Surely there are some things here that are disturbing to those of us of a libertarian bent. But the fact that this didn’t get noticed in America – the event happened in September, and Reason is just now taking notice; personally, I’d forgotten it happened – should tell us something.
We’re now on our third generation of school children (I was part of the second) going through the public education system and being taught that the First Amendment exists primarily to protect hardcore pornography and slanderous journalists. I took a constitutional law course while an undergrad, and am now in my third year of law school, and I can’t recall more than a small handful of discussions about the First Amendment applying to actual political protest.
I’d like to think that’s because we take the right to political protest for granted. That’s normally been the case in America. However, the First Amendment, like every protected right, can only do so much. The less it protects, the better it protects it; the broader its protections are spread, the thinner they become. Libertarians frequently argue that we should protect even the most extreme speech as a sort of outward barrier, as though this will protect all speech that is less extreme. But the fact is that a large number of people simply aren’t that gung ho about protecting the rights of their countrymen to post rape porn videos on the internet. If all speech is equal, rather than protecting rape porn with the vigor with which they protect mundane political speech, a part of the population will instead protect mundane political speech with all the vigor with which they defend rape porn. Which is to say, not much.
Though Balko misses the mark when he says that the G20 summit was when we needed the First Amendment the most. A bunch of foreign leaders gathered in an American city attracting a motley crew of protesters from all around the world grousing about insubstantial abstractions is not, I reckon, what the Founders had in mind. The leaders weren’t there to get a gauge of popular opinion, the issues were so large that no matter how many protesters showed up it would not have given an accurate gauge of the opinion of those effected by G20 policies, and the protesters themselves were a group with a history of violence and disorder. I don’t think much of what Balko complains of should have happened, but my sleep won’t be troubled much.
We’ve seen with the Tea Party movement that American political protest is alive and well when it really “matters the most” – spontaneous and representative demonstrations of discontent with elected officials’ actions on specific matters, performed in a time and place so as to actually convey that message to the elected officials. If libertarians want more than that core of political speech protected by the First Amendment, they need to pick their fights a little better. It may not be as simple as choosing between Hustler and G20 protesters (and what kind of choice is that?), but it might well be. In a libertarian paradise the First Amendment might well protect every fart as free speech and every orgy as a peaceable assembly, but here in our fallen world, one amendment can only do so much.
Don’t try to join all the different metaphors in this Shelby Steele column, but it’s very much worth reading. A few excerpts:
Mr. Obama won the presidency by achieving a symbiotic bond with the American people: He would labor not to show himself, and Americans would labor not to see him. As providence would have it, this was a very effective symbiosis politically. And yet, without self-disclosure on the one hand or cross-examination on the other, Mr. Obama became arguably the least known man ever to step into the American presidency. . . .
I think that Mr. Obama is not just inexperienced; he is also hampered by a distinct inner emptiness—not an emptiness that comes from stupidity or a lack of ability but an emptiness that has been actually nurtured and developed as an adaptation to the political world. . . .
He has not had to gamble his popularity on his principles, and it is impossible to know one’s true beliefs without this. In the future he may stumble now and then into a right action, but there is no hard-earned center to the man out of which he might truly lead. . . .
I’m not going to exert the effort required to search for all the posts, back in 2007 and early 2008, where I observed that Obama was an empty suit. But I thought it and said it quite frequently. I’ve admired Steele for a long time, but, obviously, Steele’s column neither proves nor disproves my point. Still, I’m extremely pleased to see that a year into the Obama administration, Steele and I are on the same wavelength. If I’m right, I’m right. But if I’m wrong, I’m hard pressed to think of better company.
Apollo posted this at 2:49 AM CDT on Thursday, December 31st, 2009 as CHANGE!, Race
It appears that Abdulmullatab tried to get on the plane without a passport (H/T). Unfortunately, government screw ups—which this most assuredly was—are less likely to result in sensible policy changes than in more punishments for citizens. Megan McArdle’s predictions about the future of air travel are probably too optimistic.
Anyone who has ever believed a word out of Obama’s mouth should have to carry a sign or something, so the rest of us know which of our fellow citizens may may be interested in specially selected real estate transactions.
Apollo posted this at 1:59 AM CDT on Friday, December 25th, 2009 as CHANGE!
Still, unlike previous economic recoveries, consumers, whose spending accounts for 70 percent of overall economic activity, aren’t expected to solely power this one. Businesses and the government are having to pitch in more.
Dear Ms. Aversa:
I’m not sure what you think “the government” is, but it cannot ”pitch in” to an economic recovery. It can take money from certain people and give it to other people; it can borrow money from certain people (thus preventing that money from being lent to businesses and consumers) and give it to other people. Or it can print additional money (i.e. take money from everyone by devaluing all money) and give it away. Not one of these things “pitches in” to an economic recovery any more than slicing a pie creates more pie.
It’s hard to imagine anything more pathetically desperate, hysterically awful, and blatantly sexist than this video from Rock the Vote:
Is it tongue-in-cheek? As with much of the worst kinds of political commentary — I use that word loosely – it’s hard to say. Is Rock the Vote really telling young women (or, at least, just hot ones?*) to deny sex to men who oppose health care reform and, by implication, to make themselves sexually available to those who support it? Maybe “advocate” is too strong a word, but you get the distinct impression that they’d be fine with people who did this. So long as, you know, it’s what they want to do.
Regardless, it’s incredibly cowardly. To supporters, it’s presented as a pseudo-serious advocacy on behalf of a substantive issue. But if anyone calls them on it, they can counterattack by accusing their critics of being humorless sex-scolds. It’s purposefully obfuscating in a way that would make Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin blush.
…but at least one dromaeosaurid species might have been venomous. That’s right: raptors with poison!
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m locking my doors, boarding up my windows, and staying in for the rest of my life. My only consolations is that — whenever they come to murder me — it will all be over soon.
Tom posted this at 5:27 PM CDT on Monday, December 21st, 2009 as Nerdom, Science!
If ObamaCare is stopped, it seems unlikely that the libertarians or the Republicans are going to block it. If anybody is going to stop it at this point, it’s the pro-life social conservatives like Bart Stupak and the USCCB.
American conservatism is a somewhat uneasy coalition of libertarians, hawks, and social conservatives. But it seems clear that the most important group by the numbers are the social cons. If they’re not on board, then the left wins.
However much we may love Cato and Reason, National Right to Life has probably done more to prevent health care socialism than they have. Until economic conservatives can muster the number of voters that the social cons do, the libertarians are stuck with the religious right.
Perhaps I’m behind on the times here, or perhaps I’m satisfied not havinig that many discussions on the internet, but I didn’t know that Amazon is now, instead of just a place to buy stuff, a place to have random discussions with random people. Amazon is so proud of this feature that they now provide links to discussions at the bottom of product pages. But whatever algorithm they’re using to determine what discussions to link me to, they’re way off. Here are the results it fed me when I was looking at a closet dehumidifier:
Why oppose health care reform? So that I can post about it on Amazon, that’s why.
The island nation of Nauru has agreed to recognize the sovereignty of Abkazia, one of the two little stateletts declared by the Russians after last year’s little war in Georgia. In exchange, the Russians will give Nauru — which has a population of 11,000 — $50,000,000.
Elsewhere in the same article, we learn that this is a habit of Nauru’s:
Recently, it has begun to dabble in foreign-policy hardball. In 2002, Nauru severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan, coincident with a reported pledge of $130 million from China. Three years later, it switched again, prompting a Chinese official to grumble that the islanders were “only interested in material gains.”
When the ChiComs accuse you of avarice and selling-out, you know you’re a real sonuvabitch.
To prove that they had really created the trios, called Efimov trimers, the researchers produced one set of three lithium atoms bound together, and then reproduced it with a binding energy 515 times the first one. (Essentially, binding energy indicates how tightly the particles hold onto one another and how much energy it would take to pull them apart.)
The researchers used a setup called a Feshbach resonance that allowed them to tweak the energy levels of their atoms. They found that when they hit multiples of 515, the particles would bind, but at other energies they wouldn’t, proving that the trios really were Efimov trimers.
“It’s an amazing effect, really,” Hulet said. “A lot of people didn’t believe [Efimov] at first. It was a very strange prediction.”
I’ve lived in some snowy places, but I confess I hadn’t thought of this:
MILWAUKEE — Cities around the country that have installed energy-efficient traffic lights are discovering a hazardous downside: The bulbs don’t burn hot enough to melt snow and can become crusted over in a storm — a problem blamed for dozens of accidents and at least one death.
“I’ve never had to put up with this in the past,” said Duane Kassens, a driver from West Bend who got into a fender-bender recently because he couldn’t see the lights. “The police officer told me the new lights weren’t melting the snow. How is that safe?”
Many communities have switched to LED bulbs in their traffic lights because they use 90 percent less energy than the old incandescent variety, last far longer and save money. Their great advantage is also their drawback: They do not waste energy by producing heat.
…Wisconsin, which has put LED bulbs at hundreds of intersections, saves about $750,000 per year in energy costs, said Dave Vieth of the state Transportation Department. LEDs installed seven years ago are still burning, while most incandescent bulbs have to be replaced every 12 to 18 months, he said.
“With LEDs we have energy savings in excess of 80 percent, and we don’t have to have crews replacing them as often,” Vieth said. “So it’s clear the overall savings are pretty significant.”
In Minnesota, where authorities have upgraded hundreds of traffic lights to LEDs, the Transportation Department occasionally gets reports of an obstructed light. But by the time a highway crew arrives, the wind has often knocked out the snow and ice, said traffic systems specialist Jerry Kotzenmacher. Minnesota is experimenting with weather shields.
One reason there have been so few deaths is that drivers know they should treat a traffic signal with obstructed lights as a stop sign, traffic experts say.
“It’s the same as if the power is out,” said Dave Hansen, a traffic engineer with the Green Bay Department of Public Works. “If there’s any question, you err on the side of caution.”
That this happened is probably just a failure of engineering; an understandable-if-inexcusable and mundane tragedy. That people aren’t moved to fix the lights to prevent traffic delays — to say nothing of injury or death! — is global warming religiosity. That’s scary.
Tom posted this at 5:09 PM CDT on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009 as Convenient Truth