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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 9, Issue 8: February 19, 2007

  1. Politicians Shift Blame for Iraq
  2. Obama, Viewed from Abroad
  3. Kelo and the Future of Property Rights
  4. China's AIDS Crisis
  5. Presidents Day Reading List

1) Politicians Shift Blame for Iraq

American politicians—from Bush to his supporters in the GOP to his Democratic critics in Congress—are quick to blame others for the chaos in Iraq. In his latest op-ed, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland argues that if these finger-pointers want to find the culprit, they must look in the mirror.

President Bush, for example, recently foisted blame on Iran for stirring the sectarian embers in Iraq (at least until Gen. Pace said he knew of no evidence that Iran had supplied Shiite groups in Iraq with armor-piercing weapons), whereas Rep. Rick Keller (R-FL) recently blamed the Iraqi people, comparing them to bad neighbors who attack good neighbors that try to help them. Then there is Sen. Hillary Clinton. “Instead of saying that her vote was a mistake—a colossal one given that the invasion would not have been justified even if Saddam Hussein had had such weapons—and apologizing, she is now saying that if voters want to hear an apology, they can just go vote for someone else for president. She doesn’t know it, but this stance is the kiss of death for her presidential bid.”

Eland predicts that Clinton will lose her party’s nomination to anti-war candidates Barack Obama or John Edwards. “Although the finger pointing will continue throughout the 2008 election campaign, ironically the Iraqis—aggrieved but the butt of blame for their plight—will have had a powerful influence on who is the next leader of the free world.”

“Iraq: Enough Blame to Go Around,” by Ivan Eland (2/19/07)

Spanish Translation: “Irak: Suficiente culpa dando vueltas”

The Emperor Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)


2) Obama, Viewed from Abroad

European and Latin American press coverage of the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) offers a glimpse into the political left and right overseas. “Broadly speaking, for Europeans and Latin Americans on the right, the fact that Obama so far has less support than Hillary Clinton among blacks is reassuring because it sets him apart from the politics of victimhood and affirmative action that they tend to associate with leading activists in America’s black community,” Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity, writes in his latest syndicated column. “For Europeans and Latin Americans of the left, Obama’s current difficulties with black voters in the United States are good news too, but for very different reasons.”

Reflecting current concerns of their own societies, Europeans on the left have focused on Obama’s story as the successful son of an immigrant, whereas Latin American leftists have emphasized Obama’s mixed-race success story. Latin Americans have also taken note of the senator’s recent pro-immigration speech in Springfield, Ill., Vargas Llosa reports: “The fact that this particular black politician combines to some extent an immigrant background with a flexible and tolerant view of racial identity makes many Latin Americans think he might be instrumental in marginalizing the more anti-immigrant African-American activists.”

Eventually, the press will need to stop looking at Obama as a political Rorschach test and instead focus on his voting record and policy proposals. “Abroad, then, the American senator is all things to all people—including Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who recently attacked Obama’s calls for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, reminding the outside world that perhaps focusing on the candidate’s policies, as opposed to only his narrative, might be in order,” Vargas Llosa concludes.

“Obama, Viewed from Abroad,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (2/14/07)
Spanish Translation: “Obama, visto desde el exterior”

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director)

El Independent: El Blog del Centro Para la Prosperidad Global de The Independent Institute


3) Kelo and the Future of Property Rights

Did the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London set off a political backlash that will ultimately strengthen property-rights protections? An examination of post-Kelo developments at state and local levels suggests that reports of the death of private-property rights may be greatly exaggerated, argue Edward J. Lopez and Sasha M. Totah in the latest issue of The Independent Review.

The Court’s controversial 5-4 decision was denounced across the political spectrum. “Almost all of the state legislatures are considering or have passed laws that, at least ostensibly, restrict eminent domain for economic development,” write Lopez and Totah. “Many states are also requiring more careful definitions of and processes for determining blight, and a growing number of state courts are interpreting public use more narrowly.”

One side benefit of stronger protection of property rights is that property would come to be used more efficiently. “The postbacklash environment will put more land-use decisions in the hands of sellers and buyers, who possess the specialized knowledge to negotiate about market prices most competently in determining a property’s highest-valued use,” write Lopez and Totah. “To the extent that the Kelo backlash ultimately limits takings for economic development, this outcome will equip land-use policymakers to serve the public interest better.”

See “Kelo and Its Discontents: The Worst (or Best?) Thing to Happen to Property Rights,” by Edward J. Lopez and Sasha M. Totah (The Independent Review, Winter 2007)

“The Mythology of Holdout as Justification for Eminent Domain and Public Provision of Roads," by Bruce Benson (The Independent Review, Fall 2005)

“Eminent Domain: Abuse of Government Power?” with Timothy Sandefur and Steven Greenhut (1/31/06)

Subscribe to The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy


4) China's AIDS Crisis

China can no longer hide its AIDS crisis for two reasons, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy. First, as part of China’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics, international journalists are now allowed much greater access to travel into the provinces without prior government approval. Reason number two is the tireless AIDS activist Dr. Gao Yaojie. Although she has retired from practicing medicine, the 80-year-old Gao—who, ten years ago, helped expose the problem of HIV contamination of many of the country’s blood banks—is still highly visible in publicizing in the international community.

“In a scramble for damage control, Chinese officials are simultaneously punishing and praising the grandmotherly dissident,” writes McElroy. “For example, last week policemen placed Gao under de facto house arrest, presumably to prevent her from making arrangements to accept an award in New York City next month. Yet, on Feb. 12, a high-ranking Communist official visited her home to grab a photo-op with Gao who was then lauded in the party’s newspaper.”

Ironically, the government’s lame efforts to hide China’s AIDS epidemic, and related scandals, have helped create more interest. McElroy writes: “Last November, I toured China in the company of various guides who clearly follow the official Communist line on political matters. On separate occasions, three different guides assured me that the AIDS situation was firmly under the government’s control. The interesting thing: I hadn’t asked them anything about AIDS. But, since they brought the subject up, I pursued it. The path led directly to where they did not wish me to go: Gao Yaojie.”

“China Can No Longer Hide AIDS Crisis,” by Wendy McElroy (2/15/07)

Spanish Translation: “China ya no puede ocultar la crisis del SIDA”

More articles by Wendy McElroy

Liberty for Women, ed. by Wendy McElroy


5) Presidents Day Reading List

Who were the greatest U.S. presidents? Who were the worst? What does recent scholarship say about the presidents you’re most interested in? The Lighthouse won’t offer definitive answers to those questions, but we can steer you toward penetrating articles and book reviews that help shed light on the subject.

Click here for insightful articles about American presidents.


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