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BIG BROTHER IS TRACKING YOU: Bay Area Drivers Could Be Tracked By GPS, Taxed Per Mile Driven.

I had some related thoughts here.

DUDE, BIG BROTHER IS AS ORIGINAL AS ITS TITLE. THERE’S NOTHING TO STEAL. CBS Filing Tonight for Emergency Injunction Against ABC’s ‘Glass House’. Besides, Voyeur Dorm was way ahead of you . . . .

IT’S LIKE IT’S SOME SORT OF INSIDER CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE INTERNET OR SOMETHING: Legacy media bankrolling campaigns of SOPA cosponsors. “Traditional big media firms have contributed more than $5 million to the sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act, with California Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Adam Schiff as the top recipients.”

Lots of Republicans among these names, too. I see that Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is a cosponsor and got $261,700. Is it too late for a Tea Party primary challenger?

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Mitchell writes:

Glenn. Saw your post this morning regarding donations to various pols… including my representative Marsha Blackburn. I went to her Facebook page and posted this on her wall:

“Regarding SOPA: Marsha Blackburn’s co-sponsorship of this bill is an outrage. This bill is a direct attack on First Amendment rights of every citizen with a computer and a blog. Any unmonitored comment linking a post to a “suspected site” would make any site a potential target of “big brother”. Do you, as a Republican not understand how this could be used for political purposes? Remember when youtube took down all of McCains content just prior to the 2008 election because some news footage was declared protected? this bill would extend those Draconian policies across the entire internet to be controlled by any content providers (mostly entertainment and MSM which have a decidedly LIBERAL bias) without DUE PROCESS of LAW. Marsha, you have to withdraw your support and return the corrupting donation of $261,700 from liberal entertainment special interests! ”

Her staff dutifully took it down immediately. I then went to my own FB wall and posted the identical content. I received the FB error msg, “Something went wrong. Try again later”. I repeatedly tried to post and received the same error. Interesting, eh? Is this what it has come to? Maybe it’s just a fluke or a coincidence. Or maybe not.

As an experiment, I posted “Marsha Blackburn’s cosponsorship of SOPA is an outrage. But she got a lot of money from the legacy media.” on Facebook, together with the link above. It went through just fine. I think it’s good to post stuff on pols’ facebook pages even if their staff takes it down — they still get the message.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Mitchell’s comment is on Marsha Blackburn’s facebook page now, along with quite a few other negative responses. I suspect it was just a Facebook glitch.

I FORESEE A BIG MARKET FOR NEURAL ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE: Download Knowledge Directly to Your Brain, Matrix-Style. There are other issues, however: “The most surprising thing in this study is that mere inductions of neural activation patterns corresponding to a specific visual feature led to visual performance improvement on the visual feature, without presenting the feature or subjects’ awareness of what was to be learned.” Hey, that’s funny. Why do I suddenly love Big Brother?

BIG BROTHER DOING YOUR TAXES? That’s kinda what it sounds like. “The goal of this initiative is to improve the tax filing process by reducing burden for taxpayers and improving overall compliance upfront. Under the vision of a real-time tax system, the IRS could match information submitted on a tax return with third-party information right up front during processing and could provide the opportunity for taxpayers to fix the tax return before acceptance if it contains data that does not match IRS records.”

UPDATE: Link was broken before. Fixed now. Sorry!

LEARNING TO LOVE your “Federal Family.”

UPDATE: Reader John S. Ford writes:

Why not have the feds be more specific about who my “Federal Family” really is and just call them my “Big Brother”? I’m just saying…

More like your drunken profligate brother-in-law who’s always hitting you up for a loan. Meanwhile, reader Bill Hesson emails:

All this creepy “federal family” business reminds me of an important insight from Hayek. Is it too much to believe that the destruction of our macro-cosmos is this Administration’s intent?

“If we were to apply the unmodified, uncurbed, rules of the micro-cosmos (i.e., of the small band or troop, or of, say, our families) to the macro-cosmos (our wider civilization), as our instincts and sentimental yearnings often make us wish to do, we would destroy it. Yet if we were always to apply the rules of the extended order to our more intimate groupings, we would crush them. So we must learn to live in two sorts of worlds at once.”

The Fatal Conceit, F.A. Hayek

It’s funny how people who don’t like talk of “family values” as applied to actual families like the idea when it comes to describing the public sphere.

VIRGINIA POSTREL: How Steve Jobs Made Business Cool Again:

To understand the cultural significance of Steve Jobs, you have to go back in time: to before the iPad or iPhone or iTunes, before Apple Inc.’s comeback products made candy-colored plastics and iAnything cool, before Jobs got kicked out of Apple, even before the Macintosh hurled a sledgehammer at Big Brother.

It’s 1981. Most people have never heard of Silicon Valley. The country’s most famous businessman is Lee Iacocca, the head of Chrysler Corp. He’s famous because in 1979 he engineered a government bailout — loan guarantees — that saved the company. He’s also famous because, unlike his peers, Iacocca is colorful. He seems to believe in what he’s doing.

In 1981, business executives aren’t known for either personality or passion. The general public sees business as a boring, impersonal, possibly suspect activity. Its significance seems purely financial. . . . That was all about to change.

Read the whole thing.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION “STEALTH SURVEY” OF DOCTORS called “government snooping” and “Big Brother tactics.” Plus this: “This is not a way to build trust in government. Why should I trust someone who does not correctly identify himself?”

UPDATE: Reader J.R. Ott writes: “This could be a two way street as bloggers could call federal agencies and see how they respond if at all?”

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader warns that this is how James O’Keefe wound up facing federal charges. Being checked up on is for the little people!

APPLE TURNS “BIG BROTHER:” In today’s Post, I talk about the iPhone controversy. (Bumped).

APPLE TURNS “BIG BROTHER:” In today’s Post, I talk about the iPhone controversy.

DOES APPLE REALLY WANT TO CRIPPLE YOUR IPHONE? “The leading computer company plans to build a system that will sense when people are trying to video live events — and turn off their cameras.”

Sounds like totalitarian governments would love this. Kinda makes me wish I’d bought a Droid. If this is really an Apple initiative, I hope that it really hurts their stock price and market share. Meanwhile, it’s another argument in favor of cheap flipcam video cameras.

UPDATE: Reader James Eric Johnson emails:

For a company that built a reputation on the back of its “1984: Big Brother” ad, this type of thing is perplexing. Apple has no conceivable duty to police the use of its products in this fashion. In fact, by doing so, Apple may be assuming a duty to act as a big brother. At the very least, it is enabling Big Brother.

And this coming from a recent Apple convert who would dread the idea of going back to PCs for my personal computing functions (primarily Adobe CS and programming). I’m not at all anti-Apple; I’ll defend their products, but not their worldview.

Indeed. Perhaps this story will turn out to be incorrect.

A BILL TO KEEP Big Brother’s mitts off your GPS. “A bill they’ve collaborated to draft prevents the government from getting tracking data sent by your smartphone, GPS unit or other device — including any ‘successor device,’ a nod to as-yet-unimagined tech — without a court order. It exempts geolocation collection from the Patriot Act’s “business records” provision.”

A. BARTON HINKLE: Big Brother Is Watching You: Overreaching law enforcement puts privacy rights at risk.

JUST SAY CELL NO to Barack Obama’s hard cell:

President Obama could soon have the ability to personally text message every single cell-phone-toting American -— whether they like it or not — with “critical emergency alerts” under a new federal program that civil libertarians and political opponents say is a Big Brother-like intrusion posing a high risk of political abuse.

Federal officials in New York yesterday unveiled the three-tiered emergency alert system that would blast messages about Amber Alerts, impending weather disasters and terror threats to mobile devices.

Cell-phone users could opt out of most alerts if they want to, but not the texter-in-chief’s presidential pages.

“It’s like the state rep sending out mailings about how wonderful they are,” said Tad Kasperowicz of the Quincy Tea Party. “President Obama says,’Here come the high winds and the thunderstorms’ and it’s not really an emergency, but, hey, he gets his name out to every cell phone in the area. I can see that. Absolutely. There’s potential for abuse there.”

Gee, ya think?

RELATED: Reason TV notes, “Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to control your smartphone.”

There’s a lot of that going around these days.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE DEMANDS THAT CERTAIN PEOPLE WATCH THEIR LANGUAGE, I’m reminded of how many people got their knickers in a twist over Ari Fleischer’s “watch what you say” remarks after 9/11. Fleischer’s remarks were pretty innocuous in context, but you would have thought he was Big Brother with a truncheon from the reaction of . . . well, Paul Krugman, who is now saying much more along those lines than Fleischer ever did. What could be different now? (Thanks to reader Paul Ulrich for the reminder).

MIRACLE IN MEMPHIS: A visit to FedEx’s SuperHub, where technology powers the global economy while you sleep. “In many ways, the SuperHub dwarfs its ‘big brother,’ Memphis International Airport. The SuperHub is a world unto itself, with a hospital, a fire station, a meteorology unit, and a private security force; it has branches of U.S. Customs and Homeland Security, plus anti-terror operations no one will talk about. It has 20 electric power generators as backup to keep it running if the power grid goes down.” Plus, talking to Fred Smith.

WILL BIG BROTHER keep a watchful eye on electric-vehicle drivers?

FROM THE KNOXVILLE NEWS-SENTINEL: A short film on Bill Haslam’s successful run for governor.

UPDATE: A reader who works at Pilot emails: “I’d say in 12 minutes that video pretty much nails it. Bill hired me at Pilot over 16 years ago. The parts of the video on that time in the company were accurate. Bill’s lack of ego, seen by many of us who admired his approach to issues, is crucial to his success. I’ve never met anyone as un-affected as Bill, and I assert it is wholly due to his faith and his relationship with God, and Jesus Christ. He never, ever, wears that on his sleeve as so many in the secular/religious Bible-belt do. He is very different from his big brother, and his dad. Bill was an effective businessman and an effective public servant. Jimmy is an effective businessman (understatement, there) but would be a crashing failure as a public servant. Each has ended up right where they should be.”

BIG BROTHER IN AUSTRALIA: “Revelations that the federal government wants Australia’s 400-odd internet service providers (ISPs) to log and retain customers’ web browsing data, so law enforcement can access it during criminal cases, have sparked alarm in the industry. Currently law enforcement needs court-approved search warrants before they can record someone’s personal data via their ISP. The proposed regulation would mean companies would be forced to store certain information for several years just in case it was later needed.”

BIG BROTHER COMES TO AMERICA WISE GOVERNMENT TEACHES PARKING ATTENDANTS TO WATCH FOR SIGNS OF TERRORISM:

Here’s something new:

A new government program aims to train thousands of parking industry employees nationwide to watch for and report anything suspicious — abandoned cars, for example, or people hanging around garages, taking photographs or asking unusual questions.

What’s new isn’t the program, but the perfectly straight coverage from an outlet like MSNBC.  When a similar program, TIPS, was proposed right after the 9/11 attacks, it was the second coming of Stasi, and was opposed by a left-right coalition of civil libertarians.  Here’s how it was covered in 2002:

Attorney General John Ashcroft tried to assure dubious Senate Democrats yesterday that a new citizens watchdog program isn’t a Big Brother snooping operation.The attorney general said TIPS is aimed at reporting suspicious activity in public areas and isn’t targeted at people’s homes – a central complaint of libertarians who say the plan encourages neighbors to spy on one another.

TIPS was unveiled in President Bush’s State of the Union speech but has generated little enthusiasm. One of its primary recruiting targets – the Postal Service – has said it won’t encourage mail carriers to participate.

The plan has united liberals and conservatives in opposition. The American Civil Liberties Union contends TIPS would turn many workers into “government-sanctioned Peeping Toms.”

Of course, that was then, and this is now.  Apparently we only need a left-right coalition that raises privacy objections to government policies under Republican administrations.

BIG BROTHER GOES GLOBAL?  The Indian government reportedly “plans to do both an audit as well as security checks of all Chinese made telecoms gear installed on the existing networks of all service providers before allowing any fresh imports from that country.”  Meanwhile, privacy advocates in the United States are spending their time and treasure trying to stall new cybersecurity measures in this country.  Talk about misplaced priorities.  As I said in Skating on Stilts,

It’s remarkable when you think about it. Right now, this minute, agents of an authoritarian government are covertly turning on cameras and microphones in homes and offices all across America, spying on the unsuspecting and the innocent. They’re recording our every thought, our every keystroke, as we prepare private documents or visit websites.

And they’re able to do that today thanks to the hard work of privacy advocates.

More context here.  (And apologies to casual readers.  I should have warned you earlier that my posts won’t be exactly libertarian.  I like to think I speak for the Jacksonian wing of Instapunditarianism.)

ROGER KIMBALL: A Cheery Message From Big Brother.

BIG BROTHER is on your tail.

MATT WELCH: Bailing Out Big Brother. “Media criticism goes from rebelling against media oligarchs to handing them a lifeline.”

CORY DOCTOROW: Big Brother in Nottingham. “You have to wonder what kind of values about citizenship, fairness, privacy, and the social contract are being imparted to young people by these measures.” From the Nanny State to the Bully State. . . .

BIG BROTHER wants you to be happy.

BIG BROTHER in the backcountry?

BIG BROTHER In A Van.

MIKE MCNALLY: Big Brother Is Watching — Should You Care?

THE NEW LUMIX GF1 sounds promising: A compact DSLR-quality camera that takes interchangeable lenses. I’ve certainly liked my Lumix LX-3 a lot, and this is sort of its big brother. A little pricey, though.

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Nolan writes:

$899 seems pretty reasonable considering the feature set. From what I have read it appears that the only limitations are the lens selection (older 4/3 lenses require an adapter which means autofocus may not work) and the picture framing with live view (I still can’t get used to this, prefer the old school method).

It’s an innovative camera and I have to admit that I am a little envious because I just plunked down $3k for a Canon 5D MkII knowing full well that one of the things I really don’t like about DSLRs is that the bulk makes traveling a hassle.

One of the things I love about the camera marketplace is that it is vibrant and ultra competitive, with prices continuing to decline by double digits year over year.

Yes, why isn’t healthcare this way? Hmm, what could be different?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Les Jones emails that the problem is Baumol’s Cost Disease.

bigbrother

Knoxville, Tennessee. Big Brother is watching you! I’ve seen these things used sensibly in big mall parking lots, where one officer can survey the terrain and direct others to thieves, etc. But in this downtown setting, where sightlines are short, it just takes an officer who might profitably be walking around and puts him in a box where he can’t do anything particularly useful. This is typical of police surveillance efforts in general, I think.

BIG BROTHER, FRUSTRATED: Arizona Judge Throws Out Political Arrest Based on Photo Ticket.

STATE OF SURVEILLANCE: Ross Clark’s The Road to Big Brother gets a very positive review in the Wall Street Journal. I wrote the introduction, and I think it’s an important book.

IN THE MAIL: Ross Clark’s The Road to Big Brother: One Man’s Struggle Against the Surveillance Society. I wrote the introduction, and I think it’s an important book.

TRACKING UNINSURED DRIVERS with Big Brother technology.

YEAH, BLOGGING’S BEEN A LITTLE LIGHT. I’m at Hofstra Law School, where I’ve been the “Distinguished Scholar in Residence” this week. I talked to the students about law practice (and job-hunting) in an Army of Davids world, to the faculty about the Second Amendment post-Heller, and will soon be speaking to a conference on energy and the environment about compact fluorescent bulbs, other energy saving technologies, and consumer resistance. It’s an excellent faculty, and they’ve been delightful hosts. It was a little weird, though, to get here and see my face staring out from posters, Big Brother-like, all over the place.

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU: A proposed GPS-based mileage tax in Oregon.

FEEL BETTER ABOUT THE U.S.: Nigerians look at the Blagojevich scandal and are jealous:

“Look at the Governor of the state of Illinois in the United States, Rod Blagojevich. The man who wants to sell Obama’s Senatorial seat to the highest bidder. He is definitely going to jail. The FBI evidence against him is overwhelming”

“The man should have been a Governor in Nigeria. What he has done, trying to cut a deal, and arrange something for himself, is standard and familiar practice in Nigeria. In the 1999 elections, some Godfathers collected money openly from aspirants and supported the highest bidder. In every election, most Nigerian voters support only the highest bidder. In Oyo state, Adedibu practically sold the Governorship seat to Ladoja. When the man refused to pay, he got him kicked out. Ngige also lost his seat because he refused to pay.”

“But the Americans are telling us that you cannot sell elective positions. It is not a cash and carry affair. And that whoever does so, is under the big watchful eyes of Big Brother. Where is the Nigerian equivalent of the FBI?”

“They are busy eating pepper soup and acting as bodyguards and house boys to the same enemies of the state that they are supposed to be watching.”

Not a cash-and-carry affair. Too bad word didn’t reach Chicago . . . .

My Popular Mechanics columns are here.

My USA Today columns are here.

My New York Post columns are here.

My Washington Examiner columns are here.

My TCSDaily / TechCentralStation columns are archived here.

My old MSNBC blog is here.

Previous columns written for FoxNews.com (I stopped in 2002) can be found here.

A (partial) list of my law review articles can be found here. It’s not usually up to date, but it’s the best I can do.

Also, downloadable copies of many of my law review articles can be found here, through SSRN.

Contributions to The Guardian are (mostly) rounded up here.

You may find my discussion of the state of the blogosphere with Cass Sunstein on the University of Chicago Faculty Blog interesting. Scroll forward from that link for the whole thing.

Some other items are listed below:

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The New York Sun, April 16, 2002
Whizzer�s Legacy
Glenn Harlan Reynolds

�The milk of human kindness,� a well-known federal judge once remarked to me, �does not flow through Whizzer�s veins.� He meant this (mostly) as a compliment.

Byron �Whizzer� White served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court at a time when compassion, as personified by judges like his colleague William J. Brennan, Jr. and federal appeals judges like J. Skelly Wright, was regarded as the cardinal virtue of the bench. But, as befitted a man who was once the highest-paid professional football player in the nation, White favored a more strenuous approach.

Like his colleague John Marshall Harlan, White was a kind of liberal, but he was a liberal of a species now nearly extinct, a species for whom compassion was only one � and not necessarily the foremost one � among many values. With Harlan, White voted to strike down the Connecticut anti-birth-control law in Griswold v. Connecticut. But, also like Harlan, he wrote separately to express a more modest rationale for the decision. For White, unlike the majority, the biggest problem with the law was not that it infringed a fundamental right of privacy � it was that it did not make sense. The State of Connecticut claimed that its law against birth control was intended to prevent premarital and extramarital sex, but the statute, and its enforcement, did something else entirely.

�I wholly fail to see,� he wrote, �how the ban on the use of contraceptives by married couples in any way reinforces the State�s ban on illicit sexual relationships. . . . [The statute] has been quite obviously ineffective, and [its] most serious use has been against birth-control clinics rendering advice to married, rather than unmarried, persons.� In short, White found, the law violated something as important as privacy � the right to expect a law (and the arguments made in court supporting the law) to make sense. If the State of Connecticut had a legitimate government purpose for enacting the birth-control statute, then it had done a particularly bad job because the law simply didn�t serve the purposes it was claimed to.

Though critics of the majority opinion in Griswold often call the right of privacy it recognized radical, White was in fact calling for something far more radical than a new individual right. White�s hardheadedness made him hard to pigeonhole: he voted with the liberals on (most) civil rights matters, and with the conservatives on (most) criminal matters.

But his approach was in many ways a foreshadowing of what was to come. In the 1996 case of Romer v. Evans, for example, the Supreme Court struck down an anti-gay-rights provision adopted in a Colorado referendum. The majority�s reasoning was that the provision � which barred localities from adopting gay-rights ordinances � failed �rational basis� review because the Court could identify no legitimate governmental purpose behind it. Instead, the Court held, the provision was motivated by a �bare desire to harm an unpopular group.�

Although �rational basis� analysis was long taught in law schools as being synonymous with �the law will be upheld,� White was long a champion of a more rigorous approach. The Romer decision is a fitting example of White�s legacy for another reason, too: it was criticized from both left and right. The left didn�t like it because it contained no ringing affirmation of gay rights. The right didn�t like it because it was insufficiently deferential to the state.

It may seem odd to link White�s legacy to a gay-rights case, given that his most unpopular opinion was probably the majority opinion he authored in the 1986 case of Bowers v. Hardwick. The Bowers case involved the constitutionality of a Georgia law making homosexual (and, actually, heterosexual) sodomy a felony punishable by up to twenty years imprisonment. White�s majority opinion upheld the law, finding no �fundamental right� of homosexuals to engage in sodomy.

White�s opinion was, in my own opinion, wrong. Under the logic of Griswold and Romer, the Georgia law is irrational � though since, despite the disingenuous claims of Georgia�s counsel at oral argument, it applied to heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, it was at least nondiscriminatory.

But though White may have been unable to bring himself to follow his own lead in Bowers, the courts of many states � including Georgia � have since struck down their sodomy laws on precisely the ground that they are irrational, and fail to advance a legitimate governmental purpose. In court after court, judges have examined the various justifications offered for laws banning homosexual sodomy (for example, that homosexual relationships can�t lead to children) and concluded that they didn�t make sense (after all, we allow heterosexuals who are sterile, or too old to reproduce, to have sex). White�s methodology, it turns out, may have had more impact than the opinion he authored.

What�s more, this principle is spilling over from traditionally liberal subjects like gay rights to those generally regarded as conservative. We see even economic regulations � once almost immune from judicial scrutiny � being examined in terms of rational basis and governmental legitimacy today. Just recently, for example, the Institute for Justice persuaded a court in my home state of Tennessee to strike down a law banning the sale of caskets by anyone other than a licensed funeral director, even though independent sellers could offer the same caskets at a fraction of the price. The state�s asserted justifications, it was found, were irrational: no one ever �protected� a consumer by keeping markups at four hundred to six hundred percent.

The principle that laws should make sense is, in fact, a radical one. While it has a long way to go before it has occupied the field, it has made great strides since Justice White began championing it. Like White himself, it will produce decisions that sometimes look conservative and sometimes look liberal. But it is really a species of muscular skepticism that � like White himself � is not made for ideological pigeonholes.

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Glenn Harlan Reynolds is Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee, and publishes the InstaPundit.Com website.

Wall Street Journal, December 28, 2001
Of Capitalism and Third Places
Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Senators have �hideaway offices,� and so do I. Theirs are scattered in various nooks and crannies around the Capitol. Mine is at the local Borders. Theirs are more prestigious, but mine has better coffee.

I have an office with a nice computer, and I have a study at home with a nicer computer. But I often pack up my laptop, or a book that I�m reading, or student papers to grade, and relocate to this third place: somewhere more congenial than the office, less isolated than home.

Others must feel the same way, because when I�m there I find myself surrounded by people of all sorts. On a typical day there will be two or three with laptops intently writing, well, something. There will be tables full of high-school or college students, alternately studying and flirting, a home-schooling parent drilling a child on Babylonian history, one or two road-warrior salespeople catching up on scheduling and messages, a claque of bible-studiers arguing about Job, and a leather-clad cyberpunk-looking youth sitting with his more conventional mother. By now, I know all the regulars by sight, and many by name. We keep up on each others� lives in a casual sort of way.

This third place, of course, is the �Third Place� that sociologist Ray Oldenburg called essential to civilization in his 1989 book, The Great Good Place. The third place had several characteristics: it had to be free or inexpensive, offer food and drink, be accessible, draw enough people to feel social, and foster easy conversation. Another characteristic that Oldenburg identified was that such places were disappearing.

In 1989, they were. In 2001, they�re not � and you can thank the much-maligned �chain book superstores� for this. Certainly when I moved to my upscale Knoxville suburb in 1989, there weren�t many such places. Nor had there been many in Washington, D.C., where I came from: the Afterwords caf� at Kramerbooks was the closest thing, but it didn�t really fill the bill. When I lived in New Haven, the famous Atticus books was like a poor man�s Borders � without public restrooms. (They�ve since added them, in the face of competition from the palatial Barnes & Noble – operated Yale Co-op down the street).

Now, within about a mile of each other, are three big bookstore/caf� complexes: Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million. All seem to be doing well.

They�re doing well because they�ve identified a need, and they�re meeting it. You�d think that this would make a lot of people happy � and of course, it does, as I can tell just by looking around. But you�d think it would make more than just the customers happy; you�d think that it would please the people who are always worrying about America�s need for �community.�

In that, however, you would mostly be mistaken. While hostility toward book superstores has receded from its late-90s peak, it is still very real. Independent bookstores, we are told, are genuine; chain bookstores are all about marketing. Chain bookstores are bad for small presses, bad for communities, and � as Carol Anne Douglas writes in Off Our Backs � bad for feminists, whose books apparently can only be bought at �feminist bookstores.�

I don�t know about the feminists, but small press sales appear to be up thanks to chain bookstores� larger selection of titles. Communities are surely benefitting from the introduction of pleasant third places where such didn�t exist before. And what�s more, with the exception of a handful of independents, chain bookstores are better at being third places.

That�s because independent bookstores have traditionally been run by people who like books. Those people generally aren�t interested in offering the other amenities that Oldenburg calls important and that superstores offer, like coffee shops, comfy chairs, and live music performances. At many independent bookstores, they like books better than people, and want you to know it � the bookish version of the music geeks in the movie High Fidelity. The chains, however, aren�t in business for personal gratification. They just want to keep customers coming back. Want coffee? Got it! Want a triple mocha latte, and handmade fresh salads from the Tomato Head restaurant downtown? Got it! And, interestingly, the extra traffic that these amenities produce means that chain stores typically can afford a better selection of books than the independents, too, which is why small presses are benefitting right along with latte-lovers.

Well, no surprise there. That�s what capitalism is all about. Funny that it�s a dirty word to some people.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is professor of law at the University of Tennessee and publisher of InstaPundit.Com.

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The Boston Globe, November 25, 2001
Ashcroft and the Second Amendment
Glenn Harlan Reynolds

The Attorney General was asked a question at a Congressional hearing: “What in your opinion would be the constitutionality of a provision added to this bill which would require registration [of firearms]?” His answer: “I am afraid it would be unconstitutional.”

The year is not 2001, but 1934, and the Attorney General is not John Ashcroft, but Homer Cummings. Cummings was hardly the first to think there were constitutional barriers to gun control. Throughout the nineteenth century, leading scholars like Thomas Cooley, Joseph Story, and St. George Tucker had found the Second Amendment protected an individual right to arms against federal interference. Congress agreed: the 1866 Freedmen’s Bureau Act provided that “the constitutional right to bear arms, shall be secured to and enjoyed by all the citizens.”

Leading modern scholars of constitutional law agree. Laurence Tribe of Harvard has written that the Second Amendment protects an individual right. So have William Van Alstyne of Duke, Eugene Volokh of UCLA, Randy Barnett of Boston University, and many others. They also agree with Ashcroft’s statement that this right does not bar reasonable regulations aimed at preventing crime, rather than disarming honest citizens.

The twentieth century Congress agreed with its nineteenth century counterpart: the 1986 Firearms Owners’ Protection Act found that “the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms under the second amendment to the United States Constitution” required additional legislation for their protection. An accompanying Senate Judiciary Committee report on the Second Amendment stated that “what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner.” And in several cases � some quite recent � the Supreme Court has, though admittedly in dictum, lumped the right to arms together with clearly personal rights like free speech.

Despite this, Attorney General John Ashcroft’s recent statement that the Second Amendment protects an individual right was treated as a lurching departure from settled law by some. Yet Ashcroft’s interpretation sits rather comfortably with the mass of opinion from other branches.

The chief opposition to the individual-rights view comes from gun-control advocacy groups. I’ve never quite understood why gun-control groups have felt it necessary to adopt an absolutist no-right-to-bear-arms position, when it is clear that the individual right view leaves room for reasonable regulation, so long as that regulation is really about preventing criminals from getting guns, not disarming ordinary citizens. (I myself have written that gun registration wouldn’t violate the Second Amendment). But such absolutism is one of the dynamics of our ongoing culture war, on the left as much as on the right.

Some critics of Ashcroft’s view have claimed that it conflicts with United States v. Miller, the 1939 Supreme Court case that is its only opinion directly addressing a Second Amendment argument in the past hundred years. Miller, we are told, makes clear that the Second Amendment only protects the National Guard. There are two major problems with this argument. One is that Miller never mentions the National Guard. The other is that the only action actually taken in Miller was to remand the case back to the District Court (which had previously held the National Firearms Act unconstitutional on Second Amendment grounds) for factfinding on the issue of whether a sawed-off shotgun was the kind of weapon the Second Amendment protects. Whatever Miller did, it did not endorse the “National Guard” theory.

The lower federal courts are a different story. The lower courts’ resistance to the individual-rights view has, at least until recently, been widespread, and those criticizing Ashcroft’s position have been quick to point to these decisions as evidence that Ashcroft is somehow off the reservation. Yet on closer examination, the lower courts’ opinions are less persuasive. In a recent article, Professor Brannon Denning of Southern Illinois University Law School analyzed all the lower court decisions on the Second Amendment, and concluded that , “lower courts have strayed . . . from the Court’s original holding to the point of being intellectually dishonest.” Many lower courts in fact have endorsed the National Guard theory. Of course, many of them also claim that Miller did the same, which it clearly did not, and to read these opinions in series is to see lower courts progressively and unashamedly moving the goalposts in order to ensure that � regardless of the arguments offered by counsel � no one could possibly succeed in a Second Amendment challenge. This line of cases is no great testament to the rule of law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed with this last month when it essentially adopted Professor Denning’s criticism of other lower court decisions and held that the Second Amendment does in fact protect an individual right. In response to this decision, Michael Barone noted that “It will now be very hard�I would say impossible�for any intellectually honest judge to rule that the Second Amendment means nothing.”

On analysis, therefore, it appears to be the lower federal courts (except, now, for the Fifth Circuit) who are out of the mainstream on this issue. So are the gun-control groups who so vigorously invoke the lower courts’ opinions to deny any possibility that the Second Amendment (which is, after all, one-tenth of the Bill of Rights) does anything so uncouth as to create an enforceable constitutional right.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee, and writes for the InstaPundit.Com website.

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IS BIG BROTHER riding shotgun? “When the Germans — who, after the Gestapo and the Stasi, know a little something about surveillance and the loss of privacy — ban these devices, why should we let them into our daily lives?”

WELL, 1984 WAS SET IN BRITAIN, AFTER ALL:

Councils are recruiting ‘citizen snoopers’ to report litter louts, dog foulers and even people who fail to sort out their rubbish properly. The ‘environment volunteers’ will also be responsible for encouraging neighbours to cut down on waste. The move comes as local authorities dish out £100 fines to householders who leave out too much rubbish or fail to follow recycling rules.

It will fuel fears that Britain is lurching towards a Big Brother society, following the revelation this week that the Home Office is extending some police powers to council staff and private security guards. Critics said the latest scheme could easily be abused and encourage a culture of bin spies and curtain twitchers.

Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Snooping on your neighbours to report recycling infringements sounds like something straight out of the East German Stasi’s copybook.

Indeed.

BIG BROTHER at the Boston Subway.

BIG BROTHER LURKS IN THE DEN:

I write in cars, on planes, on the bench in the yard, while watching TV and in bed. And I haven’t seen a movie that wasn’t a matinee in two decades.

I’ve worked like this now, with the exception of three years when I had a ’real’ job, since 1981. During that time, I’ve authored or co-authored more than a dozen books, co-produced a TV miniseries (and hosted three other PBS series), and written probably two thousand newspaper and magazine articles, columns and editorials. In other words, by most objective measures, I’ve had a pretty successful and productive freelance career.

And yet, if a new trend identified by the Wall Street Journal takes hold, I will be considered utterly and permanently unemployable. Why? Because employers, despite a half-century of evidence that trusting your employees to make responsible decisions is the key to higher productivity, are becoming increasingly obsessed with the notion (as used to be said about the Puritans) that someone, somewhere, is goofing off on the job.

So, they are now turning to employment companies that market freelancers, such as oDesk.com (which manages 90,000 code writers, network admins, writers and graphic artists –pray for them – for 10,000 clients worldwide), which have developed a whole suite of tools to help them spy on these contractors as they work at home. oDesk, for example, uses freelancer’s own computer camera to track his or her moves, periodically conducts screen grabs to see if work is being done, monitors keystrokes, even eavesdrops for the sound of a dog barking or children talking – and then offers those services to its clients.

All of this is, apparently, an attempt to assuage the ever-present fear by contractors that somehow they are being ripped off by the people they contract. The result, as the Journal portrays it in chilling terms, is that people working at home under this regime are forced to create work environments in their homes that seem far, far worse than any cubicle at corporate headquarters.

As I’ve noted before, this kind of thing is rooted more in managers’ desire for power — and fear of output metrics — than any actual business needs.

THE D300’S BIG BROTHER: A review of the new Nikon D3.

BIG BROTHER’S WATCHING YOU — but who’s watching Big Brother? Big Brother doesn’t want it to be you . . . .

I’ve written on that myself, recently.

BIG BROTHERISM:

With little fanfare, the newly appointed Maryland State Police superintendent, Col. Terrence Sheridan, last month sent a letter to state gun dealers requiring that anyone who applies to purchase a handgun after July 31 sign a release allowing police access to the applicant’s mental health records.

According to a published report, by signing, the prospective buyer will be agreeing to let health agencies in Maryland and other states disclose any information about whether he or she has ever suffered from mental illness, has a history of violent behavior or has been confined in a mental health facility for more than 30 consecutive days.

Anyone who refuses to sign the release will be prevented from purchasing a handgun in Maryland.

The problem with this is — at least as it appears from this report — that this goes way beyond the mental conditions that disqualify people from owning guns, and instead allows police to troll through the mental health records of gun owners at will. As a matter of parity, then, let’s open up the records of Col. Sheridan and his officers to public inspection, since they all carry guns themselves . . . .

BIG BROTHER IS CARDING YOU: Scanning your driver’s license number when you buy beer.

CAMERAS DO NOT EQUAL SECURITY: “Britain risks ‘committing slow social suicide’ by allowing the Big Brother state to take over its citizens’ lives, the leading privacy watchdog will warn tomorrow.”

AS INSTAPUNDIT READERS KNOW, I’m a big fan of compact fluorescent light bulbs. But there’s a difference between thinking that something’s worth encouraging people to do, and thinking that people should be forced to do it. Or at least there should be. Katherine Mangu-Ward looks at Big Brother’s light bulb forays.

A LOOK AT BOB LEVY, and why he brought his successful D.C. gun ban lawsuit.

UPDATE: Sam Venable has thoughts on the case:

I’m guessing everyday folks – who may or may not own a gun and don’t feel strongly either way – will be inclined to side with the court this time around.

Why?

Because we’ve all felt the heavy hand of Big Brother, and it’s a most uncomfortable sensation. . . . Meanwhile, I had to chuckle when a Washington anti-gun group called last week’s ruling “judicial activism at its worst.”

How odd. Typically, such accusations come from conservatives when a liberal court opinion is rendered.

Read the whole thing.

ED MORRISSEY debunks efforts to rehabilitate the Clinton Administration’s terror record.

Factual errors aside, I’ll just note a contradiction in simultaneously claiming that today’s surveillance programs are Big Brother incarnate, and claiming that the mean old Republicans blocked Clinton’s efforts to deploy such programs in the 1990s.

“NATIONAL SECURITY? THAT’S FOR US TO DECIDE, BUB. We’re newspapermen!”

A fresh barrage of criticism is erupting over the decision of The New York Times to disclose last night another classified surveillance program aimed at gathering information about terrorist plots.

“The president is concerned that, once again, the New York Times has chosen to expose a classified program that is protecting the American people,” a White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said last night. “We know that terrorists look for any clue about the weapons we’re using to fight them and now, with this exposure, they have more information and it increases the challenge for our law enforcement and intelligence officials.”

The Times report, which appears in today’s editions and was posted last evening on the paper’s Web site, details the federal government’s use of subpoenas to gather large troves of data from a Belgium-based consortium that handles international bank transfers, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as Swift.

But boy, if somebody steps on their scoops, they sure get mad. Some secrecy is sacred.

UPDATE: A big roundup of blog reaction on this, over at PJ Media.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Spruiell:

According to the NYT’s own reporting, the program is legal. The program is helping us catch terrorists. The administration has briefed the appropriate members of Congress. The program has built-in safeguards to prevent abuse. And yet, with nothing more than a vague appeal to the “public interest” (which apparently is not outweighed in this case by the public’s interest in apprehending terrorists), the NYT disregards all that and publishes intimate, classified details about the program. Keller and his team really do believe they are above the law. When it comes to national security, it isn’t the government that should decide when secrecy is essential to a program’s effectiveness. It is the New York Times.

National security be damned. There are Pulitzers to be won.

The press is much harder on other businesses that sacrifice the public interest for profits.

MORE: Ed Morrissey writes:

Excuse me, but no one voted to put Bill Keller in charge of our national security, and the laws covering classification of materials does not have an option for journalists to invalidate their clearance level. The continuing arrogance of Keller and his two reporters has damaged our national security, and in this case on a ridiculously laughable story that tells us absolutely nothing we didn’t already know in concept. They keep pretending to offer news to their readers, but instead all they do is blow our national-security programs for profit.

The administration has told us on many occasions that one of the main fronts in the war on terror would be the financial systems. We have seen plenty of coverage on how the US has pressured various banking systems into revealing their records in order for us to freeze terrorist assets. If anyone wondered whether our efforts had any effect, all they needed to read was the stories of Hamas officials having to smuggle cash in valises in order to get spot funding for the Palestinian Authority. Their neighboring Arab nations pledged upwards of $150 million in direct aid, which banks would not transfer lest the US discover the transactions and lock them out of the global banking system.

Thanks to the Times for helping with that.

What’s interesting to me is that when you talk about military force, we’re supposed to use law-enforcement and intelligence methods instead. But if you use law-enforcement and intelligence methods, people shout “Big Brother” and the Times runs stories exposing them.

COOKIES ON WEBSITES? Heaven forfend! Ed Morrissey notes the fizzling of the latest “espionage” story, and Jeff Jarvis observes: “This is getting ridiculous: The AP is treating the NSA’s use of web cookies as if it is Big Brother spying. They’re just cookies.” Found in abundance, as many have noted, on Big Media sites themselves.

GALILEO, GALILEO:

A European satellite shot into space Wednesday to launch the EU’s $4 billion US planned rival to the United States’ Global Positioning System. . . .

The European Union started the program out of concern that GPS, because of its military focus, could be cut off in some cases. Last year, U.S. President George W. Bush ordered plans for temporarily disabling GPS satellites during national crises to prevent terrorists from using the technology.

The European Space Agency says it will guarantee operation at all times, except in case of “the direst emergency.” It also says users would be notified of satellite problems within seconds.

A bit more background, here.

UPDATE: E.U. Referendum has much more:

This was Professor Heinz Wofis, former head of the European manned space programme, who cast doubt on the validity of the project, dismissing it as a “largely political” exercise, reflecting the nascent anti-Americanism of the EU, and arguing that costs had been underestimated. He suggested that the real cost could be as much as five times the headline figure.

Where, of course, the EU plans to make the system work financially is by using its regulatory power. It plans to make the system compulsory for its Single European Sky project, railway signalling systems and for road charging. Irrespective of the fact that an upgraded US system will be provided free of charge, the EU plans to levy users and thereby recover its costs though these means, effectively imposing a user tax on EU member states and their commercial enterprises.

Then there is also the payback in sales of military technology using GPS, which explains why, in particular, French aerospace contractors are so keen on the system, attracting the support of French defence minister Alliot Marie.

None of this, perforce, finds its way into today’s media coverage, which emphasises the “touchy feely” aspects, such as the mobile phones that “will enable people to determine their exact position, down to the very meter (sic), free of charge,” without also stating that such systems have their “big brother” aspect in that they will enable the authorities to keep track of everyone using such a system.

Read the whole thing.

TOM MAGUIRE HAS A BIG SUV / FUEL ECONOMY / CAFE ROUNDUP: Read the whole thing, as it’s link-rich and informative.

A few points worth making here. First, the SUV craze isn’t solely the result of car-buyers being idiots. It’s in no small part an artifact of government regulation. Andrew Sullivan, in a post that Tom links, notes that people used to just toss the kids in the back of the station wagon (at least I hope that’s what he means by the “trunk.”) Do that now, and you’d practically be charged with child abuse. (Accusing SUV owners of treason is a bit, er, excitable, too.)

Now you have to strap them into car seats until they’re quite large. This produces demands for more room, DVD players, etc., to keep them amused, and the like. What’s more, station wagons — at least the big ones that Andrew invokes — were actually casualties of the CAFE standards and other regulations; car makers switched to SUVs to give people the station-wagon-like room while getting to treat the vehicles like trucks for purposes of safety and economy rules. The government didn’t have to set things up that way, but it did, and the result was predictable if unintended. (Also, the ability of self-employed people to deduct high-gross-weight vehicles on more favorable terms plays a big role). [LATER: A subsequent post on Andrew Sullivan’s blog blames the “Bush tax cuts” for this, but actually I believe this policy predates Bush — and it was tightened up (somewhat) in 2004, though it was loosened for a bit before that, I think.]

I lack the religious opposition to SUVs that many have, but I don’t want one. When I bought the Passat wagon over 6 years ago, gas was less than a dollar. I drove a lot of SUVs, and wasn’t thrilled by their truck-like driving and lousy mileage. The newer ones drive better, but $2.50/gallon gas hasn’t done anything to make the lousy mileage more tasteful.

And I’m not terribly happy with the offerings right now. The Passat is still OK, but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth and I’d like to replace it in a year or two, depending on how it does. I enjoy looking at cars, and I’ve looked at minivans — roomy, but dull, and with mileage that only looks good next to SUVs — various “crossover” SUVs (I visited the Knoxville Infiniti dealer and looked at an FX35; it was cool, but pricey, and actually smaller inside than the Passat. The salesman was really pleasant and knowledgeable, though.) and the small crop of wagons out there (the Jaguar Estate is perhaps the ugliest car I’ve seen since the Vega). I want to look at the Toyota Highlander hybrid, but I haven’t yet.

A salesman at Harper VW told me that there was actually a TDI version of the Passat wagon on sale last year that got 38 mpg on the highway, but it’s not offered any more, which seems like bad timing. Or why not a station-wagon version of the Accord hybrid? I’d like to see car makers bring out more vehicles like that — and if gas prices stay this high, they probably will. That would suit me.

UPDATE: Michael Wenberg emails:

You and Andrew have a point about SUVs, but he in particular forgets that some people actually “need” big rigs. As much as I’d like to, I can’t pull 2 tons of hay with my 1987 VW Cabriolet. Same with the horse trailer. And we’re not alone. Out here in the rural west, trucks and SUVs are even more common than the big coastal urban areas. I’m sorry, but just because we happen to own two horses doesn’t make me a closet supporter of Islamo terrorists. We can certainly do more with our energy policy than just give tax breaks, but pummeling SUV owners because they take advantage of moronic tax policies seems to be a wrong way to go about it.

Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Johnathan Pearce has more thoughts.

Meanwhile, reader Bob Whitehead emails:

I’ve been saying this about car seats and seat belts laws causing SUV’s popularity for three years now to all the liberals I know in Jackson Mississippi and keep getting blank stares in the process. Maybe since they don’t have kids they don’t get it. Don’t forget the passenger-side airbag effect as well, keeping older kids in the backseats with their siblings deep into the tween years. The bottom line is–if you have more than two children, you HAVE to drive an SUV or minivan.

Yes, the airbag issue is a real one.

MORE: A reader notes that the VW.com website lets you build a TDI Passat wagon, so maybe they’re still available after all, despite what I was told. Or maybe the website’s out of date.

Meanwhile, reader Paul Milenkovic emails:

I don’t know whom to blame on this one, but Ford is making a fuel-efficient “crossover-SUV” big station-wagon like thing called the Freestyle in my home town of Chicago, and Ford can’t seem to sell very many.

It is styled like its big brother the Explorer, it has the chassis from a Volvo XC-90, it has the same EPA mileage ratings as a Taurus, and it has gotten top marks in the both the Federal and IIHS crash tests. It has the same 3 litre motor as a Taurus but coupled to a gas-saving transmission that allows this motor to move a substantially bigger and heavier vehicle. That transmission called a CVT works on a similar principle as a hybrid car in that the gasoline engine is operated under more fuel efficient load conditions, but I guess it hasn’t been marketed with the “democracy, whiskey, sexy” hype of the hybrid.

The 3 litre engine and CVT transmission don’t have enough oomph to haul a horse trailer, but then how many soccer mom’s board horses? What gets to me is that every self-styled automotive expert who has reviewed this car whines “not enough power!” or “don’t buy until they come out with the 3.5 litre!” The 0-60 numbers are competitive with other vehicles out there, but the CVT transmission doesn’t give the feel of shift points like you are making progress accelerating the car. If this drive train were called a “hybrid”, everyone would be saying how virtuous it is to drive such a car but since it is simply a gas engine and a fancy transmission, all of the car pundits are complaining.

On one hand the punditocracy is complaining about $3 gasoline and wasteful habits and evil SUV’s, and on the other these same people are writing about how the Freestyle is way underpowered and these things are parked all over dealer lots.

In fact, Ford has reportedly discontinued it, though reportedly there will still be a Mercury version in 2007. Here’s a review of the Freestyle from Popular Mechanics.

Reader Francisco Moreno, meanwhile, sends this article from Car and Driver on why diesels are hard to come by:

The trouble with diesels in the U.S. is at the tailpipe. They can’t pass the emissions regs that go into effect in California this year and phase in across the country over the next four years. This may surprise those who’ve seen or sniffed the exhaust coming out of the latest passenger-car diesels—it looks and smells as clean as that of a gas engine to the naked eye or nose. The diesel combustion process, in which the air-fuel mixture is ignited not by a spark plug but by the high temperature and pressure created by a high compression ratio, is naturally clean in terms of carbon moNOXide, hydrocarbons, and other organic gases, so those standards are easily met. But those high temperatures and pressures result in oxides of nitrogen (NOX) and particulate matter—the soot your Olds diesel belched—that are very difficult to clean up, and the new standards apply equally to all fuels. No more special dispensation for diesel.

New technologies may fix that, but many manufacturers are giving up. Finally, Wall Street lawyer-turned Red State soccer mom Jane Meynardie emails on the airbag issue:

One used to be able to put a child below the age (and size) of 12 in the front seat, but can’t do that anymore without risking death by airbag. That means if one has four children, or three children any one of whom has a friend who likes to tag along, one must have a third row of seats (or at least one of those nasty pop-up seats in the cargo area). My one monster-size SUV in which I ferry my 3 boys and their buddies uses less gas than the two vehicles I (and my husband or hired chauffeur)would have to manage if I didn’t have it.

Indeed.

MORE STILL: Ted Nolan thinks we worry too much about safety:

When I was young, and there were no interstates between Columbia SC and Fernandina Beach FL, my parents would prepare the car for the trip by putting a big sheet of plywood across the back seat. This covered the hump, and with blankets spread over it, made a dandy play area for my sister and me to loll and squirm about for the 8 hour drive. If we got tired of that, we could lay down in the shelf between the back seat and the back window. The car may have had seat belts in the front; certainly no one ever used them.

The operative assumption was that my parents were good drivers and they would trust themselves to keep us safe. I think we lost something very important when we lost that presumption. . . . I think sometimes that if we knew where things would end up, we might have gone a different way even though every step seemed to make sense at the time.

I’m a big believer in seat belts, myself, but I take the point. And reader Julie Kelleher Stacy emails:

I hate to email you and take up your time, but this SUV issue strikes very close to home for me. Some people who live in the Northeast, like Andrew (whom I haven’t read in a year), don’t realize that some people in red states own or work on ranches, or work on large government properties, and have kids or guests, and really need these things. Northeasterners sometimes have no concept of how big and diverse this country really is. (By the way, your readers Mr Wenberg and Mr Whitehead have very good points, and I agree with them completely.)

For example, I present my annual childhood summer vacation. Every summer in my childhood of the ’60’s and early seventies was spent at the Big Bend area ranch that has been in our family since the 1880’s. I guess my parents should have had the the foresight in the 50’s to downsize and leave a small footprint on the earth by having fewer kids and selling off my mom’s share of the ranch. But no— instead I was afflicted with the existence of three siblings and a large ranch to help manage. (All working Trans-Pecos ranches have to be large. It takes on average 50 acres to sustain one cow/calf.)

So our parents would stuff all us kids, plus the dog, into the old Buick station wagon (what’s a seatbelt?), drive 350 miles west to the turnoff from the highway (did I mention that Texas is big?), and slowly limp up the several miles to the house. We would park the old Buick in the driveway for the next month, because it couldn’t hack the roads. So instead we would use the ranch pickup for all of our driving. Double cabs did not exist, so it was three people in the cab with a big stick shift between the legs of the child in the middle, and the other kids and dog in the bed of the truck. We even drove 20 miles to town like this to get groceries and library books (no sat dishes back then), at 70 MPH once we hit the highway. I loved riding in the back. We had no idea how dangerous this was, and now it’s illegal in many areas.

When the ranch started buying some early SUVs, first a Wagoneer and then a Suburban, what I liked best was the rear AC units, seemingly heaven-sent. More important was this: SUVs provided ranch families the means to transport humans INSIDE the vehicle, with seatbelts, a huge leap forward in safety for family transportation.

So I intensely resent this demonization of an inanimate object that has so greatly enhanced the safety and comfort of rural families. This is a huge, wealthy, diverse country, with room for people with all kinds of lifestyles. Do I wish SUVs got better gas mileage? HELL YES. I think, hope, and pray that markets and technology will take care of this in time. Faster please.

I’ve gotten a lot of emails along these lines. See also this post from Greg Ransom, and here’s an interesting tidbit on the front-seat airbag problem:

I’d like to point out, though, that we purchased a brand new minivan (a Mercury Monterey) a couple of weeks ago, and it doesn’t have the problem. If the passenger seatbelt latches, and it thinks that it’s an adult-sized amount of weight, it turns the airbag on. If it latches, but the weight is too low, it determines that it might be a child, so it turns off the airbag.

That makes sense, but I didn’t know it was available. That’s a good thing, though it would be even more useful in smaller vehicles, for obvious reasons.

BIG BROTHER MOVES TO THE SUBURBS: “Bellwood’s mayor said he welcomed the suggestion that his town might be considered something akin to a Big Brother-land. ‘I wish we could create that image. I would love that,’ Mayor Frank Pasquale said with a chuckle.”

LEBANON UPDATE:

Without much publicity, France has moved the replenishment ship Var to the eastern Mediterranean. The Var contains facilities for running commando operations, as well as facilities for about 200 commandoes and their equipment. France apparently believes that the situation in Lebanon is going to get out of control. Since World War II, France has been something of a big brother for Lebanon, especially the Lebanese Christians. This particular relationship goes back some 800 years, to the time of the Crusades. Currently, the Lebanese are out in the streets protesting the continued presence of Syrian troops in the country. If France is going to get involved, it won’t be with a lot of troops. But you can do a lot with a hundred or so commandoes.

Hmm.

UPDATE: Less strategic thoughts, at Catallarchy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: It occurs to me that this will be a test of whether “people power” can manage to free an Arab country without the kind of assistance customarily provided by the U.S. Marines.

MICHAEL JORDAN’S BIG BROTHER is going to Iraq.

BRUCE SCHNEIER writes that we’re slouching toward Big Brother.

I’m not as gloomy as he is, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read his piece. I could be wrong, you know! I do think, though, that the most important thing in preserving civil liberties is to maintain a firewall between the treatment of noncitizens and citizens. Mistreatment or surveillance of noncitizens may be bad, but it doesn’t offer the temptation toward political abuse that such conduct offers where citizens are concerned.

HOWARD DEAN ON CIVIL LIBERTIES:

MONTPELIER — Gov. Howard Dean’s call for a “re-evaluation” of some of America’s civil liberties following this week’s terrorist attacks was criticised Thursday by a Vermont Law School professor.

“Good God,” Vermont Law School Professor Michael Mello said when read the remarks Dean made at a Wednesday news conference. “It’s terribly irresponsible for the leader of our state to be saying stuff like that right now.”

Benson Scotch, the head of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was simply too soon after the attacks to engage in the sort of debates Dean called for.

Dean said Wednesday he believed that the attacks and their aftermath would “require a re-evaluation of the importance of some of our specific civil liberties. I think there are going to be debates about what can be said where, what can be printed where, what kind of freedom of movement people have and whether it’s OK for a policeman to ask for your ID just because you’re walking down the street.”

To be fair, the story is dated September 14, 2001, a time when a lot of people were saying stupid things about civil liberties. The refrain from too many of the talking heads was that we’d have to put away our freedoms, like the childish things they were, and put our fate in the hands of Big Brother. (Of course, Dean should have been reading this column.)

And he does waffle a bit in the piece, saying that he hasn’t made up his mind. But perhaps some reporters should ask him if he has made up his mind on these subjects in the intervening years.

UPDATE: Reader Tom Nord emails:

That post on Dean’s remarks — a mere three days after 9/11 — is a pretty thinly veiled piece of agitprop. Everyone was acting a little freaked out that week.

Well, I said that.

He was not the only person to suggest we might need to sacrifice some civil liberties.

I said that, too.

As I recall, it was Ari Fleischer who put it so succinctly, “People need to watch what they say.” If you are going to start dredging up stuff like Dean’s remarks, why not create a whole gallery of embarrassing things said by politicos — from both sides of the aisle — during those awful days?

Sounds like Ari was right. But, sure, people were freaked out, and I blasted ’em then. But Dean’s running for President. Surely it’s not too much to ask that a President’s first instinct not be anti-civil liberties, and that a President be able to avoid saying dumb things in the midst of tragedy. Dean’s no worse than a lot of people who were on TV then. But he’s running for President, while David McCullough, for example, isn’t.

If anyone else running for President said similar stuff, by all means send me the links.

ANOTHER UPDATE: C.D. Harris thinks I’m giving Dean the benefit of the doubt when he doesn’t deserve it: “my experience has been that, generally speaking, people’s gut reactions are pretty reliable indicators of their mindset about things. Apparently, Dean’s is pure authoritarianism.”

Well, I don’t know. But someone should at least, you know, ask him about this.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Hesiod emails that I’m being intellectually dishonest for linking to the above and not linking to this statement by Dean in a MoveOn.org interview:

Too many in my party voted for the Patriot Act. They believed that it was more important to show bipartisan support for President Bush during a moment of crisis than to stand up for the basic values of our constitution. They trusted this President, knowing full well that John Ashcroft was the Attorney General. Only one senator had the courage to vote against the Patriot Act— Senator Russ Feingold, and he deserves credit for doing so. We need more Democrats like Senator Feingold—Democrats who are willing to stand up for what is right, and stand against this President’s reckless disregard for our civil liberties. We don’t need John Ashcroft—or any other Attorney General—rifling through our library records. As Americans, we need to stand up—all of us—and ensure that our laws reflect our values. As President, I will repeal those parts of the Patriot Act that undermine our constitutional rights, and will stand against any further attempts to expand the government’s reach at the expense of our civil liberties.

Hesiod is somewhat overwrought here. I’m happy to hear that Dean opposes the Patriot Act, a bill that I also opposed. But it’s not a complete answer. Perhaps the language that Dean “will stand against any further attempts to expand the government’s reach at the expense of our civil liberties” is — except that I wonder if Dean really means it. Any further attempts? If he does mean it, I’m impressed.

MORE: Mitch Berg says I’m cutting Dean too much slack and adds: “Of course, had a Governor George (or Jeb) Bush said any such thing on 9/14/01, we’d be hearing about it.” From Hesiod!

HARVARD LAW SCHOOL WANTS TO ADOPT A SPEECH CODE:

Last night, the proposed code set off such a furious debate at an extraordinary campus ”town meeting” that some committee members and the law school dean said afterward that they were deeply uneasy with the idea.

They should be. I think that Harvard should consider adopting this statement from the University of Chicago:

“The ideas of different members of the University community will frequently conflict and we do not attempt to shield people from ideas that they may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even offensive. Nor, as a general rule, does the University intervene to enforce social standards of civility.” . . .

In other words, the University permits partisan, even hostile statements against groups or states, but not violence or physical intimidation of individuals. And while we do not enforce speech or civility codes, we have long prided ourselves on the kind of respectful environment that encourages all to offer their views. We see this kind of civility not as a requirement, but as a virtue, and therefore worth pursuing. In short, while we sometimes treat ideas here rather roughly, we strive to treat others with the civility we would like to receive ourselves.

It’s okay for students to be made uncomfortable in class, and they should learn how to deal with opinions that they find unpleasant or offensive without asking for Big Brother to step in. If they can’t deal with that, then they don’t belong in law school.

UPDATE: Boston blogger Jay Fitzgerald writes: “Harvard is starting to get hurt by all these embarrassments.” I think that’s right. What’s interesting is that these kinds of PC initiatives are usually started by administrators who want to avoid divisiveness and bad publicity — yet they tend to produce far more of both than a principled free-speech stance.