libertarianism, state action, and private discrimination

Some great commentary coming out in the wake of Rand Paul’s floundering attempts to dodge explaining his philosophy. For instance, this from No More Mister Nice Blog:

Here’s the thing: segregation at lunch counters didn’t exist because individual privately owned businesses were determining for themselves that they would not serve black people. They relied on the local government to enforce this discrimination. Otherwise it would have been possible for non whites to sue white businesses for physical assault. Just because something isn’t statutory doesn’t mean that it isn’t taking place with government aid. A truly libertarian stance on the Civil Rights Act that wasn’t covertly conservative/racist would be to argue that the government must withdraw all legal aid, police help, and rights to sue for damages from discriminatory businesses *and then* leave the business free to discriminate. … The line between public and private property is guaranteed by government action and its something we all pay for and no private business has the right to take our money and then refuse service to us.

Rand Paul, weasel extraordinaire

Oh man, Rand Paul was on Rachel Maddow weaseling around a straight-up answer on his views of whether the federal government can prohibit discrimination in public accommodations.

A, I thought this guy was supposed to be glib and personable? This was one of the least smooth, least adept weaseling’s I’ve ever seen. Maybe that’s all just due to Rachel Maddow, who is a far more kick-ass journalist than most in terms of straight-up asking for a yes/no answer (and still not getting it).

B, wow, is he just stupid, or completely disingenuous, about the differing rationales that might justify (a) a ban on guns in establishments serving alcohol versus (b) a ban on racial discrimination?

C, again, is he just stupid? Or did he not realize that by picking on the ADA that he was also picking on the rationale underlying all civil rights laws? and that his ass would be busted on this issue? not because it’s “hypothetical” but because it’s real, live, and current — as even he must concede, since he’s picking on the ADA!

D, He’s seriously confused about law and regulation. Nobody has ever explained to this guy one of the fundamental rationales underlying the permissibility of banning some forms of private behavior — that state action would in fact otherwise be involved in enforcing those private behaviors. If someone is trespassing on your private property, you can call the police and get them to bust heads for you. That’s state action. You can sue the trespassers and get the courts involved. That’s also state action. So allowing “private businesses” to ban Black people or gay people necessarily involves state action, since the definition of a “civil right” involves the possibility of invoking the law to enforce the right. He’d like to hand that right not to individuals of color (or queer folks, or disabled folks) but instead to racist, homophobic, short-sighted business-people. Nice.

Along with other areas of law, Paul must also be unfamiliar with the long tradition, far predating the Civil Rights Act, enforcing different rules on hospitality and traveler businesses and such public accommodations. (eta: that’s common carriage, folks, although the wikipedia article is woefully inadequate on the history.)

E, Entirely unsurprisingly, he is also seriously confused about what “institutional racism” is, apparently thinking it is just state action.

F, I like how Paul pulls out the “It’s interesting…” line just before he weasels. I myself have a tendency to pronounce that things are “interesting” but not, I think, when I’m weaseling; more when I think there’s some contradiction or something a little surprising that piques my interest.

Anyway, I’ll be interested to see if Rand Paul & his libertarian policies really get him up to the U.S. Senate. How backwards-ass are my old neighbors in Kentucky? I guess we’ll find out come November.

take 5 minutes — Congressmember hilariously questioned on Constitution

Yesterday Rep. Alan Grayson questioned Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia on the meaning of Bills of Attainder, in regards to one of the anti-ACORN bills / amendments floating through Congress. Delightful. I’m linking to it through Glenn Greenwald’s blog, who brought it to my attention, because Greenwald is almost always worth reading.

Sotomayor, Al Franken, the First Amendment, and information law

Some interesting commentary on Sotomayor and the First Amendment from Paul Levinson:
* http://paullevinson.blogspot.com/search/label/Sonia%20Sotomayor
* http://paullev.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=497539
* http://paullevinson.blogspot.com/search/label/Sonia%20Sotomayor

I haven’t had time yet to dig into Sotomayor on intellectual property, telecomm, and other information law issues, but this is discouraging.

Franken of course I have hopes for: After Fox News sued him for trademark infringement for putting its logo “Fair and Balanced” on the cover of his book (Lies and the Lying Liars Who tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right) Franken ought to have a good sense of why trademark fair use, at least, is important.

resurrecting my old abortion rights button

“I’m pro-choice and I shoot back.”

It’s not strictly true since I don’t own a gun.

I love how Bill O’Reilly freely tosses around incendiary rhetoric (arguably, “inciting violence”) but is so incapable of taking responsibility or acknowledging his own words. Why is he a frickin’ pundit talking head if he thinks his words are so meaningless? Other than his ginormous ego? War Room has relevant excerpts and links to O’Reilly’s non-apology.

update: More informative is Rachel Maddow’s review of anti-abortion violence.

patented tail holes: patent reform

God we so need patent reform. What happened to the non-obviousness requirement? Can someone please explain to me how a cat / dog diaper can have a “patented tail hole”???? What else would a pet diaper have except for a tail hole? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is the knowledge economy: the patenting of tail holes.

Available at PlanetUrine.com. See also http://www.dog-diapers.net/catdiapers.html. I just love the URLs.

Description at http://pickyguide.com/pet_supplies/cat_diapers_guide.html:

Cat diapers are worn by cats for trapping waste or urine. They are made like disposable baby diapers, only they are specifically designed for feline use. They are commonly used by cats with bladder or bowel problems or those who have undergone surgery.

This paragraph is a masterpiece of stating the obvious.

My partner notes, “My grandmother made really nice looking pants that were better looking than any of these, I’ll have you know. They were really good looking. … Can’t we just use some of Ada’s little newborn diapers, do you think?”

a telling moment for the Catholic Church

The poor anti-same-sex-marriage crowd feels “outgunned and underfinanced” in their fight to prevent state recognition of same-sex couples. In New York, for instance, the Catholic Church has been absent from the struggle. Why?

The state’s Roman Catholic bishops have been somewhat distracted, too, having focused their lobbying energies this session on defeating a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse to bring civil claims, and have appeared unprepared for the battle over marriage.NYT 5/20

Yeah, I think that pretty much sums up their values these days.

wtf with gary kamiya at salon.com

Just venting.

While innocently reading the news this morning I was confronted with utter stupidity. Gary Kamiya, who isn’t normally a total idiot, wrote this article in salon.com about how Obama is improving race relations by not talking about them. Hmm, I thought, and went to check it out. With an open mind.

Pretty early I realized that this article was fairly stupid, but, completist that I am, I read it to the bitter end.

Here’s the article in a nutshell, in this particularly infuriating and ignorant and just utterly self-centered paragraph:

By not talking about race, by just being who he is, Obama may be helping Americans move away from racial self-consciousness, at least on an interpersonal level, and toward a meritocratic ethos in which their abilities matter more than the color of their skin. Obama’s America feels more like a sports team than a diversity training session. No one cares if a linebacker is black or white: He just has to be able to play. It’s the same with Obama and his team. Most of the time, who even remembers that Obama is black

geez. black people, i’m guessing? and other people who are proud of this symbolic victory over racism? and racists, of course.