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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Beldar responds to Captain Ed on EDMD

In a series of comments at Patterico's Pontifications, I've failed to dampen my friend Patterico's enthusiasm for "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." Today, however, I came across a tightly-argued paragraph from Ed Morrissey at Hot Air that also attempts to justify EDMD — but I'm still unpersuaded to participate. Rather, I still believe that participating is a bad idea on grounds of simple taste, even though I would defend the rights of the participants to do so. Here are Ed's arguments, and my reactions in detail:

On the other hand — and this is where my sympathies lie — a free society has to have the ability to offend as part and parcel of the freedom of expression.

I agree with this. And we do indeed have rights to such free expression, including the expression of deliberately tasteless and offensive material. We have that legal right today, and we will have it a week from today, regardless of who does or doesn't participate in EDMD.

To acquiesce to the pressure that cowed Comedy Central is to surrender that freedom ...

No, it's not. Free speech is an inalienable right. Free speech rights don't depend for their existence on being exercised continuously to their full limits. I am not surrendering my free speech rights when I choose not to dress in a Nazi uniform or a KKK hood or when I chose not to parade with members of those hateful organizations.

... and to make terrorism a successful strategy, and not just for radical Islam.

This is a better argument, not because it's true, but because not-very-logical terrorists might think it's true. I think it's what the logicians call a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument, in which the "fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection." One terrorist could just as easily say to his mate, "Hey, the American dogs once again refrained last week from nuking Tehran! Good thing I made that threat on my blog last week that I would really make them pay if they so much as dropped one bomb anywhere in Iran, huh?" That America didn't nuke Iran last week wasn't because of any threat the terrorists made about what they'd do if we had. And if a terrorist claims that it was his threat which stopped America from nuking Iran, a dim-witted fellow might indeed fall for that preposterous claim, and it might persuade him to join the terrorists. That's unfortunate — but not so much so that we should turn around and nuke Tehran just to show that we can and to show that his threats didn't deter us.

A nation of laws provides its citizens freedom from vendettas, and where vendettas succeed, freedom is diminished or lost altogether.

This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. What exactly is the mechanism by which Ed thinks this should happen? I agree that a nation of laws should provide its citizens protection from violence, and sometimes from overt threats of violence. But verbal vendettas — including a lot of condemnation, vague predictions of bad consequences, protest, feather-ruffling, hoo-hah, and associated kerfuffle — that at least stop short of criminal terroristic threat statutes may well be constitutionally protected; see above.

That is why it is always un-American to seek political change through violence and terrorism, because it cuts against the fabric of what makes us Americans.

I agree that it's un-American to seek political change through violence and terrorism, but I don't think that is a justification for deliberately engaging in tasteless behavior that's intended to offend the Muslims you want to offend but is also likely to offend all Muslims.

In order to stand against the vendetta mentality, we need to make a statement that we will not be cowed into silence and surrender, whether that’s defined as dhimmitude, omerta, or whatever.

Fine. Make a strong statement — indeed, Ed, I think you just have! It didn't go pointlessly out of its way to offend people you didn't intend to offend. You've completely persuaded me that you're not cowed into either silence or surrender. And your ability to do so wasn't at all hampered by the absence of a cartoon of Mohammed; nor will your argument be improved if you add one.

Posted by Beldar at 06:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blumenthal lies about lying

If I'm looking at my son Adam and I call him by his older brother Kevin's name, I've "misspoken." If I say to him, "Adam, I served in Vietnam," then I'm a liar.

Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general of Connecticut, is running to replace Chris Dodd in the U.S. Senate. He definitely is proving himself to be Dodd-like, and much like Dodd's Democratic Senate colleagues Tom Harkin, Hillary Clinton, and, of course, John "Christmas in Cambodia" Kerry — as a bald-faced pathological liar.

Anyone who has repeatedly referred to himself as being among Vietnam War veterans "returning" to the U.S., anyone who has said "back when I served in Vietnam" — when in fact he did not serve in Vietnam, ever — cannot possibly have simply "misspoken." That one could make such a mistake innocently, even once, is impossible; that one could allow such a mistake to remain uncorrected is almost inconceivably, and certainly irrationally, dishonest. Rather, when Blumenthal repeatedly insists that he merely "misspoke" with no intention to deceive anyone, then he's lying again, as blatantly as possible, by denying that he was lying before.

My scorn for this lying ass-clown, this scum-stain masquerading as a man, also extends to every single willfully self-delusional Connecticut voter who votes for Blumenthal if he indeed tries to continue his misbegotten political career.


UPDATE (Mon Apr 18 @ 3:45pm): I commend to you, and associate myself with, AllahPundit's remarks.

Posted by Beldar at 02:08 PM in 2010 Election, Congress, Politics (2010) | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Obama, Sunstein, and "libertarian paternalism"

From a very scary hagiography in the New York Times Magazine:

Libertarian paternalists would have school cafeterias put the fruit before the fried chicken, because students are more likely to grab the first food they see. They support a change in Illinois law that asks drivers renewing their licenses to choose whether they want to be organ donors. The simple act of having to choose meant that more people signed up. Ideas like these, taking human idiosyncrasies into account, might revive an old technocratic hope: that society could be understood so perfectly that it might be improved. The elaboration of behavioral economics, which seeks to uncover the ways in which people are predictably irrational, “is the most exciting intellectual development of my lifetime,” Sunstein told me.

The title of the article is "Cass Sunstein Wants to Nudge Us." The word "nudge" in the title is an allusion to the title of a recent book that Sustein co-wrote. But you have to understand: by "nudge," Sunstein means "turning your life into something run the way he and his ilk think it should be run" — nothing less than that.

It is the nanny state. It is the statist impossible utopia that Barack Obama and folks like Sunstein have in their pointy heads as the America they want to build, as they systematically dismantle everything in the America that exists.

"Libertarian paternalism" is an oxymoron. What Sunstein and Obama are doing is just arrogant paternalism, period. Instead of anything remotely resembling real libertarianism, Sunstein is promoting the notion of government regulation so subtle, so perceptive, so ... well, just so damned clever that it won't really seem like much of a bother to do what Sunstein and Obama and the government want you to do. You'll think it's your own idea!

'Cause they're smarter than you and me, see? Get it? If you don't, then just keep clinging to your guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like you or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment. Something. You moron, why do you think you're even remotely qualified to run your own life? Sheesh.

[/sarcasm off] Seriously, folks, this article will tell you everything you need to know about why Cass Sunstein is my worst dread as a potential Obama SCOTUS nominee. I am so, so very glad that he's a pasty white guy!

Posted by Beldar at 10:01 PM in Current Affairs, Law (2010), Obama, Politics (2010) | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Michael Douglas takes courageous stand: self-confessed convicted rapist Polanski really is — gasp! — a criminal!

Per an AP story of yesterday's date published in the Houston Chronicle (among other places):

Michael Douglas says he will not sign a petition in support of director Roman Polanski, who is under house arrest in Switzerland in connection with a 33-year-old sex scandal.

Douglas, whose "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is screening at the Cannes Film Festival, told French radio it would be "unfair" for him to sign a petition for "somebody who did break the law."

Other filmmakers at the festival, including French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard and actor-director Mathieu Amalric, have signed the petition, which is posted on a Web site overseen by renowned French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy.

Polanski was taken into custody in September and is currently under house arrest in Geneva.

The interview aired hours before British actress Charlotte Lewis claimed at a news conference in Los Angeles that she was sexually abused by Polanski in 1982 when she was 16.

Polanski pleaded guilty in 1978 to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. But after a judge said he would renege on the plea bargain, Polanski fled to his native France. He has been a fugitive since then.

In the interview with RTL radio broadcast on Friday, Douglas said Polanski had been given "some bad advice" when the scandal broke.

Oh, what a beacon of moral clarity is Michael Douglas! How brave he is, to stand against the floods of Hollywood and wanna-be Hollywood glitteratti who've flocked to Polanski's defense.

Douglas has displayed — just barely — the minimal human decency not to lionize and make excuses for a confessed, convicted child rapist, one whom we now know to in fact have been a serial child rapist, and one whom we know is both unrepentant and intent on mocking America, its people, and the rule of law. It's terribly sad that Douglas' weak showing is about as much moral integrity as Hollywood is capable of displaying.

Posted by Beldar at 06:22 PM in Current Affairs, Law (2010) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Monday, May 10, 2010

To influence SCOTUS, why would you turn to a law school dean?

I commend to your attention, and associate myself with the views expressed in, this post by Wisconsin Law Prof. Ann Althouse. Key bit (emphasis hers):

It seems that Kagan has been very good at influencing professors and that Obama read that (and his own direct contact with her) to mean that she'll be good at influencing Supreme Court Justices. That may be a poor inference. I think a law school dean is engaged in more of a social enterprise in bringing groups of people together. But the Justices — as the oral argument shows — deal in much more technical legal arguments. They may bend liberal or conservative, but the arguments need to be there.

But read the whole thing. You won't want to miss the info about Solicitor General Kagan's handful of appearances before the SCOTUS as an advocate.

Posted by Beldar at 10:31 PM in Law (2010), Obama, SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Beldar's take on the current SCOTUS buzz

Another [senior administration official] said that there have been several meetings but that the White House has not much shared its point of view. Still, one outside source said the president's preference is less apparent than at the same point a year ago, just before he nominated Sotomayor. "Last time around, you knew Sotomayor was going to be the candidate," the person said. "She was such a home run on so many different counts.... I would say this one is much, much, much more difficult for them."

So reports the WaPo, in what I think was probably an unintentional episode of damning by faint praise.

The Hon. David Souter, retired Associate Justice, was reliably a Lefty vote, but he generally lacked any significant influence beyond his single vote. Justice Sotomayor was an almost perfect replacement for him — and by "perfect replacement" I mean "perfect match." She was picked on the sole basis of identity politics, and I suspect all that "wise Latina" superiority stuff has been politely ignored, but has not been quite forgotten, by her new peers.

Indeed, I have a comparatively higher opinion of each of the people supposedly on Obama's current short list than I do of Justice Sotomayor, and I think any of them would have a better shot than Justice Sotomayor at satisfying what ought to be a liberal Democratic president's strategic goals in making a SCOTUS appointment. That is to say, I think Obama essentially wasted his pick on Justice Sotomayor. And I think that any of the people now supposedly under consideration would have at least a chance of becoming a Justice with more influence than Souter wielded or Sotomayor is likely to wield. I doubt any of them would ever become as influential as was, say, Justice Brennan or even Justice Douglas, but they might manage, if they're fortunate, to mostly fill Justice Stevens' liberal shoes as someone who could definitely hold his or her own.

Of the names being floated, I think Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit is the most likely to be able to influence other votes, especially that of Justice Kennedy — albeit in directions I'd mostly rather not see those votes go. (I can't deny that part of me would also prefer to see Judge Wood get the pick because she and I both took the UT-Austin/Plan II to Texas Law School career path, but that's my own flawed version of "identity politics" talking.)

Both as a political conservative and an opponent of judicial activism, I'd be least concerned about Solicitor General (and former Harvard Law Dean) Elena Kagan — which is another way of saying I don't think she'd end up being very much more influential than Sotomayor and that she'd probably be less influential than almost any "average" liberal circuit judge. (That includes either Merrick Garland or Sidney Thomas, the two white male circuit judges whom Obama has given what I firmly believe are only "courtesy" interviews. He might pick someone white, but he won't pick someone white and male.) So I'm mostly rooting for Obama to pick Kagan.

For what it's worth, my worst-case scenario is still another Harvard product, Cass Sunstein. I actually think the sort of schmoozing, fund-raising, and deal-brokering that Kagan is supposed to have been good at when she was the dean at Harvard isn't likely to be nearly as effective at the SCOTUS. Sunstein is a genuine dynamo of ideas — many of them absolutely terrible — and I think his stature as an academic superstar is far more likely to impress Justice Kennedy than Kagan's status as a mere dean, which (after all) is an administrative job.

Were I a senator, I would probably vote against anyone Barack Obama nominated; he in particular, by his own votes against Dubya's Roberts and Alito SCOTUS nominations, forfeited the legitimacy from which he could have argued that a president ought to be able to get confirmation votes for well-qualified nominees regardless of partisan politics. But I wouldn't filibuster any of the four currently supposed to be the front-runners. I don't believe filibusters are appropriate for judicial nominations, and I'm not going to change that principled position (which I believe to be firmly rooted in the Constitution) to retaliate against Dems who've abused the filibuster during the Bush-43 and Bush-41 administrations.

I would try to make best possible use of her or his confirmation hearings to expose liberal positions taken by anyone who Obama might pick, but frankly, any Democratic nominee is going to follow the same playbook Sotomayor did — that is, dissemble about his/her own real views and pretend instead to be John Roberts.

All SCOTUS nominations are important, but comparatively, this one is not nearly as important as will be the nomination for Justice Scalia's successor. I'm therefore going to divert into a more productive use — specifically, good wishes for Justice Scalia's continued health and vigor and clear writing — some of the mental energy that I might otherwise expend worrying about this particular pick.

Posted by Beldar at 10:11 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Law (2010), Obama, Politics (2010), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack