Archives for April, 2005

Read the Bills Act

Here’s an interesting idea from the folks at DownsizeDC: the Read the Bills Act of 2005:

RTBA requires that . . .

Each bill, and every amendment, must be read in its entirety before a quorum in both the House and Senate.

Every member of the House and Senate must sign a sworn affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has attentively either personally read, or heard read, the complete bill to be voted on.

Every old law coming up for renewal under the sunset provisions must also be read according to the same rules that apply to new bills.

Every bill to be voted on must be published on the Internet at least 7 days before a vote, and Congress must give public notice of the date when a vote will be held on that bill.

Passage of a bill that does not abide by these provisions will render the measure null and void, and establish grounds for the law to be challenged in court.

Congress cannot waive these requirements.

I like the idea in principle. It responds to a real problem. Most of the legislation Congress passes is unreadable and unread. And even if a conscientious legislator wanted to read every word of everything he voted for or against, very often the bills aren’t provided far enough in advance to make that possible.

But here’s what I think would happen if this passed. Given that the nondelegation doctrine is basically moribund, and Congress can delegate huge swathes of lawmaking authority to unelected bureaucrats, I think we’d end up with shorter bills, and even more delegation. We’d get more bills along the lines of Professor Gary Lawson’s hypothetical “Goodness and Niceness Bill”: “Consider, for example, a statute creating the Goodness and Niceness Commission and giving it power ‘to promulgate rules for the promotion of goodness and niceness in all areas within the power of Congress under the Constitution.'” So the RTBA sounds good, but I doubt it would impove things much.

But here I am criticizing the bill, and I haven’t even read it yet. Isn’t it ironic?

Posted on Apr 29, 2005 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

No Nukes is Good Nukes

I have a piece up on Reason’s site arguing that, in their quest to get the president’s judges confirmed, the Republicans may just nuke themselves in the foot. Or something.

Posted on Apr 29, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Meme Weaver

Radley passes me the Caesar’s Bath meme:

Behold, the Caesar’s Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice.”

This is actually a bit tough for me, since I’m a love it or hate it kind of guy. But here goes:

Professional Sports. I’ve never understood them. The haw-hawing and verbal nut-scratching of football commentators is a rake across a blackboard to me. Otherwise, I’m neutral on most sports. I like going to baseball games, but only because they’re big social events centered on beer-drinking, in which there’s some generally pleasant activity going on on a grass field below you, and it doesn’t demand much attention. My general apathy towards sports has saved me a lot of time. On the minus side, most men think it’s perfectly normal to start a conversation about “the game,” and will find you odd and vaguely disreputable when you admit you haven’t a clue. Grunting knowingly will only take you so far before you’re exposed.

Ayn Rand. She’s almost ineligible for this exercise, since I come close to hating her novels. But she’s saved by one good novel (We the Living), a muscular if overwrought prose style, and by the perplexing fact that her work has done as much as anybody’s to win people over to the cause of liberty. But the jut-jawed humorlessness of it all makes it impossible for me to cotton to.

Instant Messaging. Email is all-too-instant as it is. What’s the point of having a running, substanceless conversation with friends while there’s websurfing or work to do? Also, let it be noted that grown men are not allowed to use emoticons.

The Outdoors. Yeah, it’s nice. But I can’t fathom why anyone would want to go camping. If civilization means anything, it means never having to sleep outside.

The Beatles. Radley requested this one, otherwise it would be ineligible, because I hate the Beatles. I’m sick of hearing nonsense about how we’d all be listening to warmed-over rockabilly to this day if it wasn’t for their brilliant innovative talent. (Oh yeah, and thanks for inventing the concept album. Legions of Queensryche and Yes fans are forever in your debt.) Sure, they had a few good songs, but the rest of it is so cloyingly cutesy and cringe-inducing. Rocky Raccoon? Mean Mr. Mustard? You say goodbye, I say hello? Hello, hello. I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello. At least the Spice Girls were cute.

I meme Brito, Will, and P.J.

Posted on Apr 23, 2005 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Criminal.

Go here and you’ll find a videotape of police handcuffing a badly behaved 5-year-old girl. The existence of such a videotape is rare, but the practice isn’t. It happens fairly often in the Florida school system and elsewhere. In fact, Florida cops have been known to put the taser to unruly tykes.

This really is the reductio ad absurdum to our burgeoning culture of criminalization. And you’d think it would wake people up to the manifest impropriety of making handcuffs and jail the answer to every social ill. If an appeal along the lines of “it’s all about the children” won’t work, what will? Yet in the online poll that accompanies the article–Do you think it is ever appropriate for police to handcuff a small child?–the tally is running 66 percent for “yes.”

Hat tip Brian Kieffer.

Posted on Apr 23, 2005 in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

“Situational Constitutionalism”

You know what’s irritating? When somebody lame gets off a good line. Case in point: this Norm Ornstein piece on filibuster reform, where he says:

No issue has had more hypocrisy attached to it in Congress than the filibuster. Go back through the decades and read Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives blithely reverse positions as they move from majority to minority or vice versa, or from holding the White House to not. Call it “situational constitutionalism.” As such, take any pronouncements from the mount declaring filibusters unconstitutional on their face with great skepticism.

“Situational constitutionalism.” Nice. I want to use that line. But if I do, I’ll have to write “this is an example of what Norm Ornstein calls ‘situational constitutionalism.'” It’s like trying to make a point by quoting lyrics from a James Taylor song.

Posted on Apr 22, 2005 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Dignity, Always Dignity.

Scroll down a ways in this Slate piece for an image of Drew Barrymore that I didn’t need, and you don’t either. It’s pretty hard to imagine Ingrid Bergman having this conversation. But the show sounds inadvertently hilarious.

Posted on Apr 21, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pletka Channels Hruska

Another supporter of Mr. Bolton, Danielle Pletka, who is also a vice president at the American Enterprise Institute, yesterday said, “This is a disgrace, the idea that temperament is suddenly important. There are legions who have gone before John, as well as members of Congress, who have behaved appallingly.”

1969: The Senate rejected two of Richard Nixon’s nominees to the Supreme Court: Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr. and G. Harrold Carswell. The conservative nominees, both appeals court judges, faced strong opposition from civil rights groups. Carswell was much the weaker candidate. Senator Roman Hruska, a Nebraska Republican, did him no good when he said of Carswell: “Even if he is mediocre there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters and stuff like that there.”

Posted on Apr 21, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Am I a Realist?

Apropos of the post below, I should say that I’m not entirely sure I’m a full-on IR realist, if I have to pick. I find realism’s cynicism about human nature and utter lack of romance about the state congenial. But I’m not sure that regime-type doesn’t make a difference, or that there isn’t something to be said for the Theory of the Capitalist Peace, which I think makes more sense than the Democratic Peace. From my imperfect understanding of IR theory, I don’t think that suffices to expel me from the realist camp.

Anyway, that was boring. Somebody send me the “Caesar’s Bath Meme.”

Posted on Apr 19, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Really.

Justin Logan has a good response to Pejman Yousefzadeh’s confused piece on libertarian foreign policy and its relationship to IR realism. I particularly like the phrase “unhyphenated libertarians.”

PY took issue with my comments on his piece here where I said:

Like the Framers, and in keeping with the earliest traditions of American foreign policy, most libertarian war-skeptics are realists. If you’re not clear on this, you might try, say, going to the website of the leading libertarian think tank, typing in “realism” in the search window, and reading the first thing that comes up.

PY doesn’t see the point of the McDougall link, which is fair enough. I included it because it was the longest excerpt from the book that I could find. The book itself, highly recommended, makes clear that foreign policy as a tool for liberation was no more a part of the original American tradition than was single-payer health care.

Early American statesmen were innocent of the not-yet-invented analytical jargon, but they were analytical realists in the sense in which PY describes realism:

Recall the basic realist principles — the world is fundamentally anarchic, nation-states are the prime actors in this anarchic world and nation-states seek to maximize power, either for power’s own sake or for the preservation of security. The search for power causes nation-states to sometimes engage in offensive war, though a significant portion of the realist school posits that through balancing and defensive alliances, nation-states can achieve security and power without waging offensive war.

A good bit of the Federalist’s argument for ratification was based on the worldview PY enunciates. Take John Jay from Federalist No. 4:

It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it… The people of America are aware that inducements to war may arise out of these circumstances, as well as from others not so obvious at present, and that whenever such inducements may find fit time and opportunity for operation, pretenses to color and justify them will not be wanting. Wisely, therefore, do they consider union and a good national government as necessary to put and keep them in SUCH A SITUATION as, instead of INVITING war, will tend to repress and discourage it. That situation consists in the best possible state of defense, and necessarily depends on the government, the arms, and the resources of the country.

(Try Federalist No. 6 for Hamilton’s take on democratic peace theory, or its 18th century analogue.)

PY is right to point out that, in the main, IR realism is a description of how the world works. It’s an “is”, not an “ought.” However, most of the leading realists, as Justin points out, think that, given the way the world works, crusades for foreign liberation are ill-advised.

PY asks whether libertarian war skeptics are “classical realists”; “offensive structural realists”; or “defensive structural realists.” I’d say that most of us are defensive realists. In fact, let’s say we’re defensive post-structural meso-realists with a twist of lemon.

Jargon aside, all of this is a bit divorced from the point of my original post. The point of that post was “know thy opponent.” PY, it seems obvious to me, was unaware that the dominant voices in what he calls “libertarian minimalism” in foreign policy conceive of themselves as operating within the realist framework. It may well be that PY is right and that some variations of IR realist theory do pose a challenge to what he calls “libertarian minimalism.” If so, then the piece to write would have been one that says “libertarian war skeptics think they’re realists. But they’ve ignored some important insights of realist theory…” Instead, what he’s done is the equivalent of writing “I hope to see a comprehensive attempt at a rebuttal of textualism by libertarian constitutionalists”–without recognizing that the latter believe themselves to be textualists.

Posted on Apr 19, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Bible and Gun

I recently discovered Clayton Cramer and Pete Drum’s “Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog,” on which they catalog news stories about defensive gun use around the country. It’s full of fun little stories like this one:

Man Fights Back Against Would-Be Robber

A Montgomery man fights back against a would-be robber… and wins.

Police say a deacon from Mount Olive Bapist went to the Normandale Compass Bank to deposit the church’s offerings when a man approached him. The man then allegedly knocked the deacon down, took the money and started running away.

The suspect, however, was in for a surprise. The deacon was carrying more than a money bag to the bank… he was carrying a loaded gun. He began firing at the suspect, who slipped, fell to the ground and dropped the cash. When the robber went to retrieve the bag, the deacon threatened to shoot him if he touched it.

The suspect ran away.

I found this one a little unsettling, though:

Police Look for Victim Turned Shooter in Northeast

A would-be carjacking victim in Maryland turned the tables on his alleged attackers by pulling out a gun and shooting them.

The driver shot one teenager in the stomach, and had a bullet graze the face of the other.

Police in Prince George’s County believe the carjacking attempt and shooting took place on Route 450. They believe the teens then drove to a Northeast D.C. housing project, where they claimed to have been shot during a robbery.

But investigators soon learned the truth.

Police spokesman Corporal Joe Merkel says both suspects are believed to be 16. A lot less is known about the shooter.

Among the things they want to know is exactly what happened — and whether the gun is legal.

It seems to me that P.G. County cops–who until recently had the the among the worst records for police brutality and unjustified shootings in the U.S.–have better things to do than pursue a citizen who from all appearances, used a gun justifiably in self-defense.

Posted on Apr 19, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

NYT Mag’s Subtlety, Cont.

Mellor.jpg

Try your own caption for the Chip Mellor picture. I’m wondering if this is what they settled on when they couldn’t get him to do the Dr. Evil pinky-finger thing.

Posted on Apr 18, 2005 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

They’ve Come to Suck the Blood Out of the Constitution

I find complaints about media bias increasingly tedious and overworked. But here, in the midst of a generally fair NYT Magazine piece on libertarian constitutionalists, the Times’ photog seems to have gone out of his way to make Epstein, Greve, and Mellor look like Johnny Cash in that “I’m-Almost-Dead” video he did right before he died. I’ve met all three of these guys, worked briefly for one of them, and had another as a professor. I can assure you that none of them have the zombie-like pallor the Times Magazine gives them. In fact, all three are very lively, happy guys. But the photos appear designed to confirm a cartoonish preconception that anti-government intellectuals are humorless, sinister prigs. It’s about as subtle as Ayn Rand.

17const.3.184

Posted on Apr 18, 2005 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Talkin’ Baseball

There’s an unanticipated benefit (if you want to call it that) to this whole D.C. baseball thing. If you watch it on UPN 20, it’s like a little people-watching party featuring all the luminaries in Hollywood for the Ugly. “There’s Jack Kemp. And there’s Chris Dodd, with both hands visible!” And there are the neocons in the cheap seats, ha hah ha. Spill a beer on ‘em for me.

Posted on Apr 14, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Understanding What You’re Criticizing

It’s kinda important.

For some reason, a number of smart people saw something interesting in this extended exercise in straw-man swatting by Robert Locke: “Libertarianism: The Marxism of the Right.” It’s made up of a bunch of unsupported assertions about libertarianism, written in the sort of exasperated tone you might expect from someone who just spent a long afternoon at the DMV in line behind a proselytizing teenage Randroid.

Now, it’s quite possible that Robert Locke knows something about libertarianism that he actually read in a book. But you wouldn’t know it from this essay. He’s too lazy even to drop a few names of libertarians cherry-picked from the wider pantheon to support his points.

If I decided to write up an extended critique of conservatism, I’d bother to mention some, you know, conservatives. In any event, 40-some years ago, Ralph Raico had a pretty effective pre-response to some of the french ducks Locke trots out.

Here’s another example: In Techcentralstation yesterday, neolibertarian Pejman Yousefzadeh threw down the gauntlet to libertarian opponents of the Iraq War, writing:

I hope to see a comprehensive attempt at a rebuttal of realist theory by the libertarian minimalist school. It will take the debate over the intellectual rigor of realism to a whole new level, and it will allow libertarians in general — and libertarian minimalists in particular — to find their own voices on foreign policy.

The rebuttal PY hopes for would be an odd thing to see from libertarian “doves,” given that they operate within the realist tradition. (For those of you who don’t speak IR–I’m just learning meself–here’s a decent primer if you can get access to it, and here are definitions to more of the argot than you want to know).

Like the Framers, and in keeping with the earliest traditions of American foreign policy, most libertarian war-skeptics are realists. If you’re not clear on this, you might try, say, going to the website of the leading libertarian think tank, typing in “realism” in the search window, and reading the first thing that comes up.

Posted on Apr 14, 2005 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

R.I.P. Andrea Dworkin

Andrea Dworkin died yesterday at the age of 58. Here’s a piece I wrote years ago (for the U of Chicago conservative student newspaper) about her work–back when I could be bothered to get bothered by radical feminism. Excerpt:

[Feminists] should take a look at the ninth chapter of Dworkin’s 1974 book, Woman Hating. Dworkin describes the rainbow’s end for her brand of feminism: a post-gendered utopia she calls “androgynous community… in androgynous community, human and other-animal relationships would become more explicitly erotic.” Comrade, when the revolution comes, you will learn to enjoy working in the barnyard!

The piece holds up ok, I guess, though it’s marred by the pipsqueak editor’s insistence on removing all contractions.

If it seems a little uncharitable to link to right after Dworkin’s death, I should say, in semi-seriousness, that in the interim, I’ve seen some hideous websites and been dragged to some godawful bachelor parties, even the mildest of which make me wonder if, in a broad literary sense, she wasn’t onto something. Though not about the bestiality thing.

Posted on Apr 12, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off