I spent two hours today re-listening to last night's Hugh Hewitt Show. He's smart, partisan, right-thinking and has similar core principles to mine. I think he's broken my NPR habit.
Strutting and fretting in an insane world.
Saturday, March 01, 2003
I think we'd better get this party started, or we'll have more madness like this going on. As Glenn would say, Heh.
This post and photo reminds me of some signs we used to see in the 1960s, "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" in a kind of gloating way.
Today's Deseret News printed this letter to the editor:
The recent spate of letters that seek to demean and denigrate individuals who question the wisdom of war with Iraq is disturbing to those of us who still believe that intelligent debate is an integral part of the democratic process. This forum has served as host to many who apparently seek to marginalize those who oppose the war effort with sophomoric name-calling and lock-step adherence to whatever the current administration tells us to believe.
There are millions of Americans who doubt the methodology and motivation behind this impending war. The vast majority are mainstream, tax-paying individuals who love their country � love it enough to brave a storm of criticism to voice objection to this dubious war effort. Please take a moment to examine your premise � that free speech and thought is somehow dangerous. A quick study of history will reveal that the implications of such a position can be disastrous.
Teresa Browning Hess
Salt Lake City
I should ignore this kind of whining, but it is so egregious and deceitful I had to respond:
Teresa Browning Hess writes, "The recent spate of letters that seek to demean and denigrate individuals who question the wisdom of war with Iraq is disturbing to those of us who still believe that intelligent debate is an integral part of the democratic process." I've written a lot of letters about this issue and I generally agree with her sentiment, but the crucial words are intelligent debate. So far, I haven't seen much of that from the anti-action side. I really wish that she and they would make their case, instead of changing the subject.
Show me, for instance, how relying on the U.N. to solve any crisis in the past has stopped war, genocide or oppression, and I'll show you North Korea, Cambodia's killing fields, Rwanda, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Palestine. It was NATO's armed troops that stopped the bloodbath in Bosnia, prevented a worse one in Kosovo and led to the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. Meanwhile, peace marchers encourage Saddam to drag his feet and give him clues as to how to play for more time. President Bush has done everything they've asked to show good faith. What have Chirac and Schroeder done?
Yet we keep hearing the same vapid chants and falsehoods. I can't really fault anybody for losing patience. Debates like this are not nice and formal. I haven't noticed that the opponents to Bush's policies are pulling any punches. They've called him every name but President, and painted him as being a new Hitler. Hows that for demeaning and denigrating? Is it any wonder that people start to conclude that they are anti-American?
Nothing I have seen in print is a threat to anyone's freedom of speech. Nothing has suggested that "free speech and thought is somehow dangerous." What Ms. Hess' letter boils down to is a double standard. It puts me in mind of an old childhood taunt, "If you can't take it, don't dish it out."
This is so typical of the pseudo-intellectuals in this country and Europe. They demand freedom for themselves, but when they get criticized, it's "hurtful" and "destructive of intelligent debate." Most of them wouldn't know reason from rhetoric if you printed it on their foreheads. All they can do is repeat slogans and denials, profess their love and concern for all mankind, and ask for more proof. Here's a challenge: No greater love hath any man, than that he lay down his life for his friend--or even some poor oppressed people living under the boot heel of a maniac. As Americans we have been delivered a great gift. We're rich and powerful, and we don't wish anybody harm. Thousands upon thousands of us from prior generations have died fighting beyond our shores to fight back evil. If we balk and fret now when it is our turn to do something as right as this, particularly for petty and partisan political reasons, we will have let down the cause of freedom and human rights. Our children will think of us with downcast eyes and feel shame.
I don't kid myself that this will be a cakewalk. It could be a horrorshow. But that is always the case when courage is required. If the "peace" movement thinks that George W. Bush or any of his advisors don't understand that and take it seriously, they are not only fools but contemptible.
Maybe I'm just irritable and tired from being sick with cellulitis, but I feel the way I do before a snow storm. The clouds are lowering and theres a chill in the air. The Press are so busy trying to torpedo war with Iraq. No, not the uninlateral one that Howard Dean is yapping about. That war doesn't exist, and if it did, Dean woudl still be wrong. The U.N. has been warned, along with the holdouts in Russia, German and France. The train is pulling out. It's not going to stop to take on passengers. They'll want to participate in the peacekeeping afterward, but I think that when the details and proof of their willingness to trade Iraqi misery for oil, they probably won't be welcomed by them. This is not unilateral or a rush to war. The terrible swift sword is about to be drawn.
The "peace" arguments remind me of the Democrats' attempts to defend Clinton during the House impeachment hearings. This is just about sex/oil. You are not being bipartisan/multilateral. He's just a man/Arab. We are intruding on his private life/We are being imperialist. Then there are the hypocritical, dishonest ones: Saddam isn't a threat. Bush hasn't made the case. We need more proof. Bush is a moron. We should rely on deterrence (from people who have wanted us to disarm unilaterally all their lives).
If Bush appears inept, it's because he isn't unilateral. He's constantly making his case, but you can't prove anything to a person who refuses to listen. He's used diplomacy long beyond the point where I would have washed my hands of it. He is not ignorant of the potentials of biological and chemical weapons. He is trying to make sure that he hasn't missed any consideration. This is NOT how the Democrats have conducted wars, at least in my lifetime.
The lessons of Viet Nam should have been 1. Don't go to war without the people soldily behind you. 2. Have a clear goal. 3. Don't accept limits such as the DMZ or the Cambodian border. The enemy won't. 4. Clean out the source of the problem. This isn't always possible, as in the Korean and Cold Wars, but whenever possible, go for unconditional surrender by the enemy. 5. Use overwhelming force, shock and awe.
Update: There's report today that the U.S. is pursuing exile for Saddam. I see the logic, but my gut rejects that idea. He should be handed over to the successor regime, along with all of his co-conspirators. It may be more expedient, even compelling, to settle for exile, but it sticks in my Jacksonian craw. I guess I need to to reread the Sermon on the Mount.
Friday, February 28, 2003
Quote from Bernard Lewis on the Arab mentality:
"If you concede points, if you show a willingness to compromise, that shows you are weak and frightened. You hear this again and again about both the Americans and the Israelis: They have gone soft; they can't take casualties; hit them hard enough and they will run. This is Osama's line about the United States. And this is also the underlying principle of Arafat's position regarding Israel."
Attention, UNSC and Mr. Chirac. You have taken these people to your bosom. You'd better learn how they think. (Of course, French security isn't anywhere near as soft on Arab terrorists as the U.N. is.) And while you're at it, you'd better learn how Americans in the Jacksonian tradition think, because if you don't it's going to cost you in the long run. We don't mind extending our reach to protect our friends, but if you turn on us by impugning our motives and calling us imperialist (especially with the history of French colonialism) or otherwise act like Noam Chomsky, we'll never forget it. We don't hate the French, only those who deal with people like Saddam behind our backs and then presume to lecture us about having no culture. Whatever culture means, it doesn't include selling out your friends because you've got a conflict of interest.
When the French elect leaders like Tony Blair, come back and we'll talk, but Jacques Chirac is a weasel (you call them stoats) and so is Gerhardt Schroeder. I just realized that I've been calling him Helmut, but it's Gerhardt. So sue me.
This letter shows what the Boy Scouts are about.
And the smearing of the scouts is one reason why I don't believe in gay rights. There aren't any gay, women's or other minority rights. There are only human rights, and our views on morality are our birthrights. I think that libertarians like Instapundit and Captain Clueless are confusing freedom with independence. If their ideology is followed we'll have neither. I hate to say that, because I read and respect them both.
This is not about protecting minority rights. It's about what kind of society we want to live and raise our kids in. The kind of liberty they promote with their "pro-sodomy" rhetoric and comparisons to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is, I fear, all too prophetic.
It's the kind of hubris that preceded the destruction of the Tower in Babel and the brimstoning of, guess where, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the kind of confusion that makes us demand that the government protect us from terrorism while we fuss like this over personal inconvenience. You don't get to have the blessings bestowed by our ancestors and abuse their principles at the same time.
This is a letter to the editor which I decided not to send because it's too long:
Since Marbury v. Madison established the power of the courts to review acts of Congress and the Executive Branch, the appointment of federal judges has been politically sensitive, but there has never been a filibuster in the Senate to block a judicial nominee. This is not to excuse Republicans who held up Clinton's nominees, but we have to ask ourselves why this is happening. What could induce Democrats like Charles Schumer to risk offending so many latino voters to stop one of their own, Miguel Estrada, becoming an Appeals Court justice? Every parent knows that "They did it to us first!" is not a good excuse.
In my opinion, we are reaping the harvest of decisions like Roe v. Wade in which the courts intruded into a strongly divisive political issue, stretching the Constitution in order to do so. By doing so, they have made judicial nominations into political issues, all the more volatile because they are lifetime appointments. The Senate's advice and consent power was intended to guard against appointments of incompetents to these positions, but senate hearings are no longer about qualifications, judicial temperament, etc. The organizers of this filibuster are after a loyalty oath to abortion rights, nothing less. Mr. Estrada wisely has declined to state opinions on hypothetical cases or critique prior decisions of the Supreme Court, and that enrages feminist groups who donate lavishly to Democrats.
The root of all this brouhaha is the willingness of past courts to march in boldly where angels would fear to tread. Remember that the power to overturn actions of the other branches is not clearly stated in the Constitution. It was inferred by the Supreme Court and has been acquiesced in by the other branches. The courts have wisely recognized that they are not equipped to impose their will without that acquiescence, and have used restraint in using this power. But judicial activism creates circuses like those of the confirmation hearings for Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and now nominees like Charles Pickering, Priscilla Owen and Miguel Estrada. Legal ability is no longer the issue. The nominee's support for or opposition to Roe v. Wade is the only criterion, and if he or she won't announce a position, FILIBUSTER!
Meanwhile, judicial vacancies go unfilled, dockets back up and the work of the courts is undone. In my opinion the Senate should guarantee every nominee an up or down vote without his nomination being bottled up in committee, and those votes should be within a specific time after the nomination is made. It is improper for any nominee to state prospectively how he or she would rule on any issue. If the courts are ever to be restored to their proper role as impartial triers of cases, they must not allow decisions which fix policy rather than apply law to stand.
I edited it down and added following. It's still too long, but I sent it anyway.
In case the Senate hasn't heard, our government has three branches, as one of our eminent judges used to start his answers in law school. The legislative and executive branches were designed to be political, chosen by the people. The Congress sets policy by passing laws. The Executive puts those policies into effect. Since both the president and the members of Congress are elected, they will always be embroiled in politics. But the Judicial Branch should not be political. It is supposed to interpret the law, not make its own, any more than necessary. pass laws. Judges rule on specific cases, based on their specific facts and the law as set forth in prior decisions, acts of Congress and the Constitution. They should not be the focus of political fights. When they allow this to happen, the separation of powers and checks and balances we all learned about it grade school are endangered.
Part of what parties win with the White House is the right to nominate. The Senate should not usurp that right. And that applies to both parties.
Thursday, February 27, 2003
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
With "reporting" like this, who needs an op-ed page? You have to wade through all the commentary--"the methodical march toward war", "hostilities . . . increasingly portrayed as inevitable", "sought to assure doubters . . . that . . . U.S. goals . . . are not imperialist", "U.S. officials struggled to build support", etc.--to find out what the President actually said.
This one really leaves me wondering what their editors do for a living: "Bush, speaking in a business suit before an audience of 1,400 at a black-tie dinner held by the American Enterprise Institute at the Washington Hilton"--Not like the fashionable bib overalls worn by the Democrat nominee wannabes at their speeches to the poor farmers on hay bales in Iowa--offered few specifics that he and his deputies had not already mentioned in recent weeks.--So why this report?
Note the scare quotes in the following:
While linking Hussein's ouster to a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians and pledging his "personal commitment" to reach such a peace,and this clever display of the writers' liberal arts education:
Bush also presented a neo-Wilsonian view of the imperative to spread liberty and democracy in the world, [What, no quotes on liberty and freedom?] challenging a panoply of experts and diplomats who say a U.S. attack would foster instability and backlash. (Emphases on impressive vocabulary added.)Come on, guys! Can the snotty attitude and dismissive asides and just report the story! If we wanted to be told what to think, we would have read the New York Times.
I'm so glad there's no bias in the media.
For those of you aspiring to practice law, this is how to give a legal opinion you can't get sued over it, and generate billable time.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
I know it's getting past my bedtime, but I swear I just heard Senator Durbin on Nightline denouncing the idea of assassinating Saddam, on the grounds that we all remember where we were when we heard that the leader of our nation had been assassinated. Note to Illinois Republican party: Get that video and mix it with scenes of the liberated Iraqis mobbing our troops like rockstars. USE IT!
That's all I saw, him in high dudgeon denouncing the very idea that we might assassinate a foreign "leader" as though he were on a par with even Jacques Chirac.
Then I switched to the Leno Show where Dennis Miller was holding forth. "We are simultaneously the most hated, feared, loved and admired nation on this planet. In short, we're Frank Sinatra, and he didn't get to be the chairman lying down for punks out in front of the Fontainbleu." A little later, "I used to be a liberal but look at California. It's no longer the Andreas Fault; it's Gray Davis's fault." Big applause.
After seeing that, I think the Democrats are in big trouble. Does Durbin seriously think that the Iraqis will mourn Saddam for a minute? They'd be singing Ding Dong the Witch is Dead in Arabic. Give them a chance, and he'd be down the Ceaucescu route. We don't have to assassinate him, we just have to catch him and make him walk down a main thoroughfare of Baghdad in handcuffs. I think we see how beloved of his people he is. Durbin--what a chump! All we need is to make sure they get the lesson from Iran as well that religions, especially Wahabism and the like, should not be trusted to govern nations.
Of all the Fiskings I've seen, this one is the gentlest and most thorough.
I'm listening to clips of the peace-at-any-price-pundits on the the Hugh Hewitt Show. Are we in Wonderland? Janeane Garofolo talks non-stop. Nobody else gets a word in edgewise. But her opponents just quibble over facts that don't matter. It's the significance of those facts that should be at issue. You can't just say "Inspections work!" over and over and make it true. She's like a kid with her hands over her ears yellling, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" Why try to argue with people when they won't even agree on fundamental terms. If someone tells you that no proof will convince them, why go on?
"Saddam is not a threat!" So his invasion of Iran and Kuwait were just geographic errors by his troops? His plots to assassinate George Bush 41 were made up by Bill Clinton's administration. Gassing the Kurds? None of this rings a bell?
"Not unless the U.N. approves!" Don't the first 16 resolutions mean a thing? Resolution 1441 says he's in material breach. What more can the U.N. say? When did France become the indispensable ally? Didn't the U.N. authorize our repulsing him from Kuwait, and didn't he sign an agreement that he would destroy all his wmds? The U.N., by only acting on when the S.C. is unanimous, will never, never produce peace, because it is people like Saddam who create war, and people like Chirac and Schroeder who allow it to flourish.
"It's unprovoked agression!" See the above.
Will this be sufficient proof? Will it "make the case"?
This really makes me upset. Any teacher for whom this can be verified should be drafted in the infantry and take the place of a chicken on those humvees.
Here's vest-popper. My son called to tell me that he has been asked by Harvard to enter its PhD program in Computer Science, with a stipend and a full tuition waiver. As Homer would say "Woo-hoo!"
My son Chris has amazed me all of his life. I used to wonder if he'd ever reach a limit, but it hasn't happened yet, at least where computers are concerned. When he was a teaching fellow before getting his BA/BS, he was consistently voted best by the students. Way to go, Chris!
Monday, February 24, 2003
Spam of the Day!
February 23, 2003 -- "helium gel movement mechanism patent technology" running shoes from luigipavone.com
February 24, 2003 -- "Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity has just been proven obsolete!" It's The Vortex Theory! No more peer reviewed journals, no more Pons and Fleischman press releases, scientific breakthroughs will henceforth be introduced by spam! Is this a great world or what?
What is it that makes people think getting naked amounts to a compelling foreign policy argument? Or, for that matter, carrying signs around the streets? The civil rights marches made a point, because the response to them was so brutal and idiotic. They demonstrated graphically how unjustly African-Americans were being dealt with. All these anti-Bush rallies do is dramatize how vapid a bunch of overprivileged and "educated" people can be.
Fortunately, this one will be in Australia. Has anyone warned Tim Blair?
I hate to think what kind of prizes they'll be handing out for this one. (shudder)
I hope nobody tries that in the good ol' U.S. of A.!
This is from Best of the Web:
The Los Angeles Times reports from Tehran that Iranians are eager to be rid of Saddam and to be liberated themselves. They get nervous "when newspaper headlines suggest that Washington's resolve may be wavering." Says one 23-year-old woman: "Can they hurry up with Iraq already, so they can get on with attacking us?"
Who are we to refuse our good friends the Iranians?
How many Americans died in the Gulf War?
How many were killed in the past week in nightclubs in the U. S.?
Which ones died in vain? Here are some figures. But I have to think about the millions who died in the last century to defeat men like Saddam. How many more will die if we do nothing now? Go back and read In Flanders Fields:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
If liberating the French, Belgians, Dutch and the rest was a just war, and spending billions to liberate the states in the Warsaw Pact, including East Germany was just, why isn't liberating Iraqis and Iranians? Say, this wouldn't be racism would it? How can we say that force in the former Yugoslavia was justified, and that the first Gulf War was, why is it now so awful to finish what we started?
If you have broadband and want to be thrilled, scared and awed, download this video from Grouchy Media and watch it.
Nobody asked, but Utahns (including yours truly) have lots of opinions on war with Iraq. Although, I doubt that Adrian Messenger is the true name of the guy.
Springdale is a small town in Southern Utah at the west entrance to Zion National Park whose city council recently adopted a resolution opposing war with Iraq.
I love stuff like this:
First manufactured in 1942, duct tape was invented for the U.S. military during World War II. The original use was to keep the moisture out of ammunition cases.
Because it was waterproof, people referred to it as "duck tape." Also, the tape was made using cotton duck. Soldiers discovered its versatility and used it to fix guns, jeeps, aircraft and other things.
After the war, the tape was used in the housing industry to connect heating and air conditioning duct work, and the color was changed from Army green to silver to match the ducts. People started calling it duct tape.
Sigh. I really like Steven Den Beste, but his manifesto on behalf of being atheist and humanist is disappointing. I am an unabashed conservative, which has large overlaps with liberal (in the Hayek sense) and libertarian philosophies. I believe in freedom. It's a fundamental tenet of my religion (LDS). I am fearful for this country because of the rise of big government, and I agree with much of what Steven writes, even this: "I therefore oppose any case where a single overriding moral force comes to dominate the political system. I fully oppose the idea of any state religion."
However, I don't "strongly support the legal firewall between government and religion which is in the First Amendment." First, the "wall" is not in the Constitution. It was originally Jefferson's term, but wasn't part of our jurisprudence before the 1940s. Second, this concept is used more to stifle freedom than to protect it, and especially to stifle tolerance. Part of living in a diverse, pluralistic society is being tolerant of other people's expressions of faith and appreciating them for the good they do in society. What we have now is a de facto atheistic state anti-religion, which allows those who take easy offense to veto everyone else. My view is that public expressions of faith are free speech, even when they are made by public servants and officials. The only limits I would impose is that all such expressions must be allowed, not only those of a predominant religion, and that they must be positive--no "Death to Israel" speeches in a classroom, for example. The last will be tricky to get right without intruding on political discussion but I think it could be handled by time, place and manner regulations. The main idea is that we don't get the world as we would like it, so if we're offended, hurt, chilled, etc., "Get over it." Learn to appreciate the common virtues in our heritages, but allow the differences, so long as they don't conflict with democratic principles. Insensitivity isn't the problem, oversensitivity is. Religious persecution is against the First Amendment.
True freedom is only possible when I have the freedom to make stupid mistakes, and where the consequences of doing so arise only from the direct consequences of my mistake and not from externally-imposed legal sanctions. And it means that I must be free to offend those around me, for if I cannot then I am free, but only to do things my neighbors don't condemn. And such freedom is illusion.
I don't want anyone forcing me to think and act in certain ways solely "for my own good". I want the right to make my own decisions about what's good for me, even if it turns out I'm wrong. I want the right to hold an opinion even if most of those around me disagree with it.
It is better to be free than to be correct.
True freedom. There's a hymn we Mormons sing:
Know this, that ev'ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he'll be;
For this eternal truth is giv'n:
That God will force no man to heav'n.
He'll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.
Freedom and reason make us men;
Take these away, what are we then?
Mere animals, and just as well
The beasts may think of heav'n or hell.
May we no more our pow'rs abuse,
But ways of truth and goodness choose;
Our God is pleased when we improve
His grace and seek his perfect love.
Then there is this:
And it came to pass that Cain took one of his brothers� daughters to wife, and they loved Satan more than God.
And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die; and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands.
And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret.
And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness.
And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.
And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.
The Pearl of Great Price, Moses 5: 28-33
So I wonder, how free was Cain? How free was Lot, living in Sodom and Gomorrah? What about our right to the pursuit of happiness? It has been my experience that I am more free when I follow my principles because when I do things that I believe are wrong, they seem to get a hold on me that limits my sense of freedom. I don't drink alcohol, but I don't need to do so to know that it harms many people and deprives them of their freedom. The question arises, how can we say we believe in freedom when we tolerate all kinds of things that deprive people of it? Are drug addicts free? Prostitutes? Alcoholics? People crippled by alcoholism, fetal alcohol syndrome, or being hit by drunk drivers?
Steven says that we must be free to make our own mistakes, and I generally agree, but I don't believe the argument that only the ones who make the mistakes are affected by them. No one but a drinker is affected by his drinking? No one but a mother on crack is harmed by her addiction? No one but the infected are affected by AIDS or contagions? I suppose the counter argument would be that we shouldn't pass the costs on to society, but then what does that do to our freedom to live in a civil, safe society?
Steven: "I am no anarchist. I believe that there must be a system of laws, and that the purpose of the law is to maintain the peaceful and successful operation of the society. But I take a very practical view of law, and strongly dispute the idea that law is an extension of morality. I believe that acts should be made illegal because they threaten the fabric of the society, not because they are considered evil or because the majority disapprove of them." The problem here is what that fabric is and what it consists of. As I have written before, a liberal democracy cannot endure unless the citizens recognize and fulfill certain duties, such as self-reliance, becoming educated, working, honoring and obeying the law, rearing and teaching children, being informed and voting. I'm sure that many of these seem onerous, even violations of personal freedom. I suppose that some laws are made because the majority disapproves of the acts prohibited. A lot of zoning law is based that very principle. So is nuisance law. Here's the definition of "public nuisance":
unlawfully doing any act or omitting to perform any duty, which act or omission:This is common law of long standing similar laws exist in most, if not all, states. It's interesting to note that Utah statutes specifically provide that irrigation canals and ditches and agriculture are NOT public nuisances, no matter how dangerous or offensive they may be.
(a) annoys, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, or safety of three or more persons;
(b) offends public decency;
(c) unlawfully interferes with, obstructs, or tends to obstruct, or renders dangerous for passage, any lake, stream, canal, or basin, or any public park, square, street, or highway;
The fabric of society means different things to different people. I'm sure that the people of New York City think that fabric was strengthened by Rudy Giuliani's "broken windows theory" enforcement policies, even though many considered them overly intrusive on personal liberties. Why do people want to get out of ghettos? How free are they? Why do some people hate sprawl?
We could go live like the Unabomer and nobody would care. Look how long it took to catch him. He could have grown pot and smoked it, and, as long as he didn't try to sell it or drive under it's influence, he would never have gotten any attention. He'd still be up in Montana, if he hadn't submitted his manifestos to the world. But if he'd lived in a subdivision, there'd have been hell to pay. So, I suppose, if you want real freedom, be a hermit. All others have to respect other peoples' opinions, whether they agree with them or not.
It is said that my freedom to swing my fist ends where your nose begins, but merely swinging at someone without hitting him may be assault, a civil tort. We don't allow lewd behavior in public, or disorderly conduct. We don't allow planting burning crosses on other people's property, or even one's own. We don't allow inciting to riot or even carrying a loaded weapon in a motor vehice. There's a big fight in Utah right now over whether public schools, courthouses and churches have the right to prohibit guns on their premises. The list goes on and on. Basically it is all about what kind of society we want to live in. We all have entered into a social contract, under which we agree to limit our freedoms in exchange for certain protections and services. The question is how much of other people's freedoms do we have to allow before our expectations from society are violated. Every political issue and legal issue seems to boil down to that. It is not as simple as saying that ". . . the single most basic right we have, and the true measure of whether our freedom is real or illusion, is the right to scandalize the neighbors. (As long, that is, as that's the only harm done.) We, as citizens, must tolerate scandalous behavior by our neighbors as the price of our own liberty." As long as that's the only harm done. There's the rub. It seems pretty difficult to find something that scandalizes others that doesn't do some harm as well, such as affecting property values, or even placing them in fear. It seems to me that we all have different views of what our rights are, and they often conflict. I think I know what Steven means. There was an article in the Salt Lake papers a while back about a woman who did her flower gardening in a bikini, which led to calls to the cops, who came, saw, and did nothing, but I'm sure it'd be different if she'd been stark naked. And she'd be as mad as Carrie Nation if her neighbors began peeking through her fences while she was sunbathing au naturelle in the backyard.
Everything is a balancing act, and if personal liberty trumps everything, we may end up polarized and alienated, and that we don't have a society worth living in anymore. Ask some of those survivors from the WTC and Pentagon, or the families of those who died, whether our open and free society is an unalloyed blessing. We find ourselves demanding that we be protected but we don't want the FBI looking at us, let alone asking us questions. Look at the pictures of the 9/11 hijackers and try to persuade me that we have to waste our time searching all passengers instead of engaging in some amount of racial profiling with apologies to the innocent.
I think when it comes down to specifics, Steven and I would come down on the same side about 95% of the time. The same applies to Glenn Reynolds. But there are some matters where I differ strongly, because I see them tearing the fabric of society right down the middle. I also notice that a lot of people who demand academic freedom and first amendment rights, aren't willing to reciprocate. They call criticism censorship and find backdoor ways to control other people's freedoms. That's how I view radical elitist environmentalists, and expect the law to back them up. They preach moral relativism to forgive Arab terrorism and human rights abuses, but compare Pat Robertson, whom I don't admire a bit, to the Taliban and George Bush, whom I do, to Adolf Hitler. Generally Steven and Glenn and other intelligent libertarians (or classic liberals) don't make that mistake, but when enough people do, we find our liberties being destroyed in the name of freedom!
The privacy issue is one of my pet peeves. I remember reading a post from a woman, in an online discussion about how evil police surveillance cameras are, writing that she likes to wear lowcut dresses but is unnerved by the thought of being ogled by cops back at the station house. Apparently the droolers she can see aren't as bad as the ones she can only imagine. I hope she doesn't use chatrooms online. We want them to connect the dots but not to know where they are, and especially not to teach computers to connect them.
Steven's essay would be fine if he had stopped there, but he defends NAMBLA and gay marriage. Glenn proclaims his highminded support for gay rights and opposition to the war on drugs. None of these will lead us to a stronger, more free society in my opinion. In some ways these positions remind me of the opposition to war in Iraq, which demands more proof but won't settle for anything short of Saddam launching nukes or providing them to al Qaeda. By the time we realize that NAMBLA is doing actual harm to our society, it will be too late for a lot of young men and their grieving parents.
Being a parent has made me see the "victimless crimes" argument as patently absurd. I suppose Glenn won't be upset or bothered if his daughter gets some ssd, or becomes addicted, but I hope he would. I would also hope that when he is my age and missing having those kids around the house, he will feel it when she aborts one of his grandchildren. (I hope none of this happens to her or to him. I'm just illustrating that nothing any of us does affects only consenting adults.)
We're all entitled to our opinions, but let's not forget that emotional damage is damage nonetheless, and that it can be keener than a knife wound. Life forces us to deal with consequences far worse than most of what the laws can do to us, and citing individual rights and privacy isn't much comfort.
Addendum: Trends like this libertarian one tend to go one way. The people who are demanding 'tolerance' today, won't be too willing to grant it in return in the future, as the history of 1960s radicals, feminists and other activist groups shows. Once they achieve power, they use it against anyone who disagrees with them. Sort of like the, er, Bolsheviks. And it takes a hard landing to restore things.
I think we're losing the "nucular" war. I hear it from diplomats, journalists, and pundits. I don't know what is so hard about saying "new clear," but people are either too lazy or too dense. Therefore, I propose that dark matter be formally named "nucular" material, particles, whatever. This might force people to make the distinction.