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  • Archive for the 'Civil Liberties' Category

    History Friday: Oliver P. Morton, The Great War Governor

    Posted by Lexington Green on 15th August 2014 (All posts by )

    I mentioned Oliver P. Morton, the Governor of Indiana during the Civil War, in this post.

    The statue in front of the Indiana state house has a plaque which says he shall “ever to be known in history as
 The Great War Governor.” When the Union veterans who built the state house and put up the statue were alive, I am sure they believed the heroic deeds of the war would “ever be known … .”

    But one of the lessons of history is the fleetingness of fame. The things that move and inspire one generation are rejected by the next, or simply forgotten. This is especially true in America, where we are a forward looking people and typically not terribly concerned about what happened in the past. Henry Ford spoke for America when he said history is more or less bunk.

    This short article from the Indiana Historical Bureau, entitled OLIVER P. MORTON AND CIVIL WAR POLITICS IN INDIANA is worth reading.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Biography, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, History, Military Affairs, Politics, Quotations, Tradeoffs, USA, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 7th August 2014 (All posts by )

    Knitted footwear…may have significant implications for the global shoe industry

    US Civil Rights commissioner uses “science” to argue for restricting the free speech rights of college students.  (Is anyone surprised that he was formerly an aide to Nancy Pelosi?)

    College professor accuses program about gardening of being “racist”

    Functional geniuses and business idiots

    Fuel cells as a major energy source:  for real this time?

    Sea and sand from the sky.  More here.

    The Social Pathologist is back!

    Posted in Academia, Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Energy & Power Generation, Management, Photos | 13 Comments »

    America’s Impending Tuberculosis Epidemic

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 10th July 2014 (All posts by )

    (NOTE — Update at the End of the Column)

    One of the things that changes you, when you become a parent, is the body of knowledge you acquire to protect your spouse and children including things like knowledge of infectious diseases in public schools. In my case that meant looking at the NY Times saying the following: “…the administration has begun to send the expected 240,000 migrants and 52,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border illegally in recent months in the Rio Grande Valley to cities around the county.” And at headlines for the open border crisis like this by Todd Starnes titled “Immigration crisis: Tuberculosis spreading at camps” which caused me to immediately free associate them with a pair of “Tuberculosis in Public School”, headlines, one local to North Texas in 2011 and the other very recently in California. See this 2011 Consumer Health Daily article from Denton Texas “TB Outbreaks in Texas Schools Show Disease Still a Threat – At least 100 people have tested positive for the respiratory ailment” and this 1 July 2014 article from the Sacramento Bee “Four more students test positive for tuberculosis at Grant High.

    As a Texas parent, this idea of TB positive illegal alien children released to illegal immigrant parents scares the heck out of me from the point of view of epidemiology. In the 1920s TB was the eighth leading cause of death for children 1-to-4 years old. Since then American public health has been so effective in preventing it that the USA no longer has any “herd immunity” to TB.

    This “catch and release” illegal alien policy is horrible from the infectious disease point of view in that phlegm or aerosolized sputum that are contaminated with Mycobacterium tuberculosis are active biohazards that have long latent infection periods. This makes “exposure” very easy. The clinical definition of TB Exposure — which I found in a University of Vanderbilt student medical file PDF — is the following:

    “A person is considered to be exposed if there is shared breathing space with someone with infectious pulmonary or laryngeal tuberculosis at a time when the infectious person is not wearing a mask and the other person is not wearing an N95 respirator. Usually a person has to be in close contact with someone with infectious tuberculosis for a long period of time to become infected; however, some people do become infected after short periods, especially if the contact is in a closed or poorly ventilated space.”

    The Federal Government Hazmat protocol for dealing with suspected active TB cases is as follows:

    1. Administrative controls
    • “Develop policies and protocols to ensure the rapid identification, isolation, diagnostic evaluation and treatment of persons likely to have TB.”
     
    2. Engineering controls
    • Isolation and
    • Negative pressure room ventilation
     
    3.Personal protective equipment controls
    • N95 personal respirator protection

    Questions people and reporters need to be asking their local, state and federal elected officials regards the so-called “unattended child immigration crisis” include:

    1. How many Border Patrol Agents, health workers or other support staff at these immigration processing centers have worn N95 respirators in treating symptomatic TB sufferers?
     
    2. How many TB sufferers were also wearing masks?
     
    3. Have those Border Patrol Agents, health workers or other support staff followed a rigorous TB decontamination protocol?

    Whether people ask those questions or not, we are going to find out the answers soon, and not just in Texas. Testable anti-bodies to TB infection appear in two to 12 weeks for skin and blood tests and the incubation period for full blown active TB is six months to two(+) years.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Americas, Big Government, Bioethics, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Health Care, National Security | 76 Comments »

    Shall It Be Sustained?

    Posted by David Foster on 4th July 2014 (All posts by )

    For this Fourth of July,  Cassandra has an excellent post: Independence in an Age of Cynicism.  I recommend the entire post and all the links; read especially the third linked essay, which Cass wrote in 2008:  Why I Am Patriotic: a Love Letter to America.

    For the last several years, on July 4th I’ve posted an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem Listen to the People.  The title I’ve used for these posts prior to 2013 was It Shall Be Sustained, which is from the last line of Benet’s poem.

    Narrator:

    This is Independence Day,
    Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep,
    Whatever happens and whatever falls
    Out of a sky grown strange;
    This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids,
    The day of the parade,
    Slambanging down the street.
    Listen to the parade!
    There’s J. K. Burney’s float,
    Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels,
    The Fire Department and the local Grange,
    There are the pretty girls with their hair curled
    Who represent the Thirteen Colonies,
    The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross,
    Democracy, or just some pretty girls.
    There are the veterans and the Legion Post
    (Their feet are going to hurt when they get home),
    The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd,
    Good-humored, watching, hot,
    Silent a second as the flag goes by,
    Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles,
    Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay,
    Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek’s,
    The black-eyed children out of Sicily,
    The girls who giggle and the boys who push,
    All of them there and all of them a nation.
    And, afterwards,
    There’ll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech
    By somebody the Honorable Who,
    The lovers will pair off in the kind dark
    And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate,
    Will read the declaration.
    That’s how it is. It’s always been that way.
    That’s our Fourth of July, through war and peace,
    That’s our fourth of July.

    And a lean farmer on a stony farm
    Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt
    And walked ten miles to town.
    Musket in hand.
    He didn’t know the sky was falling down
    And, it may be, he didn’t know so much.
    But people oughtn’t to be pushed around
    By kings or any such.
    A workman in the city dropped his tools.
    An ordinary, small-town kind of man
    Found himself standing in the April sun,
    One of a ragged line
    Against the skilled professionals of war,
    The matchless infantry who could not fail,
    Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds,
    Not for the pomp or the heroic tale
    But first, and principally, since he was sore.
    They could do things in quite a lot of places.
    They shouldn’t do them here, in Lexington.

    He looked around and saw his neighbors’ faces

    The poem is very long, and is worth reading in full. The full text was published in Life Magazine; it is online here. The Life text may be a little difficult to read; I posted an excerpt which is considerably longer than the above here.

    Benet’s poem ends with these words:

    We made it and we make it and it’s ours
    We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained

    But shall it?

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Holidays, Poetry, Political Philosophy, USA | 3 Comments »

    Prediction: Romney 2016.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd July 2014 (All posts by )

    I have been predicting this, especially since these polls.

    Even the Washington Post has second thoughts.

    Romney would hold a slight lead on President Obama if the 2012 election were replayed today, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

    The poll of registered voters shows Romney at 49 percent and Obama at 45 percent in the rematch, a mirror image of Romney’s four-point (51-47) popular-vote loss in 2012.

    Now, we have this.

    What can I say except I told you so.

    Will Romney be different from these other failed nominees? Could he defy the odds and make a comeback presidential bid capturing the GOP nomination after all the doubt, second-guessing and blame that accompany such a loss? According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, many Americans seem to think so—45 percent of voters said the United States would be better off today with Romney as president.

    I donated more to the Romney campaign than I have in any other election and I was a volunteer for McCain in 2000.

    I told you so. I think there is a case that the 2012 election was stolen.

    The knowledge that the 1960 election was probably stolen helped Nixon in 1968. That and the failure of the Johnson Administration in Vietnam. Anyway, I have been predicting this for a while at Althouse and I can’t remember if I have posted this opinion here. Obama, with the time he has left, will make this more and more attractive. I thought we were doomed after 2012. I still think so but maybe I was wrong. The Megyn Kelly interviews with Bill Ayers might even help although she never got into the Ayers-Obama relationship.

    I just hope we avoid the worst of the blowback from inept foreign policy before 2016.

    More. This is amazing.

    All this is weird, unprecedented. The president shows no sign—none—of being overwhelmingly concerned and anxious at his predicaments or challenges. Every president before him would have been. They’d be questioning what they’re doing wrong, changing tack. They’d be ordering frantic aides to meet and come up with what to change, how to change it, how to find find common ground not only with Congress but with the electorate.

    Instead he seems disinterested, disengaged almost to the point of disembodied. He is fatalistic, passive, minimalist. He talks about hitting “singles” and “doubles” in foreign policy.

    “The world seems to disappoint him,” says The New Yorker’s liberal and sympathetic editor, David Remnick.

    Just weird.

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, Health Care, Middle East, Obama, Politics, Polls, Predictions | 25 Comments »

    How the Voting Rights Act Was Gutted and Why It Should Stay that Way

    Posted by David McFadden on 4th June 2014 (All posts by )

    The word that liberals are assigned to use when writing about what the Supreme Court did to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 last term in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612 (2013), is “gut.” The Supreme Court “gutted” the Voting Rights Act, countless editorials, blogs, and articles say, while urgently pressing Congress to repair the damage. It’s not such a bad metaphor, actually, as gutting can mean removing the parts of a dead fish that are unwanted.

    In the case of the Voting Rights Act, what the Court removed was Section 4(b) of the Act, an anachronistic test for the application of an extraordinarily intrusive (and theoretically temporary) provision, Section 5. Critics of Shelby County v. Holder obscure what those two sections actually say and do. If a state or political subdivision is covered by Section 5, it must obtain a declaration from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia or the attorney general of the United States that any change in a “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting” does not abridge voting rights. Without that declaration, no one “shall be denied the right to vote for failure to comply with such qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure.” Despite its text, this provision has been interpreted to mean that any change in a covered jurisdiction’s election law has to get preclearance from the Justice Department or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia—including laws that draw electoral districts, which are not a “procedure with respect to voting” and do not deny anyone the right to vote for failure to comply with them. (A voter can’t comply—or not comply—with an ordinance that says councilman shall be elected at large.)

    Section 5 was supposed to be a temporary, emergency provision expiring five years after the Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965. It applied to states and political subdivisions that met two criteria set out in Section 4(b). The first was that the attorney general determined that on November 1, 1964, the jurisdiction had a “test or device” requiring a voter to prove his education, character, or morals. The second was that less than 50% of voting age citizens in the jurisdiction were registered on November 1, 1964 or less than 50% of such persons voted in the 1964 presidential election. At the time, this coverage formula was a good measure of whether blacks were being kept from voting. Southern states had been very resourceful in finding ways to do that without violating earlier civil rights laws.

    Early on, these provisions were found to be within Congress’s constitutional powers. The Fifteenth Amendment says that the right of citizens to vote “shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race. . . .” Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment gives Congress the power to enforce the amendment “by appropriate legislation.” In 1966, the Supreme Court held that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, although “an uncommon exercise of congressional power,” was appropriate under the “unique circumstances” of the time, namely, pervasive defiance of voting rights that previous congressional remedies had been unable to stop. South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 309-10, 335 (1966). The Court found that Section 4(b)’s coverage formula “was relevant to the problem of voting discrimination” and was “rational in practice and theory.”

    It did not remain rational in practice or in theory. Section 5, the eternal temporary provision, was renewed in 1970, 1975, 1982, and finally was renewed once more in 2006—until 2032! Although Congress repeatedly renewed Section 5, it never updated the coverage formula in the sense of basing it on recent conditions alone. In the first two renewals, Congress overlaid upon Section 4(b) the same tests with different years. So in 1970 jurisdictions that had a literacy test in November 1968 or less than 50% registration and turnout in the 1968 presidential election became subject to preclearance, in addition to jurisdictions already covered. In 1975, jurisdictions that had a literacy test in November 1972 and less than 50% registration or turnout in the 1972 presidential election also became subject to preclearance, in addition to jurisdictions already covered. The coverage formula was not changed when Section 5 was renewed in 1982 and 2006. All of the tests, including those based upon events long past, remained in effect.

    The only way a jurisdiction entrapped by one of the tests could get out was to prove to the satisfaction of the D.C. District Court that no test or device had been used in the jurisdiction for ten years, that it had not committed any other voting rights violation, and that it had made an effort to eliminate intimidation and harassment of voters.

    This “bail out” provision allowed the Supreme Court to avoid deciding whether the preclearance requirement was still appropriate in 2009. That happened after a Texas utility district filed suit in the D.C. District Court seeking a declaration that it could bail out or, in the alternative, that Section 5′s preclearance requirement was unconstitutional. On appeal, the Supreme Court held in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, 557 U.S. 193 (2009), that the utility district was eligible to bail out and, as a result, avoided deciding whether Section 5 or Section 4(b) was constitutional. But the Court had plenty to say about it nonetheless. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Roberts cast doubt on the constitutionality of the preclearance requirement. The chief justice discussed the dramatic increases in registration and election of minorities (for which the Act deserves credit), the substantial federalism costs imposed by preclearance, and the antiquity of the coverage formula. Justice Thomas, concurring in part and dissenting in part, contended that the Court should have reached the constitutional questions and held Section 5 unconstitutional. No one wrote separately to defend Section 5. Justice Thomas wrote, “The Court quite properly alerts Congress that § 5 tests the outer boundaries of its Fifteenth Amendment enforcement authority and may not be constitutional.”

    Congress ignored the warning and left Section 5′s preclearance requirement and Section 4(b)’s coverage formula unchanged. Rep. Robert Scott (Democrat of Virginia) even issued an obtuse press release boasting that the decision validated Congress’s work in establishing the continuing need for Section 5.

    The issue returned to the Court four years later in a case brought by a county that was ineligible to bail out. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Court could not avoid the constitutional issues, or not all of them.

    The Court wasn’t ready to declare Section 5 preclearance unconstitutional (although Justice Thomas was), but it did declare Section 4(b)’s coverage formula for preclearance unconstitutional. Again Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion. He said that preclearance is extraordinarily intrusive into the reserved powers of the states under the Tenth Amendment. It reverses the burden of proof, requiring some of the states to come, hat in hand, before the civil rights division of the Justice Department or a distant court to prove that a new law does not violate the Act and to beg for permission to implement it. Only some states are subject to this indignity despite the equal sovereignty of the states.

    The purpose of the Fifteenth Amendment (often ignored in discussions of the Voting Rights Act) is to prevent denial of suffrage based on race. “To serve that purpose,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “Congress—if it is to divide the States—must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in the light of current conditions.” Apparently that’s the standard of review the Court used. If so, the Court side-stepped a question the lower courts debated and Northwest Austin acknowledged. The Court’s precedent had suggested that the test for whether a law was within Congress’s power under section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment was either that the law was congruent and proportional to the constitutional violation or just that it was a rational means to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment. Foregoing the choice between the two, the Court seems to have created a special test for laws that divide the states, i.e., they must “makes sense in the light of current conditions.”

    Section 4(b) failed that test miserably. The House Report acknowledged progress made in minority registration, turnout, and office holding; yet Congress reauthorized the same requirements and coverage formula as if nothing had changed. Congress compiled a voluminous record full of stories about “second-generation barriers,” that is, electoral districts that allegedly dilute minority voting strength. Those so-called barriers did not bar anyone from voting and aren’t even prohibited by the terms of the Voting Rights Act. More to the point, such barriers as there are today did not inform the design of the test. The coverage formula based upon literacy tests no longer in force and turnout in the 1964-72 presidential elections was reenacted as if out of habit.

    While that’s hardly sensible policy, how it adds up to a violation of some constitutional provision or other is not exactly clear. After completing his critique of the coverage formula and relating the unheeded warning in Northwest Austin, the chief justice simply announces that Congress’s “failure to act leaves us today with no choice but to declare §4(b) unconstitutional.” We’re not told if by some measure Congress exceeded its power under the Fifteenth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment or if Section 4(b) violated the Tenth Amendment, which Shelby County also argued. In this respect, the opinion is as bad as the one the Court rendered the next day in United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), in which Justice Kennedy follows his social and sentimental objections to the Defense of Marriage Act with “legalistic argle-bargle” abruptly leading to the conclusion that the Defense of Marriage Act violated the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause, the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause or of the Fourteenth Amendment, or something like that.

    The declaration of the unconstitutionality of Section 4(b) is followed by dicta that have been misinterpreted as an “invitation” to Congress to come up with a better formula. Actually, the Court said, “Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions. Such a formula is a prerequisite to a determination that exceptional conditions still exist justifying such an ‘extraordinary departure from the traditional course of relations between the States and the Federal Government.’” Shelby County, 133 S. Ct. at 2631 (quoting Presley v. Etowah County Comm’n, 502 U.S. 491, 500-501 (1992)). A new coverage formula is not a goal the Court is setting for Congress; it’s a prerequisite to deciding whether Section 5’s preclearance requirement remains constitutional even with a sensible test for its application. If Congress were to establish that prerequisite by devising a new coverage formula and then the Court were to strike down the whole preclearance edifice, the howls of the Left that the Court had played whack-a-mole with the civil rights community would be entertaining indeed.

    The president has shown uncharacteristic respect for the separation of powers by refraining from enacting a new coverage formula by his own fiat. And true to form, the 113th Congress, one of the best Congresses ever (using the correct metric of fewest bills passed), hasn’t enacted anything either.

    There have been proposals, though, ranging from the ridiculous to the not terrible. On the ridiculous end of the spectrum, Michael Lind in Salon and Dylan Matthews in the Washington Post‘s Wonkblog imagined that the Court would have no choice but to uphold blanket coverage of all fifty states. On the contrary, the Court’s choice would be easy: imposition of the extraordinary burdens of Section 5 on each state, regardless of whether pervasive violations of the Fifteenth Amendment or none at all occurred in the state, would not survive any constitutional standard that the Court would apply.

    More seriously, Sen. Patrick Leahy (Democrat of Vermont) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Republican of Wisconsin) introduced in January a bill (S. 1945 and H.R. 3899) prescribing a coverage formula based on violations of the Voting Rights Act and low turnout in the last fifteen years. Violations resulting from a requirement that voters present a photo ID would not count. That’s a welcome concession, but Republicans should insist that the bill clarify that statutory voter ID requirements are not a violation of the Voting Rights Act at all. To its discredit, the bill also imposes on the states meddlesome reporting requirements regarding polling places, changes in election laws, registration, and election results.

    In March the bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee in January. Neither committee has held hearings. That’s just as well. It is past time to allow Section 5 to expire, but Congress has never had the courage to let that happen. Inaction on the coverage formula is the next best thing, at least until Republicans control more than the House of Representatives. What we need now is a do-nothing Congress.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Elections, Law | 5 Comments »

    Checking Privilege

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Oh, not to worry – I had my privilege topped up last week. Full of privilege I am, and ready to go … I assume that this is the ephemeral white privilege that these undergraduates-of-excruciatingly-top-drawer-non-state-uni muppets are referring to? Is this the female privilege, the veteran privilege, or the mainstream religious privilege, or even the privilege of having been brought up by a relatively well-adjusted heterosexual married couple in those benighted times when it was possible and even laudable for a male to go out and earn a living, while the spouse (usually referred to as a help-mate) stayed at home, raised the children, organized the housekeeping and the meals, the education, clothing and schooling of those children, the social sphere in which she and the pay-check winning spouse moved, and volunteered in the community where they lived … that must be it. (Hey, I’ll swipe my privilege card through the dispenser, just in case I have burned through some of my previously-deposited privilege.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Leftism, Urban Issues | 8 Comments »

    SWOT, One Year On

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 15th April 2014 (All posts by )

    A year ago I was dispassionately composing my analysis. Today, when I left the Sprint campus and drove east on 115th Street to turn north on Nall toward I-435, there were TV news vans with telescoping antennae lining the street at the entrance to the Jewish Community Center.

    Coincidentally the number of dead is identical. There are, however, no (physically) injured survivors, and the motivation for the attack was similar only in that it was intended to draw attention to a cause. I fear that the perpetrator is cunning enough to succeed in that; his previous notoriety was due to legally forcing some radio stations to briefly carry Nazi ads during an election campaign season. Much has been made of the gentile – and indeed seriously committed Christian – identity of the victims, but I believe that was unimportant to him. What mattered was that he seize a mechanism for dissemination of conspiracy theories, and now, given the administrative blockheadedness of the American justice system and the puerile conventions of American journalism, we are all too likely to be subjected to many hours and tens of thousands of words of exceptionally vicious, totalitarian propaganda, varying portions of which will be heard by tens of millions of people. This guy knew exactly what he was doing.

    I could tell that from the video snippets of his arrest, just as I could tell, hours before it was officially confirmed, that he would turn out to have come from rural Missouri (Aurora is nearly a 3-hour drive from Overland Park; he had to have cased both facilities beforehand) and would turn out to be a southerner with prior Klan involvement. It was completely obvious from his accent, his tone of voice, and his attitude on camera. He is now operating inside the American institutional OODA loop. Our entirely proper determination to grant a scrupulously fair trial – when we’re not piling on the charges in order to ram a plea bargain through, that is – will be roughly equivalent to giving him not airtime for advertisements, but his own highly rated nationwide radio network.

    Fortunately, he is also sufficiently sui generis that copycat attacks are unlikely, at least in the immediate future. Should an American Dolchstoßlegende catch on, however, things may deteriorate sharply. The general case is to scapegoat a relatively small, easily-identified minority: it was the “1%,” or twenty-five guys on Wall Street, or the Koch brothers – or George Soros, or Obama/Pelosi/Reid, or the leftist academics on their Long March through the institutions – or (of course) Jews, or Latino immigrants or Asians stealing our jobs. If we just expropriate, or deport, or exterminate them, and everyone like them, the story goes, our country will be purified, and Utopia ensue. The ideology may be Nazi or Communist; either will do in a pinch, as Hayek wrote nearly three-quarters of a century ago: its adherents are uncertain, and know only that they hate Western liberal civilization.

    Just to make things more complicated, tolerance can definitely be taken too far. Interviews with the perpetrator’s neighbors in Lawrence County, Missouri, immediately elicit idiotic postmodernist comments to the effect that he seemed like a nice enough guy but had some opinions that they didn’t agree with. Great. Your assigned reading is here, you nitwits.

    So when blood ran in the streets of my city, did I follow my own advice in the ostensibly-uplifting conclusion to my analysis of a year ago, and immediately redouble my efforts on whatever it is I was supposed to be doing? Well, it was a Sunday, so there was somewhat less of that, although I tend to devise more projects for my spare time than I could possibly execute anyway. But in the event, whatever it may say about me, I felt tremendously violated, as though the murders had occurred in my driveway rather than six miles away. And what I actually did was drink rather more cheap boxed red wine than usual and break down a couple of times. I don’t have any particular aversion to weeping, but I don’t need to do so very often. Turns out I needed to on Sunday evening. The question of how I will react should much larger-scale events occur in even closer proximity remains unanswered.

    The problem, of course, is that this kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen here … which is a rather hypocritical sentiment in light of the actual statistics on violent death locally. A couple-three people a week get murdered in this town, three-quarters of them in an area covering only one-tenth of the municipality of KC, Mo., and a tiny fraction of the area of the entire MSA. Assuming that the said area (34 mi²) has the same population density as zip code 64130 (of which it largely consists), a moment with a calculator establishes that the homicide rate in question – the southwestern boundary of that area reaches to within two miles of my house – is nearly 80 per 100,000 per year, making it one of the most dangerous places in the Western world, and also as dangerous as Iraq before the Surge, which the media thoughtfully informed us at the time was the Worst Thing Ever. Gallivanting off to Haïti is all very well, but perhaps I should find a more local ministry to volunteer with while I’m at it.

    But it really isn’t supposed to happen here, and not just because Overland Park is a world away from the East Side. Side-by-side, indeed inextricably mixed, with the ongoing mayhem five minutes’ drive from my doorstep is a deep reservoir of peace and contentment. God damn it, we just want to listen to jazz and eat barbecue. In its best moments, there is no gentler place on Earth. The lives of those taken on Sunday bear witness to that.

    “The new thing — the thing which we had not known — the thing we have learned now and should never forget, is this: that a society of self-governing men is more powerful, more enduring, more creative than any other kind of society, however disciplined, however centralized.” – Harry S. Truman, Radio Report to the American People on the Potsdam Conference, 9 August 1945

    “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now.” – Harry S. Truman, to reporters, 13 April 1945

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, History, Judaism, Law Enforcement, National Security, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Quotations, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 3 Comments »

    Harbingers

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th April 2014 (All posts by )

    I’ve been surfing my usual internet hangouts over the last week or so – in between working on various editing, formatting and sales projects for the Tiny Publishing Bidness – so although I did surf, and read and observe reports on a number of different and rather disturbing events – I didn’t have time to write anything about them until after I had finished the biggest of the current projects on my plate.

    The biggest of them was the new-old range war of the Bundy ranch. I suppose that technically speaking, the Fed Gov had some small shreds of technical justification in demanding grazing fees … but the longer one looked at the whole of L’affaire Bundy, the worse it looked … which is doubtless why the Fed Gov backed down. A tactical retreat, of course; The optics of a shoot-out between the minions of the Fed Gov and the various Bundy supporters would not have been good, for Harry Reid and his clan and friends most of all, although they may eventually act – seeing that they have a position which will be at risk by tolerating defiance.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Blogging, Business, Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Just Unbelievable, Media, North America, Politics, Real Estate | 19 Comments »

    The New McCarthyites

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Seriously, I am wondering how on earth the politically correct of this blessed nation manage to keep a straight face and their heads from exploding; ritually demanding sympathy for the so-called victims of the 1950s black-list of various Hollywoodians of distinctly Communist sympathies, while in this present century demanding that those who are not vociferously laudatory with regard to same-sex marriage be cast into the outer darkness. Not that I can specifically put a finger and a link to a person or body doing exactly that – but it is noted for the record that same kind of so-called liberal, generous and tolerant thinker who routinely condemn the antics of Joe McCarthy with regard to Communist infiltration half a century and more ago, is in these degraded days prepared to drag those who decline to enthusiastically support same-sex marriage to the stake, the courts, or the unemployment line. The irony abounds … and is likely to achieve such a density as to drop it all the way to the core of the earth and out the other side.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events | 19 Comments »

    Random Links

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st March 2014 (All posts by )

    -Will Israel Be the Next Energy Superpower? – A balanced, thoughtful look at recent developments from Arthur Herman. There is cause for optimism.

    -Wildlife photographer pleads guilty to violating Endangered Species Act – The gist of the story is that some guy was photographing “endangered” birds from less than 500 feet away, which apparently is a violation of the Endangered Species Act, and was turned in to the feds by zealous environmentalists who saw him do this. Of course he copped a plea. If he had taken his chances in court he could have ended up in jail for years. As it is he may still do time and will end up with a felony conviction and probably a big fine to make an example of him. The birds he supposedly harassed aren’t even rare, merely locally rare in Florida, and he didn’t harm any of them. At most he should have been fined a few hundred bucks and warned to stay farther away from the wildlife. But nowadays everything is a federal crime with draconian penalties, and you can’t fart in a wetland without violating some rule. And the enforcement agencies have to justify their budgets. He should have left the birds alone, but his punishment is cruelly excessive. Some of the comments in response to the article are remarkably heartless. Not just the EPA but also the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Park Service deserve substantial defunding.

    -Possibly my best blog post ever.

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Humor, Israel, Law, Law Enforcement | 10 Comments »

    Gleichschaltung

    Posted by David Foster on 24th February 2014 (All posts by )

    Here’s a Democratic candidate for Congress who tweeted:

    Fox News does nothing but tell lies and mistruths. They have unqualified political analysts. We need FCC to monitor and regulate them.

    The vast majority of the traditional media, of course, fervently supports the Democrats. Evidently this candidate cannot stand the presence of any source of diverse reporting and opinion.

    With this tweet, Mike Dickenson  declared war on American free speech.

    Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is by no means rare among Democrats and “progressives.” For example, this story is about  threats of legal action and potential loss of license against a TV station that dared to broadcast ads critical of Democratic candidate Gary Peters. (The lawyers who sent the letter work for the law firm of Bob Bauer, who was general counsel of the Obama campaign.)

    The hostility to free expression and discussion of ideas is especially strong in many universities. For example, here’s a Swarthmore student who was appalled that conservative Princeton professor Robert George was allowed to debate against leftist Princeton prof Cornell West:  ”“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion,” Ching told the Daily Gazette, the school’s newspaper. “I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.” The same link mentions an article by a Harvard student, who calls for replacing academic freedom with something she calls “academic justice.”

    Gleichschaltung is a German word which means “coordination,” “making the same,” “bringing into line.” It was a term much favored by the Nazis, who used it in the sense of “forcible coordination.” Under the Nazi regime, all aspects of society–all organizations ranging from major professional associations such as those representing the country’s legal profession, down to to folk-singing groups and small local hiking clubs–were subjected to Gleichschaltung. Not only was there to be no criticism of National Socialism in the explicitly political sphere, there was to be no truly non-political sphere at all. Everything had to be about the propagation and strengthening of the ideology of National Socialism.

    The Democratic Party, the “progressive” Left, and the Obama administration are clearly attempting to establish more and more control over public discourse about political and social matters, and also about anything that could relate to these matters.

    And what is “political correctness,” after all, other than a contemporary American form of Gleichschaltung?

     

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Germany, History, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 10 Comments »

    Is Venezuela Collapsing ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    UPDATE #2: The western bloc is growing while the Atlantic bloc stagnates.

    Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina are languishing in differing shades of turmoil, steadily losing ground to regional underdogs. The Pacific Alliance, an historic trade agreement between Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia (and coming soon: Costa Rica), has the potential to recolor Latin America’s economic map and introduce some new regional powerhouses to the world stage.

    More here.

    Four nations are developing an initiative that could add new dynamism to Latin America, redraw the economic map of the region, and boost its connections with the rest of the world—especially Asia. It could also offer neighboring countries a pragmatic alternative to the more political groupings dominated by Brazil, Cuba, and Venezuela.

    UPDATE: More on the role Cuba is playing in Venezuela now.

    Belmont Club has a good post today on the collapse of Venezuela. The car manufacturers have announced they are closing their plants.

    Toyota Motor Co. said it would shut down its assembly operations in Venezuela due to the government’s foreign exchange controls that have crippled imports and made it impossible to bring in parts needed to build its vehicles.

    The country’s other car manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford, haven’t even started operations this year, while waiting for needed parts to arrive.

    The oil field workers left years ago when the Chavez government cut oil workers’ pay.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Cuba, International Affairs, Iran, Latin America | 20 Comments »

    History Friday – Becoming the Other, Part 2

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th February 2014 (All posts by )

    Part one is here – a meditation on how suddenly a group of citizens became the ‘other’ during the Civil War.

    In the wake of a military crackdown on a region perceived to be in rebellion – philosophically and perhaps politically – against the State of Texas and the Confederacy, a series of military trials of an assortment of civilians and local militia volunteers was held in San Antonio in the late summer and early autumn of 1862. Storekeeper Julius Schlickum was the first convicted, although no one testifying at his trial could say anything worse of him than his enthusiasm for the Confederacy was markedly restrained. The second prisoner convicted in the commission hearings had considerably more meat and justification to the charges laid against him; Philip Braubach, formerly elected sheriff of Gillespie County. Braubach was an outspoken Unionist, an associate of Jacob Keuchler – another Unionist, a farmer and surveyor who had trained as a forester in Germany.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Germany, History, Politics, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Why the Grand Inquisitor Sentenced Jesus Christ to be Burned at the Stake

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd February 2014 (All posts by )

    It seems that Jesus Christ returned to earth, sometime during the sixteenth century…at least, this is the premise of the parable that Ivan relates to Alyosha, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov.  The city to which Christ came was  Seville,  where on the previous day before almost a hundred heretics had been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, “in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king, the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of the court, and the whole population of Seville. He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognised Him.”

    But the Grand Inquisitor observes the way in which people are being irresistibly drawn to Jesus, and causes him to be arrested and taken away.

    The crowd instantly bows down to the earth, like one man, before the old Inquisitor. He blesses the people in silence and passes on. The guards lead their prisoner to the close, gloomy vaulted prison- in the ancient palace of the Holy  Inquisition and shut him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning, ‘breathless’ night of Seville. The air is ‘fragrant with laurel and lemon.’ In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with a light in his hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He stands in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes into His face. At last he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.

    “‘Is it Thou? Thou?’ but receiving no answer, he adds at once. ‘Don’t answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, Religion, Russia | 9 Comments »

    To Become the ‘Other’

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd February 2014 (All posts by )

    I suppose that my thoughts were running this week on the theory and practice of ‘otherizing’ because my work in the Tiny Bidness has brought me full-face with a prime example of how upright good citizens, patriotic as they saw it, were brought by a turn of the political wheel into being accused criminals, brought before a military commission and charged with crimes which – if found guilty of by the tribunal – could have drawn a capital sentence. That the several found guilty of disloyalty to the régime and sentenced to death, imprisonment, exile or a heavy fine did in most cases, escape the worst of it and return to lives of post-war prosperity and respect must have been of cold comfort at the time.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement | 8 Comments »

    History Friday: The Great Adventure of Captain McNelly

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd November 2013 (All posts by )

    (I’m off to a book event today – the Christmas Market, or Weihnachtsmarkt, at the conference center in New Braunfels, for the launch of The Quivera Trail. In the mean time, another thrilling frontier adventure. The details and the quotes are taken from Walter Prescott Webb’s history of the Rangers, which is so powerfully testosterone-laden that I have to keep it sectioned between a couple of … milder-themed books which have a sedating effect.)

    After the debacle of the Civil War, the Texas Rangers barely existed as an entity – either in Indian-fighting, or law-enforcing. The Federal government would not countenance the organization of armed bodies of volunteers for any purpose. Combating Indians or cross-border bandits was the business of the regular Army; interested semi-amateurs need not apply. But a Reconstruction-Republican governor, E. J. Davis, did institute a state police force in 1870, the existence of which was lauded as necessary for the preservation of law and order – such as it was. The state police under Davis was relatively short-lived and unadorned by laurels during its brief term, being dissolved at the end of his administration – but one of their officers had such a sterling reputation that when the Texas Rangers were formally reorganized, he was charged with heading one of the two divisions. One was the Frontier Battalion, dedicated to the Ranger’s traditional mission of fighting hostile Indians. The other – the Special Force – was charged with generally upholding law and order, shortly to become the Ranger’s modern raison d’être. Leander Harvey McNelly served for only a brief time in the interim of the change from Indian fighting to upholding law and order – but his leadership inspired many of those Rangers who took note of his personal example to heart.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, History, War and Peace | 1 Comment »

    In Light of This Development …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Covered here, at length, I am certain that New Mexico, or at the very least, the Hidalgo County PD needs a new motto. This takes ‘search and seizure to whole new levels. I’ve seen this story linked on a couple of different independent blogs, but now it goes to a whole new level of ‘WTF?’
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Diversions, Just Unbelievable, North America, Privacy, Society, That's NOT Funny, Urban Issues | 6 Comments »

    Conservatives invented the mandate; say the Democrats.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 28th October 2013 (All posts by )

    The latest meme I’ve noticed on the Obamacare implosion is that the Republicans are to blame. After all, it’s Romneycare, or it’s the idea of the Heritage Foundation.

    In fact, the mandate was promoted by Hillary in 2008 and opposed by Obama. Of course, he doesn’t know much about what is going on so we can understand. In fact, the entire website fiasco, slipped by him, unnoticed.

    President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website — despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run — until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.

    Of course he may just rewrite the code himself. After all, he is so talented that he is bored.

    David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, quotes White House senior adviser and longtime Obama friend Valerie Jarrett: “I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. … He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. … So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. … He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”

    Oh well, at least we know if we really get in trouble, we have someone who can bail us out. I don’t doubt the comment about him never being challenged intellectually.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Health Care, Leftism, Obama, Politics | 3 Comments »

    Appeasement, Then and Now

    Posted by David Foster on 26th October 2013 (All posts by )

    The Prime Ministership of Neville Chamberlain is closely associated with the word “appeasement.” The policy of appeasement followed by Britain in the late 1930s  is generally viewed as a matter of foreign policy–the willingness to allow Germany’s absorption of other countries, first Austria and then Czechoslovakia, in the desperate but misguided hope of avoiding another war.

    But appeasement also had domestic as well as foreign policy aspects. In a post several years ago, I quoted Winston Churchill, who spoke of  the unendurable..sense of our country falling into the power, into the orbit and influence of Nazi Germany, and of our existence becoming dependent upon their good will or pleasure…In a very few years, perhaps in a very few months, we shall be confronted with demands” which “may affect the surrender of territory or the surrender of liberty.” A “policy of submission” would entail “restrictions” upon freedom of speech and the press. Indeed, I hear it said sometimes now that we cannot allow the Nazi system of dictatorship to be criticized by ordinary, common English politicians.”

    Churchill’s concern was not just a theoretical one. Following the German takeover of Czechoslovakia, photographs were available showing the plight of Czech Jews, dispossessed by the Nazis and wandering the roads of eastern Europe. Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, refused to run any of them: it wouldn’t help the victims, he told his staff, and if they were published, Hitler would be offended.

    I’ve just finished reading Niall Ferguson’s War of the World, and this book contains much more information about appeasement in British domestic society and politics. Some excerpts:

    (Times Berlin correspondent Normal Ebbut) wrote regularly on…the (Nazi) regime’s persecution of Protestant churches. As early as November 1934, he was moved to protest about editorial interference with his copy, giving twelve examples of how his stories had been cut to remove critical references to the Nazi regime.

    and

    The Times was far from unique in its soft-soap coverage of Germany. Following his visit in 1937, Halifax lobbied near all the leading newspaper proprietors to tone down their coverage of Germany…The government succeeded in pressuring the BBC into avoiding ‘controversy’ in its coverage of European affairs…Lord Reith, the Director-General of the BBC, told Ribbentrop ‘to tell Hitler that the BBC was not anti-Nazi’…Pressure to toe the line was even stronger in the House of Commons. Conservative MPs who ventured to criticize Chamberlain were swiftly chastised by the whips or their local party associations.

    and

    At around the time of the Abyssinian crisis, the historian A L Rowse–who was just thirty-four at the time of Munich-recalled a walk with (Times publisher Dawson) along the towpath to Iffley, in the course of which he warned the older man: ‘It is the Germans who are so powerful as to threaten the rest of us together.’ Dawson’s reply was revealing: ‘To take your argument on its own valuation–mind you, I’m not saying I agree with it–but if the Germans are as powerful as you say, oughtn’t we to go in with them?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Civil Liberties, Europe, Germany, Islam, Leftism, Terrorism, The Press, USA | 27 Comments »

    Emmanuel Tea Party Goldstein

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd October 2013 (All posts by )

    You know, the last eight years or so have educated me – at least socially and politically – as much as the eight years that I spent in high school, college and the first year in the military ever did. Who says you stop intellectually developing after your mid-forties? I suppose the most-eye-opening development is that I have now seen for real and in real-time that which I had only read about in history books; mainly the development, perpetuation, care and feeding of “The Big Lie.” As defined by the erratic but invaluable Wikipedia, that is “a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

    But the ‘big lie’ has worked, over and over again – and most especially and effectively when it is chorused from every corner and by every authority. The latest example and the one which I find most personally outrageous is this one; (found through Legal Insurrection at the National Review); one Alan Grayson, a Democrat member of the House of Representatives has sent out an email to his supporters casually equating the Tea Party with the KKK. As a southern Democrat, Rep. Grayson is, of course, an expert on the KKK, seeing that they served as the shock troops of Southern Democrats. Other leading Democrat Party figures have passed remarks just as disparaging of the Tea Party; I suspect that they are actually mistaking the straw-man Tea Party construction of their own mind, rather than the earnest, hardworking and mostly middle-class fans of fiscally-responsible, strict Constitutionalist and free-market policies which made up most of the Tea Party members I am acquainted with. How such a body of people can be made out to be the sinister Goldsteins and calumniated with such vicious enthusiasm, solo and chorus is almost beyond belief – but they are, and it is only getting worse.

    A good portion of the citizens of the United States are being ‘othered’ by those who disagree with them politically and philosophically – and by people you would have thought would know better. The establishment media and pop-culture organs are aiding and abetting this, not realizing that it is only a short step from ‘othering’ to declaring open season – literally. The next step is already being contemplated, although it is hard to tell how seriously the petition to arrest and try the leaders of the Republican Party for sedition, merely for having had the temerity to oppose the current administration. There is something bad in the water, when being in political opposition is considered ground for criminal charges. The comments appended to this story, and this one are dispiriting to read, for too many commenters voice enthusiastic agreement and approval. To be fair, a good few commenters warned against this criminalization of political dissent – since the sauce for the Tea Party goose might just as easily be served up with the progressive gander. Taken all together, this does not augur well and it certainly heats up the cold civil war a couple of more degrees.

    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Just Unbelievable, Obama, Politics, Society, Tea Party, The Press | 27 Comments »

    Freedom, the Village, and the Internet

    Posted by David Foster on 21st September 2013 (All posts by )

    I’ve reviewed two books by German writer Hans Fallada: Little Man, What Now?, and Wolf Among Wolves (the links go to the reviews), both of which were excellent. I recently finished his novel Every Man Dies Alone, which is centered on a couple who become anti-Nazi activists after their son Ottochen is killed in the war…it was inspired by, and is loosely based on, the true story of  a real-life couple who distributed anti-Nazi postcards and were executed for it.

    I thought this book was also excellent…the present post, though, is not a book review, but rather a development of some thoughts inspired by a particular passage in the story.

    Trudel, who was Ottochen’s fiancee, is a sweet and intelligent girl who is strongly anti-Nazi..and unlike Ottochen’s parents, she became an activist prior to being struck by personal tragedy: she is a member of a resistance cell at the factory where she works.  But she finds that she cannot stand the unending psychological strain of underground work–made even worse by the rigid and doctrinaire man (apparently a Communist) who is leader of the cell–and she drops out. Another member of the cell, who has long been in love with her, also finds that he is not built for such work, and drops out also.

    After they marry and Trudel becomes pregnant, they decide to leave the politically hysterical environment of Berlin for a small town where–they believe–life will be freer and calmer.

    Like many city dwellers, they’d had the mistaken belief that spying was only really bad in Berlin and that decency still prevailed in small towns. And like many city dwellers, they had made the painful discovery that recrimination, eavesdropping, and informing were ten times worse in small towns than in the big city. In a small town, everyone was fully exposed, you couldn’t ever disappear in the crowd. Personal circumstances were quickly ascertained, conversations with neighbors were practically unavoidable, and the way  such conversations could be twisted was something they had already experienced in their own lives, to their chagrin.

    Reading the above passage, I was struck by the thought that if we are now living in an “electronic village”…even a “global village,” as Marshall McLuhan put it several decades ago…then perhaps that also means we are facing some of the unpleasant characteristics that–as Fallada notes–can be a part of village life. And these characteristics aren’t something that appears only in eras of insane totalitarianism such as existed in Germany during the Nazi era. Peter Drucker, in Managing in the Next Society, wrote about the tension between liberty and community:

    Rural society has been romanticized for millenia, especially in the West, where rural communities have usually been portrayed as idylic. However, the community in rural society is actually both compulsory and coercive…And that explains why, for millenia, the dream of rural people was to escape into the city. Stadluft macht frei (city air frees) says an old German proverb dating back to the eleventy or twelfth century.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, France, Germany, Health Care, History, Internet, Media, USA | 14 Comments »

    Are We More or Less Free Than We Were in 1975?

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th September 2013 (All posts by )

    I recently sent this link to some friends, which lists “10 Things You Could Do in 1975 That You Can’t Do Now.” The list included:

    2. You could buy cough syrup without showing an ID

    4. You could buy a gun without showing an ID
     
    5. You could pull as much cash out of your bank account without the bank filing a report with the government
     
    6. You could get a job without having to prove you were an American

    9. You could open a stock brokerage account without having to explain where the money came from

    10. You could open a Swiss bank account with ease. All Swiss banks were willing and happy to open accounts for Americans

    I opined: “We are FAR less free than we used to be. The “War on Drugs” is a major cause, but general government encroachment for its own sake is behind most of it.”

    My friend Singapore Pundit responded:

    [Lex], I have to challenge your theory that we are “FAR less” than free we use to be. Here is a short list of things from the 70′s which we are free from today: The military draft; 70% marginal tax rates on income; airline price regulation by the federal government; forced busing of school children; gas rationing by the federal government (Nixon); legalized monopoly of telecommunications; US gov. restricted travel to China, Vietnam, Russia and east Europe; banned importation of books based on ideology; tariffs on goods from Canada and Mexico; federal government price controls (Nixon); 25% of workers in unions (now it’s 7%). Here are somethings we have today versus the 70′s which I would argue make us freer: charter schools; home schooling; the internet and access by it to free information; 401K; more right-to-work states; right to vote for citizens over 18.

    I had to concede these were all good things.

    So, on net, are we freer or less free?

    Posted in Civil Liberties, History, Taxes, USA | 39 Comments »

    When Law Yields to Absolute Power

    Posted by David Foster on 18th July 2013 (All posts by )

    Three years ago, I reviewed the important and well-written memoirs of Sebastian Haffner, who grew up in Germany between the wars. I think the state of affairs in America today makes it appropriate to re-post some excerpts from the review and from the book.

    In 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor, Haffner was working as a junior lawyer (refendar) in the Prussian High Court, the Kammergericht. He was comforted by the continuity of the legal process:

    The newspapers might report that the constitution was in ruins. Here every paragraph of the Civil Code was still valid and was mulled over and analyzed as carefully as ever…The Chancellor could daily utter the vilest abuse against the Jews; there was nonetheless still a Jewish Kammergerichtsrat (high court judge) and member of our senate who continued to give his astute and careful judgments, and these judgments had the full weight of the law and could set the entire apparatus of the state in motion for their enforcement–even if the highest office-holder of that state daily called their author a ‘parasite’, a ‘subhuman’ or a ‘plague’.

    In spring of that year, Haffner attended Berlin’s Carnival–an event at which one would find a girlfriend or boyfriend for the night and exchange phone numbers in the morning…”By then you usually know whether it is the start of something that you would like to take further, or whether you have just earned yourself a hangover.” He had a hard time getting in the Carnival mood, however:

    All at once I had a strange, dizzy feeling. I felt as though I was inescapably imprisoned with all these young people in a giant ship that was rolling and pitching. We were dancing on its lowest, narrowest deck, while on the bridge it was being decided to flood that deck and drown every last one of us.

    …..

    Though it was not really relevant to current events, my father’s immense experience of the period from 1870 to 1933 was deployed to calm me down and sober me up. He treated my heated emotions with gentle irony…It took me quite a while to realize that my youthful excitability was right and my father’s wealth of experience was wrong; that there are things that cannot be dealt with by calm skepticism.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Germany, History, Law, USA | 16 Comments »

    Saint Alexander of Munich

    Posted by David Foster on 13th July 2013 (All posts by )

    Alexander Schmorell, who was a member of the anti-Nazi student resistance group known as the White Rose, has been canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

    Schmorell was of German nationality but Russian ancestry. Deeply religious, he had strong artistic and literary interests–his favorite author was Dostoyevsky—and was studying to be physician. He met Hans Scholl in 1940, and in mid-1942 collaborated with him on the initial White Rose leaflets. Later that year he served as a combat medic on the Eastern Front, and what he saw there reinforced his already-strong anti-Nazi convictions.

    Following the arrest of the Scholls and Christoph Probst, Schmorell attempted to escape to Switzerland, but was betrayed by someone he thought was a friend, a woman named Marie-Luise: “Alex’s picture and description had been all over the place by now, and she felt that she had no choice but to report him, if not to save her own neck, but to save her unborn baby’s,” according to the post at the above link.

    Shurik, as he was known to his friends, identified strongly with Russia and with Russians:

    I love Russia’s endless steppes and breadth, the forest and mountains, over which man has no dominion. I love Russians, everything Russian, which cannot be taken away, without which a person simply isn’t the same. Their hearts and souls, which are impossible to grasp with the mind, which can only be guessed at and sensed, which is their treasure, a treasure that can never be taken away.

    Alexander Schmorell was executed by the Nazi state in July 1943. Shortly before he went to the guillotine, he asked his lawyer to tell Marie-Luise that he had forgiven her completely.

    A moving description of the canonization ceremony here.

    See also my previous post about the White Rose.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Germany, History, Political Philosophy | 6 Comments »