Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Status update

My apologies for the slow posting lately. I've got a chapter in a forthcoming book, and I've been busy looking over the proofs. I'll be more active shortly.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lèse majesté

On AOL Video, I ran into this video of actress Hayden Pannettiere in a PSA encouraging people to vote, in which Pannettiere says jokingly that she will likely not vote herself. The response was… predictable. First, there was the contingent who somehow managed to not get the rather obvious hints that the ad was a joke, and were enraged by the prospect of somehow publicly saying they’re not going to vote, with the usual nonsense about how voting is our most important right and everyone is obligated to do it.

There was another group that I found interesting, who understood that the ad was not serious but were offended by it nevertheless. Their objection was not that the joke was unfunny, but that the idea of not voting was too offensive, or the subject of the vote itself too sacrosanct, to even joke about. It was as if Pannettiere had made a wisecrack about the Holocaust or told a lewd joke involving the Virgin Mary.

Like the flag, for many people the vote seems less a political matter than a religious one. It really is remarkable how voting has become the central American right, the right that constitutes and defines “freedom.” Nothing else- the right to property, to free speech, to bear arms, to your own labor, to control your own body- has such a sacred character.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Claiming ownership

Donald Boudreaux has a great post on draft registration. In the post, he explains how he described the concept of draft registration to his young son:

It's part of the government's effort to make you think that your life ultimately belongs to it and not to you. The government wants you to believe that you're obliged even to die for it if it commands you to do so.

Boudreaux goes on to describe registration as a “degrading ritual,” which strikes me as right on the money. I remember when I registered, and I felt… I guess “cheapened” is the best word, as if I was admitting that I wasn’t worth enough to claim my life as my own.

This is a key part of why I find all the ideas for compulsory “national service” for young people, military or otherwise, so repulsive. It would be another way for the government to loudly proclaim, to each young person entering adulthood, that your life belongs to the state, not to you. Some supporters of these schemes all but admit that this is the point, with their talk of instilling a sense of “community obligation” or the like. Indeed, requiring recent high school graduates to spend their time working on government “service” projects for months or years on end would drive that message home much more dramatically than a one-time act like registering for the draft.

The state isn’t just after your money, your labor, or your obedience. It’s after your soul. Never forget that.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sarah Palin thoughts

Well, by now everyone knows that John McCain has selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. It’s a relief for me; there used to be a bit of speculation (or perhaps just neocon wishful thinking) that he would pick Joseph Lieberman as his running mate, and if that had happened I would have had to make some Alec Baldwinesque threat to flee to New Zealand if McCain won. Palin doesn’t impress me, but things could be a lot worse. Plus, it would be amusing if Palin eventually ends up as President, just to hear the shrieks of anguish when America’s first female President turns out to be a Republican.

Don’t judge me harshly. Sometimes spite is all I have.

I expect her sex to be a benefit, on net. The chance to vote for a woman for Vice-President will probably win over some independents, and some of the mushier former Clinton supporters, and bring out a lot of voters who otherwise wouldn’t have voted at all. I expect that to more than offset the number of votes her sex costs the ticket. Potential McCain voters repelled by the idea of voting for a woman seem more likely to just stay home than vote for a liberal Democrat. Plus, having a mother of five on the ticket will help cancel out the public’s perception of McCain’s uncuddly personality and eagerness to send the kids of potential voters to die in foreign hellholes.

It’s interesting to see liberals attempting to attack Palin (e.g. here) for seeking the vice-presidency on the grounds that she’s a woman with young children. I hadn’t thought that it would be the Democrats, circa 2008, saying that ambitious women should get back in the kitchen. Actually, I shouldn’t be surprised; one of the lessons of the Clinton years is that mainstream liberalism’s feminism is actually quite shallow. (Hell, a lot of mainstream feminism’s feminism is quite shallow, if it threatens to conflict with the needs of the Democratic Party.) Expect to see more criticism of Palin on those lines.

Since it’s already being said online by members of the rank-and-file, I wonder how long it will be before some liberal pundit insinuates- or outright says- that Palin is irresponsible for failing to have her mentally disabled child killed in the womb.

It’ll be fun to see all the conservatives who said that Obama, a state legislator turned freshman senator, lacked the necessary experience to be President turn on a dime and insist that of course a few years as a small-town mayor and two years as a governor provides more than adequate preparation to serve as the Vice-President for a man who is already 72 years old.

I just wish campaign season was over with already.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

I guess there were no thermobaric bombs available

From Radley Balko comes the news that the Sheriff’s Department of Richland County, South Carolina, now has an armored personnel carrier with a .50 caliber machine gun.

Is there no end to this insanity? Did the Sheriff just sit down one day and say, “You know, terrorizing people with SWAT teams wielding automatic rifles is cool and all, but the risk of slaughtering innocent bystanders just isn’t high enough?” Have the local pot dealers started hiring mechanized infantry battalions to provide muscle?

When I was younger, I was irritated by the practice of using the term “civilian” to mean “people other than those in law enforcement.” Police, I reasoned, are civilians just as much as I am, not soldiers, and it’s dangerous to have the police thought of as some sort of military force, lest they start to think of the American people as a subject population to be subdued rather than fellow citizens to be defended. I’ve concluded that I was right on the political philosophy but wrong about the reality on the ground; more and more, police are correct in thinking that they are not “civilians.” More and more, American law enforcement is an army, and the rest of us are a subject population to be subdued.

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