Monthly Archives: June 2010

Christopher Hitchens Diagnosed With Cancer

I should honestly not be blogging right now but this required my attention. I have some bad news for those who like having an intellectually engaging political climate. Christopher Hitchens has been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. From Michael J. Totten:

Damn.

Christopher Hitchens has been diagnosed with cancer. According to the Washington Post, he has been “advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me.”

Some thought he published his new book Hitch-22: A Memoir a bit prematurely. I hope they’re right.

Get better, Christopher.

From getting literally beat up by thugs in Beirut after pulling down a nationalist poster to traveling to the worst troublespots of the world, Hitchens put his words to reality in a way that has set him distinctly apart from other writers and pundits. While I’m not an atheist, I distinctly appreciate the message of God is not Great, which took to task the corruption and perverse history of organized faith. From taking on the pedophilia of the Catholic Church to the oppression of Islam, Hitchens wasn’t afraid to critique those who are often taken to be untouchable.

I’m hoping that he pulls through. Without him, the discourse in this country (and globally) is going to get even dumber than it already is.

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Yes, the Second Amendment really means what it says… and that means you too Chicago

This past Monday, Samuel Alito, writing for the majority (with separate concurring opinions from Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia) in the case McDonald vs. City of Chicago and Village of Morton Grove; handed down what in 30 years will I believe, be held as one of (or perhaps half of a pair of, or the second in a series of) the most significant rulings in the courts history, not just for the right to keep and bear arms, but for the rights of all people in this nation.

I had meant to get this post out yesterday, but I had to take the time to read the entire opinion… all 214 pages of it… and think about it for a bit.

This judgment is notable, both for what it does, and for what it does not do; and I want to go into that in some depth… and I want to go into some of the background and issues surrounding the decision that aren’t necessarily about the right to keep and bear arms

However, that is going to get long…. and if you aren’t interested in constitutional law and the nature and exercise of the rights and powers of the states, it’s going to be boring. There’s only so much you can do to make enumeration and separation of powers issues over more than two hundred years, all that interesting.


Note: Also, for those of you who DO closely follow con law, this is going to be a gross simplification in some ways. I don’t have time to write a book here, and a book is what it would take to cover this comprehensively (actually several… there are a few out there already, and Heller and its progeny are sure to generate more).

At any rate, I’m going to break it out into another posts, and I’ll update this post with a link when I finish the other one.

… I should warn you, I’m already 5,000 words in, and I’m probably less than half done…

McDonald vs. Chicago is the first major gun rights case brought before the supreme court under the clarified Heller doctrine, to wit:

The right to keep and bear arms for all lawful purposes is an individual right, possessed by all citizens and lawful residents of this country (provided this right has not been statutorily stripped from them, with due process of law); and the core of that right, is the fundamental right to defense of self, and others.

Actually, McDonald is a bit more than just “first”… In fact, the case was prepared in advance, and filed immediately on the handing down of the Heller ruling; by the lead counsel on the Heller case, Alan Gura.

The issue at hand in Heller was to affirm and clarify the basic right; something which those on the left in general, and in the gun control lobby in particular, had been trying to deny for something like the last 40 years

Note: The modern gun control movement as currently constituted really began in the late 60s; roughly coinciding with accelerating decay of civil order and rise in civil unrest, the rise of the drug and counterculture, and dramatically rising crime rates.

More than anything else, it was the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King that kick-started the gun control movement as it exists today.

The gun control movement in the U.S. as a whole has its roots in racial discrimination against immigrants in the pre-civil war northern cites, and blacks in the post civil war south.

Up until the late 1950s, the left as a whole actually advocated gun ownership, as a bulwark against the state… a position generally ascribed these days to the “far right”; but as the left post 1932 increasingly BECAME the state, their position on civilian non-police gun ownership changed.

The issue at hand in McDonald is substantially identical to Heller, with a crucial difference we’ll discuss in a moment; that of incorporation of the second amendment against state and local governments, as other rights enumerated in the bill of rights have been.

In Heller, the substance and nature of the right were affirmed. However, though the assertion of the right is very clear; it’s application is potentially limited.

Because the Heller case pertained to a federal enclave (Washington D.C. is not a part of any state. It is a federal enclave. Precedent in DC cases applies federally, but not necessarily to issues in the several states), the ruling only explicitly applied to the federal government.

In principle the right could be asserted against the states, or it could not be… depending on judicial interpretation. Either way a judge decided, it would almost be certain to be appealed… as indeed it was (in at least four cases so far, all of which were delayed pending the McDonald ruling).

Also, Heller left various questions open to interpretation, such as the standard of review for laws pertaining to the right to keep and bear arms, and whether interest balancing tests could be made.. or for that matter just what types of laws would be acceptable short of outright bans on firearms in the home (which were explicitly forbidden).

In Mondays decision on McDonald, it was affirmed (quite strongly), that the rights protected by the second amendment are equal in stature to the rights protected by the first amendment, and all the others.

In both the majority opinion, and the concurrences, the court made it explicit that the protections afforded by the second amendment applied against the state. Further, they made it clear that a strict standard of review was to be applied to any law regarding the right to keep and bear arms (though they do not by any means disallow all regulation. In both Heller and McDonald, it is acknowledged that some regulation of any right can be acceptable, but must be strictly scrutinized).

There is still one set of questions to be resolved, what exact restrictions against keeping and bearing arms will be acceptable under this standard of review. Just as there are many limitations against speech permitted by current jurisprudence, including many which probably should not be allowed under the constitution (such as most of what is called “campaign finance reform”); there will likely still be substantial restrictions allowed by the court. In any case, it will be years… likely decades… before the whole issue is settled law, and in the mean time, there will be a lot of contradiction and chaos.

The fight is certainly not over… in fact it’s really just getting started.

This is where we get into the theoretical discussion about the constitution, so I think I’m going to end here and pick it up in the next, much longer, post.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

The Ownership Society

One of Bush’s central themes — when he wasn’t talking about the War on Tara — was the “ownership society”. As we all know, it was a pretty universal failure. NCLB didn’t get parents any closer to owning control over their childrens’ education. Medicare Part D gave the government more control over Seniors’ prescription drugs; while HSA’s and HDHP’s never really caught on — and now may be destroyed completely by Obamacare. And we all know where his other privatization, which I affectionately call Social Security Part D ended up – with Democrats controlling both houses of Congress.

But for most of his presidency, Bush could point to one shining acheivement: record homeownership levels! But today, with so many people underwater on their loans, one wonders whether you can still call it “ownership”:

The U.S. homeownership rate, already down two percentage points from its 2006 peak of 69%, could fall by another five percentage points over the coming years to levels last seen in the mid-1990s, says a staff report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The study looks at the number of homeowners who are underwater, owing more than their homes are worth, and excludes them from the official homeownership rate calculated every quarter by the Census Bureau.

While the official figure stood at 67.2% at the end of last year, the authors produce their own estimate of an “effective” homeownership rate. The difference between the official and effective homeownership rates, or what the authors dub the “homeownership gap,” is around 5.6 percentage points for the nation as a whole, which means the effective rate of homeownership is closer to 62%.

I guess it’s not that big of a surprise. Buyers faked their incomes (or never documented them at all), and now they’re “fake” owners.

And the bad news is, if prices keep dropping (as I predict), it’s only gonna get worse.

Hat Tip: Irvine Housing Blog

Hayek on Urban Life

It’s not by mistake that you’ll hear talk of property rights more in the country than in the city, since it’s clearer who owns what in the wide open range. I’ve thought about this a few times but the brilliant economist Frederich Hayek thought about it more intensively in his work The Constitution of Liberty:

“In many respects, the close contiguity of city life invalidates the assumptions underlying any simple division of property rights. In such conditions it is true only to a limited extent that whatever an owner does with his property will affect only him and nobody else. What economists call the ‘neighborhood effects,’ i.e., the effects of what one does to one’s property on that of others, assume major importance. The usefulness of almost any piece of property in a city will in fact depend in part on what one’s immediate neighbors do and in part on the communal services without which effective use of the land by separate owners would be nearly impossible.

The general formulas of private property or freedom of contract do not therefore provide an immediate answer to the complex problems which city life raises. It is probable that, even if there had been no authority with coercive powers, the superior advantages of larger units would have led to the development of new legal institutions—some division of the right of control between the holders of a superior right to determine the character of a large district to be developed and the owners of inferior rights to the use of smaller units, who, within the framework determined by the former, would be free to decide on particular issues. In many respects the functions which the organized municipal corporations are learning to exercise correspond to those of such a superior owner.”

Quote Of The Day

Ezra Klein:

For those of you who don’t click on the link, the conclusions, based off a raft of numbers that the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget worked up for me, are that you’ll never get deficits under control if you don’t get growth back on track; you’ll never get deficits under control if you refuse to consider tax increases;

And yet he just doesn’t seem to see that if you raise taxes, you’ll kill growth.

North Korea’s Mysterious Soccer Team

The intelligence digest Stratfor has a really thought provoking article up about the mystery surrounding North Korea’s soccer team:

North Korea is the most mysterious of all the teams to compete in the 2010 World Cup. As in soccer, so it is in geopolitics. Before the tournament started, no one outside North Korea knew what to expect of the team. There is little reliable intelligence on what goes on inside the country whether it’s soccer or anything else. The secretive communist state keeps its doors closed tight and maintains total control of news media. Paid actors, not real North Korean fans, have made up the team’s audience in South Africa. The one reliable way to gauge the North is to expect the unexpected: last time the DPRK participated in the World Cup — in 1966 — it surprised everyone by blasting through to the quarterfinals.

The first match in 2010, against Brazil, exemplified North Korea’s geopolitical strategy and tactics. Few would have guessed that North Korea was capable of competing with Brazil, the team that has won the most World Cup championships. But for decades the same combination of uncompromising loyalty to the group and the element of surprise have enabled Pyongyang to maintain power despite being surrounded by the likes of greater powers — the United States, Russia, Japan, China and South Korea.

This is not to exaggerate North Korea’s strengths — its economy is a shambles, and despite its military’s size, its capabilities are limited. Fear of defeat by foreign competition is why the North rarely ventures abroad, earning the nickname the “Hermit Kingdom.” Pyongyang knows that public humiliation could weaken the group morale that is essential for the regime to survive. But as with its array of missile tests, it is at least able to use the team’s participation on the global stage as domestic propaganda.

North Korea’s presence in an international sporting event like the World Cup sounds very analogous to the emphasis by Saddam Hussein and his sons on the Iraqi Olympic Soccer Team, who were famously tortured by Uday Hussein when they failed to meet expectations, and the Soviet Olympic Teams, which utilized the Olympic Games as another means to try to best the west. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, the political proxy nature of the World Cup should be fascinating enough to illicit at least nominal interest in the event.

Quote Of The Day

Supreme Court justice William Douglas, in the 1954 ruling Berman v. Parker (a precursor to Kelo, which “celebrates” its 5-year anniversary today):

The concept of the public welfare is broad and inclusive. The values it represents are spiritual as well as physical, aesthetic as well as monetary. It is within the power of the legislature to determine that the community should be beautiful as well as healthy, spacious as well as clean, well balanced as well as carefully patrolled. In the present case, the Congress and its authorized agencies have made determinations that take into account a wide variety of values. It is not for us to reappraise them. If those who govern the District of Columbia decide that the Nation’s Capital should be beautiful as well as sanitary, there is nothing in the Fifth Amendment that stands in the way.

Such beautiful prose, fitting someone who wears that fine black robe.

Unfortunately, the opinion is also a blank check for Congress, a group not well known for their self-control.

One wonders exactly what this measures this court would ever have opposed, should Congress decide in favor of beauty and sanitation?

Once the object is within the authority of Congress, the means by which it will be attained is also for Congress to determine. Here, one of the means chosen is the use of private enterprise for redevelopment of the area. Appellants argue that this makes the project a taking from one businessman for the benefit of another businessman. But the means of executing the project are for Congress, and Congress alone, to determine once the public purpose has been established.

Yep…

Completely blank check.

Hat Tip: Jason Pye @ United Liberty

Kelo, Five Years Later

It was five years ago today, that the Supreme Court issued it’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London

In 1998 the pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced plans to build a giant new research and development center in New London, Connecticut. As part of the deal, city officials agreed to clear out neighboring property owners via eminent domain, giving a private developer space to build a fancy new hotel, apartment buildings, and office towers to complement the corporate facility. Five years ago today, in Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this seizure of private property because it was part of a “comprehensive redevelopment plan” that would provide “appreciable benefits to the community.”

Basically, the City of New London, Connecticut sought to redevelop an older neighborhood in hopes of increasing the city’s tax base. The City didid this by entering into a development deal with the politically powerful Pfizer Corporation for the expansion of Pfizer’s property in the city and the creation of a business conference center. Several property owners refused to sell to the city, one of them being Susette Kelo. As a result, the New London Development Corporation initiated condemnation proceedings against Kelo and the remaining property owners and the case made it’s way through the Court system and, of course, Susette Kelo ultimately lost her bid to protect her property. Then, the ultimate ironic injustice occurred this past November when Pfzier announced that they were abandoning the property that had been condemned, including the lot that had once contained Suzette Kelo’s house.

The reaction to the decision was swift and severe, with condemnations coming from both sides of the political aisle, and five years later the Kelo case has had the ironic benefit of spurring many states to limit the use of eminent domain:

• 43 states have passed either constitutional amendments or statutes that reformed their eminent domain laws to better protect private property rights. Although the quality and type of reform varies, the bottom line is that virtually all of the reforms amount to net increases in protections for property owners faced with eminent domain abuse. (For a state-by-state grading of all state eminent domain reforms, see: http://castlecoalition.org/57.)

• Nine state high courts restricted the use of eminent domain for private development while only one (New York) has so far refused to do so.

Kelo educated the public about eminent domain abuse, and polls consistently show that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to Kelo and support efforts to change the law to better protect property rights. Among the most-recent surveys was one conducted by the Associated Press, which found 87 percent of respondents said government shouldn’t have the power of eminent domain for redevelopment, 75 percent opposed government taking private property and handing it over to a developer, and 88 percent of respondents said property rights are just as important as freedom of speech and religion.

• Citizen activists defeated at least 44 projects that sought to abuse eminent domain for private gain in the five-year period since Kelo.

As the Institute for Justice, a libertarian legal group that handled Susette Kelo’s defense, puts it:

“This significant public opposition to eminent domain abuse led to a complete change in the public’s view on this issue,” said Christina Walsh, IJ’s director of activism and coalitions. “Although public officials, planners and developers in the past could keep condemnations for private gain under the public’s radar screen and thus usually get away with the seizure of homes and small businesses, that is no longer the case.”

“One of the other reasons for this fundamental shift in eminent domain policy has been the response of state courts to Kelo,” said Dana Berliner, an IJ senior attorney and co-counsel in the Kelo case. “When the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to correctly interpret the U.S. Constitution, the state high courts began to fill that void. For example, the courts in Hawaii, Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania—all states that used to regularly abuse eminent domain—each decided that, unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, they would closely scrutinize municipal takings and prevent unconstitutional abuses.”

So, in that sense, Kelo was arguably a good thing because of the unprecedented backlash that it generated. Nonetheless, it does teach us something that Thomas Jefferson is attributed with saying many years ago:

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Indeed.

CounterPoint: Yes, Virginia, States Really Do Have Rights

This is a segment in The Liberty Papers’ continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series. This post is the rebuttal to my co-contributor Michael Powell’s post here, making the point that “states’ rights” are an antiquated and poisoned concept.

When I saw Michael’s post this morning, I was a little bit surprised. I was expecting him to make the argument that States’ Rights don’t exist. In fact, I was waiting for one specific statement that I’ve heard from those who attack the notion of states’ rights many times over. Thankfully, two comments in, commenter John222 made the point:

States don’t have rights, individuals do. Better would be to say, “The interest of the State in protecting the rights of it’s citizens”.

This is a common statement among libertarians, and although I’ve probably used it in the past, there have been points where I’ve become troubled by it.

Michael made some very important points in his post, and these are points that must be answered. However, to begin, we must have an understanding of the origin, the nature, and the limitations of states’ rights. Only by setting this groundwork may I refute Michael. But first, a caveat. In order to make the points I must make, I must work with two critical assumptions:

  1. Natural rights of individuals exist.
  2. Constitutional democratic government is legitimate.

For those that have read my previous work, it should be understood that I believe neither of these assumptions. I am a philosophical anarchist, and while I can construct a non-theistic basis for natural rights theory, I view them as artificial constructs, not incontrovertible truths. However, we must work within the framework we have, and thus I will concede these points for the purposes of this post. For the purposes of discussion and comments, please try to take these two premises at true, and if you have a problem with the argument flowing from those premises, attack the argument.

Let’s start at the beginning:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Here’s the base. Natural rights are the area where we say to government: “Over this line you may not tread.”

Individuals have certain natural rights, and they empower governments to help them protect these rights. The statement that “States don’t have rights, only individuals do” does not account for what we consider the social contract. Individuals enter into an implicit contract with their government, offering to entrust some of the rights they hold in the “state of nature” to their government in order for cooperation and protection of those rights. Those governments do not gain *new* rights as governments, but they inherit the rights of those they are designed to protect.

Natural rights theory does not hold that individuals give up their rights to the government, the rights are retained. It is best to be understood as a legal contract — individuals freely, by exercise of their rights, create their government. They voluntarily empower their society — their government — to protect their rights. A government that reaches beyond the legitimate power of protection of those rights, as Jefferson himself states, deserves no longer our assent or our support. If said government treads beyond the lines defined above, that government has violated the social contract.

“Government”, of course, is not a singular entity. Governments are hierarchical, competitive, and numerous. In many cases, we are under the jurisdiction of several governments — entities within entities. In many cases, the governments we live under must make compacts with other governments outside our territory — treaties — in order to help complete the tasks which we have empowered them. Each of these agreements are contracts or compacts. Rights of the citizens of the government are not abridged, they are retained — at least if the government empowered to act on behalf of its inhabitants are legitimate.

How, then, do we describe the relationships between these levels of government or between competing governments? How do we define the lines over which they may not tread? Let’s take one example: borders. What are borders, other than the territorial lines defining the government which protects the rights of its inhabitants? What do we call a government’s relation to its borders? Territorial rights! Now, of course, these rights are not that of “the government”, but they are the territorial rights of which the individuals supporting that government have ceded to their government to protect.

Likewise, how do we define our US Government’s relationship to the United Nations and the nations of the world? We use the term sovereignty: the inviolability of our government to the others of the world — the statement that our government has “rights”, i.e. lines over which those other governments may not tread.

The nature of the United States Government and its relationship to its constituent States is a tricky one, historically. The United States Constitution — our governing document — is a compact between states, not a contract directly between the federal government and the people. Historically, the people of the several States entrusted their governments — the entities to which they had entrusted their rights for protection — to form a federal republic. One may support the claim — at least until 1865 — that the States retained sovereignty, and that they had contractual RIGHTS as constituent members of that federation.

These rights are not inherent to them, as States. These rights are the rights entrusted to them by their inhabitants, and the rights they are protecting are not the rights of the State as State, but a collective bargaining arrangement to protect the rights of their inhabitants. Regardless of how you define this, though, the rights exercised are contractual rights exercised by the States on behalf of their inhabitants. The States drew a line, and told the United States Government “over this line you may not cross.” For the United States Government to cross that line would allow the State, if it so chose, to exercise its sovereignty and break the contract — secede.

These rights are not without limit, though. We previously stated that government is created by individuals in order to secure their natural rights. But those rights are retained. A government which does not secure those rights — a government in fact which violates them, is not a legitimate government at all and may be disbanded. Likewise, federal governments or supra-national bodies do not have super-natural powers — they are still only as legitimate as the rights of their constituent states (and thus the rights of their constituent inhabitants). If the United States Government attempts to violate the sovereignty of the states in order to violate the natural rights of its constituent inhabitants, it is just as illegitimate as if the individual state takes that action…

…which finally brings me back to Michael’s post!

Specifically, this country is, and always has been, a work in progress. I said it was illegitimate for a federal government to violate the sovereignty of its constituent States and if a federal government were to do so, it would justify secession. However, while Michael says he wouldn’t cry crocodile tears if the South had been allowed to secede, the South’s secession would not have been justified under States’ Rights theory. Why? Because slavery — a State deliberately violating the natural rights of its inhabitants — is not a legitimate government, and thus the Southern States did not have true sovereignty. A government which violates the natural rights of its inhabitants as a matter of design cannot be granted the authority to act on behalf of its citizens.

The Fourteenth Amendment, in the wake of the Civil War, finally codified this statement. Prior to this, the United States Constitution did not have a method for the Federal government to impede the States from abridging the natural rights of its citizens. (Of course, one can infer from this that the Civil War was illegal, but the destruction of slavery in the South can hardly be described as immoral). It should be stated that Michael’s quote from George Wallace was not truly a defense of States Rights. Those rights of States to discriminate by law against their citizens had long been removed via the Fourteenth Amendment. If he truly believed that the right of the State was inviolable (I doubt this to be the case — I personally think it likely that “States’ Rights”, like patriotism, just happened to be the last refuge of a scoundrel), he was simply wrong.

Michael is correct, of course, that in the intervening century, the term “States’ Rights” was used by all manner of racists, supporters of Jim Crow, and people who are “defiant of settled law”. In American politics, terminology tends to have this problem — terms become appropriated by unsavory characters, and the terms themselves pick up unsavory connotations. We “libertarians” constantly bemoan the fact that our previous label, “liberal”, as appropriated by big-government Democrats. We had to abandon the term completely and build a new one. States’ Rights has some of that connotation, but by definition that doesn’t not negate the concept of those rights.

The term “States’ Rights” may, in fact, be coming into a renaissance. As Michael points out, individual states are fighting the Feds on medical marijuana, and California — the state where we both live — has a ballot measure in November to legalize marijuana entirely. This is in direct contravention of the Controlled Substances Act, but more importantly, this is a state protecting its citizens from the overreaches of Washington!

But again, look at the nature of government. A State government that violates the natural rights of its inhabitants is acting illegitimately. At the same time, a Federal government that violates the natural rights of its inhabitants is acting legitimately. In this case, it is right for the inhabitants of a State to pool to their rights collectively — using their States’ rights — to protect themselves from the Federal government on their behalf. Individuals often have little recourse against the Federal leviathan. They need all the help they can get.

Either way, I think that Michael did not prove, as I thought he would attempt, that states don’t have rights. He did make some valid points that the terminology of states rights had been hijacked for the last century by those State governments who wished to protect their racist fiefdoms. But he belied his own point by bringing up the fact that the very same terms are also being used by States to protect the liberty of their inhabitants from Federal overreach.

Point: “State’s Rights” A Misnomer

This is a post in our continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series, where TLP contributors and/or guest posters debate a topic. In this installment, Michael Powell argues against the existence of “states’ rights”. Tomorrow, Brad Warbiany will defend states’ rights, and his post can now be found here.

During the twentieth century, there were several confrontations between federal authorities and those proclaiming “state’s rights.” The most notable were those of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in 1967, who called on his state’s National Guard to block several African American youths from attending high school and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who literally stood in the way of troops sent by the Kennedy Administration to escort students Vivian Malone and James Hood (both instances being unforgivable offenses in the Deep South) in 1963. The state was blatantly violating not only individual rights of its citizens but also the legal authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the executive branch.

The “right” for the state to discriminate against the individual in defiance of federal law (and human decency, which is another matter and not a concept that is very popular in Alabama or other deep southern states) was precisely what George Wallace cited explicitly in his speech at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice. It is important that the people of this State and nation understand that this action is in violation of rights reserved to the State by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alabama. While some few may applaud these acts, millions of Americans will gaze in sorrow upon the situation existing at this great institution of learning.

Personally, I would not cry crocodile tears if the South had been let go during the Civil War. My ancestors fought in the Confederate Army but my personal life has been filled with people of color. The South has not simply been racist; it has been the closest region in the Western World to pre-industrial feudalism. Its ugly history of public executions, terrorism, exclusion from employment and education of massive portions of the population (including not just people of color but poor whites, women and those who stood against the Southern Christian traditionalist grain), intellectual rejection, ethno-nationalism, proud ignorance and aggressive religiosity is more reflective of the worst regimes in the Middle East than the enlightened industrial democracies of Western Europe, North America and Asia. Just as is the case with the Middle East, the rich natural resources of the South have been the primary reason for keeping the impoverished backwater area in the sphere of the United States.

If it hadn’t been for slavery, racism and the South, the “state’s rights” argument may have more standing validity. Unfortunately, for those who bring back its spectre it brings to mind Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation and war. Just as the swastika, which actually has a relevance to Buddhist philosophy, has been defiled by the actions of German National Socialism, “state’s rights” has been defiled by the actions of Southern political actors.

For issues in which “state’s rights” would be a logical defense, especially regarding marijuana, where states like California seek to protect the individual rights of drug users in defiance of prohibitionist federal intervention, I have to beg the question: Why is it an issue of state governance and not simply the right of the individual to do as he wishes?

This isn’t simply a historical, theoretical argument either. States are still today violating individual rights, with the federal government acting as an intervening force of justice. Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, which effectively legislated racial profiling and declared war on undocumented workers who are critical to the American economy, is being set upon by the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

I have worked in Latin American foreign policy, so I would like to add that, while I stand in firm opposition to SB 1070, I understand completely why it was implemented. We are in really bad economic shape, as I surely don’t have to inform anyone here. That is exacerbated by the perception by people that don’t understand economics that Hispanic immigrants are “stealing” their jobs and the horrendous mob violence that has been implemented on the border by drug cartels. I reject Kantian ethics that proclaim motivations to paramount to results, however, and a mob of fearful people hardly ever makes the right decision. In American history, “state’s rights” has been a flag that has often been waved by populist demagogues while “individual rights” has been waved by judges and executives with a better grasp of the law. “State’s rights” is a misnomer which is usually used to defend defiance of settled law. It doesn’t deserve or necessitate revival in our political discourse.

This Week In Linguistic Gymnastics

I’m not the first person to notice how important a role linguistics play in politics – George Orwell’s classic 1984 provided keen observations into the role that minimization of language plays in closing political discourse. In his essay “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell stated, “All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.”

As a writer, first and foremost, the linguistic abuse that regularly metastasizes in politics is of particular note. Those who don’t share the passion for writing don’t tend to notice it, and so don’t get when they’re being duped. Hopefully this regular column, which I’ll publish each week, will shed light on the sort of verbal athletics that are regularly played.

“The Democrat Party” – I’m not a fan of either political party but I can’t help but notice this particular note of disrespect coming from the Republicans. It’s often said that you should call a group what they call themselves, and the phrase “Democrat Party” is a term no Democrat uses and which is obviously used to downgrade. In a tense interview with George Stephanopoulos, Rand Paul used the phrase with particular anger, demonstrating his ascendance into Republican partisanship.

Republican Names – It dawned on me recently – Republican politicians often seem to have either single or few syllable names: Paul Ryan, George Bush, Ron Paul, Rand Paul. While searching for the meaning of this phenomenon, I can only espouse it to a further illustration of the culture war – on one side, the Democrats, a leader with a name like Barack Hussein Obama II (whose Kenyan and Arabic names combined with American citizenship symbolize multiculturalism) and on the other, the Republicans, a leader with a name like Sarah Louise Palin, the simple charm of which matches the woman’s personality and upbringing.

“Obamacare” derogatory? – While this story is a little bit old, it’s worth bringing up simply because it will be relevant in the future. Daily Show host Jon Stewart pulled the card of saying Obamacare was “derogatory:”

Stewart immediately jumps on O’Hara’s slip, calling him out on using the “derogatory” phrase and firing back by referring to O’Hara’s book as a “tea-bagger book.” O’Hara stammers for a few seconds and tries to defend his word choice, but concedes to calling it the health-reform bill instead. (It’s a law, by the way.)

With the letter “g” used twice in the middle of “tea-bagger,” the phrase is a little too much like two very politically incorrect terms for sexual and ethnic minorities. Stewart is a comedian, of course, and such a term isn’t offensive enough to make him a bad guy. However, while not a bad guy, he is a hypocrite. How on earth is “Obamacare” derogatory while “tea-bagger” isn’t? Does Stewart prefer one sort of derogatory over another? If you go down that logical road, surely some servicemen must have found it upsetting to hear their mission in Iraq called “Mess-O-Potamia” regularly by Stewart.

Twitter – I am normally not a technophobe. I loved the Economist article critiquing Barack Obama’s rant against technology. Given that, you can’t be absolutely fundamentalist about anything, so it must be said that Twitter is not a means to a literate society. With each tweet limited to 140 letters, comments are limited in their meaning in addition to their length. A quick look at my Twitter main page found these gems of literary genius:

i wish i could just kamehameha ppl when i felt like it.

Nine-year-old boy invents better buns for bratwursts, wins admiration of world [Cool]

Shut Up You Fucking Baby! #FaveDavidCrossAlbumAndActualThoughtIAmHavingAboutMyBabyRightNow

[Jun-17]-Equities: Analysis of the Current Situation and Prospects in the Chinese CWSF Market: SHANGHAI, June 17 /… http://bit.ly/aKTMET

We already have a highly visual based reductionist talking point culture, which has enabled mental midgets like Sarah Palin to positions of influence that would have been laughable years ago. Take a look at old issues of Life Magazine and you’ll find the quality of prose more representative of today specialized digests like Lapham’s Quarterly in its quality than People magazine or Newsweek. In many ways, our society is ahead, but in terms of the average American’s language capacity, I’m afraid to say we’re falling behind.

Supreme Court Opposes Nazis 90% Of Time — Kevin Drum Labels Them Ideologues

Kevin Drum, on the Supreme Court’s pro-business stance:

(original linked article from Constitutional Accountability Center)

A good guidepost to these rulings is the position taken by the United States Chamber of Commerce, which bills itself as the “voice of business.” Roberts’s record? In the past five years he’s sided with the Chamber 70% of the time. In close cases he’s sided with the Chamber a stunning 90% of the time. As an umpire, it turns out that if you’re filing a case against the business community Roberts has declared a strike zone only a few inches wide.

And Roberts isn’t alone. Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia also sided with the Chamber over 70% of the time. (Alito sided with the Chamber a stunning 100% of the time in close cases.) Clarence Thomas took their side 68% of the time. And “centrist” Anthony Kennedy? He clocked in around 66%.

Missing from either the original source or from Drum’s analysis is a critical aspect of analysis: whether or not the justices’ opinions were Constitutionally sound.

While cases taken up by the Supreme Court are not the frivolities that a lesser court might be burdened with, but neither is there any reason to assume that they will be decided on a 50/50 split. Deciding cases evenly is a far different matter than deciding them fairly. Since the Court chooses which cases it hears, we know the sample can not be expected to be representative of a 50/50 split.

Nor is it necessarily fair to categorically label these justices pro-business, in as much as their opinions may be consistent with a wider Constitutional law philosophy that these cases exposed. The Chamber of Commerce’s legal arm regularly offers briefs in cases of corporations against government, so a philisophical animus against overreaching government (Thomas, Scalia), for example, would likely cause a >50% finding in favor of the Chamber, while an expansive view of government power (Ginsberg, Stevens) would suggest a >50% finding in favor of the government — at least in cases dealing with the Chamber fighting state, federal, or local regulations it finds intrusive.

I would assume that Drum would expect justices to side in favor of free speech >50% of the time. Why would he think this to be different?

Welcome, but insufficient to the needs of the day

David Cameron today apologized for the  British Armies conduct on Bloody Sunday.

Great… now do something of substance. Either treat the north as a real part of the rest of the damn country, or get the hell out.

The UK is firmly wedded to a lot of government involvement in industry, in finance, in development… fine. Ok. If that’s what the people of the UK want, then so be it. But it stifles entrepreneurship. The barriers to entry get so high, that it becomes nearly impossible to do anything without government support.

This is coming from someone who has founded and run businesses in the republic, in the north, and in England. I am an American, but also a dual citizen with Ireland. My father is an Irish immigrant. His father was a member of the IRA from the age of 15; when the IRA was still a legitimate organization. Most of my family still lives in Ireland; and I lived in Ireland, and in the UK, for years.

This is not just an American pontificating from afar, I have lived and worked there… and my position on the troubles is that none of it is justified, ever. Terrorism is terrorism, and is never to be tolerated. Government repression is similarly, not to be tolerated.

This isn’t about the troubles anymore. This is about the future of the North… or the lack of future represented in todays situation; because mark me, the north has no future, if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue.

Without government support, it’s near impossible to get anything done in the north. It’s somewhat easier in England itself, in that there is no less interference, but that the government cares more about business development; so it makes things smoother, and gives approvals, and planning etc… more attention.

What this means is, effectively, there is no economic development in the north without government intervention… but they don’t particularly want to intervene, and spend the taxpayers money on PRODUCTIVE projects in the north, when so much is already being funneled into nonproductive drains.

So long as there is no real industrial or technical development support by the government, except in a token way; the north will always be an economic disaster. It is that economic disaster, and the sense of neglect, of second class citizenship, of disrespect, disregard, and disdain… which allows the thugs their safety, and their income.

Either REALLY support economic development, or get the hell out of the way and allow some real entrepreneurship. Get people working, productively. Get the tax base up. Get people motivated to seek higher education, by having something useful for them to do when they get it.

So long as the north is dependent on the government teat, the real government on the street will be the organized crime gangs that masquerade as unionists, or republicans. So long as the thugs are safe, the police are not, and will respond with repression. It’s automatic. A + B will always equal C.

Oh and I should be clear, I don’t blame this situation on the great mass of the population of the United Kingdom.

I blame it on an incoherent, and uncommitted government position on Northern Ireland since 1921.

There is no real policy, nor any real rationale behind what is promulgated as policy. The only conclusion one can come to is that the government of the United Kingdom does not want to govern northern Ireland, but also does not feel they can stop doing so…

So instead, they neglect, and waffle, and make bad and inconsistent decisions. They fight, they withdraw. They take a hardline, then they fold…

It’s insane.

Oh and yes I know, they’re a giant welfare suck… But if the people (and the politicians) of England would treat the people of northern Ireland like actual human beings, not just as a national joke, or a drain on social spending, or a potential terrorist, or an electoral distraction… That might help a bit too.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Hayek Sales Skyrocket

Today I got this message from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation:

I hope your summer is off to a great start! If, like me, you’re a fan of free-market economist and Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, whose book The Road to Serfdom just hit #1 on Amazon, this has been an exciting week.

It’s true! The Cato Institute has been reporting skyrocketing sales over at their blog, providing an illuminating quote from Professor Bruce Caldwell of Duke University:

In the end, however, I think that the underlying reason for the sustained interest in Hayek’s book is that it taps into a profound dissatisfaction in the public mind with the machinations of its government. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have presided over huge growth in the size of the federal government and in the size of the federal deficit, with little obvious effect on unemployment. Things seem out of control.

I am not a fan of him at all, but one key aspect to Hayek’s rise in sales is Fox News host Glenn Beck. Beck had an extensive discussion of the late economist’s work on his show last week. With an audience of millions, Beck probably played no small role in helping Hayek shoot up to #1 on Amazon.

All I can say is that I am glad to see such economic education occurring. John Stossell has been revisiting Milton Freidman as well. Given that, new times deserve new thinkers and new economic thought and debates would be especially prescient now. Where are the programs like Freidman’s excellent PBS program “Free to Choose?”

For further learning, I personally recommend Christopher Hitchens’ talk with Russ Roberts on George Orwell on the show EconTalk. Roberts and Hitchens parlay through the relevance of Hayek, and Hitchens’ assessment of Hayek’s economic analysis, which is brought up in regards to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech that got him canned by the British electorate in 1945, fits mine pretty well.

Comment Of The Day

This is actually a comment at Hit & Run, but I hadn’t seen this juxtaposition before.

The other thing I always find hilarious is how so many anti-immigration Republicans are so anti-union, when they use the same arguments against immigrants that unions use against non-union workers.

In both cases, the impetus is the same: “I’ve already got mine, and everyone else can go screw.”

The Absurd Attacks on Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, the consummate polemicist and insurgent against orthodoxy and absolutism, released his memoirs. With this has come savage attacks against him that deserve to be shown for their ad hominem nature. It shows pretty supremely in an article on the man in the Guardian:

When the invasion of Iraq was first debated, one couldn’t fail to notice the preponderance of left-wing men of a certain age who came out in support of the war. Radicals as adults, but often from conservative backgrounds, now beginning to confront their own mortality, and preoccupied by masculinity and legacy, their palpable thrill about military might suggested that, deep down, they secretly feared progressive principles were for pussies. Now here was their chance, before it was too late, to prove their manhood.

In 2006, Hitchens’ wife, the American writer Carol Blue, told the New Yorker her husband was one of “those men who were never really in battle and wished they had been. There’s a whole tough-guy, ‘I am violent, I will use violence, I will take some of these people out before I die’ talk, which is key to his psychology – I don’t care what he says. I think it is partly to do with his upbringing.”

I don’t personally know Christopher Hitchens, though I admire him greatly. Perhaps his father’s military background caused him to excelerate his opposition to Islamic fanaticism to a military one. While not as hawkish as him, his opposition is not alien to all liberal thinkers. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie and Richard Dawkins all share Hitchens’ disgust with the rise in fundamentalism in the Islamic world and its attempts to spread it within Europe.

As a journalist, Decca Altkenhead, the writer of this Guardian piece, should appreciate this. I greatly remember when the world went aflame after the Muslim world discovered caricatures of their Prophet in the Danish Jyllands Posten newspaper. The lopsided attack and the calls for censorship from both the apologetic Left and the religiously offended made me want to vomit. It shouldn’t even have to be explained to someone who makes their trade in words and ideas why freedom of expression is paramount and non-negotiable. That leftist activists cheered on Islamic insanity and cable news channels cheered this behavior by refusing, out of fear, to show the cartoons in question were deplorable acts of complicity.

The idea of Hitchens as a “chickenhawk,” which is subtly suggested in the article, is also absurd. Hitchens has been in the most dangerous parts of the world, from Kurdistan to the 1984 state of North Korea. He was literally beat up by Syrian Social Nationalist partisans in Beirut. In order to figure out if waterboarding was actually an act of torture, Hitchens had himself waterboarded. If that is characteristic of a chickenhawk, I would like to see a demonstration of the opposite characteristic.

Quote Of The Day

Bruce McQuain, over at QandO. He’s responding to Congress, who seem very upset that the Office of Congressional Ethics that they created seems to actually be vigorously investigating Congressional ethics:

There is some validity in the criticism. But it again underscores how poor a job Congress does legislating anything, even something as simple as setting up a ethics panel and empowering it. Now they’re stuck with a product they don’t like that’s not doing the type job they envisioned for it.

Welcome to the club – most of what Congress passes has that sort of effect in fly-over land.

Congratulations Mr. Chairman

I just wanted to take a minute to congratulate Mark Hinkle, for winning his election as the new chairman of the Libertarian Party of the United States.

Mark is the former chair of the California Libertarian Party, with over 30 years experience in local and state politics and activism. Outside of politics, Mark has extensive experience as an engineer and technical manager in large enterprises, and is also a long time entrepreneur and small business owner.

As it happens, Mark is also my friend of over 10 years; ever since we worked together as early employees at an ill fated bay area startup during the dot bomb.

Mark and I have had a number of great discussions about principle vs. pragmatism, finance and economics; and the practical, moral, and philosophical issues around labor, military service, the use of military power, interventionism vs. non interventionism; and of course the non-agression principle.

I know Mark to be a good manager and organizer, a good debater, a good joker (and a bad one), a good father, and a good man.

Oh and on a personal note, I’m glad Mark beat Wayne Allyn Root… but I’m no longer a party member (for many reasons) so I can’t really complain about Root being in the leadership (he was elected as committee member at large).

I realize I’m a week late in this missive, but I lost track of the election, and for some reason my normal LP email alerts didnt notify me…

Probably because my spam filter has decided that anything sent that often to that big a list of people using that language has GOT to be Spam…

…hint hint…

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

I wasn’t sure which one I liked better…

… as quote of the day yesterday, so I just decided to post them both today:

First, from Travis Corcoran:

Let’s call it “phase 1?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/us/pol…

Democrats Skip Town Halls to Avoid Voter Rage

In a better world, the headline would read “Democrats Hide in Secret Bunkers to Avoid Voter Bullets”, but I’ll take what I can get.

Can’t find a single thing to disagree with there…

And next from my man Borepatch:

Welcome to the alternative energy future: unreliable, intermittent power at more than twice the price of traditional generation.

When you dress the “Progressive” agenda up in the white lab coats of the scientists, it’s still agenda. Badly designed, poorly thought out, unreliable and expensive, and which generates more pollution than how things are done today. But it advances the control of the Progressives over society. It’s about power all right, just not the sort that comes out of the outlet.

Can all the lefties please just shut up about the “Republican War on Science” now?

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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