Currently viewing the tag: "Liberals"

1024px-1537_Braunschweiger_Monogrammist_Bordellszene_anagoriaWhen I was 12 or 13 years old, my mother mentioned that maybe weed wasn’t so bad, and police weren’t so good. Being homeschooled by libertarians has that benefit — the lessons are subtle and everyday, and occasionally they are explicit and in the moment, quite shocking.

Since that day, I’ve written and thought a great deal about the insanity of the war on drugs and the dangerous state of American policing. But, I haven’t written as much as I should about another harmful prohibition on a natural human action — one that also leads to outrageous laws, immoral punishments, and Puritanical shaming  — sex work. When Maggie McNeill prodded me into writing a piece for her Friday the 13 support for sex workers tradition, I was again reminded that I have not done my job in covering the issue. So, though I have a little post here, my real message for today is, I will do better on this. Because it is the same issue that makes me rant 1000 times a day, to my parents, boyfriend, friends, and literally anyone else who will listen. And the same innocent people are being punished.

Drug use is easy (at least for libertarians) to defend. Depriving people of medical marijuana or prescription drugs or punishing people for their choice of relaxant — it’s seems so simple and wrong to me after almost 15 years of thinking about it. I’ve been around people smoking weed, and nothing dire happened. I can see the smallness behind the prohibition of this supposedly great social ill and that yeah, Reefer Madness is a campy movie, not a policy guidebook.

Drugs are more familiar to me (in a manner of speaking), and they can be enjoyed without any kind of ruin to health or morals. But so too can selling (or buying!) sex. Drug use is a failing and a crime, so says the right; and to the left it is a health outrage to be paternalistically — but still forcibly — remedied with drug courts and mandatory rehab.

Sex work is the same. A fallen woman or a dirty whore in the right’s eyes might be to the left a a trafficked victim, perhaps one suffering from false consciousness if she declares she choose this particular carer.

I don’t often feel comfortable wielding such a lefty, workers of the world, etc.! word as “solidarity”, but when I think of the people who “don’t count” by the standards of society and law, I feel an urge to help them. Not because I know the first thing about how they lives should go, but simply because I know that the laws that oppress them, the cops that harass them, and the rest of us who tolerate or excuse it are all in the wrong.

Chatting with Maggie McNeill and once visiting a strip club are about the extent of my personal knowledge of the world of sex workers. I don’t see the appeal of stripping, whoring, escorting, or any of that for myself. I don’t disapprove of any of it, to be sure, but even if I did, I could — and should — write this same post, knowing that my personal feelings about selling sex shouldn’t mean a damn thing to anyone.

They certainly shouldn’t mean anything when deciding national, state, or local policies. The bedroom is the bedroom, whether money changes hands or not. And pro-woman, pro-sexual freedom liberals and small government conservatives should put their money where their mouth is and realize that laws against prostitution violate all manner of their professed principles. But libertarians, too, must take more notice of this, regardless of personal feelings about the work itself.

That’s the thing — the war on drugs, the war on the homeless, the war on immigrants, the panic over gun owners, religious weirdos, right-wing and left wing activists, all of this has lead to an out of control police force, and prisons spilling over with 2 million people. All of this is excused with, well, it’s not me getting my door kicked in at 4 am over weed, it’s not me schizophrenic and afraid of the police, it’s not me who wants to homeschool my kids in Idaho while owning a few guns, it’s not me being sprayed at protests, it’s not me photographed and held for hours at my work for a compliance check performed by armed police officers, so what does it matter?

Sex workers are judged, screwed over, and oppressed. The state and the busy-bodies have decided they — like so many other eccentrics or “immoral” actors — don’t get the same rights and protections good, upstanding citizens do. Their choices are wrong. Not just wrong, but against the law. And the law is the law, as the meaningless, malevolent tautology goes. Once that is declared true, all else so painfully familiar — jailing, “saving,” shaming, and ignoring people when they do need help — follows.

Oh hey, turns out when I am feeling unwell, we have a great episode of Politics for People Who Hate Politics that is also way too long. Nevertheless, we had a good talk, even a little debate, and it’s worth a watch. Guest star is the dreamy hunk Jayel Aheram, with whom I have joyfully adventured in LA and DC.

A libertarian panel hosted by Lucy Steigerwald, where ranting is encouraged, and smashing the state is mandatory.

-Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag

-Jayel Aheram: Writer, antiwar and libertarian activist, Marine and Iraq war veteran, kick-ass photographer; @aheram 

-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino

-Michelle Montalvo: Perpetual intern, sci-fi enthusiast; @michelle7291

-Cory Massimino: Student, writer for DL Magazine, Students for Liberty Blog, Center for a Stateless Society; @CoryMassimino

Our cranky, liberty-loving panel discussed gun control, the drug war, (debated!) this VICE column about Mendocino County’s marijuana policy, sex offender registries, and spent way, way too much time talking about X-Men.

Check out my podcast with Reason TV’s Jim Epstein! I asked him about the sharing economy, education policy, cities, and why he’s a filthy, filthy minarchist. (Not so much that last one.)

Also go look at Epstein’s awesome Reason works, particularly his sharing economy article and videos.

Also! Here is kind of fuzzy video of the interview.

It’s in two parts because my Chromebook crashed!

(And then I bought a new laptop.)

  • I also have this sweet new graphic.Taking full advantage of Eric Garris and Justin Raimondo’s genrous “write about whatever the hell you want” spirit, I wrote an anti-death penalty piece for Antiwar.com. It was originally supposed to have a bit stronger of a tie with war stuff, but that got away from me, Nevertheless, I don’t think it turned out so bad. Certainly not as bad as the commenters of Antiwar thought. Whoo boy.
  • Radley Balko wrote an excellent piece about why conservatives should be opposed to the death penalty. It’s like a way better version of my very first Reason piece back in the day.
  • Over at the Daily Caller, Chris Morgan wrote a very biting piece on how America’s death penalty is how you know it’s a great country.
  • And if you have never read it, I highly recommend checking out the New Yorker piece on the tragedy of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed for killing his three children by burning down his own house. At this point, we can safely say he didn’t do it. (No matter how chill Rick Perry gets about weed — because it’s now trendy — he’s got Willingham’s blood on his hands, if nothing else.)
  • Also, Balko has a further point:

Quite.

  • I wrote another thing, for Rare, about a handful of the creepy, anti-homeless measures passed in various states and cities across the US, as well as liberals’ commendable dislike of these measures, and their frustrating inability to take that to its proper conclusion.
  • Politico mag surveyed the White House Press Corps, and I am not impressed.
  • Hashtagnerdprom is coming up! That makes it the perfect time to read my tale of attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2012. My one regret is that I let the one Denver Post dude shame me into standing for a hot minute. I did not clap, at least. In fact, I have not clapped for Obama AND Bush. How bipartisan am I?!
  • Mediaite ed-in-chief/friend Andrew Kirell is sassy and mocks some of the morons of Sean Hannity’s weed panel (biggest panel ever, am I right?). I share Kirell’s delight in the fact that several panelists laugh in Todd Starnes’ face when he starts hand-writing about morality and weed overdoses, or something.
  • I recently watched this entire video, because I adore Tavi Gevinson. It’s basically turtles all the way down, because liking Tavi Gevinson is sort of mainstream, but borderline hipster danger territory. But as Ms. Gevinson has mused on often, over-thinking about whether what you like is what you like because you like it gets boring after a while. Gevinson is great, because she is all about the things you love being a kind of totem to hold tight to when the world gets a bit dodgy. And being a cool teen herself, she helped me accept that I am listening to Townes van Zandt right now, I listened to Taylor Swift yesterday, and it’s going to be okay. It will be.

  • Speaking of which:

(No, I am not emotionally prepared to share which Taylor Swift songs I enjoy. Give me time, people. Give me time.)

I also have this sweet new graphic.Check out my most recent War at Home:

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it did not intend to appeal last month’s court decision which removed Rahinah Ibrahim from the “No-Fly list” – making her the first person in years to be taken off that bureaucratic black-hole relic of the Bush war on terror.

This is great news for Ibrahim. But she has been battling for seven years to win this victory for herself. The rest of the however many thousands of folks on that list remain there, with no clear road out of that swamp. And that’s only a small aspect of the myriad ways in which Americans and visitors to America are harassed, oppressed and impeded during their travels.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a study that harshly critiqued the U.S. government’s various watch lists, including the “no-fly” list that Ibrahim found herself on. Some of the problems the ACLU highlighted were the secrecy and the lack of an appeals process for folks who find themselves flagged at airports or downright prevented from flying. They estimate up to a million people are on such lists, and this includes US citizens. People who suspect they are on the no-fly list can only go to the airport and see if they’re prevented from flying. But they still may not get a straight answer from the government, or have any way to get off the list. There is no other way to discover whether a typo, knowing the wrong person or being from the wrong country put them on a list that radically decreases their right to travel.

During the last week of March, the Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) official report to Congress said the agency wanted armed police officers to be nearby during peak passenger hours. Considering the state of cops in this country, and the complete lack of rights travelers – especially at the borders – have, this is a terrible idea. Yes, last November someone targeted and killed a TSA agent. That’s unfortunate. But thebureaucratic, thoughtless, petty TSA does not need any more power than we have already let it take. We do not want air-travelers who attempt to film their pat-downs or express objections to their treatment fearing that if they reach in their pockets, some itchy-fingered cop will get worried.

The rest here

Charity: it's for God damned communists.

Charity: it’s for God damned communists.

Today we have Scott Parker, who begins his tale of redemption thusly:

During college, a friend admitted he was confounded by my politics. He didn’t know how to reconcile my libertarianism with my other commitments. We were Buddhists and vegetarians, and I knew exactly what he meant. The tension centered around compassion. He wanted to know how someone concerned with the world’s suffering wouldn’t adopt a more compassionate political perspective.

How to reconcile? Let’s see, you personally believe in Buddhism and practice it. You, I assume since the vegetarianism is in reference to”compassion,” are concerned about factory farming and the suffering of animals, so you personally do not eat meat. And you personally believe that a small government is the most effective pragmatically for society (and more wealth and more success leads to more money for charity!) or morally (it’s my life, my money, my choice!) or even both (free markets are best, small, decentralized government is more efficient and more choice is moral). You chose all three beliefs. None of them conflict with the others. This hand-wringing over the contradictions within are a screamingly false scenario.  Since it’s the entire first graf, it’s hard to want to keep reading. But let’s all the same.

Parker has the ghost of fair point buried in the rest of his vaguely written piece, that libertarianism or free markets can sound too easy a solution in our big, complex world. But that is only to and coming from people who don’t know what libertarianism or free markets means. People say communism works only on paper (though it doesn’t really) and that being true of libertarianism instead is a popular liberal critique of the latter. Parker notes this, and he notes that he now believes libertarianism doesn’t work in the real world. This sounds profound, because it implies that he, and other critics, have taken the time to actually consider the ideology before dismissing it. But they haven’t. It’s just a variation on the asinine idea that saying “the market will take care of it” is somehow equal to saying the government will take care of it, or the deus ex machina will. See: lots of liberal jokes about the invisible hand.

Saying the market will take care of it is simply saying that voluntary decisions will be made, leading to a likely to be localized solution to, say, a lack of restaurant diversity or transportation options in a city. And there are concerns over this. No respectable libertarian believes in utopia, only improvement.  And they wonder over who will help the very poor or disadvantaged. They have written books upon articles upon books about every facet of this. And somehow, often, even in our crony capitalist, big government world, people will see a problem and try to solve it, either because they are motivated by enlightened self-interest or because people, for myriad reasons, do actually work hard in other to help people who are down on their luck, either temporarily or permanently. They do. But liberalism demands that we ignore the stunning voluntary generosity of people, because it is inconvenient to the ideology that some people must force others to help others. (But help often means in a bureaucratic, stifling manner that may include zoning or health regulations or other laws that unquestionably restrict voluntary charity.)

So why does someone like Parker, who claims to have read certain (unnamed) books on libertarianism imply with every word that he was the first libertarian to consider compassion, or to worry about the poor? Why does he not mention a single scholar, author, thinker, or anyone else to demonstrate what he believed before, and what he believes now as a healthily nuanced liberal?

Because it’s about feelings in the end! And Parker felt bad.

 My thoughts and feelings were at odds. The feeling nagging me was that I couldn’t reconcile my humanity with my ideology any more than my friend could for me. Over time, that feeling became a reason in its own right.

It’s hard not to think he just gave in to peer pressure. He convinced himself he couldn’t possibly care about people without wanting to force others to do so in a rigid, legalistic fashion.

But why is (supposed) rigidity only the domain of the libertarian (or, we presume, the communist)? Why is, people will figure out their own lives and the lives of their loved ones, and maybe help figure out the lives of the people in their cities or neighborhoods or blocks, somehow a one-size fits all, abstract, clunky philosophy? And of course “more government spending, more federal oversight, we’ll hash it out in Congress” is not? And when does Parker’s new noble, compromising and “messy” virtue become slightly less virtuous, after the second Iraq war? A couple of drone strikes? The war on drugs?

Parker is reminiscent of one of those people who responds “run for office!” or “vote!” when you express moral qualms over something, even something they as a progressive should agree is wrong, such as war or injust imprisonment. Say, aren’t some things just wrong? Rape is surely wrong, but isn’t decades in prison, with the potential for rape, over the consumption and sale of a substance? Murder has got to be wrong, the ultimate wrong. So maybe murder by missile and drone is the very same thing, no matter who voted for what, or how neat and tidy the process of getting there happened to be?

It’s not lazy ideology to say that the onus should not be on the person whose life is being ruined to prove it should not be. (Not to mention, voting and running for office is more likely to lead to no change at all.)

Libertarians philosophy is chock full of thinkers and writers, none of whom Parker bothered to mention. But more importantly, government, not libertarianism, is the entity that tries to fill every crevice of human experience and existence without nuance. It is the intellectually feeble answer to every real or imagined ill. And what is more smug than believing you know best how strangers should live their lives, and you know it so damned well, it’s going to happen by force?

Previously on Salon’s Praise Me, I Am No Longer a Libertarian: ‘What’s The Point of This Salon Article By a Man Who Went From Libertarianism to Liberalism?’

Sen. Rand Paul’s speech at the historically black college Howard University earlier in the week provoked liberal scorn from some, including the frustrating-cause-he-almost-knows-better MSNBC stable Chris Hayes. The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf wrote a blog post in response to Hayes and company’s easy critique of Paul as the stammering, Southern, pandering white Republican who doesn’t care about the black community and it contains some deliciously damning bits.

To much of the left, Republicans are by default Mitt Romney asking a group of black kids “who let the dogs out?” They’re racist and when they try not be, they’re an out of touch joke, not interested in changing any of society’s racist institutions. This is too-often a fair critique of the right, to be sure. But it also give the left, at least the Democrat left, an absurd amount of completely undeserved credit, and neglects to damn them for their equal sins in this arena.

Friederdorf’s subhed alone — “What’s most racially “cringe-worthy,” Rand Paul’s speech at Howard, Stop and Frisk, or indefinite detention?” — sums it all up brilliantly. Read the whole thing here, but read the takeaway below.

(Friedersdorf is rapidly joining the ranks of journalists that I am mad about not being.)

[Rand] Paul believes minorities are disproportionately affected by failing schools, draconian sentences for non-violent crimes, and drug laws. He believes reforming those policy areas is required for racial progress, and also worth doing because people of all races would benefit. More broadly, he believes that protecting civil liberties is particularly crucial to protecting minority rights. Agree or disagree with his policy stances. But don’t say, as Hayes does, that he believes achieving racial progress is just a matter of having the right conversations.

That is verifiably false.

The irony is that Hayes’ segment and most coverage of race in the establishment media treats conversation about race — it’s earnestness, tone, and sophistication — as a proxy far more important than hard fought policy changes. Awkward moments during a speech at Howard can get you labeled as hilariously backward about race in America in analysis that totally ignores your policy efforts.

Whereas Mayor Bloomberg, who has presided over Stop and Frisk and spying on innocent Muslim Americans, would never be labeled “worse than Braid Paisley on civil rights.” And Barack Obama, who gave a superb speech about race in America, is judged, by virtue of his rhetorical sophistication, to be the epitome of enlightenment on the subject. Hayes is truly a vital voice, in part because (unlike many others on MSNBC) he consistently and admirably criticizes the Obama Administration for its transgressions against civil liberties. Insofar as there’s any chance of stopping indefensible drone strikes or inane drug policies, it’s because of people like Hayes, and I really can’t overstate how much I appreciate that about his work. Yet he would not do a mocking, glib segment that portrayed Obama’s outreach to blacks and Muslims as laughable and “cringe-inducing,” no matter how badly Obama’s policies transgressed against justice. That’s because in America we cringe at awkward moments more than indefinite detention. Paul’s rhetoric on race is thought to be more “unsophisticated” than Stop and Frisk.

Even people who criticize establishment abominations can’t quite bring themselves to mock and ridicule them.

Ridicule is for folks outside the tribe.

The rest of the Paul-mocking media wouldn’t criticize a Bloomberg or Obama on civil rights or racial policy at all, not because Bloomberg and Obama have more enlightened racial policies — they’re presiding over the ugliest of what we’ve got at the local and national levels — but because Bloomberg and Obama know how to talk about race in the way it is done at liberal arts colleges. They’d be far better than Paul at being sensitivity trainers or diversity outreach coordinators.

Yesterday, the Associated Press declared that the phrase illegal immigrant was no longer kosher, which is a big deal, since when the AP changes its style guide, newspapers around the country go along with it. Naturally, many people (mostly conservatives) responded to the tiny tweak with howls—and tweets—of derision.

The AP’s reasoning for this fairly mild mandate is that illegal shouldn’t be a descriptor for a person; indeed, “No person is illegal” is a common pro-immigration slogan. “Illegal should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally,” Kathleen Carroll, a senior vice president and executive editor at the AP, wrote to explain the decision. So you can say, “Chen illegally overstayed his visa and lived illegally in the United States,” but Chen himself is not an illegal immigrant. Nor is he an undocumented worker, or an illegal alien, terms which have already fallen out of AP favor.

Though there are meaty—if often abstract and geeky—debates to be had over language, from the legacy of theN word to rigidly enforced political correctness on college campuses. So far, this war of words has been filled with self-righteous, obnoxious carping about terminology, which is far less helpful than discussing whether it’s wrong for poor people to cross an imaginary line in search of better lives. But at the same time, this conscious word-choice change points at the bigger issue of why 11 million people who live and work in the US are treated as an invading army by so many of their fellows.

The rest here