Powered by Squarespace
Subscribe to my RSS

“When the Constitution was drawn up, the state was not in the business of taking charge of civil society, or of displacing religious and private foundations from their central role in education, health care, and the provision of social services.  Today, however, the state has intruded into civil society in a way that the Founders would never have envisaged.  It does not merely fund the majority of schools: it controls them.  It funds all kinds of institutions, from hospitals to rehabilitation centers, that would previously have been funded by private donations.  The ‘no establishment’ clause, interpreted as the (secular) activists would wish, therefore obligates the state to chase religion out of the institutions of society.  Having absorbed those institutions, the state fumigates them against the religious bug.  But it does this religiously, seeking out all the nooks and crannies where religion might take hold, and squirting them with ideological disinfectant.  And because the state controls the institutions where orthodoxies arise–schools and universities–it is in effect making an establishment of religion.  The religion is atheism; but atheism pursued with a kind of vindictive vehemence that has all the marks of faith.”
–Roger Scruton

The Beginning of the End for the Bearded Boob of Princeton?

Never has a more overhyped, undersmart, recklessly misguided, destructively wrong-headed oaf of a putz been accorded more baffling status or inexplicably unquestioned street cred than Paul Krugman.  Which is why it's with no small amount of delight (and yes, hubris) that I observe rose and bloom separating at excruciatingly long last.


Of Weed and Wheels

The July, 2014 edition of Reason magazine contains a lengthy piece detailing many of the struggles Washington State faces as it transitions to legal status for the purely recreational use of marijuana. One particular problem area concerns setting the presumptive THC levels in a driver’s blood that will constitute prima facie evidence of impairment. Many pot advocates are pointing out—correctly—that regular users, including most “medical” users, will generally be above the presumptive level (currently five nanograms per milliliter) most, if not all, of the time, and that most regular users of marijuana are unlikely to be substantially impaired at this level. Yet as things currently stand, thousands of individuals in Washington are at least theoretically never legally capable of driving.

I note with interests that potheads are coming up against the same issue we drinkers have dealt with for years: Pot affects different users differently, therefore “impairment” can’t be determined via the expedient of simply looking at ratios of certain substances in a user’s blood. I live in Washington’s neighbor to the south where, as in most jurisdictions, a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater creates a rebuttable presumption (which, in practice, is virtually impossible to actually rebut) of impairment. The trouble with this is that while the town librarian who ties one on once or twice a year might be flat on her ass giggling hysterically at .08, those of us who hold our liquor well are only slightly affected at that level, and by no means dangerously impaired. 

One hopes, though perhaps in vain, that the issue Washington is now grappling with might ultimately shine a spotlight on the inherent problems with hard, prima facie numbers like .08 or five nanograms per milliliter in a legal system predicated on presumption of innocence and requiring that the state meet a strong burden of proof in order to obtain convictions against citizens. One further hopes, though almost certainly in vain, that the problems inherent in such shortcuts might prompt a trend away from them, particularly as it becomes more common for police to overreach and seek out convictions even for drivers who are below the presumptive limits. In short, the object of the game in a system grounded in individual liberties emphatically should not be to allow those acting on behalf of the state to short-circuit the laborious process of doing thorough investigative police work and building a case. It should never be about making things easier for cops and prosecutors. Those empowered to take citizens’ property, freedom and even their lives should always have the heavy lift, and should be expected to rise to the challenge of putting up or shutting up if they think they have the goods on a citizen with constitutionally guaranteed rights. This is true regardless of how annoyed we all get at impaired drivers.  Most violations of the law are annoying to the law-abiding, yet this doesn’t mean cops and prosecutors get a pass when it comes to jumping through the often tedious hoops required to make their case. 

Unfortunately the broader trend appears to be in the opposite direction. Oregon passed a bill a few years back banning driving while talking on a hand-held cellular device.  Distracted driving was already illegal, but before the cell phone ban, cops actually had to do the work to prove a driver was distracted to a degree that made his driving unsafe. Now all a cop has to do is show the driver was talking on a cell phone—even if there’s no evidence the driver was actually distracted while doing so and, for that matter, even if the driver was doing nothing else wrong.  Yet another shortcut for cops and cash cow for the state.


“In fact the European Left has a grudge against the United States mainly because the latter has succeeded by means which were not laid down in the revolutionary code. Prosperity, power, the tendency towards uniformity of economic conditions–these results have been achieved by private initiative, by competition rather than State intervention, in other words by capitalism, which every well-brought-up intellectual has been taught to despise.”
–Raymond Aron



What I Hate About Moral Grandstanding In 250 Words Or More

So the other day I had to take a significantly circuitous route to the post office because a main artery of the downtown area of my (formerly dignified, working-class, redneck) home town had been blocked off for an event foreign to my experience. It involved a couple hundred otherwise normal-looking men awkwardly stumbling down the street in high heels, some of whom were carrying signs that said things like “Stop Rape Now!” I hesitated to let fly with my usual torrent of irreverence when first I saw them, fearing there might have been an actual rape in our ordinarily placid community which might have been the raison d’etre of this public display of righteousness. I don’t take the local paper, so there’s a good chance I may not have known. Otherwise I almost certainly would have followed my first impulse, which was to exasperatedly exclaim to nobody in particular in the crowded post office that I was sure grateful these noisesome, disruptive asses were out actively countering that nefarious pro-rape faction that had, of late, been terrorizing the realm. Somebody has to.

The high-heeled men, several of whom were obviously firefighters, bankers, high-fallutin’ power execs, Community Leaders and other alphas of a manly nature, congregated in the lawn in front of the court house, whereupon one or several of them ascended a makeshift stage and set to speechifying. I couldn’t hear exactly what was being said, so my mind went to work a-speculating. Based on the signs I saw, I imagined it to have gone roughly thus: “Are all of you disgusted by rape?” Crowd: “Hell yeah!”  Speaker: “Well alright then. I guess let’s go home now.”

I later determined that the event was, in fact, a fundraiser for the Battered Persons Advocacy, a local group which does the Lord’s work trying to prevent domestic abuse and to help its victims when it occurs. The idea was that by donning high heels for a few city blocks, these men were “standing in the shoes” of battered persons.  Or at least persons who got their feet battered by punishingly impractical footwear.  It was unclear how the other battered “persons” were being accounted for in this symphony of substanceless symbolism. Any notion of equating “women” with “high heels” as being “profoundly and self-evidently sexist” was apparently suspended as well. Finally, since none of these men had ever likely been battered themselves apart from drunken brawls in which they’d voluntarily participated, equating an ungainly walk over a block or two of asphalt to the daily hell lived by helpless victims seems insulting to any lingering intelligence still floating about the ether of this dumbed-down world.

So I was inconvenienced on my way to the post office. Was it for a worthy cause? Maybe. Were the men who were very obviously having a lot of laughs attempting to negotiate city streets in hooker shoes “raising awareness” of something? If it was that rape and domestic abuse are Very Bad Things, thank you, but as a minimally sentient being, I was aware already. But hey, if it boosted your already inflated opinion of your own righteousness . . . did I mention it frustrated my access to the post office?

In the current narcissism pandemic, moral grandstanding is just another selfie. Instead of “me in some exotic locale–ain’t you jealous?”, it’s “me standing next to an ennobling cause, absorbing its healthful rays–ain’t I saintly?” No. But hey, at least you’re really, really annoying.

Grandstanding, of course, also serves as a shoddy stand-in for actual moral acts which are, let’s face it, work. Making a big, righteous noise takes minutes. Living a moral life takes a lifetime. This isn’t to say that many, probably most, of the high-heeled awareness-raisers aren’t moral men, but that anything noble residing within them is somehow diminished by the loud quackery of a demonstration. It’s an adult acting out–a behavior differing in degree, though not kind, from the same one we discourage in our children.

And it made getting to the post office annoying.