The condition of being able to act in any desired way without hindrance or restraint; faculty or power to do as one likes.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
The Senate passed a bill by unanimous consent a few days ago that makes it so that, in order to be enforced by American courts, libel prosecutions abroad must comport with American standards of free speech. This is important because it prevents people from suing writers in countries where libel laws are stricter for writers, and then coming to American courts to have those judgments enforced.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn’t do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from “one of his own kind”. She refers him to a white lawyer.Here's the video (two and a half minutes):
As the fuller story plays out, it turns out that Ms. Sherrod's story is one of redemption, not racism. She was approached by a white farmer (many, many years ago) for help saving his farm. However, she was not inclined to help him. She viewed her job as a way to help poor black farmers, not white men. So she directed the man to speak to a white lawyer she thought could help him. And that's as much as Andrew Breitbart would like you to know.
“The desire here is to make it about me and not the Democratic establishment and the NAACP vs. the tea party,” Breitbart said, defending the footage he posted as “a self-contained newsworthy video that established the media standard of pointing out that the NAACP countenanced racism in its own award dinner setting. That was the point. That was the point. And the video proves it.”
Or, instead, you can look to the Fox News Politics (as in, supposed "news," not opinion from a commentator) story early in the Sherrod debacle:
...a video has surfaced showing an Agriculture Department official regaling an NAACP audience with a story about how she withheld help to a white farmer facing bankruptcy -- video that now has forced the official to resign.Shirley Sherrod, the department's Georgia director of Rural Development, is shown in the clip describing "the first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm." Sherrod, who is black, claimed the farmer took a long time trying to show he was "superior" to her. The audience laughed as she described how she determined his fate.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
- Kagan refused to identify anything the government couldn’t do under its Commerce Clause power. She recited over and over the limitations the Lopez and Morrison cases give, the power to regulate interstate commerce doesn’t extend to non-economic activity or that traditionally subject to state prerogative, but she refused to tell Senator Coburn that his hypothetical bill requiring Americans to eat fruits and vegetables was unconstitutional. “Dumb,” sure, but perhaps worthy of the deference to the political branches that she hailed again and again. Nor did she offer her own examples of unconstitutional bills.
- I’m disappointed but not surprised by Kagan’s position on use of foreign law. Yes, it’s never binding and, of course, you should use it in evaluating international treaties and conflicts of law situations, but it’s simply irrelevant to interpreting the U.S. Constitution. Yet Kagan consciously left herself plenty of breathing room to cite foreign law inappropriately.
- Finally, and I will be going over this section with a fine-toothed comb, in an instructive dialogue with Senator Coburn, Kagan disclaimed the idea of natural rights — looking pained at times to even understand what they are. “Does the Constitution give us our rights, or do they pre-exist government?” Coburn asked. Kagan evaded. “What about the discussion of the ‘inalienable rights’ in the Declaration of Independence?” he pressed. Kagan denied that the Declaration of Independence had anything to do with the role of a judge. This is sad, really, and ironic given that we’re heading into the Fourth of July weekend.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
- Competition does not lead to the "best result". In a perfect world, it leads to an equilibrium point between cost and revenue that effectively makes quality and quantity produced as high as people are willing to pay, in relation to how much it costs for the manufacturer or supplier to produce the product. In that sense, the price is leads to is, by some definitions, "best". But a purely competitive market ignores any other factors that would go into an ordinary definition of "best result".
Tyler also makes the reasonable point that before we abolish tenure, we need to think carefully about what the alternative system would look like. There may not be any one system that would be best for all institutions. Competition and experimentation could lead to useful innovations.
A word is a collection of sounds which has a meaning as part of a language.
A language is a collection of words that can be used to convey a large range of meanings.
So how can we talk about "English" or "Latin" or "Arabic"? I would propose, if you will, a "linguistic fiction". There is no such thing as English, because there is no authority that can define a "superlanguage". However, it is convenient to group a lot of similar (individual) languages under the heading of "English", for the simple reason that those languages are similar enough that most "English" speakers can understand each other, at least decently.
So is irregardless a word? Yes, it is a collection of sounds that has meaning (to many people, I suspect). Is it a word in the linguistic fiction of the English language? Perhaps not, but the answer to that question is far from clear.
So, does this all mean that there's no reason to speak (or write or spell) correctly? After all, if language is all relative, then everything is correct, right? Wrong.
That's a common misunderstanding of relativism. The fact that language is specific to the individual doesn't mean that there's no reason to strive for using the fictional correct English language.
Correctness in language (and spelling) is a good way to get an initial impression of the quality of writing. It's a time saver: if we don't have time to read everything, quality writing can help lead us to quality ideas. It's not a perfect indicator: many people with good ideas can't write, and many good writers have no ideas. But even without being perfect, it's a good first estimate of how good a piece of writing is to see how close it stays to the fictional English language.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
“Sarah Palin has come on board,” the candidate, Karen Handel, told a group of supporters who gathered Friday on the grounds of the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse. As they broke into applause, she added: “It means one thing. We’re winning.”
Friday, July 23, 2010
You wanna Monday morning quarterback me? Go to the Academy for the five/six month training and learn what it's like to do my job. Get some experience. Walk a mile in my boots. One of my biggest pet peeves is listening to talking heads or, worse yet, random people on the street that the media interviews talk about how the job should be done. I don't have an issue with people asking questions in an effort to educate themselves (obviously...that's why I have the Ask MC posts), but making judgements about what was done based on a very short cell phone video clip is ignorant...In other words, we civilians aren't cops, therefore we are completely unqualified to pass judgment on whether a cop did the right thing or not. We should let the cops police themselves, through "internal affairs" investigations. And nothing could possibly go wrong. Trust them.
There is a reason every department has an IA division (Internal Affairs). Those folks are cops. They've done the job. Are they well liked? Not typically; however, I'd rather be judged by them than by a civilian with no policing experience. I'm not looking for a break from IA because we share the badge, but at least I can be confident that they know what my job entails.
I have to agree that the public at large has no clue how policing really works, they rely on TV shows and other forms of entertainment to tell them "how it is". A a member of the "General public" I freely admit to being clueless as to certain aspects of policing. I've been lucky to have numerous LEO's in my life, so I like to think that I know slightly more than your average Joe I still wouldn't sit on a review board as I know I wouldn't have enough knowledge to accuratly judge police on their actions.
This is totally absurd. They should let IA take care of police involved incidents, that's what they're there for.
It's one thing for civilians to be in a position where they can ask questions and find out why things are done as they are, another for them to decide how police should do their job. Haven't done it, not in the position to judge it.
Because, no. No civilian is going to understand it. I'm trying, myself, but it's just a pale inkling in a very shadowed world.
I don't think someone without experience in policing can sit in judgement. Leave it to the internals. It may not be the perfect solution because there is no perfect solution, but it is probably the fairest.
People are hired only when they contribute toward business's [sic] profitability. If the only reason they are hired is because the employer is bribed (in the form of a stimulus) to hire them, then the "job" that they are hired for isn't a real job.To believe that government spending "creates" jobs is the real "voodoo economics.
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
What was particularly pathetic about the scheme to smear Mr. Obama's critics was labeling them as racists. The accusation has been made so frequently in recent years, without evidence to back it up, that it has little effect. It's now the last refuge of liberal scoundrels.Mr. Prager:
The charge of racism leveled by liberal organizations, whether black or white, is now regarded as the politically motivated falsehood that it is. it is rightly seen, along with its six siblings...as the Left's way of avoiding argument by demeaning its opponents.
Monday, July 19, 2010
All of this started me thinking: what is the Senate? Why do we have it?
The first answer to that question is historical. At the time of the founding, most Americans associated strongly with their colony (soon to become state), but felt less allegiance to the union of states. If the new nation was to survive, it would have to be accepted, not only by the people as a whole, but by the states. And part of acceptance by the states was the insurance that they would all be fairly represented. Thus, we got a compromise: the House of Representatives, dominated by the large states, and the Senate, giving disproportionate representation to the small states.
The next justification for the original structure of the Senate is federalism. Where the House of Representatives portrays the United States as one joint nation, with equal representation for all citizens, the Senate is a reflection of American federalism. It is the representative of the states within the national government, and for that reason senators were originally chosen by state legislatures. The Senate, supposedly, gives the states power in Washington and provides a balance between state and federal power.
The final part of the Senate's character is its position as the upper house. It is the more mature house in Congress' bicameral structure, meant to be wiser and more removed from the politics of the day. Its members are selected in batches, so that no political movement can sweep the entire Senate in one election. Senators sit for longer than congressmen, and they have higher requisite qualifications. Debate in the Senate is less structured than in the House, out of respect for the higher prestige of its members.
So, acknowledging these characteristics of the Senate, what can we say for its future? Is repealing the Seventeenth Amendment the way to go? Is that what the Senate needs in the twenty-first century?
Personally, I don't think so. Federalism is on the way out, due to the natural evolution of human politics. As we evolve, we form bigger and bigger networks, and states are just too small to be legitimate sovereign entities any more. The myth of the sovereign state (after all, very few of the American states have ever actually been sovereign) is making less and less sense as time goes on. As travel between the states becomes easier, it makes less and less sense to give more representation to those who chose to live in small states. As state boundaries mean less and less, the Senate looks more and more arcane for sticking to them. Federalism is not the way of the future, and repealing the Seventeenth Amendment is a step backwards, not forwards.
Instead of focusing blindly on the state-based past of the Senate, we should look at strengthening the Senate in other ways, through attention to its status as the upper house. While making the Senate a body based on equal representation, we should also try to secure it as the more removed, prestigious body in Congress.
This can be accomplished through a combination of various methods, including:
- Make the Senate elected by districts of equal population (so as to provide for equal representation) but also smaller. As states have been added to the union, the Senate has become too large for itself. A body of 50-80 members would be able to perform the Senatorial role much more effectively.
- Require that candidates have a certain number of years of legislative service (in a state legislature or the House of Representatives) before running for a seat in the Senate. This would secure the Senate's position as the upper house, and ensure that its members were seasoned legislatures, fit to be in a body more insulated from popular pressure. The Senate must, by its nature, be more independent of the people, so we should be sure that its members have the requisite expertise to be there.
- Make the Senate a non-partisan body. This would involve not including party affiliations on the ballot, discouraging party caucuses by limiting their power, reshaping the committee system, etc. It's a daunting proposal, but well worth it: partisanship is valuable in the lower house, but it degrades the level of debate in the Senate and makes the Senate into a mere replica of the House of Representatives.
- Reshape the rules of debate in the Senate. Encourage more open and direct discussion between members (as opposed to mere prepared statements read to the chair). Going along with making the Senate a non-partisan body, party leaders should not control the debate, the focus should be on individuals. Unlimited debate (filibusters) should be allowed, but it should be required to be actual debate, not parliamentary obstruction.
- Make Senate elections on off-years in order to insulate them from the political frenzy accompanying Presidential and House elections. In other words, there would be a Presidential and House election in 2012, followed by a Senate election in 2013, followed by the House in 2014, the Senate in 2015, and then the President and the House in 2016, and so on. This would increase the number of elections, but it would also help ensure that those who chose to vote for Senate were more interested and informed. It would also make the Senate more clearly distinct from the House and President, holding a special place on the electoral calendar. Also, because only a third of the Senate would be up for election every two years, it would add at most two more elections for each individual in any given six years.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
He starts off by distinguishing between conscience and self-will, and here I agree with him. Self-will is a permissive force, allowing us to do what we wish. Conscience is, in contrast, a restrictive force, constraining what we may do or commanding us to take certain affirmative actions. That, though, is the point at which I think Professor George's argument starts to fall apart.
Unless I am misunderstanding him, he seems to make two other points: that freedom of conscience is incompatible with a relativistic moral system, and that freedom of conscience in a society should be understood as adherence to a certain moral code, not as a permissive grant to do what a certain person feels is commanded by conscience.
Freedom of Conscience in a Relativistic World
Professor George writes,
Of course, if relativism were true, there would be no grounds for such claims [about freedom of conscience], which is, perhaps, the first thing that Christian intellectuals ought to point out in engaging the wider intellectual culture. If people have rights, and they do; if respect for conscience is important, and it is; then it cannot be because there is no such thing as moral truth, or because all truth is relative. It must be, rather, because as a matter of strict, non-relative moral truth people do have rights, and among these is the right to freedom of conscience.
The reason that he comes to the conclusion that freedom of conscience is incompatible with relativism (the theory that morality is relative to the individual, and there are no absolute moral truths) is rather simple: he starts with a false premise. His understanding of the justification for freedom of conscience is inherently absolutist, and so of course, with that definition, relativism can never dictate freedom of conscience.
However, freedom of conscience as a policy is perfectly coherent with relativism. If, as relativists believe, moral truths are relative to the individual, then it makes perfect sense to give individuals great latitude to follow their conscience. Not because it is inherently good for people to be able to follow their conscience (after all, that would itself be absolutist, as Professor George would rightly point out) but because there would be no justification for limiting freedom of conscience. Limits on freedom of conscience depend on placing one conscience above another, which is fundamentally inconsistent with relativistic thought.
Properly understood, freedom of conscience does not need to rest, in a circular manner, upon the absolute morality that it upholds. Instead, freedom of conscience can be recognized under relativistic thought because there is no relativistic justification for limiting it.
Freedom of Conscience Is Not A Command
In his post, Professor George seemed to argue that freedom of conscience should be understood as a command in the same way that conscience itself is a restriction on action. In other words, the duty of society to secure free conscience extends only as far as protecting those whose understanding of conscience is "correct" and correcting those whose understanding of conscience is "wrong."
Even if we accept an absolutist moral framework (the idea that there is a single moral truth), Professor George's understanding of freedom of conscience is a dangerous one. He writes:
At a time when public officials, supported, in some cases, by prominent theologians and religious leaders, appeal to "respect for conscience" in rationalizing their advocacy of legal abortion, euthanasia, damaging and ultimately deadly embryo experimentation, and policies that promote sexual immorality and undermine the institution of marriage, we would do well to recall the teaching of St. Paul, who in his Letter to the Romans speaks of a law known even to the Gentiles, who have not the law of Moses, because it is written on the hearts of all men—the "natural law" which, though illumined by God's revelation, is accessible even to unaided reason.Unless I read him wrong, what Professor George is saying is that freedom of conscience (or "respect for conscience") can only be used as a justification for policies that support the correct understanding of morality.
It is this law which binds in conscience all of us—Catholics, Protestants, Jews, members of every faith and even those without faith—not simply to refrain from taking innocent human life but to avoid the injustice of supporting policies which, for example, deprive the unborn and frail elderly of the protection against wrongful killing to which every member of the human family is strictly entitled, or policies that promote sexual immorality and weaken the institutions of marriage and the family. The moral prohibitions of abortion, euthanasia, and sexual misconduct are examples of the "negative" norms of the natural law which apply always and everywhere to everyone alike.
Freedom of conscience, though, is based upon the premise that (even if there is an absolute moral truth) no human authority can properly determine that morality. And even Catholics who believe that there is an earthly power with complete authority on morality should recognize the danger of advocating absolutist moral government. After all, Catholicism never could have spread in America without a liberal (as opposed to restrictive) understanding of "freedom of conscience."
Professor George may believe that certain things (abortion, euthanasia, homosexual acts, etc) are immoral. But he is wrong to say that those things should not be protected under freedom of conscience. After all, there are absolutist moralists who support the right to abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, etc (for instance, based on a moral valuation of liberty.) Where there are legitimate disputes over the morally correct course of action, all sides should be wary of arguing that freedom of conscience should not protect those who are incorrect. Not because freedom of conscience is inherently valuable, but because very few of us would like to live in a world where we are not free to believe what we believe.
Conscience is a command: it tells us what to do and what to think. But freedom of conscience is an acknowledgment of human fallibility. Since we do not trust humanity to always find the right course, we think it is better to allow individuals to make that decision. Conscience is restrictive, but freedom of conscience, like self-will, is permissive.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
O! say can you see by the dawn's early light,When I got home, I immediately read the Declaration of Independence, in full.
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.During the actual day of the Fourth, I went to a performance by the Capitol Steps. And I worked on a paper I've been writing for a long time about the intersection of youth rights and adult trials for juveniles.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
For every story you could find where the prosecutor unjustifiably went after the ‘poor misguided innocent defendant’ you can probably find another CDL that went defended someone who was without a doubt factually guilty of some awful crime. But each individual knows that these two extremes are possible outcomes on their job. They simply accept it as ‘a bad part of the job’ or they won’t do it.There is so much about this that makes me want to cry. To bemoan the attitude of the rising lawyers of our world. To beg and plead and pray that this is a rare opinion, that not many people think this way. But I know that's not true. This idea, that we must resign ourselves to defending the guilty as a necessary but "bad part of the job" is common, whether among law students or just average citizens.
On the whole, I think prosecutors have the opportunity to do more good than CDLs. In cases where the evidence is weak and the accused has a good chance of being factually innocent, a smart prosecutor will drop the case or plea it down. There’s no point in going to trial when the chance of losing is that strong. Ideally, the cases that go to trial are instances where the defendant is factually guilty, and the CDL will be challenging whether the prosecution can prove it. This paints CDLs in a very bad light.