Posts tagged ‘Dahlia Lithwick’

Libbertarian Disconnect

I don't know that I have ever seen a clearer example of the disconnect of thinking between libertarians and authoritarian political thinking than in this brief paragraph from Dahlia Lithwick.  She is writing about a court case reviewing whether it should be a crime to deny police your identification.  She writes, making fun of libertarians:

It would be easier to credit the Cato and ACLU arguments if we didn't already have to hand over our ID to borrow a library book, obtain a credit card, drive a car, rent videos, obtain medical treatment, or get onto a plane. So the stark question then becomes this: Why are you willing to tell everyone but the state who you are? It's a curious sort of privacy that must be protected from nobody except the government.

Really??  It is strange to her that we would treat privacy uniquely with the one and only organization in this country that can legally use force against us, legally take our money without our permission, and legally throw us in prison?  Is she really so blinded by a love for state authority that she can't tell the difference between a transaction at Blockbuster, which we can choose not to patronize if we don't like their terms of sale, and an interaction with police, where there is not even a hint of it being an arms-length, consensual, balanced interaction.

There is an largeand growing body of evidence that police take advantage of their power mismatch with citizens and abuse their power in multiple ways, large and small.  These abuses have likely always existed, but were covered up by police officers standing up for each other.  Only the advent of portable video cameras has started to really document what really goes on in these interactions.  Just read a few posts at this site to get a flavor.  And cops sure don't like when you ask them for their ID, as they hate anything that might impose accountability on them:

And in today's daily contempt-of-cop story, Ft. Lauderdale Police Officer Jeff Overcash did not appreciate a man asking him for his badge number, so he pulled out his handcuffs and arrested him.And it was all caught on video.

The video shows Brennan Hamilton walking up to Overcash in a calm manner with a pen and notepad in his hand. Overcash, who is leaning against his squad car with other cops, then pulls out his handcuffs and arrests Hamilton.

Overcash charged him with resisting arrest without violence and disorderly intoxication.

Alex Tabarrok makes a good point.   Based on these arguments, Lithwick must be A-OK with Arizona's new immigration laws, right?

Update:  It is interesting that while sneering at slippery slope arguments, she proves their merit.

The slippery-slope arguments"”that this leads to a police state in which people are harassed for doing nothing"”won't really fly, although I guarantee that you'll hear more and more of them in the coming weeks.

But in the immediately proceeding lines she wrote:

Is there something about stating your name or handing over a driver's license that differs from being patted down or frisked, which is already constitutional for Terry purposes?I, for one, would rather hand over my driver's license to a cop than be groped by one.

This is a perfect illustration of the slippery slope, almost textbook.  Libertarians certainly opposed current pat down and frisking rules, but since these are legal, Lithwick uses their legality to creep the line a little further.  And then the legality of these ID checks will in turn be used to justify the legality of something else more intrusive.

Opposing Hariett Miers

I have never really waded into a debate about Supreme Court nominees before.  On John Roberts, my only comment was to laugh at how stupid the Senate confirmation hearings were.

This time, I feel the need to make an exception on Hariett Miers.  In a previous post, I called her the anti-libertarian, and more than ever I am convinced that that assessment is correct.  Everyone inside of the beltway seems to love talking points, so here are mine:

Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Miers's nomination
resulted from the president's careful consultation with people capable of such
judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have
given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice,
Miers's name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on
those lists....

It is important that Miers not be confirmed unless, in her 61st year,
she suddenly and unexpectedly is found to have hitherto undisclosed interests
and talents pertinent to the court's role. Otherwise the sound principle of
substantial deference to a president's choice of judicial nominees will dissolve
into a rationalization for senatorial abdication of the duty to hold presidents
to some standards of seriousness that will prevent them from reducing the
Supreme Court to a private plaything useful for fulfilling whims on behalf of

  • She threatens to be a judicial Pat Buchanon:  Conservative on social issues, interventionist on economic issues.  In other words, the anti-libertarian.  From John Fund:

One White House
source says the positions she took in staff meetings might surprise her
business supporters. He said she leaned conservative on social
questions and liberal on economic issues. Bruce Packard, a former
partner at Ms. Miers' law firm, also cautions that she may be more
complicated than people expect. 'She is very reticent to ever discuss
her own views and liberal on issues other than abortion,' he told me."

  • Though not discussed very much, her leadership of the Texas Bar Association, which is touted as perhaps her highest judicial qualification (interesting, since its just a bureaucrat job) makes me very very nervous.  Someone is going to have to try to get control of the tort situation and start resetting the rules of courtroom procedure to bring more sanity to liability trials.  I guarantee that a person who headed the Texas Bar Association, home of some of the most outrageous millionaire tort lawyers in the country, is not going to do anything to bring sanity to tort law.

As a note, I don't really cast my vote one way or the other based on abortion -- I have a viewpoint on it, but its not my hot-button, or even in my top 10, issues.  However, I kind of hope Miers turns out to be clearly anti-abortion so that Democrats will find a reason to join some Republicans in opposing her.  Until that happens, Democrats seem to be following Napoleon's dictum of not interrupting your enemy when he is making a mistake.

Update:  Dahlia Lithwick and I would probably not agree on the reasons for opposing Miers, but you have to love this quote, explaining why she gets paid and I do this for free:

So I am begging now. This is embarrassing. End it. Karl Rove: Either plant the
500 pounds of cocaine you keep for such occasions in Miers' car, or trot out
some actress to play her bitter, gay ex-lover. You have the power to end this.
So do whatever it is you do. But end the unnecessary pain and suffering now,
before someone really gets hurt.

Update #2:  I oppose the Miers nomination.  Hopefully, this gets me registered for this page by NZ Bear, tracking blog positions.