Quotulatiousness

April 17, 2014

Nevada standoff and the rule of law

Filed under: Environment, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:25

I haven’t been following the situation in Nevada between the armed forces of the Bureau of Land Management and the armed citizenry in support of rancher Cliven Bundy, but while my sympathies normally go toward the individual rather than the state, this case doesn’t appear to be clear-cut (and Bundy is clearly in violation of the law to some degree). Kevin Williamson seems to be in the same general state of mind:

Deserts always feel like my natural habitat, and I am very fond of them. That being said, I have, for my sins, spent a fair amount of time in Clark County, Nev., and it is not the loveliest stretch of desert in these United States, or even in the top twelve. Protecting the pristine beauty of the sun-baked and dust-caked outskirts of Las Vegas and its charismatic fauna from grazing cattle — which the Bureau of Land Management seems to regard as an Old Testament plague — seems to me to be something less than a critical national priority. At the same time, the federal government’s fundamental responsibility, which is defending the physical security of the country, is handled with remarkable nonchalance: Millions upon millions upon millions of people have crossed our borders illegally and continue to reside within them. Cliven Bundy’s cattle are treated as trespassers, and federal agents have been dispatched to rectify that trespass; at the same time, millions of illegal aliens present within our borders are treated as an inevitability that must be accommodated. In practice, our national borders are a joke, but the borders of that arid haven upon which ambles the merry Mojave desert tortoise are sacrosanct.

[...]

The relevant facts are these: 1) Very powerful political interests in Washington insist upon the scrupulous enforcement of environmental laws, and if that diminishes the interests of private property owners, so much the better, in their view. 2) Very powerful political interests in Washington do not wish to see the scrupulous enforcement of immigration laws, and if that undercuts the bottom end of the labor market or boosts Democrats’ long-term chances in Texas, so much the better, in their view.

This isn’t the rule of law. This is the rule of narrow, parochial, self-interested political factions masquerading as the rule of law.

If we are to have the rule of law, then, by all means, let’s have the rule of law: Shut down those federal subsidies and IRS penalties in states that did not create their own exchanges under the Affordable Care Act — the law plainly does not empower the federal government to treat federal exchanges identically to state exchanges. And let’s enforce the ACA’s deadlines with the same scrupulosity with which the IRS enforces its deadlines. Let’s see Lois Lerner and a few hundred IRS employees thrown in the hole for their misappropriation of federal resources, lying to Congress, etc. — and let’s at least look into prosecuting some elected Democrats for suborning those actions. And if you want to get to the real problem with illegal immigration, let’s frog-march a few CEOs, restaurateurs, and small-time contractors off to prison for violating our immigration laws — and they can carry a GM product-safety manager and a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration executive under each arm. Let’s talk about enumerated powers.

H/T to Jon, my former virtual landlord, for the link.

March 12, 2014

Senator Dianne Feinstein versus the CIA

Filed under: Government, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:52

In Mother Jones, David Corn shows the state of play between the Central Intelligence Agency and the senate committee that is responsible for oversight of the CIA:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, took to the Senate floor and accused the CIA of spying on committee investigators tasked with probing the agency’s past use of harsh interrogation techniques (a.k.a. torture) and detention. Feinstein was responding to recent media stories reporting that the CIA had accessed computers used by intelligence committee staffers working on the committee’s investigation. The computers were set up by the CIA in a locked room in a secure facility separate from its headquarters, and CIA documents relevant to the inquiry were placed on these computers for the Senate investigators. But, it turns out, the Senate sleuths had also uncovered an internal CIA memo reviewing the interrogation program that had not been turned over by the agency. This document was far more critical of the interrogation program than the CIA’s official rebuttal to a still-classified, 6,300-page Senate intelligence committee report that slams it, and the CIA wanted to find out how the Senate investigators had gotten their mitts on this damaging memo.

The CIA’s infiltration of the Senate’s torture probe was a possible constitutional violation and perhaps a criminal one, too. The agency’s inspector general and the Justice Department have begun inquiries. And as the story recently broke, CIA sources — no names, please — told reporters that the real issue was whether the Senate investigators had hacked the CIA to obtain the internal review. Readers of the few newspaper stories on all this did not have to peer too far between the lines to discern a classic Washington battle was under way between Langley and Capitol Hill.

[...]

So here we have the person assigned the duty of guaranteeing that the intelligence establishment functions effectively and appropriately, and she cannot get information about how the CIA meddled in one of her own investigations. This is a serious breakdown. And by the way, Feinstein has still not succeeded in forcing the CIA to declassify her committee’s massive report on the interrogation and detention program.

Here is how she summed up the current state of play:

    If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted. But, Mr. President, the recent actions that I have just laid out make this a defining moment for the oversight of our intelligence committee. How Congress and how this will be resolved will show whether the intelligence committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.

What Feinstein didn’t say — but it’s surely implied — is that without effective monitoring, secret government cannot be justified in a democracy. This is indeed a defining moment. It’s a big deal for President Barack Obama, who, as is often noted in these situations, once upon a time taught constitutional law. Feinstein has ripped open a scab to reveal a deep wound that has been festering for decades. The president needs to respond in a way that demonstrates he is serious about making the system work and restoring faith in the oversight of the intelligence establishment. This is more than a spies-versus-pols DC turf battle. It is a constitutional crisis.

Quebec federalist leader calls for more concessions to Quebec (of course)

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:55

It’s apparently come to the attention of even soi disant federalists in Quebec that the rest of Canada is still taking advantage of Quebec and that concessions will be needed to begin to make amends for all our exploitation of that downtrodden province:

The leader of federalist forces in the Quebec election says Canadians from coast to coast should be prepared to make concessions to the province if there is any hope dealing once and for all with the recurring threats to national unity.

With an ascendant Parti Québécois seeking re-election and speaking bullishly about a new push for independence, angst outside of the province’s borders is noticeably higher in this election than in previous campaigns since the failed 1995 referendum on sovereignty.

The surprise candidacy for the PQ of multi-millionaire media titan Pierre Karl Péladeau, majority shareholder of Quebecor and the Sun newspaper chain, has only ratcheted up that tension, a rare across-the-board endorsement in an open letter signed by leading sovereigntists, including former PQ leaders Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry as well as ex-Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe.

[...]

Couillard raised the spectre of a new push for a constitutional amendment that would recognized Quebec as a “distinct” society in Canada. This after two failed attempts at Meech Lake in 1987 and Charlottetown in 1992 and the refusal of former PQ premier René Levesque to sign the repatriated Canadian Constitution in 1982.

The federal government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused the idea of re-opening the Constitution to introduce an elected Senate or to set term limits for Senators. The federal Conservative leader has said repeatedly there is no willingness in the country for another heart-wrenching round of talks that, if they fail, could breathe new life into the grievances of those who want an independent Quebec.

Harper contented himself with passing a 2006 motion in the House of Commons that recognized “the Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada,” but it carries no specific obligations or responsibilities of Ottawa and affords no new powers to the province.

Update:

March 5, 2014

President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative

Filed under: Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:16

Jonah Goldberg thinks that Obama’s proposed “My Brother’s Keeper” should pass constitutional muster despite grumbling from the usual suspects:

The statistics are gloomy and familiar: One out of 15 black men is behind bars; one out of three can expect to be incarcerated at some point in his life.

The simplistic talk about how this is all the result of white racism misses the scope and nature of the problem. The vast majority of interracial violent crime is black on white. But most violent crime is actually intra-racial (i.e., black on black or white on white). Still, blacks are far more likely to die from homicide; half of murder victims are black, which may partly explain why black men in prison have a higher life expectancy than black men out of prison. And this leaves out all of the challenges — educational, economic, etc. — facing black men that don’t show up in crime statistics.

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, also thinks the program is unconstitutional because there is no “compelling” government interest here: “It may be that a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos are at-risk, but many are not, and many whites, Asians and others are. This is just another kind of ‘profiling.’”

Yes and no. Obviously there are at-risk youth of all races, but the problems facing young black men are so disproportionate, the difference of degree becomes a difference in kind. Yet, I also think Clegg is obviously right that this is another kind of profiling.

There’s an intriguing double standard that tangles up the Right and the Left. We’re told it is outrageous for government to assume that a young black male (in some contexts) is more likely to commit a crime; we’re also told that government should target young black men for help because they are more likely to commit crimes. Most liberals hate law-enforcement profiling but support — for want of a better term — social-justice profiling. For conservatives, it’s vice versa (though Clegg opposes both kinds of profiling, it’s worth noting). Yet the empirical arguments for positive and negative profiling are the same: The plight of young black men is different.

February 25, 2014

Lobbyist wants to ban gays from playing in the NFL

Filed under: Football, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:28

This is the sort of story that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1970s, but seems to have come adrift in the timestream and for some reason shows up today:

Just when it appeared that a supposedly modern, progressive society is willing to accept people for who they are and not force them to pretend to be something they’re not, someone is trying to kick the pendulum sharply in the other direction.

According to The Hill, lobbyist Jack Burkman said Monday that he’s preparing legislation that would ban gay players from the NFL.

“We are losing our decency as a nation,” Burkman said in a statement. “Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”

One must assume that Burkman’s belief is, contra Chris Kluwe, sharing a shower room with a gay man will magically turn you into a “lustful cockmonster”.

February 11, 2014

Rand Paul on the Fourth Amendment

Filed under: Government, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:06

January 25, 2014

QotD: The US Constitution

Filed under: Humour, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:31

SEEN ON FACEBOOK: “Maybe we should start emailing each other copies of the Constitution, so we can know that the government has read it.”

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, 2014-01-24.

December 23, 2013

QotD: Misunderstanding the First Amendment

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:29

1. The First Amendment protects you from government sanction, either directly (by criminal prosecution) or indirectly (when someone uses the government’s laws and the courts to punish you, as in a defamation action). It is currently in vogue to exclaim “NOBODY IS ARGUING OTHERWISE” when someone makes this point. Bullshit. People are consistently saying that private action (like criticism, or firings) violates the First Amendment, either directly or through sloppy implication. Promoting ignorance about our most important rights is a bad thing that we should call out, even when we’re currently upset about something. Our rights are under constant assault on multiple fronts, and when we encourage citizens to misunderstand them we make it easier for the government to whittle them away.

2. The phrase “the spirit of the First Amendment” often signals approaching nonsense. So, regrettably, does the phrase “free speech” when uncoupled from constitutional free speech principles. These terms often smuggle unprincipled and internally inconsistent concepts — like the doctrine of the Preferred+ First Speaker. The doctrine of the Preferred First Speaker holds that when Person A speaks, listeners B, C, and D should refrain from their full range of constitutionally protected expression to preserve the ability of Person A to speak without fear of non-governmental consequences that Person A doesn’t like. The doctrine of the Preferred First Speaker applies different levels of scrutiny and judgment to the first person who speaks and the second person who reacts to them; it asks “why was it necessary for you to say that” or “what was your motive in saying that” or “did you consider how that would impact someone” to the second person and not the first. It’s ultimately incoherent as a theory of freedom of expression.

3. Notwithstanding #2, the concepts of proportionality, community, dialogue, love, charity, grace, empathy, forgiveness, humility, and self-awareness are all values decent people ought to apply to a discussion. They aren’t about free speech or the First Amendment; they are about humanity. They are more powerful and convincing when applied consistently — when you do not demand grace of others than you aren’t willing to extend yourself. That doesn’t happen much.

Ken White, “Ten Points About Speech, Ducks, And Flights To Africa”, Popehat, 2013-12-21.

December 22, 2013

Does the US Constitution actually provide any protection against surveillance?

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:16

Julian Sanchez talks about dismantling the surveillance state:

On Tuesday, Judge Richard Leon held that the National Security Agency’s controversial phone records program likely violates the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” But when the inevitable appeal comes, far more than a single surveillance program will be at stake. Whether far higher courts are prepared to embrace Leon’s logic could determine if Americans enjoy any meaningful constitutional protection against government monitoring in the information age.

The NSA program — a massive database that logs, and stores for five years, the time, date, duration, and number dialed for nearly every call placed in the United States — is based on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the government to obtain any records it reasonably believes are “relevant” to a foreign intelligence investigation. But that authority itself depends on the so-called “third party doctrine,” which says that business records held by a “third party” like a phone company aren’t protected by the Fourth Amendment.

If not for the third party doctrine, “relevance” would not be enough: The government would have to satisfy the Fourth Amendment’s far stricter demand to show “probable cause” that records it had “particularly described” would yield evidence of wrongdoing. Under Fourth Amendment standards, a program that involved vacuuming up billions of records in order to fish through them later for suspicious calls would be out of the question — the kind of unlimited “general warrant” the framers of the Constitution were especially concerned to prohibit.

The roots of this cramped reading stretch back to 1979, when the Supreme Court unwittingly dealt a profound blow to American privacy in the case of Smith v. Maryland. With the cooperation of the phone company, police had traced a series of obscene phone calls from Michael Lee Smith to a woman he had earlier robbed. Because they had not first obtained a warrant from a judge, Smith argued that the police had conducted an illegal search, akin to a wiretap.

The Court disagreed: Because Smith should have known, based on the itemized list of calls on his monthly bill, that the phone company kept business records of the numbers he dialed, he had voluntarily abandoned his “reasonable expectation of privacy” in that information — and with it, the protection of the Constitution.

December 3, 2013

The US constitution and the first ten amendments

Filed under: History, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:13

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith provides a thumbnail sketch of the reasons for the first amendments to the US constitution:

While some of this nation’s Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason — were intent, first and foremost, to create a new country in which individual liberty and free enterprise would be the order of the day, there were others, like Alexander Hamilton, who regarded the fledgling America as his personal piggy bank.

You will have been taught that the Articles of Confederation, our first “operating system” were deeply flawed, The truth is that they provided for an extremely decentralized governance that stood as an obstacle to the vast fortunes Hamilton and his cronies had hoped to amass.

The Articles had to go, and it is revealing that among Hamilton’s first acts as Treasury Secretary under the Constitution that replaced them was a national excise tax on whiskey that, as readers of my novel The Probability Broach know, very nearly sparked a second American Revolution.

Corn farmers of western Pennsylvania long accustomed to turning their crop into a less perishable, more transportable product, were among the first victims of democracy American-style, the kind where three coyotes and a lamb sit down to debate on what’s going to be for dinner.

Nevertheless, that’s why a few stiff-necked libertarian-types, like Jefferson, held out for a Bill of Rights to be added to the new Constitution, and it was written, more or less to Jefferson’s order, by his close friend, James Madison, one of the few Federalists who was genuinely interested in assuaging the Anti-Federalists about the new document.

The Bill of Rights was, unfortunately misnamed. It was not a list of things Americans were allowed too do, under the Constitution. It was and remains a list of things government is absolutely forbidden to do — like set up a state religion, or steal your house — under any circumstances.

The Bill of Rights was the make-or-break condition that allowed the Constitution to be ratified. No Bill of Rights, no Constitution. And since all political authority in America “trickles down” from the Constitution, no Constitution no government. And, since the Bill of Rights was passed as a unit, a single breach, in any one of the ten articles, breaches them all and with them, the entire Constitution. Every last bit of the authority that derives from it becomes null and void.

November 16, 2013

US apparently trying out new quasi-monarchical form of government

Filed under: Government, Wine — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:18

As a British-born Canadian I’m used to the occasional ill-informed jab from American commentators about our form of government being a barbaric remnant of the dark ages, what with still having a monarch and all. If I respond at all, it’s usually to point out that we owe a lot for the longevity of our slowly evolving political system to the “Baronial brute squad of 1215” and the fact that we’ve (for the most part) steadily moved the monarch away from the levers of power. 798 years of political evolution is not to be sneered at. In the United States, the evolution has apparently gone in the other direction: moving those levers of power toward the monarch and away from the soi-disant “legislative branch” of government.

I haven’t seen as much fun-poking about the monarchy from my American friends lately, as they seem to have introduced a new form of non-crown-wearing, non-ermine-trimmed monarchy:

It is a condition of my admission to this great land that I am not allowed to foment the overthrow of the United States government. Oh, I signed it airily enough, but you’d be surprised, as the years go by, how often the urge to foment starts to rise in one’s gullet. Fortunately, at least as far as constitutional government goes, the president of the United States is doing a grand job of overthrowing it all by himself.

On Thursday, he passed a new law at a press conference. George III never did that. But, having ordered America’s insurance companies to comply with Obamacare, the president announced that he is now ordering them not to comply with Obamacare. The legislative branch (as it’s still quaintly known) passed a law purporting to grandfather your existing health plan. The regulatory bureaucracy then interpreted the law so as to un-grandfather your health plan. So His Most Excellent Majesty has commanded that your health plan be de-un-grandfathered. That seems likely to work. The insurance industry had three years to prepare for the introduction of Obamacare. Now the King has given them six weeks to de-introduce Obamacare.

“I wonder if he has the legal authority to do this,” mused former Vermont governor Howard Dean. But he’s obviously some kind of right-wing wacko. Later that day, anxious to help him out, Congress offered to “pass” a “law” allowing people to keep their health plans. The same president who had unilaterally commanded that people be allowed to keep their health plans indignantly threatened to veto any such law to that effect: It only counts if he does it — geddit? As his court eunuchs at the Associated Press obligingly put it: “Obama Will Allow Old Plans.” It’s Barry’s world; we just live in it.

The reason for the benign Sovereign’s exercise of the Royal Prerogative is that millions of his subjects — or “folks,” as he prefers to call us, no fewer than 27 times during his press conference — have had their lives upended by Obamacare. Your traditional hard-core statist, surveying the mountain of human wreckage he has wrought, usually says, “Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” But Obama is the first to order that his omelet be unscrambled and the eggs put back in their original shells. Is this even doable? No. That’s the point. When it doesn’t work, he’ll be able to give another press conference blaming the insurance companies, or the state commissioners, or George W. Bush . . .

October 7, 2013

QotD: Progressives and power

Filed under: Government, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 06:51

Charlie Cooke had a very good column and follow up post this week on progressive disdain for our system of separated powers. What liberals want, according to Charlie, is an “elected king” who can do whatever he wants. I agree with him almost entirely. For instance, he doesn’t say it, but this is exactly what Thomas Friedman wants. It’s what all the pseudo-eggheady-jagoff technocrats always want. The desire to simply impose “optimal policies” heedless of democratic or legal impediments lies behind virtually every technocratic fad of the last couple of centuries. We know what to do, and the problem with democracy is that the rubes won’t let us do it! Stuart Chase, one of the architects of the New Deal (who some say coined the term), openly pleaded for an “economic dictatorship.” After all, he asked, “why should the Russians have all the fun remaking the world?”

But here’s where I disagree a bit with Charlie. The key issue for progressives has never been the form power takes, but power itself. You want my five-second lesson in progressive history? No? Sucks for you, because I’m going to tell you anyway: They always go where the field is open.

That’s it.

When the public was on their side the progressives relied on the public. That’s why we have the direct election of senators. That’s why women got the franchise. Etc. In his early years as an academic Woodrow Wilson wanted Congress to run the country — the way parliament runs England — and relegate the president to a glorified clerk. When the public became unreliable and Congress was no longer a viable vehicle, progressives suddenly fell in love with a Caesarian presidency. Indeed, Wilson himself, the former champion of Congress, became an unapologetic voluptuary of presidential power the moment it suited him — and nary a progressive complained (save poor Randolph Bourne, of course). The progressives rode the presidency like it was a horse they never expected to return to a stable. And when that started to hit the point of diminishing returns, they moved on to the courts (even as they bleated and caterwauled about Nixon’s “abuses” of powers that were created and exploited by Wilson, FDR, and Johnson). After the courts, they relied on the bureaucracy. Like water seeking the shortest path, progressives have always championed the shortest route to social-justice victories.

My point is that I think Charlie is entirely right that progressives want to maximize their power. But the elected king scenario is just one of many they’d be perfectly happy with. If they could have a politburo instead of a unitary executive, they’d probably prefer that. But the point is that the instruments are, uh, instrumental. The core imperative is power. We see this in miniature when liberals don’t control the presidency but do control Congress. Suddenly, it’s vital that the “people’s house” exert its constitutional prerogatives! When the president is a Democrat he needs to rule unimpaired. When he’s a Republican, his dictatorial tendencies must be held in check. When liberals want to reinterpret the Constitution by judicial whim or fiat, it’s proof that the Constitution is living up to its nature as a “living, breathing, document.” When conservatives actually want to amend the Constitution — the only legitimate and constitutional means to change the meaning of the Constitution, I might add — it is a horrible affront to the vision of the Founders!

Once you realize this it helps explain so many of the Left’s hypocrisies and alleged double standards. I say alleged, because they aren’t really double standards. You can only have a double standard when you actually believe something should be a standard. Ultimately, for progressives these procedural debates about how power is used in America are just that: procedural debates. The alleged standards at stake are evanescent and petty — for liberals. The only true standard is whatever advances the progressives’ ball downfield. That is the very heart of “social justice” — doing whatever “good” you can, when you can, however you can. As they say, behind every confessed double standard there is an unconfessed single standard. And for progressives, the single enduring standard is “whatever works for us.”

Jonah Goldberg, “Progressives and Power”, The Goldberg File email newsletter, 2013-10-04

September 10, 2013

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force is “TARP with Tomahawks”

Filed under: Government, Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:25

At Reason, Gene Healy explains why the authorization should not be granted to President Obama by congress:

Tonight, President Obama, who rose to the presidency on the strength of stirring speeches, goes back to the well with a prime-time address urging Congress to authorize an attack on Syria.

He admits it’ll be “a heavy lift.” And how: per the Washington Post’s latest whip count in the House, even if all 170 undecideds break their way, the administration won’t be within shouting distance of a majority.

That’s good, because the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that’s on the table deserves to fail. It’s TARP with Tomahawks.

The provisions purporting to restrict the president to a brief, “limited and tailored” war are too weak to stick.

What’s more, they’re undermined by the AUMF’s gratuitous overstatement of presidential power: “The President has authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national security interests of the United States.”

Wrong. The Constitution gives him the power to “repel sudden attacks” against the U.S., not launch them whenever he imagines they’ll promote our “national security interests.” That language practically invites Obama to ignore the limits and wage a wider war.

Update: In another post at Reason the current polling certainly encourages congress not to cave to the President’s wishes.

As the country debates launching airstrikes on Syria, President Barack Obama’s standing on foreign policy has taken such a hit that the latest Reason-Rupe poll finds 64 percent of Americans, including 68 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats, believe President Obama’s handling of foreign policy is worse than, or the same as, former President George W. Bush’s handling of foreign policy.

President Obama famously said he opposes “dumb wars.” Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 74 percent, say it would be “unwise” for the United States to launch airstrikes on Syria without the support of the United Nations or Great Britain. Just 17 percent say U.S. strikes on Syria would be wise.

When it comes to launching U.S. military action across the globe, 47 percent of Americans say the “political establishment in Washington D.C.” is more likely to favor military action than they are. A majority of independents, 57 percent, say D.C. insiders are more likely to favor war than they are. In contrast, just 17 percent of Americans say the Beltway establishment is less likely to favor military action than they are, and 30 percent say the establishment favors war about the same amount as the public.

September 9, 2013

QotD: Canada’s constitution

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:41

Our Constitution can accurately be described as the envy of the world, but then again the world doesn’t really get to see us gawking at each other in open-mouthed confusion over embarrassing gaps like this one. The key features of the 1982 Constitution were hammered out in smoke-filled hotel rooms by men who intentionally refused to record their discussions and who have never ceased arguing about exactly how they went. The various Canadian governments built the frame in haste, were late to begin talking to each other, never involved the public, and left the structure consciously half-finished. It’s a wonder it hasn’t yet come down on our heads.

Colby Cosh, “Mind the constitutional gap”, Maclean’s, 2013-09-09

August 27, 2013

Martin Luther King and the American Dream

Filed under: History, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:21

Brendan O’Neill on MLK’s most famous speech:

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, made on the Mall in Washington, DC on 28 August 1963. Re-reading the speech 50 years on, the most striking thing about it is how much faith it puts in the American Dream. Where today it is positively hip to be disdainful of all things American, to look upon America as a land of shopping addicts and fat rednecks, King and his listeners were passionately devoted to the idea of America and an American project. Using tellingly capitalistic lingo, King said of those gathered that “we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” King said that his dream, of racial equality, was “deeply rooted in the American Dream”.

Not for King the fashionable disgust for America’s obsession with consumerism and wealth. On the contrary, he said blacks were sick of living on “the lonely island of poverty” and longed to wade in America’s “vast ocean of material prosperity”. Not for King any sneering at America’s promise of wealth and opportunity to its citizens — “now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children”, he said. Not for King any mocking of the founding fathers of America, who have in recent years been judged by radical Leftists to have been racist and evil (in the words of The Nation magazine just last month, Thomas Jefferson was a “slave-owning rapist”). Instead, King extolled the “magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence” and talked about all men’s “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

In the run-up to the fiftieth anniversary of King’s speech, there’s been a great deal of debate about what has changed, especially for America’s blacks. But perhaps the most sweeping, dramatic change has been in attitudes towards the very idea of America. Today, cheap anti-Americanism is the glue that holds so-called liberals and radicals together. Tapping one’s toe to the Green Day song “American Idiot” while laughing knowingly at the fallacy of the American Dream is what passes for being edgy these days. Both within and without America, many Leftish activists and serious thinkers view America as dumb, fat, polluting, reckless and unwittingly hilarious, founded by narcissists and drunks, a “greedy and overweening power”, as the New Statesman said in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

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