The Big Think

June 24, 2016

Why Should Axing Due Process Stop With 2nd Amendment?

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:23 pm

Why Should Axing Due Process Stop With 2nd Amendment?:

“My objection to the no-fly no-buy proposal, while certainly based on Second Amendment grounds, is more broadly one of opposition to any system that allows almost entirely unaccountable bureaucrats to restrict constitutional rights without notice, recourse, or accountability. No matter how meritorious you believe your cause to be, excising rights at the behest of a government executive or agency should terrify any right-thinking person. If you think the terror watch list is merely an affront to the Second Amendment, you’re not paying attention.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to create a gedankenexpriment where the erosion of rights embodied in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments is the next stop on turning the Constitution into a Chinese menu where one party removes rights from Column A and the other from Column B. Just saying, ‘But guns…’ doesn’t make it less dangerous.”

Short and worth reading.

June 10, 2016

Hey Bernie, I left Venezuela’s socialism behind for a reason: Voices

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:12 pm

Hey Bernie, I left Venezuela’s socialism behind for a reason: Voices:

“America’s new fervor for socialism frightens me. To be sure, the United States in 2016 is a world apart from Venezuela in 1998. Our economy is much more vibrant, even in its current weak state. America also has a stronger tradition of innovation, intellectual inquiry and individualism, all of which have initially lessened the impact of our creeping socialism’s many problems.

But those problems ultimately derive from human nature itself, and human nature knows no borders. In fact, the steady growth of America’s welfare state and government interventionism — different from that in Venezuela in degree, but not in kind — shows that this country is far from immune.

The concept of wealth redistribution is already widely accepted in America, and its popularity has only grown with time. Both economic and personal liberties have declined with the regulatory state’s advance, weakening the nation’s ability to continue its historically unprecedented march of material progress. Special interests and cronies, meanwhile, have become amazingly adept at using the apparatus of government to enrich themselves at others’ expense.

My home country shows where this leads. So do other nations that have tried — and failed — to turn socialist dreams into reality. Like millions of Americans today, I used to have those dreams. I came to the United States after they turned into a nightmare. It frightens me to think what will happen as socialism becomes more popular here. Where else is there to go?”

Help us, Elon Musk. Your our only hope…

May 12, 2016

Harvard’s clueless Illiberalism

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:54 am

Harvard’s clueless illiberalism – The Washington Post: “Touring early America, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the people’s propensity to form associations for every purpose under the sun: ‘religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small . . . to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes.’

Associational proliferation buttressed individual freedom, Tocqueville believed. As he explained, private groups are nimbler at orchestrating cultural and social life — ‘maintain[ing] and renew[ing] the circulation of sentiments and ideas’ — than government could ever be.

States ‘exercise an insupportable tyranny, even without wishing to, for a government knows only how to dictate precise rules; it imposes the sentiments and the ideas that it favors, and it is always hard to distinguish its counsels from its orders,’ he wrote.

Harvard University’s administrators should read Tocqueville’s book ‘Democracy in America.’ Their institution is not, strictly speaking, a state — it’s more of a state within a state, up there in Cambridge, Mass. In every other way, the school’s new crackdown on fraternities, sororities and a local variant, ‘final clubs,’ epitomizes the clueless illiberalism against which the French sociologist warned.

Harvard has concluded that, in response to sexual assault and other manifestations of gender inequity, it must reform campus culture. Single-gender social organizations are unavoidably discriminatory, President Drew Gilpin Faust noted, ‘in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion,’ contrary to what Harvard stands for.

Being private, self-funded and, technically, off-campus, the groups can’t be banned; but they can, and will, be discouraged and stigmatized. Starting with the class admitted in 2017, no student members of single-gender fraternities, sororities or final clubs may hold ‘leadership positions’ in Harvard’s hundreds of officially ‘recognized’ undergraduate organizations. Nor may they apply for fellowships, such as the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, that require an official college endorsement.”

Read the whole thing.

It’s interesting to me that suddenly the various groups who have been in favor of limiting freedoms they don’t agree with have suddenly become outraged when their own particular ox is up for goring. This has been the (sadly missed) point of the voices who have spoken out against Social Justice Warriors and anti-free speech people lately. What’s become of “I don’t agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it?”. It’s been flushed down the PC toilet. And now the next step is to deny under penalty of economic sanction the freedom of association that we take for granted in America.

And just so I preempt the people would would say “but Harvard is private! They can do whatever they want! Freedom of association is only a government thing!”: you don’t really get the bigger point here? But don’t worry, your ox is up for goring next.

April 24, 2016

The Smug Style

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:00 pm

When even a (very left-leaning) Vox writer notices it, you know something has gone badly wrong in political discourse. My hope is that the people who need this the most will read it with consideration. My fear is that they will and not see themselves therein.

Read the (long) article. Worth it.

April 9, 2016

Argument

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 3:05 pm

Here is a carefully thought-through argument I have spent years forming.

YOU’RE HATEFUL!

But I don’t hate anybody. I just have this calm, cogent argument that addressing the issues in what I view as a proper historical and cultural context.

WHY ARE YOU SO FULL OF HATE!?!? IT IS MY DUTY TO SHAME YOU PUBLICLY TO SHUT YOU UP.

Wait, wait, wait, wait… you haven’t even heard me out. I think if people just stop for a minute and…

YOU MAKE ME SICK. HATEFUL HATER.

Sigh.

True story: our old pastor, one of the most caring and compassionate people you’ll ever meet, who has decades of service and pastoral experience, was told that he was “full of hate” because of his (equally compassionate and nuanced) political opinions (which he, significantly, went to great pains to avoid expressing). The exact comment was “I can’t believe someone like you could have so much hate in his heart”.

Hate has become the new weapon, to be wielded by the emotional to shut down arguments they disagree with. This is what passes for argument among a significant portion of our society (both on and off of Facebook). We’ve become such a bumper-sticker culture that the feeling seems to be if you can’t zing your opponent or get your argument out in five seconds then the other side doesn’t have to make an effort to understand you and has a right to shut you up. And if they shout louder, they win.

It’s going to be a long year.

February 9, 2016

Your Pain, Their Gain

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:07 pm

Penalties for politicians: Column: “We entrust an inordinate amount of power to people who don’t feel any pain when we fall down. The best solution of all is to take a lot of that power back. When the power is in your hands, it’s in the hands of someone who feels it when you fall down. When it’s in their hands, it’s your pain, their gain. That’s no way to run a country.”

I like this idea, along with the idea of sunsets on legislation. If a politician says “let us enact this legislation! We promise that it’ll do X, Y, and Z!” and then it fails miserably, why not have an automatic rollback to the previous situation? If you’re headed down a road and see a dead end sign, it’s common sense to go back to the turnoff and try again. Congress routinely jams through partisan legislation under the assurances of extreme promises only for us to find out later that the promises were empty or the legislation was never structured or intended to do what was promised. So why not hold them accountable? It would make for more transparent, considered, and effective laws. Regardless of your political leanings, that can only be good for the country.

And while we’re at it, why not impose penalties on politicians if their promises do not come to pass? How about some accountability? The citizens have it. It’s time for our leaders to have it as well.

But Let’s Not Look at the Evidence

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:29 am

Evidence Mounts: Minimum Wage Hikes Cost Jobs:

“The evidence continues to mount that minimum wage hikes have economic costs: A Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco review paper recently found that minimum wages had ‘directly reduced the number of jobs nationally by about 100,000 to 200,000.’ And now a new survey of recent data by Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily (h/t RCP) found that minimum wage hikes seem to have taken a toll on hiring in some of America’s major metropolitan areas:

Hiring at restaurants, hotels and other leisure and hospitality sector venues slowed markedly last year in metro areas that saw big minimum-wage hikes, new Labor Department data show [. . .]

The big shortcoming in the available data for 5 of the 6 cities is that they cover broad metro areas, far beyond the city limits where wage hikes took effect. Still, the uniform result of much slower job growth in the low-wage leisure and hospitality sector, even as the pace of job gains held steady in surrounding areas, sends a pretty powerful signal.

It’s important to remember that most of these hikes are much more modest than the $15 dollar minimum that is now officially part of the Democratic Party platform. A hike of that level is unprecedented in American history, so the real impact on job creation is anyone’s guess.”

February 3, 2016

Bernie

Filed under: Education,Politics — jasony @ 2:22 pm

I don’t like Bernie because he’s a socialist

Pretty much says it all, I think. One good thing about having Sanders get the nomination is that the choice will be very stark and clear. With his record voters won’t be able to say they weren’t warned. America will haven actively chosen the form of its’ destruction.

January 28, 2016

Spy Games

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:40 am

Partisanship aside, the article quoted below is seriously damning. Patreus got retroactively stripped of his rank and retirement benefits, was ordered to pay a $40,000 fine, and put on a 2 year probation for doing something admittedly stupid that was far, far less damaging than this. In light of Patreus’ trial, the fact that literally half of the electorate is willing to excuse these repeated and deliberate violations of top secret information speaks volumes about how much we value “our side” winning over the actual health and well-being of the country.

If I were in the intelligence community and at risk from these leaks, I would quickly reevaluate my career. If I were in our enemies’ shoes I would be positively giddy over the current state of American politics. We’ve quickly gone from mighty superpower to weak and ineffectual laughing stock. Change indeed.

Instapundit:

“To take just the Russians: their plus-sized embassy in Washington, D.C. is conveniently located on a hill overlooking the city, with an impressive antenna field on its roof aimed downtown. That is where Ms. Clinton’s ‘unclassified’ emails went. The Russians care so much about State Department information they’ve been caught planting bugs inside a conference room just down the hall from the Secretary of State’s office. ‘Of course the SVR got it all,’ explained a high-ranking former KGB officer to me about EmailGate (the SVR is the post-Soviet successor to the KGB’s foreign intelligence arm). ‘I don’t know if we’re as good as we were in my time,’ he added, ‘but even half-drunk the SVR could get those emails, they probably couldn’t believe how easy Hillary made it for them.’

Any foreign intelligence service reading Ms. Clinton’s emails would know a great deal they’re not supposed to about American diplomacy, including classified information: readouts from sensitive meetings, secret U.S. positions on high-stakes negotiations, details of interaction between the State Department and other U.S. agencies including the White House. This would be a veritable intelligence goldmine to our enemies. Worse, access to Ms. Clinton’s personal email likely gave foreign spy agencies hints on how to crack into more sensitive information systems. Not to mention that if Clinton Inc. was engaged in any sort of illegal pay-for-play schemes, our adversaries know all about that, as well as anything else shady that Ms. Clinton and her staff were putting in those unencrypted emails….

…All this angers Americans with experience in our military and intelligence services who understand what Ms. Clinton and her staff did—and that they would be held to far harsher standards for attempting anything similar. They know that brave Americans have given their lives protecting Top Secret Codeword information. They know that in every American embassy around the world, our diplomatic outposts that worked for Hillary Clinton, Marine guards have standing orders to fight to the death to protect the classified information that’s inside those embassies. That Hillary Clinton gave similar information away, by choice, is something she needs to explain if she expects to be our next Commander-in-Chief.”

Read the whole thing.

January 27, 2016

Danish teen fought off her attacker – now she’ll face fine

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:44 pm

Danish teen fought off her attacker – now she’ll face fine – The Local:

A 17-year-old girl who was physically and sexually attacked in Sønderborg will herself face charges for using pepper spray to fend off her assailant.

The teenager told police that she was attacked in central Sønderborg on Wednesday at around 10pm by a dark-skinned English-speaking man. She said the man knocked her to the ground and then unbuttoned her pants and attempted to undress her. 
 
The girl was able to save herself from further assault by using pepper spray on the attacker, but now she may be the one who ends up in legal trouble. 
 
‘It is illegal to possess and use pepper spray, so she will likely be charged for that,’ local police spokesman Knud Kirsten told TV Syd. 
 
The case has sparked a backlash among some Danes who point to increasing reports of sexual harassment in Sønderborg and other Danish cities at the same time that police say they are stretched too thin to properly carry out their duties. 
 
Numerous readers wrote in the comments section on TV Syd’s story about the incident that they would be willing to pay the girl’s fine, which will most likely be 500 kroner. 
 
The man who attacked the 17-year-old fled from the scene and has not been charged. 

Nice knowing you, Europe.

December 31, 2015

Unto the Least of These

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:58 am

Activists Openly Defy Texas Law to Feed The Homeless:

“When feeding the homeless becomes an act of civil disobedience, Americans have been asleep for far too long.
Luckily, however, there are still good people who are willing to defy such arbitrary and ill-conceived laws and ordinances.
The folks over at the aptly named organization Don’t Comply, took to the streets just outside the Austin Street Shelter in Dallas this weekend to perform, what has now become a revolutionary act – feeding the homeless.
‘We are not complying with a bad law today,’ Matthew Short, PR director of Don’t Comply said. ‘Evidently the city of Dallas believes that it’s wrong, or bad, or unlawful for us to feed more than a certain number of people at a time. But, during Christmas, we want to show love to our community and give these people a chance to survive the winter, whether it be with blankets or coats, or just giving them a holiday party like today with all kinds of cookies, and goodies, turkey and dressing, and the whole nine yards.’”

Laws preventing Americans from taking care of people are stupid and should be abruptly, pointedly defied. Just because some bureaucrat (or hyper-partisan) can come up with a justification for a law does not make the law legitimate. Or moral. I wish the participants would have printed up giant posters with the names and faces of the city council members who voted in favor of this giant overreach, and posted videos of people laughing at them.

Much laughing. And pointing. With laughing. And not complying.

Our country was founded on the idea of individual liberty and it’s accompanying responsibility. I hope we see more of this.

Last December, the Dallas city council enacted Ordinance No. 29595, which makes it illegal to serve food to the homeless without jumping through a statist myriad of bureaucratic hoops, including a fee, training classes, and written notices.

Every single Dallas City Council member who voted in favor of this- regardless of party- should be loudly and embarrassingly booted from office. The citizens of Dallas should make the point that they’re tired of this level of meddling and control coming from Our Betters.

You can’t feed the homeless without a permit.

Oh yeah? Watch me.

December 30, 2015

Good For Them

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:34 am

Faculty Focus: How Three Professors Banded Together to Beat Back a Free Speech Threat at Clemson – FIRE: “‘In the very same issue in which [the other faculty’s] full-page ad appeared, our full-page ad appeared as well, unbeknownst to them. So they opened the student newspaper and on the inside cover page, they very proudly saw their full-page ad, supporting the notion that the university should prosecute criminally defamatory speech. They turned the page, and there was our full-page ad defending Clemson students and their right to freedom of thought, conscience, inquiry, speech, et cetera, et cetera.’”

unnamed.jpg

December 29, 2015

Royal Presidency — When Presidents Act Like Kings

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:29 am

This goes for both parties, by the way. And no, it’s not okay to support this behavior in your guy but oppose it when the other guy is in office. I’d say that we should make a law but there are already plenty on the books.

Royal Presidency — When Presidents Act Like Kings:

“And if Hamburger is wrong, and the Constitution’s silence on subdelegation should be taken to imply permission? Well, we should still be concerned. Seductive as it may sound, the claim that the administrative state is subject to meaningful democratic oversight is in practice rather weak. By its nature, the modern bureaucracy is a quasi-permanent force, vast swathes of which remain in operation regardless of who holds elective office and with what brief. For the administrators’ apologists to contend that our contemporary rule-makers are legitimate because they were empowered by those who were at one point elected will simply not cut the mustard. Now, as in Washington’s time, we write our laws down so that those who are bound by them know what they are bound by. There is no advantage to our doing so if the men tasked with enforcing them are permitted to suspend them or to fill out their meaning as their political desires demand.

Which is all to say that, pace Woodrow Wilson & Co., the recipe for political liberty is as it ever was. For men to be free, the law must be difficult to change, and it must be changed only by those whom we send to represent us; it must be universal and comprehensible in its application; it must be limited in its scope (by both hard rules and soft conventions); and it must be contrived, executed, and overseen by parties whose specialized functions are clearly set apart from one another. These conventions took a long time to develop, and they will take a long time to forget. But if they are circumvented often and egregiously enough, forgotten they will eventually be. There is always a crown beyond the horizon.”

(Via .)

December 4, 2015

Praying to the God of Government

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:04 pm

The Left Prays After San Bernardino Shooting, To Its God Of Government:

“Theodicy
Theodicy attempts to defend God’s goodness and omnipotence in light of the existence of evil. ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ the question goes. (To which a Lutheran might reply, ‘Trick question! There are no good people!’) There are various schools of thought and debate, rekindled with every hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, act of terror, and mass shooting. Progressives seem to begin their response to tragedy with the question, ‘Why do bad things happen to good governments?’

The god of good government would have been able to take care of us if only we’d given it sufficient power.
The theodicy of federal government seeks to defend the goodness of government in the face of tragedy. So just as some religious groups might blame a weather event on insufficient fealty to the relevant god, some progressives blame — before we actually know what is even going on in a given tragedy — insufficient fealty, sacrifice, and offerings to the relevant god of federal government. And so they explain that the god of good government would have been able to take care of us if only we’d given it sufficient power to do so. In this case, that power is gun control. Progressives tend to believe that government — if made to have sufficient size, scope, and proper management over the affairs of man — will fix or at least seriously mitigate the problem of evil in the world. Conservatives tend to believe that human nature is flawed and inclined toward bad things. Conservatives believe that government, being made up of humans, will also be inclined toward bad things, and therefore it must be restrained and not given a dangerous amount of power. They tend to see greater success for fixing problems in society with voluntary associations and institutions, such as families and community and organizations. Progressives tend to believe that man can be perfected, and perfected through government action. These almost cartoonish denunciations of prayer we saw yesterday, combined with the implicit praises of government action, are best understood as a sort of primitive religious reaction to the problem that growth of the state still hasn’t fixed the problem of evil in the world.

‘Something must be done!’ is a prayer.

Scott Shackford (@SShackford) December 3, 2015
@MZHemingway @NYDailyNews ‘Bad things happen to Good people b/c we don’t have the right set of regulations’ – Leftist theodicy

CJ ن (@CJHerod) December 3, 2015
‘We need some legislation for whatever it is that’s happening.’ — our dogmatically, religiously socialist friends on the left

The Scandalous DJT (@AceofSpadesHQ) December 3, 2015

And these calls for the big government god to shine upon them with mercy are frequently more ritual than anything else. The people who find hope in big government don’t seem to be terribly interested in more than the ritual of proclaiming their piety, announcing how happy they are to not be like the ‘other men,’ and half-hearted proposals of unworkable legislation that (surprise!) never solves the problem of man’s fallen condition.

November 10, 2015

Where Are The Adults at Yale?

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:42 pm

Where Are The Adults at Yale? – Tablet Magazine: “…going to college is a challenging experience. And I don’t mean to downplay the difficulties that some students from historically disadvantaged communities may encounter at an institution like Yale, which for most of its history was not a friendly place for minorities of any sort, never mind people of color. But when I hear, in 2015, students complain about feeling ‘marginalized’ at Yale due to their racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, or any other identity—and, on top of this, demanding institutional retribution against those who mildly express viewpoints they don’t agree with and sartorial injunctions on pagan bacchanal holiday garb—I can’t help but think of James Meredith. Meredith was the first black student to attend the segregated University of Mississippi and had to do so under the cover of heavily armed federal marshals. When I see photographs of Meredith and other black students of the civil rights era staring down state-sanctioned American racism—not the rumored antics of inebriated frat boys or emails from well-meaning child developmental psychologists about the propriety of certain Halloween costumes—I don’t see people pleading for Dean’s Excuses so they can huddle in a ‘safe space’ to recover from ‘traumatic racial events.’ I see unbelievably courageous young men and women who, by keeping their heads high, exposed their spittle-flecked antagonists as the bigoted Neanderthals they were and changed this country for the better.”

Compared to the turmoil of the 60’s, the bar for courageous behavior has certainly reached a new low.

November 9, 2015

Health Care

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:42 pm

New Yorkers Face Hard Decisions After Collapse of Health Republic Insurance – The New York Times:

“If anyone could manage to obtain treatment under the Affordable Care Act, it should have been Liz Jackson.

With a severe nerve condition that forced her out of a job, Ms. Jackson did not just qualify for a government-subsidized plan, but she also knew her way around the new system, having been trained as a volunteer ‘health care navigator’ to help others sign up.

Yet the collapse of her insurer, Health Republic Insurance of New York — the largest of 12 health care co-ops nationwide set to close this year — has left her and more than 200,000 others in a panic over medical coverage after their plan ceases on Nov. 30.

Health Republic lived a short and difficult existence, squeezed by premiums that were low by design and cut off by Republicans in Congress from government subsidies promised along with the federal health care law.

Ms. Jackson, 33, is in a situation more grim than most of those losing coverage. She said she was told by state health care officials this week that she no longer qualified for subsidies promised under the federal law. Without them, she does not know if she will be able to afford insurance after her Health Republic policy ends.

‘I’m an advocate for the health care law,’ said Ms. Jackson, who lives in Harlem. ‘And if I can’t navigate this, who can?’”

Too bad there was nobody warning that this would happen when the plan was being responsibly debated rammed through Congress on a party line vote.

October 31, 2015

Guess What? You’re Not Actually A Hero

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:00 am

Guess What? You’re Not Actually A Hero: “Stop confusing bravery with actions that merely confirm your worldview”

Good article. The author comes at it from a conservative leaning bent but also has some negative things to say about his own side.

October 30, 2015

Reporting

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 2:56 pm

Reported:

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks white supremacist groups, suggested in an article last week that the arsons [of six black churches in St. Louis] were carried out by white supremacists.

The group quoted a journalist who covers African-American issues who said that the fires were “both alarming and not surprising.”

“This is alarming because domestic terrorism is alive and well,” David A. Love told the SPLC. “It is such a problem that the U.S. Department of Justice recently predicted increases in violent acts by white extremists who are responding to a new reality in which people of color will become a majority in America.”

The SPLC also quoted Love blaming “a vicious cycle created by rightwing politicians, the NRA and hate groups who stir up anger, fear and resentment over changing demographics and want their country back.”

So people who were looking for news were presented with a pre-framed narrative and interpretation of events.

Today, police announced that they arrested the arsonist and it was quietly reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Although the locations of the fires in predominantly African American neighborhoods gave rise to speculation that the motive might be race-related, Jackson is black.

But hey, You can trust the media.

October 7, 2015

Alea iacta est

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 7:08 pm

VOX: VOTE FOR HILLARY BECAUSE SHE’S “CLEARLY MORE COMFORTABLE THAN THE AVERAGE PERSON WITH OPERATING IN LEGAL GRAY AREAS:

“Occasionally a member of the chattering classes writes something that is not just wrong, that is not just irritating, but that is genuinely dangerous. Matthew Yglesias’s latest essay at Vox is just such a piece. Writes Yglesias:

From her adventures in cattle trading to chairing a policymaking committee in her husband’s White House to running for Senate in a state she’d never lived in to her effort to use superdelegates to overturn 2008 primary results to her email servers, [Hillary] Clinton is clearly more comfortable than the average person with violating norms and operating in legal gray areas.

This is, for him, a point in her favor:

Committed Democrats and liberal-leaning interest groups are facing a reality in which any policy gains they achieve are going to come through the profligate use of executive authority, and Clinton is almost uniquely suited to deliver the goods. More than almost anyone else around, she knows where the levers of power lie, and she is comfortable pulling them, procedural niceties be damned.

Conclusion:

She truly is the perfect leader for America’s moment of permanent constitutional crisis: a person who cares more about results than process, who cares more about winning the battle than being well-liked, and a person who believes in asking what she can get away with rather than what would look best.”

Or “we’re okay with someone breaking the law, as long as it’s our person doing it.”

October 1, 2015

The Mob Is Coming For You

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 2:05 pm

VDH: “All consensual governments are prone to scary wild swings of mob-like emotion—and to demagogues who can almost rein in or goad the dêmos. But the Founders sought to make American government immune to Athenian-style craziness through a system of checks and balances that vented popular frenzies without a great deal of damage. If an idea proved illogical or illegal, then legislators, judges, and executives could dissipate, delay, or nullify it, before it swept away years of sober custom and time-honored practices—at least as long as the Constitution and its subsidiary laws were not dismantled as impediments to ‘fairness’ and ‘equality.’

In the twenty-first century, novel developments have increasingly turned us from sober Roman republicans into mercurial Athenian democrats, as we can see especially in this election year.

First, the rise of social media suddenly destroyed most hierarchies of popular expression. Anyone can put up a YouTube video on the Internet and either delight or enrage millions of Americans within seconds—without any journalistic standards, fact-checking, or editorial oversight. The ensuing fury recalls the frenzied rumor-mongering of ancient Athens, when bearers of unpleasant news were often murdered or beaten by mobs at the port of the Piraeus, before their reports could be verified.

Presidential candidates crash or burn in fantastic spurts of public adulation or abject repulsion—predicated not on their policy positions or their past record, but instead on their  television appearances and the degree to which they are ‘trending’ on social media in any given 24-hour period.

Second, we are an increasingly urban people who have lost the sense of self-reliance and autonomy so needed for survival in the countryside and rural communities. Jefferson, more than two centuries ago, warned us that he did not think democracy would work when ‘we get piled upon one another in large cities.’ Fad and frenzy are the wages of centrally controlled, dense populations that look to an omnipotent ‘You Didn’t Build That’ government for their sustenance, safety, and guidance, losing contact with nature and confidence in themselves that accrues from self-reliant achievement.

Third, globalization has expanded America’s supposed responsibility for equality and fairness to all the peoples of the world. Suddenly, it is not enough for the government to provide jobs and opportunities to Americans alone; we must now extend those privileges to illegal immigrants. The Internet and cable TV show us hordes of people scrambling to enter the West—as if we have within our means the instant fixes for such maladies that are the fault of distant others. The plight of gays in the Congo, Christians in Syria, the transgendered in Russia, and the poor in Sudan have become referenda on our morality—and our government must expand and grow, the argument goes, to serve the global disadvantaged.

Finally, the law is seen as an impediment to such sweeping notions of social justice. It is certainly deemed counter-revolutionary and an impediment to the Obama administration’s idea of an equality of result. As a result, the President at one time or another has ignored enforcement of federal laws, from not prosecuting the rogue behavior of federal bureaucrats at the IRS or EPA to suspending elements of his own Affordable Care Act.

Over 300 cities—in antebellum, neo-Confederate fashion—have declared themselves immune from the jurisdiction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Often detained and deported illegal aliens have been freed by our modern bureaucratic versions of Jefferson Davis nullificationists. Consequently, many released illegal aliens have killed and maimed Americans.

Yet not all of the laws are ignored in quite the same blanket fashion. If San Francisco claims that it does not have to turn over an illegal alien caught in violation of federal immigration law, then can Salt Lake City arbitrarily decide that a particular protected newt or salt-water fish is no longer sacrosanct under the federal Endangered Species Act? Will Fresno be allowed to cancel federal laws that forbid instant purchases of handguns?

What now constitutes actionable criminal behavior in the scandals at the IRS, EPA, ICE, and a host of other alphabet agencies are not treated as per se violations of the law. Rather, they are judged according to whether the offender and his crime were deemed progressive and well-intended—or reactionary and thus prosecutable. CEOs who cannot cap a leaky oil well or who sell noxious peanut products go to jail; EPA functionaries who turn white-water rivers into toxic yellow mush melt back into the coils of the bureaucracy.”

The whole article is worth reading.

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