Monday, September 30, 2013

Webcam Hacking is Bad Beta

From Reuters:

(Reuters) - Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf said on Friday it was "weird" to learn that the 19-year-old California man charged with hacking into her webcam and taking nude photos in a so-called "sextortion" case, was a high school classmate.

Wolf, 19, told NBC's "Today" show she has "mixed feelings" a day after the arrest of Jared Abrahams, and that part of her feels sorry for him.

"It's weird for me to be able to put a face to the person who did this to me and to know that it's somebody I went to high school with," the beauty queen told "Today."

. . . .

Wolf and Abrahams are both from Temecula, in Southern California. The beauty queen told NBC she was not friends with Abrahams in high school, but knew his name and routinely passed him in the hallway.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Democrat Gamesmanship

From the Washington Post:

As Budget Fight Looms, Obama Sees Defiance in His Own Party

Um . . . yeah, I’m thinking not.  As we read the article, we discover there is not a single substantive issue with which any Democrat disagrees with the President.  Rather, the Democrat criticisms are about “leadership”, strategy and tactics.  Gamesmanship, in other words.  Not policy.

On one hand, this is understandable.  Everyone wants to be on a winning team.  This includes Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself).  So, since they don’t believe their team to be winning, and since there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with the policy product their peddling, then it must be a failure of marketing.  And that must be Obama’s fault.

That’s never the framing of Republican woes.  In that case, the Republican policies are always about to alienate some vital constituency – single mothers, racial minorities, illegal immigrants, etc. -- that they must appeal to right away if they ever hope to gain or hold power.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A “Civil Right” to be a Mass Murderer?

In the wake of yet another mass shooting in a “gun-free zone”, and after a feint at gun-control, the media seems to have settled into a new narrative.  From, for instance, the Washington Post:

Military’s background check system failed to block gunman with a history of arrests

So already we’re off to a bad start.  WaPo writers ought to know perfectly well (and probably do) that the purpose of the security clearance system isn’t to “block gunmen”.  It’s to protect the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, the release of which would damage national security.  This is not a defense; obviously, the security clearance system failed to prevent Edward Snowden’s activities.  But it wasn’t designed to prevent Aaron Alexis’.

Should it be the purpose?  Protecting classified information is arguably a function unique to the government.  I stress arguably; in fact, many private-sector positions may require protecting lawfully-held proprietary information from unauthorized disclosure, and it seems reasonable that companies would screen such employees much as the government does.  But let’s put that aside, for the moment, because what isn’t arguable is that denying access of potential mass-murderers to the rest of its workforce is a potential interest of any organization that might choose to address it.  Contra Judy Woodruff, government employees have no greater “right to safety” than any other employee of any other firm, nor should they.

Which brings me to a connection I have seen literally nobody in the media make:  Eric Holder’s justice department is at this very moment busy suing companies who use criminal background checks to screen job applicants.  As usual, its legal reasoning isn’t solicitude for ex-convicts (which might have some merit – reintegrating convicts into society is a tricky problem).  Rather it is disparate impact:  blacks commit felonies at greater rates than whites, and thus suffer more from private industry’s disinclination to bear the elevated risk posed by employees with a history of anti-social behavior and poor decision making. 

So it will be somewhat hypocritical for the same government filing these lawsuits to turn around and tighten its own background checks because it doesn’t want to bear the risk posed by employees with a history of anti-social behavior and poor decision making.

Let’s return to the WaPo article:

It is unclear why the Defense Department approved Alexis’s security clearance after his 2004 arrest in Seattle for shooting out the tires of a car. Thomas Richards, a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management, said the office conducted only one security review of Alexis, in 2007, and that it turned up his 2004 arrest in Seattle.

He maintained his clearance despite more recent brushes with the law and a pattern of misconduct that preceded his discharge from the Navy. Alexis was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct in DeKalb County, Ga., in 2008, and after he fired a shot into his apartment ceiling in Texas in 2010.

From other reporting, Alexis was never charged in connection with the two firearm-related arrests.  I would be willing to let the 2010 episode slide:  an accidental discharge could happen once to anyone.  But I agree with Steve:  Alexis should have been prosecuted for shooting out someone’s car tires in an “anger-fueled blackout”.  Why he wasn’t has never been adequately explained, but it represents one of two bona-fide failures in the way the process is supposed to work.  But that failure rests with Seattle, not the DoD.

A Defense Department official said that lower-level clearances such as the one granted to Alexis are typically good for 10 years. Former military employees who become private-sector contractors can also maintain their clearance during that time.

The official said a person can keep a clearance “in the absence of unadjudicated derogatory information.”

“Adjudication” in this context means that some negative information was found, and the clearing agency has to make an individualized determination about whether the individual is trustworthy.  I don’t actually know whether a felony conviction could have been adjudicated favorably.

The agency did not conduct a new background check either last year, when Alexis was first hired as a military contractor, or this summer, when Alexis was seeking a second stint with the contracting firm, people familiar with his hiring said. Instead, the company hired an approved background screening firm that confirmed with the Defense Department that Alexis’s security clearance remained valid.

That’s the way it works.  A clearance is portable during the ten years.

A secret-level clearance requires far less-intensive digging than one for top-secret clearance, and involves only a check of the FBI database, military records and data from law enforcement agencies where an applicant has lived, worked or attended school during the past five years. It does not require interviews with family members, co-workers or employers.

All this is correct.  Only the Top Secret clearance is good for five years between investigations, and only Top Secret clearance investigations require interviews.  This makes them time consuming and expensive in the best of circumstances.  Clean-living can help; my TS investigation took less than six months, but I know people who waited over a year.

And it doesn’t help that the TS periodic re-investigations have a backlog; they are supposed to occur ever five years, but my two didn’t occur until the seven points.  In the mean time, the policy is, we keep doing our jobs, and this was long before the current usage of the word “sequester” had even been invented.

The reason I say all this is that before we follow the WaPo’s apparent advice and start holding all security clearance investigations to TS standards, we should be aware of the trade-offs we are making.  Everyone in the armed forces holds a Secret clearance just to get started; only a relative handful hold a TS.  We would have to put a LOT more money into the investigative process and eliminate a LOT more people, most of them minorities, from consideration for any kind of government service.

From, for instance, the LA Times:

Police in Rhode Island warned the U.S. Navy last month [August, 2013] that Aaron Alexis was hallucinating and hearing voices, and security officials at the local Navy base where he worked promised to look into the matter.

Newport Police Lt. William Fitzgerald said Wednesday that officers had faxed a copy of their report to the Newport Naval Station after Alexis told them on Aug. 7 that he was being threatened by unseen people and feared that "some sort of microwave machine" was penetrating his body.

"We faxed it to them that same day, an hour after we spoke to Mr. Alexis," Fitzgerald said. "They said they would look into it, that they would follow up on it. It was a routine thing for us to give them a heads-up."

A Navy official in Washington said Navy security agents in Newport had reviewed the allegations and decided Alexis was not a threat to the installation or to himself. He called the notification "routine" and said security personnel apparently did not interview Alexis or revoke his security clearance.

Hallucinations and “voices” only mean schizophrenia.  Now, schizophrenia can be controlled with medication, but in what universe does a police report to Navy security agents about it not become cause for a directed psychological evaluation?  This, in my opinion, is the second bona-fide failure.

Alexis went on after the August episode to purchase his Remington 870 pump-action shotgun (the one firearm outstanding on my shopping list, dammit).  The gun grabbers will make the usual hay out of this, but I’m prepared to concede at least a partial point:  while no one should be denied their constitutional rights on the strength of anything less than “due process of law”, there should be some consideration given to a process that converts the scenario described above into a hearing.  I don’t have any immediate recommendations in this regard, and I recognize that coming up with a solution is difficult when the gun grabbers are participating in bad faith.  But it ought to be looked at.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

genetic variation

"What are some things that could affect how fast a person heals?" asks our science teacher



"Activities they might be doing."

"Yes those are some of them", he said, nodding, "but are there any more?"
Everybody thinks for several more seconds but cant come up with any more.
"do you think race could be a factor?"
Silence, complete silence for ten seconds.
One student raises a tentative hand.

"Don't you mean like, genetic variation?" the student asks.

"Yes", the science teacher nods, "race."

This little conversation gave me food for thought.  These kids have been told that racism is bad for so long that they are afraid to even say the word race.
It's sad to realize that all my friends and allies are being turned into mindless puppets that will believe anything they are taught in school without question.  it's depressing.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Honor in Norway

The NYT reports on the recent third-place election finish of the Norwegian Progress Party:

LONDON — A little more than two years after a far-right, anti-immigrant militant killed 77 people . . .

Anders Breivik, remember?  Of course, Breivik quit Progress in disgust with democracy in general.  But like the Oklahoma City bombing is the fault of Rush Limbaugh, Matthew Shepard was the fault of Focus on the Family, Gabrielle Giffords was the fault of Sarah Palin, and the FRC shooter was the fault of . . . OOPS, scratch that, Floyd Lee Corkins II was just a random gunman proving we need more gun control and had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the $PLC defamation, never mind the testimony of Corkins himself.  The NYT rule is:  the killers of favored classes are always products of un-favored classes, never the other way around.

Continuing . . .

The campaign had been centered largely on economic issues, like extending already generous welfare payments (Labor) versus cutting taxes and privatizing hospitals (Conservatives). But the massacre on the island of Utoya, where Anders Behring Breivik attacked youth members of the Labor Party on July 22, 2011, was never far from the surface.

In support of which assertion, the NYT musters exactly zero evidence.

Contrast this with this Financial Times article (warning:  free subscription required), which quotes multiple Labor Party members disavowing any connection between Breivik and Progress.  Apparently, the Norwegians haven’t read the NYT playbook, and prefer, you know, honesty.

Which is somewhat ironic.  I can’t speak for Progress, which in any case is run by timid incrementalists.  But amid all the bogus connections asserted by the NYT, Breivik is the one monster who more-or-less reflects my view of the world.

Don’t misunderstand me:  Breivik is evil.  Indeed, pound for pound, he might be as evil as his intended victims, the would-be murderers of the Norwegian nation.  And for the $PLC stooges looking to expand their blacklist:  no, I won’t be following in his footsteps.  I’m too old.  And too married, too Christian, too comfortable in my little bourgeois life.  But I would be lying if I said I didn’t understand the appeal of hoisting the Jolly Roger.

In summary, I guess I’d put Breivik in the same moral category with lesbians:  wrong.  But I kind of get it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

don't be racist!

"Have a good day and don't be racist" calls our social studies teacher as we leave the classroom.  he says this every day.  now the thought of being racist never even crossed my mind, and there really aren't enough people to be racist to yet every day its the same thing, don't be racist.  it feels like it's all they teach you. 

Avoiding Creepitude

Sheila’s ode to James DiMaggio reminded me of a non-conversation I had with my daughter. 

I came in to the TV room where Γ (now my co-blogger "Aquilla") and her best friend / next-door-neighbor were watching NCIS (probably, since its in syndication now on USA and this summer she’s been watching it for several of the 12 or so hours a day they run it).  Γ is sitting at the end of the couch that faces the TV (the only really suitable place to sit), BF is sitting more-or-less in the middle.

“Scoot,” I instructed Γ.


“Slide over.  I want to sit next to you on the end.”

No!  Go sit next to BF!” she replied, gesturing vaguely at the empty spot on the other end.

I glared at her for a few seconds.  “Seriously.  You’re not scooting over?”


How do I explain this? I thought to myself as I sat on the floor.  How do I tell my daughter that the rules are different for men, that the trip from “family friend” to “creepy old guy” is very short, that as she gets older there is a non-zero probability that certain . . . physical geometries will make her friends uncomfortable, and that her father lives in mortal fear of those probabilities.

Ultimately, I didn’t.  Instead, I told her later, “look, the person who is my daughter is you.  It’s your job to sit next to your dad, and it’s very bad form to try to foist that job onto your friends.”

She was receptive to this.  I think she understood at least some of my implications, which is more than I expected.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

hello from Aqilla

Hi, my name is Aquilla the child previously known an gamma 1. I am now writing for my dads blog.
 I'll be writing about my experience in the warm clutches of the state* where we learn all about diversity and how slavery was bad because that's all they ever teach us.
* otherwise known as public school

Friday, September 13, 2013

Secession Reconsidered

Inspired by Seth Barrett Tillman’s response to my post on secession, I looked up Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation:

Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.

And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union. Know Ye that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained: And we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said Confederation are submitted to them.  And that the Articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual.

This article was cited by the Supreme Court when it finally considered secession as a legal principle in the 1869 case Texas vs. White.  From Salmon Chase’s majority opinion:

The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to 'be perpetual.' And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained 'to form a more perfect Union.' It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?[7]

When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.[7]

Though of course redundant in that the matter of secession had already been decided by force of arms, it is difficult to find fault with Chase’s reasoning as an historical and legal matter.  I still argue that, as a matter of first principles, the Southern states had as much a moral entitlement to self-government as the Thirteen Colonies.  But it would be incorrect to assert as I did that the States had preserved the right of unilateral secession under the existing political arrangements any more than the Thirteen had a legal right to unilaterally repudiate their colonial charters.  Article XIII, unlike “we the people,” is no mere rhetorical flourish, and in that context, neither is “a more perfect union”:  the several States really had committed themselves to a “perpetual”, i.e. permanent, national government.  Again, as a matter of history, I find this argument so compelling that I can’t help but wonder why, amidst all the ink spilled on this subject from Mill to Volokh, I had to find out about it almost literally by accident.

It is instructive to imagine an alternative history in which a more conciliatory Southern congressional delegation had joined with such Northerners eager to be quit of them and their stranglehold on the Legislative Branch and formed a working majority in favor of an amicable separation; this instead of walking out in a huff.  But then, the huffiness was of a piece with the South’s badly constrained militancy and overreach on the subject of slavery.  I hasten to add that the South was not alone in its militancy; the atrocities of John Brown and Nat Turner, coupled with the South’s characterization in the Northern press as evil merely for having inherited an institution as old as civilization itself, certainly played their role in provoking that militancy.  But if the South would assert its own “separate and equal station”, it must assume separate and equal responsibility for its own actions.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Minority Unionists

In addition (or rather, as part of) John Stuart Mill's moral critique of the Southern secessionists, he asks:

Before admitting the authority of any persons, as organs of the will of the people, to dispose of the whole political existence of a country, I ask to see whether their credentials are from the whole, or only from a part. And first, it is necessary to ask, Have the slaves been consulted? Has their will been counted as any part in the estimate of collective volition? They are a part of the population. However natural in the country itself [meaning the United States], it is rather cool in English writers who talk so glibly of the ten millions [of southerners]…., to pass over the very existence of four millions who must abhor the idea of separation.

More on this theme from Seth Barrett Tillman:

First, we do not have good evidence that even a majority of the adult white males in each rebel state supported secession at the time purported state conventions issued their ordinances of secession. The secession conventions were hardly models of transparency or one-(white)-man-one-(white)-vote equality in terms of fair representation. See, e.g., Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Constitution: A Biography 354 (2005) (explaining—in model clarity—that “state-secession votes occurred in assemblies skewed by state-law variants of the federal three-fifths clause—laws that gave plantation belts undue weight in the ultimate outcome”). I am in Ireland now, and so, I do not have easy access to much American material, but (as I remember) there is good authority for the view that a majority of the adult white males in Georgia did not support secession in 1861.

Second, if secession were/is a valid political principle, even absent concrete and substantial wrongdoing by the government from which one is seceding, then it does not stop with states seceding from the federal government. Many Southern states had counties and large regions where the white population was overwhelmingly loyal to the Union. E.g., Northern Alabama and Mississippi, western Virginia (prior to recognition of West Virginia statehood as the legitimate successor to rebel Virginia). Likewise, every rebel state (South Carolina excepted) produced organized loyalist regiments, and even South Carolina sent many white men who enlisted in Union regiments. Those loyalist counties and regions also produced active pro-Union militias in their home states. At no time did any rebel assembly or governor allow these counties and regions to remain in the Union or secede from the rebel state. The rebel position was never secession pure and simple, but secession in the context of organic, fixed, immutable states—against all. Secession was something rebels could do to others (based on a whim and fear of future wrongdoing at the hands of the newly elected Lincoln administration), but not which others could do to them (to the extent that rebels murdered Unionists, exiled them, and had their homes burned to the ground merely because loyalists continued to express political sympathy for the flag their fathers and grandfathers fought and bled for).

The problem of vindicating the citizenship of minority unionists trapped behind the lines of territorial secession, and to ensure that the territory claimed by secessionists bears some proportion to the popular sentiment of its inhabitants, is perhaps the most fraught of the issues implicated in a generalized support for self-government. It certainly applies to the North Alabamans . . . as it did to the Confederates of the Allegheny Mountain region of West Virginia, the Tories after the War for Independence, the Sudenten Germans in the 1930s, and the ethnic Russians of the Baltics in the 1990s. Ideally, such issues can be resolved by negotiation, but as these examples illustrate, by the time secession has been gotten around to, idealism of any kind is in short supply. The depressing reality seems to be that the strong do as they will, the weak endure as they must.

But to the extent we look to reasoning rather than force of arms to decide the matter, I want to inspect the claims made on behalf of the Union loyalists.

The slaves didn't vote. True enough. And freedmen in the North were allowed to vote in only four states at the time of the Civil War. (I researched this, but if this or any other of the historical assertions I make in this post are shown to be in error, I will correct them.)

The votes of poor whites were diluted. Also generally true in the North. Indeed, this was established practice in may states until the Supreme Court decision in Reynolds vs. Simms in 1964; it probably wasn't much questioned at the time of the Civil War. Can the North claim in good faith to vindicate rights they themselves do not observe?

Blacks and/or poor whites did not support secession, and whose equal franchise would have blocked it. This is certainly a plausible assertion, and is probably what is got at by the first two objections above. But is there any actual evidence for it? I can think of very little that the industrial capitalism of the 1860 North offered to either blacks or poor whites that was much superior to what they had: cradle-to-grave care, however mean, for slaves, and some measure of rough independence for poor whites. I am struck by the fact that even after emancipation, many slaves chose to remain with the life they knew, even in the service of such as Alexander Stephens.

The South only wanted "secession in the context of organic, fixed, immutable states". This was certainly the South's strongest legal (as opposed to moral or philosophical) case under the existing political arrangements, and arguments to the contrary strike me as particularly bad. The Federal union was the creature of the state governments, not the other way around, and I see very little in American history prior to the war supporting the notion that union ought be anything other than voluntary. The same cannot be said of sub-state regions. That doesn't vitiate any claims to independence these regions might make, only to say that those claims are philosophical rather than legal.

The South did not respect loyalist regional predominance. True enough in the cases cited above. But while I would recognize the right of Northern Alabamans to self-government, it is not at all clear that they were actually seeking to be a land-locked Union micro-province in the heart of the Confederacy; rather, they supported the status quo ante: a unified republic. That is certainly respectable, but it doesn't mean that they opposition they faced was merely a matter of the South failing to live up to its principles.

Which is not to say that in its drive for independence, the South lived up to its principles. This history of the run-up to secession is chuck-full of nasty, vindictive, and even murderous behavior by . . . well, most everybody, the South included. It would be very difficult to find a legitimate claimant to self-government less sympathetic than the antebellum South. Knowing where it would eventually lead, I can't help but wonder where were the Henry Clays of 1860, the voices of moderation that might have talked everyone down from the precipice of war if not secession.

Friday, September 06, 2013

In Defense of Self-Government

Prompted by the resignation of Jack Hunter (a.k.a., the Southern Avenger) from Sen. Rand Paul’s staff, the writers at the libertarianish collaborative site The Volokh Conspiracy ran a series of posts on the Confederacy, the upshot of which was that the South had it coming.

I am neither a libertarian nor an uncritical defender of the South.  But while these posts are varied in quality – a few have barely risen above point-and-sputter regarding slavery – two in particular stood out as particularly good.  The first was by Randy Barnett

The first, by Randy Barnett, gives chapter-and-verse on how decidedly non-libertarian and indeed non-“States Rights”-affirming the antebellum South actually was.  Reading it, I was struck by the extent to which the South had given the northern states ample cause to secede from the federal Union themselves, so much so that I’m vaguely curious as to why that never actually happened.

The second post, by Ilya Somin, quotes extensively John Stuart Mill’s writings on the Confederacy and whose thoughts are especially interesting given that he wrote them while the war was still in progress.  Mill’s main point is that the defense of slavery motivated secession, subsequent revisionists notwithstanding.

But he also writes something I found troubling:

But we are told, by a strange misapplication of a true principle, that the South had a right to separate; that their separation ought to have been consented to, the moment they showed themselves ready to fight for it; and that the North, in resisting it, are committing the same error and wrong which England committed in opposing the original separation of the thirteen colonies….

I am not frightened at the word rebellion…. But I certainly never conceived that there was a sufficient title to my sympathy in the mere fact of being a rebel; that the act of taking arms against one’s fellow citizens was so meritorious in itself, was so completely its own justification, that no question need be asked concerning the motive. It seems to me a strange doctrine that the most serious and responsible of all human acts imposes no obligation on those who do it, of showing that they have a real grievance; that those who rebel for the power of oppressing others, exercise as sacred a right as those who do the same thing to resist oppression practiced upon themselves…. Secession may be laudable, and so may any other kind of insurrection; but it may also be an enormous crime. It is the one or the other, according to the object and the provocation. And if there ever was an object which, by its bare announcement, stamped rebels against a particular community as enemies of mankind, it is the one professed by the South.

I need to parse the phrase “sufficient title to my sympathy”.  If by this Mill means a cause meriting the provision of material aid, then I would go even farther than he does:  the only causes meriting such aid are ones that advance the interests and well-being of the citizens of the state offering the aid, slavery or no slavery.  But Mill almost certainly doesn’t intend this.  Rather, he would evaluate claim to independence on moral grounds, and finds the South’s lacking.

As I said, I am not a libertarian, but I do believe in territorial self-government, and I advocate this with few reservations.  I have little admiration for how any nation runs its affairs (including, lately, my own) but I would not interfere in how even the obscurantists of the Taliban govern their own country – as surely they will if ever the U.S. removes its military props to the corrupt Karzai regime.  Afghanistan is for the Afghanis, and I only reserve the right to keep such people outside the borders of America.

But isolationism is out of favor, so let me put this another way:  in practice, Mill’s is an “exception” big enough to drive a truck through.  I would go so far as to say that any would-be imperialists, seeking to deny a people weaker than themselves the opportunity to live under laws of their own choosing, could find some moral fault to justify its denial.  They might even find a moral fault on libertarian grounds:  libertarian fantasists to the contrary, all the world’s nations choose a mix of tradeoffs between freedoms and restriction, trade-offs exemplified by the writers at Volokh.  Who among them can cast the first stone?

An argument for tolerance in the context of self-government also may not be sufficiently persuasive to those who, like Somin and perhaps Mill, possess sufficient confidence in the ascendance of their preferred policy mix in what may yet be the most powerful country in the world.  Why should they fear outsiders turning their own taste for imperialism against them?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Rape and the Poisoned Chalice of Liberalism

First, some background: while I am sensitive to the criticisms of many in the manosphere that statutory rape laws are misandrist Victorian relics, I am more sensitive to the concerns of parents that their minor sons and daughters not be whored out to the world. So I would only support reforms that both (a) recognize that teenaged girls are not actually innocent snowflakes corrupted only by predatory adults and (b) preserve parental authority over their children.

And since I'm exceedingly unlikely to get (b), then I'll stick with the status quo, thank you very much, if the alternative is the weakening of the legal sanctions that deter (I hope) men from trying to have sex with my daughters, the social, financial, and emotional consequences of which I would be liable.

Which brings me to the furor over the recent sentence handed down in the case of Stacey Rambold, convicted of statutory rape of then 14-year-old Cherice Moralez. The case is aggravated (in my opinion) by several factors reported in the media (with the usual caveat emptor): Rambold was her teacher and in authority over her, and therefore had professional as well as personal obligations; Rambold used "pre-sexual grooming techniques" (the newly-minted dysphemism for seduction); and according to her mother Auliea Hanlon (yes, your inference is correct), young Cherice's subsequent suicide was related to the affair's fallout and that of its prosecution. This last should reinforce the lesson that sex is appropriately reserved for grown-ups -- preferably married grownups -- who can rationally evaluate and assume the risks of their decisions and their consequences.

Rambold was initially sentenced to "treatment" -- an absurdity to begin with. Judging from the pictures Cherice, Rambold's sexual appetite was entirely normal; the problem was that his appetite was, in the context of the law and social norms, undisciplined. But in any case, Rambold violated the terms of his treatment in some fairly trivial ways and wound up back in front of District Judge G. Todd Baugh.

Judge Baugh put the case in the national news by sentencing to Rambold to 30 days in jail + 10 years suspended. Given the aggravating circumstances cited above, I would tend to agree with, well, every other person on the planet that this sentence was on the light side, and probably not within Montana's sentencing guidelines. However, most of the controversy stems from his reasoning: the affair was consensual, and Cherice bears some responsibility its consequences.

However poorly this fact justifies a mere 30-day sentence, the fact itself is entirely commonsense: that statutory rape (i.e., sex with a minor) is a very different thing than forcible rape, a.k.a, "legitimate rape", a.k.a. "rape-rape". And as a commonsense fact, it cannot be allowed to stand in the mainstream media, which is deeply invested in the politically-correct nonsense that "all rape is rape!" Pursuant to this, they have almost to a man opted simply to lie about the facts of the case.

Take the USA Today article linked above. Nowhere does the term "statutory rape" appear; and indeed, only upon close reading (for I had not heard of this case before following the link from Drudge) did I figure out that that was what the crime was. But it's not just USA Today. Search Google News. As of this writing (Friday), the only news outlets that are up-front about this are the Daily Caller and the Huffington Post. Compare that to the thousands of stories that describe the crime as "rape" without qualifiers.

This casting is more than just stylistic judgement. I caught a snippet of dialog on CNN about the case; a legal analyst was trying to explain (without justifying) the judge's decision by pointing out that it wasn't forcible rape. "'Forcible rape,'" replied the female talking head with an eye-roll, "That's so 1980s!"

Ouch.  That has to be the first use of "1980s" as a synonym for "antediluvian" that I've ever heard.

Again, I am, on balance, in favor of laws prohibiting sex with legal minors. But this is the poison to which liberalism has brought us: because we have established "consent" as the sole metric by which to evaluate sexual relations, we are left with basing our laws on a manifest lie, that minors cannot consent, not just in law, but in fact as well, when clearly they can, and do in great numbers.