Archives for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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

“South Park Conservatives”

A Manhattan Institute scholar has a new book called South Park Conservatives, that grew out of his City Journal article “We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore.” How would Edmund Burke feel about a purported cultural victory for conservatism that includes Jesus as the clownish host of “Jesus and Pals” and features a talking human turd? I support irreverence on principle, and I love the show, but a few more such victories and cultural conservatism is undone. Appreciation for the show among self-styled conservatives seems to reflect the reduction of conservatism to mere “anti-Leftism,” since, aside from Parker and Stones’ admirable zeal for ridiculing the pretensions of liberals, South Park is about as conservative as a lap dance. But hey, if anti-leftisms your bag, or all you’ve got in your bag, then note that Amazon is offering a twofer deal where you can get Zell Miller’s Deficit of Decency along with South Park Conservatives.

On a related note, Clark Stooksbury has a good line today, referring to conservatism’s ideological trend as “the descent from Russell Kirk to Captain Kirk.”

Posted on Apr 11, 2005 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Day by Day by Day

In a post on comic strips’ quest to stay relevant, Daniel Drezner recommends Chris Muir’s Day by Day strip. It’s popular with a number of neolibertarian bloggers, notably Glenn Reynolds. I understand the desire to like a cartoon that echoes one’s political beliefs, but the strip’s about as funny as Rex Morgan, M.D. It’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with the points being made. I agree with the political point here. Disagree here. Either way, it’s just not funny. I’ve read 30 or so of them, and haven’t found one that’s worth a smirk. Even Mallard Fillmore, the Moonie duck, has a moment once a month or so.

Posted on Apr 8, 2005 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Old Guys

Okay, it is impressive that Roger Clemens is able to do what he does at 42, even if the WaPo lays it on a little thick today:

There are still days when Roger Clemens wonders if he really has another year in him, days when the muscles groan and the bones creak, and when the obligation of being Roger Clemens in Houston seems itself to be a full-time job whether he throws another pitch or not.

Boo-hoo. UFC Light-heavyweight champion Randy Couture will be 42 in June. I bet his bones creak and his muscles groan too. But not from throwing a little white ball. It’s a scandal that the Emm Ess Emm’s sports pages still ignore what, after its freakshow years, is developing into an exciting, legitmate sport.

Incidentally, many of you know Julian Sanchez as the assistant editor of Reason magazine. What you may not know is that he got into journalism after a very brief, failed stint in NHB fighting, tapping out to Mark Coleman in 44 seconds at UFC 11. Ask him about it.

Posted on Apr 8, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Bitter Taste of Vengeance

I love film noir and I have no problem with violent movies in general. I think I’m going to wait for the DVD before I see Sin City though. The cinematography looks cool, but everything I’ve read makes me think of Kill Bill Vol. I, which struck me as roughly what you’d get if you gave a retarded teenager with a gore fetish 30 million dollars to make a movie.

I will, however, be first in line to rent OldBoy, which sounds darkly hilarious. The lead character is a Korean businessman who goes on a drunken bender, gets kidnapped by mysterious figures, and held in a motel room for 15 years, fed the same crappy dumplings day in and day out. He gets free somehow and sets out to wreak righteous vengance on his captors. Only problem is, he doesn’t know where he was held. So he sets out to eat dumplings in every restaurant in Seoul, until he gags on the right one. Righteous vengeance gets wreaked, along with, according to the New York Post “bloody fights (one in which the hero takes on 20 baddies singlehandedly), dental torture, a tongue cutting and hot sex,” preferably not all in the same scene. It sounds good enough for Kim Jong-Il to kidnap the director. (Hat tip: Dad)

Posted on Apr 5, 2005 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Blogorama. Just Because.

Rendezvous Lounge, Thursday night. Details here. After, And You Will Know Us By Our Incredibly Long Band Name is playing at the Black Cat nearby. They used to have a blog.

Posted on Apr 5, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

‘Cause Drones Like Us, Baby We Were Born to Bill

Probably the coolest continuing legal education course one could take to fulfill your CLE requirements. Hat tip Scott Cosenza.

Posted on Apr 4, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Journal of Neolibertarian Thought

I was just saying to myself, you know, it’s about time that somebody worked the insights of Irving Kristol about making peace with the welfare state into a flexible framework of pragmatic libertarianism. And presto, along comes the New Libertarian: a Journal of Neolibertarian Thought. Frankly, I like a journal whose inaugural essay begins “Frankly…” because then you know you’re going to get some frank talk, like this, from editor Dale Franks: “Neos understand that a transformation towards what I like to call a Society of Liberty, will probably take a fair amount of time.” I like to call it a “society of liberty” too. But it is better with the capitals.

As one of the editorials notes, “Doctrinaire hackles were raised recently” by Dale Franks’ iconoclasm. And those are exactly the right hackles to raise. They’ll probably even get some doctrinaire heckles, but I say that pomposity in defense of liberty is no vice, linguistic clarity in the pursuit of pragmatism no virtue.

Who is this “New Libertarian”? Contributor Max “Boil ‘Em” Borders explains that, among other things, she “lives in a socio-political reality,” and “is prepared to define her own rectitude.” And how!

Do check it out.

Posted on Apr 1, 2005 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Cato University: Economics for Citizens

The registration deadline is fast approaching for Cato University’s Spring Weekend Seminar, which will be held in D.C., at Cato, April 28 to May 1. This session is Applied Economics: User-Friendly Tools to Understand Politics, Business Enterprise, and Life:

How do free markets solve problems? Why does government fail so often? What role does the Constitution play in a free and prosperous society? How does international trade create wealth? What are trade deficits, and how do they differ from budget deficits? How can “safety regulations” actually decrease safety? How does investment drive economic growth, and why do personally owned retirement accounts create wealth that government Social Security doesn’t? How can you convince more of your neighbors and friends to support free markets and limited government?

If you’ve never been to Cato U., you’re missing out. It’s a terrific program designed to impart the knowledge and skills necessary to change minds in favor of freedom. You can register online. And hurry, “registration should be submitted by April 8.”

Posted on Mar 30, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Origin Story

In the WaPo today there’s a story that explains Gene Wilder’s endearingly gentle comic gift:

It’s 1941, and Wilder is an 8-year-old named Jerry Silberman, living in Milwaukee. A doctor has come by to check on his mother, who has recently had a heart attack and is just home from the hospital. After an examination, the doctor spots Jerry, grabs him by the arm, leans in and whispers, “Don’t ever argue with your mother — you might kill her.”

The doctor is fat and his face is sweating. “Try to make her laugh,” he adds. Then he’s out the door.

For years, Wilder labored under the impression that a few sharp words could mortally wound his mom, and that some well-timed jokes might actually extend her life.

Posted on Mar 28, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Swearing and Swearengen

I have no objection to cursing as such. Salty language is an essential verbal seasoning. But HBO’s Deadwood lays it on a little heavy, and worse, I’ve always suspected, anachronistically. I can believe that cowboys cursed like gangster rappers, but not exactly like gangster rappers. Turns out there’s some justification for that suspicion:

Did 1870s Americans really use such colloquially foul language with the Tourettic frequency of a Hollywood producer?

Jesse Sheidlower, the American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and the scholar of cussing who wrote The F-Word, says probably not. Not that frontiersmen were genteel. “There were cursing contests when cowboys would get together and insult each other,” he says. But “the evidence that we have is that they were using more religious blasphemy than the sexual insults which are popular today.” And on the show.

Deadwood’s creator disagrees, but his arguments aren’t that convincing. I scanned Maledicta, the “international journal of verbal aggression” to see if they’d written anything on the subject, but no luck.

Posted on Mar 27, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Culture of Life

Recently, Justin Logan asked:

If unplugging Terri Schiavo might help the United Arab Emirates get democratic, would conservatives be in favor of it?

There’s a serious point in that wiseass comment.

I find it easy to be cynical about most things politicians do, but the GOP’s involvement in the Schiavo case is a qualified exception. Even before the alleged Santorum memo turned out to be a fake, I had the sense that while there was political opportunism involved, for many (most?) of the legislators trying to keep Terri Schiavo alive, the convictions are genuine. I know too many serious pro-lifers to think differently. Much as I deplore the G.O.P.’s willingness to throw federalism and enumerated powers out of the window, there is something admirable about a political movement that can agonize this much about a solitary human life.

I think President Bush was sincere when he said, upon signing the Schiavo Bill: “In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life.” I believe he believes that, even though, despite serious questions and substantial doubts about whether Iraq was any sort of a threat to us, he launched a war that’s killed anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 people. I think the protestors at Schiavo’s hospice and the courthouse and the posters at FreeRepublic–the majority of whom no doubt wholeheartedly supported the Iraq War–are sincere in believing that one innocent human life matters. We all contain multitudes of contradiction.

I haven’t posted much on the recent, positive developments in the Middle East. In part that’s because I don’t think one reading of From Beirut to Jerusalem 10 years ago makes me an expert on political developments in Lebanon–and because I don’t have a blessed idea what this all means or what’s ahead. But it would be churlish to deny that the image of Iraqis voting has had a major role in pushing democratic reform in the Arab world.

Two years out from the start of the Iraq war, all participants in the debate over that war–from people in power to us dweebs with keyboards–we should all be humbled. Those who were certain that this trailer-park tyrant was coming to kill us. And those of us on both sides who confidently pronounced that we knew what the reaction from the Arab world would be.

Some good has come from a war that I thought and still think to have been manifestly immoral. There’s no metaphysical principle that says when your government kills thousands of people, all the ensuing consequences will be bad. We ought to embrace the good that came from the war, while recognizing that it’s a far cry from that attitude to one that says: let us do evil so that good may come.

However imperfectly, however inconsistently, pro-lifers are people who take rights seriously. They are not moved by the argument that aborting an innocent, any innocent, might somehow increase the sum total of Benthamite happiness “units” in the world. They are unmoved–or, rather, insulted–by the argument that legal abortion might improve conditions for the living. And rightly so.

But they have a blind spot, as so many of us do, when it comes to war. Arguing the war with a pro-life friend not too long ago, I cracked, “maybe it would help if you thought of civilian casualties as extremely late-term abortions via JDAM.” There are conservatives who do. But they’re few and far between. If your heart can go out to Terri Schiavo and her parents, if you’d move heaven, earth, and the federal courts to save her, then you ought to feel more than a twinge about a little girl covered in the blood of her dead mother and father, killed by Americans who were understandably frightened and didn’t sign up for this shit. A twinge for her and for them and for countless others.

Countless in part because the Pentagon doesn’t count civilian casualties, at least not systematically. “We don’t do body counts,” as Tommy Franks put it. So we’ve left the counting to the humanitarians, who have an antiwar agenda. And we get various estimates, of varying reliability. During the active combat phase of the war we get over 3,000 civilians from AP. Iraq Body Count, based on public news sources, puts the toll at somewhere above 17,000. And the medical journal Lancet puts the most likely number at close to 100,000. (For what it’s worth, one government demographer put the civilian toll from the first Gulf War and its immediate aftermath at over 80,000. She almost got fired.)

It’s true there are many reasons to quibble with their numbers (small sample size in the case of the Lancet study, conflating deaths-from-insurgents with deaths-from-American-ordnance in the case of Iraq Body Count). But we’ve established the principle, and we’re now haggling over price.

The principle is that war isn’t a last resort, something to be entered into with fear and trembling over the moral issues involved. It’s an instrument of policy. It’s a way to actively, consciously make the world a better place. It’s a view, in its furthest extreme, that sees the American state as somehow anointed–a God-like utility maximizer that says these must die so that these others may live free. It’s a view that anyone who takes rights seriously should find repugnant.

And this is not simply another occasion where I get to get on my libertarian high horse and bash conservatives for hypocrisy. My sect is as guilty as yours, if not more so. I’m a member of a political movement that gets all torqued up about interstate restrictions on wine purchasing, one that gets Randian-bombastic over capital gains taxes–but all too often can’t recognize war as a maelstrom of rights violations, the state at its horrific worst.

Posted on Mar 24, 2005 in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Live Like a K-School Kid

Marie Gryphon is headed back down to D.C. this summer and looking to apartment swap (no money changes hands) with someone who needs to summer in Cambridge, Mass, near Haaahvahhd. Pics of her apartment can be found here. Drop her a line if you’re interested.

Posted on Mar 24, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Institute for Humane Studies

Errant Googling somehow took me here, to this five-year-old piece by Spencer Ackerman, presumably the same guy who now writes the New Republic’s Iraq’d blog. It’s about IHS’s Liberty and Society seminars. Ackerman attended the seminar as a lefty-affirmative-action admitee in 2000 and seems to have had a good time, even if the piece is at turns snotty and overwritten:

Dogs bark at us, women spit on us, our families sit shiva. The sorrows of young Werther, fooled by the siren song of the free market. Will Werther next don black leather gloves with rabbit- fur lining, jodhpurs, a steel-stiff gray service blouse with deep French cuffs and scalloped flaps, a cap with a doeskin crown and celluloid sweatshield?

Whoa, dude. I can’t make any sense out of that, but the piece does take me back to the IHS seminars I enjoyed years ago. You’re a fool if you’re eligible and you don’t apply. As a recent email from the good folks at IHS informed me:

Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) Summer Seminar deadline approaching March 31, 2005.

Each summer, IHS sponsors a series of seminars for undergraduates, graduate students, and recent college graduates exploring a wide variety of issues. From globalization and the environment to the limits of freedom, we bring top students and faculty from around the world together for lectures, discussions, films, and socials lasting well into the night.

This year, we’re sponsoring eleven seminars from coast to coast, and we’ve added a “Civil Liberties in the 21st Century” seminar exploring the limits of personal and economic freedoms.

For more information, please go to:

Posted on Mar 24, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Libertarian Panics

A former law professor of mine, Adrian Vermeule, has a new paper on “Libertarian Panics.” He offers the term in contrast to “security panics”–episodes in American history where a frightened populace supports unjustified crackdowns on civil liberties. As Vermeule explains, in the “standard model” these security panics recur periodically because of cognitive flaws in the way we assess risk. For example, we’re more likely to overestimate the prevalence of risks that are highly visible. Your kid may be far more likely to be hit by a car walking to school than get killed by a rampaging classmate, but given Columbine and what just happened in Minnesota, you probably spend more time worrying about guns in school. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine anything more “visible” than September 11th or Pearl Harbor, and the resulting fear can lead to reactions disproportionate to the threat.

But, says Vermeule, that cuts both ways. As he puts it, “panicked crowds may run in any direction.” There’s no reason to think that the mechanisms that lead us to panic about security threats can’t also lead us to panic about “jackbooted thugs.” The same biases and cognitive flaws that make Americans hysterical about the risk of terror can also make us hysterical about the risks of government abuse. If Pearl Harbor was highly visible, so too was Japanese Internment, the result of the security panic caused by “the day that will live in infamy.” Michelle Malkin aside, internment has formed part of a historical narrative that leads us to fear unjustified government crackdowns on civil liberties. The visibility of such examples may lead us to overreact to liberty threats from government in the same way we might overreact to terrorist threats to security.

And that’s just what’s happened, says Vermeule: “Libertarian panics have been a regular occurrence in American history[.]”

It’s a plausible enough claim in the abstract, but when we get to the section entitled “Libertarian Panics in America,” there’s very little there there. That section consists of two examples, the American Revolution and the Patriot Act.

Funny as it may sound, he has a point on the first. Anybody who’s read The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution is struck by how thoroughly convinced the American Revolutionaries were that the British government wasn’t just trying to recoup revenue spent fighting the French and Indian War–it was trying to reduce the colonies to slavery. Much as I love the men who pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the cause of American Independence, they weren’t exactly reasonable people. Their behavior could have served as the first chapter in the Paranoid Style in American Politics.

The second example Professor Vermeule uses is the Patriot Act. I’m no expert on the Patriot Act, but I find his account of what it does pretty tendentious. To take one example, he writes:

Second, consider Section 215 of the Act, which allows courts to issue subpoenas for business records in national security investigations. Many have denounced the provision as a mechanism of governmental oppression. Yet the provision codifies a power that grand juries (typically dominated by prosecutors) have long exercised without judicial oversight. Measured from that baseline, as opposed to some imaginary libertarian one, the addition of judicial subpoenas looks no worse and possibly better, from the point of view of targets and defendants.

But isn’t it a signal difference that, under the Patriot Act, you might never know whether a third party has been forced to disclose business records, medical records, or other personal information about you? As Dahlia Lithwick notes:

Downplaying the extent of these changes, the DOJ argued to Congress that 215 is no big deal, since grand juries could always subpoena private records in the past. The difference they don’t acknowledge is that investigators may now do so secretly, and these orders cannot be contested in court.

Lithwick asks: “Would you know if Section 215 had been used on you? Nope. The person made to turn over the records is gagged and cannot disclose the search to anyone.”

I’m not one to get hysterical over the Patriot Act. I’ve barely blogged about it, being more concerned with enemy combatant detention of American citizens, which many people wrongly associate with the act. The clever acronym has led to an Orwellian backfire. Very few people have any idea what’s in it, but they’re creeped out by the name. However, if I had to bet, I’d put money on its renewal.

But by far the limpest part of Vermeule’s argument is his discussion of “cost-externalization.” As he explains,

The literature on security panics often runs together the diagnosis of panic with a different idea: that democratic majorities will sacrifice the civil liberties of outsider groups–foreigners, resident noncitizens, illegal immigrants, and so on–in the interest of
maximizing the majority’s security. This idea strictly speaking has nothing to do with panic. On the picture sketched by these accounts, a rational, albeit self-interested, democratic majority would sacrifice the civil liberties of outsider groups just because the
majority captures the security gains while shunting the costs of its illiberal policies onto others.

But here again, Vermuele points out, this cuts both ways. Those with an overprotective attitude toward civil liberties might structure things so as to impose the costs of those liberties on others in the form of increased security risks. Vermeule writes:

it is quite possible that democratic majorities will externalize the costs of liberty onto minority and outsider groups, purchasing too little security because majorities do not bear the costs of insecurity.

Here’s his example:

the red-state voters who supported the Republican party in 2000 and 2004 might cause the national political process to provide too much liberty and inadequate security for blue-state urban centers.

The footnote to that passage cites a bunch of articles about how federal homeland security aid is going to Alaska, Wyoming, and suchlike states in greater proportions than it should if the risk of terrorist attacks was the guiding factor:

Dean E. Murphy, Security Grants Still Streaming to Rural States, NY TIMES A1 (October 12, 2004); Keven Diaz, Pork-barrel security; Federal money to protect Americans from terrorism may not be going to states that need it the most. Formulas and politics are behind the disparities, STAR TRIBUNE (Minneapolis-St. Paul) 1A, (September 11, 2004); Elizabeth Shogren, More Federal Aid Sought for Cities at Risk of Attack; Under the current rules, a large chunk of such funds goes to less vulnerable areas. Efforts to redirect money have stalled in Congress, L.A. TIMES A21, (August 10, 2004).

But what in the world does this have to do with libertarian “cost-externalization”? It’s typical porkbarrel politics. Vermuele may have noticed that New York and D.C. are “blue zones” that align themselves overwhelmingly with the political party currently (opportunistically) opposed to civil liberties crackdowns. He complains about communities passing resolutions against Patriot while failing to notice that New York and D.C. are two of those communities.

To recap: Vermuele suggests we should be concerned about civil-libertarian overreaction to perceived government abuses. Such overreaction, he claims, can lead a panicked citizenry to favor liberty over security. His two primary examples are the American Founding (a good thing, no?) and a law that got passed in the midst of a security panic, and that is likely to be renewed.

I’m not impressed. If he can come up with examples of this magnitude, I might be. Until then, don’t panic about libertarian panics.

Posted on Mar 22, 2005 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments