Still Gone:

I'm beginning to doubt I will ever be back.

Carry on.


In the last post I threw out a few Inflammatory Debate Questions:
1. Is it really a threat to democracy for Lindsey Graham to say that there's ample precedent in American history for wartime limitations on "speech"?

2. Does expressing an opinion that differs from your own make a politician "unfit for office"?

3. Is America really so fragile that we can't discuss the trade offs between liberty and security without imperiling the Republic?

The Intrepid MikeD was kind enough to put himself in the line of fire respond to my anguished cri de coeur:
I wish we could find a way to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war,” Graham told CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday.

How do we hold people accountable in this country? A civil suit, perhaps. Criminal law? Occasionally. The fact that he's a lawmaker makes this a monumentally stupid thing for him to say.

As it turns out, Graham later explained the comment (which was by no means clear):
NRO: How do you do that?
GRAHAM: Push back. Let the world know that we don’t condone this, that this is not America. Let people see that this is not who the American people are. To be a Christian, you don’t have to prove you’re a Christian by burning the Koran. We are nation where we tolerate religious differences and that’s what makes us great. We want to push the Muslim world to tolerate Christianity better. It’s pretty hard for us to stand up for freedom of religion in Islamic counties when you can’t stand up for it here.

NRO: If Koran burning puts troops at risk, should the New York Times be banned from publishing classified memos, since that is a form of First Amendment expression that potentially puts our troops at risk?

GRAHAM: Yes. I was very consistent. I wanted to investigate the WikiLeaks case to see if it compromised our national security. See, I believe that we are at war. I am not talking about Koran burning in isolation. I am talking about it in response to what General Petraeus said. If this is important enough to him to issue a statement, then it ought to be important enough for us in government to listen to what he has to say.

This is not some theoretical case of free speech; this is a case that is impacting the security of our forces, according to our general on the ground. WikiLeaks was the release of classified information, and I don’t believe that the private in question has a free-speech defense. Those who release classified information, even for those in the media, they are not above the law. The First Amendment doesn’t allow people to publish state secrets.

NRO: But don’t you fear that if we let Islamic extremists determine the speech debate in the United States, then we’ve lost something?

GRAHAM: No. Here’s what I fear: I fear that politicians don’t have any problem pushing against laws in the Middle East that are outrageous. It’s perfectly acceptable for me to push back against prosecutions by Islamic countries against people of my faith. And it is perfectly appropriate for me to condemn Koran burning when the general who is in charge of our troops believes that such action would help. I’m not letting Islamists determine what free speech in America is, but I am, as a political leader, trying to respond to the needs of our commander. You’ve got to remember, General Petraeus decided that this was important enough to get on the record as being inappropriate. And I want to be on the record with General Petraeus.

NRO: Instead of being an advocate for Petraeus, should you not first and foremost be an advocate for the First Amendment?

GRAHAM: You know what? Let me tell you, the First Amendment means nothing without people like General Petraeus. I don’t believe that the First Amendment allows you to burn the flag or picket the funeral of a slain service member. I am going to continue to speak out and say that’s wrong. The First Amendment does allow you to express yourself and burn a Koran. I’m sure that’s the law, but I don’t think it’s a responsible use of our First Amendment right.

Where does this end? How many more things are going to happen in the world that is going to incite violence against our service members overseas? I am just asking Americans, don’t do that, please. For God’s sake, no matter how you feel about religion, please keep it within the confines of realizing that we have thousands of people serving our nation, fighting for those First Amendment rights. They’ve got enough problems.

Just be responsible, that’s all I’m trying to say. Burning the Bible would not justify murder, burning the Koran doesn’t justify violence. The people who are committing this violence, I condemn them. That’s what I said Sunday. I don’t think I said anything Sunday that was inconsistent with what General Petraeus said.

Maybe I hate America too, but I don't have any problem with any of this. Repeat after me: Lindsey Graham does not have the ability to single handedly pass laws against Koran burning. Nor did he advocate doing so (hand waving and hyperbolic mischaractizations notwithstanding).

I'm fine with people disagreeing with Senator Graham. But I get off the bus when I see people arguing that it's "dangerous" to limit free speech... and then go ballistic when a U.S. citizen says something they disagree with. I thought the whole point was that robust debate was a *good* thing?

As for the second part of Mike's commment, I'm going to take exception to that, too (what is this? Pick on MikeD day? :)
But what is really the icing on my cake is "Free speech is a great idea..." No, the HELL it's NOT Senator, it's the CONSTITUTION. It superceeds the law. As far as your oath of office is concerned, it is your primary focus in your JOB. And what war are we in? ... Unless that moron pastor in Florida is inciting riots, committing treason, or aiding and abetting the enemy (which pissing them off hardly seems like abetting them), I see no need for the United States Government to "hold him accountable."

First of all, it's not at all clear to me that Graham is advocating that the U.S. government hold Koran burners accountable:
NRO: The question about your comments is about imposing any kind of legal pushback during a time of war.

GRAHAM: If I could, I would make it a crime to burn the flag, but the only way you could do that is through a constitutional amendment.

NRO: What I don’t understand is, if would you support an amendment to ban flag burning, why do you not support one to ban Koran burning?

GRAHAM: In my view, the flag represents who we are as a nation. It is a symbol of who we are. If you start talking about individual acts of religious intolerance, the amendment doesn’t make any sense. It does make sense, to me, to focus on the symbol of the country, the flag. I’m not proposing that we propose a ban on religious disagreement. I am saying that you can disagree with America; you can disagree with me, but don’t burn the one symbol that holds us together. That’s not an act of speech. They say that is symbolic speech, but I think that is a destructive act. It’s the one thing that unites us.

Yet when it comes to regulating what individual churches may do, or what individual citizens may do under the guise under religion, you are not going to be able to write a constitutional amendment to ban those practices. There is no way to do that. I wish we could hold people accountable for their actions, but under free speech, you can’t.

Secondly, if you stop to realize that one of the major goals of the Taliban/Al Qaeda is to turn Abdul SixPack against us, then it's hard to imagine a better propaganda tool than some moron burning a Koran. Let's not forget that Afghanistan ain't Manhattan. It's a foreign culture that views honor in a way that is... well, foreign to us. And it's not too hard to whip up a mob in a country with where law and order are both fragile and precarious. I would argue that if you make it easy for our enemies to turn the general public against us, you ARE aiding and abetting the enemy (leaving aside the question of appropriate response).

A few years ago when the anti-war Left were hysterically accusing Der BusHitler of violating the Constitution, I read an interesting book. The man who wrote it - Richard Posner - is not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. His thesis was that war is different from peacetime and the Constitution was never intended to be a suicide pact:
Posner, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, inaugurates a new series on inalienable rights. The series is intended to stimulate debate, and Posner's work will do exactly that, drilling energetically into a set of issues raised by what he sees as an unprecedented emergency. In the fact of terrorism and the threat of WMDs, he argues, the scope of constitutional rights must be adjusted—i.e., narrowed—in a pragmatic but rational manner. Saying we must balance the harm new security measures inflict on personal liberty against the increased security those measures provide, Posner comes down, in most but not quite all respects, on the side of increased government power. He advocates that coercive and even brutal forms of interrogation should be allowed in proper circumstances, that all communications within the United States should be subject to interception, and that government should have authority to enjoin publication of classified information. Posner (An Affair of State) would impose limits and qualifications on these assertions of government power, but even so, his views will provoke Category 5 protest from civil libertarians. You may agree with or be appalled by Posner's cost-benefit analyses, but the author's premises are explicit, his writing is economical and precise, and he ably makes the case for his side in the national debate.

I agree with Mike that we should view any infringement on our civil rights (whether it be during war or peacetime) with a suspicious eye. But I also see the wisdom in Justice Jackson's famous maxim in his dissent to Terminiello v. Chicago. It's an interesting case.
If a lifetime of reading history has given me an appreciation for anything, it has strengthened my faith in the natural ebb and flow of liberty in this country and the robustness of our system of government. Certainly there have been abuses and the majority of those abuses have occurred during time of war. From the vantage point of hindsight, it's easy to look back at our forebears and blithely say, "They overreacted", or conversely, "Gee... all those abuses and yet somehow the Republic endured!"

To me, the latter view makes more sense. To pretend that wartime (and we ARE fighting two wars and our servicemen and women ARE just as important as their civilian counterparts) restrictions of liberty are unprecedented, unAmerican, or the last gasp of a dying democracy on the otter slide to jackbooted repression and the Rise of the 4th Reich seems (at least when viewed from the perspective of history) a tad overwrought.

As does much of the rhetoric I've seen aimed at Senator Graham. Disagree with him on the merits if you wish. I would add, though, that not only is he an attorney (which leads me to suspect he might just understand the First Amendment and 1A jurisprudence better than does your average pundit) but he is one of the few Congresscritters who has actually deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The "gutless coward".
SINCE I'M FEELING FEISTY TODAY...'s Yet Another Potentially Inflammatory Set of Debate Questions:

1. Is it really a threat to democracy for Lindsey Graham to say that there's ample precedent in American history for wartime limitations on "speech"?

2. Does expressing an opinion that differs from your own make a politician "unfit for office"?

Wow. Really?

3. Is America really so fragile that we can't discuss the trade offs between liberty and security without imperiling the Republic?

Apparently, Charles Murray is just a big, mean spirited misandrist:
Note the discrepancy between what I just said and our common perceptions of what's going on with marriage. The very common impression is that it's the upper class that's had problems with marriage...

...For the upper middle class, marriage is alive and well. It has collapsed in the working class.

Why is it a big deal that fewer than half of working class whites ages 30-49 are married? Well, there are several reasons.

One is that marriage civilizes men. Married men... their incomes go up. Their productivity goes up. In a more general sense, adult males who are single are kind of a kind of disheveled population....disheveled in a variety of ways culturally and socially and they clean up their acts when they get married with fairly good regularity.

Another reason is that single people are not good producers of social capital. They seldom coach Little League teams and chair civic fund drives, or take the lead in getting a 4 way stop sign at an intersection where children play.

A third, more fundamental reason is the one that de Tocqueville saw. It's worth quoting directly:
"I consider the domestic virtue of the Americans [domestic virtue referring to married life in America] as the principal source of all their other qualities.

He then goes on to enumerate those qualities and concludes:
"In short, domestic virtue does more for the preservation of peace and good order than all the laws enacted for that purpose, and is a better guarantee for the permanency of the American government than any written instrument - the Constitution not excepted.

Debate questions:

1. How does what Murray just said differ from Kay Hymowitz's latest effort, which has produced the most amusing (if deafening) howls of outrage - along with cries of "Misandry!!!1!!!!111!!!!" - from quite a few righty bloggers?

2. Is Murray's message "misandry"?

3. If so, is John Hawkins a misandrist, too?
Is it controversial to note that people in their twenties are a lot less grown up and responsible than they used to be? Yes, it’s nice that so many Americans can waste their twenties clubbing and playing Madden — and I mean that. The fact that so many young Americans even have the option to do that shows we have an extremely prosperous society.

Of course, there’s also a price to be paid for that prosperity: Percentage wise, we have a lot of “adults” in this country who think like children because they’ve never been forced to grow up and deal with the real world the way Americans did in past generations.

Pointing this out apparently infuriates liberals, who in their ignorance, tend to confuse hedonism with happiness.

From what I've seen, liberals have plenty of company on the right side of the blogosphere. Just sayin'.

Criminal Faces

Criminal Faces

See how proficient you are at identifying a criminal, relying only on his face when set in a "neutral" expression. I got them 75% right, which is too good to be accounted for by chance. It turns out I'm reliable at identifying assaulters (something about the deadness of the eyes and the set of the mouth), so-so at identifying arsonists and drug dealers, and terrible at identifying rapists. The key can be found here, if you'll scroll down all the way to the last page of the article. (H/t Assistant Village Idiot.)