Spencer, Sessions, and the modern misconception of constitutional law

There is a difference between the letter of the law, the spirit of the law, the supremacy of one law over another when such laws conflict, and there’s absolutely a difference between moral laws and mere legality.

Sean Spencer yesterday said that he expected to see greater enforcement of federal law that pertains to recreational marijuana, including in states that have legalized under state law.  This view would use the supremacy clause to override state laws expressed under the ninth and tenth amendments.  Would such a crackdown be legal and enforceable?  I’m absolutely sure that the courts would see it that way, outside of the court of public opinion, where it absolutely loses.

Under essentially any view of the law, states like Colorado have every right passing laws that legalize, and prevent state resources from enforcing federal laws that say otherwise.  Under the modern conception of American law, however, the federal government is under no obligation to respect such state laws when they conflict with federal laws because of the supremacy clause.  Enforcement of things like the Controlled Substances Act can be enforced by federal agencies like the DEA, even when state laws prevent the cooperation of local authorities.  Whether or not this is the correct interpretation of law, however, hinges on two things.  One, whether the accepted view of the ninth and tenth amendments allow for the federal government to act beyond enumerated powers, and two… whether the Controlled Substances Act is within the scope of such enumerated powers.

When I speak of the “modern conception of American law”, I speak primarily of how much differently judges view the limitations of the Constitution compared to how such limitations were historically viewed.  Decades of case law have heaped layers of complexity and guidance to such constitutional questions, and any error not overturned near the beginning of such a process only compounds all errors moving forward.

Amendments to the constitution are significantly harder to pass than mere legislation.  The requirements are much more arduous, which is why in 229 years there have only been 27 amendments.  Ratification of three-fourths of the states is much harder to achieve than a simple majority in Congress.  So ask yourselves–after prohibition of alcohol passed Congress in 1917, why did they then submit the 18th amendment to the states for ratification rather than merely passing prohibition through the “normal” lawmaking process we’ve come to expect today?  Why did their passage of prohibition have no effect until the 18th amendment was ratified?

The answer is that the Constitution grants no enumerated power to the federal government to prohibit the use of substances, and any American law that is not constitutional is no law at all.  There was, in 1917, no serious arguments presented that the prohibition of alcohol would NOT require an actual constitutional amendment, because it was obvious that our Constitution never gave, or even contemplated giving, our federal government that power.

The first attempted regulation of pot directly by the federal government was the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.  It recognized that Congress did have the power to tax specific things, even if it didn’t have the power to directly prohibit pot outright.

Of course, the common understanding of our constitution has changed, and many view it as a “living document”.  The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 was passed with nary a whimper about it’s ultimate constitutionality that prevented alcohol prohibition until passage of an amendment just over fifty years prior.  Many excuses have been given in that time frame.  The most common is probably the interstate commerce and the necessary and proper clauses of the Constitution, interpreted much more expansively than they were in the past.  FDR made sure the federal court system bent to a more permissive posture towards him with threats and coercion, and following judges followed suit.  Today, they don’t even bother to give excuses for why new legislation is constitutional, as the assumption has become that any law passed by congress is an allowed expression of power unless it is directly contradicted specifically by limitations in the constitution such as the bill of rights.

With decades of case law reinforcing the view that the spheres of human activity Congress is allowed to regulate are virtually unlimited, a return to an understanding specifying the limits of enumerated powers seems unlikely.  Judges are unlikely to radically depart from the interpretations accepted by their recent predecessors and law professors.  The American public has so accepted the idea of presumption of power in favor of government action via majority votes in Congress or even unilateral executive actions, that I’m not sure how the genie can be put back in the bottle.  My implication that federal legislation passed nearly fifty years ago is unconstitutional under the traditional understanding of federal power is not an implication that will win in any modern court.

However, my preference for federalism applies.  The federalism proposition that states should be able to “opt out” of federal law like marijuana prohibition is not one I actually accept, and not just because of the supremacy clause.  That view of federalism is actually too weak and still presumes too much federal power.  The view of federalism that is most appropriate is that without a constitutional amendment, the federal government should not be allowed to declare federal prohibition in the first place.  States should have the right to make any kind of drug they wish illegal within their own borders, and I refuse to accept even that states should be required to opt out of federal law that should not exist in the first place.

Being a realist, I’m willing to accept that what I believe should happen simply isn’t going to.  There is merely too much precedent set which backs up an error in interpretation of constitutional law from roughly a century ago.  I’d settle for Trump’s first term seeing a separation of Hemp from the cannabis umbrella in federal law, a move of cannabis off of schedule one, or federal legislation preventing federal enforcement of pot laws in states that have legalized, even if it’s limited to medicinal states.  Hell, at very least some prosecutorial discretion that respects state rights.  But make no mistake–those are merely first steps in a larger battle to reclaim both the liberties we’ve lost in the war on drugs and a return to traditional interpretations about what our Constitution allows our federal government to do.

–Gary Doan

The libertarian case for a gas tax

Stereotypically, taxes are the only things libertarians hate more than muh roads, communism, and prohibition.  Hating on taxes is right up there with loving on guns, bacon, bitcoin, and homesteading.  Hell, the most recognizable and successful marketing gimmick that we’ve used in years is the phrase “taxation is theft”, overused to the point where “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society” has come into fashion as a standard response.

When it comes to taxes, I think there’s roughly three camps of libertarian thought on the subject.  There’s the literal anarchists who still identify anarchy as a branch of libertarianism.  There’s those naive enough to believe that a modern state could exist long upon strictly voluntary contributions.  And then there’s the minarchist realists who recognize both the immorality of taxation, and also that it’s a necessary, unavoidable evil.  Obviously I fall into that last camp.  Recognizing that it is a form of theft informs, in a moral way, my belief that such a practice should be limited.  There’s also things less moral than theft, and the world simply isn’t simplistic enough to allow all or nothing systems like communism and anarchy to sustain themselves for long outside of a vacuum or the theoretical.

That said, not all forms of taxation are equal, either.  As a general rule, you tend to get less of what you tax, and more of what you subsidize, due to incentives that are provided by each practice.  For instance, a tax on cigarettes, booze, or large sodas are attempts to discourage use.  Likewise, a tax on income is a tax on productivity.  A tax on capital gains is a tax on a specific form of speculation.  A tax on business is a tax on consumers.  A tariff can act as a tax on foreign trade, which in turn is often a tax on consumers as well, as well as providing a preference towards some companies rather than others.  Inflation is one of the most regressive taxes, and acts as a tax on savings at a time saving should be encouraged.  Sales taxes are a tax on consumption.

When possible, I often prefer taxes that operate in a way similar to fees.  For instance, the gas tax and things like vehicle registration fees are often used specifically to fund road construction, and aim to make those using the roads the ones who pay for the service that they are utilizing.  Property taxes are often set aside for specific state spending on education, under the rationale that those most likely to actually have children are the ones paying for their local schools.  FICA taxes indirectly affect the benefit structure for programs like social security, and are often used as the rationale for why such programs are investments by (admittedly unwilling) participants rather than traditional welfare-style programs, and the same goes for states which set aside money from your check to determine unemployment benefits in the case of job loss.

In general, when it comes to federal spending, I absolutely do not support new forms of taxation or anything aimed at increasing revenue.  My economic focus is aimed nearly exclusively at reducing spending rather than increasing revenue as the preferable means of addressing deficits.  However, there is one form of taxation I would actually support, one which is opposed by nearly all Americans of all political stripes even past those that are as rabidly anti-tax as libertarians… and that’s a specific type of increase to the gas tax.

I believe that a set percentage of military spending should be covered by a gasoline tax.

Such a tax would encourage investment into r&d of alternate energy sources that could eventually largely replace fossil fuels.  One of the reasons I oppose subsidies to alternate energy sources, however, is that neither scientists, the government, or any of us really know at this point which type of alternative sources are likely to replace oil.  As such, direct funding aimed in specific directions are likely to be malinvestments that distort and hide the true cost of emerging technologies.  Once these investments are initially made by governments, nearly immediately lobbies are formed to keep such investments flowing, regardless of what the actual data says about anything from environmental impacts to sustainability to profitability that the market would consider.

For instance, ethanol subsidies began roughly thirty years ago now.  In that time, we’ve learned that ethanol is worse for the environment than gasoline, given that it still takes over one gallon of gasoline to produce every gallon of ethanol.  There’s no evidence that gains in productivity are likely to ever change that.  On top of that, ethanol fuel is worse for engines, worse for the economy, and has distorted the corn market.  However, to illustrate how powerful the ethanol lobby has become despite all the evidence against it’s functionality… Brazil recently sued the US by claiming such subsidies are an attack on free trade, and won.  Instead of ending the subsidies to American farmers to produce, we simply started providing those subsidies to Brazilian farmers as well.

There are plenty of reasons to support a transition away from fossil fuels… they’re a finite resource, they prop up regimes and economic structures that couldn’t otherwise exist in places with large oil reserves, and then there’s the obvious environmental considerations most people would have cited first.  The national security concerns that relate to the petrodollar and a world economy heavily dependent on oil are vast and obvious.  As Kasparov famously said… “You can often do just fine on the wrong side of history if you are on the right side of a pipeline”  Even those who dismiss environmental concerns about oil, should recognize the implications to our foreign policy, everywhere from Putin’s Russia to Venezuela, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and much of the middle east aside.

From an economic perspective, I think addressing this transition through artificially increasing the price of oil is preferable to subsidizing alternate energy specifically, because with the latter one is picking winners and losers without knowing which ones future technologies will favor while with the former we’re only picking one overall loser that we know is not infinite or sustainable, and benefits our enemies.

Given how much of our military actions are based on securing countries with oil, or fighting regimes only in power because of oil… oil is directly linked to nearly everything our military does in one way or another.  A gas tax is the nearest way to fund our military where such a tax acts anything like a user fee.  Seeing changes in the pump anytime military spending is pumped up, could give the average American consumer at least a taste of the direct link between military adventurism and it’s true cost, in a way that printing money simply does not.  As a non-interventionist, I think we shouldn’t go abroad in search of monsters to destroy, and I think a gas tax could help inform the average voter of the true cost of intervening overseas unnecessarily.  The numbers simply aren’t there to fund the entirety of our modern military through gas taxes, but at linking such taxes as a mere percentage could be enough to change both our energy system and the reflexive action of our military-heavy foreign policy.  At very least, this funding method seems vastly preferable to paying for our military more or less exclusively by discouraging productivity through an income tax or discouraging savings through inflation.

The end result might just be arriving quicker at a more environmentally sound world with an energy sector that’s more sustainable that doesn’t benefit repressive regimes by making them partially immune to basic economic laws.

–Gary Doan

Milo isn’t Conservative

What I don’t understand is why Milo was invited to speak at CPAC in the first place.

As recently as this previous weekend, he rejected the label “conservative” on Bill Maher, citing that the major link between him and conservatism was simply that the conservative side was the only major political side that supported the right to “free speech and expression”, which is obviously his signature issue. He also denied that that alone made him conservative.
If conservative really is “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion”, is there anyone reading this who believes that’s a good description of Milo or the ideas he represents? By his very existence, he parts from traditional attitudes and values, representing a movement distinct from the norm, and holding an orientation that traditionally has not been accepted either religiously or culturally. He’s anything but cautious, and has advocated significant changes and innovations to what “the right” in America even means.
“Conservative” in American politics is, ironically, essentially classical liberalism. Conservative politics is adherence to traditional standards of governance and political theory, so in the U.K., where he hails from, it may be linked to monarchy. However, the U.S. was founded upon rebellion. Rebellion against monarchy, distrust in both large government and democracy, promotion of individual rights and liberties, and constraints against centralized power. Because of this, U.K. conservatism is quite different than what conservatism connotates here, especially given that the birth of our nation was the rejection of the British system.
The modern conservative movement may have strayed some from these founding principles, and all political movements evolve over time, even those linked to the preservation of tradition. The American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, doesn’t directly say what they believe conservatism is exactly, but they do score politicians on a set of votes they believe to be most important to the conservative ideal. When describing which votes they choose, they reference Reagan’s three legged stool.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, Reagan described the Republican coalition as a three legged stool, which alludes to it’s inability to stand if it loses a single leg. Oversimplifying, those legs were fiscal conservatives, social cons, and neocons. This may not be entirely fair–by neocons what he really described was a strong national defense as a means of avoiding war, while neocons crave it. By social cons, he didn’t mean just the religious right, but also cultural concerns like the second amendment and approaches to issues like welfare or education. But it is this three legged stool that ACU uses as their baseline. For the record, I reject this standard completely, given that modern neo-conservatism is incompatible with fiscal conservatism, and traditionally social conservatism has been incompatible with basic liberties (and, for the record, people like Milo and ideas’ like his).
Now, in ACU’s defense, their definition of conservative is linked to their ranking system, which labels “conservative” anyone who gets 80%. However, the Republican average on their ranking system is 79%, meaning they include roughly half of the Republican Party. I don’t know a single conservative who believes that half of the GOP are also conservatives, so it may just be that the ACU is casting a pretty wide net. Obviously, there’s reasons to include newsworthy speakers from the right who can draw crowds and followers, and Milo obviously can accomplish that. But such practical concerns betray the principles such an organization is meant to represent, as well as the strategy they’ve historically employed that placed “long-term planning” for the movement above “direct action”.

One can say they’ve already solved the problem by dis-inviting him, but I reject that. He was dis-invited due to a recently revealed controversy… not because it was decided that he does not in any meaningful way represent conservatism. And he doesn’t–not by his own admission, not by the dictionary definition, not by the historical implications of American-specific conservatism, and not even by, in my opinion, the “three-legged stool” test. Had he been an elected official with a voting record eligible for ranking rather than a provocateur extraordinaire, I doubt he would have even made it in with ACU’s liberal requirements for what a conservative is.

–Gary Doan

Upended and one-upped

Previous political cycles have had their fair amount of hypocrisy and nonsense as well. Far too many Republicans had spoken against big government, while fighting to increase our military and place security over liberty. Far too many Democrats tried to separate personal and economic liberties like they weren’t intertwined, and advocated policies which hurt the poor in the name of helping them. Third parties were often more ideologically consistent, but also too extreme to be taken seriously. But these rules of thumb have not only been upended, but one-upped.

Our President, who rose to power in part through a backlash against political correctness and the type of PC culture advocated by “snowflakes”, has the thinnest skin imaginable and is easily triggered by the slightest criticism. He goes out of his way to address and attack anyone and anything that might dare criticize any portion of him or his policies, and can’t seem to help himself or let anything go.

The most fascist-acting mob that’s existed in my country in my lifetime literally label themselves antifa, or anti-fascist. They use violence, intimidation, and book burning to protest fascism, like a vegan eating meat while wearing fur in order to tell others that meat eating is wrong. On top of this, many in that group label themselves anarcho-communists… literally combining anarchy and communism as a political philosophy. It’s like they don’t know the meaning of words.

Many libertarians have been publicly advocating using the force of government to mandate individual choices in order to promote equality over liberty. This isn’t just limited to cakes, florists, or photographers, either.

“Conservatives” have rallied behind figures who aren’t conservative fiscally OR socially, simply because they buck tradition and are provocative enough to be hated by the left. This includes figures who publicly reject the label conservative and have policies on some issues that are significantly farther left than their opposition.

The self-described party of science have a growing amount of members opposed to GMOs, vaccines, nuclear power, and basic biological truths… not to mention the more extremist members who think the earth is flat or that wi-fi might cause cancer.

The party who hates business, the 1%, and war nominated the warmongering wall street candidate, and their members largely fell in line because the other major candidate used insensitive language.

Many in the party of Lincoln, the party which opposed the KKK and the eugenics of Margaret Sanger have embraced the alt-right, which is essentially a collection of white nationalists, nativists, and isolationists.

On the other hand, this should be a great era for comedy.

–Gary Doan

America and Europe aren’t even in the same hemisphere, bro

Although I don’t support fully open borders, I’m much more supportive of immigration liberalization than Trump is. America takes in a greater amount of legal immigrants than any other country in the world, and despite that, I believe we could benefit by taking in more.

At the same time, I do believe it’s not as simple as sheer numbers, and that there should be certain restrictions and preferences. For instance, I support reinstating wet foot, dry foot, and do believe certain types of immigrants, like those from Cuba, should be given preferential consideration. Likewise, worker skill sets in demand, proficiency in English, criminal record, and even country of origin are all rational metrics to consider during the immigration process. I don’t see any of that as xenophobic rather than common sense.
In other words, I disagree with extremists on both sides who seem to advocate either open borders or closed borders, as though it’s an either-or question.
Compared to Trump, I am highly supportive of increased immigration, Muslims, Mexicans, and I think he highly overstates the risk of terrorists infiltrating refugee flows to America specifically. But when he discusses the recent glut of immigration to Europe causing significant problems for European nations, he’s not just making it up. When arguing from a pro-immigration perspective, it’s not helpful to merely dismiss the actual facts on the ground in places like Europe and pretend that there are no valid concerns expressed by those who are fearful enough to advocate closed borders.  Nativists’ focus on some of the particulars may over-inflate some of the problems, but they’re not merely making them up, nor do they need to rely only on statistically insignificant isolated incidents in order to make their point.
America should not attempt to dictate to Europe what their immigration policy should be. At the same time, we should realize that Europe’s immigration policies and problems are not the same as the immigration situation in the US. America and Europe aren’t even in the same hemisphere, and comparing the two is not apples to apples despite similarities in current culture or shared aspects of history.  In the US, concerns expressed by those who lean closed border primarily fall under the metric of direct economics. Whether it’s jobs, wages, or other labor costs, the effect of immigration on our welfare system, nearly every concern falls under that umbrella. Even assimilation concerns generally fall under language rather than cultural barriers to assimilation.
Because of this, it’s a completely different set of concerns, and I’m not forced to decide what I’d feel about immigration as a European. From an economic perspective, I see much of our current immigration as a net positive. Low skill workers from Mexico are more likely to be workers rather than welfare recipients than their native-born counterparts… and yes, to do jobs that many native born Americans don’t want to. They also tend to be significantly younger, and therefore are essential to propping up our current version of social security given America’s current mix of declining birthrates and aging population. HB1 visas to immigrants from places like India fulfill a need primarily of our technology sector, with workers skilled in areas many native-born workers are not.  Native born Americans increasingly are going for business administration, psychology, or liberal arts degrees, rather than STEM fields, and many of these HB1 visas help fill the gaps.

–Gary Doan

EndFedED– What the Department of Education is, isn’t, and should not be.

Rothbard once famously quipped:

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”

This week, one could easily replace economics with the actual tasks and functioning of the department of education.  The loudest opposition to Thomas Massie’s bill to eliminate the department entirely seems to be directly correlated with how little one understands what the department even is.  I’ve seen opponents of abolishment claim that ED does everything from establishing schools, to directly determining curriculum, to choosing textbooks, to even hiring or firing teachers or administrators directly.  I’ve even seen them say that eliminating the department would “privatize” schools and do away with public schools completely.  These opponents are apparently either unaware that google exists, or feel they don’t even need to check and see what they are so outraged about.

So what does it do?  Well, although this may be an oversimplification, it’s a lot more truthful than anything in the previous paragraph: ED takes money from the states, loses a chunk of it within Washington bureaucracy, then offers what’s left back to the states after attaching strings, rules, and regulations that discourage innovation or reform that could benefit students.  That’s essentially ED in a nutshell.  It is state and local governments who are the ones actually tasked with providing education.

Officially, the primary functions of ED are to “establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.”  There’s a few holes in every portion of that.

1. By “federal assistance”, what’s really meant is money.  As I explained in the short version, this is money that’s taken from the states, given to ED, and then offered back at a lower amount than what went in.  If the term “federal assistance” applies truthfully at all, it’s not to “education”… it’s that states are simply subsidizing bureaucracy in order to get a portion of their own money back.  It can’t quite be called an investment, because ED has provably provided no educational value.  The department began in 1980, and there has been no noticeable improvement in test scores tracking math, science, reading, or any other subject, and this lack of progress is across the board in every available, testable metric.  Nobody is claiming children are better prepared for college or life than they were when the department began, and the only thing which has really changed is the cost.  Federal funding for education has increased over three hundred percent, adjusted for inflation, in this time frame, and over a hundred percent increase per-student … for nothing.  As such, there is no “federal assistance for education” provided by the department of education.

2. “Collecting data on U.S. schools”– Every state in the union already does that, without exception.  The only “advantage” of the federal government collecting such data is if it first mandates standardized testing, which requires a shared curriculum to accommodate it… and this is simply not in ED’s mandate.  No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top attempted to accomplish this expansion of the fed’s role, and we’ve seen the result of both, and should all agree both were mistakes.

3. Enforcing “federal education laws”.  The third and final listed “primary function” of ED, is actually a function of the DOJ.  Laws are not the same thing as regulations, and require an act of congress.  Violations of federal law are prosecuted by the department of justice.  There is no rational argument that can list a benefit of duplication for this task in a separate federal agency.

These are the “primary” functions of the agency.  Are there secondary functions?  Sure… we are talking about bureaucracy.  But if all that’s left that one can rationalize in a federal department is secondary functions, then the remaining common sense conclusion is that the secondary functions which are defend-able should be rolled over into the purview of another agency.

Abolishing the department, at the end of the day, would not “privatize” schools or do away with public education.  ED does not employ teachers for teaching, establish schools, determine curriculum or textbooks directly for any district, nor should it.  It should do… nothing at all… but it does not do the vast majority of things the average American seems to think it does, including the ones outraged that anyone would have the audacity to suggest abolishing a department who’s functions they don’t even understand.

–Gary Doan

DeVos isn’t about competency, growth, or proficiency. She’s about what the role of the DOE should be.

Secretary of Education is one of the weakest and most ineffectual Cabinet positions which exists, and it shouldn’t even matter much who staffs it. Hell, in Battlestar Galactica, the highest ranking government official to survive was Secretary of Education, as a means of showing viewers just how much the human race was decimated in the initial Cylon attack because of how far down the list of importance such a position was (sorry–my geek is showing). However, there’s a simple way to show that opposition to her is simply partisanship and ideology, even with a couple of Republican Senators joining in. Just look at the critiques…

1. “She’s never even been a teacher!” Well, no, she hasn’t. She’s also not applying for a teaching position, nor does the Department of Education employ teachers… at least not for the purposes of teaching.

2. “She miffed the question about proficiency vs. growth!” The only way for this to matter to the feds, starts with a requirement of standardized testing and a common curriculum with set benchmarks for either minimal standards or a way to quantify improvement… and then presumably for the feds to use that info to tie payments for state education departments to coerce them to change something. If one is opposed to fed-lead standardized testing, universal curriculum, the feds determining benchmarks or using funding to coerce state policy and believes that it’s hubris for the department of education which has been a failure since it’s inception less than 40 years ago to pretend it knows better… then obviously this is completely irrelevant. The fact it’s even used as an attack (for a federal, rather than state position) shows that the left is speaking an entirely different language and setting an entirely different set of qualifications based on what role they believe the DOE should have.

3. “She donated lots of money to advance education reform that she preferred, and that went to Republican politicians, choice advocacy groups, and inner-city youth.” Well, yeah… Democrats may hate money going to any of those three causes from private individuals, but it’s irrelevant to her ability to do the job divorced from showing a direction she wants education to go that isn’t a direction Democrats want.

There aren’t any major critiques I’ve seen of her outside of those three, outside of either some off-handed remark divorced from context in the age of google, primarily from contentious hearings that were all theater (and bears!)… or accusations that she’s not smart that seem to simply be believed by those who might like Vox or the Huffington Post blindly with no examples or proof needed. All of these examples are based on partisanship and ideology, not on her ability to do the job under standards set by those with enough power to either set DOE policy or to stop it from making policy.

What makes the opposition maddening to me, is that the vast majority of Trump’s picks are absolutely horrible, and they’re focused on one of the ones, (even if you don’t think she’s a stellar choice) who isn’t as horrible as most of his picks, and is being considered for a much less important post, one which historically has not even set policy for it’s own department or acted as anything more than a functionary. Picks like Tillerson, Kelly, Pompeo, Mnuchin, Sessions… are picks that are not only much worse, but ones where they probably could have peeled off more Republicans if they really tried and would have meant more if they succeeded in blocking their appointment. The only reason they chose DeVos instead, is that they could paint a picture of her being incompetent rather than wrong, based on criteria they set unilaterally that isn’t agreed upon by the right but sounds good enough on bumper stickers to those who haven’t even taken the time to consider what the DOE does or who actually sets the rules.

I don’t mean to make the case with any of this that she’s a great pick. Were I advising Trump, I would have advised against her (and I’m sure most of us who studied the issue expected a figure more like Michelle Rhee, at least before Trump began picking entirely controversial figures for nearly every cabinet post). But she is a good pick by Trump standards, and the attacks against her are the kinds of naked, relatively baseless partisanship our country would do better without.

–Gary Doan

The Orwellian speech of the alt-left, conflating words with actions and Milo with Hitler

My thoughts on Milo, his ideas, or his website are irrelevant to my thoughts about Berkeley. If rioters had used violence to shut down a speech by Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush, Jill Stein, BIll Weld, McCain or Graham, a literal racist, nazi, or fascist… my reaction would have been the same.

The way to combat speech disseminating bad ideas is with speech disseminating good ideas. If the promotion of your ideas requires violence or intimidation, if they require silencing dissent by force, the ideas aren’t all that great to begin with. If you can’t handle words promoting ideas you disagree with, then college is not the space for you in the first place.

Milo is not a libertarian, but his use of the term doesn’t offend me.  Regardless of his ideology, there was only one side of this confrontation which violated the non-aggression principle, rather than merely saying provocative and offensive words.  So which ideology did violate the non-aggression principle at the Milo event, and why has it become so common lately for that group to engage in acts of violence, entirely unprovoked by violence on the other side that could make it self defense?

SJWs are essentially the alt-left. The alt-left is like the alt-right, only more violent and less tolerant. They’re also more likely to act like fascists (while ironically holding anti-fascism signs). “Diversity” cannot be claimed as a value when you riot in order to prevent speech you disagree with, assault people merely for wearing the wrong hat, burn down property not even owned by your opposition, or say things like “he’s not allowed to be gay” because he happens to hold different beliefs than you.

Yes, I’m aware not all SJWs/alt-left engage in riots or assault, even if nearly all oppose free speech. But it seems like there’s definitely a higher percentage who do than the percentages you see in the alt-right, and I do believe that has to do with the belief structure held by the group. The alt-right may be a deplorable fad with bad ideas, but the alt-left is a cult.

If I had to guess on some contributing factors?  For one, the alt-left uses phrases like “violent rhetoric” and “microaggressions”, and believes that words can be just as dangerous, deplorable, and prosecutable as actions.  The lack of ability to separate the two into two distinct categories may seem strange to many of us who grew up with the common sense phrase “sticks and stones”, which is literally and roundly rejected by SJW culture.  Yes, emotions can be hurt by words alone, but only if you let them… and there is such a major, self-evident difference between mean words and beating someone with sticks or stones that it shouldn’t be necessary to explain to college kids.  This fear of other ideas leaves the definition of terms like “hate speech” to be, essentially, any words they don’t like, and “nazi” to be, essentially, any person that challenges them.  This isn’t even limited to expressions of ideas, but language itself must be changed and adhered to within the group at all times.  From mandated and entirely new pronouns to an ideology that rejects the very definition of words in the dictionary in order to replace definitions with ones they’d prefer… from adding a requirement of power to the meaning of racism, to expanding the definition of privilege beyond all recognition yet applying it selectively based on nothing other than race and sex (or is it gender, now?).  Under the prevailing SJW culture order, social prosecutions are necessary for “aggressions” that are not only no more than words, but so small that even they must admit they are “micro”.  It is within this system of self-imposed victim-hood that anger grew at the mere presence of an internet troll, and the answer to why that anger rose to the level of literal, physical violence rather than at very least angry chants or internet screeds fighting speech with speech?  Well, I absolutely view this as an effect of this very culture I’ve described, from being unable to handle words or opposing viewpoints, to having long ago replaced free speech with speech codes, to believing their opposition, ironically, to be the fascists, while few within even bother to condemn either violence or calls for a literal coup while the many justify it or ask us to try to understand how these violent actors must… feel… while showing zero sympathy towards the actual victims of real assault.

I think you can tell when I get worked up by how long my paragraphs get.  😉

I’d wonder how long it’ll be until SJWs realize that protests and controversy are not just things Milo craves, but the entire point, his primary motivation and goal, his bread and butter.

–Gary Doan

Bodies, thoughts, positives, negatives, and the law

We all have the right to ownership of our bodies.

Suicide, assisted or otherwise, should be our choice.

I’m happy to hear that it sounds like Trump is supportive of “Right to try” legislation (introduced by Ron Johnson) that allows the terminally ill to try medications which may be harmful and haven’t been approved by the FDA.

It should never be illegal to sell what is legal for us to give away for free, and that includes prostitution.

Sex among consensual adults, in any form, with any mix of genders, should never be the subject of legislation.

The government should have as little input as possible in what I eat, drink, or smoke.

If you are a mentally competent adult who is confident you want it and can afford it, hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery is and should remain your option.

There’s no reason the most common birth control pills shouldn’t be available over the counter, and it’s none of the government’s business what birth control you use or whether or not your insurance pays for it.

A quick peruse about my facebook photos will probably tell you how I feel about tattoos. (Spoiler–I’m covered in them)

Being allowed to sell one’s own organs for profit can literally save lives.

Whatever one wants to do to their own bodies should be no concern of government, as long as what is done doesn’t directly impact another’s body.

There are no property rights if one does not have ownership of one’s own thoughts and one’s own body. Without first owning oneself, it simply could not follow that one could own things outside of oneself.

If you read my post and believe I mean to condone or celebrate the majority of these actions, you are misreading me. Even among the secular, it’s always a mistake to conflate morality with the law. Ironically, often the same people who will proclaim that we should not legislate morality, are the same ones who attempt to use the law to advance their version of it most successfully. I was not making the argument that all of these actions were moral, merely that they were expressions of free will without any victim outside of potentially oneself… and that we shouldn’t legislate crimes that lack victims. “Self” or “society” aren’t classes of victim that the law should actually recognize. We’ll all answer for our own choices if who we’re harming is ourselves without the government being the one to deal out punishment.

At very least, the law shouldn’t confer morality. Morality is always concerned with concepts like “right” and “wrong”, while just laws are concerned with concepts like “order” and “harm”. Just laws are aimed in a way that’s similar to the golden rule, but concern themselves with negative rights rather than positive rights, while morality deals with both. Just laws require the presence of a victim, directly harmed in a provable way, and prosecute direct actions of one against another without consent. Morality can also concern itself with condemnation of inaction and a requirement for positive action. For instance, charity may be required by moral codes, but it’s immoral for the law to require it. Moral codes may require self-improvement, ambition, and expressions of kindness, things that are unable to be legislated. Also, laws aren’t necessarily proclamations of what someone believes is moral. Often, laws are expressions of the self-interest of those with power.

At the end of the day, nearly all laws are property laws of a sort, and property norms are not possible in a rational system if individuals cannot own their own bodies or their own thoughts.  Without body autonomy mixed with individual belief, there can be no free will that allows anyone to actually impact their environment.  Without negative rights, positive rights are severely limited, morally meaningless, and the compulsion requires negates the label of charity.

–Gary Doan

Ten thoughts on Trump’s immigration hold

I’m away from news for just a couple of days, and everything seems on fire. I would have worded out some things about the immigration ban sooner, but, you know… children, work, whiskey, and birthdays. So here are simply ten random thoughts I had about the immigration hold when I finally had a chance to sit down, because the internet likes lists…

1. Some of the wording of the order seems to be interpreted in a way where it can block legal green card holders from entry or reentry to the country. This is essentially an ex-post facto law, and punishment without trial. This part is wrong, illegal, and maybe even unconstitutional under any circumstance.

2. There is precedent for temporarily banning immigration from specific countries. Carter did it with Iran. Obama once did it for six months for everyone from Iraq. Hell, it was just two weeks ago that Obama changed the refugee and immigration policy for Cuba.

3. The point of two wasn’t to say it was automatically right.

4. The security risks Trump cites are highly over-inflated and an accurate risk assessment wouldn’t have advised going anywhere near this far for safety alone, rather than theater that aims at making some people feel safer.

5. Often, though it sounds cold-hearted, refugees simply aren’t our problem.

6. Syrian refugees are. America’s actions directly contributed to the length and breath of their civil war, and we’ve actively prevented any resolution of the conflict that would seem like a win for Assad and Putin, opting instead to have continued violence as the literal goal of our strategy. Our weapons and money have been used, specifically, to prolong the conflict rather than end it.

7. There are better ways to help Syrian refugees than bringing them to America. There are plenty of countries in the region taking in no or few refugees that receive significant amounts of US foreign aid (here’s looking at Mina in Saudi Arabia, and similar sites), who have languages and cultures and geographical locations that would make either permanent resettlement or eventual return much easier. Making continued foreign aid dependent upon taking more refugees could easily be effective, preferable, and we wouldn’t be spending any more than we currently are while avoiding Americans feeling like “dem dere terrorists could infiltrate refugee flows”.

8. A 90-120 day ban on a few specific countries is preferable to his original proposal during the campaign for a temporary ban on all Muslims. However, he does claim that during the vetting process, Christians would get precedence, based on their status as an oppressed minority group.

9. If he was going to do a ban based on immigration from specific countries, he chose the wrong ones. Saudi Arabia should have just about topped that list, but they’re considered an ally.

10. If, in the future, we don’t want to worry as much about the possibility of refugees from these countries wanting to kill us, maybe we should look at what the countries on the list have in common. Over the past decade, we’ve armed violent actors within or simply bombed Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. We’ve saber rattled against Iran, and there’s plenty of US politicians simply itching to invade it, openly. That’s six of the seven countries he listed. Granted, we could be talking about a chicken and egg thing, but at very least US actions have contributed to the kinds of extremism we’re worried about in these countries by, you know… blowing people up.

–Gary Doan