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Volume 11, Issue 5: February 2, 2009

  1. Halbrook Opposes Obama’s Choice for Attorney General on 2nd Amendment Grounds
  2. Bush Official’s Comments Warrant War-Crimes Investigation
  3. A Latin America Policy for the Obama Administration
  4. Essay Contest Asks Scholars to Examine Virtue, Freedom, and Civil Society
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Halbrook Opposes Obama’s Choice for Attorney General on 2nd Amendment Grounds

The U.S. Senate today confirmed Eric Holder for the office of Attorney General by a vote of 75 to 21. On January 16, Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen Halbrook testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee against Holder’s confirmation. Halbrook’s latest op-ed summarizes his case against Holder.

“Eric Holder’s agenda is to make exercise of Second Amendment rights a minefield where an innocent misstep will land you in the penitentiary,” writes Holbrook, an attorney who has successfully defended firearm ownership in the U.S. Supreme Court and author of the acclaimed book, The Founders’ Second Amendment.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed last year, Eric Holder supported a total handgun ban in District of Columbia v. Heller, and while serving as U.S. Attorney for the District, “Holder tried to make possession of an unregistered firearm a felony punishable by five years imprisonment,” Halbrook writes. Among other restrictions, Holder wants to make “any private transfer of a firearm without government permission a felony” and “ban gun possession by persons in the 18–21 age group,” according to Halbrook.

“Don’t Confirm Holder,” by Stephen P. Halbrook (1/29/09)

Halbrook Testimony on C-SPAN (Video)

The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook

Second Amendment Book Bomb: More than 2,400 pledge to purchase Halbrook’s book.


2) Bush Official’s Comments Warrant War-Crimes Investigation

A remark by the Bush administration official in charge of military tribunals should spark a full criminal investigation of torture at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and elsewhere, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty.

“Now that even Susan J. Crawford, the senior Bush administration official in charge of that administration’s kangaroo military commissions, used the ‘t’ word to describe what the administration did to one prisoner, the administration admitted to committing a war crime under international law,” writes Eland in a recent op-ed.

A proper investigation, Eland argues, must include officials higher up the chain of command, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who may have had prior knowledge of unlawful practices. “Astonishingly, Bush recently admitted that he had approved all ‘extraordinary’ techniques used on detainees,” Eland continues. “So not only has an administration official admitted a war crime but so has the president.”

Eland predicts that even if the Obama administration and Congress establish a truth commission to expose wrongdoing, Bush administration officials probably wouldn’t be prosecuted for war crimes -- a likelihood that would further weaken the constitutional checks and balances designed to curb the abuse of power by the executive branch of the federal government. “Investigations and prosecutions are needed, and are now harder for these parties to avoid with Ms. Crawford’s and Bush’s public admissions,” concludes Eland.

“Prosecute George W. Bush for Illegal Acts,” by Ivan Eland (1/26/09)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

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


3) A Latin America Policy for the Obama Administration

If Barack Obama wants to help the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean before next April’s Summit of the Americas, he should make three things a high priority, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, editor of Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit. First and foremost, he argues, the new president should improve the U.S. economy quickly, so those countries can borrow money from private lenders rather than the International Monetary Fund -- an agency he says “poisoned relations” between Latin America and the outside world when it was a major player in the region a decade ago.

Second, Obama should reform U.S. immigration policy to improve labor mobility and complement the ten free-trade agreements the U.S. has negotiated in the region in the past decade. Third, he should rethink the war on drugs, to reduce the deadly unintended side effects of prohibition, including the spread of violence, according to Vargas Llosa.

“There are other measures Obama could take to endear himself to countries such as Brazil,” Vargas Llosa continues, “for instance, getting rid of the ludicrous 54 percent tariff on imports of ethanol from that country. And there are tactical approaches to be adopted in certain trouble spots -- such as letting Hugo Chavez hang with his own rope. But, ultimately, undoing the U.S. economic mess, beginning to look at the mobility of people -- and not just goods and services -- as part of trade relations, and starting a conversation about alternative ways to confront drugs would be by far the best contributions Obama could make to a region of the world to which he has yet to travel.”

What Obama Can(Not) Do for Latin America,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (1/28/09) Spanish Translation

Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa


4) Essay Contest Asks Scholars to Examine Virtue, Freedom, and Civil Society

The Sir John M. Templeton Fellowships Essay Contest, an international competition open to college students and untenured college teachers under 36 years old, is asking this year’s contestants to examine the relationship between freedom, virtue, and civil society. Cash prizes will be awarded for outstanding essays on the following topic:

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.  As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
--Benjamin Franklin

Which virtues contribute the most toward achieving freedom, and how can the institutions of civil society encourage the exercise of those virtues?

Junior Faculty Division
First Prize: $10,000
Second Prize: $5,000
Third Prize: $1,500

Student Division
First Prize: $2,500
Second Prize: $1,500
Third Prize: $1,000

In addition to the cash prizes, winners will receive assistance in getting their articles published and two-year subscriptions to The Independent Review. The deadline is May 1, 2009.

More information about the 2009 Templeton Essay Contest, including guidelines, bibliography, and winning essays from previous years


5) This Week in The Beacon

Here are the past week’s offerings from The Beacon, the web log of the Independent Institute:

Please leave your comments on the blog.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless