Friday, May 9, 2008

It's the Liberty, Stupid!

As is the norm amongst the neo-con right, David Brooks' newest column puts politics above principle:

The British conservative renovation begins with this insight: The central political debate of the 20th century was over the role of government. The right stood for individual freedom while the left stood for extending the role of the state. But the central debate of the 21st century is over quality of life. In this new debate, it is necessary but insufficient to talk about individual freedom. Political leaders have to also talk about, as one Tory politician put it, “the whole way we live our lives.”

That means, first, moving beyond the Thatcherite tendency to put economics first. As Oliver Letwin, one of the leading Tory strategists put it: “Politics, once econo-centric, must now become socio-centric.” David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, makes it clear that his primary focus is sociological. Last year he declared: “The great challenge of the 1970s and 1980s was economic revival. The great challenge in this decade and the next is social revival.” In another speech, he argued: “We used to stand for the individual. We still do. But individual freedoms count for little if society is disintegrating. Now we stand for the family, for the neighborhood — in a word, for society.”


As such, the Conservative Party has spent a lot of time thinking about how government should connect with citizens. Basically, everything should be smaller, decentralized and interactive.

While--unlike many of my libertarian colleagues and friends--I do actually have reservations relying solely on economics to guide our lives, I find that a dedication to the free market principles of Hayekian economics is the best thing politicians can do for the economy. (i.e., stay out of it!) Government "connect[ing] with citizens" is antithetical to that end and what Brooks proposes is to revert to failed policies in order to win over the electorate. I think we tried that already -- it was called "compassionate conservatism"-- and it's made an unholy mess of the country while undercutting the economic principles of the Republican party.

Way to go, Rove.

But beyond economics, I am foremost a civil libertarian. Benevolent government exists only in the minds of its proponents-- lest we forget that communism wasn't created as a tool of oppression. Its entire purpose was to help the poor and address the needs of the whole. In the course of moving toward that goal, individual freedoms and liberties were curbed and stripped.

Without a fundamental respect for the independence and freedom of the individual, the government--as an entity of concentrated power--will seek only to increase its role in the lives of its citizens: demanding more money, more liberty, and thus, more power from them.

The United States was not founded on the ideal of 'helping people'; it was founded on the ideal that gives the people (read individuals) the freedom to shape their own destiny. Brooks' 'what your politicians can do for you' notion flies squarely in the face of the guiding principles on which this nation was established.

Individual liberty--the concept which guided Thatcher, Reagan, and the Founders--should never take a back seat to political pandering. Otherwise, the debate between the American 'right' and 'left' will no longer be between individual liberty and the 'common good,' but simply how quickly we lose our liberties and which poisoned party will be most responsible.

UPDATE: Over at reason, Michael Moynihan takes a more intelligent and ideologically consistent approach to how the GOP could adopt the Conservative Party's more socially tolerant views here.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Message to HRC and DNC: Beware the 'New N***** Rule'

In spite of her defeat in the North Carolina primary Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton is staying in the race for the Democratic nomination. At this point, her only hope is to convince the remaining uncommitted "Superdelegates" to give her the edge over Barack Obama. However unlikely this may be, it is not impossible. The Clinton political machine is formidable and if it can be done, they can do it. If they accomplish the feat, it would be the most devastating blow to the Democratic party in generations.

Without question, the most loyal demographic constituency for the Democrats are blacks. Democrats have enjoyed overwhelming black support starting back in the 'New Deal' and they then solidified their hold on the black vote when the GOP openly courted disaffected southern Democrats after the Civil Rights Movement. That said, the relationship is not a permanent one.

If the Democratic Party were to appoint Senator Clinton over the democratically-elected Obama, many black people would view it (as what is called in some circles) as a 'new nigger rule.'
A NNR is a legal or administrative procedure which is enforced with benign pretense, yet has the demonstrable effect of abetting racism, prejudice, or otherwise just screwing the black guy. Historical examples include, but are not limited to, the Grandfather Clause, poll taxes, and literacy/constitutional knowledge tests to vote. (Notice how all of these are forms of disenfranchisement.)

Stripping away an otherwise rightfully won party election by established yet questionable means when it just HAPPENS to prevent the first major party nomination of a black candidate in our nation's history, more than a couple black people in this country are going to be enraged.

And understandably so.

If she were to snag the nomination from Obama, many black people would turn on the Democratic Party. Of this, I have little doubt. Does this mean blacks will come back to the GOP? Certainly not right away. The Republicans have a lot to answer for, and outreach is needed on their part. (Although, if McCain picks a well-respected black VP in the event of Clinton's nomination, I would imagine it would have a significant impact.)

But a--shall we say "disenchanted?"-- black electorate may stay home instead of voting for a party that so blatantly screwed Obama. Losing even part of such a solid voting base would be disastrous for the Democrats and, in all likelihood, would amount to throwing away a second consecutive Presidential election they should have won easily.

This election is the Democrats' to lose. If they choose Hillary, they will manage to alienate their most loyal supporters while simultaneously electrifying the conservative base by nominating perhaps the greatest Republican fund raiser in the nation.

Only they could be this stupid.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Radley on Race

A thoughtful libertarian perspective on modern race relations in the U.S. here.


This isn't ancient history. My dad grew up through all of this.

It seems to me that it's a bit premature, then, for us to insist — as one conservative pundit suggested to me last month over dinner — that black Americans "just get over the whole racism thing." That pundit was referring to the controversy over Sen. Barack Obama, and the intemperate and ugly statements made by his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

I have no interest in defending the substance of what Wright has said over the last week, or of the passages that have been pulled from his sermons and played over the Internet and cable television. There are a few things he has said that I would defend. There are many, many things he has said that I find objectionable, abhorrent, and twelve kinds of crazy.

But it's worth keeping in mind that for 200 years, hundreds of thousands of black people were imprisoned in this country as slaves. For another 100 years, in most of the country, they were second-class citizens, subject to rapes, lynchings and beatings; denied the right to vote; forced into segregated buses, schools, parks, and public facilities; and denied due process in the criminal justice system.

Bizarre as some of Rev. Wright's conspiracy theories may sound, there actually have been some pretty bizarre conspiracies against black Americans over the years.

I can't begrudge black Americans if for three hours on Sunday they want to indulge in a bit of righteous indignation within the walls of their places of worship. Even if that indignation sometimes expresses itself in hateful or nutty ways, or in ways I'll never quite understand.

America has come a long way with respect to race, but it would be foolish to say that the remnants of racism aren't still with us, or that — as I've heard some commenters suggest — that the only discrimination that matters any more is the kind of elitist reverse discrimination we sometimes see in affirmative action programs (for the record, I'm opposed to state-sanctioned affirmative action).

Marvin, His Bar, and His Gun

When I turned Mike and Mike in the Morning on as I was getting ready for work today, I heard veteran ESPN reporter and resident Phillyophile Sal Paolantonio go on and on about the shooting outside the garage and down the street from a bar that Colts WR Marvin Harrison owns.

What bugged me about the story is two-fold:

1) Paolantonio, whose reporting I normally respect, harped on the type of gun Harrison handed-in for the investigation: a custom made Belgian pistol designed to 'kill cops.' This is an assertion Paolantonio made because it reportedly is so powerful its ammo can go through many layers of Kevlar at 50m. Granted, the gun may be particularly powerful, but for some reason I don't think there are a bunch of police-hating Belgian gun designers plotting to perfect "cop-killer" weapons.

2) Paolantonio then began to speculate as to why Harrison, a multi-millionaire and probable future Hall of Famer (provided he's not taken down in this or another scandal of some kind) , would bother to run a bar, a garage and car wash in his very violent neighborhood back in Philadelphia. It was unfathomable to this man, who lives and breathes life in Philly, that a native son would own businesses where he was raised. Apparently Sal believes that NFL players should stick to filming United Way ads and volunteering in their adopted communities instead of providing people needed jobs and desired services where they grew up.

I don't know enough about the story to say whether Marvin is guilty of a crime or not. Looking over some reports, it looks like the weapon--while legal and registered--was not in the place it was supposed to have been (Harrison's home). And if there was any impropriety, God knows the NFL will act swiftly and, in all probability, harshly against the star receiver. But those issues are for the courts and the NFL to decide.

In the meantime, Sal and co. should stick to reporting more of Donovan McNabb's whiny dramathon and the success of the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs than criticizing an unaccused man for owning a legal firearm and running legitimate businesses in his hometown.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mildred Loving, R.I.P.

I really don't want this blog to become an obituary column, but I can't very well let the passing of Mildred Loving go by unmentioned.

Mildred Jeter, a black woman, married Richard Loving, a white man. Their ground-breaking case, Loving v. Virginia, challenged and overturned anti-miscegenation laws in at least 17 states, including my home state of Indiana -- which one of my friends recently referred to as "the South's middle finger."


As a product of a bi-racial marriage, I owe my existence to this decision. I grew up in the 1980s when my school system was still attempting to desegregate; while my parents tried to shield me from it, I had to endure cruel jokes and treatment from other kids and their parents because I was a "half-breed"; and to this day, when I date a white woman, I still have to ask how her parents are going to take my race. (You may be surprised how often it is actually a problem.) Yet, all that pales in comparison to what happened to Mildred and Richard (from a statement released by Mildred last year on the 40th anniversary of the decision):

We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the “crime” of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

My mother hinted at problems my parents encountered when they were together in public back in the 70s, but I don't know what they went through. I'm sure it was pretty nasty...I know for a fact that her father's side of the family still doesn't know I'm black. I've never even met them. I assumed they were all dead until just a few years before my mother died. Even then, she wouldn't introduce me to them. (I've been told they wouldn't approve.)

Well, thanks to Mildred Jeter Loving, people like me have become more accepted in society and people like my parents can live together without fearing the police barging into their homes and arresting them for being who they are and loving each other.

Mildred Loving, R.I.P.