Those fine men and women

In the category of "strange things people say" (not a category here by the way), here's George Will on Arizona's new immigration law:

Non-Hispanic Arizonans of all sorts live congenially with all sorts of persons of Hispanic descent. These include some whose ancestors got to Arizona before statehood — some even before it was a territory. They were in America before most Americans' ancestors arrived. Arizonans should not be judged disdainfully and from a distance by people whose closest contacts with Hispanics are with fine men and women who trim their lawns and put plates in front of them at restaurants, not with illegal immigrants passing through their back yards at 3 a.m.

Mysterious.  Read the rest for the usual ad hominem and parade of straw men.

Are you my life-choice supervisor?

The "you're not the boss of me" objection goes like this: pick some not unreasonable but not universally liked behavioral prescription, object to it by saying, "you're not the boss of me."  Trust me, it's how you have a mature, well-informed, and honest debate about, say, public health. 

Some so-called Medical Doctors have suggested that eating certain kinds of foods (Super-sized Salted Salty-O's, for example) will turn you into a health care nightmare.  But this is America.  To ruin your own health, out of ignorance, seems to be some kind right.  You have a right not to have someone inform you about the relevant facts of your life choices.  Or so argues Michael Gerson:

Following the passage of Democratic health-care reform legislation, President Obama assured the country that it was a "middle-of-the-road, centrist approach" instead of an intrusive, government power grab. But the government seems incapable of resisting the nannying impulse that undermines this claim.

So health reform includes a 10 percent tax on the use of indoor tanning beds. (Someone needs to stop this slow-motion Chernobyl.) The law also requires fast-food restaurants to post their calorie counts at the drive-through window, lest anyone be under the impression that a Big Mac is health food.

Recently, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) called for a ban on chewing tobacco in major league baseball. A lawyer for the players' association said, "We can go back to the players and say, 'Congress feels strongly about this. You ought to think about it. Look what's happened on other issues Congress felt strongly about.' " And concerned scientists raised the prospect of legal limits on the salt content of processed foods. There is safety in blandness.

Most symbolically, this year's White House Easter Egg Roll pointedly did not include the distribution of teeth-rotting, obesity-inducing candy. "Every goodie bag," according to one account, "was stuffed with pre-screened fruit, and the grounds were filled with exercise stations." One can only imagine the joy on young faces when they got their apple and their workout.

I can hardly be called a libertarian. Legalizing drugs is a foolish idea because addiction robs people of liberty. Restaurant smoking bans have improved my life and my appetite. But freedom implies some leeway for personal risk and minor, pleasurable foolishness. Democrats in particular seem to be afflicted with Mary Poppins Syndrome: They will not rest until Americans are practically perfect in every way.

I think informing people about the undeniable realities of their food choices–a Big Mac contains 576 calories–could hardly be called an attempt to make Americans perfect in every way.  Rather, some might argue (me for instance), that industries such as BIG COLA and BIG BURGER want to make people ignorant of the consequences of their choices.  Even a libertarian–a consistent one-would have to admit that it's a good thing to know what your food contains. 

But no–such efforts amount to nagging:

This tendency has added relevance because of the passage of health-care reform. When the provision of health insurance to every American becomes a direct responsibility of government, nearly every health matter becomes a public matter. Why not regulate tanning at beaches? Wouldn't mandatory, subsidized sunscreen save billions in health costs? Why not a jelly doughnuts tax? Why not make saturated fat a controlled substance? Shouldn't children on tricycles be required to wear safety helmets?

For some of us, the problem is not the tyranny but the nagging. As the public role in health care expands dramatically, health-care controversies become politicized. The health enthusiasms of a president, an influential congressman or an interest group can become public policy or public pressure. After all: "Look what's happened on other issues Congress felt strongly about." 

Such things always have politicized.  And when people advocate consumers be provided with more information, we get the same, childish argument.  No, no one is the boss of Michael Gerson–he can have a Big Mac whenever he wants.  

The group of non group members

The other day we were treated to the poorly reasoned opinions of culture warrior and disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Christian Legal Society versus Martinez.  Today there is a much more thoughtful discussion (by law professor Jonathan Turley), though one which reaches the same basic conclusion as Gingrich.  A reminder again of the main issue:

The case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, has the potential to resolve a long-standing conflict between two of the most cherished American traditions: equality and nondiscrimination on one hand and the free exercise of religion on the other. The United States has taken great strides in recent years to protect people from discrimination — including hate speech, unfair hiring practices and unequal treatment under the law. But to some, such gains in equality have come at a price. Religious groups that discriminate — confining their membership to the faithful and those who share their views — say they are being penalized.

This specific controversy began at Hastings, part of the University of California, when CLS members asked to become a registered student organization. With that designation, the group could apply for certain funding, send mass e-mails to the student body and participate in an activities fair, among other perks. Hastings said no. The school concluded that because the CLS bylaws barred non-Christians, gays and non-celibate students from serving as officers or voting members, the group violated the school's ban on discrimination "on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation." The CLS could still meet on campus but could not be a registered club unless it opened its membership to all, even those who didn't subscribe to its beliefs. The group challenged the school, and lower courts supported the Hastings policy as a neutral rule applying equally to all groups.

Members of the American Philosophical Association recently debated whether it ought to post job announcements without comment for schools (usually conservative Christian ones) that violate the APA's policies on discrimination against homosexuals (and others) in hiring.  As the debate was among philosophers, hilarity ensued.  See that discussion here.

Turley's argument is ultimately a pragmatic one–the state's interest in fostering association ought to override its concerns about discrimination in particular cases of associating.  This is not an unreasonable position, but I still think it's weak.  He writes:

CLS v. Martinez is a close and difficult case. The court has to weigh fostering diversity of views vs. combating discrimination. The nation benefits when citizens form groups and advance their ideas. Tax-exempt status is even given to groups to encourage association and free speech — important pillars of our society. We cannot pick and choose between groups if we are to allow for pluralism.

The same is true with college groups. A campus offers a cradle of free speech where students can form organizations that foster the exchange of ideas and values. Supporting such groups should not be viewed as endorsing their beliefs but rather as encouraging associations. And as the court stated in Roberts v. United States Jaycees in 1984, "Freedom of association . . . plainly presupposes a freedom not to associate."

While there are strong arguments for upholding the Hastings policy, the CLS was effectively denied recognition because of its religious views — a troubling practice that could easily extend to other groups. For example, some Muslims following Wahabi principles insist that women must be covered and sit separately from men. Likewise, some Orthodox groups such as Hasidic Jews mandate areas divided by gender and require strict dress codes. To insist that Wahabi or Hasidic groups allow anyone to join, including gay and non-conforming members, would create an obvious problem.

Schools can still adopt a nondiscriminatory policy by funding either all or no student groups. That was the choice the Supreme Court gave the University of Virginia in its Rosenberger decision in 1995, after the school refused to pay for publications for religious organizations on campus: Fund all or none.

The question in the current case is where to draw the line. Schools such as Hastings are legitimately barred from discrimination in hiring and promotions. However, barring student organizations based on their religious views puts the state in the position of bestowing favored and unfavored status on groups.

We need to accept that certain forms of government support are meant to foster associations generally and should not turn on the insular views of any particular group. For example, tax exemption should aim to encourage citizens to participate in our society through groups that deepen public debate. These associations not only help individuals define their own values, they also protect the pluralism that defines our nation.

Such neutrality does not mean discrimination is a protected religious right, allowing the faith-based Ku Klux Klan, for example, to engage in public acts of racial hatred. Groups can still be punished for criminal threats, and laws still prohibit discrimination based on race, gender and national origin.

I think we end with a red herring here: no one has suggested CLS has criminal intentions, and we can suppose that the usual criminal laws apply.

The question is another one: does the university have to fund religious groups that discriminate on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, gender and so forth?  That's what CLS wants to do.  And therefore an affirmative response for CLS means that discrimination is a protected religious right.

 If CLS wins, then they can engage in "public acts of discrimination" on the basis of sexual orientation (would that be "public acts of sexual orientation hatred"?): imagine the group email on the law school listserve: "come and join CLS as we pray away the gay–no gays or fornicators allowed."

Government-dictated cultural doctrine

I'm not sure what the policy is at my school (I'll check unless anyone beats me to it), but I think every club has to be in principle open to everybody.  So for instance, Amish people are free to join the electronics club (they're not going to, but anyway). 

For some people in other, far-off places, such openness is not enough freedom.  They want to be free to have a club free of people who don't take their pledge.  Luckily, patriots such as these have Big Idea Man and Disgraced Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to watch out for them:

At the outset of the dispute and well into the initial stages of litigation, Hastings said that CLS had violated the university's bans on religious and "sexual orientation" discrimination. After CLS noted that the law school allowed other groups to organize around nonreligious ideas, Hastings suddenly asserted that no group could exclude anybody for any reason. So the Young Democrats, for example, are apparently required to accept Republicans as members and allow them to be elected to leadership positions in their club. That's simply absurd.

Moreover, it's a ploy contorted to camouflage the double standard being applied to CLS simply because it is a Christian organization. Hastings officials hope to hide the fact that on their campus, as at countless other colleges and universities nationwide, people of faith are being deliberately marginalized and excluded not for any real misdemeanors but for having the temerity to suggest that there's an authority higher than school administrators, a truth more compelling than the latest government-dictated cultural doctrine, and a God more worthy of worship than the idols of the left.

A lot of leftists — in the offices of government and in the halls of academia — seem to find those ideas laughable. And yet, watch their faces in the courtrooms and classrooms. They're not laughing. When it comes to eroding freedom to shore up their own politically correct agenda, they are deadly serious.

Being subject to the same rules as everyone else is not usually grounds for marginalization–but what do I know?  My "equal protection" intuition is likely just the "latest government-dictated cultural doctrine."

One-circle Venn diagram

An article in the NYT on the tea partiers comes to the conclusion most of us had already drawn–they're confused:

Their responses are like the general public’s in many ways. Most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools. A plurality do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers. They actually are just as likely as Americans as a whole to have returned their census forms, though some conservative leaders have urged a boycott.

….

Asked what they are angry about, Tea Party supporters offered three main concerns: the recent health care overhaul, government spending and a feeling that their opinions are not represented in Washington.

….

[warning nuts ahead] “I just feel he’s getting away from what America is,” said Kathy Mayhugh, 67, a retired medical transcriber in Jacksonville. “He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says. He’s been in office over a year and can’t find a church to go to. That doesn’t say much for him.”

….

And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

Enter usual caveats about polling and reporting, but "paying into and deserving benefits" is how government ought to work.  Remakring on the results of the poll, Steve Benen quips: 

If you were to make a Venn Diagram of the issues Tea Party members care about, and the issues Tea Party members are confused about, you'd only see one circle. 

 

Center-left, perhaps

Norman Orenstein, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, yes, the place that separated itself from someone who dared suggest the Republicans blew it on HIR, writes:

Looking at the range of Obama domestic and foreign policies, and his agency and diplomatic appointments, my conclusion is clear: This president is a mainstream, pragmatic moderate, operating in the center of American politics; center-left, perhaps, but not left of center. The most radical president in American history? Does Newt Gingrich, a PhD in history, really believe that [expletive]?

"Center-left, perhaps?" Let's see if they fire this guy.

Rich Dad/Poor Dad

David Brooks has the courage to ask the question that's on everyone's lips:

David Brooks: Yes. I was going to say that for the first time in human history, rich people work longer hours than middle class or poor people. How do you construct a rich versus poor narrative when the rich are more industrious?

The rich, who will speak for them?

h/t the whole blogosphere.

I wanted to make history

Here's an entertaining misuse of an argument schema (or topic as they were once called):

KRAUTHAMMER: It’s only nine times the length of the Gettysburg Address, and Lincoln was answering an easier question, the higher purpose of the union and soldiers who fell in battle. The president had an easy answer. He could have said I wanted to make history with health care and to do it I have to raise your taxes. … End of answer.

He's talking about Obama's response to a question about health care and taxes–a response that went 17 minutes.  Aside from the fact that Krauthammer's argument just blows, as the Gettsyburg address wasn't a response to a specific question about policy, the form of this argument is ludicrous.  Imagine–every policy matter less important than the preservation of the Union (or the tyranny of Northern aggression, depending on your viewpoint) must be discussed for a time commensurate with its relationship to the Gettsyburg Address.