Archive for July, 2010

Second Amendment Linkorama

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

This week so the Supreme Court deliver a stunning victory for Second Amendment liberty by extending the Heller doctrine — that the Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms — to the states. This has been a long time coming. But it’s gotten to the point where even gun control advocates can longer defend the Miller philosophy that the Second Amendment protects “militias”. Even Elena Kagan is acknowledging Heller. It may be some time before the Second amendment is seriously threatened again (although the liberal wing still refuses to recognize the Amendment).

Still, there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there about this decision:

  • Clarence Thomas roars to life in his opinion. Thomas is criminally underestimate by his critics. There have been a number of wonderful opinions he’s written and he’s interesting even when I disagree with him. He’s no puppet of Scalia.
  • Chicago hasn’t learned its lesson. I think SCOTUS understand the needs of cities better than the gun-grabbing Aldermen.
  • Meanwhile, Jacob Sullum eviscerates the liberal wing of the Court. What’s the point of having a Constitution if the “will of the people” is allowed to over-ride it? Liberties are not liberties if they are subject to a vote. I doubt the liberal wing would stand by if the “will of the people” was to return to segregation.
  • Glenn Reynolds reflects on how much the political landscape has changed. Two decades ago, strict gun control was supported by all right-thinking people. Now, it’s a minority view. It is possible to change the debate.
  • Gun licensing is nothing to worry about.
  • The NASA Rant

    Monday, July 5th, 2010

    I posted this at the other site. It’s a rant I wrote some time ago about NASA. Enjoy. For some reason, I’m clearing out a lot of bloggy backlog this week.

    (more…)

    Weekend Linkorama

    Monday, July 5th, 2010

    Non-political links:

  • Another great TED talk on the little things. This sort of logic is a key reason that I’m a libertarian — I think small policy change can be more effective than big massive expensive endeavors, but small changes don’t get slavering media coverage or the approval of historians. But I put it here in non-political links because it applies to everything. Another example I can think of is companies that invest zillions in revamping their website when a few small fixes would be better (I’m looking at you, Facebook).
  • Turns out those Russian agents were a lot prettier than smart. It’s hilarious how much ink this story has gotten now that Anna Chapman’s face has been plastered all over the TV.
  • Political links:

  • Just when you think Oliver Stone can’t get any dumber.
  • Are the Tea Parties just a bunch of angry white men? Not so fast.
  • Heh. The lawyers are mad about the BP settlement because they won’t get their contingency fees.
  • More good climate skepticism from Ron Bailey. Be sure to read his postscript on page 2.
  • The IRS can’t do its books.
  • You know, if the Bush Administration were keeping the press away from embarrassing video and photos of an oil spill made by a huge campaign donor, I have a feeling it would be a bigger story.
  • Rant warning. Charles Bolden gave a speech this weekend claiming NASA’s new mission is international outreach and claiming no single nation can reach beyond low earth orbit. This is categorical bullshit. We lack not the ability, but the will. It’s becoming clearer that NASA spending — both science and exploration — is one of the few items the Democrats may cut. I wonder if this will stop science bloggers from blushing and fainting over everything Obama does.
  • The GM Menace

    Monday, July 5th, 2010

    Mother Jones has an article claiming that today’s veggies are much less nutritious than yesterday’s, owing to GM crops. The problem is that the original research (linked to by an editor after complaints) does not support this. They note that nutritional declines are only statistically significant in aggregate, yet the article quote individual measures. And they note that the culprit is likely the selection of strains for increased yields (i.e., feeding more people) rather than genetic modification.

    This, my friends, is how disinformation gets out there.

    Death to The Frogs

    Monday, July 5th, 2010

    It’s World Cup time. One of the few advantages of being in academia is having exposure to people from all around the world. Just looking over the 32 WC teams, I find that I work with or am Facebook friends with people from 19 of the countries. This means I have a lot of people to talk smack to. Most are pretty good-natured about it although Spanish and Italian fans seem more sensitive.

    Of course, the greatest smack-talking is reserved for the French. Not only do most Americans dislike France, the French team melted down in such beautifully spectacular fashion, I was openly making comparison to Agincourt (yes, I’m a nerd).

    But someone recently asked me why Americans dislike the French so much. Britain, Spain and Germany have long histories and shared borders. So that rivalry is sensible. But why do Americans hate France so much, especially given the positive history between the two countries?

    Part of it, of course, is an artifact of World War II. Not only did the French get thrashed easily, a part of the country collaborated with the enemy. More importantly, American soldiers liberating Europe did not get a positive impression of France. In the book Band of Brothers, the soldiers talk specifically about how they came to dislike the French — as opposed to the close bonds they forged with the Brits, Italians, Dutch, Belgians and even the Germans. The biggest reason was that the French seemed to take forever to start rebuilding the comparatively minor damage their country sustained in the war. All the others immediately began rebuilding their shattered nations.

    But to my recollection, the anti-French sentiment really got going in the 1980′s. This was, I think, the result of two things. First, was an explosion of American tourism. Millions of Americans were suddenly visiting countries all over the world. And while most countries — Italy and Switzerland especially — were friendly, France was not. Or, more accurately, Paris was not. People I knew who went into rural France had wonderful times and met numerous friendly welcoming people. One couple I knew were at Normandy on the anniversary of D-Day and got toasted by the Frenchmen in honor of the liberation.

    The second thing that stimulated anti-French sentiment was the Libya bombing. In 1986, in response to terrorism and a conflict in the Gulf of Sidra, Reagan ordered the bombing of terrorist camps and other facilities in Libya. What was significant was that France, Spain and Italy refused flyover rights from the UK, so our planes had to divert a long way around. This infuriated Americans, especially when one plane did not come back. Why Spain and Italy were ignored is a bit mysterious (Spain did allow on damaged aircraft to land on their airbase). Why Malta, which warned Libya of the attack, was ignored, is also a mystery.

    I think it was this combination of events that really got things going. I can remember, after the Libya raid, Americans returning French cheese, wine and perfume to French embassies. And French actions since then have only tended to exacerbate the situation — opposition to the Iraq War in particular.

    Of course, certain politicians and pundits have stoked this fire, since France makes a good whipping boy and a good counter-example to many liberal policies.

    I actually think a lot of the sentiment is misguided. In my limited experience, I have not found Europeans in general or French people in particular to be very anti-American. Smack talking aside, most of my European friends were happy to see the US do well in the World Cup. And every day, our shores are hit by thousands of Europeans coming here to visit or work.

    They disagree with a lot of our politics. And a lot of pundits have a tendency to confuse being, say, “ant-Bush” with being “anti-American”. But that could be said of a lot of countries.

    Update: Confession of a brain cramp. I forgot to include Charles de Gaulle who was critical of the US, left us holding the bag in Vietnam and removed France from NATO command.

    Originalism

    Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

    I wrote this post a while ago and shelved it. But with SCOTUS hearings going on, I’ll go ahead and put it up for future reference.

    One of the most infuriating straw men being trashed by the Left Wing is “originalism” in Constitutional Law. Some conservatives, most libertarians and I think that the Supreme Court should rule, Congress should legislate and the President should execute in accordance with the written word of the Constitution.

    If this sounds rigid and dogmatic, it’s because it is. While “living Constitution” arguments are always tempting, they open the door to a very dangerous arbitrary law. Unless something is written in stone — and/or respected as thought it were — the law becomes whatever those in power want it to be. The entire point of a Constitution is to put a hard constraint on the behavior of our government; to make us a nation of laws not a nation of men (or women).

    Still, instead of disagreeing with this view, critics to respond with plain and simple BS: viz David Souter claiming that an “originalist” interpretation would let Jim Crowe stand. This is categorical garbage:

    Here’s the problem with Souter’s claims: The Plessy decision is wrong under an originalist reading of the Constitution. Originalism includes the original public meaning of the 14th Amendment, which commands: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Among those privileges or immunities is the right to economic liberty. Remember that the origins of the 14th Amendment lie in the anti-slavery politics of the Radical Republicans who drafted it and spearheaded its ratification. Their philosophy centered on a radically libertarian form of self-ownership, one that included both the right to armed self-defense and the right to liberty of contract. That philosophy was enshrined in the Constitution when the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868.

    In Plessy, the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana law that forbid railroad companies from selling first-class tickets to black customers. That law was a blatant violation of economic liberty under the 14th Amendment and should have been struck down as such. That the Supreme Court failed to do so isn’t an indictment of originalism, it’s an indictment of the justices who failed to take the Constitution at its word.

    They key point that critics of originalism miss is that the amendments are part of the Constitution. The most ridiculous criticism I ever heard was from Whoopi Goldberg saying that originalist argument meant she would only get 3/5 of a vote (granted, she have been trying to be funny; it’s hard to tell). But the 3/5 compromise was stripped by the 13th and 14th amendments. No originalist worth his salt would even contemplate that argument.

    If you don’t like the implications of the Constitution, you can amend it — as we have done 17 times. If you don’t like the American people having guns, pass an amendment restricting the second. If you think the government should provide healthcare, pass an amendment expanding federal authority. If you think it should ban private discrimination, pass an amendment. That’s part of originalism — that the Constitution can be amended as time goes on.

    The benefit is that amending the Constitution makes the rules apparent to everyone. It does not allow courts or legislatures to arbitrarily change our liberties on a whim. (And remember: living Constitution arguments apply to both sides. We saw, with the last Administration, that “living Constitution” arguments can lead to things like ignoring habeas.)

    Of course, amending the Constitution is hard. But it’s supposed to be hard. That way, only massive consensus can change the fundamental basis of our government. “Living Constitution” arguments, seen in this light, become the lazy man’s way of changing the Constitution. It’s a way of getting what supporters want without having to get 75% support.

    But it’s also divisive. Making “living Constitution” rulings divides the country. It makes opponents feel cheated. It allows motivate groups to simply steamroll the opposition. An amendment, by contrast, because it requires such a huge supermajority, requires building consensus, making arguments and persuading critics.

    The suffragettes spent decades working toward the 19th amendment. Yes, it might have come earlier if a court had taken a “living” argument. And it stinks that millions of women never got to vote. But by going the hard route, the suffragettes guaranteed that no one would ever question or dispute women’s right to vote. The same is true of the amendments banning slavery, banning then restoring alcohol use and expanding the franchise to blacks. All of them started out divisive, built a consensus, passed an amendment and became an inextricable part of the American legal structure. Bypassing the process might have brought those positive changes sooner — but likely at the expense of long-term political chaos.

    That’s the way originalism — real originalism, not phony-baloney Bush originalism — works. It’s not as easy or as fast as the “living Constitution”. It doesn’t allow for small groups to work their will on the public. But it has worked for two centuries. Maybe we shouldn’t mess with it.

    Why I Left the Right, Part 765

    Friday, July 2nd, 2010

    Obama gave a speech yesterday on immigration where he basically endorsed Bush’s immigration policy. In the speech, he rejected amnesty for illegals, called for more border enforcement, said illegals should pay hefty fines and back taxes before even beginning the process of legalization and called for an overhaul of the broken immigration system that created the problem in the first place.

    So naturally, every Right Wing blog in the universe is saying it was a call for amnesty.

    What color is the sky in their world?

    Friday Linkorama

    Thursday, July 1st, 2010

    Non-political links:

  • Best wishes to Christopher Hitchens. I frequently disagree with him, but am rarely disappointed and usually enlightened.
  • Educated women are having more children. I’m not sure why this would be so.
  • As it turns out, our kids is safe on the internets. Not that the media would let you know this. And it’s going to get safer if the xxx top-level domain starts moving porn sites into easily identified and blocked areas of the web.
  • Political links:

  • Another of the worst of the worst is released from Gitmo.
  • Our cowardly media. And they have the temerity to call out Rolling Stone for printing quotes from McChrystal.
  • Remember when Bush held funding hostage to things like abstinence education? Looks like the Obama Administration learned the wrong lesson from this. They’re now holding aide hostage to a pro-choice agenda (modulo National Review’s inevitable exaggeration).
  • Finland creates a right to broadband. But you can not have a right to things; that means you have right to someone else’s labor.
  • The Enemy Within

    Thursday, July 1st, 2010

    I’m working on a fisk of some recent utterances by Sarah Palin. But I thought I’d precede that with a short post that tacks in the opposite direction.

    There’s been a recent spate of articles attacking Palin and other conservative women as traitors to the cause of feminism. According to articles like this one in Slate, forwarded or Facebooked by many I know, these conservative women are simply the latest wave of anti-feminist feminists.

    The invocation of the word feminist at a meeting of anti-abortion women can be confusing, but it shouldn’t be. There’s no real reason to consider Sarah Palin a feminist. She’s just the latest incarnation of a long and noble line of feminist anti-feminists: women who call themselves feminist but also object to the existence of the feminist movement and organize in opposition to it.

    It’s been a while since I read Catherine McKinnon, so I don’t have the background to justify my belief that this is categorical bullshit. Fortunately, Cathy Young is here to take this argument apart and give us some background on the writer, who said some truly vile things during the Duke Lacross incident. Her summary?

    The real mystery is why a publication of Slate’s stature, and its “women’s section,” Double XX, would run an article whose main purpose is to exclude dissent from feminist discourse and smear the dissenters … What happened to letting a hundred flowers bloom?

    (More from Reason on this here.)

    The reason this debate caught my eye is that a similar debate is going on in the conservative side of the political aisle, one in which I am deeply immersed. Certain politicians and certain views are being deemed “unconservative” even if they are, at their base, completely conservative. For example, I think taking global warming seriously is a very conservative position. But that has now become a litmus test. Agreement on philosophy and outlook is longer enough; agreement on dogma is required.

    Here we see the same thing. Having a philosophy of equality is not enough; agreement on a platform is required, even if that means denouncing all pro-life women (who comprise half of American women) as anti-feminist. Even though I’m opposed to Palin on cultural issues generally (and abortion specifically), I just don’t see that conflating “feminism” with “the Democratic party platform” helps anyone. It’s certainly not advancing the debate.

    The genesis of this debate is the appearance of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann on the national scene. I can certainly understand why they’re driving some people — especially liberal people, but even moderate people — around the bend. But is it not a sign of progress that female politicians can be just as crazy, stupid and full of shit as their male counterparts? Why must they be seen as some kind of anti-feminist trojan horse?