In reaction to the murderous attack by Muslim terrorists on Charbonnier and Co. at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, many have jumped on the "I am Charlie" bandwagon. It is quite understandable. But perhaps a little thought should be given to the question whether one ought to endorse a political pornographer who publishes stuff like the following. Might there be something called toleration extremism? Might it be that while one has a legal right to publish almost anything, one has a moral obligation to exercise restraint? Why do we value freedom of speech? Is it valuable as an end in itself or only as a means to valuable ends? Is it reasonable to maintain that any and all public self-expression is a good just in virtue of its being self-expression? I hope to say something about these questions in the next few days. Meanwhile, please think a bit before trumpeting your identity or rather solidarity with 'Charlie.'
My point in posting the following, needless to say, is not to mock the Christian Trinity but to raise in a graphic manner some very serious questions that require careful thought.
There is a sleazy singer who calls herself 'Madonna.' That moniker is offensive to many. But we in the West are tolerant, perhaps excessively so, and we tolerate the singer, her name, and her antics. Muslims need to understand the premium we place on toleration if they want to live among us.
A San Juan Capistrano councilman named his dog 'Muhammad' and mentioned the fact in public. Certain Muslim groups took offense and demanded an apology. The councilman should stand firm. One owes no apology to the hypersensitive and inappropriately sensitive. We must exercise our free speech rights if we want to keep them. Use 'em or lose 'em.
The notion that dogs are 'unclean' is a silly one. So if some Muslims are offended by some guy's naming his dog 'Muhammad,' their being offended is not something we should validate. Their being offended is their problem.
Am I saying that we should act in ways that we know are offensive to others? Of course not. We should be kind to our fellow mortals whenever possible. But sometimes principles are at stake and they must be defended. Truth and principle trump feelings. Free speech is one such principle. I exercised it when I wrote that the notion that dogs are 'unclean' is a silly one.
Some will be offended by that. I say their being offended is their problem. What I said is true. They are free to explain why dogs are 'unclean' and I wish them the best of luck. But equally, I am free to label them fools.
With some people being conciliatory is a mistake. They interpret your conciliation and willingness to compromise as weakness. These people need to be opposed vigorously. For the councilman to apologize would be foolish.
Ferguson is of course just one instance. But it is emblematic. As usual, Victor Davis Hanson gets it right:
In the Ferguson disaster, the law was the greatest casualty. Civilization cannot long work if youths strong-arm shop owners and take what they want. Or walk down the middle of highways high on illicit drugs. Or attack police officers and seek to grab their weapons. Or fail to obey an officer’s command to halt. Or deliberately give false testimonies to authorities. Or riot, burn, and loot. Or, in the more abstract sense, simply ignore the legal findings of a grand jury; or, in critical legal theory fashion, seek to dismiss the authority of the law because it is not deemed useful to some preconceived theory of social justice. Do that and society crumbles.
In our cynicism we accept, to avoid further unrest, that no government agency will in six months prosecute the looters and burners, or charge with perjury those who brazenly lied in their depositions to authorities, or charge the companion of Michael Brown with an accessory role in strong-arm robbery, or charge the stepfather of Michael Brown for using a bullhorn to incite a crowd to riot and loot and burn. We accept that because legality is becoming an abstraction, as it is in most parts of the world outside the U.S. where politics makes the law fluid and transient.
Nor can a government maintain legitimacy when it presides over lawlessness. The president of the United States on over 20 occasions insisted that it would be illegal, dictatorial, and unconstitutional to contravene federal immigration law — at least when to do so was politically inexpedient. When it was not, he did just that. Now we enter the Orwellian world of a videotaped president repeatedly warning that what he would soon do would be in fact illegal. Has a U.S. president ever so frequently and fervently warned the country about the likes of himself?
David P. Goldman talks sense about Ferguson and the liberal-left threat to civil society and the rule of law:
The argument of what now might be termed a “criminals’ rights movement” is that the police should not have the right to use force against felons whose crimes do not reach a certain threshold. What that threshold might be seems clear from the repeated characterization of Brown as an “unarmed black teenager.” Unless violent felons use deadly weapons, it appears, the police should not be allowed to use force.
To restate the “civil rights” argument in a clearer way: Young black men are disproportionately imprisoned. One in three black men have gone to prison at some time in their life. According to the ACLU, one in fifteen black men are incarcerated, vs. one in 106 white men. That by itself is proof of racism; the fact that these individuals were individually prosecuted for individual crimes has no bearing on the matter. All that matters is the outcome. Because the behavior of young black men is not likely to change, what must change is the way that society recognizes crime itself. The answer is to remove stigma of crime attached to certain behavior, for example, physical altercations, petty theft, and drug-dealing on a certain scale. The former civil rights movement no longer focuses its attention on supposedly ameliorative social spending, for example, preschool programs for minority children, although these remain somewhere down the list in the litany of demands. What energizes and motivates the movement is the demand that society redefine deviancy to exclude certain classes of violent as well as non-violent felonies.
The logic of the criminals’ rights movement is as clear as it is crazy: Because the outcome of the criminal justice system disproportionately penalizes African-Americans, the solution is to decriminalize behavior that all civilized countries have suppressed and punished since the dawn of history. Because felonious behavior is so widespread and the causes of it so intractable, the criminals’ rights movement insists, society “cannot afford to recognize” criminal behavior below a certain threshold.
If America were to accept this logic, civil society would come to an end. The state would abandon its monopoly of violence to street rule. Large parts of America would come to resemble the gang-ruled, lawless streets of Central America, where violent pathology has overwhelmed the state’s capacity to control it, creating in turn a nightmare for America’s enforcement of its own immigration law.
I have been asked my opinion. But before opining it would be better to wait until we know or at least have a clearer idea of what exactly transpired between Michael Brown, the 18-year-old black male, and the white police officer Darren Wilson. We know that Brown is dead and that the officer hit him with five or so rounds. (And we know that it was the shooting that caused the death.)
And we know that prior to the shooting, Brown stole some tobacco products (cigarillos in one account, Swisher Sweet cigars in another) from a convenience store, roughing up the proprietor on the way out.
The theft is not something that Wilson could have known about prior to the shooting, and even if he did know about it, that would not justify his use of deadly force against the shoplifter. Obviously.
So those are the main facts as I understand the case. I need to know more to say more, except for two comments:
1. Al Sharpton's claim that the release of the store video was a 'smear' of Brown is absurd on the face of it. One cannot smear someone with facts. To smear is to slander. It is to damage, or attempt to damage, a person's reputation by making false accusations. Sharpton is employing the often effective leftist tactic of linguistic hijacking. A semantic vehicle with a clear meaning is 'hijacked' and piloted to some leftist destination. The truth about a person can be damaging to his reputation. But if you cannot distinguish between damaging truths and damaging falsehoods, then you are as willfully stupid as the race hustler Sharpton.
2. The governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, called for "a vigorous prosecution" in the case and to "do everything we can to achieve justice for [Brown's] family." These statements sink to a Sharptonian level of (willful?) stupidity. For one thing, Wilson cannot be prosecuted for the killing of Brown until it has been determined that Wilson should be charged in the killing of Brown.
That Wilson killed Brown is a fact. But that he should be charged with a crime in the killing is a separate question. Only after a charge has been lodged can the judicial process begin with prosecution and defense.
Second, talk of achieving justice for Brown's family not only presupposes that Wilson has been indicted, it begs the question of his guilt: it assumes he is guilty of a crime. More fundamentally, talk of achieving justice for one party alone makes no sense. The aim of criminal proceeding is to arrive at a just outcome for both parties.
Suppose Wilson is indicted and tried. Either he is found guilty or found not guilty of the charge or charges brought against him. If he is found guilty, and is in fact guilty, then there is justice for both the perpetrator and the victim and his family If he is found not guilty, and he is in fact not guilty, then the same: there is justice for both the perpetrator and the victim and his family. Therefore, to speak of achieving justice for one of the parties alone makes no sense.
People don't understand this because they think that the victim or his family must be somehow compensated for his or their loss. But that is not the purpose of a criminal trial. It is too bad that the young black man died, but the purpose of a criminal trial is not to assuage the pain of such a loss. The purpose is simply to determine whether a person charged with a crime is guilty of it.
I was actually impressed by Obama's speech last night. The greatness of the office he occupies, together with the external pressure of events and advisors, has resulted in a non-vacuous speech and wise decision, a two-fold decision: to launch air strikes against the advancing terrorist ISIS (or ISIL) forces and to drop supplies to the beleagured religious minorities under dire existential threat, the Christians and the Yazidi.
My posting of the graphic to the left indicates that I am a skeptic about global warming (GW). To be precise, I am skeptical about some, not all, of the claims made by the GW activists. See below for some necessary distinctions. Skepticism is good. Doubt is the engine of inquiry and a key partner in the pursuit of truth.
A skeptic is a doubter, not a denier. To doubt or inquire or question whether such-and-such is the case is not to deny that it is the case. It is a cheap rhetorical trick of GW alarmists when they speak of GW denial and posture as if it is in the ball park of Holocaust denial.
What can a philosopher say about global warming? The first thing he can and ought to say is that, although not all questions are empirical, at the heart of the global warming debate are a set of empirical questions. These are not questions for philosophers qua philosophers, let alone for political ideologues. For the resolution of these questions we must turn to reputable climatologists whose roster does not sport such names as 'Al Gore,' 'Barbra Streisand,' or 'Ann Coulter.' Unfortunately, the global warming question is one that is readily 'ideologized' and the ideological gas bags of both the Right and the Left have a lot to answer for in this regard.
I have not investigated the matter with any thoroughness, and I have no firm opinion. It is difficult to form an opinion because it is difficult to know whom to trust: reputable scientists have their ideological biases too, and if they work in universities, the leftish climate in these hotbeds of political correctness is some reason to be skeptical of anything they say.
For example, let's say scientist X teaches at Cal Berkeley and is a registered Democrat. One would have some reason to question his credibility. He may well tilt toward socialism and away from capitalism and be tempted to beat down capitalism with the cudgel of global warming. Equally, a climatologist on the payroll of the American Enterprise Institute would be suspect. I am not suggesting that objectivity is impossible to attain; I am making the simple point that it is difficult to attain and that scientists have worldview biases like everyone else. And like everyone else, they are swayed by such less-than-noble motives as the desire to advance their careers and be accepted by their peers. And who funds global warming research? What are their biases? And who gets the grants? And what conclusions do you need to aim at to get funded? It can't be a bad idea to "follow the money" as the saying goes.
Off the top of my head I think we ought to distinguish among the following questions:
1. Is global warming (GW) occurring?
2. If yes to (1), is it naturally irreversible, or is it likely to reverse itself on its own?
3. If GW is occurring, and will not reverse itself on its own, to what extent is it anthropogenic, i.e., caused by human activity?
(3) is the crucial empirical question. It is obviously distinct from (1) and (2). If there is naturally irreversible global warming, this is not to say that it is caused by human activity. It may or may not be. One has to be aware of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Suppose there is a close correlation between global warming and man-made carbon emissions. It doesn't straightaway follow that the the human activity causes the warming. But again, this is not a question that can be settled a priori; it is a question for climatologists.
4. If anthropogenic, is global warming caused by humans to a degree that warrants action, assuming that action can be taken to stop it?
5. If GW is caused by humans to an extent that it warrants action, what sorts of action would be needed to stop the warming process?
6. How much curtailment of economic growth would we be willing to accept to stop global warming?
The first three of these six questions are empirical and are reserved for climatologists. They are very difficult questions to answer. And it is worth pointing out that climatology, while an empirical science, falls short of truly strict science. This useful article lists the following five characteristics of science in the strict and eminent sense:
1. Clearly defined terminology. 2. Quantifiability. 3. Highly controlled conditions. "A scientifically rigorous study maintains direct control over as many of the factors that influence the outcome as possible. The experiment is then performed with such precision that any other person in the world, using identical materials and methods, should achieve the exact same result." 4. Reproducibility. "A rigorous science is able to reproduce the same result over and over again. Multiple researchers on different continents, cities, or even planets should find the exact same results if they precisely duplicated the experimental conditions." 5. Predictability and Testability. "A rigorous science is able to make testable predictions."
These characteristics set the bar for strict science very high, and rightly so. Is climate science science according to these criteria? No, it falls short on #s 3 and 4. At the hardest hard core of the hard sciences lies the physics of meso-phenomena. Climatology does not come close to this level of 'hardness.' So don't be bamboozled: don't imagine that the prestige of physics transfers undiminished onto climatology. It is pretty speculative stuff and much of it is ideologically infected.
Our first three questions are empirical.But the last three are not, being questions of public policy. So although the core issues are empirical, philosophers have some role to play: they can help in the formulation and clarification of the various questions; they can help with the normative questions that arise in conjunction with (4)-(5), and they can examine the cogency of the arguments given on either side. Last but not least, they can drive home the importance of being clear about the distinction between empirical and conceptual questions.
It occurred to me this morning that there is an ominous parallel between Putin's occupation of the Ukraine and Hitler's of the Sudetenland, and on a similar pretext, namely, the protecting of ethnic Russians/Germans. The Sudetenland was the German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia whose annexation by Hitler in 1938 was part of the run-up to the Second World War. But I'm no historian. So let me ascend from these grimy speluncar details into the aether of philosophy.
George Santayana is repeatedly quoted as saying that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Although this may be true individually, I cannot see that it is true collectively. I have learned from my mistakes, and I don't repeat them. But a collection of individuals, with its ever-changing membership, is not an individual. Collectively, whether we remember the past or not we are condemned to repeat it. That is how I would go Santayana one better. Or to put it in less ringing terms:
Collectively, knowledge of the past does little to prevent the recurrence of old mistakes.
One reason for this is that there is no consensus as to what the lessons of history are. What did we Americans learn from Viet Nam? That we should avoid all foreign entanglements? That when we engage militarily we should do so decisively and with overwhelming force and resolve? (E.g, that we should have suppressed dissent at home and used a few tactical nukes against the Viet Cong?) What is the lesson to be learned? What is the mistake to be avoided? Paleocons, neocons (the descendants of old-time liberals) and leftists don't agree on questions like these.
One cannot learn a lesson the content of which is up for grabs.
What did we learn from Hiroshima and Nagasaki? That the wholesale slaughter of noncombatants is sometimes justified and may (as it actually has) usher in a long period of world peace? (There hasn't been a world war in going on 70 years). That this is a case in which the end justified the means? No adherent of just war doctrine would agree that that is the lesson.
Another reason why knowledge of the past is of little help in the present is that, even if there is agreement on some general lesson -- e.g., don't appease dictators -- there is bound to be disagreement as to whether or not the lesson applies in particular circumstances. Is Obama an appeaser? Is Putin a dictator? Is the Ukraine sufficiently like the Sudetenland to justify an action-guiding comparison? Et cetera ad nauseam.
A few days ago I was blissfully unaware of Duck Diversity Dynasty, the reality show on the Arts and Entertainment channel. I still haven't watched even one episode, nor am I particularly inclined to; the antics of rednecks are not my thing. I have gathered, however, that the series falls more on the entertainment end of the Arts and Entertainment spectrum. One of the characters whose reality is depicted, Phil Robertson, shown on the left, has made comments on homosexuality that have drawn attention, to put it mildly. I won't rehearse the details of a brouhaha about which my astute readers can be expected to be familiar. I will simply make a few comments bearing upon the contretemps that strike me as important.
1. To have the homosexual disposition or inclination or proclivity is one thing; to exercise it in homosexual sex acts such as anal intercourse is quite another. You may be born with the proclivity, and stuck with it, but you are free to exercise it or not. The proclivity may be part of 'who you are,' ingredient in your very identity, but the practices are freely engaged in. Acts done or left undone are contingent and thus no part of anyone's identity. Moral criticism of homosexual practices is not criticism of anyone for who he is.
2. It follows that rejection of homosexual sex acts as immoral is consistent with acceptance of homosexuals as people. In a trite phrase, one can hate the sin but love the sinner. The sinful and the immoral, however, are not quite the same, though I cannot expatiate on the distinction at the moment.
It is therefore very bad journalism to describe Robertson's comments as 'anti-gay' for that elides the distinction I just drew. Opposition to homosexual practices is not opposition to homosexuals.
And of course there is nothing 'homophobic' about Robertson's comments. I don't reckon that the good old boy pictured above has any irrational fear of homosexuals. 'Homophobic' is a coinage of leftists to prevent one of those famous 'conversations' that they otherwise call for. It is a question-begging epithet and semantic bludgeon meant to close down debate by the branding of their opponents as suffering from a mental defect. This is why only a foolish conservative acquiesces in the use of this made-up word. Language matters. One of the first rules for successful prosecution of the Kulturkampf is to never let the enemy distort the terms of the debate. Insist on standard English, and always slap them down when they engage in their notorious 'framing.' As for 'gay,' that too is a word we ought not surrender. Use the neutral 'homosexual.' Same with 'queer.' 'Queer' is a good old word. Nominalists think abstracta are queer entities. There is no implication that the analysis of such is in any way proctological.
3. Whether or not Phil Robertson and people like him can cogently defend their opposition to homosexual practices, they have a right to hold and express their opinions in public fora, and a right to be tolerated by those who oppose their views. To tolerate is not approve of, let alone endorse; it is to put up with, to allow, to refrain from interfering with the promulgation of distasteful ideas. Without widespread toleration it is hard to see how a nation as diverse and pluralistic as the USA can remain even minimally united.
4. There are solid arguments based in theology and philosophy for rejecting as immoral homosexual practices. And they are available to Robertson and Co. should they decide to lay down their shotguns long enough to swot them up. These arguments won't convince those on the the other side, but then no argument, no matter how well-articulated and reasonable, no matter how consistent with known empirical fact and free of logical error, convinces those on the other side of any 'hot button' issue.
5. As a corollary to (4), note that arguments against homosexuality needn't presupose the truth of any religion. They can be purely philosophical. The same goes for abortion. If I argue against late-term abortion on the the ground that it is sufficiently like infanticide to inherit the moral wrongness of infanticide, then I argue in a way that makes no use of any religious premise.
6. The A & E Network has every right to fire Robertson and Co. By the same token, a baker or a florist has every right to refuse service to a same-sex couple planning a same -sex 'marriage' and it is simply wrong for government at any level to force the baker or the florist to violate his conscience.
7. In the interests of comity, homosexuals and their practices ought to be tolerated. Whether or not the practices are immoral, they ought to be legally permissible as long as they are between consenting adults. But this right to be tolerated does not translate into a right to be approved or applauded or celebrated or a right to impose their views on others, or a right to change the culture to their liking. In particular, it does not translate into a right to have their 'marriages' legally recognized.
8. Given the obvious distinction made in (1) above, the following sort of argument is invalid. "Tom didn't choose to be homosexual; he was born that way, so his practice of homosexuality via anal intercourse is morally acceptable." That sort of argument obviously proves too much. Pedophiles, sadomasochists, necrophiliacs, and so on down the list of sexual perversions are most of them born with their proclivity, but that fact does not justify their engaging in the corresponding practices.
One cannot insure against an event the probability of which is 1. It violates the very concept of insurance.
I have a homeowner's policy for which I pay about $400 a year. It insures against various adverse events such as fire. Suppose I didn't have the policy and my house catches fire. Do you think I could call up an insurer and buy a policy to cover that preexisting condition? Not for $400. He might, however, sell me a policy on the spot for the replacement value of the house.
Or suppose I am on my deathbed enjoying (if that's the word) my last sunset. Do you think I could buy a $500,000 term life policy for, say, $2 K per annum?
Do you understand the concept of insurance? Do you see how this relevant to ObamaCare? If not, read this.
Some object to the popular 'Obamacare' label given that the official title of the law is 'Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act' or, as commonly truncated, 'Affordable Care Act.' But there is a good reason to favor the popular moniker: it is descriptive where the other two labels are evaluative, expressing as they do a pro attitude toward the bill.
Will the law really protect patients? That is an evaluative judgment based on projections many regard as flimsy. Will the law really make health care affordable? And for whom? Will care mandated for all be readily available and of high quality?
Everybody wants affordable and readily available health care of high quality for the greatest number possible. The question is how best to attain this end. The 'Affordable Care Act' label begs the question as to whether or not Obama's bill will achieve the desired end. 'Obamacare' does not. It is, if not all that descriptive, at least evaluatively neutral.
If Obama's proposal were referred to as "Socialized Medicine Health Care Act' or 'Another Step Toward the Nanny State Act,' people would protest the negative evaluations embedded in the titles. Titles of bills ought to be neutral.
Proponents of a consumption tax sometimes refer to it as a fair tax. Same problem. 'Fair' is an evaluative term while 'consumption' is not. 'Consumption tax' conveys the idea that taxes should be collected at the consuming end rather than at the income-producing end. 'Fair tax' fails to convey that idea, but what is worse, it begs the question as to what a fair tax would look like. It is a label that invites the conflation of distinct questions: What is a consumption tax? Is it good? Answer the first and it remains an open question what the answer to the second is.
What is fairness? What is justice? Is justice fairness? These are questions that need to be addressed, not questions answers to which ought to be presupposed.
There is no good reason to object to 'Obamacare' -- the word, not the thing.
Long-time reader Tony Hanson perceptively notes a contradiction in the Obama administration's attitude toward their poor minority clients:
As I read about the complexity and nightmares (or as Obama prefers, glitches) of the ACA [Affordable Care Act] marketplace roll out today, I am reminded of your posts on Voter ID. Apparently the condescension of Obama and the Dems is very selective. They think requiring poor minorities to have the wherewithal to accomplish the relatively simple task of securing an ID card is just too difficult a task for them and therefore discriminatory; at the same time the success of the new healthcare law requires them to navigate (using a computer and internet connection mostly) a rather complex system of web sites, information and rules.
And while the Feds will spend millions upon millions to provide them help, it apparently cannot provide a tiny fraction of this amount to help them get IDs (if in fact they really need this help) and thereby secure the integrity of the voting system and democracy itself.
'Selective condescension' is an apt phrase. Blacks and other minorities are thought to be too bereft of basic life skills to secure government-issued photo ID, which is free in many states, but are nonetheless expected to be computer-savvy enough to sign up for ObamaCare. But if this contradiction were pointed out to Obama or the liberals that support him, it wouldn't faze them in the least. For they care about logical consistency as little as they care about truth. For a leftist it's all about power and nothing else. They have no bourgeois scruples about truth or the rule of law. The end justifies the means.
The plain truth of the matter is that Dems oppose photo ID because they want to make polling places safe for voter fraud. This is a harsh allegation but one that is perfectly justified given the utter worthlessness of the 'arguments' brought forth against photo ID. But I have said enough about this depressing topic in ealier posts, some of which are listed below.
If one has demonstrated that one's opponent's arguments are worthless, it is legitimate to psychologize him. For motives abound where reasons are nonexistent.
There are two ways to become richer. One is to provide more goods and services; that's economic growth. The other is to snatch someone else's wealth or income; that's the spoils society. In a spoils society, economic success increasingly depends on who wins countless distributional contests: not who creates wealth but who controls it. But this can be contentious. Winners celebrate; losers fume.
Of course, the two systems have long coexisted -- and always will. All modern societies chase growth; all redistribute income and wealth. Some shuffling is visible and popular. Until now, that's been the case with America's largest transfer, which is from workers to retirees through Social Security and Medicare. In 2012, this exceeded $1 trillion. Still, for the nation, the relevant question is whether productive behavior (generating economic growth) is losing ground to predatory behavior (grabbing existing wealth and income). There are good reasons to think it is.
Eric Holder's out-of-control Department of (Social) Justice is at it again, this time going after Bobby Jindal's school choice program in Louisiana.
Yet another attack on federalism. This is not a word that wears its meaning on its sleeve, and the average panem et circenses American would be hard-pressed to define it.
Federalism is (i) a form of political organization in which governmental power is divided among a central government and various constituent governing entities such as states, counties, and cities; (ii) subject to the proviso that both the central and the constituent governments retain their separate identities and assigned duties. A government that is not a federation would allow for the central government to create and reorganize constituent governments at will and meddle in their affairs. Federalism is implied by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Federalism would make for less contention because people who support high taxes and liberal schemes could head for states like Massachusetts or California, while the conservatively inclined who support gun rights and capital punishment and border control could gravitate toward states like Texas.
The fact of the matter is that we do not agree on a large number of divisive, passion-inspiring issues (abortion, gun rights, capital punishment, affirmative action, school vouchers, photo ID at polling places, legal and illegal immigration, taxation, wealth redistribution, the purposes and limits, if any, on governmental power . . .) and we will never agree on them. These are not merely academic issues since they directly affect the lives and livelihoods and liberties of people. And they are not easily resolved because they are deeply rooted in fundamental worldview differences. When you violate a man's liberty, or mock his moral sense, or threaten to destroy his way of life, you are spoiling for a fight and you will get it.
I fear that we are coming apart as a nation. We are disagreeing about things we ought not be disagreeing about, such as the need to secure the borders. The rifts are deep and nasty. Polarization and demonization of the opponent are the order of the day. Do you want more of this? Then give government more say in your life. The bigger the government, the more to fight over. Do you want less? Then support limited government and federalism. A return to federalism may be a way to ease the tensions, not that I am sanguine about any solution.
Bobby Bare's 1963 Country and Western crossover hit features the lines, "By day I make the cars, by night I make the bars . . . ." But that was '63, around the time a series of Democrat mayors took control of the city. Since then there have been seven, five of them black, with nary a Republican, and now 50 years later the place is a disaster with the bars outnumbering the cars. Post hoc ergo propter hoc? I don't think so. Liberalism has destroyed the city in five ways as detailed here.
1. Unions crippled the auto industry.
2. Whites were demonized until they left.
3. Out-of-control crime helped drive much of the black middle class out of the city.
4. Reckless government spending bankrupted the city.
I know you've been following this case. I must say I'm impressed by the outcome. Even though I believed that Z's account of the events was consistent and that the prosecution's case was incredibly weak, I was expecting the all-female jury to cave in to the pressure and declare him guilty or, at least, to come back with a lesser charge.
MavPhil: That's what I was expecting: a cave-in by the female jurors and a manslaughter conviction. So I was extremely pleased that justice was done. The state had no case whatsoever as became very clear early on from the testimony of the state's own witnesses. Objectively speaking, it was all over after John Good's cross-examination by the magnificent Mark O'Mara. He impressed the hell out of me: calm, clear, respectful, logical, thorough, low-keyed, bluster-free. A patient, relentless, digger for the truth. Good was impressive as well. That segment of the trial made me very proud of our system.
Zimmerman should not have been charged in the first place, and initially he wasn't. It was only after the race-baiters got wind of the story that local law enforcement buckled under national pressure. Among the race-baiters was our very own hopelessly inept president, Barack Obama, with his irresponsible remark to the effect that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin. Here again we have Obama meddling in a local matter just as he did before about four summers ago in the Henry Gates affair.
So was the trial about race or not?
Objectively, the case had nothing to do with race. Objectively, the case was about the use of deadly force to repel an attack of deadly force. A very fit young man physically assaults an obese, out-of-shape older man. The older guy ends up on the ground with the younger guy on top of him doing the 'pound and ground,' slamming the older man's head into the pavement and telling him that tonight he will die. Now is it legally permissible to use deadly force in a situation like this, a situation in which one is about to be killed or suffer grave bodily harm? Yes, the law allows the use of deadly force in such a situation. Note that we are not talking about morality here, but about legality. Whatever one's moral intuitions or moral theories, there is a hard fact about what the law permits, and that is not in dispute. The only question is whether on that particular evening George Zimmerman was indeed fighting for his life.
The defense team made a very strong case that he was on the bottom fighting for his life against the strapping youth who thought of him as a "creepy-ass cracker." The defense didn't have to make that strong case; all it had to do was show that the above was a likely scenario in order to raise a reasonable doubt about Zimmerman's guilt. In a criminal proceeding the probative standard is set very high, and rightly so. The accused is presumed innocent and the burden of proof rests on the prosecution to show that the accused is guilty of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. But the defense succeeded in doing both: it showed that Zimmerman was not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and, as O'Mara remarked after the trial, it proved that he was innocent.
So, objectively, the case had nothing to do with race. The racial veneer was superadded by the race-baiters of the Left so that they could use this trial to further their own political agenda. Among the race-baiters are the editors at the New York Times who decided that Zimmerman was a 'white Hispanic.' They would never refer to Obama as a white black even though he is half-white and half-black. They applied the 'white Hispanic' appellation in order to inject race into a non-racial case. If both parties to the dispute were black or both Hispanic we wouldn't have heard about it. Meanwhile, blacks are killing blacks in record numbers in Chicago and other places.
The Left is raging at the moment. They say young blacks aren't safe anymore. But, were they before this single incident? I haven't heard a single word about the dozens of young blacks who are murdered by other blacks every year. All I hear is a lot of moralizing about poverty, racism and gun legislation from upper-middle class people who live in 95% white communities and have never seen a gun in their lives.
I think it's something else. Maybe it's the realization that they're not so powerful. That their enormous govt.-approved media campaign to portray this as a racially motivated murder of a kid was not enough convince a jury of six women (which, by the way, included a black hispanic lady). That they could not only notice the absence of racist armed vigilantes on the hunt and young harmless children walking home, but also act accordingly. Maybe it's too much for them, even after six years of getting everything they wanted.
MavPhil: I basically agree with you. Let the leftist loons rage. It is music to my ears and blog-fodder for my blog. We conservatives are going to have a lot of fun exposing their contemptible lies and inanities.
The race-baiting, delusional Left is completely out of control in this country as witness the Zimmerman prosecution, the Paula Deen shakedown, and the mindless uproar over the SCOTUS decision to strike down Article Four of the 1965 Voting Act.
Curious how so-called 'progressives' are stuck in the past, as if Jim Crow still exists.
Just minutes before ambling by your place and seeing your link to Brooks, I had run across this riposte. It's worth a look, I think.
This administration has aggressively sought to hollow out all the mediating layers of civil society that stand between the atomized citizen and the Leviathan (those civil associations having been discussed by Tocqueville as by far the most important part of American life). I think Brooks is right that the "solitary naked individual" can easily feel himself alone against the "gigantic and menacing State", but it can go the other way too: the radically atomized individual -- for whom the traditional embedding in civil society, with its web of mutually supportive associations and obligations, no longer exists -- is left with only the State as friend, protector, and provider. This was creepily evident in, e.g., the Obama campaign's horrifying Life of Julia slideshow, in which a faceless female goes from childhood to dotage with, apparently, no human interactions whatsoever, and subsisting entirely upon the blessings that flow from the federal behemoth.
In the article I linked above, the author points out that our natural embedding in civil society is a lever for the totalitarian State to use to compel obedience; Brooks, on the other hand, seems to see civil society and State as almost the same thing, and appears to argue that loyalty to the former should entail obedience to the latter. He speaks of "gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world", but he makes the gradation seem very gentle indeed, if not downright flat.
Response. We agree that disaster looms if the Left gets its way and manages to eliminate the buffering elements of civil society lying between the naked individual and the State. We also agree that the State can wear the monstrous aspect of Leviathan or that of the benevolent nanny whose multiple tits are so many spigots supplying panem et circenses to the increasingly less self-reliant masses. To cite just one example, the Obama administration promotes ever-increasing food stamp dependency to citizens and illegal aliens alike under the mendacious SNAP acronym thereby disincentivizing relief and charitable efforts at the local level while further straining an already strapped Federal treasury. A trifecta of stupidity and corruption, if you will: the infantilizing of the populace who now needs federal help in feeding itself; the fiscal irresponsibilty of adding to the national debt; the assault on the institutions of civil society out of naked lust for ever more centralized power in the hands of the Dems, the left wing party. (Not that the Repubs are conservative.)
I grant that a totalitarian State could make use of familial and other local loyalties as levers to coerce individuals as is argued in the Jacobin piece. But that is not a good argument against those local loyalties and what go with them, namely, respect for well-constituted authority and a defeasible presumption in favor of traditional beliefs and practices. Besides, it is precisely the strength of the institutions of civil society that will serve as a brake on the expansion of federal power.
In general, arguments of the form 'X is ill-advised because X could be misused' are unsound due to probative overkill: they prove to much. Most anything can be misused. Blogger buddy and fellow Arizonan Victor Reppert argued against Arizona Senate Bill 1070 on the ground that cops could use it to harass Hispanics or people who look Hispanic. Here is part of my response:
A certain distrust of law enforcement is reasonable. Skepticism about government and its law enforcement agencies is integral to American conservatism and has been from the founding. But we need to make a simple distinction between a law and its enforcement. A just law can be unjustly applied or enforced, and if it is, that is no argument against the law. If the police cannot be trusted to enforce the 1070 law without abuses, then they cannot be trusted to enforce any law without abuses. Someone who thinks otherwise is probably assuming, falsely, that most cops are anti-Hispanic racists. What a scurrilous assumption!
At this point one must vigorously protest the standard leftist ploy of 'playing the race card,' i.e., the tactic of injecting race into every conceivable issue. The issue before us is illegal immigration, which has nothing to do with race. Those who oppose illegal immigration are opposed to the illegality of the immigrants, not to their race. The illegals happen to be mainly Hispanic, and among the Hispanics, mainly Mexican. But those are contingent facts. If they were mainly Persians, the objection would be the same. Again, the opposition is to the illegality of the illegals, not to their race.
You write, "Brooks, on the other hand, seems to see civil society and State as almost the same thing, and appears to argue that loyalty to the former should entail obedience to the latter." I've read Brooks' piece about four times and I don't get that out of it.
The issue underlying the Snowden case is a very difficult one and may be irresolvable. Perhaps it can be formulated as finding the correct middle position between two extremes. On the one end you have the alienated, deracinated, twentysomething cyberpunk loyal to no one and nothing except some such abstraction as the common good or the good of humanity. On the other end end you have the Blut-und-Boden type who uncritically respects and accepts every form of authority from that of his parents on up though the mediating associations of civil society to the the authority of der Fuehrer himself. At the one extreme, the hyper-autonomy of the rootless individual, full of excessive trust in his own judgment, who presumes to be justified in betraying his country. At the other extreme, the hyper-heteronomy of the nativist, racist, xenophobe who justifies his crimes against humanity by saying that he was following orders and who invokes the outrageous "My country right or wrong."
In between lie the difficult cases. The brother of the Unabomber turned him in, or 'ratted him out' depending on your point of view. I say he did right: familial loyalty is a value but it has limits. I have no firm opinion about the Snowden case or where it lies on the spectrum, but I am inclined to agree with Brooks. It's bloody difficult!
If anyone is interested in my debate with Reppert over AZ SB 1070 from three years ago, it unfolds over three posts accessible from this page.
A president presides over something. To preside over it, however, he must know something about it. But 'President' Obama seems to know little or nothing about what is going on in his government. He puts me in mind of Sgt. Schulz of Hogan's Heroes: "I know nothing!" Check out this clip.
The Gibson Guitar raid, the IRS intimidation of Tea Party groups and the fraudulently obtained warrant naming Fox News reporter James Rosen as an "aider, abettor, co-conspirator" in stealing government secrets are but a few examples of the abuse of power by the Obama administration to intimidate those on its enemies list.
Liberals like to say that the government is us. President Obama recently trotted out the line to quell the fears of gun owners:
You hear some of these quotes: ‘I need a gun to protect myself from the government.’ ‘We can’t do background checks because the government is going to come take my guns away,’ Obama said. “Well, the government is us. These officials are elected by you. They are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place. It’s a government of and by and for the people.
Liberals might want to think about the following.
If the government is us, and the government lies to us about Benghazi or anything else, then we must be lying to ourselves. Right?
If the government is us, and the government uses the IRS to harass certain groups of citizens whose political views the administration opposes, then we must be harassing ourselves.
I could continue in this vein, but you get the drift. "The government is us" is blather. It is on a par with Paul Krugman's silly notion that we owe the national debt to ourselves. (See Left, Right, and Debt.)
It is true that some, but not all, of those who have power over us are elected. But that truth cannot be expressed by the literally false, if not meaningless, 'The government is us.' Anyone who uses this sentence is mendacious or foolish.
The government is not us. It is an entity distinct from most of us, and opposed to many of us, run by a relatively small number of us. Among the latter are some decent people but also plenty of power-hungry individuals who may have started out with good intentions but who were soon suborned by the power, perquisites, and pelf of high office, people for whom a government position is a hustle like any hustle. Government, like any entity, likes power and likes to expand its power, and can be counted on to come up with plenty of rationalizations for the maintenance and extension of its power. It must be kept in check by us, who are not part of the government, just as big corporations need to be kept in check by government regulators.
If you value liberty you must cultivate a healthy skepticism about government. To do so is not anti-government. Certain scumbags of the Left love to slander us by saying that we are anti-government. It is a lie and they know it. They are not so stupid as not to know that to be for limited government is to be for government.
There are two extremes to avoid, the libertarian and the liberal. Libertarians often say that the government can do nothing right, and that the solution is to privatize everything including the National Parks. Both halves of that assertion are patent nonsense. It is equal but opposite nonsense to think that Big Government will solve all our problems. Ronald Reagan had it right: "A government big enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take everything you have." Or something like that.
From a logical point of view, the ‘Government is us’ nonsense appears to be a pars pro toto fallacy: one identifies a proper part (the governing) with the whole of which it is a proper part (the governed).
Senator John McCain is for it. Victor Davis Hanson is against it. VDH has the better case, as it seems to me.
The further expenditure of American blood and treasure "to teach locals not to be their tribal selves" (VDH) is a losing proposition. We are in deep trouble domestically, and we are going to teach benighted Middle Eastern tribalists how to live? How has that worked out in the past? And with our trash culture of empty celebrity, an entertainment industry that resembles an open sewer, fiscal irresponsibility, ever-widening political divisions, and a panem-et-circenses populace, we are not exactly role models to anyone any more.
In this fine piece, Marilyn Penn takes Thomas Friedman to task. Her article begins thusly (emphasis added):
In Thomas Friedman’s op ed on the Boston marathon massacre (Bring On the Next Marathon, NYT 4/17), the boldface caption insists “We’re just not afraid anymore.” Perhaps this is true for a traveling journalist who doesn’t use the subway daily or who isn’t forced to spend all his days in the 9/11 city of New York, but for most thinking people who work and live here, there is a great deal to fear. We live in a porous society where criminals roam free yet politicians complain about the “discriminatory” stop and frisk policies of the police, even though they have successfully reduced crime precisely in the neighborhoods that most affect the complaining minorities and their liberal champions. If you ride the subways, you know how many passengers wear enormous back-packs, large enough to conceal an arsenal of weapons. These are allowed to be carried into movie theaters, playgrounds, parks, sports arenas, shopping centers, department stores and restaurants with no security checks whatsoever. On the national front, immigration policies are more concerned with politically correct equality than with the reality of which groups are fomenting most of the terror around the world today. Our northern and southern borders are infiltrated daily by undocumented people slipping in beyond the government’s surveillance or control.
I agree with her entire piece. Read it.
It has been a week since the Boston Marathon bombing. There was a moment of silence today in remembrance of the victims. But let's keep things in perspective. Only three people were killed. I know you are supposed to gush over these relatively minor events and the undoubtedly horrendous suffering of the victims, but most of the gushing is the false and foolish response of feel-good liberals who have no intention of doing what is necessary to protect against the threat of radical Islam. The Patriot's Day event was nothing compared to what could happen. How about half of Manhattan being rendered uninhabitable by dirty bombs?
When that or something similar happens, will you liberals start yammering about how 'unimaginable' it was? Look, I'm imagining it right now. Liberals can imagine the utopian nonsense imagined by John Lennon in his asinine "Imagine." Is their imagination 'selective'? They can imagine the impossible but not the likely. It is worth recalling that Teddy Kennedy's favorite song was Impossible Dream.
What follows is the whole of Victor Davis Hanson's Promiscuous Prudes with a bit of commentary.
More than 500 people were murdered in Chicago last year. Yet Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel still found time to berate the fast food franchise Chick-fil-A for not sharing "Chicago values" -- apparently because its founder does not approve of gay marriage.
[A case of what I call misplaced moral enthusiasm. Emanuel's view is particularly offensive because conservative opposition to gay 'marriage' is principled and rationally argued. It does not derive from bigotry or 'homophobia.']
Two states have legalized marijuana, with more to come. Yet social taboos against tobacco smoking make it nearly impossible to light up a cigarette in public places. Marijuana, like alcohol, causes far greater short-term impairment than does nicotine. But legal cigarette smoking is now seen as a corporate-sponsored, uncool and dirty habit that leads to long-term health costs for society at large -- in a way homegrown, hip and mostly illegal pot smoking apparently does not.
[The church of liberalism must have its demon, and his name is tobacco. (See Cigarettes, Rationality, and Hitchens.) There is also the absurdity, not mentioned by Hanson, that tobacco use is demonized while drinking alcohol is widely accepted. Ask yourself: how many auto accidents have been caused by people under abnd because of the influence of nicotine? More or less than the number of such accidents caused by people under the influence of alcohol? The question answers itself. Now repeat the question substituting 'marijuana' for 'alcohol.' Marijuana use impairs driving skills. Nicotine use enhances concentration and alertness. Liberals have a knee-jerk hatred of corporations. When big corporations market dope will the lefties change their tune?]
Graphic language, nudity and sex are now commonplace in movies and on cable television. At the same time, there is now almost no tolerance for casual and slang banter in the media or the workplace. A boss who calls an employee "honey" might face accusations of fostering a hostile work environment, yet a television producer whose program shows an 18-year-old having sex does not. Many colleges offer courses on lurid themes from masturbation to prostitution, even as campus sexual-harassment suits over hurtful language are at an all-time high.
[There is also the double-standard: you can get away with calling a Jew a 'kike' but not a black 'nigger.' Why is 'nigger' more offensive than 'kike'? Why is 'So-and-so is nigger-rich' more offensive than 'I got a great deal; I jewed him down to $150'? You may recall Jesse Jackson's reference to New York as 'himey town.' But what if someone referred to Detroit as 'nigger town'?
In a blog post on the difference between 'asshole' and 'honkey,' a philosophy professor who wrote a book entitled Assholes starts off, "Here I mean not only 'honkey,' but any pejorative term directed toward a particular group of people ('honkey' and whites; 'wop' and Italians; 'kike' and Jews; 'chink' and Chinese people; 'limeys' and Irish people; 'n—-r' and Afro-Americans).
Notice how the PC prof refuses to write out 'nigger,' but has no qualms about 'wop,' 'kike,' and 'chink.'
As a philosophy teacher he ought to be aware of the distinction between use and mention. He is talking about those words, not applying them to people. Why then is he so squeamish about writing out the word 'nigger'?]
A federal judge in New York recently ruled that the so-called morning-after birth control pill must be made available to all "women" regardless of age or parental consent, and without a prescription. The judge determined that it was unfair for those under 16 to be denied access to such emergency contraceptives. But if vast numbers of girls younger than 16 need after-sex options to prevent unwanted pregnancies, will there be a flood of statutory rape charges lodged against older teenagers who had such consensual relations with younger girls?
Our schizophrenic morality also affects the military. When America was a far more traditional society, few seemed to care that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower carried on an unusual relationship at the front in Normandy with his young female chauffeur, Kay Summersby. As the Third Army chased the Germans across France, Gen. George S. Patton was not discreet about his female liaisons. Contrast that live-and-let-live attitude of a supposedly uptight society with our own hip culture's tabloid interest in Gen. David Petraeus' career-ending affair with Paula Broadwell, or in the private emails of Gen. John Allen.
What explains these contradictions in our wide-open but prudish society?
Decades after the rise of feminism, popular culture still seems confused by it. If women should be able to approach sexuality like men, does it follow that commentary about sex should follow the same gender-neutral rules? Yet wearing provocative or inappropriate clothing is often considered less offensive than remarking upon it. Calling a near-nude Madonna onstage a "hussy" or "tart" would be considered crudity in a way that her mock crucifixion and simulated sex acts are not.
Criminal sexual activity is sometimes not as professionally injurious as politically incorrect thoughts about sex and gender. Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer -- found to have hired prostitutes on a number of occasions during his time in office -- was given a CNN news show despite the scandal. But when former Miss California Carrie Prejean was asked in the Miss USA Pageant whether she endorsed gay marriage, she said no -- and thereby earned nearly as much popular condemnation for her candid defense of traditional marriage as Spitzer had for his purchased affairs.
Critics were outraged that talk-show host Rush Limbaugh grossly insulted birth-control activist Sandra Fluke. Amid the attention, Fluke was canonized for her position that federal health-care plans should pay for the contraceptive costs of all women.
Yet in comparison to Fluke's well-publicized victimhood, there has been a veritable news blackout for the trial of the macabre Dr. Kermit Gosnell, charged with killing and mutilating in gruesome fashion seven babies during a long career of conducting sometimes illegal late-term abortions. Had Gosnell's aborted victims been canines instead of humans -- compare the minimal coverage of the Gosnell trial with the widespread media condemnation of dog-killing quarterback Michael Vick -- perhaps the doctor's mayhem likewise would have been front-page news outside of Philadelphia.
Modern society also resorts to empty, symbolic moral action when it cannot deal with real problems. So-called assault weapons account for less than 1 percent of gun deaths in America. But the country whips itself into a frenzy to ban them, apparently to prove that at least it can do something -- without wading into the polarized racial and class controversies of going after illegal urban handguns, the real source of the nation's high gun-related body count.
Not since the late-19th-century juxtaposition of the Wild West with the Victorian East has popular morality been so unbridled and yet so uptight.
In short, we have become a nation of promiscuous prudes.
I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.
If the Obama Administration whose Attorney General is Eric Holder can get away with killing by drone an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, without owning up to it, what is to stop such a mendacious and power-hungry administration from killing U.S. citizens in the homeland without due process?
Even the shysters of the ACLU and the bunch at The Nation are on the right side of this issue. It would be nice if we could convince the aforementioned crapweasels that it is the Second Amendment that backs up the others, including the Fifth, but they are too morally corrupt and intellectually obtuse for that.
A Fox News anchor's reportage from earlier today betrays presumably inadvertent bias. The anchor said that Pope Benedict XVI is "a conservative not in favor of many reforms." A reform is not merely a change, but an improvement. The Wikipedia article gets it right: "Reform means the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory, etc."
"A conservative not in favor of reforms" therefore implies that conservatives are not in favor of the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory, etc. And to describe the current pontiff using the phrase in question is to imply that he is not in favor of improvement or amendment of what needs improving or amending.
The Fox News anchor could have avoided the biased formulation by reporting what is true in neutral language, e.g., "The Pope, being a conservative, is skeptical of changes." Or something like that.
Conservatives tend to resist change. That is not to say that conservatives are opposed to what they take to be ameliorative changes. For a conservative, there is a defeasible presumption in favor of traditional beliefs and practices. Note the adjective 'defeasible.' Liberals, being more open to change, lack this presumption in favor of the traditional.
The paragraph I just wrote is an example of neutral writing. It does not take sides; it merely reports a salient difference between conservatives and liberals.
As I have said many times, language matters. It is particularly important that conservatives not adopt the slovenly speech habits of liberals. Much of liberal-left phraseology is rigged to beg questions and shut down debate. That is exactly the purpose of such coinages as 'homophobe' and 'Islamophobe.' To call a person who argues that radical Islam is a serious threat to the West and its values an 'Islamaphobe,' for example, is to deflect attention from the objective content of his utterances so as to focus it on his mental state. Since a phobia is an irrational fear by definition, calling someone an Islamophobe is a way of refusing to engage the content of his utterances. It is a form of the genetic fallacy.
If you are a conservative, don't talk like a liberal!
For example, why do conservatives like O'Reilly and Hannity and Giuliani and a score more play the liberal game and speak of 'assault weapons'? Can't they see that it is an emotive phrase used by the Left -- the positions of which are mainly emotion-driven -- to appeal to fear and make calm discussion impossible?
Note the difference between 'semi-automatic long gun' and 'assault weapon.' Suppose you did a poll and asked whether ordinary citizen should be permitted to own assault weapons. I am quite sure that you would find that the number answering in the negative would be greater than if you framed the question correctly and non-emotively as "Do you think ordinary citizens should be permitted to own semi-automatic long guns?"
And why does Bill O'Reilly say things like,"Obama is for social justice? 'Social justice' is lefty-talk. it sounds good, but if the folks knew what it meant they would oppose it. See What is Social Justice?
It is the foolish conservative who acquiesces in the slovenly and question-begging speech patterns of liberals.
Liberals oppose photo ID at polling places because it would 'disenfranchise' all the blacks and others among us who somehow live without ID whose votes liberals need. And anyway, voter fraud never happens -- except when it does.
At a news conference on Monday, exactly one month after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Obama said a task force led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had “presented me now with a list of sensible, common-sense steps that can be taken to make sure that the kinds of violence we saw at Newtown doesn’t happen again. He added: “My starting point is not to worry about the politics. My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works.”
The quotation is ungrammatical ("kinds of violence . . . doesn't"), but that is the least of it. How can any serious individual speak of making sure that events such as Newtown don't happen again? Every reasonable person knows that there will be similar occurrences. The astonishing attitude betrayed here is that the federal government, by merely passing laws, can eliminate evil from the world. The risibility of this notion is compounded by the content of the laws being proposed. Must I point out that behind this foolishness is lust for power? The Left is totalitarian from the ground up and this is just further proof of the fact.
To say that sales of guns and ammo and accessories are brisk would be an understatement. Expect it to become brisker still. POTUS has just given the people another reason to arm themselves.
According to a news report I just heard, the Taft High School shooter targeted a bully. Rather than blame an inanimate object, the gun, which makes no sense, one ought to blame the parents, teachers, administrators, clergy, and other so-called 'authorities' who have abdicated their authority and allowed bullying to become a serious problem in schools. Which is a more likely explanation of the shooter's behavior, the availability of a gun, or his having been bullied? If had no access to a gun, he could have enployed a knife, a slingshot, a vial of acid, you name it. But if he had no motive to retaliate, he would not have sought any such means.
Again, the problem is not gun culture, but liberal culture.
At bottom, the gun debate boils down to a conflict of visions, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Sowell. This is well-explained by Mchael Medved in The Liberal God Delusion. Excerpt:
Consider the current dispute over the right response to gun violence. At its core, this argument comes down to a visceral disagreement between relying on self-defense or on government protection. Gun-rights enthusiasts insist that the best security for law-abiding citizens comes from placing formidable firearms into their hands; gun-control advocates believe we can protect the public far more effectively by taking guns away from as many Americans as possible. In other words, conservatives wantto address the threat of gun violence by giving individuals more power while liberals seek to improve the situation by concentrating more power in the hands of the government. The right preaches self-reliance while the left places its trust in the higher power of government.
The same dynamic characterizes most of today’s foreign-policy and defense debates. Right-wingers passionately proclaim the ideal of “peace through strength,” arguing that a powerful, self-confident America with dominant military resources remains the only guarantee of national security. Progressives, on the other hand, dream of multilateral consensus, comprehensive treaties, disarmament, grand peace deals, and vastly enhanced authority for the United Nations. Once again, liberals place a touching and naive faith in the ideal of a higher power—potential world government—while conservatives insist that the United States, like any nation, must ultimately rely only on itself.
For the liberal, the weapon, not the wielder, is the cynosure of his moral disapprobation, and it doesn't matter whether the weapon is a semi-automatic pistol or a nuclear device. It is baaaaaad, as such and in itself, and so must be banned. For the conservative, the focus is on the wielder, not the weapon, for only the wielder is a moral agent. If Israel has nukes, that is not a problem. But it is a big problem if a rogue state such as Iran does. Iran does, but Israel does not, call for the destruction of other states.
The difference between my shotgun and Stanley 'Tookie' William's shotgun resides not in the shotgun but in the fact that he is or (thankfully) was a moral cretin whereas your humble correspondent, despite his manifold minor faults, does not deserve such an appellation.
It's the wielder, not the weapon, that counts. Wise up, liberals.
Without wanting to deny that there is a 'gun culture' in the USA, especially in the red states, I would insist that the real problem is our liberal culture. Here are four characteristics of liberal culture that contribute to violence of all kinds, including gun violence.
1. Liberals tend to have a casual attitude toward crime.
It is interesting to note that Connecticut, the state in which the Newtown massacre occurred, has recently repealed the death penalty, and this after the unspeakably brutal Hayes-Komisarjevsky home invasion in the same state.
One of the strongest voices against repealing the death penalty has been Dr. William Petit Jr., the lone survivor of a 2007 Cheshire home invasion that resulted in the murders of his wife and two daughters.
The wife was raped and strangled, one of the daughters was molested and both girls were left tied to their beds as the house was set on fire.
The two men convicted of the crime, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are currently on death row.
Anyone who cannot appreciate that a crime like this deserves the death penalty is morally obtuse. But not only are liberals morally obtuse, they are contemptibly stupid in failing to understand that one of the main reasons people buy guns is to protect themselves from the criminal element, the criminal element that liberals coddle. If liberals were serious about wanting to reduce the numbers of guns in civilian hands, they would insist on swift and sure punishment in accordance with the self-evident moral principle, "The punishment must fit the crime," which is of course not to be confused with lex talionis, "an eye for an eye." Many guns are purchased not for hunting or sport shooting but for protection against criminals. Keeping and bearing arms carries with it a grave responsibility and many if not most gun owners would rather not be so burdened. Gun ownership among women is on the upswing, and it is a safe bet that they don't want guns to shoot Bambi.
2. Liberals tend to undermine morality with their opposition to religion.
Many of us internalized the ethical norms that guide our lives via our childhood religious training. We were taught the Ten Commandments, for example. We were not just taught about them, we were taught them. We learned them by heart, and we took them to heart. This early training, far from being the child abuse that A. C. Grayling and other militant atheists think it is, had a very positive effect on us in forming our consciences and making us the basically decent human beings we are. I am not saying that moral formation is possible only within a religion; I am saying that some religions do an excellent job of transmitting and inculcating life-guiding and life-enhancing ethical standards, that moral formation outside of a religion is unlikely for the average person, and that it is nearly impossible if children are simply handed over to the pernicious influences of secular society as these influences are transmitted through television, Internet, video games, and other media. Anyone with moral sense can see that the mass media have become an open sewer in which every manner of cultural polluter is not only tolerated but promoted. Those of use who were properly educated way back when can dip into this cesspool without too much moral damage. But to deliver our children over to it is the real child abuse, pace the benighted Professor Grayling.
The shysters of the ACLU, to take one particularly egregious bunch of destructive leftists, seek to remove every vestige of our Judeo-Christian ethical traditiion from the public square. I can't begin to catalog all of their antics. But recently there was the Mojave cross incident. It is absurd that there has been any fight at all over it. The ACLU, whose radical lawyers brought the original law suit, deserve contempt and resolute opposition. Of course, I wholeheartedly endorse the initial clause of the First Amendment, to wit, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . ." But it is hate-America leftist extremism on stilts to think that the presence of that very old memorial cross on a hill in the middle of nowhere does anything to establish Christianity as the state religion. I consider anyone who believes that to be intellectually obtuse and morally repellent. One has to be highly unbalanced in his thinking to torture such extremist nonsense out of the First Amendment, while missing the plain sense of the Second Amendment, one that even SCOTUS eventually got right, namely, the the right to keep and bear arms is an individual, not a collective, right.
And then there was the business of the tiny cross on the city seal of Los Angeles, a symbol that the ACLU agitated to have removed. Commentary here. I could continue with the examples, and you hope I won't.
3. Liberals tend to have low standards, glorify the worthless, and fail to present exemplary human types.
Our contemporary media dreckmeisters apparently think that the purpose of art is to degrade sensibility, impede critical thinking, glorify scumbags, and rub our noses ever deeper into sex and violence. It seems obvious that the liberal fetishization of freedom of expression without constraint or sense of responsibility is part of the problem. But I can't let a certain sort of libertarian or economic conservative off the hook. Their lust for profit is also involved.
What is is that characterizes contemporary media dreck? Among other things, the incessant presentation of defective human beings as if there are more of them than there are, and as if there is nothing at all wrong with their way of life. Deviant behavior is presented as if it is mainstream and acceptable, if not desirable. And then lame justifications are provided for the presentation: 'this is what life is like now; we are simply telling it like it is.' It doesn't occur to the dreckmeisters that art might have an ennobling function.
The tendency of liberals and leftists is to think that any presentation of choice-worthy goals or admirable styles of life could only be hypocritical preaching. And to libs and lefties, nothing is worse than hypocrisy. Indeed, a good indicator of whether someone belongs to this class of the terminally benighted is whether the person obsesses over hypocrisy and thinks it the very worst thing in the world. See my category Hypocrisy for elaboration of this theme.
4. Liberals tend to deny or downplay free will, individual responsibility, and the reality of evil.
This is connected with point 2 above, leftist hostility to religion. Key to our Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief that man is made in the image and likeness of God. This image is that mysterious power in us called free will. The secular extremist assault on religion is at the same time an assault on this mysterious power, through which evil comes into the world.
This is a large topic. Suffice it to say for now that one clear indication of this denial is the bizarre liberal displacement of responsibility for crime onto inaminate objects, guns, as if the weapon, not the wielder, is the source of the evil for which the weapon can be only the instrument.
A sweet old lady in the pool the other morning asked me this question. Actually, she asked a much stupider question,"Why would anyone need an assault weapon?' I smiled indulgently and refused to engage her. I knew she wasn't baiting me, and I like her, and 'tis the season to be jolly, and so in the interests of comity I let it slide, realizing that no good would come of giving her the dialectical thrashing she so richly deserved.
First a point of history and a bit of terminology.
Fully automatic rifles, ‘machine guns,’ are heavily regulated. The National Firearms Act of 1934 " requires that before a private citizen may take possession of a fully-automatic firearm he must pay a $200 tax to the Internal Revenue Service and be approved by the Treasury Department to own the firearm, which is registered to the owner with the federal government." (reference) A semi-automatic pistol, rifle, or shotgun fires exactly one round with each pull of the trigger until the magazine is exhausted, unlike a fully automatic which does not require a separate trigger pull for each round fired. The distinction is important and is blurred by use of the emotive phrase 'assault weapon.'
Why would anybody need a semi-automatic rifle such as an AR-15? Well, you might be a Korean shopkeeper who needs to defend his life and livelihood from rampaging ghetto blacks in South Central Los Angeles. (Remember the aftermath of the acquittal of the cops who took the 'motorist' Rodney King into custody using perfectly legal and reasonable methods?) Or perhaps you live along the southern border and need to defend yourself and your family against heavily armed drug cartel members from the corrupt narco-state to the South. Your snub-nosed .38 special is a nice walk-around piece, and better than nothing, but insufficient for the defensive task at hand.
(A gun enthusiast acquaintance of mine referred to my Colt .38 Detective Special as a nice 'heirloom,' recommending that I get a 1911 model semi-auto .45, which I did.)
Any conservative can continue with answers like the above ad libitum, but the best strategy for a conservative is to reject the question altogether.
The right question is not: Why does the citizen need to be armed? The right question is: By what right does the government violate the liberty of the law-abiding citizen? Gun-ownership is a liberty issue similarly as taxation is a liberty issue. With respect to taxation, the right question is not: Why should citizens be allowed to keep their wealth? The right question is: What justifies the government in taking their wealth? The onus justificandi is not on the citizen to defend his keeping of his money; the onus justificandi is on the government to justify its taking of his money. The same goes for guns. The burden is on the government to justify its curtailment of individual liberties, not on the citizen to justify his keeping of his liberties. This is because governments exist for the sake of their citizens, and not the other way around.
You might think that liberals would understand all of this. Although liberals are absurdly sensitive about First Amendment rights, nary a peep will you hear from them concerning Second Amendment rights. And yet it is the Second Amendment that backs up the First. Chairman Mao was right about one thing, namely, that power emanates from the barrel of a gun. Power to the people!
There is a curious inconsistency here, is there not? If liberals believe that our civil liberties are under serious assault from Ashcroft & Co., and continue to be as Obama continues Bush-era policies, then why are they so unwilling to ensure that real power remain in the hands of the people?
There is something schizophrenic about contemporary liberals. They have a libertarian streak: they want to be able to spout any kind of nonsense, no matter how offensive and irresponsible, and have it protected as ‘dissent.’ Fair enough. Though I find Michael Moore contemptible, I would defend his right to pollute the air waves with his ideological flatulence. But when it comes to gun rights, liberals become as collectivist as Hitler or Fidel Castro. It’s curious, and a worthy theme of further rumination.
Liberals often call for 'a conversation' or a 'dialogue' about this or that. Didn't Eric Holder a while back call for a 'conversation' on race? What have we been talking about for 150 years? Same with guns. Our liberal pals must know that the gun debate has been raging for decades. So what does a liberal mean when he calls for a 'conversation' about guns?
He means: You conservatives and libertarians shut up and acquiesce in our position. Kurt Schlichter gets it right:
. . . we’re not supposed to have what people might commonly describe as a “conversation” at all. We’re supposed to shut-up and listen as liberals, barely masking their unseemly delight at the opportunity, try to pin the murder rampage of one degenerate creep on millions of law-abiding Americans who did nothing wrong. The conversation is then supposed to end with us waiving our fundamental right to self-defense.
Because that is what the goal is – a total ban on the private ownership of firearms. There’s always another “common sense” gun law which fails because it is targeted at law-abiding citizens and not criminals, thereby inviting another round of onerous new restrictions until finally no citizen is keeping or bearing anything more than a dull butter knife.
Well, almost no citizens. “Gun control” means all guns under the control of the government and available only to it and, of course, to politically connected cronies. Gun-grabbing poser Michael Bloomberg is going to be surrounded by enough fire power to remake the movie Heat. He’s always going to be protected. The purpose of gun control is to ensure that we aren’t.
So let’s have that conversation, and let’s lay the cards on the table. Modern firearms (which really aren’t that modern) are highly effective weapons in the hands of an evil little freak who gets off shooting children. They are also highly effective weapons in my hands when defending my children from evil little freaks.
Liberals ask why I need these weapons. The answer is simple. I’m going to be as well-armed or better armed than the threat. Period.
Another old post that makes points that need regular repeating. Enjoy!
There is temporary insanity as when a middle-aged man buys a Harley on which to ride though his midlife crisis, wisely selling the bike after the crisis subsides. But my theme is topical insanity, that species of temporary insanity that can occur when certain topics are brought to one’s attention. Someone so afflicted loses the ability to think clearly about the topic in question for the period of time that the topic is before his mind.
Try this. The next time you are at a liberal gathering, a faculty party, say, calmly state that you agree with the National Rifle Association’s position on gun control. Now observe the idiocies to flow freely from liberal mouths. Enjoy as they splutter and fulminate unto apoplexy.
Some will say that the NRA is opposed to gun control. False, everyone is for gun control, i.e., gun control legislation; the only question being its nature and scope. Nobody worth mentioning wants no laws relating to the acquisition and use of firearms. Everyone worth mentioning wants reasonable laws that are enforceable and enforced.
Others will say that guns have only one purpose, to kill people. A liberal favorite, but spectacularly false for all that, and quickly counterexampled: (i) Guns can be used to save lives both by police and by ordinary citizens; (ii) Guns can be used to hunt and defend against nonhuman critters; (iii) Guns can be used for sporting purposes to shoot at nonsentient targets; (iv) Guns can be collected without ever being fired; (v) Guns can be used to deter crime without being fired; merely ‘showing steel’ is a marvellous deterrent. Indeed, display of a weapon is not even necessary: a miscreant who merely suspects that his target is armed, or that others in the vicinity are, may be deterred. Despite liberal mythology, criminals are not for the most part irrational and their crimes are not for the most part senseless. In terms of short-term means-ends rationality, it is quite reasonable and sensible to rob places where money is to be found -- Willy Sutton recommends banks -- and kill witnesses to the crime.
Still others will maintain that gun ownership has no effect on crime rates. False, see the work of John Lott.
Here then we have an example of topical insanity, an example of a topic that completely unhinges otherwise sane people. There are plenty of other examples. Capital punishment is one, religion is another. A. C. "Gasbag" Grayling, for example, sometimes comes across as extremely intelligent and judicious. But when it comes to religion he degenerates into the worst form of barroom bullshitter. See my earlier post.
It is time to trot out my old gun posts to counteract the tsunami of leftist Unsinn washing over us because of the recent massacres in Oregon and Connecticut. Here is one from December of 2010, slightly revised.
How should we deal with offensive speech? As a first resort, with more speech, better, truer, more responsible speech. Censorship cannot be ruled out, but it must be a last resort. We should respond similarly to the misuse of firearms. Banning firearms is no solution since (i) bans have no effect on criminals who, in virtue of being criminals, have no respect for law, and (ii) bans violate the liberty of the law-abiding. To punish the law-abiding while failing vigorously to pursue scofflaws is the way of the contemporary liberal. The problem is not guns, but guns in criminal hands. Ted Kennedy's car killed more people than my gun. The solution, or part of it, is guns in law-abiding hands.
Would an armed citizen in the vicinity of the Virginia Polytechnic shooter have been able to reduce his carnage? It is likely. Don't ask me how likely. Of course, there is the chance that an armed citizen in the confusion of the moment would have made things worse. Who knows?
But if you value liberty then you will be willing to take the risk. As I understand it, the Commonwealth of Virginia already has a concealed carry law. Now if you trust a citizen to carry a concelaed weapon off campus, why not trust him to carry it on campus? After all, on campus there is far less likelihood of a situation arising where the weapon would be needed. Conservatives place a high value on self-reliance, individual liberty, and individual responsibility. Valuing self-reliance and liberty, a conservative will oppose any attempt to limit his self-reliance by infringing his right to defend himself, a right from which one may infer the right to own a handgun. (As I argue elsewhere; see the category Alcohol,Tobacco and Firearms.) And appreciating as he does the reality and importance of individual responsibility, he will oppose liberal efforts to blame guns for the crimes committed by people using guns.
Nothing I have written will convince a committed liberal. As I have argued elsewhere, Left-Right differences are rooted in value-differences that cannot be rationally adjudicated. But my intention is not to try to enlighten the terminally benighted; my intention is to clarify the issue.
Persuasion and agreement are well-nigh impossible to attain; clarification, however, is a goal well within reach. We must be clear about what we believe and why we believe it and how it differs from the beliefs of the benighted. And in the light of that clarity we must carry the fight to our enemies.
"Following a complaint filed by the ACLU, school officials in Cranston, R.I. have ended gender specific activities like father-daughter dances and mother-son ballgames to comply with state gender discrimination laws." Story here.
I've often wondered about the etymology of 'shyster.' From German scheissen, to shit? That would fit well with the old joke, "What is the difference between a lawyer and a bucket of shit?' "The bucket." I am also put in mind of scheusslich: hideous, atrocious, abominable. Turning to the 'shyster' entry in my Webster's, I read, "prob. fr. Scheuster fl. 1840 Am. attorney frequently rebuked in a New York court for pettifoggery."
According to Robert Hendrickson, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, p. 659:
Shyster, an American slang term for a shady disreputable lawyer, is first recorded in 1846. Various authorities list a real New York advocate as a possible source, but this theory has been disproved by Professor Gerald L. Cohen of the University of Missouri-Rolla, whose long paper on the etymology I had the pleasure of reading. Shakespeare's moneylender Shylock has also been suggested, as has a racetrack form of the word shy, i.e., to be shy money when betting. Some authorities trace shyster to the German Scheisse, "excrement," possibly through the word shicir, "a worthless person," but there is no absolute proof for any theory.
A little further research reveals that Professor Cohen's "long paper" is in fact a short book of 124 pages published in 1982 by Verlag Peter Lang. See here for a review. Cohen argues that the eponymous derivation from 'Scheuster' that I just cited from Webster's is a pseudo-etymology. 'Shyster' no more derives from 'Scheuster' than 'condom' from the fictious Dr. Condom. Nor does it come from 'Shylock.' It turns out my hunch was right. 'Shyster' is from the German Scheisser, one who defecates.
There is no need to play the 'numbers game.' The photo ID requirement is a matter of principle.
Anyone with common sense ought to be able to appreciate that voting must be conducted in an orderly manner, a manner to inspire confidence in the citizenry, and that only citizens who have registered to vote and have satisfied the minimal requirements of age, etc., are to be allowed into the voting booth. Given the possibility of fraud, it is therefore necessary to verify the identities of those who present themselves at the polling place. To do this, voters must be required to present a government-issued photo ID card, a driver's license being only one example of such. It is a reasonable requirement and any reasonable person should be able to see it as one.
First, a voter restriction is like a poll tax when its authors use voting fraud as a pretext for legislation that has little to do with voting fraud.
Second, it is like a poll tax when it creates only a small nuisance to some voters, but for other groups it erects serious barriers to the ballot.
Third, it is like a poll tax when it has crude partisan advantage as its most immediate aim.
1. Presumably the issue concerns the requirement that voters produce government-issued photo ID at polling places. Voting fraud is obviously not a 'pretext' for such a requirement but a good reason to put such a requirement in place. The claim that photo ID legislation has little to do with voting fraud is ludicrous. The whole point of it is to prevent fraud.
2. It is just silly to claim that phtoto ID "erects a serious barrier to the ballot." If you don't have a driver's license, you can easily acquire photo ID from a DMV office for a nominal sum. You are going to need it anyway for all sorts of other purposes such as cashing checks. In the state of Arizona, the ID is free for those 65 and older and for those on Social Security disability. For others the fee is nominal: $12 for an ID valid for 12 years.
3. Those who support photo ID are aiming at "crude partisan advantage?" How is that supposed to work? Do non-Democrats get such an advantage when they stop voter fraud? Is the idea that it it par for the course that Dems should cheat, and so, when they are prevented from cheating, their opponents secure a"crude partisan advantage?"
What we have is crude psychological projection. Unable to own up to their own unsavory win-at-all-costs motivations, liberals impute to conservatives unsavory motives. "You want to disenfranchise blaxcks and Hispanics!" As if these minorities are so bereft of life skills that they lack, or cannot acquire, a simple photo ID. Note also the trademark liberal misuse of language.
To disenfranchise is to deprive of a right, in particular, the right to vote. But only some people have the right to vote. Felons and children do not have the right to vote, nor do non-citizens. You do not have the right to vote in a certain geographical area simply because you are a sentient being residing in that area. Otrherwise, my cats would have the right to vote. Now a requirement that one prove that one has the right to vote is not to be confused with a denial of the right to vote.
My right to vote is one thing, my ability to prove I have the right another. If I cannot prove that I am who I claim to be on a given occasion, then I won't be able to exercise my right to vote on that occasion; but that is not to say that I have been 'disefranchised.' For I haven't be deprived of my right to vote; I have merely been prevented from exercising my right due to my inability do prove my identity.
I am still looking for a decent argument against photo ID.
I have honestly never eaten a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. So tomorrow I am going to try one. This is in keeping with my maxim, 'No day without political incorrectness.' Each day you must engage in one or more politically incorrect acts. Some suggestions:
Smoke a cigar
Use standard English
Practice with a firearm
Read the Bible
Enunciate uncomfortable truths inconsistent with the liberal Weltanschauung
Read Maverick Philosopher
Think for yourself
Give your baby baby formula
Read the Constitution
Cancel your subscription to The New York Times
Find more examples of politically incorrect things to do
In March, the Justice Department denied the Lone Star State the necessary clearance for this new law, arguing that it would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters. Texas officials appealed. To preserve the access of all citizens to the right to vote . . . the District Court should follow the Justice Department’s lead and strike down this highly suspect and unnecessary law.
What is interesting here is the role disproportionality plays in these leftist attempts at argument. Let's see if we can uncover the 'logic' of these arguments.
Suppose people of Italian extraction are disproportionately affected by anti-racketeering statutes. Would this be a good reason to oppose such laws? Obviously not. Why not? The reason is that the law targets the criminal behavior, not the ethnicity of the criminal. If it just so happens that people of Italian extraction are 'overrepresented' in the memberships of organized crime syndicates, then of course they will be 'disproportionately affected' by anti-racketeering laws. So what?
It is very easy to multiply examples. Who commits more rapes, men or women? You know the answer. Among men, in which age group will we find more rapists? Will there be more rapists in the 15-45 age group or in the 45-75 age group? You know the answer. Laws against rape will therefore disproportinately affect males aged 15-45. Would this be a good reason to oppose such laws? Obviously not. Why not? The reason is that the law targets the criminal behavior, not the age or sex of the criminal.
Suppose that drunk drivers are predominantly Irish. (Just suppose; I'm not saying it is true.) Then laws against drunk driving would disproportionatey affect them. Of course. But that would be no reason to oppose such laws. Is a law just only if it affects all groups equally or proportionately? Of course not.
Who is more likely to be a terrorist, a twenty-something male Egyptian Muslim or a sixty-something Mormon matron? Do you hesitate over this question? The answer is clear, and you know what it is. Are anti-terrorism laws therefore to be opposed on the ground that they disproportionately affect young Muslim males from middle eastern countries?
Should there be a quota system when it comes to rounding up terrorists? "You can apprehend only as many Muslim terrorists as Buddhist terrorists."
Suppose child molesters are 'overrepresented' among Catholic priests. Then laws against such molestation will disproportionarely affect them. But so what? It would be morally absurd to argue that such laws 'discriminate' against Catholic priests and should be struck down on the ground that Catholic priests are disproportionately inclined to engage in child molestation.
Now we know that illegal aliens in Southwest states such as Texas are predominantly, indeed overwhelmingly, of Hispanic extraction. So such aliens would be disproportionately affected by photo ID requirements. But this is surely no argument against photo ID. After all, they are not citizens and have no right to vote in the first place.
Now consider the Hispanic citizens of Texas. They have the right to vote. And no decent person wants either to prevent them from exercising their right or to make it more difficult for them to vote than for other groups to vote. Why would they be 'disproportionately affected' by a photo ID requirement?
Is it because Hispanics are less likely to have ID than members of other groups? Or less likely to have the minimal skills necessary to acquire such ID? It does, after all, take a tiny bit of effort. You have to get yourself down to the DMV and fork over a nominal sum.
I myself do not believe that Hispanics as a group are so bereft of life skills that they are incapable of acquiring photo ID. But that apparently is what Dems believe when they think that a perfectly reasonable requirement would 'disproportinately affect' them. What an insult to Hispanics!
So I ask once again: is there even one decent reason to oppose photo ID?
I was shocked (shocked!) to hear over breakfast a while back that my friend Peter L. will vote for neither Obama nor Romney. All my posts about how politics is a practical business, how it's always about the lesser of evils,and about how foolish it is to let the best become the enemy of the good have fallen on deaf ears. But I won't give up on old Peter: he's worth saving from the remnant of his liberal folly.
When you vote for a president, you are not voting for just that one person. You are voting for his entourage as well. And for Obama that entourage is a sorry lot including as it does Eric Holder who became Attorney General. Remember the outrageous suit his Justice Department brought against Arizona re: S. B. 1070? (See my Arizona category for 1070 posts.) Now the issues raised by S. B. 1070 are complex. But the issue raised by photo ID laws is not. It's a very simple issue and there ought not be any dispute about it whatsoever. And yet our esteemed Atty Gen'l is going after states with photo ID laws making irresponsible accusations of 'disenfranchisement' and comparing the requirements to poll taxes.
Anyone with common sense ought to be able to appreciate that voting must be conducted in an orderly manner, a manner to inspire confidence in the citizenry, and that only citizens who have registered to vote and have satisfied the minimal requirements of age, etc., are to be allowed into the voting booth. Given the possibility of fraud, it is therefore necessary to verify the identities of those who present themselves at the polling place. To do this, voters must be required to present a government-issued photo ID card, a driver's license being only one example of such. It is a reasonable requirement and any reasonable person should be able to see it as one.
Suppose you don't have a driver's license. How hard is it to get a photo ID? Not very hard. In Arizona it costs only $12 and is available at any DMV office. And it's good for 12 years. That comes to a dollar a year. That's a hell of a deal, especially when you consider all the other things you can do with that nifty photo ID such as open a bank account, cash checks, use credit cards, buy alcohol and tobacco products, apply for store credit, secure a library card, etc. You can now start doing all the things that normal citizens do. Ain't that grand? You can stop being a nonentity. Remember what your Uncle Quine taught you, "No entity without identity." If you tell me you don't do any of those things, and don't have any desire to do them, then why are you so interested in voting? You don't have a bank account, or cash checks, etc., but you have a burning desire to vote?
If you are 65 or older or a recipient of Social Security disability benefits you can get the ID for free. So what's your excuse for not securing a photo ID? If you are that lazy, how informed will you be about the issues on which you have such a burning desire to vote?
Liberals feel that the photo ID requirement will 'disenfranchise' many blacks and other minorities. This shows that we conservatives have a higher view of you minorities than do your 'keepers,' the Dems.
Some people want to play the 'numbers game.' They claim that there have only been a few cases of voter fraud. If you think that, then I refer you to the work of John Fund and Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. And please note that the number of convictions in courts of law for voter fraud is bound to be much much lower than the actual cases of voter fraud. And if there are. contrary to fact, very few cases of voter fraud, then, by the same token, there are very few people who lack photo ID.
But there is no need to play the numbers game at all. It's matter of principle. Will we have a election system that is credible and worthy of respect or not?
Those who oppose photo ID have no good reasons, but they have plenty of motives, and I fear that they are of the unsavory kind.
Is there anything to celebrate this Fourth of July? Not much. Maybe there will be cause for celebration in November. But I'm not sanguine about that either. Our founding documents have become merely ornamental. They are interpreted to mean whatever those in power want them to mean.
The Commerce Clause is to be found in Section 8, Article I, of the U. S. Constitution. It reads," The Congress shall have Power to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."
Congress, then, has the constitutionally-based power to regulate interstate commerce. But it seems to this concerned citizen -- who is no constitutional scholar -- that one cannot regulate what does not exist. If there is some interstate commerce taking place between, say, California and Arizona, then congress by the above clause has the power to regulate it. But if no commerce is taking place, then there is nothing to regulate. Now if I choose not to purchase health insurance, then my not buying it is surely not a bit of commerce. So there is nothing to regulate, and my non-buying does not fall under the Commerce Clause even if, by some argumentative stretch, the buying of health insurance involves interstate commerce.
Or do you think something can be regulated into existence? Can my buying of health insurance be regulated into existence? The very notion is incoherent.
Ah, but "The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes . . . ." (Section 8) and so all we have to do is call the Obamacare individual mandate a tax, and we get what we want. After all, the PoMo Prez and his enablers can use words to mean whatever they want depending on what promotes their agenda.
The underlying principle here is the lack of any principle limiting governmental expansion. The essence of the totalitarian Left -- and of course the Left is totalitarian by its very nature -- is the lack of any limiting principle. And so, if the individual mandate cannot be rammed through via specious reasoning from the Commerce Clause, then some other justification must be found, however specious and mendacious it may be. Instead of evaluating for constitutionality a law that is presented for evaluation, one can simply rewrite the law, changing the mandate to a tax.