Harsh Your Mellow Monday: Non-suffering of Foolishness Edition
It is Monday, folks, and while we hope you and yours are safe and well, there is plenty going on in the world of politics and culture that we need to get into.
[HM1] Amash, We Hardly Knew Ye
In the immortal words of Arn Anderson, not to toot my own horn here, but…
April 29th, 2020 right here in Ordinary Times:
The cause of liberty is an important one, and even if you disagree with the libertarian version of that those voices are important to the national conversation. Before the lazy attacks start, I’m no fan of the two-party system either, but out here in the real world of America in the Year of Our Lord 2020 there is no appetite as of yet to change that in a meaningful way.
None of those things should dissuade us from calling this campaign by Amash for president what it is: A waste of everyone’s time.
It took Amash three weeks to agree with what I wrote the day after he announced his exploration, which — as it turns out — was really more of a pump fake:
After much reflection, I’ve concluded that circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year, and therefore I will not be a candidate.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 16, 2020
Others can deal with the candidacy of Justin Amash in particular. I’ve already got 1800 words on it linked above and nothing has really changed since then except to think even less of the ill-advised windmill tilt. So let us take the opportunity to converse on a larger issue the fortnight-and-a-half Amash 2020 campaign raises.
When, if ever, will there be a “libertarian moment” in American politics?
Before Justin Amash spent 2.3 Scaramuccis leading the Libertarian Party, the previous punditry pontifications over “libertarian moment” centered around Senator Rand Paul (Crazyperson-KY).
“Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived?” asked the New York Times in 2014. The piece is about the looming Rand Paul presidential campaign in 2016, and guess who they went to interview about it:
One afternoon in late May, I had lunch in Chinatown with Amash, just a couple of hours after House Republican leaders gutted another of his anti-N.S.A. bills. He nonetheless wore a defiant smile. The public was on his side, Amash said, and not just Republicans — and for precisely this reason, he added, G.O.P. leaders “view us as a threat to the established order.”
Still, the anti-abortion and border-security-advocating Amash is hardly a radical libertarian. For the most part, his views are inseparable from those of Rand Paul. And so I asked him, “Given how leaders in your party have reacted to your legislative proposals, how do you think they’re going to react if Paul runs for president?”
“I believe very strongly that he could be the nominee,” Amash said. “He just needs to get his message out there and push back against the caricature that some of the political establishment will make of Senator Paul. They’re doing it because they’re afraid of him.”
Because, Amash said, Paul shared his ability to appeal to all kinds of people, not just big donors and not just entrenched Republicans. “He destroys their system,” he said with a thin smile.
Anywho, here comes that phrase again:
Senator Rand Paul is a man out of time. It was only a few years ago that the editors of Reason magazine held him up as the personification of what they imagined to be a “libertarian moment,” a term that enjoyed some momentary cachet in the pages of The New York Times, The Atlantic, Politico (where I offered a skeptical assessment), and elsewhere. But rather than embodying the future of the Republican Party, Paul embodies its past, the postwar conservative era when Ronald Reagan could proclaim that “the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism,” when National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. could publish a conspectus of his later work under the subtitle “Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist,” and young blue-blazered Republicans of the Alex P. Keaton variety wore out their copies of Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose.
The view from 2018 is rather different. The GOP finds itself in the throes of a populist convulsion, an ironic product of the fact that the party that long banqueted on resentment of the media now is utterly dominated by the alternative media constructed by its own most dedicated partisans. It is Sean Hannity’s party now.
How did that happen? Turns out that New York Times piece had the answer back in 2014 after all; they just didn’t know it:
Despite Amash’s claim that Paul “destroys their system,” nothing about his rhetoric sounded remotely worrisome to the Republican establishment. At the same time, the political artfulness of his oratory was hard to miss. Rand Paul was road-testing a kinder, gentler libertarianism to a mass market — in effect triangulating (to use the term associated with Bill Clinton, whose moral lapses Paul frequently cites) Republicans, Democrats and libertarians. It is a maneuver that, if successful, could amount to a considerable triumph for the movement.
What Rand Paul has triangulated into is irrelevance. Despite being one of the more high-profile members of the US Senate, when you push a Rand Paul fan to name an accomplishment in that time the answer is always limited to a speech, or a principle, or made-for-TV moment, because that is all there is to the Rand Paul show. I get heat for calling him “Red Light Rand”, referring to the tally light on a TV camera that indicates the camera is “live”, cause the man has a talent for getting on camera for high drama and little actual results. Those same supporters will respond much like Amash did in that interview years ago with, “Of course he can’t, they are fighting him on everything!!!” thus ensuring A) Rand Paul will always be a heroic martyr and B) he cannot fail since success is impossible. Good work if you can get it. You can use that same formula for others, just sub out Rand for Justin Amash or whoever and it still works since the premise will be the same; the cause can not fail, only be failed, by “them”.
Now Justin Amash, himself now almost a decade in office with nothing but rhetoric to show for it, will test the same theory but without the warm blanket of an R beside his name. Depending on your viewpoint he was either heroic or stupid to abandon the party on principle, vote for the Articles of Impeachment against President Trump, and now thrown his lot in with the Libertarian Party, such as it is.
I’ll take his word for it that it was on principle. My criticism of Paul, Amash, and the Libertarian Party the organization doesn’t apply to their individual principles. Many of our libertarian friends who are thoughtful, consistent in beliefs, and open to fighting their corner on the issues of the day do their chosen label credit. The ideology has been — unfairly in my opinion — described by David Frum as “Libertarians are like Marxists in that they have prophets like von Mises and Hayek, and they quote from their holy scripture, and they don’t have to engage.” He’s wrong about the first part, or at least being unfair, as the absolutist of any ideology has the same problem. But he’s right about the engagement part. The Rand Pauls and Justin Amashes can carve out nice careers for themselves in the halls of power being the token libertarians, and have done so for a decade now. But they will never be anything more than that, by design. Far from “destroying their system” both Paul and Amash are living very comfortable lives in symbiotic relationship with the ever vilified and evil “Them” while presenting themselves as Liberty Ronin ready to avenge their followers most deeply held libertarian dreams. If only those things line up just right and we try really hard and, oh darn they didn’t…oh well, send donations to my re-election committee anyway so we can keep fighting the good fight together.
Like all things, the “libertarian moment” — if there will ever be such a thing — will rise and fall on leadership.
The leadership of the Rand Pauls and Justin Amashs of being big on TV time and rhetoric while light on actually getting anything done isn’t going to do it. The joke and clown show of the Libertarian Party as currently constituted certainly isn’t going to do it. Most importantly, average folks who have elections bearing down on them yearly don’t have any patience to wait around for some fleeting moment that, 40-years on, is still no closer to happening to hear out the libertarians side of political theory.
If you are content with the role of “conscious of liberty” being the contrarian in the corner it is a fine thing, and like most folks’ conscious, will be ignored when the chips are down.
Do the dirty work of attaining real influence, building political coalitions, and gasps in libertarian picking your spots to compromise to gain for your cause. Otherwise the “Liberty Movement” as it likes to style itself will always be relegated to yelling “hey, batter batter” from the cheap seats while the game that matters is going on.
[HM2] Briefly, On Construction Site Tourism
Well, what do you know. Actually, anyone with a functional frontal cortex knew this already, but just to say we did here it is:
Homeowner Larry English has confirmed through the release of surveillance videos that multiple people had trespassed at his home which was under construction. Arbery was the only one killed.
CNN obtained 11 surveillance clips spanning from October 25, 2019 to February 23, 2020 from Attorney J. Elizabeth Graddy, representing English, on Saturday. Two of those videos were obtained by CNN prior to this week and six others were sent on Friday.
Three new videos show a man and woman entering the property, children entering the property, and an unidentified male entering the property on separate occasions. Some of the videos provided were dated October 25, 2019, November 18, 2019 December 17, 2019, February 11, 2020 and February 23, 2020. The videos with dates were sent to CNN by Graddy with the dates as their titles. Eight clips were dated and three clips, two showing children entering the home and one clip showing a man and a woman entering, were not dated.
On October 25, nighttime video shows a black adult male walking around the house, which is under construction and down to the studs. Within a month, a black adult male is seen in the house on two separate videos taken November 18. The man is shirtless and walks around the home. The next month, on December 17, three separate clips show a black adult male walking around the home at night before jogging off empty handed. On February 11, video shows a cars headlights drive by the home at night before a black adult male is seen walking around the house.
The last video, which is the only video that has been confirmed to be Arbery, was taken during the day on February 23. It shows him walking around the home which is still under construction.
Not to point too fine a point on it but there is yet to be an excuse offered on the McMichaels’ behalf that doesn’t loop back around to them thinking they were not just judge, jury, and ultimately executioner for the alleged crimes of “break-ins” but that they were also God in determining the motives and intentions of an unarmed, on foot, black man in “their” neighborhood. There is no ending to that explanation that comes out exculpatory for the wannabe crime fighters who, in reality, were just cut rate vigilantes. That anyone could start shoehorning their priors into this is just pitiful. Our friend Drew Holden explained it well:
Two white men, grabbing their weapons and pursuing an unarmed black man to dispense with justice for a perceived crime themselves doesn’t simply evoke memories of Jim Crow era lynchings, it re-enacts one. As does their friends in law enforcement quickly and quietly finding a reason to justify the killing that would follow.
The response among some conservatives begs the question of whose shoes a viewer finds it easier to place themselves in. That of a white, concerned, local gun owner? Or the young man pursued by angry armed men, in the heart of a small town, staring down the barrel of a shotgun? Those drawn to see the perspective of the former should endeavor to imagine that of the latter, particularly those whose main concern is whether a young black man might’ve been trespassing and not that a young black man was shot and killed by a couple of wannabe vigilantes, and that the act was then ignored by law enforcement.
I’m sitting in my own house typing this. Members of my family and I trespassed all up in the property when it was being renovated. Seeing it stripped to the studs and subfloors is when I first started thinking about the potential of what it could be, and currently is. First conversation I had with the builder: “Yeah people are all in the house but we have a camera in there and nobody has bothered anything, just looking around.” Now, Ahmaud Arbery wasn’t going to be buying that house like I did this one, but the nonsense that trespassing on someone else’s property gives you the right to strap up, run them down, gun them down, then throw up your hands and go “why did he make us do that” needs to be shouted down every time some fool tries to float it.
Give the McMichaels a fair trial, which they are entitled to. Just remember when their mouthpieces and lawyers scream about due process how if they had given Ahmaud Arbery the same consideration he’d be alive, and none of this would have happened.
[HM3] Right Sporting of Him
Some folks are bent out of shape at President Trump’s remarks about sports returning as folks start looking to the easing of lockdowns and quarantines:
President Donald Trump said the return of sport would be good for the nation’s “psyche” as he praised a live charity golf event on Sunday.
The TaylorMade Driving Relief team game was contested between four of the sport’s top players with Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson defeating Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff at the Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida.
The competition raised more than $5 million for coronavirus relief charities and also marked the return of live televised golf.
No spectators were allowed in to watch the match and players completed the course without caddies.
Trump, a lifelong golf fan, dialed into NBC’s coverage to say he hoped sport would be returning to normality as soon as possible.
The US currently has 1,486,742 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 89,564 deaths, according to the latest figures.
“We want to get sports back, we miss sports, we need sports in terms of the psyche of our country,” he said.
The President is right, at least the part about the psyche of our country.
Whether you are into sports or not, they are a huge part of folks’ lives. They are also cultural touchstones and mile markers in our national story. Sports may be increasingly politicized — like seemingly everything else these days — but for a lot of folks they are still an escape. It’s traditions, and family time together, and community ties that go far beyond the immediacy of the moment. If folks are allowed to go to stores, and congress can work, and pick whatever else there is, let sports find a way with reasonable protections to start coming back.
The German Bundesliga returned this weekend, and while it was jarring to see my adoptive “over there” city of Frankfurt’s Commerzbank-Arena with 70K empty seats instead of the normally raucous flag and smoked filled chaos of match day, at least there was some sports on TV. NASCAR returned to Darlington and televised racing as well. The documentary on the 1998 Chicago Bulls has done both big ratings and big conversation as folks used it as a placeholder.
Sport is as much a part of culture as religion, system of government, art, or whatever else you want to throw on that list. It’s always been that way, since the earliest human decided to race the second earliest human at whatever early humans did. It’s always going to be that. And it will be good to get back to that again.