Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Tortoise

"We all remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. Ron Paul, steady, hardworking, consistent, and principled, keeps going...Ahead of us is one of the great men of American history, speaking truth to power. We can be slackers, or we can try to emulate greatness. For any real American, there is only one choice: the Revolution."

-- Lew Rockwell

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mark Steyn on the HRCs

In Macleans magazine, Mark Steyn has this column, in which he summarizes some of the most egregious facts about Canada's HRC system. Here are a few excerpts covering things I'm pretty sure I haven't mentioned before, but that make me just as angry as all the other stuff I have talked about.

These commissions were supposedly intended to investigate discrimination in housing and the like, but then came the very poorly drafted Section XIII, which makes it a crime to communicate anything electronically "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt."
As Steyn points out, Canadian courts have tended to interpret "likely" in Section XIII of the Canadian Human Rights Act very broadly. HRCs have ruled that everything from comments on an Internet message board, to a letter-to-the-editor, to telephone recordings can qualify as hate speech under this law.

You might wonder: how in the world does a law like Section XIII get on the books? How in a civilized country does it stay on the books, and not get struck down for being unconstitutional? The answer lies in the Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the first section of which says:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

In Canada (Human Rights Commission) v. Taylor (1990), Canada's Supreme Court decided that, while Section XIII does limit freedom of expression, that limitation is justified according to Section 1. The case involved an anti-semitic telephone message service; one could call a certain number and hear a recording of racist filth. Why one would wish to do this, I have no idea, and apparently, neither did the Court. It ruled against Taylor and shut the service down.

In the Keegstra case (also 1990), the constitutionality of a criminal prohibition on hate speech (Section 319 of the criminal code) was directly challenged. Again, the Supreme Court upheld the law in question on Section 1 grounds. Unlike Section XIII, violating Section 319 can result in real jail time (two years, as I recall) instead of civil penalties. At the same time, the court system and not the HRCs enforces 319, which means that those who violate Section 319 can expect at least a modicum of due process.

Sorry for the extended legal discussion. But for those who uphold free speech, while both Section XIII and Section 319 are problematic, Section 1 of the Charter is the real source of difficulty, since it provides legal justification for both.

Steyn doesn't directly confront the problem with Section 1, although I can guess how he feels about it (what's the point of having a constitution if in its first lines it says the government can ignore the document if it feels like it?) Instead, Steyn attacks the way Canada's human rights commissions have enforced Section XIII:

Who has availed themselves of the "human rights" protected by Section XIII? In its entire history, over half of all cases have been brought by a sole "complainant," one Richard Warman. Indeed, Mr. Warman has been a plaintiff on every single Section XIII case before the federal "human rights" star chamber since 2002 — and he's won every one.
And guess what Richard Warman used to do for a living: he was an investigator -- an inquisitor -- for the federal HRC.

This fact probably needs no further elucidation. But think about it: as far as laws go, Section XIII is inherently vague. How it gets defined at any time will have a lot to do with how it's being used, or how the appropriate people and institutions are trying to use it. The HRCs used to investigate discrimination in housing and employment. Now its "investigators" go around hunting for hatred on the Internet (sometimes producing it themselves.)

Obviously, it's in his interest (and the HRCs' interest, more broadly) for Section XIII to have the broadest definition possible. On one end, the HRC's investigators manufacture hatred by trolling the Internet. On the other, they broaden the definition of Section XIII so that more and more expression now counts as hateful. In both cases, the HRC and its inquisitors benefit, and freedom is caught in the pincher.

Can anyone see a problem here? And not just a problem, but an inevitable one. If a non-Muslim can complain about anti-Muslim posts on Free Dominion, then a former HRC investigator, who knows the system better than anyone, can and will complain about anything and everything he can. The HRC mandate and its interpretation of Section XIII will expand.

And free speech -- ha, what's that, but a merely American idea -- will suffer, wither, and die. Meanwhile, idiot Canadians will accept the inevitable, not with regret, but with the self-satisfied grin my old professors had on their faces while they were congratulating themselves on not being Americans.

My Piece on Ezra Levant in the Toledo Blade

As promised, here is the link to my piece in the Toledo Blade. They titled it "Free Speech Is Not Merely an American Idea." Pretty good, no?

The HRC inquisitor who said "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value" is named Dean Steacy. When he's not dismissing basic human rights, Mr. Steacy can be found on Stormfront, one of the most popular "white nationalist" online communities.

Is Mr. Steacy a white nationalist himself -- a mole working to bring down all the good work of the HRC? No. Mr. Steacy is a high ranking inquisitor with the HRC, and trolling on white nationalist message boards is apparently part of his self-defined job description.

This admission came up in another HRC investigation, this one against a popular right-wing Canadian message board called "Free Dominion" (think Free Republic, but Canadian.) Free Dominion got in trouble because of some hateful, anti-Islamic comments a few users had posted. A woman complained (not a Muslim, as I recall) and Dean Steacy jumped into action.

For your viewing pleasure, I reproduce the part of the legal document containing Mr. Steacy's interesting answers to a number of questions Free Dominion's lawyer asked.

So Jadewarr is Dean Steacy in disguise, logging on to Stormfront to chase down insolent hate mongers. To say that "Jadewarr is not a person" is disingenuous at best. It would be like me saying "'Fusionist Libertarian' is not a person. It's just an account I use while blogging."

Mr. Steacy's attempt to catch hate mongers in their acts of hate mongering reminds me of the way the police pretend to be 13 year old girls in order to catch pedophiles. The only different is that the police are looking for people who hurt children; Dean Steacy is looking for people who say and think naughty things.

Sure, we can talk about police entrapment and the like. But at least the police are subject to the kind of legal scrutiny able to reveal whether or not entrapment has actually taken place. That's all part of due process. The police are obliged to follow it, but is one of the HRCs top inquisitors?

Well, take a look at this next snippet and decide for yourself.

You can practically hear Mr. Steacy's exasperated sigh: "I told you, I'm the investigator! That means I get to decide how to investigate!"

The only question I have is whether Mr. Steacy birthed Jadewarr on his home computer, and if he was mostly unclothed at the time. Did this method of "investigation" receive any scrutiny at all, from anyone? Are there rules or at least guidelines for pursuing suspected hate mongers across cyberspace, or does he just make those up as he goes along? He is the investigator, after all. Better not try to tell him how he should investigate.

I get the feeling Dean Steacy thinks suppressing hate speech is a Very Important Job. Too important for something like Due Process to get in the way. The legal nebula the Canadian HRCs occupy makes it easy for their inquisitors to lose sight of important legal principles, and, in any event, few Canadians are really interested in holding them to those principles in the first place.

Better to just go along, and let people like Dean Steacy pursue the nasty hate mongers than to mildly protest and end up looking like one of the hate mongers yourself. Perhaps someday Canadians will change and become more willing to stand up for their rights -- become more like Americans, I mean.

Yeah, I know: that's never going to happen. Time to get back to work, but I sure hope Jadewarr doesn't read this blog post.

Via Mark Steyn. Steyn was the source of yet another human rights complaint (three, actually) in Canada after an excerpt from his book was published in a national news magazine. I haven't posted on the case yet, but it's just as significant as Ezra Levant's.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Rockwell-Rothbard Race War

Via the East Coast Libertarian, as well as my friend Peter Jaworski, comes this Reason piece, a compilation and analysis of the mounting evidence that Lew Rockwell was Ron Paul's racist ghostwriter, written by Julian Sanchez.

Check it out. Like ECL, I await the spittle-laced rants from Rockwell and his cabal against Tom Palmer and just about anyone else who bucks the party line.

For me, here are the two, semi-new points from Sanchez's article:

  • Even if Ron Paul knew absolutely nothing about the racist filth being put out in his name, its publication still made him a lot of money. That's another strike against Dr. Paul.
  • Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard are/were assholes.
Ok, so that last one isn't even a semi-new point. But the Reason article further illustrates the extent of Rockwell's (and Rothbard's) depravity. Here's what I'm talking about:
During the period when the most incendiary [newsletter] items appeared—roughly 1989 to 1994—Rockwell and the prominent libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard championed an open strategy of exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist "paleoconservatives," producing a flurry of articles and manifestos whose racially charged talking points and vocabulary mirrored the controversial Paul newsletters
With regard to Rothbard's contribution to this nasty "strategy" Timothy Wirkman Virkkala writes:
I knew what Rockwell and Rothbard believed regarding strategy. They believed in hate. Rothbard famously believed that you had to stir up hate against the state. He came to believe that you should stir up hatred against the underclass. That’s how you had to appeal to the middle-class Christians would turn on the old conservatism.
Now, look, contrary to the implication of Lew Rockwell's recent droppings musings, I don't love the state. Before I'd finished my internship at Citizens Against Government Waste this summer, I'd already decided on my life's goal -- the one thing that would make my life complete and give me the greatest satisfaction.

That goal is to put a politician in prison. Or maybe a bunch of them. Democrat, Republican, it doesn't really matter. That's how much I hold the state in contempt (I wouldn't say I hate it: how can you hate something so incompetent, so blithely unself-conscious about its own failings? Wouldn't that be like hating the dog for leaving Lew Rockwell turds on your carpet?)

So I don't like the state. But I'm also not an idiot (or evil.) That's why I would never think stirring up racial animosity is the right way to go about reducing the power of the government.

Think about it: if the white middle-class thinks the black lower-class is a bunch of animals ready to riot unless/until they get get their welfare checks (as one of Ron's newsletters opined), they're not going to say, "Oh yeah, better cut off the checks, then." No. They're going to say, "Damn it, we need to hire some more police officers!" Because if you're the kind of racist moron who thinks black people are aggressive and criminal by nature -- and, worse, lots and lots of them live and work all around you -- then you're going to want the state to protect you from them. And that means you're going to be willing to give the state more power.

Why this escaped Rothbard and Rockwell, I have no idea. Not to Godwin twice in as many days, but didn't these buffoons remember how Hitler used popular antisemitism as an excuse to grab more power? Libertarianism requires that we be able to trust each other.

As everyone knows, or should know, trust is a crucial component of the market's efficiency. The more you and I can trust each other, the less we have to rely on expensive enforcement mechanisms that diminish the overall benefit of the trades we make with one another. If I didn't trust most people to be reasonable and honest with me, most of the time, I would simply not be a libertarian. I can't afford to install a ten foot high wall around my apartment, complete with machine-guns, out of fear that the black folk are going to carry off my girlfriend and my computer.

Besides, my landlord would frown on the machine-guns. In any event, if I didn't have trust and faith in the typical person, I sure would want more of those big guns in the hands of the police, and boy, wouldn't that increase taxes. Maybe I'd want cameras installed on every corner. Hell, maybe I'd just empower the state (but just for a while, naturally) to finally, uh, deal with all those scary and swarthy people smart guys like Lew Rockwell always tell me to fear.

But I'm not an asshole. Or evil. Or an idiot. Which one of these is Lew Rockwell?

Incidentally, I've never cared for Murray Rothbard's libertarianism, which basically elevates a controversial (and inherently vague) moral principle to the status of a physical law. Instead, I've drawn inspiration from the contractarian libertarianism of my old mentor Jan Narveson.

Yes, it has problems, but Narveson's theory is focused like a laser on the importance of trust in every day life. This is a theme libertarians should return to again and again: who do you trust, really? Your neighbor or the government? But, unless you live in Beverly Hills, it's a lot harder to trust your neighbors when you're convinced that a good number of them are violent animals ready to riot when the welfare check is late in coming.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lew Rockwell Enlightens Us About Libertarians...

Hidden in this post by Rockwell on his blog is this pithy revelation about all non-Paul-supporting libertarians, in a post entitled "The Liberal-Neocon-Cosmotarian Problem With Ron Paul":

The anti-Paulians love the state, especially the warfare state. They want perpetual war in the Middle East, and the approbation of the regime. Thus their hate of Ron Paul. Of course the hatred of these types is another medal on Ron Paul's chest.
And, yes, this is in a post where Rockwell favorably refers to Dennis Perrin's HuffPo piece "The Liberal's Ron Paul Problem."

But Rockwell explicitly extends Perrin's "diagnosis" to cover not just liberals, but "neocons and self-described cosmopolitan libertarians." Then he turns around and broadens the next to seemingly include anyone who is against Ron Paul.

So if you don't support Ron Paul, you love the state? If you oppose Ron Paul, that means you want to kill everyone in the Middle East? That's the argument now?

Hm. He might have a point. It's a well known fact that Hitler didn't support Ron Paul and he wanted to kill LOTS of people!

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Note on Libertarianism, Federalism, and the Constitution

This is just to reiterate a message I've kept up constantly in this blog.

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads as follows:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
When you read this well known passage, think of the following term in conjunction with it: "police power." According to Wikipedia, police power is the power of the state to regulate power, especially for reasons of morality and public welfare. From a libertarian perspective, the state's police power should be a necessary evil at best.

The 10th Amendment implies, first, that the federal government does not have any kind of general police power. The only powers it has are those specific ones enumerated in the rest of the Constitution.

But notice, the Amendment does not say the states have unlimited police power, either. Certainly, that possibility is compatible with the 10th Amendment, but not as strongly as some seem to think. After all, the Amendment says the powers are reserved to the states or to the people.

So state legislatures have broader powers to regulate life than the federal government, but not unlimited power. Some powers are reserved to the people. "The people" can't reasonably be read as simply a reference to a democratic majority, either. After all, the Amendment already refers to "the majority" in each state. Who else do the powers reserved "to the states" belong to, but to the democratic legislatures in each of those states?

Unless the 10th Amendment is stupidly redundant, states do not have unlimited police power. But where is the line drawn? Just what does the federal Constitution have to say about what states do to their citizens? This question and others like it show how weak and incomplete a strictly originalist interpretation of the Constitution really is.

According to the Supreme Court (in Lawrence v. Texas), Democratic majorities do not have the power to impose a single moral vision on all of the citizens of a given state. Thus, one of the main justifications for the use of a state's police power is removed. The state's dominion to regulate the lives of its citizens is diminished.

State... power... diminished. Power left to... individuals. Sounds pretty good and libertarian, right?

In the end, the question of how much police power should the states have? has an easy answer for libertarians. The right answer always is: as little as possible. Individuals should have power, not the states or the federal government.

I don't mind saying that my interpretation of the Constitution is driven at least in part by the value I place on individual liberty. At the same time, Randy Barnett argues that my interpretation, or something like it, can be well supported by a more originalist reading of the document. And I also agree with Justice Kennedy's eloquent opinion in Lawrence:
Had those who drew and ratified the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific. They did not presume to have this insight. They knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.
Kennedy's opinion echoes Ronald Dworkin's distinction between semantic-originalism and expectation-originalism: the Framers were not always aware of the implications of the principles they placed in the Constitution. They expected them to have certain implications (the death penalty is not cruel or unusual), but we may discover additional or even contrary implications (the death penalty is in fact cruel and unusual.)

The meaning of the word "cruel" need not change from one generation to the next. What may change is the discovery (based, for example, on advancements in psychology and other sciences, as well as advances in moral philosophy) that a practice that was formerly accepted actually fits within the category of the cruel.

How does this fit in with the Constitutional limits of state police power? It means that a justification for a use of police power thought to be sufficient may in fact turn out to be inadequate to justify limiting individual liberty to the extent that use requires. It means that one can be a Constitutionalist while simultaneously holding that the Constitution itself imposes drastic limits on the use of state police power.

It means one can be a libertarian and love the Constitution at the same time.

But this is not the Ron Paul approach to the Constitution. Ron Paul's approach reserves to each state an almost unlimited police power -- power to prohibit gay sex, abortion, and birth control; to bring the Ten Commandments into court rooms; to mandate segregation in buses and schools.

This is not, and never has been, a libertarian agenda. This is tyranny, but on a small scale. On a scale some Ron Paul supporters are comfortable with, living blue state lives, far away from the places in which state legislatures would use their expanded police power most effectively, if and when Ron Paul gave them the green light to do so.

That is why I have never supported Ron Paul, whether he is a racist or not. I have deeper, moral objections to his agenda. If that means his libertarian posse will put me on their hit list along with Tom Palmer and David Boaz, so be it.

I will still be right and they will still be wrong.

The Mental Gymnastics of Some Ron Paul Supporters

Click here to see how some Ron Paul supporters are reacting to the racist newsletter fiasco. As the blog suggests, it's a good example of how the human mind adapts to believing in lies.

However, I don't think Ron Paul supporters have a monopoly on this kind of self-deception. Fans of just about any political candidate -- or any other celebrity, for that matter -- will scamper through mental hoops in order to maintain purity in their beliefs.

What's ironic is that Ron Paul supporters tend to believe they are so very different from the supporters of Obama, Hillary, or Huckabee. More intelligent. More patriotic. Better at interpreting the Constitution.

In fact, they're pretty much this woman I once overheard talking about how much she just loved Michael Jackson. And she just couldn't believe the lies circling about him: that he was a pedophile; that he'd paid off children and their families; that his personal life was deeply, deeply bizarre.

It didn't matter to this woman. She wouldn't even entertain the possibility. Why not? Well, she really loved his music, and how could a man who made such beautiful music possibly be a pedophile?

But it happens. Humans are corrupt. Moreover, the greatest demonstration of the corruption is the extent to which they're willing to deny it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fascism, Canadian-Style: Now In Op-Ed Form

Just heard from the Toledo Blade: they're going to publish a version of my op-ed. I'll post a link once it goes up.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Question

For something I'm writing at this very moment...

In his response to the inquisition, does Ezra Levant sound more like T. Jefferson or T. Paine?

Fascism, Canadian Style, Part 2

In light of the inquisition against Ezra Levant, I am reposting an op-ed I wrote that never got published (to be honest, I didn't push it that hard.) Once again, it seems timely. Funny how that's been happening more often of late. Some of the facts need to be updated, or downgraded, since none of the changes are very positive. For example, Free Dominion recently had to move its servers out of the countries to escape its legal troubles.

U.S. Moves In An Ominous, Canadian Direction
By: Terrence C. Watson

The case of Stanislav Shmulevich, the 23-year-old who now faces two felony charges for putting the Quran in a toilet at a New York university, shows that the United States is sliding in an ominous, Canadian direction when it comes to freedom of expression.

Why a Canadian direction? As a Canadian citizen interning at a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., I’ve learned that Americans have generally positive, if vague feelings about their neighbor to the north. But Scott Brockie and Chris Kempling discovered just how much their freedom is limited in their home country. I’m in the United States now at least in part because of the way they were treated. But what happened in Canada is beginning to repeat itself in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

In 2000, Brockie, owner of a small printing shop in Toronto, was fined thousands of dollars after he refused to print material for the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives (GLA) that conflicted with his religious beliefs. So far, Canadian courts have upheld the ruling. Matt Hughs, GLA’s board president, has said that Brockie’s refusal left the plaintiff in the case feeling “humiliated” and “demoralized.” The board of inquiry convened to hear the case claimed, “It is reasonable to limit Brockie's freedom of religion in order to prevent the very real harm to members of the lesbian and gay community.”

Brockie’s case is hardly unique. In 2002, Kempling, a teacher from British Columbia, was suspended from his job without pay for writing letters to a newspaper criticizing the way homosexuality was being taught in schools. He took the school board to court and appealed his suspension, but in 2005 the court ruled against him.

As recently as July 2006, Free Dominion, a Canadian Internet forum, was served with a complaint similar to the one Brockie received. A woman who is not even Muslim complained to the government about the forum allowing posts critical of Islam. In response to the complaint, the Canadian human rights commission might fine the owners of the website, or even shut it down.

In Canada, we’ve gone from “Your rights stop where my nose begins,” to “Your rights stop whenever my feelings might be hurt.” The result has been a disaster for freedom of expression. And if you think this couldn’t happen in the United States, think again: it’s already happening.

In October and November of 2006, Stanislav Shmulevich put copies of the Quran – neither of which belonged to him – in a toilet at Pace University in New York, where he is a student. Now he faces serious jail time for these acts of vandalism. If the case had been handled internally, Pace might have expelled him for his actions. However, under pressure from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the police have charged him with a hate crime.

Even after Pace University responded to the Quran-in-the-toilet incidents, CAIR apparently urged the involvement of New York’s hate crimes unit. Like Brockie and the owners of Free Dominion, Shmulevich will be punished merely for the expression of opinions that might hurt people’s feelings.

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, once wrote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Putting a holy book in a toilet – or posting insulting comments on a website; or refusing to print literature with which one disagrees; or writing a letter to the editor – these actions, however tasteless, violate no one’s rights.

Canada is still waiting for its Thomas Jefferson, which is perhaps why the country’s move to quash the freedoms of its citizens has encountered so little resistance. But America must hold on to the vision of great men like Jefferson and the other Founders, and not follow its northerly neighbor’s dark descent. Americans must reject the felony prosecution of Shmulevich and not limit freedom of expression solely to protect the all-too-tender feelings of others.

Fascism, Canadian Style

You, the left, made this happen. You, from Marx, to Marcuse; from your corruption of the noble term "liberal", to your whole notion of "reactionary peoples", to your campus speech codes, to your hate speech laws: you are making -- have made this -- will make this happen.

Fuck you. Fuck you all. Fuck the left. Fuck you, you fascist-loving, molly-coddling, chestless, resentful, soft bigoted, over-mothering, and moreover STUPID left-wing poseurs, incapable of realizing that we -- the classical liberals, the conservatives, the whiggish traditionalists -- that we have more in common with you than the third world primitivists whose sensibilities your kangaroo "courts" claim to protect.

You know: the guys who want us all to live under Sharia law.

Fuck you. Fuck you for your love of bureaucrats. For your gleeful ignorance of economics. Fuck you for demanding that others sacrifice, while you sacrifice nothing. For your bromides about the "common good," which is almost always code for the good of a few.

Fuck you for every time you described vast parts of the United States as "flyover country." For every time you described President Bush as "Chimpy McHaliburton" and reveled in the giggles coming from your left-wing echo chambers.

Fuck you for praising democracy with one breath and then sniffling about popular culture with the next.

At least I'm consistent: I hate both.

Fuck you all. Whether Ezra Levant wins or loses, I'm going to burn a Canadian flag, and I'm going to think of you while I do it. You. The harbingers of the banality of evil. The acolytes and enablers of fascism, Canadian style.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Does Ron Paul really say "Jew world order"?

Andrew Austin posts the following:

Does Ron Paul really say "Jew world order" here? Someone with much better ears than mine says yes. If he's not saying that, then what?

Megan McArdle on the Ron Paul fallout

In her Atlantic blog, Megan McArdle asks an important question: will the decline and fall of Ron Paul be good for libertarianism? Her answer is a guarded "yes":

Ron Paul's unfortunate moment, and the outing of Lew Rockwell and Jeff Tucker as the probable authors of the bile, have given libertarians the opportunity to make decisive break with that past--and thankfully, they all seem to be taking it.
As anyone who delves into my blog knows, I distrusted the Ron Paul "Movement" almost from the very start. In part, I'm suspicious of movements of all kinds, but the level of support Ron Paul received from neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, 9/11 Truthers, and other assorted nuts and "white nationalists" was an additional reason to withhold my support (such as it is.)

Unfortunately, I can't share McArdle's optimism about the libertarian response to this mess. After plowing through countless blogs and reading about a zillion comments, I can divide the responses from Ron Paul supporters to the newsletter fiasco into maybe three or four:
  1. Ron Paul does not believe these things. Just look at his record! And he likes Mises, who was Jewish!
  2. Ron Paul does not believe these things, but even if he did, most of them are true, and y'all know it.
  3. Ron Paul can't be racist. It's impossible for libertarians to be racist!
All of these responses are troublesome and leave no room at all for the people who make them to "move past" Ron Paul into a more thoroughgoing, thoughtful libertarianism.

The third is an a priori appeal to a certain conception of libertarianism that is frankly quite false. Insofar as libertarianism is understood as a political doctrine, it sure is possible for a libertarian to be a racist. There are some more robust, comprehensive versions of libertarianism that incorporate a more substantial ethical core. However, these versions suffer a tension between their free market absolutism and the broader conception of the good such views espouse.

For example, if one believes it is very bad to be a racist, and that all humans are equal in their moral dignity, then one should have to explain why federal law should not be used to prevent some forms of racial discrimination. After all, if it is bad to be a racist in Arkansas, it's equally bad to be a racist in Michigan. In my case, I resolved this dilemma by breaking with free market absolutism in favor of federal civil rights legislation. I think this position is very defensible, both morally and politically.

Most people agree with me: it should be illegal everywhere in the United States for employers to hire solely on the basis of race. Some things are more important than the property rights of business owners. As for the equal dignity of every human, that should be recognized in every state, and not subject to variation as a result of the machinations of the invisible hand or local city councils.

The second response from Ron Paul supporters is a version of the crypto-racism I saw over and over again on white nationalist message boards. These neo-Nazi pin-heads invariably believe that lots of Americans agree with them, but are too afraid to say so. Their biggest worry is not that Ron Paul is a closet racist, but that someone like Kirchick will open the closet door before the good doctor has a chance to wipe out the hated 14th Amendment.

I have little to offer by way of counter-argument here: I'm not going to argue racism with a racists. If you agree 100% with those newsletters, I've got nothing to say to you, and my fondest hope is for you to stab yourself in the heart with the spike on top of one of those old German army helmets from the first world war.

Finally, there are those who simply refuse to believe that Ron Paul could have anything at all to do with the newsletters. That position -- an absolutism in its own right -- no longer appears entirely defensible. The personal details printed in the newsletter push the burden of proof back on to those who hold the most extreme position, i.e. those who say they're completely certain Paul had nothing to do with the newsletters.

This certainty is an enemy of the kind of evolution McArdle is hoping to see. Libertarians should have a natural distrust for politicians -- yes, even for Ron Paul. Trusting Ron Paul when he says he had nothing to do with the newsletters and believing that his personal views must be perfectly aligned with his public ones is a dangerous attitude for one to take toward any politician.

In this particular case, the attitude tethers Ron Paul's own presidential ambitions to libertarianism so well that if the former fails (and it will), then the holder of the attitude is likely to reject the latter as well. The irony is that those who loved Ron Paul the most unreservedly are the least likely to remain libertarians once this is all over and the good doctor has returned to his home in Lake Jackson, Texas.

Libertarianism isn't dead. But it isn't exactly alive, either.

The Ron Paul Survival Report FAQ

Originally published in late December, the Ron Paul Survival Report's FAQ on Ron Paul and his newsletters has been updated as a result of Kirchick's article.

The FAQ is pretty good, the kind of thing I wish I'd written myself. It's definitely worth a look.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

CNN on Ron Paul's newsletters

CNN is now reporting the Ron Paul newsletter fiasco, and their analysis catches something I missed and haven't heard anywhere else.

In some excerpts, the reader may be led to believe the words are indeed from Paul, a resident of Lake Jackson, Texas. In the "Ron Paul Political Report" from October 1992, the writer describes carjacking as the "hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos."

The author then offers advice from others on how to avoid being carjacked, including "an ex-cop I know," and says, "I frankly don't know what to make of such advice, but even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I've urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming."

In his response to CNN's report, Eric Dondero, a former aide to Dr. Paul, claims in no uncertain terms that Lew Rockwell was Dr. Paul's ghostwriter, a suggestion that should surprise no one. However, if Rockwell did write the bit I just quoted, he went to a lot of trouble to make it sound like Ron Paul had written it.

Did Rockwell ever live in Lake Jackson, Texas? It almost doesn't matter, because everyone knows that Ron Paul does live there. That's enough to suggest to the casual reader that the words are indeed Dr. Paul's. If Rockwell did write this passage and others, he was completely unconcerned that people would confuse his views for Ron's own.

If Ron Paul knows who wrote this stuff -- and I have a hard time believing he doesn't, or doesn't at least know somebody who would know -- he's got to call that person out, and he has to do it now. It's getting harder and harder to maintain the position that Paul knew nothing about what was being said with these newsletters.

I still don't think Dr. Paul is an all out racist, but he's got some racist friends.

Sultan Knish brings to light additional personal details from the newsletter. In a lengthy post he claims that Ron Paul is about being the author of at least some of the newsletters.

Here is an interesting passage reproduced from Sultan Knish's blog and the New Republic's initial report:

It was Ron Paul and not Lew Rockwell who ran for president as a Libertarian in 1988. At least two things are going on here: first, in his response to Kirchick's TNR piece, Dr. Paul said, "The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts."

If Ron Paul did write the above passage from the newsletter, then his official statement is misleading at best, a flat out lie at worst. In addition, in Congress Dr. Paul has expressed his unabashed admiration for Martin Luther King. This passage is frankly inconsistent with that sentiment.

Finally, it's ironic for Ron Paul or for his ghostwriter to quote so authoritatively the words of a man who lead one of the greatest examples of over-reaching federal power at the time when that institution was abusing its power the most egregiously.

This is interesting: John McCain Beats Ron Paul For Anti-War Vote

Here's John McCain's campaign referencing the CNN's exit polls:

Exit polls found 64 percent of Tuesday's Republican voters still support the conflict — and Romney, whose criticism of Bush's management of the war has been muted, led McCain among those voters. But among the 34 percent who said they disapproved of the war, McCain had a wide advantage over the GOP field — even over Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the sole advocate of a U.S. withdrawal in the Republican field.

John McCain brings credibility to the issue of the war—so much that he, the most ardent advocate of the war—attracts the votes of those who oppose it. That means something in the general election. People who want to see the war through and bring along others who oppose it in order to unite America have a champion in John McCain.

So Republicans who disapprove of the war flocked to John McCain, and not to Ron Paul? How strange!

Update: After giving this statistic some thought, I have a possible explanation for it. I've always thought that Americans -- and Republicans in particular -- do not despise the Iraq war in principle. If the war were going better, they'd be behind it. This means that given the choice between a "resolute" anti-war candidate, like Ron Paul, and someone they thought could actually win the war, they would opt for the latter.

This is why I've been suspicious of polls that show that "80% of Americans are against the war in Iraq," etc. Such polls never distinguish between those who would reject the war even if it were going well and those who reject the war only because they think the United States is losing.

My guess is the first group is much smaller than the second, and that the first is mostly comprised of hard-core leftists, pacifists, and other assorted hippies. Since anti-war absolutists are almost always in the minority, it's unthinkable that the large number of Americans who once supported the war have suddenly all joined this group of people.

Americans will support war, as long as they have confidence they will win.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Two Kinds of Libertarianism?

In this post on Gays & Lesbians for Ron Paul, Berin Szoka calls Kirchick's TNR article a "smear job" and "refutes" it by way of ad hominem attacks on the author (see, Kirchick thinks the neo-Confederate stance might sometimes be a cover for racism -- amazing how anyone could think that, huh?)

At one point in Szoka's post, he claims to "strike at the root" of Kirchick's problem with Paul. Apparently, Kirchick has described himself as a libertarian. How could a libertarian be against Ron Paul? Szoka wonders. His answer is that Kirchick and the Cato Institute represent one strand of libertarianism, while Ron Paul and Mises represent another. Szoka spins mightily to try to find a way to call both strands of thought "libertarian", and his efforts are revealing:

For some at Cato (though certainly not all) and perhaps for Kirchick, libertarianism is simply about maximizing personal autonomy for the individual on any and every issue.
Yeah, I know. Where did the Cato Institute get the idea that libertarianism is about increasing the liberty of the individual? It's ludicrous, I tell ya!

As for the second strand of libertarianism, Szoka says that, in contrast to the "urbane" libertarian folk at Cato, Ron Paul
is as concerned about the liberties of the individual as he is about the institutional structure that protects liberty. When he describes himself as a "constitutionalist," he is not "speaking in code" to express some kind of bigotry, but to defend the liberalism for which the American Revolution was fought: the restraint and diffusion of power through constitutionally limited government.
Consider these two words "restraint" and "diffusion." These are two very different words, although Szoka runs them together as if they basically mean the same thing. However, the difference between them is exactly what produces the difference between the two strands of libertarianism.

To be restrained is to be blocked from doing something. For example, we can say that the Constitution restrains the government from interfering with the marketplace of idea. Everyone thinks the government should be restrained from doing some things, but, one might say, libertarians have a particularly expansive list of the sort of things they think government shouldn't be able to do.

It may seem that liberty and restraint are opposites, for to be restrained is precisely to lack the liberty to do something. But, as Thomas Hobbes clearly saw, the relationship between the two is more complicated. If none of us are ever restrained, our theoretical liberty (or liberty "in principle") will be very high, but our effective liberty (or liberty "in practice") will likely be very small.

Without rules and social coordination, we'll constantly be blocking each other, getting in each other's way, etc, and our lives will be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." So while there is a trade off between restraint and theoretical liberty, it can more than be made up for by an increase in our effective liberty. No, I can't kill whoever I'd like, whenever I'd like, but they can't kill me, either, and, on the whole, laws against murder end up increasing my liberty.

Obviously, too many rules, or the wrong rules, can make my effective liberty evaporate, too. Hobbes was wrong to think that even the worst sovereign is better than anarchy. Thus, the body that makes and enforces the rules has to be restrained as well. Its liberty -- its power -- must also be curtailed, for sake of the liberty of all.

Such is the relationship between liberty and restraint.

Diffusion has a somewhat different meaning. The word literally means to "spread out." When a scent diffuses into the air, it moves from an area of high concentration into an area of lower concentration. The scent itself isn't destroyed in this process, but simply transferred.

Ron Paul and his supporters aren't as interested in restraining government as much as they are interested in diffusing its power. For example, Paul doesn't think the federal government should be able to tell you that you can't have an abortion, but he's fine with state governments doing this. He thinks the federal government's liberty to restrict abortion should be handed over to the states.

But this doesn't make the ability of some to restrain the legitimate behavior of others disappear; rather, it simply transfers it. It doesn't diminish power, but simply places it in other hands, hands that have no more right to that power than the federal government.

Who should have the liberty to tell you what to do with your body? Real libertarians think that only you should have that liberty. All other persons and institutions are under an obligation of restraint.

Szoka second strand of libertarianism is hardly libertarian at all. It's anti-federalist, but not anti-power. It specifically endorses the abuse of the individual, as long as it occurs on a small enough scale. In doing this, as I've said before, it seems to specifically reject the idea of inherent, inalienable, individual rights.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

TNR posts excerpts from Ron Paul's newsletter

Check here for TNR's excerpts of Ron Paul's newsletters. (In the previous post, I may have erroneously suggested that he only attached his name to one.) Also included on the page are links to full pdfs of the newsletters. Hopefully, that will go some way to silencing those accusing The New Republic of making everything up.

A commenter on TNR's website was worried Paul's supporters might try to crash TNR's website. That's a possibility, so I'll reproduce some of the excerpts here:

In a 1992 analysis of the L.A. riots:

Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began. ... What if the checks had never arrived? No doubt the blacks would have fully privatized the welfare state through continued looting. But they were paid off and the violence subsided.

In a heart-warming bit of nostalgia, a newsletter remarks, "I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities."

Another newsletter (1990) favorably lists a few recommendations for caring for people with AIDS, including using paper plates and cups and "burning them afterwards." In the same newsletter, a "mob of black demonstrators" is reported demanding a change of name for New York City. "Maybe a name change is in order. Welfaria? Zooville? Rapetown? Dirtburg? Lazyopolis?"

A 1990 newsletter dismisses the "gay political agenda" as "uniformly statist." That same newsletter calls Martin Luther King Jr. a "world class adulterer" and a pedophile ("he also seduced underaged girls and boys.")

Oh yeah: the above mentioned newsletter ends with the following:

"My wife Carol, and our children and grandchildren, join me in wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. May we start to confound the plans of the Trilateralists..."

So Ron Paul wrote the newsletter's holiday greeting but had no input into anything else in it? Come on! I'm supposed to believe that?

Is Ron Paul a racist? TNR says, Ron Paul is an "Angry White Man"

Click here for the New Republic's scoop. James Kirchick went and dug up Ron Paul's old newsletters, the ones that hadn't (to my knowledge) come to light yet.

Bottom line: Ron Paul is either a racist or naive and clueless. Either he knew what was being written in his own newsletter and allowed the bigotry to go on, or for years he allowed his name to be put on material with which his supporters still claim he so strenuously disagrees.

It has to be one of those. Either is enough to disqualify him from holding public office.

The response from RP supporters to Kirchick's article is revealing. Here's the first one that caught my eye:

Unfortunately, your information is simply that propaganda that is misleading, inaccurate, and definitely with a political agenda. I am ashamed that I read your entire post. Moreover, you contradict yourself. Van Meses was a jew- so how can Dr. Paul be an anti-Semite.
Gee, I don't know, "Ken." My grandma is uncomfortable with "the gays" but still likes the movies of Carey Grant.

Lots of Paul supporters respond with some variation of, "A-ha! Ron Paul has the powers-that-be running scared in New Hampshire so OF COURSE they choose tonight to reveal this information." As usual, invoking a conspiracy allows the evidence to be ignored.

Those commenters who do address the evidence suggest that it's not fair to attribute the quotations to Ron Paul, since other people also contributed to his newsletters. Fine. But who has the burden of proof? As Kirchick points out, many of the newsletter articles were unsigned, so it's now impossible to attribute authorship. But whose choice was it to allow so many unsigned articles into the newsletter?

Why should we assume that Ron Paul didn't write some or all of the objectionable pieces? Many of Paul's supporters beg the question and assume that he couldn't have written them because, hey, he's such a nice guy. But RP's character is precisely what is at issue.

As for Dr. Paul himself, he recently addressed the New Republic's report, saying:

When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.

But, as others have pointed out, before Ron Paul offered this explanation for the racist remarks in his newsletter, he used to simply say that the words were taken out of context. But if the hate-filled articles are bad enough to completely disavow now, why weren't they before?

Finally, we should get back to a primary purpose of this blog: understanding the level of support racists show for Ron Paul's campaign. We could construct countless epicycles to explain this phenomenon, but that no longer seems necessary.

Whether or not Ron Paul wrote racist articles, for a long while he allowed people to believe that he either wrote them, or was simply ambivalent about the articles being published under his name. Understandably, racists have taken that as evidence (perhaps not conclusive, but so what?) that Dr. Paul is one of them. He says what they're thinking, or publishes people who do.

As my past forays into the wasteland of neo-Nazism on the net show, the racist denizens understand that most people aren't free to express their hatred openly. Publishing a newsletter full of hate-filled, but unsigned artices is one way around that problem, and they know that. And they know enough to disbelieve or discount Ron Paul's recent public rejection of their views because that's exactly what they would have to do if running for public office.

Update: It looks like Ron Paul is not doing so well in NH. How long until the Ron Paul people blame it on Kirchick's TNR article?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Only Giuliani will save you from the terrorists!

Take a look at this Giuliani ad:

This reminds me of a similarly bombastic ad Tom Tancredo put out a while back. Check it out:

Also consider the recent Ron Paul ad discussed here. With Tancredo's withdrawal, one is forced to ask: Will all the Republican candidates try to pick up his detritus with ads like these?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Wonkette: Ron Paul Is Incoherent

Happy New Year!

Over at Wonkette, Jim Newell makes a good point with less nuance than I'd like (but, anyway, that's what they do at Wonkette.) It relates to my last post about Ron Paul's desire to amend the Constitution to end birthright citizenship. I'm not pretending to reconstruct Newell's argument here, but you could say it inspired me to inscribe this more robust critique of the Ron Paul ideology.

In short, I'm going to argue that a) Justice is built into the Constitution; b) Ron Paul and his supporters advocate measures that run directly afoul of it; and c) thus, Ron Paul is not really defending the Constitution.

Prohibition was once constitutional; this did not make it just, or even a very good idea (indeed, most libertarians would think it was both unjust and a very bad idea.) No matter: the justness of a law and its constitutionality are two different things, right? A law is not unconstitutional because it is unjust, and a good law does not become constitutional merely because it is just.

Justice and constitutionality are always two different things. Right?


Amendment 5 of the Constitution reads in part: "...nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Amendment 4 reads in part: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

Amendment 14 reads in part: "No state shall...deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

There is a thread running through the Constitution and its various amendments that makes it impossible to separate the legal content of the document from its substantive moral content. Amendment 5 only makes sense against a background conception of justice. Amendment 4 only makes sense against a background conception of the reasonable.

Indeed, for men of the Enlightenment, justice and reason were never far apart.

If the above is correct, then, in at least some cases, a law can be unconstitutional because it is unjust, because it egregiously violates the conception of justice built into the Constitution.

Now, to the point; or, more precisely, to a pressing question: what do or should we think of a politician who advocates amending the constitution in a way that would be unjust, in this special sense?

If Ron Paul were advocating the repeal of the 13th Amendment, his proposal would not only be unjust, but it would arguably violate the conception of justice that was built into the Constitution from the very start.

(The fact that the Constitution initially contained limited tolerance for slavery actually supports my point: those measures were added as a compromise, so that southern states would ratify the document. We know that the men who did the most to add their intellectual stamp to the Constitution hated slavery, and it was their sense of justice that was built into the very product of their genius.)

As for Ron Paul, David Duke, et al: they would not be standing up for the Constitution by proposing to violate the conception of justice that has always given the document meaning.

To stand up for the Constitution is to stand up for the morality built into the Constitution. To seek to amend the Constitution in a way that would fly in the face of that morality is to seek to introduce incoherence in the document itself. It is to be fundamentally incoherent.

I am beginning to think that, through accident or design, Ron Paul and many of his supporters are incoherent in just this way.

In this blog, I have consistently claimed that the 14th Amendment embodies an abstract principle of moral equality. This abstract principle grounds the civil rights legislation that Ron Paul rejects. Moreover, the ideal the 14th Amendment represents is itself a logical extension of the Constitution's conception of justice.

Most people are not like Ron Paul; most people don't think horrible injustice takes place when racist landowners and employees are forced to deal with those they hate. Recently, I've met several people on the left who expressed cautious support for Ron Paul. They don't support him any longer after learning of his rejection of civil rights legislation.

The support for Ron Paul, what little there is, is founded on either ignorance (on the part of the left) or wishful thinking (on the part of libertarians who believe/hope that the market alone is capable of producing justice.)

Ron Paul wants to change the Constitution to nullify equal protection; to neuter the branch of the government that obliges the states to adhere to this moral principle; to turn back the clock on the hard-won, gradual understanding of equality that ensures that all people no matter their racial status or state of residence have access to food, shelter, and medicine.

All of this, either by amending the Constitution, or (whenever possible) through federal legislation. All of this, whether he realizes the consequences of his proposals or does not. All of this, to empty out the Constitution, leaving a kenosis of self-serving legal positivism.

Demolishing the morality of the Constitution and uprooting its moral center doesn't make you a defender of the Constitution. Even if your weapon of choice is constitutional amendment.

So, to recap:

1. Ron Paul wants to end birthright citizenship.
2. Doing this would require amending the federal Constitution.
3. Not every proposal becomes constitutional merely because it is added to the constitution; a proposal can be unconstitutional because it violates the conception of justice embodied within the document.
4. Ending birthright citizenship, emaciating the Equal Protection clause, etc. is unjust in just the way specified in (3.)
5. Therefore, Ron Paul's proposal is unconstitutional.

People can quibble with (4.) There's a broader point here: I don't think Ron Paul or most of his libertarian supporters really care about justice. They seem to think the Constitution can be interpreted ex nihilo (certainly, Ron Paul himself seems to believe this, as his comments on the Lawrence decision indicate.)

If Ron Paul and his supporters really don't care about justice, then they don't really care about the Constitution, either. No matter what they say.