Prosecuting global warming skeptics

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says that some global warming sceptics should be prosecuted under RICO  (the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations act).  He argues that some of the anti-global warming research is funded by energy companies, which is what Big Tobacco did in funding research that played down the health hazards of smoking, which brought down the wrath of RICO.  That statute has also been used against pro-life activists, with the approval of the Supreme Court.  We are seeing how unpopular ideas can be criminalized.

You have to read the estimable Mark Hemingway’s response to Sen. Whitehouse’s op-ed piece, linked to and excerpted after the jump. [Read more...]

Patriot Act expires

In a victory for Sen. Rand Paul, Congress was unable to renew the Patriot Act, which expired Sunday at midnight.  Congress is now trying to pass an alternative measure which will keep some of the anti-terrorism capabilities of the old law without the mass collection of Americans’ phone records and other civil liberty controversies. [Read more...]

Tolerance vs. other liberties?

The University of Michigan was going to screen the Academy-Award-nominated American Sniper, but then cancelled it when students launched a petition claiming the movie was intolerant of Muslims.  But then other students launched a counter-petition saying that the university should show the movie in the name of artistic liberty and the freedom of expression.  Whereupon the university cancelled its cancellation and agreed to show the movie after all.

But the incident shows that the principle of tolerance above all can be used for many different purposes.  A consensus seems to be emerging that tolerance should trump religious liberty.  Might the demand for tolerance also be used to trump other civil liberties?

Freedom of Speech is arguably already muted by speech codes.  I suspect that we need to formally and legally work out the boundaries between tolerance and civil liberties.  Any ideas about how to draw those lines? [Read more...]

Demilitarizing the Police

I just got back from St. Louis, staying just a few blocks from the riots in Ferguson over the police shooting an unarmed teenager.  I didn’t see anything and I don’t want to address the incident, as such.  But the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson raises some interesting questions:

Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? (“‘This my property!’ he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.”) Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone”?

Now Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky), citing what happened in Ferguson and quoting his fellow libertarian Olson, challenges the militarization of the police, which has happened thanks to the federal government. [Read more...]

“Fixing” the Second Amendment

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, having spent much of his career trying to interpret the Constitution away, now wants to change it.  He has written a book entitled Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.  He has published an op-ed piece on how he thinks the Second Amendment can be “fixed” by adding five simple words.  See them, along with some thoughts, after the jump. [Read more...]

Totalitarian discourse

Charles Krauthammer gives the name for handling disagreements by silencing and punishing those who hold opposing ideas:

The left is entering a new phase of ideological agitation — no longer trying to win the debate but stopping debate altogether, banishing from public discourse any and all opposition.The proper word for that attitude is totalitarian. It declares certain controversies over and visits serious consequences — from social ostracism to vocational defenestration — upon those who refuse to be silenced. [Read more...]


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