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Second Amendment applied to the states in Supreme Court decision

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate my Chicago-area readers! You can take the gats out of hiding and sport them openly. Well, openly around the apartment, anyway. (Oh, c’mon. I know you windy city types are armed to the teeth, no matter what the law says.) The United States Supreme Court knocked down (by implication, anyway) Chicago’s handgun ban while reaffirming that the Second Amendment is “incorporated” by the Fourteenth Amendment, and applies to state governments as much as it does to the federal government.

Writing for the five-member majority in the case of McDonald v. Chicago (PDF), Justice Samuel Alito pointed out:

Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present day, and in Heller, we held that individual self-defense is “the central component” of the Second Amendment right.

Moreover:

[I]t is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.

As a result:

In Heller, we held that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess a handgun in the home for the purpose of self-defense. Unless considerations of stare decisis counsel otherwise, a provision of the Bill of Rights that protects a right that is fundamental from an American perspective applies equally to the Federal Government and the States. See Duncan, 391 U. S., at 149, and n. 14. We therefore hold that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amend-ment right recognized in Heller.

That’s a major decision, reaffirming the right to bear arms as an individual right which no government entity in the United States may infringe (precise boundaries of that right to be determined later, of course, so don’t get too excited) — and also continuing the incorporation of constitutionally protected rights so that they apply against state governments. However, as you can see from the above, Alito followed the Supreme Court’s unfortunate track record of torturing the Hell out of the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in order to make it do the job originally intended for the Privileges or Immunities clause, which is a more logical vehicle for protecting individual rights. He knows this, too, acknowledging that “many legal scholars dispute the correctness of the narrow Slaughter-House interpretation” of the Privileges or Immunities clause.

However, he doesn’t change course.

… For many decades, the question of the rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment against state infringement has been analyzed under the Due Process Clause of that Amendment and not under the Privileges or Immunities Clause. We therefore decline to disturb the Slaughter-House holding. …

Justice Clarence Thomas, while concurring in the case’s result, objects to the court’s ongoing abuse of the Constitution.

Applying what is now a well-settled test, the plurality opinion concludes that the right to keep and bear arms applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause because it is “fundamental” to the American “scheme of ordered liberty,” ante, at 19 (citing Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 149 (1968)), and “‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,’” ante, at 19 (quoting Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721 (1997)). I agree with that description of the right. But I cannot agree that it is enforceable against the States through a clause that speaks only to “process.”Instead, the right to keep and bear arms is a privilege of American citizenship that applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause.

Good for Thomas. At least somebody is keeping alive a respect for proper reading of the Constitution. Maybe next time …

But the means matters less to most people than the ends. And in this case, that means yet another decision protecting the individual right to keep and bear arms.

Pass DISCLOSE so Republicans don’t get elected

Admittedly, Rep. Hank Johnson is … ummm … a moron. But it’s not often that you see a politician openly advocating restrictions on political speech as a means of choking off the opposition’s electoral prospects.

My apologies for posting anything from Eric Cantor’s YouTube channel (among other failings, the Republican Whip supports the PATRIOT Act and voted for TARP — twice), but this is priceless.

New piece on self-reliance at When Falls the Coliseum

I’m on a bit of a roll this week, so here’s my latest post for When Falls The Coliseum: “Don’t mind me, I’ll just die here in the dark.”

No, really, communists are adorable!

Compare and contrast:

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby’s still-true observation that unrepentant communists are treated differently than unrepentant nazis, despite a remarkably similar track record on life, liberty and mass graves.

IF JOSÉ Saramago, the Portuguese writer who died on Friday at 87, had been an unrepentant Nazi for the last four decades, he would never have won international acclaim or received the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature. Leading publishers would never have brought out his books, his works would not have been translated into more than 20 languages, and the head of Portugal’s government would never have said on his death — as Prime Minister José Sócrates did say last week — that he was “one of our great cultural figures and his disappearance has left our culture poorer.’’

But Saramago wasn’t a Nazi, he was a communist. And not just a nominal communist, as his obituaries pointed out, but an “unabashed’’ (Washington Post), “unflinching’’ (AP), “unfaltering’’ (New York Times) true believer. …

With the Boston-area readers’ furious insistence in the comments that communists really mean well, but seem to have been led astray a few times.

Communism is a textbook example of a concept good at heart corrupted by the sociopaths who put it into practice. Marx would not have imagined leaders such as Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot murdering millions of their own citizens to achieve a dictatorship of the proletariat. …

None of the regime Jacoby mentions are actually communist, they are perversions of the ideology. Communism is not supposed to have a dictator, it is supposed to be rule by the masses. …

You have based your argument on two demonstrably false propositions: 1) I have known good and decent people who were and are a credit to their communities yet who happened to be Marxists. I only need to have known one, and that countermands your entire thesis. 2) One could argue that religion and empire, each or together, have resulted in more homicides than any other “cause”. I’m not sure it’s much of a sporting contest, and indeed one could weakly argue that Marxism is both a religion and empire. Nevertheless, neither capitalism nor free enterprise have proven to be social panaceas …

I lived in Boston for five years, and the area really is overrun with totalitarian dipshits who think that communism deserves another try, but this time with feeling. Most of them are Cambridge-based, of course, giving me yet another reason to resist ever springing for Harvard tuition for my kid (you, too, can fork over fifty grand a year so your kid can learn to pine for a properly regimented society).

Jacoby’s piece reminds me of a misty-eyed April 12, 1990, New York Times laugh riot, titled, “Political Idealists Trying to Hold Back the Night,” about a failing retirement home populated by aging communists with a lingering nostalgia for Lenin. Oddly, the Times piece, while still appearing as a search engine result, has apparently been scrubbed from the site.

Note: MetaThought points out that the Times piece on a retirement home full of old reds is available here, so my inability to pull it up may have been a temporary glitch (or personal incompetence).

New: My mildly amusing musings about parenthood

At the risk of mixing oil and water, let me announce here the creation of my new stay-at-home-dad blog, King of the Kitchen (any evocations of Oliver Hardy are purely intentional). With my son about to embark on a new phase of life, in kindergarten, it seems like a good time to start a new forum for unleashing my animal howls of frustration at parenthood, marriage and the non-political aspects of the modern world. My political howls will continue to be found here, and I’ll also still write for When Falls the Coliseum.

Conservatives are doomed because they’re … ditching theocratic nuttiness?

I have my fair share of doubts about the tea party movement. Ideally, I’d like it to be a consistently pro-liberty movement, suffused by tolerance, devoid of craziness and respectful of intellectual arguments. Unfortunately, it’s not. As with all grassroots movements, the energy for the movement bubbles up from the base, and brings with it not just a gratifyingly crowd-pleasing push for personal freedom, but also conspiracy theories, the occasional hater and a grab-bag of populist bugaboos — specifically immigration, among Arizona tea partiers. Frankly, that’s the way real political movements that aren’t custom-designed for my convenience work.

But I have to admit, among the concerns that have led to my hesitation to fully embrace the tea party movement, it never occurred to me that partially replacing the religion-fueled nuttiness of conservatism with an impure strain of individualistic, small-government libertarianism would be its greatest liability.

At least, that’s the argument of E.J. Dionne, a once perceptive political journalist who seems to have been replaced by a computer program designed to simulate all the worst stereotypes about the out-of-touch Eastern media elite.

In a recent syndicated column, Dionne claims that the tea party movement’s rise constitutes “a revolution on the American right in which older, more secular forms of politics displace religious activism.” This is good for Obama and company because:

The rise of the tea-party movement is a throwback to an old form of libertarianism that sees most of the domestic policies that government has undertaken since the New Deal as unconstitutional. It typically perceives the most dangerous threats to freedom as the design of well-educated elitists out of touch with “American values.”

In its extreme antipathy to the power of the federal government, this movement may prove to be threatening to the Republicans in what should otherwise be a good year for the party.

As evidence that the return of concerns about secular politics to the conservative movement is damaging to the political right, Dionne points out that “The language of the new anti-statists, like the language of the 1950s’ right, regularly harks back to the U.S. Constitution and the Founders in calling attention to perceived threats to liberty” and “As the scrutiny of the movement has increased, its critics (most recently Chris Matthews in an MSNBC documentary and Jason Zengerle in the New Republic) have noticed how much of this is very old American stuff.”

Nowhere to be found in the piece is any recognition of what may have sparked such a revival in interest — however inconsistent — in individual liberty and limited government. Dionne makes no reference to the massive increases in government spending in the past decade, or the enormously extended role the federal government has acquired in the economy, due to TARP and the resulting leverage over the finance industry, the nationalization of two automobile companies and the massive health care bill. And there’s no discussion of the growth in executive power, the far-reaching surveillance state, or the authority gained by government officials from the seemingly permanent state of emergency (although, granted, these are lesser concerns for many tea partiers). Nor any mention that all of this has coincided with a massive economic downturn, which many people — including well-educated people — consider to be closely linked to those policies.

Somehow, says Dionne, conservatives just dropped the Jesus talk and started sounding like the Founders again. “What’s remarkable is the extent to which the tea-party movement has displaced the religious right as the dominant voice of conservative militancy.”

And this is bad for conservatives.

The key to the Washington Post scribe‘s assertions (and, amazingly in a nationally syndicated column, that’s all they are) are found in his last two sentences:

Thus has Obama brought back to life a venerable if disturbing style of conservative thinking. In the short run, the new movement’s energy threatens him. In the long run, its extremism may be his salvation.

That’s right. Dionne finds the tea party’s views disturbing and extreme, so of course they spell doom for conservatism.

Holy shit. How suffocatingly insular must the world a writer lives in be for him to simply conclude that an ideology that makes him and his friends uncomfortable as they chat over dinner and cocktails must necessarily be a dead-end?

It’s one thing to pen a column saying that you disagree with the general thrust of a grassroots political movement. For my part, I like the pro-liberty activism and anti-government rhetoric and dislike the nativism, and anti-intellectualism of the tea party movement. But whether Dionne and I love or hate the tea party movement’s ideas,  they’re clearly very popular and likely to play a major role in politics for some time to come.

Maybe it’s time to feed the ability to remove his head from his ass into Dionne’s software.

Congressman assaults questioner

Don’t get above yourself and think you can pose questions to your rulers — not unless you want a smackdown. See Congressman Bob Etheridge in action on the streets of Washington, D.C., grabbing a young interviewer by the arm and then by the neck.

In which I quit The Examiner

I expect that the farewell piece I posted over at The Examiner will be yanked pronto, so here it is in all its wonderful wordiness:

When I first started writing for The Examiner, almost two years ago, I had high hopes. With traditional newspapers across the country failing because of long (for the information age) lead times, high overhead and dwindling readership, The Examiner seemed to offer an interesting model for allowing grassroots journalists to cover and comment on their areas of interest — and get paid for their efforts.

My early experience was encouraging. Not only were my writing samples vetted before I was brought on board, but I was also subjected to a criminal background check. The company seemed to want competent writers and a credible image. Right out of the gate I started building decent traffic, which translated into fairly impressive compensation. I wasn’t pulling anything equivalent to the salary of a full-time job, but I was earning enough to make my work for The Examiner a viable part-time gig — just the sort of thing that writers have long cobbled together with other projects in order to make a living.

But there were early warning signs. The Examiner encouraged its writers, strongly, to use social networks like Digg and Reddit to their advantage by promoting their own and their colleagues’ material. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for those clique-ridden services, but the strategy mimicked About.com’s doomed ’90s-era efforts to have its writers game the old Web search engines (I’m a jaded old man, in Internet years). About.com’s scheme pretty much ended the days of Internet users voting on the placement of sites in Web searches, and The Examiner‘s modern plan ultimately got the site’s content booted from many social networks.

Then Google News began to turn up its nose at Examiner content — understandably, considering how much low-quality junk was now turning up in the results as The Examiner went into a quantity-over-quality hiring frenzy. It’s not that there are no good writers at The Examiner — there are, in fact, a lot of good writers working for the company. But their efforts have increasingly been lost in a sea of dreck.

For the first time in any of my writing jobs, my readership (and pay) began to decline instead of increase. For the past few months I’ve been making about 7% (yes, seven percent) of what I consistently earned during the good times.

Some other Examiner writers are still doing well, and I give them full credit for their success. And many writers don’t seem to mind the content-mill aspect of the site, since they have a platform for doing something that they love. To a certain extent, I think that’s a manifestation of the partial transformation of writing from a profession into a social activity — a phenomenon I’ve covered elsewhere.

It’s not like I haven’t written for peanuts — or free. I’m not paid for my work at the excellent group blog When Falls the Coliseum and I make almost nothing through my personal blog, Disloyal Opposition. But The Examiner is a for-profit institution, and if I’m going to help somebody else turn a buck, I’d like to see some reward for my efforts.

Besides, given the low esteem in which The Examiner is now all too often held, I’m gaining no professional benefit from my continued efforts. And as for readership … Disloyal Opposition pulls about ten times as much traffic as my Examiner columns.

So it’s time for me to move on.

I wish my fellow writers who continue with The Examiner the best of luck. Many of them are very good, and I hope their efforts lead to success, however they may define that elusive goal. I also wish profitability to The Examiner; while the company’s evolved model doesn’t work for me, it violates nobody’s rights, and I sincerely root for everybody who makes the attempt to earn honest profits.

And to my readers: Thank you. I hope to see you elsewhere.

Climate science under fire in new paper

Who wrote this?:

A review of the peer-edited literature reveals a systematic tendency of the climate establishment to engage in a variety of stylized rhetorical techniques that seem to oversell what is actually known about climate change while concealing fundamental uncertainties and open questions regarding many of the key processes involved in climate change.

Was it a cranky skeptic grinding away on his personal blog? Or was it a prominent professor at a major university?

OK. I telegraphed that one. In fact, the author of those words is Jason Scott Johnston, Director of the Program on Law, Environment and Economy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, in a paper published by The University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Law and Economics: Global Warming Advocacy Science: a Cross Examination (PDF).

Johnston also writes:

Fundamental open questions include not only the size but the direction of feedback effects that are responsible for the bulk of the temperature increase predicted to result from atmospheric greenhouse gas increases: while climate models all presume that such feedback effects are on balance strongly positive, more and more peer-edited scientific papers seem to suggest that feedback effects may be small or even negative. The cross-examination conducted in this paper reveals many additional areas where the peer-edited literature seems to conflict with the picture painted by establishment climate science, ranging from the magnitude of 20th century surface temperature increases and their relation to past temperatures; the possibility that inherent variability in the earth’s non-linear climate system, and not increases in CO2, may explain observed late 20th century warming; the ability of climate models to actually explain past temperatures; and, finally, substantial doubt about the methodological validity of models used to make highly publicized predictions of global warming impacts such as species loss.

Johnston says that establishment climate scientists have taken to cherry-picking data, dismissing information that would bring their models into question and then hunting up evidence that supports their premises. He criticizes this tendency as resulting in a “faith-based climate policy.”

I’ll note here that Johnston isn’t questioning assertions that the climate is changing; he’s challenging the certainty that many climate scientists express in dismissing possible natural factors, such as solar variation, and their enthusiasm for the supposed accuracy of computer models intended to describe what the climate is doing now and will do in the future. He also points to overtly bad science and the substitution of opinion for inquiry in the claims made by many climate scientists.

All of this matters because the bad science and dismissal of contrary evidence and dissenting opinions is useful only for “conveying a very scary and also very simple picture of the state of the science. Such coarse understanding leads to a very coarse policy prescription: ‘Do something, anything, now!’ Such a policy prescription justifies virtually any policy, however costly or inefficient…”

Interestingly, even though the latest version of the paper was published in May, the only mainstream media mention I can find is in Canada’s Financial Post.

A few thoughts on Glenn Beck

I know it’s fashionable among some of my co-ideologists to deride Glenn Beck as a clown who damages the libertarian brand, but just when I think I’m completely fed up with the guy, he does a great service to the cause of freedom. Right now he’s on Fox News promoting F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, along with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He’s also interviewing Thomas Woods from the Ludwig von Mises Institute on the tendency of governments to point to their own failings as reason for more state intervention in the economy, and chatting with Yuri Maltsev (another Austrian economist) about the realities of socialism he experienced in the old Soviet Union.

Does anybody else bring so much advocacy of freedom to such a wide audience? The only other person I can think of is John Stossel — and yes, Stossel is more consistent, serious and intellectual, but he doesn’t have the same following.

Beck may be a clown, but sometimes, it takes a clown.

Note: One day later, The Road to Serfdom has jumped to #1 on Amazon.