The Constitution is for everyone

I’m not an attorney and I haven’t read the opinion, but Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court’s ruling (as explained in the story) seems weak.

The 5-3 decision put new limits on officers who want to search for evidence of a crime without obtaining a warrant first.

If one occupant tells them no, the search is unconstitutional, justices said.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote his first dissent, predicting severe consequences for women who want police to come in but are overruled by abusive husbands.

It seems like a reasonable concern, and in reality some women may suffer as a result. But do we write the law for exceptions or for basic principles? When Danielle and I bought our house, I didn’t sign the papers with the intent of giving my rights to her, nor did she offer hers to me. That’s reasonable. And the explanation of this case does not indicate any form of domestic abuse, as Chief Justice Roberts uses for his dissent. So I don’t see a problem.

I regularly watch Cops, which I know is certainly not equivalent to a law degree. Yet, domestic violence that can’t be proven sufficiently for an arrest has appeared. The last time I saw it, the officer explained that she couldn’t make the husband leave, but she could protect the wife while she packed her bags. The officer escorted the woman and her child from the home so that the wife could leave safely. It’s easy to say this isn’t optimal, which may satisfy Chief Justice Roberts’ argument, but the Constitution still matters, no?

I reserve the right to later acknowledge (again) that I’m probably talking out of my ass.

When government is right and citizens are wrong

Do French youth not understand cause and effect? In the 21st Century, it should be obvious by now since it’s a simple lesson. Apparently not:

French riot police have used tear gas and water cannon after protests against a new labour law turned violent.

More than 160 people were arrested after clashes erupted in eastern Paris following a day of largely peaceful demonstrations across France.

Vehicles were set on fire and stores were damaged as masked youths clashed with police.

It sounds very important. The government’s betrayal, which the unions and its lackeys point out, is the government’s First Employment Contract (CPE), which

… allows employers to end job contracts for under-26s at any time during a two-year trial period without having to offer an explanation or give prior warning.

I know, the horror! No civilized country can have employers firing employees arbitrarily, even if the employee is incompetent or labor needs change, when “more than 20% of 18 to 25-year-olds are unemployed.” What would happen then? It’d be mass chaos. Definitely worse than street rioting, I’m sure.

Why is it so hard for people to understand that when employers are locked into retaining new employees by law, with no chance of dismissal for any reason, that unemployment will be artificially low, not high? People like options. When your option is irrevocable commitment or nothing, nothing seems like a smarter deal for a business than getting by with existing staff. That may hinder growth, but small(er) is better than bankrupt from paying for employees that don’t generate revenue. When employers can dismiss employees at will, they’ll hire more people when opportunity arises. Without ridiculous labor laws, the bar of opportunity is lower.

Uncertainty is a factor in free markets. Trying to hedge it away results only in losing the reward. It’s not particularly complicated. Whether it’s socialist youth in France or socialist unions in America, the result is the same. The happy feelings of security fade quickly in a safe environment.

I was kidnapped to Disney World, too

I’ve been away for a few days, making my annual pilgrimage to the promised land that is Clearwater, Florida. Of course, if the promised land of Clearwater didn’t happen to be the Spring Training home of the Phillies, it would just be the degenerate capital of the Western Hemisphere. As it is, it gets both distinctions. In my sixth consecutive March visit, the Phillies didn’t disappoint, winning two games and making the third interesting by losing in the tenth after a dramatic comeback in the late innings. Good times.

Pictures will follow in the next week or so, as I figure out how to intellectually process the nearly 1,200 pictures I took over the course of three games. I know 1,200 pictures qualifies as A Lot&#153, but now that I’ve discovered the continuous shooting mode on my camera, endless pictures of the same pitcher throws to the catcher/batter swings at pitch sequence will be the norm when I attend baseball games. And it only took me two years to read the directions to learn of this wonderful feature.

I won’t regale anyone with countless stories about wild pitches, successful small ball, or thrilling home runs. I suspect I’m the only one who’d find that sufficiently compelling and I have the photographic evidence to remind me of every pitch of the game most at-bats. Instead, I’ll just tell you that I can now confirm that a foul ball will travel over two sections of seats in a minor league stadium AFTER it’s caromed off a man’s forehead. Thankfully, it wasn’t my forehead, but I did witness the laser beam in all its ricocheting weirdness. Just so you know.

And I met John Kruk!

The next big thing to come back is something we’ve never seen before

This is old news by now, but I can finally put coherent thoughts together about the essay, so I want to offer what I hope is an intelligent, alternate interpretation of facts. Last week, Peggy Noonan had an editorial at Opinion Journal that accepted George Clooney’s Oscar acceptance speech as a barometer of what’s wrong with Hollywood. I’m tempted to mock, because her journey throughout the latter half of her argument indulges in the same flaws she places on Mr. Clooney’s intentions, without seeming to understand the similarities. However, she reaches a reasonable conclusion that doesn’t rest solely on “liberals are bad”, although her premise is that “Hollywood isn’t making the kind of movies that compel people to leave their homes and go to the multiplex”. Instead, she posits this:

I don’t think it is true that studio executives and producers hate America. They are too confused, ambivalent and personally anxious to sit around hating their audience. I think they wish they understood America. I think they feel nostalgic for what they remember of it. I think they find it hard to find America, in a way.

This sounds good, but I admit I’m not sure I understand her point about the America Hollywood remembers. That’s a sweeping generalization with no clarification. I take it to mean that they remember an America more liberal than it is now. If so, I disagree. I suspect our “liberal” proclivity, in the sense that liberty allows us to live our lives as individuals, hasn’t really reversed as much as its spread has slowed. There are those who wish to reverse the spread, as evidenced by the recent fervor over same-sex marriage, Janet Jackson’s breast, and the public display of the Ten Commandments. But electing Republicans doesn’t have the sweeping implication that most Americans would love to resort to Biblical law or that Hollywood is populated only by Bible-haters. Life is more complicated and nuanced than that. I suspect Ms. Noonan understands that, which is why she’s lecturing more than attacking Hollywood.

Instead, I think it’s reasonable to assume that members of Hollywood, like every other industry, are organized like a high school clique. You’re one of the cool kids, or you’re not. Ms. Noonan approaches that idea, but doesn’t quite arrive at that explanation.

I also think that it’s not true that they’re motivated only by money. Would that they were! They’d be more market-oriented if they cared only about money. What they care about a great deal is status, and in their community status is bestowed by the cultural left. This is an old story. But it seems only to get worse, not better.

Does an industry organized around status bestowed by the cultural left imply a liberal causation? Is it possible there’s a better link? Hollywood organizing itself around status is a reasonable assumption, but if that’s so, the standard is set by those on top, not those who are on the left. They may be the same, but those on the bottom are trying to attain status alone if the assumption is to hold. We can’t know from Ms. Noonan’s explanation that the status-seeker agrees with liberal politics as much as he or she wants to obtain status, and probably the money that comes with status. Play by the rules or someone else gets the gig rules in every industry. I don’t know how Hollywood becomes exempted from such a universal standard. Perhaps a liberal vs. conservative argument suffices, but I doubt it.

How well does Ms. Noonan’s analysis hold if the underlying context changes to view Hollywood’s politics (through Mr. Clooney’s Oscar speech) using my interpretation of status?

Was his speech wholly without merit? No. It was a response and not an attack, and it appears to have been impromptu. Mr. Clooney presumably didn’t know Jon Stewart would tease the audience for being out of touch, and he wanted to argue that out of touch isn’t all bad. Fair enough. It is hard to think on your feet in front of 38 million people, and most of his critics will never try it or have to. (This is a problem with modern media: Only the doer understands the degree of difficulty.)

But Mr. Clooney’s remarks were also part of the tinniness of the age, and of modern Hollywood. I don’t think he was being disingenuous in suggesting he was himself somewhat heroic. He doesn’t even know he’s not heroic. He thinks making a movie in 2005 that said McCarthyism was bad is heroic.

How could he think this? Maybe part of the answer is in this: The Clooney generation in Hollywood is not writing and directing movies about life as if they’ve experienced it, with all its mysteries and complexity and variety. In an odd way they haven’t experienced life; they’ve experienced media. Their films seem more an elaboration and meditation on media than an elaboration and meditation on life. This is how he could take such an unnuanced, unsophisticated, unknowing gloss on the 1950s and the McCarthy era. He just absorbed media about it. And that media itself came from certain assumptions and understandings, and myths.

I didn’t see Good Night and Good Luck, so I can’t agree or refute the specific theory on Mr. Clooney’s telling of McCarthyism. My initial hunch is to discount it because it places an unfair burden on media, and by extension historical analysis, I think, because the McCarthy hearings occurred more than fifty years ago. We can’t stop discussing them just because most of us aren’t old enough to remember them personally, or worse, weren’t directly involved to get a most accurate understanding. Some reliance on “media” is necessary, as it is for most events.

Of course, it’s also possible that Mr. Clooney’s just a bad storyteller, unable to equate McCarthyism with the un-American unpatriotic charges lobbed against anyone who dares question the current administration. I’ll watch the movie to decide for myself, though, which begs the question how I’m supposed to interpret McCarthyism. I think the problem Ms. Noonan applies to George Clooney is broader than she pretends. Although I like her final conclusion for its agreement with my fundamental belief on change, her final push to that conclusion is shaky. It requires Hollywood to be out of touch, when viewing the facts without predetermined conclusions may not support that, as I hope I’ve demonstrated. Consider:

Most Americans aren’t leading media, they’re leading lives. It would be nice to see a new respect in Hollywood for the lives they live. It would be nice to see them start to understand that rediscovering the work of, say, C.S. Lewis, and making a Narnia film, is not “giving in” to the audience but serving it. It isn’t bad to look for and present good material that is known to have a following. It’s a smart thing to do. It’s why David O. Selznick bought “Gone With the Wind”: People were reading it. It was his decision to make it into a movie from which he would profit that gave Hattie McDaniel her great role. Taboos are broken by markets, not poses.

I wish to note, then ignore, the obvious mistake in this “serving the audience” sentiment. Movies based on material that is “known to have a following” are exactly what Hollywood is producing now. How many more sequels, television show spin-offs, and literary dramatizations do we need to see before we accept that Hollywood is scared of originality, not uninterested in giving us what we want? It’s trying to do precisely that and failing miserably. Hence, movie attendance is down. Movie studios and actors can’t fix that by serving our existing interests. Filming the Bible instead of Bewitched doesn’t count as change.

A more useful understanding still remains within her conclusion. What does chatting about last night’s episode of American Idol in front of the water cooler imply? What does spilling a life story to the bartender at the corner pub imply? What does blogging about politics imply?
That people are somehow leading their lives, without concern for what’s going on and a strong desire to influence, or at least reveal how smart the individual is compared to the idiots in charge? Mr. Clooney’s speech is no different than what many Americans would love to do. He just had a bigger forum on Oscar night. Maybe his speech would’ve been as pompous flawed as Ms. Noonan suggests if it had been written instead of impromptu; we’ll never know. But to state that Hollywood is out of touch with real Americans when generic pressures are at work, pressures which can be found in any industry, is questionable.

Central planning at its finest

More iPod fun today:

Don’t assume that Duke University students carrying Apple iPods around campus are listening to the latest hits.

They might be studying.

This much is certain: An increasing number of professors at Duke and other college campuses are experimenting with making lectures and study materials available to students via iPods and other MP3 players.

No surprise there. College campuses generally incorporate technology quickly. I’ve been connected to the Internets in some capacity since 1991, thanks to Virginia Tech’s leadership in exposing students to technology. I had “high-speed” (19.6k Rolm) access my freshman year. If iPods had existed then, I’m sure some portions of the university would’ve required them. There’s one difference, though. We wouldn’t have pretended this was true:

Duke University has become a case study in the national iPod experiment. A year ago, all incoming freshmen were given a free iPod.

It’s probably safe to assume that “free” means the iPod was required, so the university included the cost in its tuition charge, unless Duke is suddenly in the habit of giving a few hundred dollars to each student just because it makes the administrators feel good. It’s possible that I’m wrong and Duke bore the cost, or arranged some sort of marketing agreement with Apple. I doubt it.

Post Script: Quick research proves how free the iPods weren’t. They cost Duke $500,000 from a special technology fund. Perhaps the funds came from donors, so students didn’t feel the cost directly. However, the article mentions legitimate technology needs, like dorm security, that Duke didn’t fund. Are iPods more important than students being safe on campus? Does that impose a cost on students?

He loves the Constitution, except when it gets in the way

More Ben Shapiro goodness, this time on South Dakota’s recent abortion ban. Most of the article is forgettable because he lobs assaults at liberals without realizing that he’s flinging the same attack on himself. One stretch of logic warrants consideration, though. It’s especially relevant considering Mr. Shapiro is currently attending Harvard Law School. His disregard for the Constitution and its place in our legal system is stunning. Consider:

Yet if the past few years of politics teaches us anything, it is that for the political left, end-goals trump American democratic processes every time. “Democracy isn’t democracy,” the left argues, “unless we win.” …

Republicanism cannot survive such all-out assault. The principle of majoritarianism requires that communal decisions be respected, even as minorities try to persuade majorities to change their policies. Constitutional laws created through a legitimate political process are not binding only for those who vote for those laws. …

It’s important to understand the terms Mr. Shapiro uses, in the intended context. First, republicanism is “a political system that has a system of law (as in a constitution or bill of rights) that protects individual liberty from the forces of tyranny with elected representatives governing according to such law.” The United States Constitution certainly fits that description. It describes exactly what the government is designed to do. It places any burden between citizens and their government on the government itself. It reserves all rights not explicitly granted to the government. We can debate the constitutional merits of South Dakota’s abortion ban, but it’s not necessary to understand the fallacy of Mr. Shapiro’s idea. Either the ban is or isn’t constitutional. Ultimately a court will decide that question, with the outcome (hopefully) dictated by the text of the constitution. Either way, some guiding constitutional principle should prevail.

However, an “all-out assault” on republicanism doesn’t result from the challenging South Dakota’s law if it’s found constitutional. It comes from ignorant reliance on the principle of majoritarianism, which is “a political philosophy or agenda which asserts that a majority (sometimes categorized by religion, language or some other identifying factor) of the population is entitled to a certain degree of primacy in society, and has the right to make decisions that affect the society.” When Mr. Shapiro says that laws such as South Dakota’s abortion ban are “not binding only for those who vote for those laws,” he’s being disingenuous. The presumed-majority that supports the ban doesn’t want the law so that it may obey it. It seeks to impose that law on those who disagree.

If the law is constitutional, republicanism is sufficient to defend it. However, it’s also necessary to defend against using one victory to infringe upon guaranteed rights. Majoritarianism, with its disregard for the minority opinion, presents a greater threat to republicanism. It ultimately justifies tyrannical rule based solely on desired outcomes. The constitution disappears under the foaming insanity of the majority. And Mr. Shapiro applauds because it matches his desires wishes.

I hope he’s crying the loudest when the pendulum of public opinion swings away from his theocratic dream.

More thoughts on majoritarianism at A Stitch in Haste

Very aggressive. A new day, and you won’t be pushed around.

If only he and his colleagues believed this statement in response to the bill pending in Congress that would criminalize gambling on the Internets by turning financial institutions into a police extension of the state (or is that “extension of the police state”?):

“Adults are entitled to do with their money what they want to do,” [Rep. Barney Frank] said.

I want to retire at fifty, but the government keeps requisitioning 40 percent of my income every year. Am I entitled to stop contributing taxes for government benefits I don’t receive? I can dream.

Breaking News: Loud music causes hearing damage

I’ve written before about the misguided claim that Something Must Be Done about the potential for hearing damage resulting from unwise use of iPods and similar mp3 players. I didn’t mention any inevitable government busybody involvement at the time because I didn’t think further than the absurd lawsuit. I should have.

More research is needed to determine whether popular portable music players like Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod increase the risk of hearing loss, the National Institutes of Health said in response to a U.S. lawmaker’s request for a review of the issue.

The proximity of the source of the sound to the ears can contribute to hearing loss, but “more research is required to determine if a particular type (of earphone) increases the risk,” said James Battey, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, in the NIH letter.

Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, sent a letter on January 26 asking NIH to review research to determine whether portable music players are contributing to premature hearing loss as well as to recommend what people can do to prevent it from happening.

Study it. I’m not going to complain too much, but mostly because I know it wouldn’t help. And the findings can be useful in pointing out the obvious helping people better understand the risks in a way that pain and tinnitus from listening too loudly could never accomplish. Of course, it would also be prudent for companies that market mp3 players to study possible effects, since legal liability, rational or not, might be involved. Again, all of that is more good than bad. But Congress can’t contain itself. This next quote portends where this story will end:

“Kids are often more familiar with these products than parents, but they don’t realize how harmful these products can be to hearing,” he said. “It can lead to a lifelong ailment.”

And there you go. Can we please save the money on the research and just write the report and the corresponding legislation now? At least if we’re going to be intentionally stupid, we should be efficient in achieving it.

The President gets candid

Speaking on the Medicare prescription drug benefit today, President Bush defended the early missteps with an amazingly candid piece of logic:

“Anytime Washington passes a new law, sometimes the transition period can be interesting,” the president said.

It’s a good thing that “any time” doesn’t apply to the PATRIOT Act. We wouldn’t like the implications of that much. Nope, not at all. Those of us who care about the Constitution, at least.

I drive a Volkswagen Jetta!!

The American Family Association is very busy being upset about society succumbing to the clutches of the Homosexual Agenda. Its latest decision involves a boycott of Ford for advertising in gay publications and supporting gay rights. I don’t particularly care about this announcement because I suspect it will have no impact. Even if it does, Ford has bigger issues surrounding its mid-20th century business model than its decision to target advertising to a specific group. This statement makes a point that I suspect was cribbed from somewhere else, because their support for the Federal Marriage Amendment and other bigoted nonsense shows their free market inclination to be superficial.

“Ford has every right to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups promoting homosexual marriage. But those who oppose homosexual marriage have every right not to buy automobiles made by Ford Motor Company,” the AFA said in a statement on its Web site.

Unfortunately, they know their actions will change nothing in the long-term. Thus, they seek government infringement on rights they don’t like. It’s a shame they don’t understand liberty. Of course, they also claim to have 3 million supporters, which I’m sure includes me since I receive their e-mails. Considering how often I don’t take their suggestions, their perceived influence may be overstated.