Friday, July 15, 2016

If we talked about the entire Bill of Rights the same way we talk about the Second Amendment

First Amendment: In 1791, "speech" meant just speech, and "press" meant a single-sheet, manually operated press. The framers couldn't have imagined that today, with the click of a mouse, you could communicate with millions of people worldwide and send them hate propaganda to incite violence and hate. If only one life is saved, it will all have been worth it.

Third Amendment: That was then, but in today's more complex society, we have a standing army to protect us, so get out of the way and let it do so.

Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people" clearly refers to a collective rather than individual right, or the framers wouldn't have used the term "the people." Also, in 1791, "papers" literally meant just papers. The framers couldn't have imagined easily portable devices storing gigabytes or even terabytes of information, which could concern terrorist plots or child sexual exploitation, things that government could stop if given unfettered access to that information. Are you with me, or are you with the terrorists and the kiddy fiddlers?

Fifth Amendment: Never mind what we just got through saying about what words meant in 1791. "Due process of law" means only what Diane Feinstein thinks it should mean today, with no reference to what it meant back then.

Sixth Amendment: This gets in the way of locking up bad guys who could otherwise roam the streets and kill people, so if you oppose reasonable restrictions, you must be some sort of death cultist.

Seventh Amendment: This needs common-sense regulation because the framers couldn't have imagined how much less $20 would be worth today than in 1791.

Eighth Amendment: It's just common sense that government should get to decide what otherwise vague terms like "excessive" and "cruel and unusual" mean.

Ninth Amendment: Don't you think I have a right not to have bad people do bad things to me because they abused their rights under the other provisions of the Bill of Rights? If this right doesn't come under "others retained by the people," I don't know what does.

Tenth Amendment: This is just empty verbiage because government is just giving itself the right to do things that it already had the right to do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Signs of a possible realignment in LGBT politics

We've heard a lot about realignment in U.S. politics, especially with regard to Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Now, however, we may be seeing the beginning of a realignment in politics in the LGBT community.

The last such realignment came when we made a Faustian bargain with reduced-freedom-as-its-own-reward political correctness. Historically, those wielding government power had not exactly had our best interests at heart, as you know if you have read John Rechy or even talked to a gay man above a certain age.

Consequently, after the Orlando massacre, many people took it for granted that we would fall into line behind gun control. Nonetheless, groups like the LGBT gun-rights group Pink Pistols are seeing dramatic increases in both membership and media coverage.

Also, San Francisco's Pride celebration will see an increased police presence. Not everyone is happy, though:

But for some members of the city’s LGBT community, who have historically faced harassment and disparate treatment from police, increased security does not translate into an increased sense of safety.

* * *

In a statement, BreakOUT! said the increased law enforcement made its members feel unsafe and called for the LGBT community to “chart a course forward that doesn’t rely on state systems, but rather community, to keep us safe”....

Thus, not everyone has the same level of trust in government, of which the police are a part, to protect us that those who decide the LGBT goodthink have.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Live by the political sword, die by the political sword (2)

Whatever you think of Donald Trump, you cannot deny that he has made a splash politically, for better or worse. David Frum expresses concern about the future of the Republican Party after Trump and makes the following instructive observation:
[H]ere’s something that traditional ideological conservatives will want to consider: Trump rose by shoving them aside. Trump’s rise exposed the weakness of social conservatives in particular. For a third of a century, social conservatives imposed a pro-life litmus test on Republican nominees for both presidency and vice presidency. They pulled the party into confrontations over sexuality and religion that many Republican elected leaders would have preferred to avoid. And then, abruptly, poof: The social conservative veto has vanished. New York values have prevailed, with a mighty assist from Jerry Falwell Jr. and other evangelical leaders. It seems unlikely the religious right will return in anything like its awesome previous form. A visibly conscientious objector to the culture wars easily defeated candidates who elevated the defunding of Planned Parenthood to the top of their agenda. That lesson, once demonstrated, won’t soon be forgotten.
In other words, now that the political winds blow in a different direction, they threaten to blow social conservatives out of their position of prominence in a party that they long dominated, at least at the national level. As I have noted before, if you live by the political sword, do not count out dying by the political sword. People in other political movements, including the LGBT movement, should carefully consider the implications of this lesson for them.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The self-loathing card

Many lazy thinkers love thought-terminating clichés, and lazy thinkers who are gay men often play the self-loathing card. When someone departs from the orthodoxy, and you either cannot refute his argument or just don't feel like doing so, simply accuse him of being a self-loathing LCR. Problem solved.

Tellingly, I never hear the people who play the self-loathing card play it against something to which the evidence suggests that it might apply, namely, the incessant gay male self-flagellation in the LGBT media and LGBT organizations. It is de rigueur in those settings to blame everything on gay men, whether or not the problem being discussed is specific to gay men. Thus, the self-loathing card has to do with wrong-thinker-shaming rather than with situations in which actual self-loathing might apply.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Donald Trump: Political correctness for the white working class

People often praise Donald Trump for being politically incorrect. In one sense he is, but in a more fundamental philosophical way, he is politically correct.

As I have noted before, political correctness is at heart the belief that certain persons' emotions are an infallible oracle into Truth with a capital T. The different strains of political correctness differ in identifying the elect. The Trump movement is all emotion, all the time, and relies on the emotions of his base.

Political correctness also emphasizes identity politics. The Trump phenomenon has that base covered, too.

Another aspect of political correctness is its view of government as the cure for whatever ails you, with narrowly defined exceptions. Trump fits that one.

Some have said that Trump holds a mirror to the American people. The view in the mirror includes those who have pushed American thought in the direction of political correctness.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Someone actually wrote this: David Brooks and the "new" shame culture

David Brooks, in today's New York Times, writes of a "new" shame culture that has allegedly taken over college campuses since the eighties:
Many people carefully guard their words, afraid they might transgress one of the norms that have come into existence. Those accused of incorrect thought face ruinous consequences. When a moral crusade spreads across campus, many students feel compelled to post in support of it on Facebook within minutes. If they do not post, they will be noticed and condemned.

* * *

[E]verybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along.

Brooks is so close and yet so far. Apart from the references to social media, he accurately describes the culture of political correctness, on campuses and elsewhere, that I experienced in the eighties. So much for the newness of the new, post-eighties shame culture.

Brooks also writes that the "new" shame culture "might reverse, a bit, the individualistic, atomizing thrust of the past 50 years." In a culture in which so many people are obsessed with identity categories, what "individualistic, atomizing thrust" is that?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Someone actually wrote this: Government, Apple, and privacy

In an op-ed in today's New York Times, "In the Government vs. Apple, Who Wears the Black Hat?," Robert Levine asks, "Shouldn’t the government have more legal and moral authority to weigh complicated issues of privacy and national security than a company that makes phones?" He does not make the case that it should.

Levine answers the question thus: "It should. After all, nobody ever elected Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, to public office." So what? History, particularly American history, is full of people of people who successfully stood up for their own and other people's rights without having been elected to public office, often by resisting the dictates of those who had been.

He continues:

The government, not Apple, should guarantee our privacy rights. But this dispute has arisen precisely because the government hasn’t done so. Instead, it squandered much of its legal and moral authority when the National Security Agency engaged in widespread surveillance of American citizens for so long. Some N.S.A. abuses targeted Silicon Valley directly.
In other words, he asserts that government "should guarantee our privacy rights" and immediately shows that trusting it to do so is a fool's errand. The problem with trusting government to guarantee our privacy rights is that we have privacy rights against government for a reason.
Important choices about the future of technology and privacy should be made by the American people and their representatives, not by Silicon Valley, where even the noblest intentions are mixed with huge financial stakes.
So, everything within the state, nothing outside of the state, nothing against the state?
[W]e are left with Silicon Valley executives making engineering decisions that could determine what information the government can and can’t have. That’s both bad policy and fundamentally undemocratic.
Instead of making a valid argument, Levine simply uses "undemocratic" as a snarl word. The outcome that he fears is no more undemocratic than the idea of privacy itself — which is undemocratic in a way, but in a good way.
But the current choice is between a government that doesn’t seem to recognize limits to its own power to access personal information and a technology company that does. It’s a bad choice, but an obvious one. While nobody elected Mr. Cook to protect our privacy, we should be glad someone is.
Except for "It's a bad choice," that is exactly it. The problem with comparing an idealized version of government to technology companies in the real world is government in the real world.