Monday, October 27, 2008

The Election by Rob Hanson

I need to say this, as this has been bothering me. I can't stand Obama; I am not particularly fond of McCain. Just not. Why is it that every four years the choices for president seem to be getting worse and worse, like someone is watering down the gene pool for potential presidents? Every generation gets a little bit dumber and a little bit crappier. Not once have I voted for someone who I could really get behind completely. Some days I think I need to run, or at the very least write myself in on the ballot.
-On one hand [probably my left] I have Barack Obama. I dislike him; I distrust him; I really have no desire to see him holding the most powerful executive office in this country with the potential for a Democrat super-majority backing him. He's a little too pink for my liking. If he gets elected [which he will] and I can pretty much expect him to enact whatever he feels like, such as his thinly veiled socialist ideas. And don't tell me they aren't. Don't lie to me. It's Ok. Just admit it. Just call a spade a spade [if it walks like a duck, etc]. Don't tell me tax credits are tax cuts. Don't tell me the lowest tax payers get screwed cause the current lowest 33% of tax payers get all of their income taxes back and that number's going up to 44% who end up paying nothing to the fed. Looking to take from business as much as possible then giving that money to people who don't contribute to government is socialism.
I know what some of you will say:
"But, Rob."
"Yes, Kyle?"
"People will still pay into the payroll tax for social security."
To which I respond that those same people who will be paying no federal income tax will be the ones Obama is giving these tax credits to. So they pay no income tax, end up paying nothing into social security and reap all the benefit. That is socialism. Didn't this country spend the better part of the second half of the 20th Century fighting against socialism and Communism? Weren't we the predominate world power during that time with our capitalism and our individualistic society? Yeah, capitalism's been an abject failure.
-McCain ain't hot shit either. Old fart. Great campaign, asshole. Way to pander to the religious right and social conservatives. Didn't our parents tell us when we were kids to be ourselves? And yet somehow McCain forgot that and decided to play the game and spin the wheel! Idiot. Great, I either get a socialist or a geriatric. Dunno, I might feel better with the old guy with skin cancer. Until he croaks and I get Sarah Palin, someone with as much qualification as Barack Obama. Awesome, I am damned if I do and damned if I don't.
-But that is not what I originally started this post for. The above was just a tirade, a tangent. What I really have to get off my chest is this celebrity. This American Idol fan fest, mainly for Obama [but McCain has done some as well]. What do I mean by this? All the magazine covers that Obama is on. GQ, Men's Vogue, Men's Fitness. Going on Late Nite or the Tonight Show. Michelle Obama going on the Tonight Show, going on the Food Network. Obama going to Germany and giving a speech to a quarter millions Germans [I really don't care which candidate Europe prefers]. Even McCain was on the cover of People Magazine. I really don't value the political opinion of Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone. I don't. I know he is entitled to his opinions and he is can express them whenever he wants. I just don't want to find political commentary in the magazine I bought to read about music. I don't. If I wanted read about the debates or the candidates I will purchase a copy of the New Republic or the Economist. I am not voting for these people based on their morning routine for keeping in shape or where they shop, or what their favorite recipe of brownie is. I don't need to know that and I don't want to know that. I need to know what a particular candidate thinks on a particular set of issues. Every time I see one of those two on a magazine cover, I let loose a little internal scream.
- People treat Obama like some goddamn messiah. He's Will Smith and Justin Timberlake put together. To all you Obama supporters out there, on a scale of 1 to 10 [10 being your grandma, 1 being guy who pissed in your coffee] how much do you love Barack Obama? Or do you call him Barry? Are you on a first name basis [Just like Trudy Raizen and Dave]? Do you invite Barry over in your own little world for tea and biscuits? Do your pants tighten in anticipation of an Obama presidency? Do you realize that he favors socialist policies? If you are Ok with that, just tell me. Just say, "Yes, Rob, I know this and want those kind of changes," and we can move on.
-This is possibly just bias, but it feels to me Democrats put all their candidates on some damn pedestal, lifting them to mythic proportions. It's gotten more and more in my recent memory. Clinton was loved and adored. Al Gore was going to be the savior for the environment. Jon Kerry was supposed to be the savior from George Bush. Barack Obama is going to be the savior from capitalism and a greedy Wall Street [GO MAIN STREET!]. It's this all or nothing attitude that Democrats seem to have about eeeeeeveryting. Everything. Republicans and conservatives are evil and killing this country and are stupid and unelightened and poopy-heads. I have had this discussion with my girlfriend and we agree. Conservatives generally think liberals are misguided and need correction. Liberals think conservatives are evil-minded bigots who are killing the planet. Democrats, liberals, please stop, relax, breathe and take a chill-pill. If Jon McCain is elected the sky will not fall, the earth will not stand still. Will he do a good job? That is debatable. Yes, Rob, I believe John McCain is the inferior choice for president and Mr Obama is the right man for the job. I prefer his health plan and his view on the Iraq war. That's what you need to say to me, not: "If you vote for McCain you are a fascist pig who loves big business and thinks that poor people should just die and you are a racist." [I can't wait for someone to call me of that.]
- I could say more, but I won't. Thank God I am in a Blue state so I am released to vote for Bob Barr.


Alright, former debate partner, let's get down to this. I will say that I generally agree with your overall idea. I do tend to think that political commentators today are way too quick to fall into the "false dichotomy" trap of liberal vs. conservative. If anything, the sheer amount of "undecided" and "centrist" voters in this election should give testament to that fact. People are tired of party hacks and vitriol. This is also evidenced by your somewhat-ranting tone. It's not too hard to see that you're pretty fed up with the system...and liberals, I guess.

I'll say this, I'm not a fan of Obama either. I'm not voting for him. Hell, I'm not voting for anyone - as I explained in my last post. Neither of these candidates deserves to lead the free world - and by the time his term is over, I doubt the position will even be able to be accurately described in that way.

But I do find it funny that you spend a great deal of time lambasting liberals for their "all or nothing" attitude, their (apparently group-wide?) belief that conservatives are evil and their zeal for their candidate (which you find overbearing) - and then turn around and essentially rant for three paragraphs about how Obama is an evil pinko celebrity. All while telling liberals to "relax, breathe and take a chill pill." The double standard there cannot go unnoticed.

I'd also call into question your seemingly rash generalizations about liberals. For instance...I'm pretty liberal, but I don't think conservatives are "killing the planet." Perhaps your tendency to equate liberals with environmentalists stems from some personal relationships you have (Hi Ashley!). I will say this, though, about your cultural "celebrity" claims - I find it pretty frightening too. But I think your focus purely on Obama is telling of the fact that you're a conservative. Yes, many liberals are getting unbelievably wacky about this dude...calling him a savior and comparing him to the great President's of our country's history. But have you watched McCain rallies? Or even worse, Palin rallies? The cult of the hockey mom is just as ridiculous as those who glorify Mr. Obama. The Presidency is no longer a position won by the most qualified candidate. It is won by the most photogenic, the most dashing, the one with a certain je ne sais quoi. The election is a popularity contest writ large, undoubtedly. And this is indeed scary.

As for all this socialism nonsense - some things need to be said here. First off, the term "socialist" has been used so unbelievably pejoratively that even people who hold some socialist beliefs are afraid to voice them, for fear of being labeled a communist. These two things are not the same, and you fall into that trap when you mention that we fought "socialism and communism" for all those years. I assume you mean the USSR, which was not socialist - it was communist. In fact, we had many socialist allies during WWII (and I guess a communist ally since technically we were friends with Stalin). So I suggest that we need to ditch this unhelpful and often-times misunderstood terminology. I wouldn't call Obama's plans socialist, per se. They're simply more liberal. Then again, even THAT term has come under fire and is generally thought to have negative connotations attached. Obama does want to increase the power of the government to aid those who the free market has abandoned. He does not, however, want to increase government intrusions into personal freedoms or strip citizens of civil, we'll leave that to the Republicans who, like their latest 2 term President, seem to claim they like small government but then take any chance they can get to increase governmental power to absurd levels. But that's just the thing, isn't it? You'd be hardpressed to find a repub or a conservative who will claim to actually like Bush. Their abandonment of Bush is just like the Dem's denying their socialist tendencies. They say, yeah we like the general political idea of the party...just don't equate us with that one aspect of it...we don't like that part. So how come the GOP can get away with it but liberals can't?

In closing, I'd like to say that Rob is awesome - let nobody who reads this come to believe that my disagreement with the man has anything to do with me disliking him personally. It just so happens that we disagree on a few politically relevant topics. I too recognize that the Presidential race has turned into a popularity contest and it is deplorable...not to mention unbearable. Like Rob, I also recognize the problems with sweeping generalizations about liberals and conservatives. We cannot hope to mitigate the damages of polarizing politics until we get rid of these pre-conceived notions about the people we disagree with politically. It just seems that Rob's advice to "chill out" would best be aimed at ALL political malcontents...not simply those who lean left.

Finally, and most importantly - Rob, you are a racist.


Thursday, October 23, 2008


Anybody all that familiar with the Hoosier state? I'm leaving for Indy tomorrow and will be there for a couple of weeks (figure it out). What can I expect in what will be my first real visit to Middle America?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Barack Obama Proves Decentralization Works

Barack Obama's field operation has been getting a lot of buzz lately. I spent my summer working for a Congressional Campaign as our field director. My experiences working to organize volunteers and constituency groups makes Obama's campaign that much more amazing.

You can read about the structure of Obama's field organizing here. To sum a fantastic article up in pitifully too few words: The Obama campaign gave up hierarchical control over their field operation, and instead gave tremendous autonomy to field organizers and lead volunteers to run their operation. They set up neighborhood teams, covering about ten precincts, and allowed those teams to find their own way to achieve a vote goal in that area.

The Obama campaign has a textbook way of organizing each district, but that functions only as a tool to guide field organizers and team leaders, not to rigidly direct their actions. Organizers will modify the plan to suit their own district, or come up with new ways of doing things. They recruit team leaders, who recruit other leaders, who recruit other volunteers, who work to persuade, register, and turn out voters. The whole thing is organic.

I consider myself a libertarian for a lot of reasons. One is ideological - my belief that individuals have a human right to control their own social, political, and economic spheres. I believe that government's power should be limited simply because people never signed any sort of social contract, and therefore are forced into the system.

That's all fine and good in a political theory book. The real reason that I am a libertarian is I believe that it works. The key difference between liberals, conservatives, and libertarians is a belief in the power of a human person. Conservatives believe that humans are in effect powerless compared to all-powerful forces like the divine and tradition. They don't trust human beings to make decisions, and instead rest upon the decisions that have persisted throughout history. Liberals trust human beings, but just a few of them. They believe that the "goodest" and smartest people in the room should make decisions for everyone else, for their benefit. Both fear that individuals will choose the wrong option, and therefore will harm themselves and everyone else.

I have a faith in the human being as a decider, and so does Barack Obama's campaign. We both recognonize our own limitations (our inability to be God; to make the correct decision for others) and we both have faith in the ability of trusted to make that decision, provided that they are accountable for the result (our ability to recognize that human beings are powerful enough to overcome the need for a God to direct our actions) and with a common goal.

Markets are about a lack of control. As George Will says here, no one knows how to make a pencil. The person mining the graphite in a mine somewhere does not know where it is going, nor does the person producing the wood or the rubber, and the person putting it all together has no idea where it comes from. The market functions as its own healthy organism, powerful in its ability to adapt and innovate.

Barack Obama (or at least the people running his campaign) seems to get that. Its really difficult for someone to sacrifice control in order to achieve a better product: it seems like a tremendous risk. Ron Paul did it very poorly. Structure and accountability are important, but they are desigend to empower the individual, not to constrain him. I hope that President Obama (now just short of a certainty) learns this lesson when sets up his government. He cannot "manage" an economy, but rather he can assure its accountability and structure. He needs to both lose his faith in his own personal ability to make the correct decision all of the time, and have faith in the ability of others to do just that.

An interesting side question: What happens to this structure after the campaign ends? Where do all of this field organizers and volunteers go? This seems to me like a great opportunity for we as a society to rebuild our social capital and community organizations.



Interesting post, EJF - and I generally agree with what I take to be your point, namely: Barack Obama should be a President who surrounds himself with accountable people whom he trusts to run things. He should not attempt to take on every issue individually. I think you take the decentralization of his campaign to be an analogy of this. But your post is also all over the place in terms of what you're trying to accomplish. You seem to argue (1)for decentralization, (2) for the rise of libertarianism, (3) for the philosophical superiority of libertarianism over conservatism and liberalism, (4) for atheism, (5) for increasing our trust in everybody, (6) for free markets and finally (7) for Obama to "lose his faith in his own personal ability to make the correct decision all of the time." I'm not sure what many of these have to do with your overall point, but I've a few problems with some things you said.

First, whenever one is faced with an argument from analogy (as we are here), it is important to consider whether the entities being compared are similar. This is where I take issue with what you've laid out. Yes, Obama's campaign operations are decentralized. But do you really believe that campaign operations are similar in nature to the daily/monthly/yearly operations of the various sectors of the American government? In other words, is a campaign organizer facing the same decisions and repercussions that the President of the United States is? Surely not. Obama as campaign leader is free to decentralize his operations because if something were to go wrong, he could simply fire whomever messed up and replace them with one more apt. Contrarily, Obama would have no such luxury as President (just look at the flack Bush Jr. took when he had to replace Alberto Gonzalez). Simply put, there is MUCH more on the line when you're directing an entire country's operations. Obama as President is, in an enormous way, more responsible for his failures or successes than Obama as campaign manager. Thus, while it may actually be the case that decentralization is a workable and successful model for a President to adopt, we surely could not prove that proposition by pointing to the successes of his campaign operations.

Second, I'm going to attack your definition of "libertarian." You claim that you are a libertarian because you believe "individuals have a human right to control their own political, social and economic spheres." (emphasis added) Perhaps your addition of the word "human" before "right" is an unintended argument, but couple this with your atheistic ramblings later in the post, and it seems to indicate that you are intentionally drawing a distinction between "human rights" and "natural rights." I will have you know that "natural rights" do not imply the existence of a God, and thus, as an agnostic myself, I can happily consider myself a natural law legal theorist. So where do your "human rights" come from? Who defines these rights? Every individual? Do I have a "human right" to use my property in such a way that it becomes a nuisance for my neighbors? Or does that "human right" interfere with their "human right" to be free from nuisances? Furthermore, your social contract theory would be a fantastic argument...if only contracts worked that way. You ignore the fact that consent plays a large role in social contract theory. Of course there is no literal contract wherein every citizen of the United States, from 1776 to 2009, signed the document and attested to every term within. The general idea is that, in a democratic republic, we have elected leaders who act on our behalf, who DID literally sign a contract (you may have heard of this thing called the Constitution). Now, your argument may be that, hey, I didn't vote for James Madison, so he can't really represent me...thus, because my ancestors signed the contract and not me, I'm not bound by it. This is also not how contracts work. First, I'd argue that we are, at the very least, third party beneficiaries to the Constitution, simply because the benefits and burdens of the contract passed to us. I would argue more directly, however, that we (citizens today) are a party to the social contract simply because we continuously assent and consent to the terms of the contract itself. Also, what does any of this have to do with your main argument? Why even bring up libertarianism? Don't Conservatives also argue for decentralization?

Which brings me to my next point, what is this junk about the differing views of liberals, conservatives and libertarians regarding human nature? Where are you getting this? Personal experience? Can't be, unless you've completely ignored all of your empirical data. Libertarians believe in the "power of a human person?" I think you might mean autonomy...because if libertarians believed in the power of a person, then surely they could see the benefit of government (after all, government is just a group of "persons" organized to maintain order and structure in large societies). Next, you claim conservatives distrust people because they put all of their faith in God and "tradition." First off, I love sweeping, blanket-generalizations that clearly fail prima facie. Second, really? Are you talking about social conservatives? Or fiscal conservatives? I refute your argument by pointing to my friend EJB, a conservative, who believes in the power of people. Thirdly, "tradition?" Well...who makes tradition? People. So conservatives really do trust people...just not today's people...only past people...or something? What the hell are you arguing!? You also claim liberals only trust a few people, who should thus rule over others. Nice to see you've bought into the "elitist liberal" argument, but this classification is best conferred upon Platonists. Because that is Plato's Republic, certainly. I don't see many liberals arguing that the "philosopher king" should rule our country. In fact, again, we live in a democratic republic where we don't necessarily believe the our leaders are MORE trustworthy than us, they are simply acting on our behalf...thus both parties (lawmaker and citizen) are considered to be trusted (one in leading, the other in electing good leaders).

Then, inexplicably, you add that you and Barack Obama (I smell a sitcom...) have the "ability to recognize that human beings are powerful enough to overcome the need for a God to direct our actions." Two things: 1) Now we're arguing theological viewpoints? Why is this in here!? 2) Is your point that all conservatives, because they believe only in the "all-powerful forces of the divine and tradition," believe they are divine-right leaders? I kind of hope that is your point because it's gloriously insane. Christopher Shays is not a divine right proponent! Take it back!!

Finally, I want to get back to one more point about your "libertarianism." You state that "government should be limited because people never signed any sort of social contract, and therefore are forced into the system." So, if you're arguing that our government is established on a faulty premise (that is, there really is NO social contract), wouldn't that necessarily lead to the conclusion that our government is, a fortiori, illegitimate? Wouldn't this bring you out of libertarianism and into anarchism? Or are you equating the two? Why should government's powers simply be "limited" if the social contract we ground our system upon is invalid? Why would the government have any power?

In your defense, though, I will repeat that I agree with your overall argument. Obama, as President, should NOT attempt to manage every single facet of our government himself. And I don't think he will. He is a smart enough man to know how to appoint smart and trustworthy people to whom he can delegate some decision-making power. Clinton did it well, Obama will likely fit that mold. I still dislike his candidacy though, and will not vote for him.



Thanks JSK. There's a lot to get through, and this post is sufficiently long already, so I am going to have to be a little selective in my responses.

First on the overall argument and intent - I want to look at what Barack Obama's basic values about management are. I think you characterized my argument correctly here.

A lot of elected officials try to use the "IBM method" to run their governments. Jon Corzine in New Jersey is an excellent example. They determine the exact right course to take in a given situation, and create structures to carry out that directive. Individuals are replacable parts with distinct and unchanging goals. This apporach is simplified to by the phrase, "top down leadership", and is often common among Governors who come from the private sector. It generally does not work in governance. Most campaigns are structured this way - the article that I linked to talks about Kerry's campaign - and it hurts efficiency.

Barack Obama's campaign demonstrates that he (or whomever is proxying the decision for him) believes in the branch method, or a bottom up management style. I think that is pretty clear - he makes speeches about it all of the time. I think that this a clear characteristic of how we can reasonable expect him to manage a White House - something very similar to how Al Gore's "reinventing government" campaign reformed much of government during the 1990s, and a clear difference from how George Bush runs his government.

This observation has led many libertarians (Andrew Sullivan being a great example) to support Obama, branding him a libertarian paternalist - kind of a cross between a liberal and a libertarian, as per my previous definitions. A libertarian paternalist believes that humans can generally be trusted to make good decisions on a collective basis, but government deciders can be useful to nudge an individual in one direction or another. One example would be providing tax incentives to put money into a 401k - creating the "choice architecture" for something overall beneficial to society.

My hope is that Barack Obama, who has stated goals that I disagree with like wealth redistribution, will at least recognize that markets are his most efficient path toward his goal.

Now, this brings us to my other claim, the idea of a debate about human power among ideologies. While I may be generalizing by assigning the labels liberal and conservative, which have different connotations, I think that my observations are accurate absent them. The word conservative has lost its original meaning - I don't think that EJB is a conservative, nor do I think he would generalize himself under what that label means today. If we look at the leaders of the conservative ideology today, we look at faces like Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, George W. Bush, Sean Hannity, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, etc - we see a basic distrust of human reason as a central tenant of their world view. We can evidence this in the intelligent design debate.

I don't think that it is outlandish to define social conservatism as one of the primary, if not most powerful, political ideologies in the U.S.A. today. The Republican Party is governed almost exclusively by it - just ask Amit. The Democrats don't have as much of a coherent ideology governing them, which is why Barack Obama's thought process is very interesting to me.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

U-S-A! U-S-A!

I would just like to call everyone's attention to the fact that this man, a legal resident alien of the United States, has been imprisoned in a Naval Brig in South Carolina for 7 years, without charge. Five of those years were spent in solitary confinement with no access to legal aid, family, friends or the court system.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Worse Than Vote or Die

Can I just say how pissed off I am at this voting awareness PSA?

First, how condescending can you be? Look, actors, just because your place in life happens to involve greater access to certain media does not mean that your views or beliefs are any more relevant or important than any of ours. Of course, it doesn't mean that your views are worthless, either - I am not arguing that actors should be ignored or censored when it comes to political beliefs. But this ad campaign goes too can just see and hear and feel the "Oh, you don't vote...well eff you because clearly you don't give a crap about anything and all you do is sit around and smoke pot."

Second, I'm sorry to say this Leonardo DiCaprio, Whoopi Goldberg and Courtney Cox-Arquette, but you know something? My vote does not count. I'll go Biden-esque here, let me say that again: MY VOTE DOES NOT COUNT. It doesn't matter! With the current electoral college system in place, your vote is relevant if and only if you live in a swing state. My options are to vote in Connecticut or New York. Yes, I could see these being REAL decisive states with lots of questions and doubts about which candidate will carry them. Sarcasm aside, they're going Obama. They were going Obama whether Obama knew it or not...because they're blue states. They're DEEP blue states. So why should I cast my lot in with the other party-following voters?

Third, I don't like these candidates. Neither of them. McCain scares me and he's about to die. Obama is entirely too inexperienced to run our country at a time when war with Iran looms and a second Depression is already upon us. So, why the hell should I vote? Does it mean I don't care...oh right, I guess I can't have ANY OTHER POSSIBLE LEGITIMATE REASON for not voting. It's not could be a social protest or a belief that voting is a waste of my time because no matter which candidate wins, our country's policies won't be how I want them. No...clearly it means I "don't care about" Darfur or Medicare or old people or black people or education or any of the other myriad concerns you actors have so graciously informed me exist.

I have more reasons, besides the smugness, but I'll end this post now. Please, I beg you, if you feel that your vote doesn't count or if you don't like either candidate, DONT VOTE...don't simply bow down to party lines...that is not what our Founding Fathers would have wanted.



Eight minute response here before sleep. Here we go.

1. Categorical imperative. Yes, okay, common logic and reason would dictate that living in NJ/NY/CT/RI/MA means that your state's electoral college votes will be going to whomever has a (D) next to their name. But when you make the argument that you shouldn't vote because it doesn't matter, at some point it does reach a Kantian level of "what if everyone thought this way." No, I'm not going to defend the Electoral College (in fact I prefer the NPVIC as a de facto method of removing it) but even given the pointlessness of the exercise, it must be and will be done by SOME, and thereby is irresponsible to argue should not be done by others.

2. Obama over McCain. Ok, I don't really give weight to the "inexperience" argument personally, but I can see it as a valid line of political criticism, even if John McCain's campaign over the past five weeks has been run shittier and gives me less confidence about the future than the Detroit Lions' offense. (Dan Orlovsky -- the pride of UConn!) So why am I going to the polls in three weeks in a pointless exercise and voting Obama? Because Sarah Palin scares the everloving fuck out of me.

-KSH (is there anyway to change to my initials? I'm new at these intrablag things.)


I'm not sure what you mean by "change your initials." Because you clearly understood how to edit this post so if your question was how to literally alter the letters that appear in the blog, I'd imagine you'd have figured that out as well. If the question refers to the fact that your middle name doesn't start with an S (it's Matthew isn't it?)...well then I dunno what to tell you, there. I'm sure you could just post as whatever initials you want to pretend you have.

But to your arguments: (5 minute response before I'm off to read 120 pages of Constitutional Torts)

1) This is the argument I get in response to my griping. And it's one I fully expected you (or anyone else) to make. It's a fantastic philosophical/abstract argument and Immanuel would be proud (even despite his Categorical Imperative having been successfully and forcefully rebutted/rejected numerous times). But my problem is wholly practical. I do not see why I need to take the time out of my day to go get a friggin' form, fill it out and mail it in. This is taking away valuable free time, which I could be using to watch Law and Order repeats or stare into my empty refrigerator (these are things I consider more valuable than voting). It will NEVER be the case, practically, that my blue state (or any deep blue state) will suddenly have an epidemic of like-minded thinkers who decide "eh, fuck it" and throw the balance of power out of whack. And it could very well be because they actually like the Democrat candidate. Don't get me wrong, I'm not telling EVERYONE not to vote. People will and do have legit reasons to cast their ballot. My only problem is with people who normally wouldn't vote anyway, but then, seeing a bunch of actors telling them how important it is for them to pick someone, get up and cast a vote simply based on party affiliations or like...a certain candidate's view on rap music (or whatever it is you damn kids listen to these days...).

2) Obama? Really? Let me tell you, this guy was Chief Editor of the Harvard Law Review. That only implies one thing. No, it's not "he's smart" because I can tell you from experience that not all CE's of Law Reviews are intelligent. It just means he's a prick that everyone else at school hated. Now...that may not be reason enough not to vote for him...because honestly, we've had some prick presidents who I woulda voted for (Clinton, JFK, Martin van Buren, etc.). But is "Sarah Palin scares me" a good reason to vote for Obama? Cause that's not really a vote for Obama...that's a vote for whoever the hell else there is. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. The fact is, these are two of the weakest presidential candidates we've put forward in decades...and that does not bode well for our country. Obama's fiscal liberalness will not help our economy (FDR did not get us out of the Great Depression, WWII did). McCain's oldness will not help our economy either (because he'll die and Sarah Palin will take over and propose that we just print 300million new dollars and give every citizen a million dollars).

Rant over.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sometimes, But Not Often, Connecticut Gets It Right


Hello to Alaska!

My Google Analytics tells me that we have a repeat visitor from Anchorage, Alaska! So let me greet you in what must be your native tongue:

Hallo! Gosh darn it, welcome to Friar Fight! (I just winked at you). I think we've got a good thing goin' here and that you'll enjoy readin' our fine blog, doggone it! Oh you're leavin'? Say it ain't so, Joe! (If your name is not Joe, insert your name in place of Joe...unless your name does not rhyme with Joe, in which case you must pretend your name is Joe.) (I just winked at you again.) Dagnabbit, I guess we'll see you again sometime soon! .......maverick.


The Poll...

Just have to say I love it.


Suppose you have a one-time opportunity to magically and instantly grant selective amnesia to America, erasing all awareness of the recent financial disaster. This amnesia will affect not only individual memories, but all recorded evidence of the crisis, including newspaper articles, personal blogs, relevant SNL sketches, etc. Would you do it? What if your memories were likewise compromised?


Nice, should we call this case, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Securities Trader Mind?" I'd have to say that I would not do it...mainly because, regardless of whether my memories of the disaster have been erased, the fact remains that the crash would still be happening. Thus I'd likely run to my broker and say, "Broker! Go buy me $10,000's worth of highly risky sub-prime mortgage securities! I have a good feeling about those!" I'd be even more encouraged to do that because, in your construct, all media coverage and thus all warning of the event, would be erased. In fact, would there be any good reason for choosing the amnesia route? We lose SNL skits, we lose personal blogs...what do we gain? Peace of mind? An end to ridiculous postings by former PCDS President's who feel it is their God-given duty to protect the free-market from blame and instead, throw every other person/industry/organism even MILDLY associated with the crash under the bus!?!?

I vote no.



I also say no, and it is precisely because I, a former PCDS President, want to throw every other person/industry/organism even mildly associated with the crash under the bus to protect the free market, though I question whether this God-given or even a duty.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Let's continue this discussion here

From The Thinking Heads

Nick, as someone so libertarian-leaning (or just a flat out libertarian), I'm shocked that you'd seem to side with the originalist school of constitutional interpretation. I feel like rights are better protected under a more liberal standard. I'm especially shocked, given your propensity for arguing that the Ninth Amendment is NOT a vestigial appendage. Let's put some weight into the Ninth Amendment, yeah?



Define originalist, and then we may be able to get somewhere. You may recall my mentioning of Randy Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown. I highly recommend his book Restoring the Lost Constitution, in which he discusses, among other things, the Ninth Amendment and the privileges and immunities clause. Or, in other Barnett language, it should be the impulse of the Court to always presume liberty, not to presume government power. That is, the people should not have the burden to prove why the have a right. But the government must prove its authority to act when challenged.

Switching gears...

What does it mean to say that health care is a right? What is the government's obligation to ensure this right?

If a doctor gives me bad medical advice, has he or she violated my right to health care?

If I am unsatisfied with the government-provided health care, may I sue the government?

If health care is a right, and the government must by law provide it to all citizens, and it must do so equally under the law, must the government pay for the health care of rich people who could afford it otherwise?

And try this on for size: Obama doesn't need to call health care a right to do what he wants to do. It's not like you're going to see a case before SCOTUS considering whether Medicare is unconstitutional. Incorporating the language of rights in the discussion, to me, makes the other rights mean less.

META: Did we lose the comments on the other blog when you converted to HaloScan?

If so, I may need to re-make a couple of points. Namely: (1) Judges > democracy at restricting government power, and I'd agree with you that the system we've got works out pretty well (we laregly agree on that point you made about judges, I just wanted you to make it). (2) Postive rights enshrined in the constitution do exist, but they are not akin to health care. The difference is they are checks against government power. The right to trial by jury is especially important (speaking of which, did you hear Sarah Palin likes jury nullification?) in this regard -- we specifically tell the jury, presume that the government is wrong (innocent until proven guilty). (3) Brown v. Board -- another way the Court can expand freedom is to extend the privileges of the political community to those who have have been excluded. Brown is a condemnation of a government that has systemically violated the rights of millions.



So, I guess I'll have to repost my response to NTC's commentary...or at least something similar. Let me start by similarly praising Barnett's book, I believe it should be mandated reading for any law school class on constitutional interpretation. But I also believe that his argument cuts in my favor. He is correct in saying that the people should not have the burden to prove why they have the right that is at issue. In the law, sometimes it is nearly impossible to intelligibly discern an affirmative act from an omission. Taking this into account, one could argue that, instead of the State having to prove why it had the authority to act, in this case, it would have to argue why it had the authority to refrain from a certain action. This would be OK according to Barnett's standard and would support my argument nicely.

As for your questions regarding the "right" to health care, let me preface my responses by noting that it is incredibly difficult to delineate and describe the boundaries and inclusions of any given right. This is especially true for implied rights but even explicitly stated rights have been cause for much judicial pain. This is because, to paraphrase Dworkin (and to some extent, Nozick), rights are best understood in relation to other rights and in relationships between entities. The very abstract nature of a right does not lend itself well to simple description. Thus, your questions are valid, but, to borrow some legalese, they prove too much. Your questions could apply to any given constitutional right and they would be problematic despite our certainty with respect to having that right.

Thus, asking what the State's obligation to afford the right to health care is a good question. And I cannot profess to know the answer exactly. But compare this to Eighth Amendment doctrine, whereby the question has oft been asked, what is the State's obligation to afford rights to prisoners? It has gone beyond simply refraining from subjecting prisoners to cruel and unusual punishments and has evolved into a standard by which the basic needs of prisoners must be supplied by the prison. This is the analogy I envision.

I believe that if a doctor, acting in good faith, offers poor medical advice, there would be no cause of action. You of all people should be well familiarized with the State Action Doctrine, and it would be up to SCOTUS to decide if a doctor, acting according to a state-mandated health care regime, is a "state actor." If so, his refusal to treat a patient, or his gross negligence (perhaps recklessness, or perhaps a higher standard of deliberate indifference) would certainly give rise to a cognizable private right of action against both the doctor and the State according to 42 USC 1983. But this is not a shocking principle, Constitutional Torts arise everyday, mostly when police officers mistreat or beat suspects. Again, I think the analogy is apt.

Finally, this idea of the need to stop paying health care premiums. I will repeat my response from The Thinking Heads. If I am paying for health care and then Congress constitutionalizes mandated health care, I would be free to cease payments and jump on board with the minimum standards set out by Congress (and I do believe that these health care standards would involve the absolute bare necessities). However, I would also be free to continue paying for my health care, and I'd have incentive to do so if my health care plan is better than the State's. Thus it is like the right to be free from bodily harm. To protect that right (which is a recognized right couched in the 14th Amendment), the State provides us with a police force. But if we were wealthy enough, we could very easily hire private security guards to better protect us from harm. This would not be unconstitutional and there would be no problem with it.


ps - please don't erase this post's pretty close to what I wrote last time haha.
Also - the comments were lost when we switched over, unfortunately. Do feel free to repost any ideas.


Sorry about deleting your post. Not sure what I did there.

I don't think I suggesed you mean that additional private insurance would be illegal. Though there are leftists who seem to think that it should be, and I do find that position quite repulsive. My point is more that I'm bothered -- and this doesn't just apply to health care -- when the state provides services to people who could otherwise afford those services, to people whose needs are indeed adequately met by the market.

You say that the government-run care covers the absolute bare necessities. Okay, Baloo. This may seem silly to you, but what are the necessities, and why are they necessary?


I'd have to defer to someone much more knowledgeable in the medical field to answer those specific questions. I'm not sure exactly what would be covered, but at the very least, yearly physicals. ER treatment, I would assume. Perhaps very basic medicines like penicillin or other generic antibiotics. I'm not really sure, but that is not a policy/philosophy question. Your point, which is a good one for sure, is directed more at the practicality of implementing the right.

So basically, what I meant to say is that the government run care WOULD cover or SHOULD cover the necessities...but like a good Supreme Court justice, I would punt the tough question and defer judgment upon the question of what those necessities are.


Missing Debate

Maybe it's being surrounded by like-minded people at work all day, but right about now, I'm really in the mood to MO dump.

Or maybe my body is telling me something.

That's right: I open with scatology.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Eh, I'll blog

Either Kramer is really bored at law school, or he's really upset that I found a non-equivocation hole in his utilitarian analogy from Saturday night. So it goes; my boss is out all week so this seems like a better diversion than designing e-mail marketing campaigns. (PS I don't do graphics.)

Watch me work in real time!

Old people bother me.

Not the elderly, mind you (although I'd appreciate it if the '91 Honda Accord doing a steady 48 on the Long Island Expressway would stay out of the centre lane); rather, "old" people in the generational and colloquial sense. You know, the people who "can't" program a VCR clock, to use a dated example.

I'll give you a real-life example. I have a co-worker who's twice my age that has a desk across from mine. Let's call him "Joe," since that's his name. He's our company's web designer, and theoretically responsible for implementing the presentation of changes I make to our web presence. And when I first started here, he'd been here for nine months in this role and did not know what HTML was. You know, the base markup language that every single webpage ever made uses. I had to teach him. Okay, it might not be common lay knowledge, but when your sole job requirement is updating a website a couple times a month, you might make it a priority to learn; trust me, if I can teach it to him, it's not that hard.

Anyhow we ended up with this new project -- designing a web application to print shipping labels -- that uses this label printing/generation software my boss purchased for us. Said software has absolutely zero documentation on how to do anything, or even what it does. I hacked my way through it and developed what we needed to get done over the course of the last month or so. Since you can tell I've all the artistic ability of a poo-flinging monkey, we needed Joe to design a user interface for this application. This requires a minimal level of interaction with the label software of doom. I installed this on his computer yesterday, and told him he needed to make things pretty.

J: "How does it work?"
K: "Well, your part is just drag and drop, move things around, draw pictures. Just play around with it?"
J: "What do you mean?"
K: "Play around with it, you'll figure it out."
J: "How do I do that?"

This is what drives me up the wall. The difference between old and young isn't age-related, but a direct correllation between being curious and incurious. I'm no young Wittgenstein but I reason that given enough time and resources, I can learn to do almost anything through "What does this button do?"-style familiarization. I think there's a lot of people in our generation who feel the same way. Yet with Joe's case it's a problem of not having direct instructions to follow. I and young people learn through experience. Joe and old peopple learn through repetition. Young people strive for a holistic sense of knowledge that allows us to make informed decisions about instances that we didn't foresee. Old people look at an unforseen situation and develop a shell of angry obstinancy.

Can Joe learn to do things as well as I can? Sure. He's (despite my burying myself behind example... I always organized my arguments poorly) a smart guy. But I think it's a level of unwillingness to learn further, as if reaching a personal watershed, as new information and technology can't dislodge or impact upon previously reached conclusions about how things "should" be. Which we (young people) all know to be false, and which is why John McCain still has a concievable chance to elected President by a mass of old people who are scared of change.

And yes, of course, my biggest fear is turning into Joe.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Accino Hall, be damned.

So why is it that any of us joined debate in the first place? Was it because we thought we had meaningful points to make regarding important issues? Was it because we yearned for added learning, beyond that which $40,000 a year could buy? Maybe it was because we were dragged into it unwillingly by floor-mates who desperately wanted a social outlet? No, it was none of these. Simply, we debaters loved to hear ourselves talk. And doggone it, did we talk...boy howdy...maverick. Honestly, I miss having the opportunity to, at least once a week, gather with a group of intellectually curious and informed people and have at it verbally. Speaking truthfully, I may have learned more in my two years of debate than my four years in class (three and a half, really...second semester of junior year can't really count if one skips nearly half one's classes, right?). Thus I created this blog. I envision it as a place where any one of us, past or present, can come to air grievances, spout rhetoric or even make a cogent argument or two. And I hope the topics of conversation are limitless...I do not intend to bore everyone to death with intricate legal points that don't even belong in a legal blog. Hell, the posts don't even have to be about debate or politics...everything's on the table.

I've invited a bare minimum of you so far, mostly because I don't have anyone else's email addresses. So I encourage everyone to forward this blog on to PCDS alumni and every current member willing to join us. Everyone will be granted equal say because, even though the Constitution doesn't require me to, I strive to treat everyone equally.

Anyway, this is just a quick preliminary post to set out my basic idea for creating this blog. I really hope it gets off the ground and I hope it acts as a meaningful way to keep in touch with everyone. Post at your convenience...I won't excommunicate anyone for lack of posting. So I end this post now with some words from the great Kanhar Munshi: "I loved PC debate. Then I was deported."