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  • Archive for June, 2005

    Eminent Domain and the Free Market

    Posted by demimasque on 30th June 2005 (All posts by )

    The fallout over Kelo vs. New London has become a topic of conversation throughout many discussion boards, including my350z.com. In the latest tussle, one member asked, Do you think the free market is always the perfect solution? Can you think of any circumstances in which the free market produces unsatisfactory results?, in response to a flurry of attacks on government seizures of property. One particular response (free registration required) is worth noting, from member plezercruz:

    The free market always produces the most efficient solution, with some rare exceptions. These exceptions are the standard Coasian transaction costs: search costs, lack of information, spite, etc. Where there is a transaction cost that surpasses the profit gain of a transaction, the most efficient transaction will not happen. If for example, your Saudi landlord won’t sell out of sheer spite, inefficiencies arise. If it is simply too difficult for a buyer to negotiate with all of the owners of a parcel of land, making it too expensive to buy it, inefficiencies arise.

    The fact that these ineffiencies occur is the reason why we have governments, and the reason why we have eminent domain. The idea is that by cutting through all the haggling, spite, and sentimental attachments, we can more efficiently produce the results that we want as a society. However, these results are almost always INEFFICIENT because they occur contrary to market forces by government fiat.

    The real problem with eminent domain is that it attempts to apply an objective standard to valuation, and value is a subjective determination. We can measure with some accuracy how much land OUGHT to be worth, but we cannot measure how much it is worth to the owner. The solution government has come up with is to outright ignore subjective value, and allow the buyer (government) to determine the fair market price, which (surprise surprise) almost always turns out to be far less than the owner thinks its worth and significantly less than the market would actually bear. I forget the case, but I remember reading in Con Law that government doesn’t even have to pay prevailing market price, it only needs to pay a price high enough that it isn’t completely unreasonable.

    Another thing that eminent domain takings overlook is that forced sales necessarily should come at a premium price, not at fair market price. There is a difference between buying land that has come on the market volunatarily and trying to buy land when the owner is not eager to move. The price to buy a parcel of land RIGHT NOW should be significantly higher than fair market price. Eminent domain practice ignores this fact.

    All this results in takings which are unjust, unfair, and extremely unpopular. It did not have to be so. If, for example, the Supreme Court had used it’s common sense and realized that taking price should exceed fair market value, then the governments of this country would have to pay a premium to seize land (which is only proper). If that were the case, MOST people would be EAGER to have government take their land. Government would show up and say “We’ll offer you twice what your land is worth” and people would throw parties because the government took their land. That’s the way it ought to be done…if the government “needs” your land badly enough, let THEM pay the premium. You shouldn’t have to be screwed.

    I personally hope they take Souter’s home and I hope they give him half what it’s worth. That’s how the rest of us live…why should he be special?

    Well said!

    Posted in Civil Liberties | 10 Comments »

    New Sisyphus: Why We Fight

    Posted by demimasque on 30th June 2005 (All posts by )

    Despite being a very busy guy, New Sisyphus took some time out to write a very cogent, very considered essay on why it was right to take the war to Iraq (emphases mine):

    A number of reasons made dysfunctional Baathist Iraq the obvious choice: it was a once-prosperous, multi-ethnic community in the heart of the Islamic world that had been brutalized by an insanely aggressive regime that not only had invaded neighboring countries twice but had used long-banned chemical weapons in doing so. It also had an on-going program to further develop WMD for its use. It had used WMD against its own population to strengthen its rule by fear. It was still technically at war with the United States, violating a cease-fire almost daily by firing upon American pilots. It had attempted to assassinate an ex-President of the United States. It was supporting suicide bombing in Israel by providing financial benefit to such fanatics families. It had given refuge to terrorist groups and terrorist leaders. In short, Iraq was the poster child for the type of dysfunctional political culture that had given rise to the grievance-based ideology of Islamic Fascism.

    Thus, Iraq presented the President with a convergence of strategic sense and tactical opportunity. Strategic, in that a conversion of Iraq to a more democratic and prosperous country would provide a counter-model to that proposed by the Islamic Republic and Bin Ladenism in the heart of the Islamic world; tactical in that its WMD program, aggressive behavior and some links to terrorist groups represented a threat to the United States.

    In sum, the short-term problem of active Al-Qaeda support was solved (to some extent) by the change of regime in Afghanistan while the long-term problem of Islamic Fascism would be countered by the democratic rise of a new Iraq, leading to the spread of the ideals of democracy and liberty in the greater Middle East. Together, both prongs, along with the aggressive use of law enforcement domestically and abroad, diplomacy, and special operations in remote theatres, make up the wider War on Terror. Both were prompted by the adoption of war goals by the President, whose judgment was largely colored by what he felt were the central lessons of 9.11.

    Thus, for the NY Times and liberals at large to say that Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks, is to miss the larger point the President is making, made last night and will continue to make for the rest of his term. Iraq is central to the Presidents war aims in that he seeks to inject a radical new order in the heart of the Middle East, one that will present an alternative and democratic space that will deflate the appeal of the fascism that gave rise to 9.11 and similar attacks.

    For liberals to pretend not to understand all thisfor them to lose their vaunted sense of nuance and understandingreveals a profound and distasteful dishonesty on their part, as well as a whiff of desperation. Beyond indicting Bin Laden in District Court for the Southern District of New York, liberals have been without a strategic plan on how to win the War on Terror. In fact, they would deny such a war even exists.

    Exactly. They didn’t get it during the Cold War, and they don’t get it now. Their ostrich-like perspective and their paranoid style of rhetoric has, unfortunately, stripped them of all credibility on issues of national security and foreign policy.

    One important point, which I readily concede to antiwar friends, is that the Iraq War was a war of choice. Indubitably. But that’s like trying to decide where in the house to lay the roach traps, or even trying to decide whether to merely mop up after roach attacks, or proactively going after the roaches, or even worse, doing nothing at all. Similarly, Iraq was a crossroads of Islamofascism (of which bin Ladenism is only a variant), was already in a state of hostilities, and had provided plenty of legitimate reasons for the resumption of military operations.

    Read the whole thing; it is without a doubt one of the best essays out there.

    [Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

    Posted in War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    A Leftist Blind Spot

    Posted by Shannon Love on 30th June 2005 (All posts by )

    Every ideology has its blind spots, areas wherein the ideology cannot predict the consequences of particular actions. Leftists are keenly attuned to negative consequences of giving the state power in matters of sex and police work, but they seem utterly oblivious to the dangers of granting the state power in economic matters. Leftists see only the immediate gain without considering how that power might be abused.

    For example, most leftist are strong supporters of freedom of the press, while at the same time being strong advocates of government regulation of large media companies. They want the government to have the power to decide such matters as which markets media companies can enter and which technologies they can use. It never seems to occur to them that giving the government a great deal of say in a media company’s economic operations ultimately also gives it leverage to control the content it provides.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    Amazing

    Posted by In-Cog-Nito on 30th June 2005 (All posts by )

    If you haven’t seen Google Earth, check it out. It’ll knock your socks off.

    Posted in Internet | 4 Comments »

    Recruitment Shortfall Reversal

    Posted by demimasque on 29th June 2005 (All posts by )

    Despite harsh images coming out of Iraq (and made to look even harsher by a traditional media elite determined to make Iraq another Vietnam), which had recruitment well behind schedule for much of the first half of this year, June saw a reversal in recruitment trends:

    The U.S. Army, hard pressed to attract new soldiers amid the Iraq war, exceeded its monthly recruiting goal in June, ending four straight months of shortfalls, the top U.S. military officer said on Wednesday.

    But the active-duty Army, three-quarters through fiscal 2005, remained 14 percent — about 7,800 recruits — behind its year-to-date target and was in danger of missing its first annual recruiting goal since 1999, officials said. Its goal for fiscal 2005, ending on Sept. 30, is 80,000 recruits.

    “I will tell you that for the month of June, the United States Army active recruiting is over 100 percent of its goal, which is a turnaround from where they’ve been the last several months,” Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience of Pentagon employees.

    “So there’s a bit of good news in here. We’ll see how it works out the rest of the year,” Myers added.

    Well, it seems to me that if there weren’t so many bans on military recruitment on campuses, perhaps the shortfall wouldn’t be so great. The bans make no sense if you support the troops, even if you opposed the war itself.

    Nonetheless, now that school is out, perhaps young men and women looking to serve their country will no longer be blinded by their teachers to the military option. In fact, that may be the greatest factor in explaining the uptick.

    It’s worth considering, too, that perhaps, with a war going on, our youngsters are thinking a little more thoroughly about what military service entails, instead of viewing it as simply an obligation-free way to pay for college or get out of the hood. Indeed, this deeper soul-searching makes each new warrior even more valuable, even in later civilian life, because he or she will have decided, more unequivocally than ever, that a life worth having (thanks to help from the government) is a life worth fighting, even dying, for.

    (Hat-tip: Alexander K. McClure of PoliPundit.com)

    [Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

    Posted in Military Affairs | 5 Comments »

    Eminent Domain Stunt?

    Posted by demimasque on 28th June 2005 (All posts by )

    Recently, a report has been circulating all over the blogosphere that Justice David H. Souter, one of the Justices that voted in the majority in Kelo vs. New London, may soon fall victim to the ruling. The press release from Freestar Media seems tongue-in-cheek:

    Press Release

    For Release Monday, June 27 to New Hampshire media
    For Release Tuesday, June 28 to all other media

    Weare, New Hampshire (PRWEB) Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter’s land.

    Justice Souter’s vote in the “Kelo vs. City of New London” decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

    On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter’s home.

    Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

    The proposed development, called “The Lost Liberty Hotel” will feature the “Just Desserts Caf” and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon’s Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

    Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

    “This is not a prank” said Clements, “The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development.”

    Clements’ plan is to raise investment capital from wealthy pro-liberty investors and draw up architectural plans. These plans would then be used to raise investment capital for the project. Clements hopes that regular customers of the hotel might include supporters of the Institute For Justice and participants in the Free State Project among others.

    # # #

    Logan Darrow Clements
    Freestar Media, LLC

    Phone 310-593-4843
    logan@freestarmedia.com

    http://www.freestarmedia.com

    The fax request to Chip Meany reads as follows:

    day, June 27, 2005

    Mr. Chip Meany
    Code Enforcement Officer
    Town of Weare, New Hampshire
    Fax 603-529-4554

    Dear Mr. Meany,

    I am proposing to build a hotel at 34 Cilley Hill Road in the Town of Weare. I would like to know the process your town has for allowing such a development.

    hough this property is owned by an individual, David H. Souter, a recent Supreme Court decision, “Kelo vs. City of New London” clears the way for this land to be taken by the Government of Weare through eminent domain and given to my LLC for the purposes of building a hotel. The justification for such an eminent domain action is that our hotel will better serve the public interest as it will bring in economic development and higher tax revenue to Weare.

    I understand it your town has five people serving on the Board of Selectmen. Therefore, since it will require only three people to vote in favor of the use of eminent domain I am quite confident that this hotel development is a viable project. I am currently seeking investors and hotel plans from an architect. Please let me know the proper steps to follow to proceed in accordance with the law in your town.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Logan Darrow Clements
    Freestar Media, LLC

    Something seems out of sorts here, so I decided to investigate a little bit. First of all, what is Justice Souter’s relationship to the Town of Weare?

    DAVID HACKETT SOUTER was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, September 17, 1939, the only child of Joseph A. Souter and Helen Hackett Souter. Although he lived with his parents in Massachusetts, Souter spent much of his youth, including most summers, at his maternal grandparents farmhouse in Weare, a small New Hampshire town twenty miles southwest of Concord, the state capital.

    After his grandparents had passed away, Souter, age eleven, and his family moved to the farmhouse. His father was a banker with the New Hampshire Savings Bank in Concord. He died in 1976, but Souter’s mother still lives near the family farmhouse in a retirement community.

    Souter has called Weare, which borders Hopkinton Lake, “a town large in geography [and] small in population,” where everybody “knew everybody elses business or at least thought they did. And we were, in a very true sense, intimately aware of other lives. We were aware of lives that were easy and lives that were very hard.” It is, indeed, a typical small town in rural New England, still governed by a town meeting. Souter learned many “lessons in practical government” by sitting in the back bench of the Weare Town Hall and watching the town meetings.

    A quick Google map of the given address shows, indeed, that such an address exists. Moreover, once you zoom out a bit on the map, you’ll see that it is indeed not far from Hopkinton Lake.

    Returning to the press release, I was intrigued by this Logan Darrow Clements character. Who is he? A Google search revealed that he was a candidate for California Governor in the 2003 recall race which catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger to the forefront of state politics. A report by Hank Willow for Hollywood Investigator describes Clements as “a self-described Objectivist and admirer of philosopher Ayn Rand”, whose Atlas Shrugged figures not only on his campaign site, but as part of his request to Chip Meany.

    Who is Chip Meany? A reference to him was made in meeting minutes of the Weare Board of Selectmen on 21 June 2004. He is also the current Building Inspector of the Town of Weare’s Building Department. The information given by Freestar Media as Mr. Meany’s fax number is, indeed, correct.

    All of this, so far, is publicly available information. Given all this, as well as the fact that the instigator is located in California, across the continent from New Hampshire, I would conclude that the press release is probably a publicity stunt by Logan Darrow Clements, designed to bring attention to what many feel is an egregious ruling on the part of Justice Souter in Kelo vs. New London.

    [Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

    Posted in Libertarianism | 20 Comments »

    God’s Gift to Mankind

    Posted by Ginny on 28th June 2005 (All posts by )

    Wretchard comments:

    Although Ignatieff plainly wants to see freedom spread, one of the sources of his unease is the role of God, or something like it, in the missionary endeavor. How much better it would be, he seems to ask, if any claims to universality or transcendence could be kept out it.

    A commentator notes that Ignatieff’s Canadian background may lead him to misunderstand American history and the vision of the early Americans. Central was an assumption about the universality of human nature and a desire for freedom; it underlies the arguments, concessions, and finally agreements that made up our early laws and built our early identity. Most believed in a Providential order and liberty – however varied their sectarian allegiances (and doubts). (Of course, this misunderstanding is not unknown in American classrooms.)

    The Belmont Club comments are extensive and often thoughtful. Ignatieff clearly understands that Americans are idealistic about ends he respects. He recognizes (if not perhaps understands) the power these old ideas still have for Americans:

    As it turned out, the American electorate seemed to know only too well how high the price was in Iraq, and it still chose the gambler over the realist. In 2004, the Jefferson dream won decisively over American prudence.

    Does he think people take great risks for paltry ends? And prudence prompts some of us (impetuous & perhaps border types) to think of Chamberlain and Vichy. He may consider this criticism but we are less likely to take it that way.

    Posted in Iraq | 12 Comments »

    The Globalization Institute

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th June 2005 (All posts by )

    Alex Singleton & Co. are free-trading Anglospherical fellow-travelers and we wish them well. They also have an excellent blog. (And see their BlogAd on the left side of this page.)

    Posted in Anglosphere | Comments Off

    Blogging for Bucks? Why Not?

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 26th June 2005 (All posts by )

    From Mediacrity via Instapundit, we learn that Romenesko’s media column earns him $150K from the not-for-profit which sponsors him. That’s not too shabby (the money, I mean, not the column). We see in the Boston Globe that one poor guy settled for $5 to say nice things about an on-line florist.

    Let me assure potential advertisers that as ardent capitalists, we Chicago Boyz can be bought. Any Dodge/Chrysler dealer with an extra one of these hanging around the lot can expect to read many favorable things about their product in exchange for one of them. That other guy would probably settle for a couple of chrome lug nuts, but sometimes quality costs more.

    Two more things noted:

    The bloggers mentioned have a rather cavalier attitude to disclosing their pay-for-play arrangements. We don’t do that; hence no links to the bloggers in the story.

    And once again, the on-line version of a print media story on blogging appears with no hyperlinks, although they give some URLs. Sigh.

    Posted in Blogging | 6 Comments »

    More Interesting Old Photos

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th June 2005 (All posts by )

    One of Gene’s hobbies is buying old derelict cameras and developing any exposed film that comes with them. He’s had some remarkable results including this latest find. (He is posting scans of each roll as he develops it.)

    Check it out.

    Posted in History | 4 Comments »

    Eyewitness to Yalta

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th June 2005 (All posts by )

    Here’s a fascinating account of the 1945 Yalta conference from the point of view of Robert Hopkins, son of FDR advisor Harry Hopkins, who attended as an official photographer.

    (via Milt’s File)

    Posted in History | 3 Comments »

    Hires, Fires & What’s Important

    Posted by Ginny on 25th June 2005 (All posts by )

    I haven’t had experience with hiring in more than a basic sense. (Spousal hires for employees working part-time at minimum wage just didn’t come up.)

    Many of you have hired – or been on hiring committees. Your experiences are likely to be varied: as a hiring member of A) Your own business; B) A professional partnership; C) A large corporation; D) A public bureaucracy, or E) Academia. Probably sometimes you had complete control & sometimes you were on hiring committees governed by strict rules.

    Prompted by Conglomerate Blog’s discussion of whether a law school grad should sanitize his resume of any hints he is both a Republican and a Mormon, I wondered what others thought. Conglomerate Blog suggests honesty, but admits that will lose interviews. Complete objectivity is impossible; in some environments, noting that difficulty, it was given up as goal. Certainly the factional or tribal, nepotism or ideology, make the disinterested ideal difficult. Nonetheless, some institutions encourage a dispassionate approach by rules & company culture. How much does this vary by the kind of organization? the level of job security?

    So, what are your opinions? What worked, what didn’t, what was legal, what wasn’t? Most of all, what would you like to do & what did you hate doing?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business | 14 Comments »

    C-SPAN 1 & 2 (times e.t.)

    Posted by Ginny on 24th June 2005 (All posts by )

    C-Span 1. Book TV. Book TV Schedule. After Words and Q&A.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Schedules | Comments Off

    Foley’s Mission

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd June 2005 (All posts by )

    Another apology. (Thanks, Instapundit.) Well, kind of apology; title is “Confronting Right-Wing Hysteria.” And its gist is that the “apology” concerns the niggling–an unimportance communicated by parentheses: “(Truthfully, I had to listen to a webcast of my presentation before I actually recalled what I said.)” So Linda Foley writes.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Media | 2 Comments »

    They Can Dish It Out …

    Posted by demimasque on 23rd June 2005 (All posts by )

    Many highly visible members of the Democratic Party have, over the last few years, been more than ready to dish out venom and abuse, not only on their political opponents, but also on our men and women in uniform, who as an organization have not taken sides in the political wrangly. But, when called out on their own remarks, they are plenty eager to ignore the challenge and cast aspersions on the challenger.

    Thus, after Senator Durbin referred to American soldiers as akin to the Nazis and Pol Pot, and stolidly refused to apologize for having made the comments (and only for people having been offended), the Democrats now are demanding the head of Karl Rove for criticizing the Democrats’ response to the 9/11 attacks:

    Rove, in a speech Wednesday evening to the New York state Conservative Party just a few miles north of Ground Zero, said, “Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.” Conservatives, he said, “saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war.”

    He added that the Democratic Party made the mistake of calling for “moderation and restraint” after the terrorist attacks.

    During the 2004 campaign, Bush dismissed the notion of negotiating with terrorists and said, “You can’t sit back and hope that somehow therapy will work and they will change their ways.”

    So, it’s alright and defensible for Democrats not only to disagree with the Administration’s policies, but also to denigrate and demonize any and all who agree with any portion of that policy, castigating them as the reincarnation of Hitler; but if anybody so much as criticizes the Democrats for their reactions, suddenly the Democrats have such thin skin?

    Don’t think the Democrats have been behaving awfully rudely? Captain Ed has more on the thick-skinned Party of the Jackass (hey, I didn’t choose their mascot) and its tendency to become extremely thin-skinned when its own are being criticized.

    [Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

    Posted in Politics | 9 Comments »

    Government Advertising Itself

    Posted by Shannon Love on 23rd June 2005 (All posts by )

    So I saw something disturbing on TV last night.

    The Army had bought a commercial to complain about some pending funding cuts in Congress. The Army spokesman complained that the proposed cuts would damage the ability of the Army to fulfill its mission, and he urged all the viewers to contact their elected representatives and tell them not to cut spending for the Army.

    This commercial raised serious questions about the use of public money by a government entity to influence the political process that gives public money to that entity.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    Good Day to be a Politically Connected Developer

    Posted by Shannon Love on 23rd June 2005 (All posts by )

    The Supreme Court today ruled that encouraging economic development by seizing one private individual’s property and handing it over to a second private individual was a Constitutionally valid interpretation of the 5th Amendment’s takings clause.

    Traditionally, eminent domain meant exclusively the taking of private land for uses that were explicitly public, such as creation of roads, parks, military bases, etc. The seized land became public property. As of today, you only own your home until the State determines that somebody else could put it to better economic use. At any time, based on some consultant’s economic analysis, the State can force you to sell your property to another private individual at a price the State sets.

    This ruling will open up the flood gates for the raping of the property rights of the little people. Large politically connected developers will be able to get the government to seize properties they desire, for bargain basement prices. Politicians eager for campaign donations and tax revenues will gladly cooperate. Heck, developers will be able to use just the threat of seizure by eminent domain to drive down prices.

    Screw flag burning. The Congress needs to offer an amendment to return eminent domain to its original meaning. Our system of land property is the foundation of our economic system. Without secure property rights the economy will collapse. I can say without any hyperbole that this one ruling has the potential to do more long-term damage than any other Supreme Court ruling of the last 100 years. It will destroy property rights, corrupt government and lead to the politicization of virtually every real-estate development.

    I’m writing my state and federal representatives and I encourage you to do the same.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

    Flag Burning Again?

    Posted by demimasque on 22nd June 2005 (All posts by )

    When I was young, I was puzzled as to why we would pledge allegiance to a flag. So, once in a while, I’d “forget” to mention it, along with my more frequent pauses while others intoned “under God”. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of symbols; and seeing re-enactments of the raising of the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima gave me the kind of chills that Francis Scott Key must’ve had while watching the shelling of Fort McHenry. Still, to my mind, America is an idea much more than a symbol, and symbols don’t always last forever. I have great respect for the flag, but even greater love for our Constitution, and the history and ideals that make us Americans.

    So whenever politicians try to bring back some sort of flag-burning amendment, such as the one that recently passed the US House of Representatives, I become dismayed. Why? Because it goes against the very first amendment, which holds that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech …”

    But aren’t certain acts, certain speech, hateful by their nature? Yes, but not necessarily dangerous, as in the proverbial crying of fire! in a crowded theatre. Hatred is an emotion, and so long as it does not break out into discrimination or violence, is protected. It is part of the full spectrum of human feelings. To outlaw hatred is to outlaw humanity. Even when it galls, nay, pains us, to hear the contempt with which some people treat the symbol that has helped rally our people no less than our fighting men, the symbol which, simply by being there, through the perilous fight, gave us hope and the will to go on, it is nevertheless part of the very package, the very set of freedoms, for which it stands.

    And, beyond the fact that such an amendment would undermine the very spirit of the Constitution, there are two benefits for continuing to allow people to burn or otherwise descrate the flag:

    1. The energy and calumny spent in attacking the flag takes away from energy spent in sabotage.

    2. It’s better to be able to figure out who the kooks are by their own words, so that one may treat them with the cold contempt they deserve.

    But, of course, leave it to the Republicans to come up with this sort of amendment. For all the statist socialism of the Democrats, the Republicans are no better when it comes to attempting to foist their sensibilities upon the rest of the nation as an amendment to the Constitution.

    [Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

    Posted in Civil Liberties | 17 Comments »

    Andrew the Excitable

    Posted by demimasque on 22nd June 2005 (All posts by )

    Okay, so I laughed when I read James Taranto’s item mocking Andrew Sullivan. Why? Because it’s true: Andrew can be a little excitable at times, and goes with whatever the headlines are saying, pretty much. Mind, not that I expect bloggers always to be breaking news; the nature of the medium pretty much ensures that on most issues bloggers (as opposed to the diarists at LiveJournal, xanga.com, or Pitas.com) will be mostly reacting to headlines, i.e., the MSM still sets the agenda, for the most part. Andrew is no different, really, in this respect.

    However, Andrew does have a tendency to get a little bit excitable, especially where it comes to his pet issues. His ideals are most laudable, but when human beings fall short of his ideals, he is quite willing to skewer them. Naturally, since the Bush administration is composed of human beings who are in the spotlight all the time, it takes no genius to cite a litany of grievances against their policies. Andrew, by dint of his passions, is wont to take such things personally, and extends this lack of courtesy also to fellow bloggers.

    Take, for instance, his hyperventilating reaction to Glenn Reynolds’s use of the term “wing-wang” in discussing the issue of Lincoln’s sexual orientation. Seems to me that Andrew still isn’t comfortable enough with his sexuality to differentiate between flippant insouciance and real homophobia.

    Also take a look at Andrew’s coverage of the 2004 presidential campaign. His dissatisfaction with the Bush administration’s policies, while understandable and worth debating on its own merits, morphed into support for an opportunist like John Kerry. Andrew’s position: We can’t do worse than return Bush to the White House. Fine, so far. And anyone who disagrees with me supports torture!

    Those of us who persevere in reading Andrew’s blog have not been in doubt for the past year and a half (incidentally, right after he started taking up sponsorship) that Andrew has become much, much more excitable. Where he was once a voice of reason not unlike Christopher Hitchens (minus the rather entertaining bombast), he is now not much different than some of the lefties he has been reading lately. Occasionally, a beam of calm meditation shines through the cloud that his blog has become, and he can patiently discuss, in a reasonable manner, what policies he likes and dislikes. But touch on anything emotional and Andrew flies off the handle.

    There’s a word we have for friends that can be a little emotional like that: excitable.

    So, how does Andrew respond (second item)?

    How is any of this spin? How is any of it illogical or internally incoherent? How is any of it “excitable”, unless it is somehow now unacceptable to be shocked to the core by what we have discovered about the treatment of many detainees by U.S. forces? There is a distinction between how we deal with the enemy in the field of battle and how we deal with prisoners of war captured in such a battle. You can be ruthless in the former and humane in the latter. In fact, this was once the defining characteristic of the western way of war. Now it is a subject of mockery from the defend-anything-smear-anyone right.

    Poor Andrew is so infuriated by any perceived besmirchment that he doesn’t take the time to read how James Taranto (who of late is arguably a more consistent reader than Glenn) emphasized certain phrases within the entire body of quotations from Andrew’s own writings. Considering how often Andrew, like any other blogger, takes public figures to task for infelicitous choices of diction, you’d think he’d be more chastened and publish a clarification of his positions than to swipe at erstwhile supporters.

    In a way, he reminds me of the depiction of John Adams. He’s got a pretty good grasp of the big picture, but he is exceedingly excitable, and prone to interpret disagreements with his words as attacks on his character. His sexuality and his ideological bent don’t help him. He’s shunned by the Left for having dared to support a war prosecuted by a Republican administration; he’s shunned by the Right for his social liberalism; and many in the middle, who share many of his views, become alienated as he moves beyond rhetoric on his pet issues, and into hyperventilation.

    Mr. Excitable, indeed.

    [Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

    Posted in Blogging | 5 Comments »

    40 Years

    Posted by Ginny on 22nd June 2005 (All posts by )

    Belmont Club juxtaposes the Beatles & the Six Day War. While a commenter notes he got the date wrong (time-line ), Wretchard gets the gulf that lies between then & now right. He notes 40 years from now as wide a gulf is likely to open. A demographer’s job is to predict. (thanks ALDaily) A Secretary of State’s is to project. Many of us won’t know, but we can hope Rice’s vision of a free & stable Middle East will not seem a utopian folly to our children. One of my students confidently remarked that what was wrong with the Middle East was the US’s imposition of democracy. I got back to lit – I’d rather they didn’t know my politics. But I also hope her adolescent confidence is shaken by the next few years’ realities. That would be good for her – and for many others.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    We don’t need editors, we’re the press!

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st June 2005 (All posts by )

    Via Jim Miller comes a story about parents who made their daughter famous in a way they didn’t intend. Not a particularly compelling story, though as Jim notes one has to sympathize with the school administrators. What struck me was that ABC spelled the child’s name in two different ways in the first couple of paragraphs of the story. (Photo is highlighted to show the discordant spellings.) I know that anyone can make errors of this type, but how does a major news organization manage to bollix up someone’s name in such an obvious way and then not detect it? Aren’t there proofreaders? Let’s see how long it takes them to catch the error.

    Posted in The Press | 8 Comments »

    Illinois’ Gift(s?) to the World

    Posted by Ginny on 21st June 2005 (All posts by )

    Odious comparisons by the left have been so pervasive, I long ago stopped caring. And all of us can be impulsive or vulgar or, well, over the top.

    Of course, Durbin’s speech was offensive. The comparison of Gitmo’s methods with the Gulags and the Holocaust might have been expected. As Mark Steyn noted dryly,

    But give Durbin credit. Every third-rate hack on every European newspaper can do the Americans-are-Nazis schtick. Amnesty International has already declared Guantanamo the “gulag of our times.” But I do believe the senator is the first to compare the U.S. armed forces with the blood-drenched thugs of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.

    The appropriate response would seem censure, but time will censure in its own way (perhaps). So today, he apologized. McCain praised the apology; certainly such praise comes from a man who understands courage and surely other senators understand better than I what it is like to humble yourself (and metrosexually cry) on the Senate floor. But that apology prompts this post, because it reinforced the sense that Durbin was, well, not exactly on “our” side. (Indeed, that Steyn was right.)

    He addressed the affronted families of Holocaust survivors, not we might note survivors of the Gulags or the Khmer Rouge, soldiers at Gitmo or their friends & families; indeed, not anyone with some sense who found this inappropriate from the mouth of a senator. Nor does he seem to understand that to whomever he apologizes, it is not the “words” but the ideas that are offensive. (I’ve about had it with this trope of “misunderstood words.”) He says he has met our brave soldiers. Well, that’s nice. But we are appalled that he could actually read that description (ugly as it seemed) and in any way compare Gitmo, where prisoners gain 13 pounds, with societies in which a third of the inhabitants were slaughtered. What’s wrong isn’t words.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Politics | 12 Comments »

    Shot From the Hip

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 21st June 2005 (All posts by )

    Most Canadians are both proud and frustrated by their health care system. Theyre proud because (they claim) its a fair and equitable system that provides medical care to anyone, not just those who can afford it. Yet theyre also frustrated because the system is obviously failing to deliver as promised.

    This op-ed from OpinionJournal reports on the Canadian Supreme Courts ruling to a lawsuit brought by a patient needing hip replacement surgery who was upset by the extremely long wait he was going to have to suffer. The Supremes ruled that a Quebec law banning private medical insurance was hardly equitable.

    Go ahead and read the whole thing. But what really jumped up and caught my eye was this single sentence.

    Canada is the only nation other than Cuba and North Korea that bans private health insurance, according to Sally Pipes, head of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco and author of a recent book on Canada’s health-care system.

    Think about that for just a moment. Canada has purposely decided to adopt a system that only the repressive Communist regimes of Cuba and North Korea have enacted. Doesnt that make them uneasy?

    I suppose not.

    (Hat tip to Cox & Forkum.)

    Posted in Politics | 6 Comments »

    Look! Up in the Sky!

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 21st June 2005 (All posts by )

    Space enthusiasts have known about the concept of solar sails for decades. Use vast silver wings to accelerate a spacecraft using only the pressure from sunlight.

    Now a satellite has been launched into orbit which will test the concept. The craft will unfurl its sails on June 25, 2005 and try to catch a solar breeze. If it works, the satellite will gain velocity and climb to an ever-higher orbit.

    This isnt going to happen quickly, and its not going to be flashy. There wont be any news for a few weeks, and then the gains (if any) will be modest. Something tells me that the news of success will be a minor item at best. Luckily the Planetary Society has a blog where we can keep track of developments.

    What I fond rather interesting is that the satellite was launched into orbit from a Russian ballistic submarine. Thats a pretty good use for those old doomsday weapons that are now rusting away from lack of maintenance.

    Posted in Space | 3 Comments »

    Chris Masse’s Postmortem Analysis of Prediction Markets and the 2004 Elections

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th June 2005 (All posts by )

    “How the 2004 U.S. political prediction markets outsmarted a Wall Street pundit, an esteemed economics professor and the commentariat as a whole!”

    Worth reading.

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 9 Comments »