Smoke enders; Starr chamber; domestic quarrels...


Jacob Sullum's article "Cowboys, Camels, and Kids" (April) was an informative and rational look into how cigarette advertising influences children. Only 20 myself, I don't find it difficult remembering those wonder years. Where I grew up, most kids tried smoking a few times, and many made it a regular habit. Yet I believe cigarette advertising had little effect on the choices made by my peers.

A very powerful point indicating this, not found in Sullum's article, is the level of other drug use among children, especially marijuana. In Santa Cruz County, California, where I grew up, marijuana use was equal to or greater than cigarette smoking. This is without any multinational corporations attempting to "brainwash" our children with billions of dollars in advertisements.

When I was in high school, nearly all social activities were centered around drugs (including cigarettes and alcohol). So, kids did drugs to fit in, fitting in being the main concern of most teenagers. They could care less about the Marlboro Man or Joe Camel.

James Markey
Santa Cruz, CA

I found it disconcerting that Jacob Sullum focused on the evidence that advertising causes people to smoke without seriously considering whether the question is relevant to public policy.

It may be an interesting academic exercise to consider when and how advertising influences human behavior. It is, however, a violation of free speech to restrict any advertising on the basis of the value of the message it conveys or how that message may influence behavior.

It may be reasonable to restrict advertising based on its intrusion upon personal privacy or its imposition of aesthetically offensive stimuli in public areas or in private areas without the owner's consent. It may also be reasonable to restrict advertising when it is intentionally, explicitly, and objectively deceitful. It is not reasonable, however, to restrict advertising because it may persuade people to reach a conclusion that other people consider to be detrimental to the person who was persuaded.

Cigarette advertising consistently sends the message that smoking produces pleasure. Yet it is impossible to objectively determine whether smoking is indeed pleasurable for every person. I have never seen a cigarette advertisement explicitly stating that smoking is a healthy or an unhealthy practice.

More importantly, it would be a major violation of individual freedom to give government the authority to decide what behaviors should be allowed on the basis of the government's judgment of what produces pleasure.

What is at stake here is our freedom to lead our own lives as we see fit, even when others are certain, in their own minds, that we are hurting ourselves. If we lose the right to advocate smoking, we will next lose the right to advocate eating candy, and then the right to advocate watching football while sitting on a couch eating potato chips.

If you willingly give up the right to think for yourself on any issue, you will soon lose the right to think at all.

Richard Marliave
Oakland, CA

Jacob Sullum replies:I thank Mr. Markey and Mr. Marliave for their letters. Regarding marijuana and tobacco, two additional points come to mind:

1) Since we cannot stop teenagers from smoking marijuana, a drug that is entirely illegal, it is rather unrealistic to suppose that we can stop them from smoking tobacco. Yet some anti-smoking activists insist that "we should not tolerate any underage smoking," as if preventing adolescents from lighting up is simply a matter of having the right attitude.

2) The recent increase (since 1992) in teenage tobacco smoking has been accompanied by an increase in teenage marijuana smoking. Yet these kids have been more propagandized against tobacco and marijuana than any generation in U.S. history. Advertising can hardly explain these trends, but a backlash against "Just Say No" might.

I agree with Mr. Marliave that freedom of speech should not hinge on the outcome of the latest advertising study. Whatever the impact of tobacco advertising, we have to keep in mind the crucial distinction between persuasion and coercion–a point I tried to make toward the end of my article.

Nevertheless, the public has been told over and over again that people smoke because of advertising, and I think it's worth pointing out how meager the evidence for that claim is. If advertising were as powerful as its critics suggest–overriding free will in a manner analogous to physical force–it should be possible to document that effect.

Starr Chamber

Virginia Postrel's editorial hit the nail on the head ("License to Grill," April). The man is hoist on his own liberal petard. The "Mondale law," enacted by demagoguing feminist sycophants, removed all normal criminal defenses for the accused (men) with respect to rape and sexual harassment allegations. It protected accusers (women) from any inquiry into their motives, sexual history, or record of false accusations. Clinton Democrats more recently endorsed and strengthened the provisions of this execrable bit of legal misandry. Consequently, when women accuse men of sexual assault or harassment, the presumption of innocence disappears, and the burden of proof devolves upon the accused.

The Men's Defense Association, of which I am president, regularly hears from men imprisoned on such charges who have no effective opportunity to defend themselves. There are literally thousands of them across the country. Unfortunately, they don't have Clinton's resources with which to escape the preordained punishments.

Richard F. Doyle

Virginia Postrel's April editorial is by far the best explanation of the ins and outs of our independent counsel law I have read.

Tomas De Torquemada was one of history's first independent counsels. Authorized by the pope and by Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain, he was instrumental in the torture and death by immolation of more than 2,000 people. His charter was in many ways similar to that of today's independent counsel law.

Normally a state or local prosecutor is notified of a crime and then begins identifying potential perpetrators. He must use his resources economically and thus devotes his efforts to the more significant crimes. Yet an independent counsel is often in effect assigned a suspect to investigate rather than a crime to solve. With essentially unlimited resources he can keep investigating until he finally finds some "crime" committed by the suspect, regardless of its actual significance.

Using his unlimited resources against a person who likely has limited resources of his own, the prosecutor steamrollers any sense of proportion as he pursues his target. This also was Torquemada's approach, though the results were far more terminal for the religious "perpetrators."

We should eliminate the independent counsel statute. Then pass a new law that provides specific circumstances under which Congress is compelled to impeach the attorney general. That will motivate future attorneys general to do their duty so as to preclude another attorney general like Janet Reno who has so badly politicized our Justice Department. Knowing they can be impeached for ignoring the need for apolitical investigation and prosecution of crimes will provide motivation to do their duty.

William Dale Allen Sr.
Placentia, CA

I completely agree with Ms. Postrel's contention that the independent counsel statute is a destructive tool and the result of its use borders dangerously on the tyrannical. However, I disagree with her opinion that Clinton does not deserve his current round of legal troubles.

Putting all rhetoric aside, Clinton's misdeeds amount to impeachable offenses, as grounds for impeachment were understood by the Framers of our republic. Even the first lady, who now stands by her man, relied heavily upon the wisdom of our founders when she was clamoring for Nixon's impeachment in 1974.

At the very least, it would be ambitious to initiate impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton using a contemporary understanding of the high crimes and misdemeanors provision found in Article II, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution.

This phrase, as we understand it, conjures images of the president engaged in felonious conduct punishable by a prison sentence. However, our founders did not intend to create such a threshold. According to legal scholar Charles L. Black, in his thoughtful 1974 survey, Impeachment: A Handbook, English history seems to establish with some clarity that the British did not understand the phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" as denoting only common crimes, but in some sense saw it as including serious misconduct in office, whether or not punishable as crime in the ordinary courts.

Indeed, in their writings, the founders embraced a similar understanding. In No. 65 of The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton wrote that impeachment concerned "those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust." Even Hillary Clinton, while acting in her capacity as a staff member of the Nixon impeachment inquiry, concluded that high crimes and misdemeanors meant not a criminal offense but an injury to the state or system of government.

Under this traditional interpretation, Bill Clinton's illegal fund-raising activities, his unlawful use of FBI files for political purposes, and his countless examples of moral turpitude clearly fall within the scope of impeachable offenses.

The crisis in the White House does not begin with the independent counsel statute, as Ms. Postrel writes. It begins with a morally bankrupt president who thinks he's above the law. As such, he deserves everything he gets.

Andrew E. Andersen
Communications Consultant
Senate Republican Caucus

Poor Bill Clinton? All-powerful Ken Starr? Come on. After a string of scandals–Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, campaign money laundering, Chinagate–Ken Starr was ready to give up. He hadn't laid a glove on Clinton. During that time nobody complained about his investigations. Then the president, who evidently enjoys skating on thin ice, fell through. Knowing full well he was being dogged by an IC, he opened himself up to charges of perjury, suborning perjury, and obstruction of justice. Likely Clinton will skate on those charges too.

But we're supposed to shudder at the all-powerful IC and feel sympathy for the man holding the most powerful and sensitive office in the world for being stupid enough to take up with an unstable, ex-teeny bopper blabbermouth? It's his private business? The president of the United States puts himself in a compromising position, subject to blackmail and ridicule, and it's his private business?

The IC slightly weakens the office of president. Whoever holds that position won't be able to (or won't risk trying to) get away with some illegal things he otherwise might try. I'm surprised that a libertarian magazine finds that distressing. I would assign an IC to every president upon his inauguration. Judging from the effectiveness of past ICs, it would be a largely symbolic gesture. But maybe it would help some of these fellows keep their pants on while acting as president of the United States.

John C. Glasgow II

Virginia Postrel replies: Mr. Andersen seems to confuse my editorial, which specifically concerned the Lewinsky affair, with a discussion of such matters as illegal fund raising and the unlawful use of FBI files. Those may or may not be impeachable offenses, legally or politically, but it's pretty clear to me that sexual activity between consenting adults, however morally revolting it may be in this case, is not the sort of thing the Constitution's Framers had in mind.

Mr. Glasgow's impassioned cry for unbounded prosecutorial power–to be unleashed on all presidents and, of necessity, on all those who choose to work with or know them, and to be limited not only to crimes but to such offenses as "tak[ing] up with an unstable, ex-teeny bopper blabbermouth"–is truly frightening. I can only refer him to Mr. Allen's letter and to the wise words the playwright Robert Bolt put in the mouth of Sir Thomas More: "I give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake." That concept, not a defense of Bill Clinton's character, was the subject of my editorial.

Domestic Arguments

Since I doubt that REASON would give me the space to respond to all the mischaracterizations of my argument in Cathy Young's review of my book Domestic Tranquility ("Women on the Verge," April) I address only four.

I do not impatiently brush aside all dissident critiques of radical feminism, but cite some approvingly as ably documented attacks and masterful analyses. It was not the purpose of these critiques to defend traditional women (nor did they try). I fault one critic who, while claiming to support traditionalism in some sense, rejects the concept of women's dependence on men for support and protection because she believes that domesticity cannot be a satisfactory story of an intelligent woman's life, an assertion that negates any support she might have given.

It was not necessary to my argument to develop the Siegfried legend any further than I did. If Young chooses to do so, she should explain that Siegfried married another woman while under a spell cast by his enemies. As he lay dying, mortally wounded by these enemies, the spell lifted, he was reunited with Brunhilde, and she then threw herself on his funeral pyre.

In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan compared housewives living in the benignly conventional conditions of amiable civility prevailing in 1950s American homes to victims in Nazi concentration camps. I pointed out the absurdity of her analogy and then noted that her description of the housewife as a parasite, as less than fully human, and as one whose life was a waste of a human self resembled statements in Mein Kampf describing Jewish people. This is the extent of my comparison of the two books.

Finally, it is unconscionable to characterize my discussion of female circumcision as saying it is "just a slightly too draconian way" to curb female sexual assertiveness. I do discuss Hanny Lightfoot-Klein's informative book Prisoners of Ritual: An Odyssey into Female Genital Circumcision in Africa. My purpose is to suggest that the fact that some cultures felt so threatened by female sexual assertiveness that they would resort to such draconian measures to prevent it should give pause to those feminist sexual revolutionaries who promote such assertiveness as part of their sexual prescription.

Young expresses surprise that I rely on feminist writings, but feminists of all persuasions have done a lot of good work in analyzing many of the issues I deal with. I cite them extensively, for I am always open to all ideas, and I often find that writings, which initially seem foreign to what I believe, will, in fact, speak to me in some way. Certainly, this was the case with Andrea Dworkin's Intercourse.

If Young, writing for a libertarian magazine, had been able to approach my work with the same openness, she might have found some things of worth. Libertarians might, for example, have been interested in my discussion of the important role the traditional bourgeois family plays in furthering the success of democratic capitalism by producing individuals fit for an entrepreneurial rather than a welfare-bureaucratic society. They might also find my testimony as one who willingly withdrew from the marketplace to be useful in opposing preferential treatment of women.

As I note in my book, such treatment is based on the premise that, absent discrimination, women would be represented equally with men at all levels within every workplace. If society accepted homemaking as a legitimate goal for women, then their disproportionate presence in workplaces would also be viewed as legitimate, rather than as a problem to be deplored and corrected.

Publication of Young's review confirms my statements that those who would defend anti-feminist traditionalism are like heretics fighting a regnant Inquisition and that a woman may need the courage of a heretic to become a homemaker. Young and this magazine have staked a position in the forefront of that Inquisition, a surprising place, one might think, for libertarians to be.

F. Carolyn Graglia
Austin, TX

Cathy Young replies: If my review of F. Carolyn Graglia's book is so full of "mischaracterizations," I am rather surprised that she would waste space quibbling over a throwaway line about the Siegfried legend (for the record, it's the jilted Brunhilde who instigates Siegfried's murder), or with my description of her attitude toward dissident critiques of radical feminism. (The complimentary words Graglia quotes are from the notes; in the body of the text, she focuses on the dissidents' failure to defend traditional women.) Meanwhile, she does not address my more fundamental charges that she misrepresents the opportunities available to women in the 1950s, or that she is no more tolerant toward "wrong" female choices than the feminists she excoriates.

Regarding female circumcision, readers may judge whether Graglia's own summary of her argument is very different from mine. If anything, my characterization was unduly benign; I didn't even mention her claim that mutilated Third World women, due to their capacity for submission, enjoy orgasmic bliss their intact Western sisters can only envy.

While I mentioned Graglia's use of discredited feminist research on the economics of divorce, I was not "surprised" by her reliance on feminist writings; I have long known that social conservatives who believe women are victimized by equality are prone to citing radical feminists who believe that "abstract equality" is another male plot. It's not necessarily a sign of open-mindedness, however, to quote the other side in support of one's dogma.

Libertarians hardly need Graglia to tell them that personal choices, including many women's temporary or permanent withdrawal from the marketplace, are a major factor in gender imbalances in the workforce (see, e.g., the Pacific Research Institute's 1995 report "Free Markets, Free Choices" by Katherine Post and Michael Lynch). Frankly, this argument goes over far better when it is not accompanied by handwringing over the fact that more women now make career and life choices similar to men's.

Finally, I agree that Betty Friedan's analogy between suburban housewives in the 1950s and Nazi concentration camp victims was indefensible (though Graglia also makes patently false charges against Friedan, accusing her, for instance, of an animus against sexual love). But to compare The Feminine Mystique to Mein Kampf is no less outrageous. Urging a group of people to change their way of life is not the same as urging their extermination; arguing that their lives are wasted on domesticity–however offensive to those who find such lives fulfilling–is not the same as arguing that they don't deserve to live. If there is anyone whose writings approach Mein Kampf in rabid vitriol against an entire group, it's Graglia's pet feminist Andrea Dworkin, writing about men.

By the way, has it occurred to Graglia that comparing a critical review of her book to the persecution of heretics by the Inquisition is no less grotesque than comparing housewifery to the Holocaust?

More Silence

Although I loved Michael Fumento's article on obesity and breast cancer ("Heavy Silence," April), I wonder if the obesity link isn't more indirect than direct: a consequence of poor lifestyle choices, poor health care, difficulty in reading mammograms, and a lower likelihood to have children who have been nursed over the long term. I admit that I do not know the nursing habits of obese women. Nor do I know if the studies Fumento cites takes those habits into account. Long-term nursing of an infant sharply reduces the likelihood that the mother will develop breast cancer.

Either way, the reality of nursing, like obesity, is not something you talk about in polite company. Nursing is natural. It's possible to nurse while working outside the home, but even if I had the business savvy of Bill Gates and Ted Turner combined, even with my Franklin Planner in one hand and Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in the other, I could not run a Fortune 500 company with my son demanding to be fed every two hours. Maybe there's a woman in existence who can. Most of us are not her. We stay home, work at home, or find jobs that allow us time to perform the inglorious task of "pumping."

It is my understanding that the best way to avoid breast cancer is to develop healthy habits, get married, have a child or two, make what ever sacrifices needed to keep mother and child together for a the first few years, and nurse our children for a couple of years. Not exactly high on the feminist agenda, is it?

Kathryn J. Groening
Midland, MI