URLs du Jour

2017-12-04

Kathryn Harris Portrayal of Harriet
Tubman

Proverbs 18:18 gives a whole new meaning to the term "holy rollers".

18 Casting the lot settles disputes
    and keeps strong opponents apart.

Gambling is wrong, of course, unless you're using it to decide a legal matter.


■ At Reason, Sheldon Richman discusses Libertarians and the Authoritarian Right. As in: keep away, you creepy authoritarian rightists.

I am mystified by the claim that the long-standing libertarian critique of democracy furnishes aid and comfort to conservatives who display a taste for populist authoritarianism. Let me say at the outset that the libertarian critique has nothing to offer those who would impose legal or social disabilities on racial, ethnic, religious, and other minorities. If white supremacists see something helpful here, they are mere opportunists who would find something helpful to their cause in anything they looked at.

Right off the top we may ask where is this right-wing antipathy to democracy. On the contrary, I see a right-wing embrace of democracy even in the age of Trump. (Rush Limbaugh has long called himself the "doctor of democracy.") Which branch of government have conservatives of all stripes railed against most vigorously for decades? It's the judiciary, especially the U.S. Supreme Court. And what have the courts done to make conservatives so angry? They have invalidated actions of legislators—the supposed elected representatives of the people.

Frédéric Bastiat is mentioned, and I will summarize: it is sloppy thinking and delusion that the magic word "democracy" grants the collective the right to initiate coercive force.


■ Today's example of that general principle: Jeff Jacoby on What the Constitution says about cakes and compelled speech. The Constitution says: you can't be compelled to display "Live Free or Die" on your license plate. A kid can't be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance. But …

But is refusing to create a custom-designed wedding cake, a skeptic might ask, really comparable to not saluting the flag? After all, the latter is an explicit demonstration of political loyalty; the cake is just — dessert.

Yet by that logic, a painting is just décor. A song is just entertainment. Calligraphy is just fancy lettering.

That's a dangerous argument — dangerous to the liberty of mind and conscience that the First Amendment shields. One of the many friend-of-the-court briefs filed in this case was submitted by 479 creative professionals representing all 50 states; the group comprises musicians, florists, videographers, ceramic artists, calligraphers, graphic designers, cartoonists, sculptors, and painters. Their brief urges the high court to defend the First Amendment rights of "artistic expression — regardless of the medium employed." They make a vital point: Viewpoints and messages can be expressed in many forms, and the Bill of Rights protects them all.

Take that, George F. Will.


■ At NRO, Jay Cost advocates Taming the Imperial Presidency.

I have a new ritual on Sunday mornings. I wake up, get my coffee, fire up Twitter, and check in on the mental health of the pundit class. More often than not, President Donald Trump has tweeted something that outrages a whole mess of people, and the fallout can last for hours on end.

Part of me is amused by this. It is pretty clear that one of the purposes of Trump’s Twitter feed is to drive people crazy, and for the life of me, I don’t know why people rush to take the bait. They seem to go out of their way to do so, as well — taking him literally or figuratively, depending on what gins up the outrage.

Funny as this can be sometimes, I’m mostly angry over the whole spectacle. This is no way to run a republic. The executive office has become too ornamented, too powerful above the rest of us. The president is far too able to dominate our political discourse, not to mention the mental health of the nation, for his own purposes. Trump did not create this anti-republican monstrosity, but he is making use of it — apparently for the glorification of his own ego.

If Trumpian antics can restore vigor to the checks-and-balances system, that would be a more sizeable contribution to the Republic than nominating Gorsuch. And it would be unintentional!


■ Our Google LFOD alert sends us to the wilds of downstate Illinois, where Kathryn Harris [is] known for portrayals of Harriet Tubman. Now retired from her post of library services director at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Ms. Harris has been role-playing Harriet Tubman for 21 years to various groups in Illinois and across the nation. And here's where LFOD comes in:

Anyone escaping slavery or helping others do so was risking their life and limb. “If you were an escaping slave and happened to get caught, whether you were with Harriet or on your own, the best way to keep you from running is to chop your feet off. And there are stories of people who had their feet chopped off. Harriet carried a pistol in her satchel. If you were with her and thought you were too cold or too scared or you wanted to go back, she would pull it out and say, ‘Live free or die.’ She never had to kill anyone, but she probably did a whole bunch of intimidating. Because if you turned back, then the railroad was no longer secret. If you get caught, you’re going to get whipped and your master is going to ask you: ‘Where have you been? Where is Harriet? And how many people are with her?’”

From here on, I will picture the Underground Railroad locomotive with a New Hampshire license plate.

Our pic du jour is Ms. Harris as Ms. Tubman. You don't want to mess with either one.