Monday, December 27, 2010

An Impossible Dilemma

Ryan Grim, author of the informative and entertaining book "This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America," writes about the recent WikiLeaks cables about the corruption of Afghanistan:
President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly released well-connected officials convicted of or charged with drug trafficking in Afghanistan, frustrating efforts to combat corruption and providing additional evidence that the United States' top ally in the country is himself corrupt. (emphasis mine)
This is a tad too simplistic, I think, given the situation in which we have placed Mr. Karzai. This is not to apologize for Karzai, or even excuse the actions and pardons detailed in the cables, but comments like this are misleading outside the context in which they take place.

Afghanistan produces 90% of the world's illicit heroin and opium. It is less of a country than it is federalism ad absurdum and its meager economy is dependent on that illicit trade. Poppy farmers are, for the most part, backward, illiterate tribesmen who care nothing for national politics. (No, really, Afghans are the most dangerously ignorant people this side of Glenn Beck.) There is no viable economic alternative to what they do.

So, at the same time the U.S. armed forces are trying to establish rapport with the locals--i.e., opium farmers--our DEA is doing everything in its power to stop them from making a living.

Enter Hamid Karzai. He has to run this pitiful, fractious, not-quite-a-state. Every domestic political interest of note is tied to opium one way or another. In addition, he is expected to balance this with American demands for accountability, open democracy, functional government, and, um, drug prohibition. Oh, and the Karzai administration doesn't exist without explicit support from Washington.

Good luck with that. Maybe when Karzai is done doing the impossible in Afghanistan, we can put him to work on cold fusion.

I don't doubt that Karzai is corrupt. I don't doubt that his administration is corrupt. But the United States government's policy in Afghanistan is impossible to reconcile with itself. That we expect a man to run a establish a functional country made up of tribal drug peddlers, with no hope of legitimizing the drugs for licit medical use, is criminally absurd.

bellum medicamenti delenda est.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quote of the Day

"But ultimately, what one thinks of Manning's alleged acts is irrelevant to the issue here.  The U.S. ought at least to abide by minimal standards of humane treatment in how it detains him.  That's true for every prisoner, at all times.  But departures from such standards are particularly egregious where, as here, the detainee has merely been accused, but never convicted, of wrongdoing.  These inhumane conditions make a mockery of Barack Obama's repeated pledge to end detainee abuse and torture, as prolonged isolation -- exacerbated by these other deprivations -- is at least as damaging, as violative of international legal standards, and almost as reviled around the world, as the waterboard, hypothermia and other Bush-era tactics that caused so much controversy."
-- Glenn Greenwald, discussing the inhumane conditions the U.S. government is imposing upon accused leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Read the entire disturbing account here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quote(s) of the Day

First, Megan McArdle on Julian Assange:
Julian Assange seems to have fallen prey to what I call Supply-Sider's Disease, a little-known, yet surprising widespread psychiatric disorder in which people become convinced that things they very much want to do from strong moral convictions, must therefore have no downside.
The whole post is worth a read and the last graf screams truth.

Second, an excerpted Thomas Mallon, courtesy of Hitch:
Washington novels, such as they are, tend to be found on racks at National Airport, the raised gold letters of their titles promising a bomb on Air Force One or a terrorist kidnapping of the First Lady. There’s a reason for all the goofiness. A serious novelist must take his characters seriously, regard them as three-dimensional creatures with inner lives and authentic moral crises; and that’s just what, out of a certain democratic pride, Americans refuse to do with their politicians.
Hitchens' City Journal article on the search for the great DC novel is simply excellent top to bottom.

Sorry blogging has been light non-existent recently -- been buried in research.

Have a good weekend!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mood Music Monday

A driving noise was coming from the office next to mine Friday afternoon, so I went to check it out. It was this song--a throwback bluesy rock track with a dark side. In short, I love it.

I haven't sampled the rest of their catalog yet--I'm not sure it can live up to this song, and given iTunes users ratings, the rest of that album probably falls well short of it. But I'll definitely check the rest out when I get a moment. Til then, I give you the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club:

If that's not your thing, perhaps you'll enjoy what at least one researcher claims to be the first Rock n' Roll song ever recorded. (Shocker: Elvis covered it.)


bellum medicamenti delenda est.

David Nolan, RIP

I never met David Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party, who died this weekend at the age of 66. I've never been an adherent of "the LP," as we call it, though I have voted for their candidates on several occasions.

In addition to founding the LP, Nolan was famous for creating the Nolan Chart, a two-dimensional map upon which the views of economic and political freedom are measured after the answering 10 relatively simple questions. There have been many maps, surveys and quizzes based upon Nolan's chart--some more objective than others. (I did some digging and thought this one seemed to be the most even-handed online.)

I bring this up, and felt I should note Nolan's passing, because that chart helped start me down the path to my current life. I took a survey based on this chart for the first time in 1992. I was an ardent Republican then, but had already become disaffected by Rush Limbaugh and the Religious Right and knew which side I would take if the latent schism between the fiscal and social conservatives ever materialized. (Of course, it did in the late 90s and early 00s.) The quiz we took, oddly enough in my sophomore year English class, separated me from my classmates even more than I had been already. I was, apparently, a "libertarian" and I'm pretty sure it was the first time I'd ever read the term "classical liberal."

It may not seem like much to you, but it helped me by chipping away at the stigma associated with the term "libertarian"--those 'crazy people' who protest the post office on tax day and implore you to vote for someone you've never heard of who has no chance of winning. The result would lead me to find that I was, in fact, different--but that there were others, however few, that believed the things that I believe: that fiscal prudence and social tolerance are not mutually exclusive; that government welfare programs promote sloth and dependence, despite the good intentions of their designers; and that the government should be drastically smaller than it is now and the country would be better for it if it were.

Thus, for this seemingly innocuous survey--or, at least, the chart upon which the survey was based--I am indebted to David Nolan. My former colleague Dave Weigel has a nice write-up at Slate that's worth a read. Bob Poole, Nolan's personal friend and classmate, in reason here.

David Nolan, RIP

bellum medicamenti delenda est.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just for Fun Friday: Libertarian Cheat Sheet

There was much ado on the Twitters this week about what conservatism is, thanks to patently false comments by Jim DeMint, because people tend to lump all conservatives together as if they all believe the same thing.

Similarly, people often think of libertarians as having a monolithic way of thinking, but this could not be further from the truth. Indeed, to paraphrase Brian Doherty's book Radicals for Capitalism, if two libertarians agree on something, one invariably will accuse the other of selling out.

To clear this up, then, I've put together a short list of the many kinds of libertarians so you can tell us apart:

Catoites: Associated with the Cato Institute, typically urbane libertines. Work in a giant greenhouse. Often mistaken for Republicans, but indeed they are too principled.

Reasonoids: Associated with reason magazine, typically libertine urbanites with an aversion to professional attire and a penchant for Johnny Cash impersonators.

CEIers: Convinced that the polar bear floating down the Potomac was just a hallucination brought on by delerium tremens. Remedy: more drink.

Classical Liberals: aging ex-hippies familiar with Latin, Greek and/or the Western Canon.

Randians/Objectivists:Making the principled argument for selfishness since 1957. They believe in objective truth as told by Rand, so they are very much like fundamentalist Muslims though thankfully they're too self-absorbed to blow themselves up.

Paulistas: A cult of personality much like the Randians but lack any cognizable sense of humor. They are best known for driving flame-traffic on websites that criticize the great and powerful Ron.

Liberaltarians: The one group in America that can legitimately blame Obama for their unemployment.

Beckians: Nominal libertarians but de facto conservative populists whose manifesto pines for the day when America was collectively at the height of its irrationality and bloodlust as we entered the anger stage of the grief process. (No, really.) Also, they seem to believe Jesus wrote the Constitution.

Constitutionalists: Lawyers and legal types who take the Constitution much more seriously than the Founders ever did. They seem to believe that Madison was Jesus.

Austrian Economists: Economists who hate math.

Chicago Economists: Economists who hate English.

Anarchists: Statists who've never been mugged.

Minarchists: Anarchists with commitment issues.

Seasteaders: Anarchists (on a boat!) who've never been marauded by pirates.

There you go. So the next time you're navigating a room full of drunk libertarians, this little cheat sheet will give you a good idea of what kind of person you're dealing with.

Have a good weekend!

bellum medicamenti delenda est.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Random Thought for Today

People aren't especially insane now. They've always been this way--it's just now, thanks to technology, we don't have the luxury of giving them the benefit of the doubt. Think of it like a window into the box with Schrodinger's cat. We knew the populace was unsophisticated and tribal, but now we can see exactly what that entails.

Ergo, Schrodinger's cat was Bill.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Is What Happens When You Prosecute a Senseless War on a Commodity

Although I had said that I was going to change the focus of this blog to more criminal justice issues, I haven't really done so to date, save adding the tagline "bellum medicamenti delenda est" to most of my blogposts. This is just crude Latin for "The Drug War Must End."

I have, however, focused my reading to more criminal justice and drug war issues. One of the blogs I read is El Blog Del Narco, a Spanish language blog that chronicles the drug war in Mexico--which, of course, is just America's drug war exported.

The blog is run anonymously, as one would expect when dealing with people who murder en masse with impunity. And not just simple murder: they make a spectacle of it. [N.B.: gruesome details of murders follow. Most links NSFW. ]

Take for example the latest entry: It's entitled "Fotos de ocho ejecutados en cd mante" which translates to "Pictures of Eight Beheaded [people] in Ciudad Mante, Tamaulipas."  The pics are as gruesome as they sound, yet having followed this blog for several weeks now, I can tell you it's not shocking to me anymore.

The heads are laid out, eyes closed--some blindfolded--on the opened tailgate of a pickup truck. The bodies of the victims are laid out behind them in the flatbed, with the gaping wounds, left behind by the blades that severed the heads, pointed outward. Underneath the heads is a banner--which often accompany these murders--that reads, very roughly*, "This is what happens when you work for the Zetas. Here are your dirty fucking hawks. Sincerely, the Gulf Cartel."

Other posts this week have included, inter alia, pictures of a group of men going down to authorities Bonnie and Clyde style, video of an ultimately successful but botched two-man hit on one man in what appears to be the entrance to a shopping mall, photo of one guy wearing beachwear in Acapulco shot 14 times at close range--with a three shot coup de grâce--a mass grave in Acapulco that contained 18 bodies, a story of two informants killed in the same clothes in which they made their statements to police, and a video of an interrogation and beheading of another man confessing to working for another dealer. This is in addition to recent photos of a woman decapitated and put on display with her severed head between her legs and several people strung up on an overpass--both with banners explaining their murders.

Since January of 2007, there have been an estimated 28,228 drug-war related deaths in Mexico. Notice they are not drug-related-- they drug-war related. Our prohibitionist policy, exported around the globe via treaty and trade agreements, has cost countless lives in our country and around the world. El Blog Del Narco is a remarkable source that brings home the unspeakable brutality of the consequences of our misguided moralist policy. That Proposition 19 went down to defeat Tuesday because people are afraid of the consequences of legalization would be laughable if it were not enabling further this ongoing tragedy.

This is Mexico on America's War on Drugs. Any questions?

bellum medicamenti delenda est

*I can't speak Spanish, and only can read it on a very basic level thanks to my fading acquaintance with Latin. I used the site's auto-translate and asked my wonderful girlfriend, Dara, to fill in the gaps.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What, there's a difference?

A funny website I just found about one of the pains of owning an iPhone: Damn You, Auto Correct.

But I don't get this one...

Tomato, to-mah-to.

bellum medicamenti delenda est.

Change: Ur Doin It Wrong

No, I'm not talking about Obama.

Even in last night's anti-incumbent "bloodbath," House incumbents had an 87% survival rate, roughly. That anyone thinks last night was a radical shift in our government is a damning indictment of the intelligence of the electorate and demonstrates an expectation to protect our professional liars class.

And these people are scared of "corporate money"--what the hell is it going to do? Knock the incumbency rate down to 84%?

Gimme a break.

bellum medicamenti delenda est.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vox Populi, Vox Humbug

Unsurprisingly, a lot of organizations went to the Restore Sanity rally in DC this past weekend and brought along video cameras--just as many people who came to the Tea Party rallies did. Even less surprisingly, they found a bunch of idiots...just like they did at the Tea Party rallies. In large groups of people, of any political or other persuasion, idiots are always in abundance.

Anyway, some vids are funnier than others. This vid was done by folks at the Second City Network:

After I posted it on my facebook page, my friend Libby put it up on hers with a note saying, with other similarly unflattering commentary, "There is no [gosh darn] country named "Keynesia."

Which got me thinking: there should be some sort of economics fable with a land called Keynesia. Or maybe a limerick:

There once was a land called Keynesia,
where all in the land had amnesia,
they spent all their money,
and wasn't it funny,
that nobody knows where it went?

*Headline stolen from William Tecumseh Sherman.

bellum medicamenti delenda est.

Random Thoughts for Today

I've decided to post some random musings for get-to-know-your-blogger purposes, but this is not a "link round up." There may be links, but usually it will be to clarify the comment for those who don't happen to know to what I am referring. Also, I don't plan on making this a daily thing because sometimes I don't have anything worthwhile to share with you and I don't want to force it.

Yes, for reasons I've explained before, I'm voting today. The Voting Rights Act passed in 1965...when my dad was 37 years old. (Call me sentimental.) Oh, and if someone posts pics of me from later tonight smiling, that's not joy--that's just deep-seated schadenfreude.

Congrats to the Giants on winning the World Series. As the champagne corks popped in San Fran, I'm sure Brian Cashman was on the phone with Cliff Lee's agent expressing his heartfelt condolences as Pink Floyd's "Money" was playing in the background. [insert evil laughter here.]

Say what you will about Donovan McNabb, on no planet and in no parallel universe is benching him for Rex Grossman a reasonable decision. I'm sure many Chicagoans were rushed to emergency rooms after falling off bar stools and laughing uncontrollably after seeing the substitution...and then the hit...and then the fumble...and then the touchdown.

bellum medicamenti delenda est.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cato's Botched-Raid Map

One of the most meaningful and inspiring works I've read since coming to DC was Radley Balko's Cato white paper, Overkill. It is an eye-opening work that helped inspire me to do the work and research on which I plan to make my career.

Subsequently, Radley and Cato developed an online map that chronicled the "isolated incidents" of raids-gone-wrong. While I and others have contributed to the project since Radley's move to reason (and happy subsequent return to Cato as an adjunct scholar), it is most certainly his baby--along with Cato web guru Lee Laslo--and all praise goes to them.

It is now embeddable on various websites. Please pass around.

View Original Map and Database

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Little Deductive Reasoning

When I was rather young, the higher functioning patients from the state hospital (read: mentally challenged folks) would go on bike rides around town, adorned with the reflective orange flag on the back. Years later, I realized that the orange flag represented "slow moving vehicle."

At the time, as a six year old with not yet developed deductive reasoning skills, I just thought the flags meant "I'm retarded."

Good thing I'm not growing up in Catalonia:

Women touting for customers on a rural highway outside Els Alamus near Lleida in Catalonia have been told to don the yellow fluorescent bibs or pay fines of 40 euros (£36) under road traffic laws.

Police claim the sex workers on the LL-11 road are not being specifically targeted because of what they do but because they posed a danger to drivers.

HT: Jesse Walker at reason.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Old and Busted: Situational Constitiutionalism

New hotness: Cafeteria Constitutionalism-- n. the act of selecting the parts of the Constitution that best support your worldview while ignoring those that preclude your policy preferences.

I was encouraged to stake my claim to the phrase. I happen to like it better than "Situational Constitutionalism" so consider the claim staked. but, alas, a quick google search and it seems I'm a few months too late.

I understand that this becomes a pretty weak blogpost, then,  so to make up for it I give you kittehs playing paddy cake:

Selective Outrage

I admit, as someone who loathes both the Republican and Democratic parties, it may be easier for me to be equally disgusted with the acts of each party and its respective adherents. Thus, when I saw this incident this morning, I was appalled that it happened and am even more angered by the fact that the thug who forcefully battered this woman with his foot is walking free right now.

It instantly brought to mind this incident from August 2009:

Political violence of this sort is inexcusable. Absolutely and unquestionably inexcusable. The perpetrators of both incidents should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Appropriately, the Left is rather outraged that this young woman was attacked. Thankfully, she only sustained minor injuries.

The same outrage was noticeably absent when Kenneth Gladney, the man in the second video, was thrown to the ground by union members/Russ Carnahan supporters in Missouri. While I grant showing up at later events in a wheelchair was probably indulgent, the only mention that the attack gets on TAPPED and ThinkProgress was to mock the later-debunked assertion that Gladney didn't have insurance. What a hilarious irony that a man roughed up at a health care reform event trying to sell Gadsden flag merch would be out of a job and without insurance! HA! (Subsequently, it appears, there are some in the Missouri NAACP who are supporting the defendants by calling Gladney an Uncle Tom. Lovely.)

Adding insult to injury, Jamelle Bouie decided to 'libertarian-punch' in his response today titled "Libertarians against dissent."

"In fairness," he writes, "we don't know if these supporters are libertarians." That's an odd title for someone trying to be "fair."

I don't know what Bouie thought of the Gladney situation, but the libertarian broad-brush is just offensive here. This is especially offensive because he lumps libertarians in with anti-gay, anti-Muslim folks that don't reflect libertarian values at all, in order to describe a handful of outwardly violent people. Usually, when people assign malicious tendencies to an entire group for the actions of a few (who may or may not actually be members of said group), we give it a name: prejudice. Hey, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe some of his best friends are libertarian.

Anyway, I'm not upset that the Left is outraged by this attack. They should be. We all should be. But the outrage should be directed at the violence of the attackers, not the ideological persuasion of anyone involved.

Monday, October 25, 2010

And a Silver Star for Prison Nurseries!

There is just so much wrong with this Northern Ohio editorial about a report on incarcerated women:
The report, released Thursday by the National Women's Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, analyzes policies in three areas — prenatal care, shackling of pregnant women during childbirth, and community-based alternatives to incarceration enabling mothers to be with their children.

Only one state, Pennsylvania, received an A. Ohio received a C, scoring a D in prenatal care, a D in shackling policies and an A in community-based alternatives. Ohio also earned a B for its prison nurseries.
Let's put aside the awfulness of reading a sentence that "also" gives a letter grade to a prison nursery system and discuss the "alternatives to incarceration." Here's an alternative: let's try eliminating mandatory minimums:
As a backdrop to its findings, the report noted the number of women in prison — more than 115,000 as of 2009 — has risen at a higher rate than that of men since the introduction of mandatory sentencing policies for many drug offenses. It said most of the women are nonviolent, first-time offenders, and about two-thirds have at least one child under 18. (emphasis mine)
Put two and two together: legislative overreach into the judicial branch has authorized the government to put shackles on non-violent first-time offenders giving birth to children. In what bizarro world is this considered humane? What kind of society does this to a woman?

Well, the News-Herald has an original idea to prevent these situations: Just say "no":
While we support greater accountability and consistency, and while we don't feel women should be shackled to the extent they suffer lasting hip and back injuries while giving birth, as an Arkansas women alleges in a lawsuit, we feel the better way for mothers to avoid these problems is simply to stay out of prison in the first place.

Certainly a pregnant woman's health — and the health of her child — should be accounted for, but ultimately, incarcerated mothers are in the situation they're in because they committed a crimefor which they knew there would be consequences. (emphases added; smug contempt for justice in original.)
Shorter News-Herald: Well, so long as the shackles allow certain leeway so as to prevent injury, we see nothing wrong with treating a woman giving birth with less respect than we would give an animal in a zoo.

The 'crime ergo punishment' argument is as weak as it is tired. Yes, if you commit a crime, you can expect punishment if caught. This does not mean that any and all punishments are acceptable for any given crime.

There is a genuine and disturbing disconnect in this country between those who believe in blind justice, as I do, and those who believe that law and order should be blind to justice.

Photo courtesy of Jane Evelyn Atwood; used without permission.

That someone is labeled a "convict" or a "criminal" is not license to treat them inhumanely. This is even more true for those who have violated laws that are themselves unjust--as most of our drug laws and sentencing laws are.

bellum medicamenti delenda est.

Quick Comment on Juan Williams Fiasco

I don't listen to NPR. I don't watch FoxNews. As far as I can tell, Juan got canned by one organization of stunning hypocrites to work for another organization full of stunning hypocrites. Meanwhile, hypocrites unaffiliated with either NPR or FoxNews are being stunningly hypocritical when discussing the matter.

Admittedly, if I watched as much FoxNews as Juan presumably does, I'd probably be irrationally afraid of Muslims too.

Mood Music Monday

Just because it was stuck in my head this morning:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I will never get tired of reading Ta-Nehisi Coates

Growing up where I did, there was a different code you lived by; and a different way you handled yourself and those who challenged you. I didn't grow up in Baltimore, as Ta-Nehisi did, but the principle (though certainly not the level of violence) is the same. This later incident is reminiscent of how a confrontation might go down:
The gentleman kept after me, even following me out the tent, and by this point, taunting.

At the door of the tent, and I looked at him and said, "You really need to back off." 

He looked back and said, "Or what." 

I closed in on him, and quietly but seriously, responded, "You really want to find out?" 

 He walked back inside. 
I was recently recounting to someone how I threw a football player up against a concrete wall for cutting in front of me in the lunch line in high school. He could have easily beaten my ass, but my gambit worked. But the projection of violence was essential to that moment--that "don't fuck with me" moment--after I had finally, after so many years of being picked on, attained enough self-confidence to stand up for myself. I was proud of that moment, and would do it again--if I was back in my high school.

TNC's latest gem about the stupidity of his moment in 2008 screams Truth to me. "Civil" society, where fistfights aren't commonplace and projections of power are exhibited by displays of earned (or, just as often, inherited) professional and educational status, will not tolerate the behavior that separated the "men" from the "punks" back home. Now, though I have been away from that life for a decade and a half, the temptation remains. But wisdom and forethought win out, because they have to. Those of us without Ivy League credentials and trust funds to fall back on don't get to bounce back like they do. I can't take a swing at someone just because they deserve it--and trust me, they do--because I am living my one chance. I got out, and I'm not going back.

If you want to get into the mind of a kid made good, you have to read this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Adam Serwer takes exception to Dave Weigel's belief that the Dems' latest bugaboo--funding for the Chamber of Commerce--basically boils down to the message "foreign = bad."
I'm not on the SCARY FOREIGN MONEY train, but like Antonin frickin' Scalia, I think democracy works best when people are publicly accountable for their political speech, that anonymity under these circumstances undermines civic responsibility, and that the First Amendment protects your freedom to speak and doesn't confer a freedom not to be criticized, particularly if you're an individual with the means to spend millions to swing the outcome of a political contest. Who is saying something, and who is paying them to say it, matters.
I wonder how far Serwer thinks this 'transparency' should go. Where is the line--by which I mean legal standard--drawn?  Is it just particularly widespread or effective political speech? What if IOZ becomes insanely popular, a la Glenn Beck, and launches effective rants against a candidate? Should we then compel him to reveal himself and all his sources of income? I don't think so.

There is nothing in the Constitution that requires, or even suggests, that people should reveal their identities when engaging in political speech.

Indeed, the suggestion that they should would have been rather odd coming from that Publius guy.

Look, I'm all for government transparency and we need a lot more of it.  Freedom of speech is one of our most cherished rights and disclosure requirements can act as a preemptive chill on speakers. Despite the opinions of Mr. Serwer and Justice Scalia, our democracy has worked just fine when we don't know exactly who is saying what. Speech should be judged for its content and not necessarily for the identities of its speakers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why I'm Not a 'Feminist'

Via Ta-Nehisi Coates, E.J. Graff's commentary from Slate's navel-gazing on the use of the label "feminist" :
Who gets to be a feminist? It's the wrong question. And debating it leads to the wrong answers. Identity labels always mislead. 

They don't disclose the contents of the bottle; they proclaim that the bottle is powerful, meaningful, and important. Debates over who gets to wear those labels are tribal battles about who runs the group and who gets to patrol its borders, about who holds power. Declaring that someone is--or isn't--"really" white, black, Jewish, Christian, radical, conservative--or feminist--says nothing about the value of particular policies, ideas, or goals... 

Here's the debate I believe is genuinely worth having: What would full equality look like--and what do we have to do to get there?

I think including ethnic groups muddies the point a bit, but in the main I think this is exactly right. Anyone who believes that Glenn Beck is an actual heir to the mantle of Martin Luther King, has deeper problems that can not be corrected by fiddling with labels.

Because I am for equal rights for all people, I refer to myself as a "classical liberal" or "libertarian"; and while I understand that activists who concentrate on certain issues feel they need to label themselves as specifically interested in issues of a certain gender, race or other identity/classification, I think the specialization obscures the point of freedom and equality generally. I am a black man and a libertarian, but I am not a 'black libertarian' as a political identity or focus.

But 'feminist,' as a word, bothers me.  I'm not a 'homosexualist' because I believe in full and unfettered rights of gays (not to mention the diversity of queer identities not encapsulated in the term). I don't like the term "straight ally" because that perpetuates the ubiquitous war metaphor and accepts a barrier between straights and gays (or other queer identifications) when the whole point is equality. (This is the same tension present in the 'colorblind society' versus 'accept me as a black person and all that entails' narratives, but that's another story.) I just am more concerned with the views and laws that prevent equality and justice and less concerned with nominally identifying myself in relation to specific injustices.

Look, if you want to call me a feminist, fine. I liken it to "African-American" --it's not a term that I use for myself or others, for various reasons, but I'm not offended by it. It's just a preference.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Just for Fun Friday: Baseball Edition

Not to rub it in to Mets fans, but I saw this last week and thought it was absolutely hilarious. (If you don't follow baseball, this will not really do much for you. Sorry 'bout that.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Unintended Consequences of Immigration Enforcement

One of the recurring tropes I hear from the anti-immigrant folks is that undocumented immigrants get in car accidents and have no insurance, thus costing innocent, responsible drivers money by forcing out-of-pocket payments for damages or consequent higher premiums, due to no fault of their own. While I can certainly empathize with the people who feel 'cheated' by these folks, they should actually be blaming the system.

Why? Because the enforcement mechanisms in place in many states forbid undocumented immigrants to have drivers' licenses, thus rendering them ineligible to purchase auto insurance. Given that 'driving while undocumented' has become a deportable offense, one can assume that many of the hardworking immigrants who risked so much to get here would pay a few bucks a month to drive legally and pay for inadvertent damage their mistake may have caused.

It's good to see this story making headlines, finally. Kudos to WaPo for covering it, albeit too late for the CIR battle.

Moron More On One Nation

My former boss Nick Gillespie pokes around the One Nation rally:

Takeaways: Dick Gregory is out of his damned mind. Julian Bond says he hasn't seen 'too much government' yet. (What?!?!?) AFL-CIO head sez 'Bailouts For Me, but not for Thee.' Ed Shultz of MSNBC says of racism in the Tea Parties "look at their signs"--one wonders if he would appreciate the same broad-brushed treatment.

Goose, Gander, and Whatnot

So I'm going through my Twitter feed this morning and a conservative IU alum I follow retweeted the following video from Americans for Prosperity. Now, I would imagine the title of the video is misleading, but no more misleading than the accusations that racism 'dominates' the heart of the Tea Parties. You see, when you get thousands of people together, you're gonna have a certain number of crazies that seem to justify the worst fears of the march's opponents.

Granted, the racists at the Tea Parties aren't this organized.

I'm not saying the Left's agenda is avowedly Socialist, as the economically illiterate morons in this video evidently are. I'm just saying before you get on your high horse and start accusing one side of being one thing because a braying yahoo holds up a sign, it doesn't mean that everyone around them buys into their nonsense.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

So The Nation recently published its list of "The Fifty Most Influential Progressives of the Twentieth Century." Regardless of your political leanings, the list is certainly debatable. (I may write more on some of their selections later.) But one of the last paragraphs of the introduction to the list struck me as offensively off-base:
A few of the people on the list expressed views, at some point in their lives, that progressives consider objectionable, such as Margaret Sanger's endorsement of eugenics, Earl Warren's support for rounding up Japanese-Americans during World War II, Bayard Rustin's support for the Vietnam War and Jackie Robinson's attack on Paul Robeson. They made mistakes, which may be understandable in historical context, but which should be acknowledged as part of their lives and times.
Now, it must be mentioned that Jackie did testify before McCarthy's the House Un-American Activities Committee. That's a big deal. But here's some background on exactly went down:

More here.

What, pray tell, do you suppose would have happened if some uppity nigger baseball player told HUAC, by way of polite declination, to shove it's "invitation"? Yet somehow, this action--the reluctant testimony to separate the fight for racial equality from the looming specter of communism--is mentioned in the same sentence with support for a war that killed over a million soldiers and civilians, Margaret Sanger's enthusiastic genocidal attachment to Eugenics and throwing thousands of American citizens into detention camps for their ethnicity. (Without mentioning FDR's role in it, no less.)

This "attack" was mentioned again in Robinson's profile--as was Warren's culpability in the Japanese internment in his own--but Rustin's and Sanger's "mistakes" are stricken from their laudatory bios. Apparently, to Professor Dreier and The Nation's editors, an effectively coerced statement that illustrates differing civil rights approaches--while maintaining the shared contempt of the United States' criminal and unconstitutional discrimination policies--reflects as poorly on Jackie Robinson as the racist dedication of Margaret Sanger and authorizing the false imprisonment of over 100,000 innocent people.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Just for Fun Friday: Triumphant Return Edition

Hey all. Sorry about the hiatus. My busy time is over, so I'm starting up my research and writing again. This will probably make the blog a little more focused on criminal justice issues, but I hope to still keep it entertaining for the rest of you too.

Anyway, courtesy of  Julian's twitter feed, I give you a collection of animated gifs and music mashups. The audio isn't safe for work, unless melodic F-bombs are cool at your job. Most of the video is safe, though you will see a canine sexually assault a plush toy. You've been warned.

Hopefully I'll have some decent content up next week. Til then, enjoy.

Cache Rules Everything Around Me from Evan Roth on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stare Decisis: Latin for "Because We Said So"

I was writing another post about "situational constitutionalism" and one of the links I was going to use was Justice Scalia's scathing dissent* from the 1992 abortion case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. I found myself no longer wanting to write the post because Scalia does such a marvelous job deconstructing the plurality's incoherent stare decisis argument that Casey upholds the constitutionality of Roe while it simultaneously guts everything substantive in the opinion. Re-reading it brought back memories of Con Law back at IU--and of a Scalia I admired so much more than I do now.

That said, I have three things to mention before linking to the opinion:

First, I am personally "pro-choice" and legal abortion is my policy preference, for a number of reasons. There is nothing inconsistent with Scalia's dissent and holding these positions because I don't believe abortion access should be a federal matter, for reasons Scalia explains better than I could.

Second, part of the inspiration for this post still requires mentioning, especially in the context of policy assertions divorced from reality: referring to abortion clinics as "reproductive centers" is enough to make Orwell proud. There is no doubt that Ms. Lithwick is not the first person to have used this insultingly absurd misnomer, but I read it and nearly suffered ocular strain from the eyeroll it induced.

Third, I wish the Scalia who wrote this opinion was present in the McDonald decision. Instead, we got a conservative hiding behind insults to the legal academy to capitulate sell-out to substantive due process; proof in a black robe that the Right, just as easily as the Left, can lack the intellectual honesty to be constitutionally consistent.

Unfortuately, I couldn't find a PDF of the slip opinion that isn't behind a pay wall, so HTML will have to do.

*Technically, it's a concurrence in part and a dissent in part, but the text makes pretty clear that Nino isn't being very agreeable.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mood Music Monday

If livin' was actually easy, it wouldn't be almost 11PM before I posted my Mood Music Monday--but it just came on my iTunes and it's a great song. The embedded video could have used a spell check, but spelling isn't really the point, now is it? Enjoy--I hope to post something substantive soon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Systemic Unfairness of the Criminal Justice System

A rich man railroaded by an unconstitutional law reflects on his 28 months in federal prison:

It had been an interesting experience, from which I developed a much greater practical knowledge than I had ever had before of those who had drawn a short straw from the system; of the realities of street level American race relations; of the pathology of incorrigible criminals; and of the wasted opportunities for the reintegration of many of these people into society. I saw at close range the failure of the U.S. War on Drugs, with absurd sentences, (including 20 years for marijuana offences, although 42% of Americans have used marijuana and it is the greatest cash crop in California.) A trillion dollars have been spent, a million easily replaceable small fry are in prison, and the targeted substances are more available and of better quality than ever, while producing countries such as Colombia and Mexico are in a state of civil war.

I had seen at close range the injustice of sentences one hundred times more severe for crack cocaine than for powder cocaine, a straight act of discrimination against African-Americans, that even the first black president and attorney general have only ameliorated with tepid support for a measure, still being debated, to reduce the disparity of sentence from 100 to one to 18 to one.

And I had heard the vehement allegations of many fellow residents of the fraudulence of the public defender system, where court-appointed lawyers, it is universally and plausibly alleged, are more often than not stooges of the prosecutors. They are paid for the number of clients they represent rather than for their level of success, and they do usually plead their clients to prison. They provide a thin veneer for the fable of the poor citizen’s day in court to receive impartial justice through due process.

And I had the opportunity to see why the United States has six to twelve times as many incarcerated people as other prosperous democracies, (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom), how the prison industry grew, and successfully sought more prisoners, longer sentences, and maximal possibilities of probation violations and a swift return to custody.

Before I got into the maw of the U.S. legal system, I did not realize the country has 47 million people with a criminal record, (most for relatively trivial offenses,) or that prosecutors won more than 90% of their cases. There, at Coleman, I had seen the courage of self-help, the pathos of broken men, the drawn faces of the hopeless, the glazed expression of the heavily medicated, (90% of Americans judged to require confinement for psychiatric reasons are in the prison system), and the nonchalance of those who find prison a comfortable welfare system compared to the skid row that was their former milieu. America’s 2.4 million prisoners, and millions more awaiting trial or on supervised release, are an ostracized, voiceless legion of the walking dead; they are no one’s constituency.

The whole thing, very much worth the read, here.

UPDATE: I should mention that I don't endorse everything Mr. Black says in the piece and I think he is guilty of over-generalization, especially painting public defenders as "in league" with the prosecutors. I think the PD system needs serious adjustment, as does the plea bargaining process. I stand by my encouragement to read it, but not without a critical eye. -JPB

Friday, July 23, 2010

Post: Racial.

I've been hesitant to weigh in on the numerous stories discussing "racism" that have pervaded my Google Reader and Twitter feed this week, but I'm so incredibly angry that I have to get it off my chest. I saw a teaser on CNN Thursday asking "Who is to blame for the Shirley Sherrod controversy?" Frankly, I'm blaming everybody.

First, shame on the NAACP for their inane stunt condemning "racism" in the Tea Parties. (This should be viewed with only slightly more seriousness than their last major pointless condemnation--burying the N-word.) Yeah, racists show up to Tea Party rallies. Yeah, a lot of tea partiers are pretty clueless on race issues--as are a lot of people. What the hell does that have to do with anything? It's not part of their platform. It's a convenient distraction that maligns them in order to obscure their actual message.

The Tea Parties are a decentralized group of people of divergent interests who generally oppose the president's policies. I am not a Tea Partier, I think they're misguided on a lot of issues, but I am certainly sympathetic to some of their objectives. That some of them are ignorant bigots is no surprise to me, but the vast majority of them are average folks who could probably not care less what color the president is. You get thousands of people together in any sort of group and I can find you fringe idiots with offensive signage. Does the Tea Party crowd have more than most, at least in terms of racial insensitivity? Perhaps, but it's not as if anyone can revoke someone else's membership in a national club that doesn't exist.

What the NAACP did was foolish and inflammatory. They could have, as Rachel Maddow did Wednesday night, come up with a bunch of evidence that Fox, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and so many others are intentionally race-baiting, and condemned that. But no, they went after a decentralized group of mostly white people and, effectively, called them "racists."*

Now, I know as well as anyone that no word, and I mean NO WORD, in the English language has the emotive power of "nigger." The history, the resentment, the hate, the anger that it elicits is simply and unquestionably unmatched in the context of American society. That said, I can't think of a word that puts white people on the defensive as quickly and angrily as "racist." It's a tag so vile that it hits them like a slap in the face, because they now have to defend themselves against a charge that attacks their thoughts and feelings--their very nature. How does one go about proving or disproving that? ("Some of my best friends are black," has become a mocking trope about white people dodging the accusation, with good reason.) Even if the claim is accurate, such an acerbic accusation precludes any reasonable discussion from that point on.

This is because no one thinks of himself as a racist. Not even David Duke. But when "racist" is used, Duke comes to mind. Bull Connor. George Wallace. The Klan. They're racists, to be sure. Yet, they are mostly relics of the old, explicit racism--not the implicit, institutional, or otherwise veiled racism that still pervades society. (Yes, Virginia, there is still racism all around you.) Which is where many white people, I think, get lost. They think of fire hoses and dogs; black men hanging from trees. We think of those too, but also clutched purses, hopeless job interviews and denied loan applications. We think of living through "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" nights and nigger jokes. We think of Willie Horton ads and monkey t-shirts. Those too are, or can be, evidence of racism, but of a more insidious kind.

Given all that, the preeminent organization representing black interests in America effectively called a large group of white people "racist."  In response, at least one prominent member of the Tea Party reacted to the charge--with a wretched "satire" that seemed to prove the NAACP's point. I cannot and will not defend the man for his vile response, but that he reacted bitterly to a perceived attack should surprise no one. (Consequently, he and his organization, the Tea Party Express, were purged from at least one Tea Party coalition group, and rightfully so.)

Predictably, Andrew Breitbart lashed out and released a severely edited video of a speech at a NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet Dinner--oddly enough, I was awarded** a small FFBD scholarship by the IU chapter--by Ms. Shirley Sherrod, an appointed bureaucrat, recounting a time where she let her prejudices get the better of her. Even in the original release, it appeared to me that it was past tense, and her comment about it not being about it not about "black or white" issues, but rather the plight of the "poor," further cemented that she was being reflecting with remorse over her actions.

That said, I thought her use of "his own kind" to describe the lawyers to whom she took the white farmer she wronged, made her firing, if not warranted, unsurprising.

The rest of the tape was eventually released, and it turns out that my initial thoughts about her intent were correct. People then fell all over themselves to rush to her defense--some in much more reverential terms than I think were due her--and she's since been offered a new job in the Department of Agriculture.

Thus, my Google Reader was full of blogposts like the one linked above (though most were not as well-written). My Twitter feed lit up with condemnations of the Administration's actions and the NAACP's disavowal of her, then the reaction to the White House and NAACP retractions, and on and on as the story unfolded. Then the Right started in on the NAACP's audience in the video (a smattering of whom were audibly clapping at some of the more unseemly parts of her story) with more accusations of...racism.

So these are the people having the 'national conversation' on race? It would be just as productive for them to have a national conversation on astrophysics.

I went to bed Wednesday night annoyed, but mostly past the anger that had been welling up in me as I read this mindless and sickening back-and-forth. I came to work Thursday and a colleague sent me a link to a WaPo blog entry titled:

Shirley Sherrod blasts Fox News as racist

God. Damn. It.

The money quote, from the interview she gave to Media Matters:
"They were looking for the result they got yesterday," [Sherrod] said of Fox. "I am just a pawn. I was just here. They are after a bigger thing, they would love to take us back to where we were many years ago. Back to where black people were looking down, not looking white folks in the face, not being able to compete for a job out there and not be a whole person." (emphasis mine)
That's right. Fox News wants to bring back Jim Crow. Now, I'm no fan of FNC, and certainly not of Glenn Beck or his ilk, but this is just absurd. Are there racists at Fox News? Yeah, probably. (I wouldn't put it past MSNBC either.) There are certainly race-baiters, as shown in the Maddow clip linked to above, but I don't think for one second that Fox is a cabal of racist neo-segregationists trying to return to the days of crippling racial separation. This is hyperbolic nonsense that just makes matters worse.

As much as I used to respect the NAACP, it has, indeed, fallen from its once-proud heights. And, certainly, I think it could still play a vital role in making our society a better place, if it were only inclined to do so. But engaging the amorphous Tea Parties by singling them out for racism was, in its own right, baiting them. That is not constructive--as we have seen over the past few days--as accusations of racism are traded back-and-forth by windbags, bloggers, the Twitterati, and government officials, all trying to make themselves look good as they crawl out of this cesspool of racial animosity.

This is not to say the NAACP should be wary of white backlash when they are standing for something important, but it shouldn't look to provoke antipathy with a symbolic political gesture tinged with loaded language either. They should be better than that. This is not "advancement."

And let it be clear, while the NAACP's proclamation was the catalyst for this, everyone involved deserves a large amount of blame: Breitbart for irresponsibly releasing an edited video out of context and writing a damning blogpost to accompany it (find it yourself, I'm not linking it here); that ridiculous Tea Party Express [idiot] who wrote the 'letter to Lincoln' in a shocking display of callow ignorance and racial insensitivity; the bloggers and Twitterers (of all political stripes) who were all over this story with self-righteous indignation as they leapt, fingers pointed, into the fray; the Administration and the Ag Department for jumping the gun and making a decision without finding out the facts, and yes, Shirley Sherrod for her poor choice of words and subsequent hyperbolic accusations against Fox News, who can and should be rebuked for so much of what they actually believe and put on the air.

It's all a disgusting mess, and we're all covered in it.

*I understand their disclaimer that they "take no issue with the Tea Party movement." Yet, given the title of their press release and separate references to unnamed racist "leaders," "elements," and "factions," the accusation was directed a broad and undefined target. The awful incidents, though their veracity has since been called into question--most famously by Andrew Breitbart's $100,000 bounty for evidence that they occurred--had already been condemned by GOP leadership and, ironically, the now disgraced Tea Party Express. Furthermore, that those incidents were perpetrated by racist "leaders" or "factions" has, to my knowledge, not even been alleged, let alone substantiated.

**In 2004, I won a $300 scholarship from the Indiana University chapter of the NAACP for an essay on overcoming adversity to get back into school. I was unable to attend the dinner because I couldn't get my shift off at work, and I never actually received the money. I followed up once, but to no avail. The honor was, and is, more important to me than the $300, despite my ongoing disappointment with the national organization.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It seems Texas education wasn't working that well before... you shouldn't judge Congresspeople by their alma maters

I present Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), national embarrassment:

Someone get this idiot a map and a history book please.

UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that Rep. Jackson-Lee went to Yale, and in confirming this it turns out she's also a grad of UVA Law...and Jamaica High School in Queens, NY. So, apparently, she's a carpetbagging Yankee and not a product of Texas's school system. Apologies to the Lone Star State for the mix-up.

Burying the Lede

So I'm doing my usual morning news round-up for work, checking out the major papers' headlines and features, and when I get to the LA Times, I come across, "L.A. County sheriff says budget cuts have slowed agency's analysis of drug evidence."

Now, for those who don't share my opinions regarding legalization may read this and just think that Los Angeles needs to get its budgetary house in order (which, of course, it does). But at the end of the story, where many people never manage to reach (such is the fate of most news stories), are these troubling revelations (my emphasis):

Sheriff's officials say cost-saving measures have put them on track to meet their budget-reduction goals — but not without sacrifice. Restrictions on overtime, for example, were shown last month to have significantly slowed fingerprint collection and analysis, often resulting in the destruction of potentially vital evidence.

The lag has delayed dozens of homicide investigations. It's also forced burglary victims to wait longer to have their homes or cars fingerprinted. In May, more than 120 burglary victims decided they couldn't continue preserving the crime scene, calling the Sheriff's Department to cancel fingerprinting altogether.

Cuts have also affected air support, according to Baca's report, with more than 150 requests from patrol units on the ground going unanswered during a two-week span in June.
Clearly, it's more important to spend so much time and resources on consensual exchange and personal drug use than it is to allocate basic services to victims of robbery and murder.

To be fair, some of the drug charges are probably tied to other more serious crimes, but that is not apparent in the thrust of the story, nor would most of those crimes ever be committed if it weren't for drug prohibition enforcement in the first place. What gets me about this story is not simply the police department's priorities, but that the implicit acceptance of those priorities, resulting in the 'oh by the way, murder and burglary cases are growing cold too.' If it was your house that was robbed--and your sense of security shattered--or your loved one dead at the hands of another human being, how would you feel about your case being discarded or delayed to pursue unrelated, non-violent drug busts?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Quick Comment on LeBron

For my sports fan readers:

I don't watch the NBA. I grew up watching it, but haven't been invested in a team since Sir Charles retired. I may get into the reasons why at another time, but suffice it to say that I could not have cared less where LeBron James chose to play.

The way he did it, however, was nauseating.

How nauseating? That a lifelong Red Sox fan unfavorably compared LeBron to Roger Clemens. It's hard to explain the depth of disgust that Boston feels for the Rocket, but part one is a pretty good explanation. The whole post is worth the read, but the comments/mailbag is just...well. You should at least skim it for the Cleveland(er? ite?) comments.

Pro tip on image: If whatever you do makes someone like Kobe Bryant look humble by comparison, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Colin McLain, RIP

With a certain amount of regularity, I write about the deaths of celebrities and other people who have influenced me over the course of my life. While their lives were meaningful to me superficially, their deaths are but margin notes in my life. Today is different.

With a heavy heart, I write to honor a friend and former colleague: Colin McLain.

Undoubtedly, Colin and I were not as close as some as our other friends and colleagues. As I have written before, I detest people who try to bring undue attention to themselves in times of tragedy so I refuse to embellish my relationship with him for sympathy. His parents, close friends, and extended family are infinitely more deserving of whatever sympathy or prayers you may deem appropriate, so please do not mistake this post as a plea for pity or condolences.

Nevertheless, hearing about Colin's passing today was a wounding shock to me, and to anyone who knew him. Our mutual friend Caleb put it well: "Colin McLain was smart, witty, curious, relaxed, fun and skeptical. I will miss him." I would add that he was exuberant, charismatic, and generous, and I will always remember his wonderfully wry sense of humor. 

I am normally loath to use the term "tragedy," as I tend to think of events as generally unfortunate, or otherwise just sad. But Colin's death, at age 25, was indeed a tragic loss for everyone fortunate enough to have known him. I remain convinced that he was going to do great and amazing things in his life, no matter what he ended up doing professionally. He was a magnetic and dynamic young man. I'm going to miss him and forever wonder what could have been for him.

My heart goes out to his family for their loss. I can only imagine their terrible grief.

Colin McLain, R.I.P.

Photo courtesy of Colin's family, by way of KFVS12 Heartland News.

A Modest Proposal Compromise

There is a growing concern that the benefits of citizenship are too broadly given to undesirables children born in this country of non-citizen parents. Further, there is another concern that those who are accused of taking-up arms against their country, or aiding those who do, should have their citizenship revoked without trial or proof of treasonable acts. To address both of these issues, may I suggest a compromise: combine the two, and make them retroactive to 1860. After all, this is a matter of national security and one cannot be too careful.

As you may recall, beginning in 1860, millions of Americans renounced their citizenship and took up arms against their former country. Their deeds, through direct confrontation or diseases brought on by wartime conditions, ended up in the deaths of over 300,000 loyal Americans--100 times the number killed on September 11, 2001. By the logic outlined above, that treason should be recognized and all the descendants of those who took up arms, aided their traitorous comrades, or participated in the government of the insurrectionists should have their citizenship revoked as they are progeny of traitors. They owe their heretofore recognized citizenship to the birthright. That is, of course, unacceptable.

These descendants often still fly the flag of treason and commemorate their forebears' disloyalty in numerous ways. Thus, the combined legislation should include the confiscation and destruction of all property bearing the treasonous flag, including but not exclusive to real estate, monuments, clothing, transportation, and music--so we can once and for all rid the nation of "Freebird."

This may be problematic for many so-called Americans. As we cannot let the fact that perhaps 12 million workers are here in the United States illegally dissuade us from deportations and other law enforcement efforts, millions of descendants of those who would tear apart our nation should get no different treatment. The American birthright to citizenship has allowed children of murderous traitors to grow up around us. Thus, for those white people individuals under reasonable suspicion of traitorous descent, documentation of legal immigration and/or non-traitorous bloodline shall be required by law enforcement officers. (All current law enforcement and other government employees will have to provide this paperwork to remain gainfully employed by the state.)

We are not savages, so let us make sure that all the illegal traitor descendants may apply for citizenship through the proper legal channels. They may start at the back of the line, just like every other non-citizen who wants to be an American. That they're here illegally and contributing to society is not a valid excuse for skirting the law. The law is the law, and it's not fair to all those who have waited for years to come here legally, that some simply being present is enough to grant immunity. It's not like we told their great-great grandfathers to take up arms against their own country.

Slave descendants whose lineage can be traced to slaveholders predating emancipation, of course, would be exempted. Questionable cases and all other challenges will go through the newly formed Bureau of American Integrity, which will be overseen by a non-partisan board made up of genealogists, Native American chiefs, and angry black studies professors.

Some may complain that these measures are too harsh and unconstitutional. To them, I say, everything changed on April 12, 1861.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mood Music Monday

I think you probably know why...

Today is going to be busy with the Kagan hearings and the last (and most important, in many respects) SCOTUS cases of the term being released, so I don't know if I'll get to eulogize ol' Bobby Byrd today. If I don't, suffice it to say that I shed no tears.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

In Defense of Dave Weigel

Full Disclosure: Dave Weigel and I are friendly former colleagues. I don't know about "friends," per se--but I helped him move once, with Matt Yglesias (!!) inter alia, and we usually exchange a few words when we see each other out. So, while this may be biased, I'd say much the same thing about journos I don't know at all or as well, like Ezra Klein, Spencer Ackerman or even, gasp, Yglesias.

So, there is an off-the-record listserv known as Journolist--not surprisingly, made up of journalists. Now, if there is a group of people outside of the government who better understand what "off the record" means, it's friggin' journalists. Yet, someone on the list has decided to leak an off the record rant of Dave's to a gossip site.

I think anyone who cares about their job--which would be a majority of the people I know in this town--is going to be upset from time to time with the work they do and the reactions to it. We are passionate people who moved to this city to, if you'll pardon the cliche, make a difference. Dave is a serious and dedicated journalist who is good at what he does--and is attacked by all sides for it. Beyond my personal affection for him, I respect the hell out of what he does and how he does it.

God forbid if any of the many off-the-record conversations I've been party to in this town were ever to become public. People share emotional responses to stressful stuff all the time. Some vents are rational, others are hyperbolic overreactions to a set of circumstances, often well-beyond the subject of a particular rant. Sometimes you're just so pissed you let loose a stream of verbal bile that would offend most people out of context--but is understood (or at least, forgiven) among your own. This is what, I imagine, Dave felt Journolist was good for.

He was obviously wrong to trust them, and shame on them for it.

Predictably, WaPo commenters are having a field day at Dave's expense--and I would bet in no small part because there are thousands of people who have "Paultard" in their Google Alerts just so they can pounce on any (virtual) utterance defaming the great and powerful Ron. Sigh.

The point is, we need more journalists like Dave and much less of the gossipy nonsense he's fallen victim to.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mood Music Monday

Forgive the tardiness. Working on a bunch of stuff today. Should have a real post up Tuesday.

This was inspired by an ex-roomie's post on facebook, an episode of CSI:LA...and because I'm a tall light-skinned brotha with dimples.

Yes, the vid is corny, but he was 19. Give him a break.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Just for Fun Friday: World Cup Edition


Reactionary Imbecility

One of the dangers of working at a place like Cato is living with a constant target on your back. Any time you do something that can possibly be construed the wrong way, chances are it will be -- and often very publicly. This just happened to a colleague last night after he tweeted something with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.

Predictably, Think Progress went ape:
Michael Cannon, a health policy expert for Cato, the libertarian think tank founded by Charles Koch of the oil conglomerate Koch Industries, took to Twitter today to trade jokes about the oil spill. Responding to a tragic story about a New Orleans area sheriff asking federal authorities to investigate reports that undocumented workers are involved in the oil spill clean up, Cannon tweeted that undocumented workers “are very absorbent.”...While Cannon might have gotten a good laugh out of his comment, pervasive anti-immigrant rhetoric leads to dehumanization and sometimes violence.
Never mind that Charles Koch is no longer associated with Cato. Never mind that Cannon has previously tweeted about the unfair and racist anti-immigrant law in Arizona. And never mind that the person he was responding to is herself a child of an immigrant and is a grandchild of Japanese internment camp victims--camps, of course, established by heroic lefty icon Franklin Roosevelt. No, we at Cato are racist shills for big oil because we believe in private property and free markets. We are fully incapable of holding views in line with the Left and joking at the expense of irrational sheriffs who make headlines with their idiocy. We are evil people whom deserve no benefit of the doubt--or even simple fact-checking our policy stances.(PDF)

Kudos to Dave Weigel for debunking this baseless nonsense over at his WaPo blog.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mood Music Monday

I really need to get "Motown 25" on DVD--(is it even available?). If you're not old enough to remember this show, you really should look into it. It was amazing.

Oh, and this was the first time most of America had ever seen the 'Moonwalk.' For anyone interested in pop culture/history, this entire event was remarkable.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You can't be serious...

Teaser from Washington
After Gores, is there hope for us?
Al and Tipper's split doesn't just make us sad. It means that maybe we can't succeed in marriage.
I refuse to click through and read it, mainly because I'm not a ridiculous naïf who looks to professional prudes and liars to give my life meaning.

Gimme a f'n break.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Major Andy Olmsted, RIP

I've linked to this before, but I read it again recently and have no doubt it is worth sharing again as we head into this Memorial Day weekend.

All the background is in the post, but this is a moving farewell from a soldier and blogger killed in Iraq in January 2008. If you haven't read it yet, you should. If you have, read it again.

Andy Olmsted, RIP

Just for Fun Friday


Via my friend Carrie. Full link here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Just for Fun Friday

Today is Pac-Man's 30th birthday. In honor of that, here is an interview with the little yellow hero of my youth.


H/T Dara Lind

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Situational Constitutionalism: Jurisdiction of Federal Judiciary

Predictably--and certainly not without warrant--the Left is now attacking last night's GOP victor for Kentucky's vacated Senate seat, Rand (son of Ron) Paul. One of the sticking points, as explained by TAP's Adam Serwer, is Paul's desire to restrict the federal judiciary from hearing abortion cases:
He also wants to offer legislation "restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade."

Yeah, that sounds constitutional.
Unfortunately, it very well may be.

Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution clearly states:

The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;--between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make. (emphasis added)
Whether we like it or not--and I, for one, don't--Congress's authority to limit federal jurisdiction is explicit in the text of the Constitution and thus has the full force of law. Though the "least dangerous branch" of our federal system, the Judiciary is nevertheless limited by a hefty Congressional check on its authority.

That Congress has not often acted to reduce the scope of federal jurisdiction is a testament to the reverence our system typically pays to the Judiciary. But no less important is the political cost that any Congress would be forced to pay if it overstepped its conventional prerogatives, even if they acted within their legal capacity. Between the political pressure and the sort of gentlemen's agreement between Congress and the Court, unpopular SCOTUS decisions tend to be sustained, or contravened only at the margins. This is certainly not the most secure way to maintain the Court's independence--trusting politicians to be responsible--but it seems to be enough to be a large enough counterweight to aggressive overreach when combined with Congressional electoral self-interest.

I engaged Mr. Serwer on this issue before and after my lunch break, and at one point he wrote:
[I]t would make the bill of rights irrelevant if you could strip the court's authority to review cases involving them
This is not actually true. The Court has ruled that where it has original jurisdiction and explicit (enumerated) authority is not within the power of Congress to restrict. Certainly, the Bill of Rights (or any other explicit power or protection in the Constitution) qualifies by its very existence.  Emanations and penumbras? Well...not so much.

The point is, the Constitution means what it says. We can disagree about some of the more ambiguous passages, but we can't just ignore the plain text when the implications give us pause. To do so is the hypocrisy I refer to as "situational constitutionalism."  We can't just toss aside parts we don't agree with because they may lead to policies we don't like--whether they involve right to counsel, habeas corpus, or jury trials for suspected terrorists, or First Amendment expression by third parties in election campaigns. Conversely, we can't just pretend limits don't exist to implement policies we might like, such as federally protected abortion access, eminent domain for revitalization/rezoning projects, or health insurance mandates. All these exceptions are proposed, for the most part, with good intent. But good intent doesn't trump the Constitution any more than bad policy outcomes do. Everybody has a reason why they want to skirt the Constitution--but if we always ignore it for reasons we think important, then the limits placed by the document cease to mean anything once our political adversaries take power. (Or, in the case of libertarians, seemingly when anyone is in power.)

I share Mr. Serwer's disgust with Congressional authority over federal jurisdiction--but that doesn't make it unconstitutional.