None the Wiser

"Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think." --J.S. Mill

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Friday, May 30, 2003
Compassionate Libertarianism...

...On tap over at Tech Central Station, courtesy of the indispensable Radley Balko. Color Balko unimpressed with the Bush AIDS package. Leave it to a libertarian (the only real "liberals" on the planet) to react to the AIDS-in-Africa layout with total disgust--and for all the right reasons, too.

Knock-out summary:

Either way, Africa's primary problem isn't AIDS, it's poverty. AIDS is but one of several tragic and deadly symptoms, often brought on or exacerbated by poverty. And it's the height of hypocrisy for politicians to bask in warm praise that comes with throwing taxpayer dollars at high-profile symptoms while their cozying up to Big Agriculture interests contributes to the underlying problem.

That's some pungent invective, the top-shelf stuff, people. Do go read the whole thing.

Krauthammer on the Road Block to Peace

Charles Krauthammer begins his latest column by writing that

On May 23, just a week ago, the official newspaper of the supposedly reformed Palestinian Authority carried a front-page picture of the latest suicide bomber dressed in suicide-bomber regalia. It then referred to the place where she did her murdering as ``occupied Afula.''

The town of Afula is in Israel's Galilee. It is not occupied. It is not in the West Bank or Gaza. It is within Israel. If Afula is occupied, then Tel Aviv is occupied, Haifa is occupied, and Israel's very existence is a crime.

This bit of incitement and delegitimation was, to my knowledge, reported in not a single American newspaper. It is simply too routine.

Listen (read) carefully: If you think Sharon is the real problem, you're a damned fool. If you believe this talk about "extremists on both sides" causing the supposed "standoff" in the Middle East, you're an even bigger fool.

Recently on MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews asked a guest whether he thought now was "the right time" for peace negotiations, given the presence of such a "hardliner" as Ariel Sharon in the Israeli PM spot. Buried in his question was the premise that everything would be going swimmingly were it not for Sharon's "hardline stance" on Palestinian incitement and terrorism--that the real obstacle to peace is Israeli intransigence and stubbornness, rather than Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He said this in all seriousness a matter of days after the first Sharon-Abbas meeting was derailed by a series of suicide bombings inside Israel proper, and clearly his assumption was that if only the Israelis would ignore acts of terrorism against bus passengers, like any civilized people should, then we could have peace in a matter of hours.

Again, the question is simply this: What peace agreement will bring an end to Hamas' rejectionism? Or that of the PIJ? Or Fatah? Each of these organizations have as their stated aim the total annihilation of Israel, and none has agreed to anything more than a tactical temporary cessation of operations at any time. Each has insisted it will never accept a "Zionist presence," ever. Each has said it would consider any peace agreement with the Israelis a betrayal of the Palestinian people. Arafat's head of Security on the West Bank has scoffed publicly at the idea that any Palestinian will be disarmed for any reason. That's Phase I of the "road map."

If the Palestinians wanted a two-state solution they could have had it twenty-five times over by now. Israel lives in peace with every single country that has recognized its right to exist, and several that haven't. The Palestinians don't even live in peace with each other. Do the math.

Thursday, May 29, 2003
Good News and Bad News

And it's all the same news.

Dave Sims at Clubbeaux is moving to Antalya, Turkey, a small village on the Mediterranean Coast, to run a coffee shop. That is neither a joke nor a typo. Go congratulate the Harp Seal, and wish him luck on his latest venture. He's lived in Turkey previously, for a while, and if I'm not mistaken met Mrs. Clubbeaux there.

I'm a little sad to see him go. Clubbeaux was and remains my blog mentor, and NTW is partly a Dave Sims creation. More importantly, though, Dave is a wonderful guy, and it's a shame there isn't enough about America left to love that he's willing to stay.

This led me to thinking. Thomas Sowell said in the Random Thoughts section of his book Barbarians at the Gates that "One of the most heartbreaking statistics I have seen lately is that a quarter of a million Americans are emigrating from this country annually--and that one fourth of all Americans earning over $50,000 a year have considered it." I must confess to having considered it myself, if the opportunity ever presented itself. But why?

Dave remarks in his blog:

I love America. This is my culture, it made me what I am, I’m proud of it, I think it’s the greatest country on earth. But it’s not for me for the rest of my life.

Maybe because I’m not about money.

He goes on to say that wealth isn't everything America offers, of course. But he is onto something. Sowell's statistic (for which I can't really vouch, but have no reason to disbelieve) seems to indicate that once people earn their money, the U.S. loses its luster. Honestly, the only thing keeping me here is the fact that for the time being, money is very much an object, and unlike Dave I'm a bit of a sucker for it. I could get all smug and talk about property rights being the basis of all other liberties, and try to argue that Sims is missing the boat on what makes America great, but that would just be pseudo-intellectual bluster. There is, after all, more to life than license.

So what is it about America? Maybe cradle Americans--like cradle Catholics--can never appreciate what they did not choose for themselves, but I think that's only part of the story. I'm inclined to leave this place, in part because my heart has been broken by it. The best real chance for government by the people died a long, long time ago, and now I think America is just too big, too powerful, too rich, and most importantly, too divided to be what it could have been. It began with the scourge of slavery and will end with the scourge of socialism. Absent a second revolution, which is impossible against a government so well-defended as ours, the American ideal is all but dead and buried.

Now perhaps I'm just projecting my own thoughts onto others, but I think most Americans, and certainly those with the wherewithal to have "made it" in the U.S., are smart enough to know a sick joke when they see one. Dave, at least, recognizes that "freedom," as we live it today, exists in a whole lot of places that are less mournful and soulless than America. I adore this country, and my own nationalism is not a thing to mess with, but honestly, if I could get out of here I would. Not because this is a terrible place to be--it's surely among the best--but because my values and priorities are so different from those of my fellows.

My plans are built upon the assumption that I'll always be here, but I have to say that given the chance to get up and go bus tables for Dave, I would jump on it. More on this later, maybe.

In any event, good luck Dave, God bless, and if you ever want or need to come back, of course we'll leave the light on for you.

"Schumerism" Explained, and a Few Questions of My Own

In this article in City Journal (one of the very best magazines in the country, without question, if for no other reason than the fact that they regularly publish the work of the smoking hot Heather MacDonald) Brian Anderson coins a new term, "Schumerism," to describe the new judicial philosophy of the Left. It's a bit elementary, but I think Anderson's intent here is to reach a very wide audience.

A truly independent judiciary is anathema to leftists, always and everywhere, for reasons too familiar to bother recounting here. One of the biggest reasons Roe v. Wade was a huge, huge mistake was the political cost it was sure to exact on America as a whole. A judiciary that is not beholden to strict party loyalty or ideology (and Constitutionalism, rightly understood, is not an ideology) is the only sure defense that a free people has against whimsical and tyrannical leaders. The same convoluted logic that says judges ought to simply hallucinate whatever they think appropriate into the law in order to cook up an unmitigated right to abortion also says they ought to avert their eyes from whatever rights the majority or the government finds inconvenient when the time comes. Where there is no rule of law, there is no real liberty, only despotism. It is a depressingly common kind of stupid, selfish recklessness that leads sloppy thinkers on the left and right alike to suggest that the law itself ought to reflect the personal prejudices of individual judges--and, naturally, themselves--without regard to democratic procedure or the careful delineation of powers that prevents the concentration of dictatorial authority in any particular office.

Of course, leftists have to maintain such a standard. They have chosen to live by the sword where the rule of law is concerned, and in so doing have violated the first rule of smart politics: Never give your friends those powers you would not want your enemies to have. The reasons for this are obvious.

Money quote from the article:

Should Schumerism become orthodoxy among judges, the consequences for our constitutional democracy will be grim. As Justice Thomas notes, if law is just politics “then there are no courts at all, only legislatures, and no Constitution or law at all, only opinion polls.” And if an independent judiciary becomes just a myth masking the exercise of raw political power, George Mason law prof Nelson Lund tersely argues, “we should really start asking why these politicians-in-robes should enjoy life tenure—and why they should get the last word on so many important policy issues.” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, blunter still, says: “It is simply not compatible with democratic theory that laws mean whatever they ought to mean, and that unelected judges decide what that is.”

This question is the single biggest issue facing the republic, and I think I am not exaggerating. It's so important, in fact, that it may cause me to register as a Republican for the first time--and if Democrats are smart, they will listen to the legions of people who are saying the same exact thing. It's less important that a Republican Congress (with plenty of bipartisan support) would pass the PATRIOT Act, than it is that we have a genuinely neutral judiciary capable of measuring it against some reasonably fixed legal standard. We fetishize "diversity" as a compelling state interest today, and argue that the 14th Amendment therefore doesn't mean what it seems to. Tomorrow, we will fetishize "security" in the same way, and woe be unto us if we so cavalierly dispense with the 4th or 1st Amendment then.

A judiciary that arbitrarily grants rights (Roe) today can take them (4th Amendment) tomorrow. Under such a system, we might have partial birth abortions on demand at the age of 12 without parental consent, but our right to smoke cigarettes might be summarily and categorically denied. And who could argue that there is a contradiction there, where the merits of Constitutional muster are a matter of taste and intuition? To what does one appeal, when the Constitution can mean anything (or nothing) at all? What legal armor remains in defense of Roe and Casey then, in a land of shifting majorities and a fickle political center?

Is the Democratic left so foolish as to argue that transitory ideology is and should be the single overriding criterion for that most sacred and critical of adjudicators, the Federal bench? Is it so arrogant as to claim for itself the prerogative to deny to our descendants those protections that have managed to survive the Civil War, the New Deal, and alcohol-free beer--that birthright we ourselves so breezily enjoy? Is it so blind as that?

I suppose that depends on the meaning of the word "is."

How Odd...

To read a genuinely respectful column about Hugh Hefner by...George Will?

Almost gives me the creeps.