they are becoming more and more discredited by the day. From Hitlery Clinton to Dubya to John McCain, the old guard is steadily giving way to a breath of fresh air. Air that is more suitable for a republic dedicated to individual liberty.

Whining Instead of Sex and the Better Use of Health Insurance: A Testimony

I know how detestable it is for older men to speak about their health. First, the odds that they are going to come out alive are not good. Second, it’s true that many old geezers replace sexual pleasure with the joys of whining. I am not one of those. I have a legitimate, didactic reason to speak about my health, at least, briefly. It has to do indirectly with the underpinning of the on-going debate on and disgust with health care reform.

About five months ago, I started suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. In a way, CTS is a happy illness. It’s the illness of writers who actually write. It come from spending too much time intensively using the keyboard. Yet, the pain was intense enough to wake me up at night. The neurologist prescribed Aleve. Then, at my insistence, he described the appropriate surgical intervention. It’s a routine operation; it does not require anesthesia; it works almost all the time. Having little patience, in my mind, I was immediately sold on the procedure.

Then, I started looking at cost. I am on one of the Bush-era, smart versions of Medicare. It’s designed to give me all that I need but not much more. I knew this in an abstract way but I had not thought it through because, frankly, who does not have something more exciting to do than reading insurance companies fine print and wooden language? So, I was shocked that my share of the cost for this simple, small operation would come to almost $2,000. I put off the decision because putting off the decision rather than making lemonade, is often the most rational thing you can do when life serves you lemons. Continue reading