WASHINGTON, April 4 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering brief opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the second of two wrap-ups for April 4
The Hoover Institution
STANFORD, Calif. -- Campaign Finance Obfuscations
by Tibor R. Machan
Campaign finance reform is back again, since it's got some powerful Republicans pushing for it! It should never have come to any kind of government action, so why have the House and Senate approved a bill that could overhaul the nation's campaign finance laws to a degree not seen since the Watergate scandal nearly three decades ago?
Those who oppose campaign finance reform blew it when they tried to make it a freedom of speech issue. Those who find it disgusting to order people not to send money to whatever group or person they want to support should have made the case on the basis of one's right to liberty of action and right to private property.
If I earn money fair and square, it is I, not Congress or the United States president or anyone else, who should get to decide where it will be spent. Unless I am aiding and abetting some kind of violent crime with a victim, I am doing nothing that may be banned by anyone else. As a free citizen, in what purports to be a free society, I get to send money to anyone -- and if I join a group for this purpose there should be no questions asked.
So instead of this straightforward defense of campaign contributions -- be it soft or hard money -- we now have spurious arguments about how regulating or banning such practices amounts to shutting people up.
The excuse for this is that the right to private property has become so ill-protected in our legal system that invoking it as a legally powerful reason for keeping and using one's own wealth as one sees fits is nearly impossible. Courts do not pay attention to the fact that one is spending one's own money to advance a cause or a candidate.
But the First Amendment still has some clout. Freedom of the press is championed by at least the press, as well as those in the academic world. So if one wants the freedom to gain legal protection, one must relate it to freedom of speech or expression.
Although it may be a clever legal ploy to argue for freedom of speech, it is not convincing.
To gain popular support, something must square with common sense. The defense of spending one's own wealth on some political cause or candidate by linking the spending to free speech just hasn't been persuasive. It's better to be honest and insist on the right to the free use of one's own property.
(Tibor R. Machan is a Hoover Institution research fellow and distinguished fellow and professor in the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship & Business Ethics at the Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. He is also professor emeritus at the department of philosophy at Auburn University, in Auburn, Ala.).
Reason Public Policy Institute
Porn and Politics in Palestine
by Charles Paul Freund
When Palestinian residents of the besieged West Bank town of Ramallah turned on their TVs over the weekend, what they encountered was neither news nor any of the usual Palestinian Authority programming; they encountered pornographic movie clips.
Three of the four TV stations in Ramallah, headquarters of Yasser Arafat, had been occupied by Israeli troops. The town's remaining TV station was meanwhile running a crawl at the bottom of the screen explaining that the porn clips were the work of the occupying forces. "We urge parents to take precautions," it read.
An Israeli army spokesman told Agence France-Press that their forces had nothing to do with such clips, and even blamed Arafat for the footage. "Arafat is willing to go low in order to make himself look better in this uncomfortable situation," said the spokesman.
However, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, taking into account that the porn-playing stations were after all occupied, was less sweeping in his denial, saying "I cannot believe that Israeli soldiers would engage in such despicable behavior." He called it "shameful."
Why would Israeli troops program porn? If it was a freelance operation by individual soldiers, then it was merely an act of contempt. If it was an act planned by military authorities, however, then it can be read in a variety of ways.
Modern psychological warfare often makes use of unlikely media. When U.S. forces had Panama's Manuel Noriega surrounded a few years ago, it bombarded him around the clock with raucous rock music; FBI agents have done the same in domestic siege situations.
The idea, apparently, is to locate a cultural form that discomfits the target, and to subject that target to an unending stream of it. (Some claim that it also masks negotiations with noise.)
Pornography is virtually unavailable in most Muslim societies, except on the Internet. With the rise of Islamist values, even belly dancers in such officially secular places as Egypt have been wearing their once-revealing costumes over full dresses.
While some Ramallah residents accused the Israelis of attempting to corrupt the town's youth, that is an unlikely stratagem. More likely is that the sudden exposure to hard-core imagery would come as a psychological shock to those unaccustomed to it.
Replacing Palestinian news and other programming with such material also increases the stress and frustration of the populace. Remember, Ramallah's residents were unable to leave their homes, even to buy groceries. Their need for information was intense. Israeli forces had the option of taking the TV stations off the air entirely. Instead, they left them operating, but broadcasting "replacement" imagery. The pornography may well have been even more demoralizing than no programming at all.
Finally, many Israeli critics consider the "normal" programming of Palestinian Authority media to be morally objectionable in its own right. They regard it as a platform for anti-Semitic extremism, an encouragement to suicide-bomber "martyrdom," and an outlet for those advocating the annihilation of the Jewish state. According to its critics, official Palestinian television will stage scenes of dead Palestinian children, downplay or ignore Jewish fatalities, and fail to report Arafat's English-language condemnations of Palestinian acts of terror and savagery.
Thus, replacing such programming with porn clips (and clips of intifada actions played in reverse) may well represent the substitution of one form of reprehensible programming -- political porn -- with its moral equivalent.
(Charles Paul Freund is a senior editor of Reason magazine.)
Institute for Public Accuracy
(The IPA is a nationwide consortium of policy researchers that seeks to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for experts whose perspectives are often overshadowed by major think tanks and other influential institutions.)
WASHINGTON -- U.S. and Israeli Policies: The Road Ahead
*Simona Sharoni, an Israeli Jew who served in the Israeli army, is a professor of peace and conflict studies and Middle East politics at Evergreen State College and executive director of the Consortium on Peace Research, Education and Development.
"Sharon will probably do as much damage as he can before Powell gets to Israel next week, the same way he did before Zinni's trip. Israel's leaders have proven that they can go into the West Bank towns any time they want. There should be an inquiry commission to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by Israel in the last week."
*Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law and legal adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace negotiations from 1991 to 1993.
"We must abandon the fiction that the U.S. government is an 'honest broker' in the Middle East. ... It has invariably sided with Israel against the Palestinians, as well as against the other Arab states. We need to establish some type of international framework to sponsor these negotiations where the Palestinian negotiators will not be subjected to the continual intimidation, bribery, and outright deceptions perpetrated by the U.S. and Israel."
*Stephen Shalom, professor of political science at William Paterson University in New Jersey and author of "Imperial Alibis."
"Bush has been criticized for operating at arm's length, but the problem is not 'arm's length' -- it's arms shipments. The U.S. has been militarily, economically and diplomatically supporting the Israeli occupation for 35 years. It has blocked and vetoed action at the U.N. that might have addressed the situation."
Center for Strategic and International Studies
WASHINGTON -- Middle East Conflict: Bush's Decision to Send Powell to Region Bolsters U.S. Role
CSIS analysts made the following statements today regarding the future of the Middle East peace process:
*Anthony Cordesman, CSIS Burke Chair in strategy.
"President Bush is giving the United States the visibility it needs in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He correctly views it as a tragic war and not a struggle against terrorism. Unfortunately, it is far from clear that any U.S. action can correct the mistakes of failed leaders like Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon. The Second intifada is not the result of U.S. neglect but rather of the tragic inadequacy of the present leaders of the Palestinians and Israel."
*Richard Fairbanks, CSIS counselor.
"While Secretary Powell's new mission to the Middle East carries no guarantee of success, continued American inaction would have brought sure harm to our national interest. The president has dispatched the right man; time will tell if it was at the right time."
*Charles Duelfer, visiting scholar, CSIS Middle East program.
"The decision by President Bush to send Secretary Powell to the Middle East recognizes that the parties cannot extricate themselves from their cycle of mutual destruction and that U.S. interests in the broader region are being threatened. Moreover, the commitment of the administration to improve regional stability by addressing the threat posed by the regime in Baghdad could be slowed or derailed if the chaos of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict continues unabated."