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Volume 6, Issue 46: November 15, 2004
- Further Missteps at the CIA Likely to Harm the U.S.
- "Affordable-Housing" Laws Make Housing More Expensive
- The Faith of Empire
1) Further Missteps at the CIA Likely to Harm the U.S.
What are we to make of the Bush administration's shakeup of the U.S. intelligence community? The reportedly forthcoming purge of officials at the CIA -- conducted by the White House's recent pick to head the troubled agency, former Florida congressman Porter Goss -- suggests that the administration is more concerned with settling scores against allegedly disloyal CIA employees than in genuinely strengthening the U.S. intelligence capability, according to Ivan Eland, director and senior fellow of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute.
Although the CIA has been widely criticized for allowing distortions of Saddam Hussein's weapons capability to be repeated in President Bush's pre-war speeches, the purge reportedly goes beyond the agency's analysis division, to include those most badly needed in fighting terrorism: members of the CIA's secret operations directorate, which conducts overseas spying and covert missions. Goss will fill the newly open positions with politicos from his congressional staff, according to NEWSWEEK.
"Playing politics with intelligence is bad for the republic," writes Eland in a new op-ed. "Conducting intelligence purges to get the answers the administration wants could lead to policy disasters that could make the current one in Iraq look mild. What if agents, case officers, and analysts who are assigned to cover North Korea decide that their jobs are at risk if they don't come up with hyped threat assessments to support a hawkish Bush administration policy toward that nuclear-armed power?"
In addition, Goss reportedly is reducing the agency's use of foreign intelligence agencies to collect information, a move Eland says is particularly foolish in regard to the Middle East, where the CIA does not have particularly good intelligence assets. If Goss intends to make up for this intelligence shortfall by relying more heavily on expensive spy satellites, then he will be repeating the same mistake that for many years has weakened the nation's intelligence capability, Eland argues.
"In short, Goss is politicizing the agency, alienating the organization, apparently purging the wrong people, unwisely reducing contacts with foreign intelligence agencies, and thus being distracted from the need for a massive reallocation of resources to more effectively fight terrorism. He is off to a rocky start as CIA director," Eland concludes.
See "Politics and the CIA," by Ivan Eland (11/15/04)
To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see
Center on Peace & Liberty
2) "Affordable-Housing" Laws Make Housing More Expensive
Can housing be made more affordable by requiring developers to set aside a portion of their new homes for purchase at below-market rates?
Advocates of affordable-housing mandates -- a.k.a., inclusionary zoning -- say that affordable housing can be built as easily as signing a government edict. But according to economists Edward Stringham and Benjamn Powell, director of the Center on Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Independent Institute, inclusionary zoning in California has had precisely the opposite effect: it has resulted in fewer homes being built and higher prices for the vast majority of homebuyers.
"In the median city in the San Francisco Bay Area, builders must forgo $345,000 in revenue for each below-market unit," Stringham and Powell write in a recent op-ed. Consequently, builders have built fewer houses and have charged more for the market-rate homes -- about $44,000 more for a house in the median Bay Area city and more than $100,000 more in higher-end communities.
Not only does inclusive zoning act as a hefty hidden tax, it actively discourages the construction of affordable housing: "The average [Bay Area] city has produced fewer than 15 affordable units per year since passing an inclusionary ordinance," Stringham and Powell write. "If inclusionary zoning continues at its current pace, it will take 100 years for inclusionary zoning to meet the region's current five-year housing need."
See "Inclusionary Zoning Makes Housing Less Affordable," by Edward Stringham and Benjamin Powell" (11/1/04) http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1416
Also see, "San Jose Should Abolish Its Housing Affordability Requirements," by Benjamin Powell (SILICON VALLEY BIZ INK, 10/1/04) http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1376
3) The Faith of Empire
A recent NEW YORK TIMES article on George W. Bush's "faith-based" presidency prompted Independent Institute Research Fellow William Marina to raise the question: is there a connection between the rise of empires and the rise or decline of reason in a culture?
According to Marina, a cultural respect for reason and the impulse of political leaders to engage in empire-building move in opposite directions: "All the great empires in history have been characterized by a decline of reason and an increase in super-naturalist faith, combined with a belief in the empire with the emperor holding God's 'mandate' on earth," writes Marina, in his latest provocative essay.
From Ch'in Emperor Shi Wang-ti (depicted recently in the film "Hero") to the Roman Empire under Constantine, to the United States since the turn of the 20th century, respect for reason has declined as the quest for empire has grown, according to Marina.
"Religious zealotry was, of course, involved in the U.S.s first formal venture into imperialism in 1898 with the Spanish-American War, when over 200,000 Filipinos were killed," writes Marina. "The missionaries wanted to expand their efforts into China, and after President William McKinley supposedly communed with God, McKinley indicated we should take the Philippines and 'Christianize' and 'uplift' the natives there.... Later, President Woodrow Wilson would extend this missionary mentality to the entire world during and after World War I, and the catastrophic repercussions are all too with us yet today!"
See "Empires as Ages of Religious Ignorance," by William Marina (11/12/04)