Here’s the problem …

… If your drug cops conduct a raid that ends up putting a child in the hospital with critical burns, and they did nothing that violates your department’s policy, then there’s something wrong with your policy.

A flashbang is an explosive device that emits a deafening boom and a blinding flash of light. It’s designed to temporarily stun the occupants of a building so that the armed men who deployed it can “clear” the building. It is an instrument of war. And cops are tossing these things through doors and windows with no idea what’s on the other side. Indeed, that’s the whole point.

— Radley Balko, “Georgia toddler critically injured by police’s flash grenade

It’s worth remembering …

… that the inconvenience and injustice of the TSA’s activities exists for literally no reason. If the agency’s privacy violations and annoying carry-on regulations were merely the price we paid for reducing the incidence of terrorist attacks, that’d be one thing. But, as security expert Bruce Schneier likes to note, there’s no evidence that the TSA has ever prevented a terrorist attack, and there’s some research suggesting it could serve to increase non-airborne terrorist attacks. Airline security is, so far as we can tell, totally useless.

— Dylan Matthews, “The case for abolishing the TSA

A blast from the past

In a July 2 editorial, the Tribune’s editorial board spoke out against Indiana’s more liberal fireworks laws, calling them a “farce.” I find it extremely ironic that when the 4th of July comes around, adults in Illinois aren’t allowed to freely celebrate what little liberty they have left.

So began my 1999 letter to the Chicago Tribune, which it recently occurred to me to dig up. Read the whole shebang.

Liberals have a rendezvous with regret. …

… Their largest achievement is today’s redistributionist government. But such government is inherently regressive: It tends to distribute power and money to the strong, including itself.

Government becomes big by having big ambitions for supplanting markets as society’s primary allocator of wealth and opportunity. Therefore it becomes a magnet for factions muscular enough, in money or numbers or both, to bend government to their advantage.

— George F. Will, “Government: The redistributionist behemoth

Walmart’s anti-hunger program

Chicagoans’ irrational hatred of Walmart appears to continue unabated, as evidenced by a zoning hearing held Monday regarding a proposed grocery store in the well-to-do Lakeview neighborhood. Among the many misguided or myopic reasons to oppose the mere opening of a Walmart store, perhaps this one reported by the Chicago Tribune’s Dawn Rhodes counts as the dumbest:

“I don’t want them in this neighborhood, and I wish they would hear us saying no,” said Erin Edwards, 27, who works for North Side Anti-Hunger Network. “I’m all for job creation. But it would be wonderful for the people in this neighborhood to have the small stores that can provide fresh produce and to be able to pay their employees well so they wouldn’t have to need our services.”

Guess what, Ms. Edwards? Walmart is an anti-hunger program. The new Walmart grocery store could save shoppers anywhere from 20% to 33%. Walmart, all by itself, accounted for a 10% drop in U.S. food prices from 1985 to 2004, saving individuals nearly $900 a year and households more than $2,300 a year. And Walmart is slashing prices even further to compete with Target, whose prices are slightly lower in Chicago.

So, those people in low-wage jobs who might occasionally take advantage of whatever food pantry services the North Side Anti-Hunger Network provides will benefit far more from vigorous, open competition for grocery shoppers — including Walmart. How many Chicago families could pass on help from a food pantry with a weekly grocery bill that’s 33% cheaper, or an annual savings of $2,300?

Those savings would dwarf the slightly lower wages (perhaps 2%) offered to the few hundred people who will staff the Walmart. That cost-benefit comparison assumes, by the way, that there are hundreds of higher-wage, entry-level jobs that would somehow magically appear if only Walmart could be prevented from opening its store. Are those small stores that supposedly pay so well hiring hundreds of new workers in our still slumbering economy?

Hate Walmart, if you must. Picket. Try to organize their workers, if you want to press your luck. But rest assured that you’re not doing poor folks any favors by denying them a valuable shopping choice.

City of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, Mayor

Here is a little something I wrote a few years back, but given the news it seems appropriate to publish it now.

Come from the East
Come from the West
Back to the town
We love the best
By boat, by plane
By land, by air
We find this tidbit
To remind us of our master
As if we hadn’t been aware
It says, “City of Chicago
Richard M. Daley, Mayor”

It seems no inch of property
Escapes Hizzoner’s glare
Without his leaden stamp
Is it really even there?
Why, even babies’ heads
Are marked before they grow their hair
Welcome to the world, my boy
But you had better beware
You’re in the City of Chicago
Richard M. Daley, Mayor

Bundled up in business cazh
Or attached to fanny packs
On a muggy Mag Mile morning
The throng is making tracks
Past dem purty flower boxes
Past a prophet’s jumbled prayer
Much to do, much to see
Can’t stop, can’t spare
In the City of Chicago
Richard M. Daley, Mayor

He arrived as “Rich”
But today he’s Da Mare
In daddy’s footsteps
City Hall’s rightful heir
Cronies and crooks
Creep up on the screen
We’re so damn amazed
By a magical Bean
Behind every denial
Just a hint of despair
In the City of Chicago
Richard M. Daley, Mayor

– 30 –

Momentary lapse in judgment

The world is a lot freer and better off than it was 40 years ago. And we may be even freer and richer 40 years from today. But we are manifestly not experiencing any kind of “Libertarian Moment,” as Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch wishfully and lamely argue in the 40th anniversary issue of Reason magazine.

Now, these fellows are not idiots. They read the news. Even when they wrote this thing up before the election, it was clear the way things were headed. Obama and the Democrats were going to win by demonizing the fictional deregulatory bugaboo of the Bush administration even as Hank Paulson & Co. shoveled hundreds of billions toward Wall Street. Jeepers. Sure doesn’t seem like a libertarian moment, does it? The article very well could have been titled “The Libertarian Moment (Except for the Libertarian Part).”

So Gillespie and Welch came up with a clever way around the reality of the moment: Politics doesn’t matter. Specifically, politics is “always a crippled, lagging indicator of social change.” You see, thanks to technological innovation and ever-rising wealth, individuals are (and will only grow increasingly) more in control of their own lives and destinies than ever before. True, perhaps.

But, you know, whatever you might say about conservatives and liberals they don’t usually say they oppose wealth and innovation. True, they have different ideas about how to achieve those ends, but that is why politics matters. Libertarians need to persuade policymakers (and to some extent, the public) about why their distinctive proposals are the best way to encourage economic growth, innovation and social harmony.

Further, the priority that libertarians place on — oh, just to name one thing — liberty is one that the vast majority of people simply do not share, at least to the same radical degree or level of consistency. Gillespie and Welch know all that. They spend every working day chronicling the idiocy of politicians and the manifest number of ways in which the values libertarians care about are treated like dog shit, not to put too fine a point on it. They even discuss the sad state of affairs succinctly in the article.

So to get around the facts of the matter, they made this bogus cultural argument that is so loaded with caveats and weasel words that it amounts to nothing, really. Some of it is profoundly moronic. Just one example:

… social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook do not structure interaction as much as provide a not-so-temporary autonomous zone to facilitate it. Individual users tailor the experience to their own desires rather than submit to a central authority. The inhabitants of such a world are instinctively soft libertarians, resisting or flouting most nanny-state interference, at least on issues that affect their favorite activities.

Huh? Do you know what a “soft libertarian” is? Yeah, me neither. How can you be instinctively soft about something? I’ve got an instinct to eat and drink regularly to, you know, survive. But I’m pretty hard core about it. I’m not just nitpicking here. These young, Web-native social networkers were the very ones who supposedly helped win the election for Barack Obama — who is a liberal Democrat, which last I checked was distinct from libertarian. But who knows? Perhaps he is one of those soft (flaccid?) libertarians I keep reading about.

Indeed, two-thirds of voters 18-29 went for Obama. This is the guy now pushing for a $500 billion stimulus package courtesy of the Next Century’s Taxpayers Are Good For It Piggy Bank, who OKd warrantless wiretapping and whose first instinct was to name a torture backer to run the CIA.

It is obviously true that people enjoy wealth, and want to have a say in their own lives. In that very superficial sense, there are lot of soft libertarians out there. But the through line between those near universal desires and the understanding of the political elements that best bring those things about is nonexistent or exists in only the most haphazard sense.

It is that gap — the fact that the vast majority of the public and nearly all politicians  either do not buy the libertarian arguments or disagree with libertarian values (at least when rigidly defined) — that is a recipe for something far from the libertarian moment. Indeed, it does not take much imagination to see how we may be at a critical turning point where impending decisions could make the world a lot poorer and less free when the time comes for Gillespie and Welch’s successors to assess the moment in 2048.

Reason is a fine publication, and I get that they wanted a positive hook to hang their 40th anniversary on. But that is no excuse for libertarian triumphalist baloney. The real story is that all that wealth and technology — the yield of the still sheltered sphere of liberty — is under threat now, and is constantly under threat. It’s not a happy story, though. It never is. But it needs to be told, most of all to ourselves.

(Also posted to Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Blog.)


Wow. What an incredible night. Millions of Americans went to the polls and were able to overcome this country’s ugly history of prejudice.

It’s no secret what the barrier was tonight for the Democratic ticket. Would Americans be able to put aside the sneering, misguided, hateful jokes and elect a man with hair plugs as vice president? And they did. Truly a national turning point.

The power of words

In the aftermath of last night’s Democratic presidential debate, the consensus seems to be that Hillary’s “change you can Xerox” line was an embarassing, disingenuous clunker and that her closing comments were a genuine moment that effectively showed her soft side.

Slate’s John Dickerson seems to capture the CW. He calls the Xerox line “a bad moment,” an unclever remark “cooked up by committee.” He called her closing remarks “her best of the night” because they “showed her heart and a little humanity.” I beg to differ.

Here is what she said (video), in response to the question of how she had been tested in a moment of crisis:

CLINTON: Well, I think everybody here knows I’ve lived through some crises and some challenging moments in my life. And…


And I am grateful for the support and the prayers of countless Americans.

But people often ask me, “How do you do it?” You know, “How do you keep going?” And I just have to shake my head in wonderment, because with all of the challenges that I’ve had, they are nothing compared to what I see happening in the lives of Americans every single day.

You know, a few months ago, I was honored to be asked, along with Senator McCain, as the only two elected officials, to speak at the opening at the Intrepid Center at Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio, a center designed to take care of and provide rehabilitation for our brave young men and women who have been injured in war.

And I remember sitting up there and watching them come in. Those who could walk were walking. Those who had lost limbs were trying with great courage to get themselves in without the help of others. Some were in wheelchairs and some were on gurneys. And the speaker representing these wounded warriors had had most of his face disfigured by the results of fire from a roadside bomb.

You know, the hits I’ve taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country.

And I resolved at a very young age that I’d been blessed and that I was called by my faith and by my upbringing to do what I could to give others the same opportunities and blessings that I took for granted.

That’s what gets me up in the morning. That’s what motivates me in this campaign.


And, you know, no matter what happens in this contest — and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.


Whatever happens, we’re going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we’ll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that’s what this election should be about.

First, she for the umpteenth time perversely and unsubtly alludes to and somehow tries to take credit for the fact she chose to stay married to a lying, philandering scumbag for decades in order to advance her political ideas. It’s mind-boggling.

Second, she segues ever-so-crudely into the prefabricated, prescripted heart-tugging anecdote in a transparent effort to demonstrate to voters she is not just an adding machine wearing a blonde wig and an ugly outfit. The moderator could have asked Hillary to explain the quadratic equation and she would have uncorked this manipulative nonsense. I imagine advisers Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson unzipping the back of Hillary’s blouse during one of the commercial breaks and pulling down a flap in the middle of her back to reveal a bunch of circuitry, a la Vicky in “Small Wonder“:

Penn: Where’s the “emote” button on this damn contraption?

Ugh. The male version of this robot was great at emoting. Had trouble controlling the mating function, though.

So it was a prefab, partly borrowed “genuine moment.” So what? In a way, that makes it worse when you parse what she actually said because you realize she spent all day practicing this claptrap and didn’t realize how horrible it was.

She says the par-for-the-course political attacks she’s received thanks to her vaunted 35 years of experience are nothing compared to the struggles of other Americans, especially soldiers who have been crippled in battle. But to whom, exactly, would it even occur to make this comparison? In what galaxy is Hillary a sympathetic or pitiable figure?

Let’s see. She is one of the richest people in the richest country in world history. Win or lose this campaign, she is virtually assured of two or three more decades as one of the 100 most powerful people in the world’s most powerful deliberative body — her incumbency to be perfunctorily interrupted every six years by a campaign against an underfunded, overmatched opponent. Yes, of course, she is “going to be fine.” More than fine. Who would suggest otherwise, except in a bogus attempt to “connect”?

Even Hillary’s vain (in both senses of the word) attempt to acknowledge her incredible good fortune is undercut by her self-serving evocation of wounded soldiers. The ugly truth that sits astride Hillary’s talk of faces disfigured by roadside bombs is that it was her vote, and her vocal support, that helped send those soldiers to the war where they were wounded. She has never even had the simple decency to apologize for the war she realized too late was not just wrong but tragically so, because to do so might weaken her politically.

And now, now, now, now — she has the audacity to use the victims of the war she helped to start as mere decoration for a concocted vignette in a vile effort to aid her own, fast-fading hopes for the presidency!

What kind of a disgusting human being thinks this way, believing not only that this is something short of an admission of callous indifference to her own role in perpetuating human suffering but that it somehow speaks well of her? How upside down is our thinking that people watch such garbage and hail it as demonstrating “humanity”?

Forget it, Jake. It’s campaign season.

(Also posted to Sinners in the Hands of Angry Blog.)