Monthly Archives: February 2014

A word on freedom of association and what the AZ bill actually said

I trust you’re familiar by now with this country’s recent hissy fit over a relatively mundane addition to an Arizona religious freedom bill, which somehow got turned into “Jim Crow for gays.” Chances are, if you’re familiar with it, you’ve been radically misinformed about it by the media. To listen to the media on this was to expect societal end-game if it wasn’t vetoed. America was going to look like a Hieronymus Bosch painting if Arizona governor Jan Brewer didn’t kill the bill with fire. Brewer ended up vetoing it, my guess is to subdue all the screaming, if for no other reason. It’s obvious now that no one doing the writhing and howling – mainly the media – read the (two-page) bill. Or they read it and they’re intellectual defects, because to compare Arizona’s SB 1062 to Jim Crow is stunningly obtuse and ahistorical. As Jonah Goldberg explained:

Arizona’s proposed SB 1062 would have amended the state’s 15-year-old Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a minor way so as to cover businesses. Arizona’s religious-freedom statute was modeled on a similar federal law signed by Bill Clinton after passing with large bipartisan majorities in both houses. It would have allowed small businesses to decline work that violated their consciences, unless the government could show a compelling reason why such refusal was unreasonable or unjust.

The federal law signed by Clinton was supported by Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer, by the way, among other “bigots.” Brandon McGinley goes into more detail:

In 1990, the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith established that a “neutral law of general applicability” could impinge on religious practice without violating the First Amendment. Alarmed at this erosion of traditional religious liberty protections, Congress responded by passing nearly unanimously the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which applies the highest level of judicial scrutiny to laws which restrict religious practice. RFRA, however, has been held only to apply to federal laws. In 1999, Arizona passed its own, nearly identical version of RFRA in order to afford religious practice in that state the same protections afforded federally. Any law which “substantially burdens” the exercise of religion must further a “compelling government interest” and be the “least restrictive means” of furthering that interest. There are ambiguities, however, in Arizona’s RFRA that have been sources of litigation, mostly about whom, exactly, these laws protect and in what circumstances. SB 1062 would have resolved these ambiguities in ways that define RFRA’s protections broadly and that are consistent with federal religious liberty jurisprudence. SB 1062 provided a) that RFRA protects corporations just the same as natural persons, b) that RFRA can be used as a defense in court against a suit by a private citizen, and c) that RFRA claims can be brought not just against the state government, but against all municipalities and “state actors” in Arizona. That, you may be surprised to learn, is it. Corporations, as legal persons, get religious liberty protection. Religious liberty can be used as a defense if you’re sued by a private citizen. Religious liberty protections apply at all levels of Arizona government. Crucially, SB 1062 does not, under any conceivable definition, affirm a “right to discriminate.” All that it does is expand the circumstances under which religious liberty claims can be heard in court; it does not (unlike the recent, equally controversial Kansas law) prescribe the outcomes of those hearings…It took me five minutes to find and to read the State of Arizona’s synopsis of SB 1062, and only a few minutes more to digest some basic legal analysis…If SB 1062 was unacceptable, then no substantive religious liberty protections will ever be acceptable.  SB 1062—nothing more than a clarification and slight broadening of Arizona’s RFRA in line with federal standards—was the bare minimum.

(Above emphasis mine). You can find legal analysis of the bill (mostly from pro-gay marriage lawyers) herehere, here and here. In case you didn’t understand the above, Doug Laycock (the latter link) explains it well, too:

SB1062, which would have amended Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, has been egregiously misrepresented both before and after the veto. The federal government and eighteen states have Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs). Another twelve or thirteen states interpret their state constitutions to provide similar protections. These laws enact a uniform standard — substantial burden and compelling interest — to be interpreted and applied to individual cases by courts. They rest on the sound premise that we should not punish people for practicing their religion unless we have a very good reason. These laws have produced surprisingly few cases, on gay rights or any other issue; before the current litigation on contraception, most people had never heard of the federal RFRA. SB1062 would have amended the Arizona RFRA to address two ambiguities that have been the subject of litigation elsewhere. It would have provided that people are covered when state or local government requires them to violate their religion in the conduct of their business, and that people are covered when sued by a private citizen invoking state or local law to demand that they violate their religion. But nothing in the amendment would have said who wins in either of these cases. SB1062 did not say that businesses can discriminate for religious reasons. It said that business people could assert a claim or defense under RFRA, in any kind of case (discrimination cases were not even mentioned, although they would have been included), that they would have to prove a substantial burden on a sincere religious practice, that the government or the person suing them would then have the burden of proof on compelling government interest, and that the state courts in Arizona would make the final decision.

He goes onto explain how the AZ bill is different than the Kansas bill (which also got a lot of publicity). Anyway, McGinley continues:

Despite hysterical claims that SB 1062 would have “legalized discrimination” in Arizona, you may be surprised to learn that sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected classes in Arizona.  Which is to say, except in Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Tucson, which include those traits in local ordinances, it’s already legal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in Arizona. That dystopian Arizona with LGBT folks sitting at different lunch counters and forced out of jobs en masse and booted from retail stores? Under Arizona law, that could exist right now. And yet it doesn’t. Because Arizona isn’t full of hordes of cackling Christians plotting an LGBT apartheid state.

Jim Crow was government-MANDATED segregation, and businesses that wanted to serve blacks could be prosecuted. This is NOT that. If this is the way things are now – the Left and the media are so intellectually dishonest (and hypocritical, but we’ll get to that later) and the citizenry is so incapable of basic critical thinking that the media can whip up mass hysteria if they can just manage to label something “anti-gay” – then we really are done as an intelligent, free-thinking society. But reading takes some time and thinking is hard. It’s easier and more fun to join the mob, stick your fingers in your ears and yell, “La, la, la, I can’t hear you BIGOT.” Merely suggesting on social media that people actually, you know, READ THE BILL and maybe even briefly consider their opponents’ position before moralizing publicly, resulted in me being called a bigot. And I’m a supporter of gay marriage (although, as a thinking person, there are a couple of arguments against it that I think are worth reflection and debate). Personally, I would like it better if the government got out of the marriage business altogether, but I recognize that’s probably never going to happen. As National Review‘s Goldberg put it in his column, which you should read and which I wholeheartedly agree with:

Now lest you get the wrong impression, I am no opponent of gay marriage. I would have preferred a compromise on civil unions, but that ship sailed. The country, never mind the institution of marriage, has far bigger problems than gays settling down, filing joint tax returns, and arguing about whose turn it is to do the dishes. By my lights it’s progress that gay activists and left-wingers are celebrating the institution of marriage as essential. Though I do wish they’d say that more often about heterosexual marriage, too.

The problem is that people have trouble understanding that you can support the underlying principle (in this case individual liberty, religious freedom, property rights, freedom of association) without endorsing the specific scenario (Christian refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple). I might think it’s silly for this baker to make such a fuss over baking a cake, but if you don’t support freedom of religion/association when you think the doctrine/practice is wrong/silly then you don’t support freedom of religion/association. But I guess that’s too much thinking for most people. And, anyway, what do I know? I’m a liberty “extremist” who thinks any private business owner should be able to refuse service to any person for any reason. My issue is with the government interfering and telling businesses who they must serve. If I don’t want to cater a wedding for the Westboro Baptist Church or photograph a KKK rally, I shouldn’t have to (and I have a hard time imagining the Left would reject my right to refuse, which is where the earlier mentioned hypocrisy comes in). The Holocaust survivor shouldn’t be forced by the government to make t-shirts for the local Nazi rally. There are plenty of cake bakers. Gays and lesbians can take their business elsewhere and the baker’s business will likely suffer because of his/her decision not to service part of the population. In fact, according to a friend of mine who lives in Oregon, the baker that sparked all of this madness has actually shuttered her shop due to loss of business. Civil society and customer pressure are the way to solve these problems, not through legislation and courts. Fortunately there are some very smart people, like Kevin Williamson, who agree with me. Check out this Williamson piece.

Arizona has a talent for scandalizing the nation, demonstrated this week by its state senate’s passing a law protecting religious bakers from legal prosecution should they decline to accept an order for a gay wedding. State senator Steve Gallardo, a Phoenix Democrat, protested that “the bill opens the door for discrimination against gays and lesbians”…The question that needs answering is: Should that discrimination be a crime?…It is a mark of the moral illiteracy of our times that it even has to be argued that suffering the indignity of having a baker refuse to service your wedding because he holds ideas about marriage that were shared by, among others, Barack Obama until the day before yesterday, may be painful, even humiliating, but it is an experience that is not very much like being a member of a captive race that was held in slavery for centuries and then systematically subjugated for another century. Try turning the moral math around as a thought experiment: Imagine you are the gay owner of a restaurant in Chelsea, a member in good standing of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, rainbow flag flying out front — and the cretins from the Westboro Baptist Church decide that they want to rent your party room for their annual “God Hates Fags” Sunday brunch. Shouldn’t you have the right to refuse? There is in this sad world such a thing as a Ku Klux Klan wedding— should the management of Harlem’s famous Sylvia’s Restaurant be prosecuted under civil-rights law if the establishment should decline to cater such a wedding? It is impossible for me to imagine that that should be the case…The situation in which black Americans were suffering in the 1950s and 1960s is a unique one, and it almost certainly was the case that federal action was required to change it. But religious traditionalists who do not wish to be involved in gay nuptials are not Bull Connor, and nobody said that hewing to a heterosexual model of marriage was the equivalent of Jim Crow when Barack Obama was the one making that case. It is not 1964. If anything, it is much more likely in 2014 that a business exhibiting authentic malice toward homosexuals would be crushed under the socio-economic realities of the current climate. That is a good thing for two reasons: One is that genuine hostility toward gay Americans is today a distinctly minority inclination but one that still should be challenged. The second is that it is a far healthier thing for that challenge to take place on the battleground of civil society rather than in the courts and legislatures. There is, after all, an almost infinite gradation of moral distinction between the views of well-intentioned people who do not wish to cater a gay wedding because of religious considerations and the odious, malicious position of Westboro Baptist et al. The courts and legislatures are poorly equipped to make those fine distinctions, but civil society has the ability to distinguish between an honorable disagreement and ill will. Americans are generous and good-hearted people who give every indication of being well-disposed toward letting their gay neighbors go about their private affairs with liberty and dignity, independent of what their policy preferences are in terms of marriage and related issues. I trust Americans at large to make the necessary distinctions much more than I trust the political institutions to do so.

Williamson’s point is borne out here:

Shunning gay customers is an expression, however unsavory, of free association rights that has never been abridged in the Copper state, and needs no encouragement on the part of lawmakers. In response, a Tucson pizzeria is exercising its free association rights in a much more praise-worthy way: by telling state legislators to take their hunger, and business, elsewhere.

I’ve had some argue with me that the Nazi, Westboro Baptist and KKK examples aren’t useful because those are legitimate “hate groups.” Not wanting to service those groups is entirely understandable. Not wanting to serve homosexuals, who haven’t harmed anyone, is a silly, stupid attitude, they argue. Well, first I would say that offense is subjective. There isn’t a standard definition of what is “offensive” (though must of us can agree that there are certainly different degrees of offense and Nazis are much higher on the scale for the vast majority of people than homosexuals). But the larger point I would make is what I said earlier. The underlying principle is what’s at stake here. That’s what matters, not the specific situation. For example, I love shooting as a sport. Let’s say I go into a bakery and request a cake in the shape of an AR-15 for my birthday party. The owner of the bakery is a sincere gun-control, anti-“assault weapon” supporter. She says it offends her to bake a gun cake. To me this is a “silly” thing to be offended by. But do I want her to be forced against her will to bake my gun cake? Do I want her to be punished if she doesn’t? No. I’ll go find a baker who thinks my idea is so awesome that he/she wants to build me a fucking MACHINE GUN CAKE, BABY! Maybe if the anti-gun baker was especially rude to me, I’ll feel annoyed enough to go on the internet and give her bakery a negative review. I don’t want to live in a country in which that woman gets in trouble for her beliefs. I sincerely believe that the free market (especially in an age of social media) will destroy bigotry in business faster than laws and government coercion will. Ben Demonech has an excellent piece on why society should take care of this and not government.

The reality is that discrimination on the basis of sex in public accommodation and in numerous other ways is for the most part totally legal at the state level. Yes, this crazy Jim Crow reality that has been fearmongered to death is already the law in most states. Most people think it’s illegal, but it isn’t – last night I heard a sports radio host describing America as a place where “no one has any right to deny anyone any service any time for any reason”, which is pretty much the opposite of freedom of association. But while it is legal, it rarely comes up – because it is so infrequently an issue! It turns out most Southern Baptists are perfectly happy to take gay couples’ money and bake them a cake. The pursuit of a positive Yelp review can be a powerful motivator. But – and here’s the real focal point of this issue – they should be free to choose not to. And those who favor human liberty should be in favor of defending this status quo…Elevating emotion (even understandable emotion) over reason is precisely what statists do and have done for centuries, and something libertarians (and too few conservatives) rightfully decry. The end point of overreaching government is a reality where believers are forced to bake a cake to celebrate an act they view as sinful, but under no circumstances can they serve unlimited brunch. If you believe markets work, if you believe people work, then you should have faith that legitimate bigotry will be punished by the marketplace. So Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil A and all the cakemakers who only make heteronormative cake will see their business drop because they were anti-women or anti-gay or what have you. Giving the government the power to punish them – which really amounts to giving elite trial lawyers that power – is madness if you believe in people and markets. Decisions made by free people within markets will sort themselves out better than giving courts and government and bureaucrats the power to do the sorting. No one will shop at the Nazi store without being judged for shopping at the Nazi store, so we don’t need government to ban the Nazi store.

Deroy Murdock has an excellent piece on the importance of maintaining freedom of association…

What if a straight baker does not want to bake a cake for a gay couple, not because he has a religious problem with homosexuality, but because he just doesn’t care for gay marriage, even though he is an atheist? What if a gay baker decides that his thriving gay-wedding cake business is doing just fine, thank you, and he chooses not to bake wedding cakes for straight couples — not because of anything biblical, but because he wants to cater exclusively to the gay community that he knows and loves? In both cases, the bakers’ beliefs and preferences should trump those of the couples. America has (or at least had) something in the Bill of Rights called freedom of association. As the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” The Ninth Amendment also applies here: “The Enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Cato Institute legal scholar Roger Pilon describes freedom of association as the junction of liberty, sovereignty, and personal autonomy. As he wrote in the American University Law Review: “The freedom in ‘freedom of association’ is the freedom to be left alone, not the ‘freedom’ to force oneself on another.” So long as private parties act on private property, it should be none of the government’s damn business for whom someone bakes cakes, takes photos, or pours drinks — or does not do so. If people object on religious grounds, fine. If people just don’t want to associate with people for whatever reason, that is fine, too. Period.

I’m an atheist. Super Catholic wedding ceremonies are unbearable to me. They’re long and boring and I don’t believe in any of it, so it’s extra annoying to me. Let’s say I’m a wedding photographer and I decide, based on the above reasons, that I don’t want to work Catholic wedding ceremonies anymore. It’s not because I hate Catholics. Lots of my friends are Catholic and I love them to death. It’s just my business and I don’t want to hang out in church for hours on summer weekends. My business serves enough weddings that I’ll be fine rejecting the ones I don’t want to do. Shouldn’t I be able to do that without fear of being fined/jailed? Do we really want to live in a society where you can be jailed for refusing to bake a cake or take photographs? Because somewhere down the road, that’s where this goes. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure Catholics are a “protected creed” so I potentially could be brought to court for refusing service to them. Think about that. Murdock then gets to one of the points I made earlier…

Those who pounded on Brewer over this measure should be careful what they wish for. Forcing people to associate with gay customers despite their objections — religious or otherwise — could boomerang on gay people. Mandatory-association laws could be used by straight people who want to horn in on gay establishments. Consider a summer camp in New Jersey called Mountain Meadow. It caters to gay parents and their children. Now, what if a heterosexual evangelical applied to become a camp counselor there? Would Mountain Meadow be required to hire that person? And what would happen if he started preaching to the young campers about what he consider the sins of their gay parents? Would his religious freedom to do so be protected? In 2010, eHarmony paid a $516,800 settlement to some 130 Californians plus $1.5 million in court costs and attorney’s fees. These plaintiffs sued because this originally heterosexual, Christian dating site did not offer services for men seeking men. eHarmony wound up establishing a gay dating website called Compatible Partners. So, what is going to say when a straight man complains, “What’s with all the dudes on your website? I’m a man, and I want to check out hot chicks!” This guy could use eHarmony’s precedent to sue and force its employees and managers to start helping boys seek girls.

Murdock then goes through a thoughtful list of the potential scenarios/unintended consequences that could unfold should the hostility towards freedom of association be taken to its logical extreme. He also wonders what I’ve been wondering…

One also wonders why a gay couple would want to harness the state’s boundless powers of coercion to make a reluctant, straight photographer document their wedding. Why pay someone to take such photos while scowling, constantly checking his watch, and taking long smoking breaks while the groom and groom enjoy their first dance and cut their cake? Can Bob and Steve sue if all of their photos are out of focus? Why not, instead, hire a photographer — straight or otherwise — who actually wants the assignment and will cheer their celebration?

The answer to this is, of course, because for the Left the bottom line is forcing everyone to do what they want. The gay rights movement started off as a libertarian-esque “we just want to be left alone” movement and has evolved, as the Left’s causes often do, into “Do what we want or we will bring the full force and power of the government down on your head.” I, like my fellow atheist libertarian, David Harsanyi, was naive to think the gay rights movement would stop at “leave us alone” because as David points out in his excellent column at The Federalist…

I trust markets and people over government to regulate bigotry and “bigotry.” The problem is that secular liberals aren’t content with coexistence. I’ve been writing pro-gay marriage posts since I became a columnist at the Denver Post a decade ago. And though I don’t believe any of those columns or interviews with many gay Coloradans made much of a difference in the world, I do realize I was exceedingly gullible in believing that any group would be content simply being “left alone.” It’s clear that coexisting doesn’t only mean having the freedom to take part in the civil institution of marriage, but it also means compelling others into participation and acceptance. As Will Cain pointed out, the Arizona bill kerfuffle soon became an excuse to hunt for homophobes — some real, most imagined. I know too many religious Americans — Catholics, Evangelicals, Lutherans, and many other denominations — whose generosity and patience have humbled me. It’s nothing more than contemptible bullying to paint entire communities, whose faith has been built on thousands of years of theological and intellectual history, as dogmatic bigots. It’s no better, in fact, than the bigotry the gay community had to deal with for decades.

Bear with me for two more important quotes that kind of sum everything up. First from Rich Lowry

A religious freedom statute doesn’t give anyone carte blanche to do whatever he wants in the name of religion. It simply allows him to make his case in court that a law or a lawsuit substantially burdens his religion and that there is no compelling governmental interest to justify the burden. For critics of the Arizona bill, the substance was almost an afterthought. They recoiled at the very idea that someone might have moral objections to homosexuality or gay marriage. The cases that have come up relevant to the Arizona debate involve small-business people declining to provide their services to gay couples at their marriage ceremonies. A New Mexico photographer won’t take pictures. A Washington state florist won’t arrange flowers. An Oregon bakery won’t bake a wedding cake. It’s easy to see how offensive these decisions were to the gay couples involved. An entirely understandable response would be for the couple to say, “I’m sorry you’re so narrow-minded and I hope you evolve one day. In the meantime, I’ll take my business elsewhere.” The market has a ready solution for these couples: There are other bakers, photographers and florists. The wedding business is not exactly bristling with hostility to gay people. If one baker won’t make a cake for gay weddings, the baker across town can hang a shingle welcoming all couples for all types of weddings. This is how a pluralistic society would handle such disputes. Instead, in the cases mentioned above, the gay couples reported the businesses to the authorities for punishment. The question isn’t whether businesses run by people opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds should provide their services for gay weddings; it is whether they should be compelled to by government. The critics of the much-maligned Arizona bill pride themselves on their live-and-let-live open-mindedness, but they are highly moralistic in their support of gay marriage, judgmental of those who oppose it and tolerant of only one point of view on the issue — their own.

And from the Jonah Goldberg article that I linked up at the top…

In 2000, Jonathan Rauch, a (gay) brilliant intellectual and champion of gay marriage, wrote a wonderful essay on “hidden law,” which he defined as “the norms, conventions, implicit bargains, and folk wisdoms that organize social expectations, regulate everyday behavior, and manage interpersonal conflicts.” Basically, hidden law is the unwritten legal and ethical code of civil society. Abortion, assisted suicide, and numerous other hot-button issues were once settled by people doing right as they saw it without seeking permission from the government. “Hidden law is exceptionally resilient,” Rauch observed, “until it is dragged into politics and pummeled by legalistic reformers.” That crowd believes all good things must be protected by law and all bad things must be outlawed. As society has grown more diverse (a good thing) and social trust has eroded (a bad thing), the authority of hidden law has atrophied. Once it was understood that a kid’s unlicensed lemonade stand, while technically “illegal,” was just fine. Now kids are increasingly asked, “Do you have a permit for this?” Gay activists won the battle for hidden law a long time ago. If they recognized that, the sane response would be, “You don’t want my business because I’m gay? Go to hell,” followed by a vicious review on Yelp. The baker would pay a steep price for a dumb decision, and we’d all be spared a lot of stupid talk about yellow stars.

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Happy Hour Links/This country has gone absolutely nuts

Can Shakespeare rescue Syria’s ‘lost’ generation? Syrian actor and director Nawar Boulboul is bringing Shakespeare to the children of Zaatari, the largest Syrian refugee camp. Fantastic.

Stephen Hawking says we’ve got it all wrong on black holes.

Government is just a word for ways we ruin brunch together.

Check out this amazing village, designed specifically for people who suffer from dementia.

Calling all the cancer patients liars seems like a good 2014 strategy. Go with that, Dems. Seriously, read the article at the link, it’s important.

Yesterday’s “Innocence of Muslims” video decision that everyone is freaking out about is a fairly mundane contract/intellectual property rights case being dressed up as a First Amendment case. Relax and actually read the decision, people.

Wild beavers (yes, THE ANIMAL, you dirty fucks) have been spotted in England for the first time in 500 years, so that’s pretty awesome.

If you think you know someone who is the worst person on earth, you don’t. These are the worst people on earth.

Suspected Islamic militants killed 43 students in a pre-dawn attack Tuesday on a northeast Nigerian college, survivors said. The terrorists, thought to be from Boko Haram, set a locked hostel on fire, before shooting and slitting the throats of those who tried to climb out the windows. Some were burned alive.

Do you live in the UK and want to sidestep rising housing prices? Buy a house on a street with a naughty name.

Oh for fuck’s sake. Remember the days when, if you didn’t like something, you just didn’t participate? I miss those days.

A Boston University student group is demanding the school cancel an upcoming Robin Thicke concert, complaining that the pop star’s “Blurred Lines” lyrics are sexist…“Thicke’s hit song, ‘Blurred Lines,’ celebrates having sex with women against their will,” the group’s petition says, according to Boston Magazine. “Lyrics such as, ‘I know you want it,’ explicitly use non-consensual language. And while watching the extremely explicit video, the insinuations grow from subtle to explicit to obnoxious.”…“We see this as a blatant form of reinforcing rape culture and sexism,” Patrick Johnson, the organization’s president, told Fox 25.


Looks like the 9th Circuit is back to being the 9th “Circus.” Seriously, read this opinion. It’s appalling. Eugene Volokh explains:

Today’s Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School Dist. (9th Cir. Feb. 27, 2014) upholds a California high school’s decision to forbid students from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo. The court points out that the rights of students in public high schools are limited — under the Supreme Court’s decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Comm. School Dist. (1969), student speech could be restricted if “school authorities [can reasonably] forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities” stemming from the speech. And on the facts of this case, the court concludes, there was reason to think that the wearing of the T-shirts would lead to disruption. There had been threats of racial violence aimed at students who wore such shirts the year before…This is a classic “heckler’s veto” — thugs threatening to attack the speaker, and government officials suppressing the speech to prevent such violence. “Heckler’s vetoes” are generally not allowed under First Amendment law; the government should generally protect the speaker and threaten to arrest the thugs, not suppress the speaker’s speech…Somehow, we’ve reached the point that students can’t safely display the American flag in an American school, because of a fear that other students will attack them for it — and the school feels unable to prevent such attacks (by punishing the threateners and the attackers, and by teaching students tolerance for other students’ speech). Something is badly wrong, whether such an incident happens on May 5 or any other day…The school taught its students a simple lesson: If you dislike speech and want it suppressed, then you can get what you want by threatening violence against the speakers. The school will cave in, the speakers will be shut up, and you and your ideology will win. When thuggery pays, the result is more thuggery. Is that the education we want our students to be getting?

So the lesson here is (listen up, schoolchildren): If you want your way, threaten violence. That’s great, just great. This is the way free speech works in America’s schools in the year 2014. What country is this? What the hell is happening?

Is there anything Dick Durbin doesn’t want to ban?

Is there anything in general that the Left doesn’t want to ban? 

IDEAS: If you don’t like “Blurred Lines” don’t go to the Robin Thicke concert, if you don’t like “Friday Night Tykes” don’t watch it, if you don’t like “bottomless brunch” don’t go to it, if you don’t like the attitude/beliefs of your baker find a different baker. There are simple solutions that don’t require government lectures/intervention. I know it’s hard to believe. I can’t tell you how tired I am of this nonsense. We’ve become such a nation of little prissies who get our panties in a bunch over every little thing. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

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Filed under Advice, Around the World, Politics, Science, The Constitution, The Left, Uncategorized

What’s the Left up to today? Radically misinforming people

I had a busy week last week so this post is a little late, but I want to comment on the Michael Dunn case and the way the media handled it. Our left-leaning media needs to stop covering these stories if they’re not going to bother to learn about the law because they are radically misinforming people. I’m one of those (seemingly rare people these days) who believes people should be tried in the court room by a judge and jury, not by the media. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law (which is, by the way, not unique to Florida) has basically become the media’s rallying cry for any gun-related case they’re especially upset about. They invoke it constantly, even when it has nothing to do with the case at hand. We saw this with the Zimmerman trial and we saw it last week when the Dunn verdict came in. Neither case had anything to do with SYG. Zimmerman lost the ability to “stand his ground” once he was on his back with Martin on top of him, bashing his head against the concrete. In the Dunn “loud music” case, the jury concluded that Dunn was not acting in self-defense so, once again, SYG was irrelevant. The reason the jury was unable to find Dunn guilty on the first degree murder count is because the prosecution (as they did in the Zimmerman case) overcharged. First degree murder means premeditated murder, meaning the jury would have had to find evidence that Dunn took some time to reflect and make a conscious decision to kill that kid. (Robert VerBruggen has a good, brief explainer on the case, particularly what ‘premeditated’ means over at RealClearPolicy.) Evidence for that is pretty much impossible to find in a case like this, where events unfold rapidly. Had the prosecution gone for second degree murder, they almost certainly would have gotten it (Dunn was found guilty on all three counts of attempted second degree murder and will no doubt be in jail for the rest of his life). David Kopel over at the indispensable legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy (now part of Bezos’ Washington Post) has a great explainer on SYG. You should read it. Here’s the part about why it had nothing to do with the Dunn verdict:

Michael Dunn claimed self-defense, and so the judge instructed the jury on Florida self-defense law by reading the relevant statutes. These statutes include the Stand Your Ground language. Like the language about child-custody disputes, at many trials where self-defense is at issue, the Stand Your Ground language will be irrelevant, even if it is read aloud by the judge. The jury apparently concluded that Dunn was lying when he testified that he repeatedly fired his gun because he was reasonably in fear of being imminently murdered. Therefore, the Stand Your Ground detail about permissible self-defense was irrelevant. Alternatively, even if the jury (hypothetically) might have thought that Dunn’s first shots were possibly in self-defense, Stand Your Ground was still irrelevant. By Dunn’s testimony, he believed himself within seconds of being murdered by someone who was a few feet away with a shotgun, in a gas station. A “duty to retreat” rule (the opposite of Stand Your Ground) mandates retreat only when the victim believes that he can retreat in complete safety. No sane person could have such a belief, if the circumstances were as Dunn testified. So again, even if self-defense in general was in dispute, Stand Your Ground plainly had nothing to do with the case.

I was going to pretty much end this post here, but then this ridiculous Slate piece was published yesterday, which resulted in an argument with a friend on social media, and so now I must take it further. Author Dahlia Lithwick spends half the article doing what the Left does, which is bring up Stand Your Ground in the context of both the Zimmerman and Dunn cases and claim that this standard of self-defense is unique to Florida. As Jacob Sullum notes at Reason:

The critics tend to focus…on the challenge of deciding whether Dunn reasonably believed he faced a deadly threat that could be neutralized only by shooting Davis. That sort of challenge is not unique to Florida or limited to “stand your ground” states. The reasonable-belief standard was part of Florida’s law before the state legislature eliminated the duty to retreat in 2005, and it is part of self-defense laws in states that New York Times editors no doubt consider more enlightened, such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. This standard is not some crazy idea invented by Florida gun nuts; it is the conventional approach in the United States.

Charles C.W. Cooke has a similar plea:

It would be nice if we could report on these issues without transmuting the words “Stand Your Ground” into “Everything I Don’t Like.” The SYG principle is not a Floridian anomaly, but the effective law of 34 states. (One of the strictest of all such law is, in fact, in California). Likewise, the principle that the state must disprove that a defendant was not acting in self-defense — rather than a defendant’s having to prove that he was – is extant in 49 of the 50 states (the outlier is Ohio).

Lithwick then spends the second half of her article making absurd, broad assumptions based on a few isolated, high-profile cases. She asserts that we have become a “Stand Your Ground nation,” a “nation of Zimmermans” who walk around looking to “shoot first.” She states: “As Floridians sense that other Floridians plan to shoot first, they buy more guns.” This is absurd on its face and indicative of someone who doesn’t know many gun owners. It is also, once again, a broad misunderstanding of the law. As Charles C.W. Cooke notes:

Stand Your Ground, remember, is not a holistic measure that confers the right to murder people on would-be vigilantes, but the principle that an individual who has not started a fight does not have the responsibility to retreat from an objectively reasonable threat if there is a safe avenue by which he might do so.

It is not a license to just go around shooting people. Assuming every gun owner is a Michael Dunn-in-waiting is like assuming every person who has a cocktail with dinner is a full-blown alcoholic. There are millions of people with concealed carry permits who never hurt anyone and the statistics bear it out. As Michael Barone notes, the idea that concealed carry leads to an environment of shootouts in the streets has been proven utterly false:

Back in 1987, some people, myself included, worried that such laws would lead to frequent shootouts on the streets arising from traffic altercations and the like. That has not happened — something we can be sure of since the mainstream media would be delighted to headline such events. To the contrary, violent crime rates have declined drastically during the last quarter-century. I don’t think you can prove that concealed-weapons laws caused that result, but they have probably contributed to it, because would-be criminals are less likely to assault people they believe might be armed. In any case the argument that concealed-weapons laws would lead to more violent crime has been about as thoroughly refuted as an argument can be. One lesson, I think, is that responsible citizens tend to behave like responsible citizens, even if — or perhaps especially if — they’re armed. Another lesson is that the national political dialogue can be totally irrelevant to what really happens in American life.

And as Ace notes at his blog, crucial to the “American Turned Dodge City” argument has been the Left’s effort to cast gun owners as scary “others.” Rednecks and miscreants and people (as Lithwick postulates) who are just dying to “shoot first.” On the rare occasion I can convince a liberal friend to go to the gun range or a gun show with me, they are always stunned at how “normal” the people are. People of every race, ethnicity and creed are there, behaving like normal, polite human beings. Old couples, young couples, blacks, whites, country girls, frat boys, tech geeks, etc. As Ace notes:

People are willing to believe the absolute worst about People Not Like Us. If you can portray gun-owners as exotic and strange — Not Like Us — the public will be willing, and maybe even eager, to believe that possession of a weapon will turn your average law-abiding, mortgage-paying, soccer-practice-ferrying United States Citizen into a hotheaded kill machine. This argument was always restrained by the fact that so many Americans owned guns, and so many law-abiding American citizens continued abiding the law even in a state of, as the gun controllers would call it, Armed and Dangerous Murder Ecstasy. But a great number of people did not own guns, and so were willing to believe gun ownership was weird, and any gun owner was therefore weird, and who can trust a gun in the hands of a weirdo? As more people own guns and carry them responsibly, this “weirdness” message so beloved by the gun controllers grows weaker and weaker. We’re probably at the good tipping point now, or at least very close to it.

Lithwick associates the surge in gun purchases with people wanting to take advantage of the SYG law, rather than the more logical reason, which is that the more the Left threatens to limit gun purchases (as they have in recent years), the more people want to exercise their individual right to keep and bear arms before it is potentially taken away from them.

Lithwick stayed away from crying ‘racism’ for the most part, but not every Lefty pundit did after the Dunn verdict. David French reminds us that individual court cases tell us nothing useful about race relations. And in regards to the Stand Your Ground law and race the Chicago Tribune reminds us that statistically the people who benefit most from SYG laws are poor blacks:

Since poor blacks who live in high-crime urban areas are the most likely victims of crime, they are also the ones who benefit the most from stand your ground laws. The laws make it easier for would-be victims to protect themselves when the police can’t arrive fast enough. Therefore, rules that make self-defense more difficult disproportionately impact blacks. Blacks make up 16.6 percent of Florida’s population but account for 31 percent of the defendants invoking the stand your ground defense. Black defendants who invoke this statute are actually acquitted 8 percentage points more frequently than whites who use this very same defense.

Read the whole article to see the statistics flushed out. Meanwhile, Derek Cohen at The Federalist takes a look at a recent study on race and SYG.

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Filed under Advice, Guns, The Left

Unusually Stupid Primate of the Week

David Frum is a very intelligent man on lots of issues, but he is an absolute ignoramus when it comes to guns. The following tweet earns him the title of Unusually Stupid Primate of the Week:

This logic is absurd when applied to other rights. “The people who most want due process are the very last people who should be allowed due process.” “The people who most want to vote are the very last people on earth who should be allowed to vote.” It’s ridiculous. As Charles C.W. Cooke tweeted:

Here’s a hypothesis for David: The people who most want to micromanage the lives of the citizenry and take away our rights are the very last people on earth who should be allowed to do so. Frum continued his rant by tweeting a few news stories in which people were being stupid and had accidentally shot themselves, to try and prove his point. This kind of logic – something can be dangerous, accidents can happen, so ban said thing – is ridiculous. People sometimes drown in swimming pools. We should ban swimming pools. Sometimes people accidentally crash their cars (often hurting or killing others). We should ban cars. Violent people sometimes use knives to kill. We should ban knives. Frum, who is not a man of the Left on many other issues, nevertheless gets ensnared in the Left’s simplistic religion when it comes to guns: People who have/want guns are bad and that’s all there is to it. Never mind that there are millions of law-abiding gun owners/concealed carry permit holders who never hurt anyone. Never mind that violent crime has plummeted as gun sales have skyrocketed. There are a few idiots/crazies who do reckless/bad things with guns and so we must ruin it for everyone else. This is the same moronic mindset that says because some people drink too much soda, none of us should be allowed to drink big sodas. This is not freedom, this is Statism and luckily it looks like a pretty good-sized number of the American people still have a little of the “rebel colonist” in their blood. The more people want to take a right away from you, the more you feel compelled to exercise that right. One can see that in the way gun sales have skyrocketed since our Statist President took office. David French has a good response to Frum on why people carry guns:

In my experience, those individuals who carry do so because they very consciously do not want to belong to the class of citizens that is inherently helpless — totally reliant upon the state to protect not just themselves but their family, friends, and neighbors. If the choice is between protectors and protected, they choose to be protectors. This identity is often inseparable from the notion that there is no set of government policies — no utopia — that can eliminate from human society the need for immediate protection. People can and will try to hurt others — using whatever means immediately available — and it strikes us as utterly reckless to be unprepared for this reality. The protected class has a different view. The protected class is a dependent class — not economically dependent of course, but dependent on the state in perhaps a more fundamental way (for their very lives) – and like members of other dependent classes, they are terrified of flaws in the state’s protective apparatus. Walled off from gun culture, they read the occasional, aberrant story of (legal) gun-owner stupidity or recklessness and cower in fear of a nonexistent threat. (While of course blithely sending their kids off to far more dangerous activities, like swimming in neighbors’ pools or riding in neighbors’ cars).  To the protected class, private ownership of firearms is the flaw in the system that makes them feel vulnerable. It’s the barrier to the safety they crave but can’t provide…Let me close by countering Mr. Frum’s hypothesis with one of my own: “The people who most want to carry are those who most clearly understand their responsibilities to their families, their friends, and their fellow man.” They understand there is a difference between the protectors and the protected, and they don’t want to place their lives in the state’s hands.

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Filed under Guns, Unusually Stupid Primates

Video of the Day

This fan-made “Game of Thrones” Season 4 trailer is better than the HBO trailers. He/she/they recut all the official HBO “Game of Thrones” trailers so you can actually see what’s happening…and set it to Lorde’s cover of Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” So great. April can’t come soon enough!

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February 24, 2014 · 11:26 pm

Happy Hour Links

Things to discuss at your intellectual happy hour today…

I’ve been making this argument for years. I think the state should get out of marriage. It should be a private contract between people. Ed Morrissey considers it over at Hot Air. Here’s an excerpt:

The issue is not who gets jurisdiction over the secular consequences of relationships, but the definition and recognition of what a marriage actually is. Disconnecting the government from the authority to define and certify “marriage” does not involve moving all of the jurisdictions for the consequences of marriage to the church, synagogue, or temple. Privatization basically says that the government has no role in “certifying” or promoting relationships between consenting adults, but rather is limited to the enforcement of contract law in disputes between them. The status of “marriage” then becomes a strictly voluntary matter of recognition by one’s faith community, based on the tenets of the faith. The legal and property issues of cohabitation in any form would still lie with the state. Government still has the jurisdiction and the competence for enforcement of contracts, both explicit and implicit. Cohabiting couples who never marry at all would have to resolve their property and custodial arrangements if and when they part ways, assuming they have children at all. If they can’t resolve those interests amicably, they go to court regardless of their marital status.

Volkswagen workers recently voted to reject the United Autoworkers Union bid to unionize them. The Left is, of course, flipping out because they hate it when they can’t control the masses.

We have a remarkably unserious President in a very serious world.

CNN has finally figured out that Americans don’t enjoy being constantly lectured by a guy who doesn’t like or understand America. Money quote from David Carr:

(Piers) Morgan’s approach to gun regulation was more akin to King George III, peering down his nose at the unruly colonies and wondering how to bring the savages to heel. He might have wanted to recall that part of the reason the right to bear arms is codified in the Constitution is that Britain was trying to disarm the citizenry at the time.

Dave Weigel and Charles C.W. Cooke both have good pieces on the demise of Piers.

I know you’ll find this shocking, but an audit of a federally-funded tuition assistance program has found that millions of dollars have gone “missing.

How a French masterpiece stolen by Nazis came to St. Louis.

At 110, the oldest known Holocaust survivor has died.

Meet the viral heroine of Euro Maidan.

For $360 you can become a Count or Countess of Sealand, an 1,800 square-foot abandoned fort/sovereign nation. From The Daily Beast:

In the choppy North Sea about six miles off the English coast, a floating, rusty World War II fort is a self-proclaimed independent nation. Owned by one family for nearly 50 years, the Principality of Sealand peddles its own currency, citizenship, and has a defensive force ready to jump into action if enemy forces invade again as they did decades ago. The 50-citizen, 1,800-square-foot country resides on a platform of steel and concrete, supported by two beams reaching deep into the sea. It’s only accessible to visitors—who must apply for a visa—by helicopter or with help from a crane after a boat ride…It’s not recognized as a sovereign nation by the United Kingdom, but it considers itself as such and isn’t bothered by the government. The self-styled island’s motto is “E Mare Libertas” or, “From the Sea, Freedom,” and interested potential Sealanders are now even able to join the royal family for a $320 fee. (That buys a “Count/Countess Title Pack,” which includes stamps and e-mail addresses. Lesser fees buys you a baron or baroness title or lord or ladyship.)

Read the whole article to learn the history of Sealand. It’s fascinating.

Michael Moynihan on the disaster that is Venezuela and the useful idiots on the Left that defend the regime.

Jonah Goldberg on our shameful do-nothing attitude towards the unimaginable hellhole that is North Korea.

Scientists strap fake dinosaur tail on chickens to discover how T-Rex walked.

Richard III will be the first famous historical person whose genome is sequenced…and it will be available to the public.

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Filed under Around the World, Art, History, Science, The Left, Uncategorized

Music Monday

I had forgotten how fantastically creepy this video is.

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February 24, 2014 · 4:49 pm