more on the means and ends of liberty

I think both the Civil Rights Act and the women’s movement did in fact lead to tremendous net increases in liberty... Federal intervention, while certainly limiting freedom of association and trumping more local jurisdictions, resulted IMO in an overall increase in freedom. That many traditional libertarian conservatives, such as Goldwater, seem to have been willing to sacrifice a great gain in overall freedom in order to maintain status quo levels local self-rule seems to me to betray a commitment to ancient ideals of liberty as community self-government in conflict with the modern idea of liberty as freedom from coercion.

--Wilkinson on Bartlett on liberals and libertarians.

My hypothesis is that conservatives (and right-leaning libertarians) tend to invoke "federal intervention" and "judicial activism" when talking about the means to ends that they don't personally care for and/or to which they are indifferent. If, for example, Kelo had been decided differently (i.e., correctly), would conservatives have been howling federal overreach in the governance of New London? I somewhat doubt it.


gay marriage in california: a victory for democracy

...and a prime example of why democracy is seriously overrated. It's a means, not an end, people.

My understanding (which is admittedly limited) is that the CA Supreme Court could really only rule on whether Prop 8 was a constitutional change to CA's constitution or not. And I'm pretty sure that it is.

So to recap: if you're gay in California and pissed off (or even if you're neither but still pissed off) you should blame the people of California, not the courts. And you should give serious consideration to moving your talent and tax revenue to Iowa.

And if you're in California and happy your fine state is keeping the queers down a little longer, you should keep in mind that California has a clearly established legal precedent that your rights under the law can be abridged by a mere majority vote of the people. Have fun with that.


the hops are free!

Congratulations to the beer lovers of the great state of Alabama!

Moving there just got a lot more tolerable...



Golly. Maybe Mexicans really were coming here to actually work and not merely drop “anchor babies” and collect welfare checks, after all.

Radley Balko, noting that Mexican immigration to the US is down in the down economy.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we have only to benefit from an influx of people willing to risk their lives crossing a desert for the privileges of mowing our lawns, caring for our fat spoiled children, and being shit upon by opportunistic politicians every time the economy hiccups.


obama and dc school vouchers

While I really like the spirit of what Megan McArdle has to say here:

I'm willing to countenance the possibility that Barack Obama genuinely believes that the DC voucher program is not helping the students who participate...[but] how come the Obama girls benefit from leaving the DC public school system?


What is it about the Obama girls that enables them, nearly uniquely, to benefit from school choice?

...I just can't get on board with the argument that Mr. Obama's (possibly wrongheaded) opposition to vouchers somehow obligates him to put his children in public school. Vouchers make it possible for people to send their children to private school that otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it. The Obamas can afford it.

You can argue that vouchers constitute a sort of tax refund rather than a simple entitlement, I suppose, but since they are targeted towards people who probably are getting more back than they "paid in" (and a great many more people pay in and get nothing), it looks a lot more like an entitlement to me.

Now, I don't think for a minute that Mr. Obama's opposition to it is rooted in a desire to cut entitlements--he's keeping the teachers' unions sweet. But I also don't understand why Megan and so many other conservatives and libertarians don't see vouchers as the wealth transferring entitlements that they certainly look like to me.

(Full disclosure: I am a product of public education, from kindergarten through a PhD.)



Watched Oliver Stone’s W last night. Over all, I’d say it works pretty well, in that it is rather uncomfortable to watch.

Josh Brolin’s performance is to be commended, for capturing Mr. Bush’s speech, body language, and mannerisms without treading into SNL-style parody. (The same cannot be said for Thandie Newton, who actually seems to be doing an impression of Maya Rudolph doing an impression of Condoleeza Rice.) Jeffery Wright’s Colin Powell makes no discernable attempt to mimic its subject, but delivers a powerful and effective performance anyway. He, along with the elder President Bush, come out of W somewhat rehabilitated, if only by comparison to pretty much everyone else. Richard Dreyfus’ Dick Cheney is almost certainly over the top—one expects at any moment a scene where he is malevolently stroking a long-haired cat while seated on a swiveling chair in his secret lair—but since Dick Cheney is probably the closest thing to a James Bond villain that the United States has had in the last few decades, I’m OK with this.

The movie is genuinely funny in places, and touching in others. Both of these are severely muted by the shadow of the catastrophe that was the Bush presidency.

Oliver Stone being Oliver Stone, I take any and all “insider” details with a boulder of salt. The relationship between “Poppy” and “Junior” in particular seems terribly contrived, but who knows? But to be sure, some of the most jarring scenes are those that we all watched happen live on television, or were extracted from official meeting transcripts.

I’m sure the 26% crowd dismisses it as a partisan hatchet job, while a great many of Mr. Bush’s detractors are likely to view the film as more sympathetic than he deserves. I lean towards the latter camp myself. Stone’s (frankly uncharacteristic) nuance here may not be terribly accurate, but it sure as hell is interesting.


images that make my blood run cold

(via Radley Balko)

Students of history (or like me, viewers of HBO) may recall that Roman soldiers were not permitted to wear soldiers' clothes within the walls of the city during the days of the Republic, a tradition that ended right around the time someone declared himself Emperor...

I realize that police can and do confront dangerous situations that may call for specialized training, powerful weaponry, and military-like tactics. In fact, I've been in a building that was (legitimately) cleared by a SWAT team (nothing can prepare you for having eight high-powered rifles pointed at your center of mass, let me tell you). But these are the exception, not the rule. The increasing militarization of the police as standard operating procedure should scare the hell out of you.

And now, a word from the Old Man:

There’s a reason you separate the military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.

Is it lame to quote Battlestar Galactica to reinforce one's argument? Most likely. But I don't know that I could have phrased it better in this case.