Thursday, November 30, 2006

Terms Of Art

Fish help raise the question, just what does "organic" mean anyway?

“I mean, when is the cataclysm?”

The New York Times reports on the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Mass v. EPA global warming case. Justice Kennedy will seemingly be the deciding vote. At this point I was just humored by some of the courts conservative justices.

First, Scalia, in explaining the Court's standing requirements: “You have to show the harm is imminent,” ... “I mean, when is the cataclysm?”

And better yet, was Chief Justice Roberts point that the plaintiff's argument “strikes me as sort of spitting out conjecture on conjecture.”

Why I'm A Libertarian

Via Radley Balco, who is tantamount to blogging royalty in my mind for all the good work he has done, comes this story from Virginia: Fairfax county cracks down on food service to the homeless.

Allow me to summarize: Churches and charitable residents can no longer donate homemade food to the homeless- Why? Because, even though there have not been any reported cases of food poisoning or food borne illnesses among the homeless, the government wants to protect the homeless from such occurrences. So now, in order to serve the homeless, all kitchens preparing food for the homeless must meet standard restaurant regulatory requirements. Needless to say, half the churches and shelters in the county don't meet this requirement- and because, you know, they're doing charity and not making money, they certainly don't have the funds to upgrade their facilities.

Can anyone honestly tell me that this is not insane? But I'm sad to say, this is the world we live in today. People will criticize libertarians for not wanting to pour government and taxpayer money into helping the disadvantaged, but ask yourself what's worse- discretionary policies over spending that might not help people as much as you'd like, or laws that affirmatively hurt people and stand in the way of private individuals helping the disadvantaged?

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina last year there were stories about doctors who were not allowed to take part in the relief efforts because they hadn't done the appropriate training. Some of this "appropriate training" were classes on sexual harassment. It's this insane logic that personally, I just can't get over. It's fine to have a debate about what the government can and should do to help people- it's a debate we have to have because even if you're the world's biggest liberal you still have to work with the resources that we have. But why do we have to live in a world where government actually stops us from helping other people? Why do we live in a world where people will actually push for policies that prevent us from helping other people? Just insane ...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Global Warming In The Supreme Court

Environmental law expert extraordinaire Jonathan Adler weighs in with a meaty explanation of the legal issues in the Mass. v. EPA case currently before the Supreme Court.

For those of you who may not know, this is a lawsuit brought against the EPA to force the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Contrary to what may be portrayed in the media, the Court is not deciding scientific or environmental issues- rather, they are deciding legal questions of statutory interpretation, standing, and delegated powers.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Johnston Raid Updates

More on Kathryn Johnston (via Radley Balco), here, here,
here, and here.

The Widening Field Of "Fat Studies"

I meant to link to this the other day, but was distracted by all the SWAT news. Maybe a day late, but here goes, as the New York times reports on the growth of fat studies programs. (And for the curious minded who are too lazy to link, this is fat studies in the same sense that we have black studies and Asian studies and women's studies programs in our universities.)

I'm intrigued, although I don't think I have a fully formed opinion quite yet. On one hand I am most definitely opposed to the cult of victimhood, but on the other, it's quite possible to study various social groups without resorting to discussions of victimhood, or worse yet, agitating for unneeded changes in the law. Of course I'm not sure fat people are a group in the same way other groups are ... yet at the same time, there are plenty of individuals in these other groups who are uncomfortable with the socially divisive notions of grouping in the first place. Again, I'm not sure I have any strong feelings one way or the other, beyond my points above.

Perhaps most interesting are the comparisons to the gay community and the gay rights movement. Not so much because of the political tactics used, but because of the not-so-fine line between personal choice and genetics in the construction of self and group identities. Is being gay a lifestyle choice or something you're born into ... what about being fat? When it comes down to it, isn't the answer really a little from column A and a little from column B?

Global Warming And Free Speech

Interesting read from the Korean Times about the silencing of global warming skeptics. This comes via because I typically don't spend my time carousing Korean newspapers.

Monday, November 27, 2006

More From Radley Balco On The Kathryn Johnston Tragedy

The latest update on 92 year-old SWAT team victim Kathryn Johnston here and here.

Allow me to summarize: The drugs found in Mrs. Johnston's apartment was a "not large" amount of marijuana. Also, the raid on Mrs. Johnston's apartment was based on the information of an undercover informant, not an undercover police officer.

Again, the question is, are the use of paramilitary-style raids are warranted in these sorts of situations. Remember, no one is saying that police shouldn't be able to use paramilitary tactics in situations that have been identified as dangerous and have been identified as having a potential for violence. The question is, do we really want the police to use this sort of force in situations that have not been identified as dangerous?

Should police be able to knock down your front door and storm your home in the execution of all warrants? For those who think that the use of paramilitary tactics to execute warrants for non violent drug offenders is acceptable, are there any types of warrants in which the use of paramilitary tactics would be unacceptable?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

To Continue The Discussion On Police Raids

I'll let my boy Radley Balco do the talking. Also, see more from Balco on the latest incident.

The apologists say that if the warrant is legal, and the police have the right to be there, you're pretty much screwed. If the police storm in and you -- not being a drug dealer and consequently having no reason to think the police might break into your home -- mistake them for criminal intruders and meet them with a gun, you are at fault. I guess your crime is living in an area where drug dealers could use your porch while you aren't home, or being a too trusting, frail, old woman. Sorry about your luck.

On the other hand, if the police break into your home and they mistake the blue cup, TV remote, the t-shirt you're holding to cover your genitals because they broke in while you were sleeping naked, or the glint off your wristwatch for a gun -- and subsequently shoot you (all of these scenarios have actually happened), well, then no one is to blame. Because, you see, SWAT raids are inherently dangerous and volatile, and it's perfectly understandable how police might mistake an innocent person holding a t-shirt for a violent drug dealer with gun.

Do you see the double standard, here? If the warrant is legit, they are allowed to make mistakes. You aren't.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Complete Insanity

Apparently today is Buy Nothing Today.

Kalle Lasn, co-founder of the Adbusters Media Foundation, which was responsible for turning Buy Nothing Day into an international annual event, said, “Our headlong plunge into ecological collapse requires a profound shift in the way we see things. Driving hybrid cars and limiting industrial emissions is great, but they are band-aid solutions if we don’t address the core problem: we have to consume less. This is the message of Buy Nothing Day.”

Now, it's one thing to hate "Black Friday" because it's a crowded, obnoxious, insane shopping free for all (or to hate the commercialization of Christmas a la Charlie Brown.) But to encourage everyone to consume less, all of the time? Do they have any idea how insane that is? Let's say we (as a society) stopped buying half the shit we did for Christmas- imagine the devastating impact- how many millions of people would lose their jobs? Do these people have any idea what they're really advocating? Like I said, complete insanity.

Meanwhile, I wasn't planning on it, but I think I have to go out and buy something. Support the global economy, buy products made here on planet Earth!

Come to think of it, that's not a bad slogan ... Would anyone want to buy an "I Buy Terrestrial" Tee-Shirt?

Yet Another Tragic Casualty Of The War On Drugs

More War On Drugs Tragedies. Also, some follow up on Hit and Run.

How many deaths in the war on drugs are too many?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Don't Push Your Luck

From today's Hartford Courant: Same Sex Couples Take Their Case To The State Supreme Court.

I've been consistent about this from the get-go. I applauded the Connecticut state legislature for being the first state to legalize civil unions through the legislature, not the courts. Legally this is the way to go about things, and socially, this is the best way to bring about acceptance and toleration. Democratic policy making produces far less outrage than policy forced upon people by the courts (witness abortion).

Next, let me say that I'm all for gay marriage, but I think too much emphasis is put on the label as opposed to the rights that come with that label. Civil unions give gay couples the same rights as married couples, just under a different name. I can understand that some people might feel strongly about having that term "marriage" attached to their relationship. But once again, it's just a name.

As far as legal challenges go, I've never really bought the legal arguments made to force gay marriage through the courts. As an equal protection argument, I don't think sexual orientation should be considered a protected class in the same way, say race is a protected class. In general, your sexual orientation only reflects your behavior- and even to the extent it reflects ingrained characteristics, why are those ingrained characteristics subject to greater protection than others- and why should gay people be protected, when polygamists are not? This is not to say that the government should be able to discriminate against gay people- it shouldn't. But the equal protection argument doesn't fly when it comes to marriage.

As far as due process goes, I think that argument fails as well. If there's a fundamental right to marry whoever you chose, once again, why wouldn't this same argument apply to polygamists.

The classic libertarian argument is that the gay marriage debate shows why the government shouldn't be in the marriage business in the first place. I can buy that, but remember, from a legal perspective, marriage is a standard form contract. It saves people the trouble of having to work everything out ahead of time- although, given today's divorce rate it would arguably save the government a great deal of money if everyone had to negotiate their marriage agreements on their own.

To conclude, I say "don't push your luck" not to be offensive, but as a real warning. I'd like to see gay marriage in all 50 states within my lifetime, but that can only happen if the people themselves accept gay marriage- and you can't force acceptance on people through the courts.

More Fun With Family Facts

Apparently, my post on the Heritage Foundation sponsored actually drew a response. Which of course begs the question, was someone from the Heritage Foundation actually taking time out of their day to read this wonderfully crafted blog and prepare a response to my accusations?

Let me first be clear on something- By no means did I intend to disparage the accuracy of the information provided by the website. My intent was to question whether the sorts of correlations conveyed by the studies reported on the site actually have any deeper meaning. This is not to be partisan, but just to point out the limited value of value of such correlations.

For instance, there is a finding on the site that links intact family structure with family dinners. But what does this mean? It could mean that families that eat together, wind up staying together. Or it could mean that families are just more likely to eat together if they stay intact. Or there may be no causal relationship at all.

According to the response I received,

Simply summarizing the research findings as published by the researchers, does not interpret the findings, take policy positions, or make recommendations.

Now this may be true, but I still want to point out that this is not a non-partisan database. is brought to us by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank. Now there's nothing wrong with that- all think tanks have some sort of ideology- but you don't need to conceal the fact that you're a conservative organization. After all, I'm assuming all the research on the website supports the traditional family. In the few searches I did, I could find no research supporting alternative families or questioning traditional family norms. I couldn't find any real research on gay families.

And you know, this is just fine. We're all partisan, and we all have agendas. Just be honest about it.

It's Called Collateral Damage

Here is the lonely libertarian's post on Radley Balco's "Overkill: The rise of paramilitary police raids in America." You can read the report or look at the map.

We know that surveillance is never perfect and mistakes can be made while undertaking military actions. As we know from Iraq and Afghanistan, storming a building must be done extremely carefully and is dangerous for even highly trained professionals. Our soldiers bravely accept these dangers and we recognize that, unfortunately, innocent lives are sometimes lost during wartime. The question is, do we think this unfortunate but unavoidable collateral damage is worth it in terms of fighting a war on drugs on our own soil.

Radley Balco's point (a point that I agree with) is not that SWAT tactics should never be used. His point is that because of the inherent danger of paramilitary tactics, we should limit their use to situations we have specifically identified as highly dangerous. Use of SWAT teams to execute warrants against non-violent drug offenders is not a good idea because it puts everyone involved in needless danger. I don't have them at my fingertips, but Balco has linked before to cases in which SWAT teams executed warrants for gambling offenses.

Personally, I've dealt with a case in court this semester where two women here in Connecticut were injured by a flash grenade when police accidentally raided the wrong apartment. Ask yourself, would you still agree with the use of these tactics in situations that have not been identified as dangerous if it was a family member of yours who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The War On Drugs Is Good For Us

More SWAT team outrages from the Agitator.

Let me give you the skinny. Police find marijuana seeds and traces of cocaine in a family's trash can. Based on this information they stage a no-knock, 6:00 AM raid. After knocking down the door and employing a flash bomb, the SWAT team stormed the house. The team found Cheryl Noel holding a gun- not pointing it at them, just holding it. Mrs. Noel was shot and killed by a heavily armoured member of the SWAT team. By the way, this was a woman who was well respected in the community, a woman who ran lunch time bible studies groups. And by the way, Mrs. Noel and her family had legally obtained the gun, following the murder of her step-daughter several years earlier. As far as I know, no drug charges were ever filed.

This whole incident actually happened almost 2 years ago. Radley Balco just wanted to point out that the officer who shot Mrs. Noel just received a Silver Star Medal of Honor for his work in the raid in which Mrs. Noel was killed. Oh, and by the way, this medal was given out several weeks after a federal civil rights suit was filed by Mrs. Noel's family.

Anyone out there want to point out to me why this is a good way to deal with the problem of drug abuse?

Big Love, Big Freedom

Nice to see from the usually "moderate" Ann Althouse: Polygamists reframe their struggle as a matter of freedom of individual choice.

As both a libertarian and someone who has been enjoying HBO's "Big Love" as of late, this is welcome news. Imagine a day when inter-racial couples, polygamist couples, and gay couples can live together, in harmony.

Also- Prof. Althouse makes a good point- polygamists are persecuted in ways gay couples are not- gay people are only being denied a right to legalize their relationship, whereas polygamists could potentially face jail time for their multiple marriages.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Statistics Without Context

I'm nothing if not fair- or at the very least, I hold everyone to the same standards, no matter how insane those standards may be. One of the themes of this blog has always been the intense scrutiny of statistics- particularly statistics that supposedly tell us important truths about the world that we live in. Generally, I have no complaints about numbers, only about what people purport certain numbers to mean.

In that grand tradition I give you, a website devoted to providing conservative sociological research about the family.

Just to give you a taste, there is this finding: Children raised in intact families have, on average, higher academic achievement, better emotional health, and fewer behavioral problems. Again, I don't question the results- I just questions whether they have any real meaning. What studies such as these don't take into account are what factors into why families remain intact in the first place. For instance, if poverty is a factor in not having intact families in the first place, maybe poverty is the social problem in need of addressing. In other words, are family structure issues a cause of problems, or are they merely an effect of other social problems?

This is the same problem that I often point out with drug abuse statistics. Correlation does not equal causation, and correlation alone doesn't tell you very much. (For instance there is a correlation between drunk driving accidents and late night driving- that is, drunk driving accidents are much more likely to occur at night. But that doesn't mean that the time of day is the cause of drunk driving accidents. As far as dealing with the problem, we may want to provide a greater police presence of the roads at night because we know that is when they are likely to happen, but the fact that such accidents happen at night doesn't provide much help in stopping drunk driving in the first place.)

My point is- as always- to question those statistics that couch an agenda. Numbers can be manipulated, and this Family Facts site is no different. Beware.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Who's A Conservative?

More Interesting Stuff From the American Conservative: George W. Bush is not a conservative.

Actually, I'm a bit disappointed the article focuses so much on foreign policy, which, whatever you may be told, is really much more politically nebulous than domestic politics. Still though, an interesting read.

That's A First

I just realized something - that was the first YouTube appearance on the lonely libertarian. I have officially crossed over to the dark side.

I Am Going To See Borat

Jane Galt is not going to see Borat. But the lonely libertarian is- I would have seen it already if not for a busy schedule.

I agree that the comedy of Sacha Baron Cohen does, at times, "expose the tension between politeness and responding to outrageously wrong sentiments." But I think these are the simpler jokes- Baron Cohen's character Borat is the funny one, whereas the unsuspecting individual plays the role of the straight man. Most comedy needs a good straight man, and in these cases the reactions can be funny whether they are too polite, too hostile, or somewhere in between.

Baron Cohen's more subtle sense of humor oftentimes reveals itself in his other characters from the Ali G Show- Ali G himself, and Bruno, the gay reporter from Austria. Rather than being the subject of the joke, Baron Cohen lets people make themselves look foolish. Borat also does this to some extent, but given that the character is so loud and boorish the distinctions between who's really the subject of the joke can become strained. This is really what Jane Galt misses when it comes to Borat. Many of these "unsuspecting individuals" affirmatively act in boorish, bigoted, and offensive ways upon the prodding of Baron Cohen. And they'll act this way having signed a release knowing they're going to be on film.

This is the genius of Sacha Baron Cohen- any number of comedians have wacky characters capable of drawing humorous reactions out of unsuspecting individuals. But Baron Cohen, through his characters gets people to reveal things about themselves and about our culture in general.

Case in point- I watched these sketches last night on You Tube. Rather than more Borat, this is Baron Cohen's other character Bruno.

First, at Spring Break.

And then in Alabama, "the gayest place in the United States."

When it comes to all of these bits, you're free to draw your own conclusions. Maybe this is outright bigotry or maybe this is more a reflection of society as a whole. We're free to debate just what these reactions mean, but they're honest in a sense that traditional media is not. Telling people you're from Austrian Gay TV is not outrageous, unless you feel there's something wrong with being gay or being seen on Gay TV.

Generally, I think the point of these bits is not to point out that, "look these people are bigots!" but to ask ourselves what these reactions say about our culture and society as a whole. Regardless, everyone is free to their opinions. I think Sacha Baron Cohen is a comedic genius and I am going to see Borat.

Friday, November 17, 2006

More Fast Food Nonsense

Here's a snippet of the New York Times review of Fast Food Nation.

“Most people don’t like to be told whats for them,” says Bruce Willis in a sly, brilliant, single-scene cameo, and the suspicion that the movie is doing just that may provoke some reflexive resistance.

Which is too bad, because “Fast Food Nation,” while it does not shy away from making arguments and advancing a clear point of view, is far too rich and complicated to be understood as a simple, high-minded polemic. It is didactic, yes, but it’s also dialectical. While the climactic images of slaughter and butchery — filmed in an actual abattoir — may seem intended to spoil your appetite, Mr. Linklater and Mr. Schlosser have really undertaken a much deeper and more comprehensive critique of contemporary American life.

Just because a movie offers a complex storyline and a variety of characters doesn't mean that that the film doesn't manipulate you emotionally to reach certain conclusions. Instead of being just about how fast food is bad for you, the movie is also about how disgusting meat packing plants are, how the fast food industry takes advantedge of it's workers, and how fast food is tied into the American dream- But does that really make the point any better? You can bring up all the complexities you like, but it doesn't make your overall critique any less stupid.

(In fairness- I have not seen the movie, and it may be a well made film- but that still doesn't make it any less stupid.)

Edit 11/17/06 @ 1:52 PM: I've redacted the reference to Crash, which was apparently made in error. However, my primary point still holds- Crash was overrated and manipulative, and Fast Food Nation looks stupid. The New York Times, by the way, which argues that Fast Food Nation isn't a high-minded polemic, carried an add for the film in the paper's online edition. The tagline? "Do you want lies with that?"

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Meat + Capitalism = Evil

Thank God we have moives/books like Fast Food Nation to warn us about the terrible dangers of fast food. See the Village Voice review of the movie here and the San Francisco Chronicle's review of the book here.

I recommend everyone go to see this movie. If we can ween ourselves off fast food and limit our diets to raw spinach, then we'll all be healthy and safe.

No, seriously .... enjoy your spinach. I'll be enjoying the latest fast food delight, deep fried, and so well done no bacteria or virus could ever hope to survive. Allow me to quote Calvin and Hobbes: "Yup, we'd probably be dead right now if it wasn't for Twinkies."

More on Friedman

Tributes to Milton Friedman from some of my favorite blogs: Reason;
David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy;
The Agitator;
Andrew Sullivan;
Jane Galt

And then of course, there are my idiot friends at Democratic
who in all likelihood wouldn't know economics if it hit them in the face.

The Passing Of A Great Mind

Milton Friedman Dies at 94.

Any self-described libertarian, conservative, or beleiver in the free market should take the time to appreciate the genius of Friedman, who was not just brilliant, but was truly an indepedant thinker.

Hopefully, We'll Only Hear About Single Payer Health Care on VH1's "I Love The Nineties" - Not CSPAN

Really, really, really good post from Jane Galt on what nationalised health care would actually look like. Rather than delving into the theoretical, she makes several great practical points. If a single payer system was introduced, you can't provide less coverage or slower coverage- you can't lower the wages of medical workers- you can't limit care for old people- and you can't give health care away to illegal immigrants.

Of course, looking at it that way, I'm not sure how a single payer system would ever be possible here.

I also enjoyed Galt's discussion of "the emergency room" problem. Emergency room numbers are often cited as a problem with our system, but as Galt points out, is it any more expensive to provide care for routine ailments in the emergency room as opposed to anywhere else?

Personally, I have a sneaking suspicion that calls for universal health coverage go hand-in-hand with more government involvement in our everyday lives. After all, the recent cry for universal health care is in part based on the fact that those without health insurance don't go to the doctor and end up costing the system more. And just what are these costs? Well once again, they're not for routine ailments. The system ends up paying more, supposedly, because of the lack of preventative medicine- that is the doctor telling you to exercise and eat healthier because of some potentially impending medical problem. (Obviously, not all preventative medicine works this way.)

Ultimately though, preventative medicine is only as good as the manner in which people follow their doctor's advice. Want to really reduce health care costs? Force everyone, by law, to exercise and eat healthy diets. Now do I think this is where we're headed- likely not, or at least I hope not, but the path is clear.

Universal health care, on some level, means that the individual is less important than the system and the health of the nation as a whole. And more than anything else, that is what scares me about universal health care.

The Patriot Act Is Evil, But All Those Other Laws Are Just Gosh Darn Perfect

Orin Kerr on Sex, Drugs, and the Patriot Act. Apparently, a couple on a airplane got a little too frisky and was charged with violating the Patriot Act for threatening a stewardess who asked them to cool it down. Professor Kerr's point is to defend the Patriot Act, by pointing out that this couple could have been charged with this crime years before the Patriot Act was ever passed.

Generally, I'm sympathetic to the Patriot Act. (If one can be sympathetic to an inanimate act of Congress.) The Patriot Act gets a lot of flack- maybe some of it is well deserved, but most of it isn't. There are thousands of bad laws on the books, and there are hundreds of laws that restrict our rights in ways far worse than the Patriot Act ever can, yet all we here from the media is criticism of the Patriot Act.

But the real interesting thing about Professor Kerr's post are the problems it shows with our law making process. I guarantee you that the neither Patriot Act or the original statute mentioned was geared toward the sort of behavior described above. Yet this is how the law works- We get far broader provisions than what was ever originally intended. And this is why I am a libertarian and this is why I urge caution to all those who get excited about new laws being passed.

To all those who like to point out the various problems with the Patriot Act and the fact that Congress never bothered to read the thing before it was passed, get a clue. It's not just the Patriot Act- this is how all laws work.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The New College Republicans - Same As The Old?

Interesting article at the American Conservative about the new "College Republicans. Interesting because we get to hear from that rare species, the anti-war conservative.

He’s distinctly in the minority of a minority, as both a campus conservative and one who’s against the Iraq War.

In the eyes of some of his friends on the Right, that makes Lawrence really a kind of leftist. When he published an editorial for the anniversary of Hiroshima criticizing Harry Truman’s use of nuclear weapons against Japan, one of his colleagues on the campus conservative paper, The Broadside, suggested he was its “token liberal.”

What I continue to find interesting is the increasing political polarization of foreign policy. I'm just not sure I get it- after all, liberal supporters of the war and conservative war protesters are by no means doing an injustice to their philisophical positions. I suppose you had the same sort of polarization during Vietnam, but still ... just don't get it.

Scandal Makers

Recently, I've grown very weary of the sports media. This isn't so much an epiphany as it is a reluctant admission- an admission that as much as we like to think sports are somehow different, sports news is as scandal driven as the latest celebrity gossip column.

Case-in-point: Sports talk radio's bashing of Bill Belichick in the wake of two consecutive New England Patriot losses. (For matter of full disclosure, I am a huge Patriots fan.) ESPN's Colin Cowherd suggested that Belichick's coaching had suffered because in losing his trusted coordinators (Charlie Weiss, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini), he had lost a buffer between himself and the players, because of which the team was suffering. Other radio personalities have insinuated that Belichick's personality is somehow behind the Patriots recent struggles.

This brings to mind memories of 2003, when Tom Jackson told us that the Patriots "hate their coach" in response to the release of the popular Lawyer Milloy and an opening day, 31-0 trouncing by the Bills. After that statement, the Patriots went on to win 34 of 37 games and 2 consecutive Super Bowls.

The media, be it the sports media or not, is always looking for controversy. And they're going to give us analysis and explanations that skew toward the controversial. When there is no controversy, they manufacture it.

Take the Patriots- there's one player, more than any other who deserves to have blame laid at his feat- the golden boy, quarterback Tom Brady. Now I'm a huge Brady guy, but he's not having a good year and he has not gotten it done the past few weeks. Even forgetting the poor decision making, in both games he failed to grasp victory when given the opportunity on game ending drives. Personally, I think Brady hasn't been getting it done in tight spots since sometime in the middle of last season. Of course, this isn't the popular explanation, but it makes a lot more sense than blaming Bill Belichick's personality.

We could go on- the other day I woke up to hear about the latest incident involving Bobby Knight- only, this incident wasn't much of anything. He tapped a kid on the chin while he was yelling at him- no harm- the kid wasn't upset. Yet all of a sudden, it's a scandal. Bring on Carl Weathers, Tobias Fyunke, and poor narration, our beloved sports media is no better than scandal makers.

War Blogging

This from today's news: Dozens Are Kidnapped At College Office In Baghdad.

I don't blog much about the war because I hate to get into specifics about which I know little, but I was just struck by this story. The question I have for Democrats, anti-war activists, and anyone else who would urge an immidiate withdrawl from Iraq, is what do you expect to happen when we leave? Whether we're talking about terrorists, or as seems likely in this case, sectarian thugs, do you honestly think that things will get better in Iraq if we leave? Fanatics will continue to attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government and secterian violence will continue.

I guess my main point is that I refuse to cede moral ground when it comes to this war. Was it worth it for the United States, was the war conducted well? These are questions that can and should be debated- and maybe my mind can be changed. But to change my moral perspective? You'd have to convince me that, 1) The Iraqi people would have been happier if we had never taken out Saddam Hussein, and 2) It's right to just up and leave a country like Iraq where they still clearly need our assistance. And that's not likely to happen.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Conservatives For Make Benefit Image of Intolerance

There's stupid and then there's stupid.

Regular readers may remember this little exchange involving my favorite professor, professor Long, around the fifth anniversary of September 11.

Well apparently, some genius classmate of mine has taken it upon themself to file a comlaint with the Students For Academic Freedom. (Click on the Forum on abuses at the top of the page.)

Here is the complaint:

Description of Complaint (please be as detailed as possible, including quotes from your professor where applicable): A professor (Professor Long) using an inappropriate forum to advance his views (trivializing 9/11). I have asked to be taken off his mailing list to no avail. He said I would need to drop out of law school. Professor Dunlap, I would also ask whether you will at all draw a comparison between 9/11 and either Auschwitz, or Hiroshima, or, Nagasaki? Perhaps these numbers would help. It would take between 275 and 400 attacks on the World Trade Center to match the death toll at Auschwitz alone where between 1.1 and 1.6 million died. “[I]t is estimated that by December 1945, as many as 140,000 had died in Hiroshima by the bomb and its associated effects. In Nagasaki, roughly 74,000 people died of the bomb and its after-effects. In both cities, most of the casualties were civilians.” I feel for those who lost family and friends on 9/11. However, it is important to keep things, especially “tragedies,” in perspective. That perspective should be both global and historical. There are big tragedies, and then there are the relatively small ones. Respectfully, Leonard Long -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- From: Long, Leonard Prof. Sent: Thursday, September 07, 2006 3:06 PM To: Dunlap, William Prof.; Law Students; Law Full Time Faculty; Law Part Time Faculty; Law Administration Subject: RE: 9/11/ 5th Anniversary Observance Professor Dunlap, I see you are going to be on a panel discussing how the world has changed since 9/11. Queries: Are you going to explain to everyone how the American people were manipulated into an un-winnable war (or two)? How the American people are foolishly trading in liberties for mere promises of security? How the notion of ‘American exceptionalism’ is self-congratulatory bunk? Are you going to explain to people how American, being almost totally ignorant of both world history and their history, fail to see how all these problems are hardly new? And, given your journalism background, will you explain to them how the news media has compromised itself by ‘embedding’ itself with the military? Most of us are fairly comfortable in our middle-class lives; it is someone else’s son and daughter who are coming home in a body bag because the Administration cannot acknowledge that it miscalculated. We think our technology will save us. It will not. Honest, critical thinking will save us, but such is in short supply. We have become a rather trivial people, more concerned with JonBonet than with Corporal Jones. Sorry, this former altar boy has misplaced his faith in America. Respectfully, Leonard Long -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- From: Scully, Sherilyn Dean Sent: Thursday, September 07, 2006 10:27 AM To: Law Students; Law Full Time Faculty; Law Part Time Faculty; Law Administration Subject: 9/11/ 5th Anniversary Observance Hello all- The University has planned a series of events to commemorate the fifth year anniversary of September 11, 2001. A wreath in honoring the victims of September 11th will also be placed in the law school front lobby. The first event, a panel discussion, begins this evening. Best regards, Sherilyn Scully
Action Taken: Asked to be taken off this professor's mailing list. Refused.
Response from Professor or Administrator (If Any): talk to tech people about blocking his email. I tried this but it will not work with my email software (I like to forward school emails to my hotmail account). Time of Posting : Tuesday, October 03, 2006

And here is Prof. Long's e-mail response from the other day:

A lawyer friend of mine sent an email to me where she mentioned that a student had filed a complaint against me on a website called Students for Academic Freedom. I have copied the complaint below. I find several points interesting.

(1) The student suggests that I trivialized 9/11. It seems to me that stating how it measure up against some other historical events is not exactly to trivialize it.

(2) The student does not mention the point of my email was to get student to think about 9/11, its implications and ramifications.

(3) The student does not mention that my email was sent to the law school community,--that is, I used the law school’s distribution list rather than my own—because the event was a University event and I was responding to a University-wide email.

(4) Moreover, the student does not mention that I have no control over the university’s and law school distribution list. So, I cannot delete anyone from the list. My statement to the student was that as long as the student was a student she would be on the distribution list, unless someone in technology could arrange for her to be deleted from the master list. Needless to say, I was not suggesting that she actually be so deleted.

Lastly, (5) It seems a bit strange to be reported to an organization which claims to promote freedom of expression on campus (it actually want to promote conservative speech on campus) on the alleged basis that I am preventing speech when I thought I was encouraging it.

I am okay with the student filing her complaint. What I am not okay with is her getting the facts and sentiment wrong.

I am not a conservative. I am very much a libertarian in the F.A. Hayek mode. So, a charge that I am blocking student speech is way, way off base.

This is your law school in the sense that it is your education which is at stake. You need to decide what sort of community it is. And one of the critical defining characteristics of the institution concerns whether its member --students, faculty, administration, graduates-- are open to listening to the opposing points of view. I fear the student who filed the complaint is more typical of the law school community than not. I hope I am wrong.


Prof. Long

I hope Prof. Long is wrong too. He explains the specifics of the situation, which the student filing the complaint did not bother to do. I don't have much to say, other than "wow." Personally I think the Students For Academic Freedom are well-intentioned. Yes, they are conservative leaning, but they exist to point out liberal bias in the classroom, biases that can work against the academic interest of conservative students. The problem with these sorts of organizations is when stupid people misunderstand the organization's reasons for existence. Students For Academic Freedom is not about silencing speech you don't agree with.

Here, this was an instance of a professor offering a political viewpoint outside the classroom. This wasn't about indoctrination, this wasn't about a teacher spending class time on an unrelated political subject, and this wasn't about a professor shutting down discourse. This was a professor, outside of class, looking to start a discourse on an important issue.

I take this somewhat personally because I can't remember ever having a professor who was so interested at promoting discussion and encouraging critical thinking. And he's the one who gets an "academic freedom" complaint? Just crazy.

Star Trek: The Blog Generation

Some interesting observations on facism in Star Trek from Dr. Kelley L. Ross. Also, an interesting response from Captain Ed at the Captain's Quarters blog. I bring all of this to you via Ann Althouse, which I post mainly to give more of a taste of the various commenters.

This being Star Trek, I have a lot to say. First, to call Trek fascist distorts the true meaning of the word. If one were to call Trek militaristic, that might be true, as Trek has always been about the military. But to be fair, as far as military organizations go, I don't think you'd be able to find one (whether realistic or in fiction) that is less facist than Star Fleet. It's just plain hard to see how the world of Star Trek fits in to the top down autocratic society invisioned by Benito Musolini in 1930's Italy. In Star Trek, Star Fleet is merely the military branch of the United Federation of Planets which is perhaps the antithesis of a fascist government. It's closer to a futuristic U.N. than it is to fascism, as the individual members of the Federation are permitted to keep their own culture and even their own laws.

Perhaps Trek comes off as fascist because the militarism in the show is a sharp contrast to the otherwise utopian future the show presents. Captain Ed makes this point and I agree with many of his criticisms of Trek's utopia. How did such a utopia happen? In Deep Space Nine's season three episode "Past Tense" the point is made that at some point in the 21st century, people just decided to start caring. (In that particular episode, the context was a homeless riot in the mid-21st century.) In the earlier incarnations of Trek (TNG, TOS) it was never put so bluntly, but you always got the feeling that there was a simple solution- maybe it would take an apocolyptic war in the 21st century, but eventually humanity would stop being so selfish and so bigoted and just work for the betterment of the race. It was that simple, we just had to care enough.

Captain Ed discusses how the utopian philosophy of Trek irritated him, but I'd argue it wasn't he utopian future that bugged him as much as it was Trek's view of the modern world. After all, there's nothing wrong with a perfect sort of future. But to tell us today that our real problem is that we just don't care enough is the height of liberal condescension. To many rational people (myself included) such a viewpoint ignores everything we actually know about the world.

If you can make it past the question of "how we got there," Trek's utopianism isn't so disturbing. You can search for specific meaning in Captain Picard's utopian statements about there being no money in the 24th century, but it's not so much a critique of capitalism as it is a desription of the economics of the 24th century. With technology such as replicators, the distribution of most resources comes at next to no cost. With such a cushy standard of living coming at virtually no cost, people are free to engage in other pursuits- art, science, or risking life and limb exploring and settling new worlds. Sure, this is all pretty damn utopian, but I don't have a problem with it. My problem is with the criticism of the world today.

The best of the Trek shows, in my humble opinion, was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which did the most to question Trek's utopian vision. It didn't reject the dream- it only questioned what it actually took to make that dream possible. Perhaps more blogging on politics, Star Trek, and Deep Space Nine at a later date.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Libertarian vs. Libertine

The commenters discussed in my last post give libertarianism a bad name. Over the top arguments like those are why people tend to think that libertarians want a society with no laws where chaos reigns. And that is simply not true.

Being a libertarian doesn't mean having no morals- being libertarian means that you chose not to have your morals- or anyone else's morals- enforced by the law. The law should serve to protect the Lockean notions of life, liberty, and property. Matters of personal choice should be left to individuals. Choices about risk or personal morality should not be placed in the hands of democratic majorities that can restrict the rights of minorities.

Being libertarian doesn't mean having no morals when it comes to drugs, sex, or other personal choices. It just means keeping those personal choices personal.

To Catch A Libertarian

I noticed this at Reason's Hit and Run the other day: Texas Prosecutor shoots self after being caught on "To Catch a Predator." I'm not quite sure how to feel about the story itself. More disturbing are the supposedly libertarian posters at reason, some of whom seem to think one less prosecutor is better for the world than one less child predator. Here are some of the other comments:

From "Martin":

Has it ever occurred to some commenters in here that most people caught in these stings are really of incredibly low intelligence? I mean they are clueless. Hard to believe, but they exist in all areas of life. Yet they are treated like they're normal. They're not. And by that I don't mean their proclivities, but their lack of self-control. If one of us has never had any thoughts or desires which, if they were known, would be labeled "creepy" or "perverse", then consider yourself lucky. It ain't the rule. God help you if they ever become known, 'cause society will certainly NOT help you.

And from "Gilmore":
It's just a question, similar to things Radley has written about in the past, about whether law enforcement goes far enough in observing basic rights, or applies force/tactics that are appropriate to situations to limit risk.

Just a few comments, in response to the entire discussion, really. First, I agree with Radley Balco- there's definitely something creepy about the whole "To Catch a Predator" thing. I tend to think Chris Hansen gets off catching these guys and reading their chats back to them ("You said you were going to blank her blank")- Of course the creepiness of the show itself is far outstripped by the creepiness of the men caught on the show.

And yes, I agree these shows tend to go a bit too far- It's painfully obvious that some of these guys just don't have a clue. Of course, many of the posters on Reason seem to be unclear about something- the actions of all the men caught on the show is potentially criminal. The only thing a prosecutor would have to prove at trial would be that each man actually intended to meet a child under the age of consent for sex. And given the evidence, I'd have a hard time believing that a jury wouldn't convict each and every man caught. Remember, impossibility is not a defense- the issue is whether or not each man believed he was going to have sex with an underage kid. When it comes to mitigating circumstances and judgments of character, those are relevant at sentencing- they are not relevant in determining whether a crime has been committed.

The real question here is not about the tactics, but the law. The comments above, about law enforcement ignoring basic rights, are just plain ridiculous. So are any complaints about entrapment. For those who complain about the show's tactics, at what point would you be okay with these tactics? ... If the girl was 12? 10? 8? See the problem. We have to set an age of consent because at some point sex becomes wrong and there can really be no such thing as consensual sex.

This should not be confused with a prostitution sting- we're talking about minors here, not consenting adults. Sometimes libertarians get too caught up in notions of freedom to realize that crimes with victims are serious. We can deplore the use of police entrapment to catch drug users or prostitutes, but I think most of the libertarians here would feel differently if it was potential burglars, or even worse, potential murderers that the show was catching.

No I don't think the men caught on "To Catch a Predator" are as bad as murderers, but some of them come close. Of course, others may be practically harmless, but let the judge sort that out upon sentencing. Once again, the real issue is that age of consent- and just like we need a set age for voting, driving privileges, and other rights of being an adult, you need to set an age here as well.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Returns

Another election come and gone. Once again, I managed not to vote for a single winning candidate. I don't have much to say, simply because I had no strong feelings about any of the races. Except of course the local race for attorney general, where Connecticut is saddled with Richard Blumenthal for another four years. At least I don't live in New York, where Blumenthal buddy and clone Elliot Spitzer is the new governor. It ain't easy being a libertarian in the northeast.

On the national scene it looks like we're going to have a Democrat controlled Congress. Can they do any better than the Republicans? We shall see.

Nature Girl 3000

And from yesterday's New York Times, there's this story on a woman in Maine who's looking to turn Baxter State Park and the surrounding area into a national park. A good idea, right? I mean come on, we all like the idea of national parks. I'm sure my regular readers know exactly where this is going.

First, I wonder whether the story's author, Felicity Barringer, has ever been to northern Maine. The article seems to take a peculiar anti-timber company perspective, which most people who are familiar with the northern Maine woods would find as odd. After all, it's been timber company land for a long time, and timber company ownership has been the primary factor in keeping the vast majority of the northern Maine woods undeveloped. (And you don't hear it in the story, but give thanks to capitalism. After all, the land in northern Maine remains undeveloped because the timber companies have found it more profitable to leave it undeveloped and available for logging purposes.)

The subject of the story is Ms. Roxanne Quimby, who has bought over 75,000 acres of land as part of her own efforts at preservation and her own efforts to create a national park. My problem with an activist like Ms. Quimby is that her priorities seem a bit screwy. She wants to create a national park, but her real desire is not to open the land up to the public. She essentially wants to keep the land from the public and return it to its pre-logging state. In other words, she wants to enjoy nature her own way and no one else’s.

On the first 50,000 acres of land she purchased, Ms. Quimby does not allow any hunting or snow mobiling. This is in contrast to adjacent Baxter State Park, which allows snow mobiling on marked trails and hunting in certain northern sections of the park. Baxter, by the way, currently stands at 204,733 aces, one of the larger state parks in the nation.

National parks, in general, are subject to much more stringent regulations than state parks. Snow mobiling is allowed in some national parks, but hunting is generally prohibited in all but a select few. The uproar among the locals in regards to Ms. Quimby's purchases and land restrictions are indicative of her real motives. Again, this is about preservation as she wants it, and she says a better opportunity for her goals through national channels. (After all, the locals all disagree with her.) Personally, I just find there to be something incredibly arrogant about someone who wants to tell other people what they should do about the land in their community.

I am sympathetic to Ms. Quimby's effort's to protect nature. However, northern Maine has remained beautiful for decades without the involvement of the federal government. When I think of national parks I think of crowded places with a lot of traffic where I can't find a place to camp. I've never had those problems in my many trips to northern Maine. In the case of Baxter, you’re talking about a 200,000 plus acre park that is already protected, surrounded by hundreds of thousands more acres of undeveloped timber company land. Why mess with a good thing?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Your Science Doesn't Matter Because ...

Interesting New York Times article on the impact the study of ancient climates is having on global warming theory. As the piece explains, studying the climate of millions of years is far more difficult than studying the climate of the past few hundred years. However, the study of ancient climates has a great deal to reveal about the role of carbon dioxide in warming and cooling phenomona. Of course, this being the Times, we have the typical apocalyptic global warming response:

Some mainstream scientists familiar with the Phanerozoic evidence call it too sketchy for public consumption and government policy, if not expert deliberations.

“In my view, the uncertainties are too great to draw any conclusions right now,” Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton, said. “It could be that when the dust settles some insight will emerge that will be germane to the current problem — how do we keep the climate from spinning out of control.”

Ahhhh, I see. So because the science is uncertain, we should go ahead and make public policies, even though this is the sort of science that could possibly tell us to what extent such public policies are needed or if they're even needed at all. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

I do give credit to the Times for reporting the story- now if only the Times and the rest of the country could wait for the science before jumping the public policy gun.

Media Power and Elections

For those of you in the metro area (NY-NJ-CT) too stupid to figure out who to vote for on your own, the New York Times editorial page offers this simple list of recommended candidates. By the way, this is the same New York Times editorial page which continues to support strict campaign finance reform laws. Pity the poor politicians who don't happen to receive the New York Times endorsement- The Times is allowed to editorialize all they want, but if they had their way, the ability of politicians to counter such editorials with their own advertising would be severely curtailed. In a way, current campaign laws already curtail the ability of politicians to address their media critics.

And lets be honest here- the New York Times list is all Democrats with a few token Republican recommendations for local races.

Busy Busy Bloggers

I always wonder how all the law prof blogs have so much time to blog- I know as a law student, I can get busy and go weeks without finding the time to blog.

Anyhow, for hungry lonely libertarian readers, here is a post I made last week on Prof. Long's comment board. It concerns the rights of sex offenders after their incarceration.

I hope to get back to more regular blogging soon, but for now, just a few random thoughts:

1- I'll end my Battlestar Galactica blogging with this thought: Battlestar is the best show on tv right now, period. I've been a huge 24 fan for a long time, but Battlestar at this point is even better written and even better acted than 24- and more importantly Battlestar is far more thematically deep than 24.

2- South Park is by far the best comedy on the air today. Although I think I'm admittedly biased given how much I seem to think like Trey Parker and Matt Stone. How's that? Just look at my post from a few weeks ago, commenting on an article about biologist Richard Dawkins and his controversial views on atheism and religion. Yes, that was what last week's "to be continued" episode of South Park was all about.

3- Just some gut feelings on how the contested elections here in Connecticut are going to turn out .... Lamont will defeat Leiberman, primarily because of a larger than expected showing by Alan Schlesinger. And in the House, Chris Shays and Rob Simmons will keep their seats, but Nancy Johnson will lose hers to Chris Murphy. Nationally, Republicans will keep the House and the Senate- barely. Again, just gut feelings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Battlestar Redux

For those who really thought Battlestar had turned into some sort of Iraq parable, last weeks episode once again flipped people's expectations on their head. If our heroes, the colonials, were really supposed to resemble the Iraqi insurgents, then how come they were the ones holding the secret tribunals and executing collaborators without a public trial and any of the usual protections for the accused. Isn't it the Americans that do that?

Once again, Battlestar is all about the people- you felt horrible when Jammer was blown out the airlock, because he really did seem like a kid who was in way over his head- he had no ill intentions. And at the same time, you could feel for Starbuck as she attempted to recover from her kidnapping, even though her motive in joing the tribunal was purely that of revenge. You hate the way Colonel Tigh treats Felix Gada, but at the same time it's perfectly understandable- Tigh didn't know what Gada risked, he only saw him as a collaborator who stood by and did nothing as the Cylons took his eye.

Once again, just a brilliant, brilliant show.