Monday, August 19, 2013

Political Hypocrisy and Civil Rights

Last week, my brother and I squabbled via e-mail. I had held up the mirror of political hypocrisy in the form of an opinion piece from the National Review that I shared on Facebook. My brother caught his own reflection, which surprised me, and complained. I called him on it, he took offense, and we were off to the races.

Ironically, I had originally withheld my own comments precisely to avoid offending anyone. You see, if I simply tell someone that he’s wrong, then I’m being insulting, but if I instead try to let him see his own mistakes, then I apparently look condescending … or so I’ve been told. What rhetorical device can I use to make my point without risk of offending or worse yet being ignored?

However, since this will be ignored anyway, I may as well expound on the issue, since I already did most of the work for my brother’s benefit. My words will be out here in the wilderness at least.

Now, the point of the National Review piece was about hypocrisy in the treatment of civil rights, namely conflicting support or defense for discouraging the right to arms through gun-control laws and discouraging the right to vote through voter-authentication laws. If restrictions are justified on one of these to avoid certain perceived harms, then they must also be justified on the other to avoid its perceived harms. Put simply, it is hypocritical to insist on unfettered exercise of one right that may cause harm but demand restrictions on another right that may also cause harm.

My brother, of course, simply denied the equivalency, which is what disappointed me and angered him. After all, guns are bad, right? They’re just used to murder people. But votes are good. They’re used to help poor people get welfare benefits and affordable health care. Never mind that votes have been responsible for far more murders than have privately held firearms.…

I contend that the issues are very much equivalent in that important and/or fundamental civil rights are implicated in both examples. In fact, the methodologies of restriction are eerily similar, so I would argue that the voter-authentication efforts have been informed by the history of gun-control legislation. The next step might be to require background checks prior to each election, since felons are also prohibited from voting.

I could make a case for why the electoral franchise is too widely available, but that isn’t my point here and implicates too many other tangential issues. For the sake of this argument, I accept that voter disenfranchisement is a bad thing, assuming that easy access to ballots correlates to increased rates of voter fraud no more than easy availability of firearms correlates to increased rates of murder. In other words, let’s assume that there is no real problem for voter-authentication laws to solve.

I recognize these voter-authentication laws for what they really are (just like I recognize gun-control laws for what they really are). Though I could make a good-faith argument that these laws are wise and benevolent and not disenfranchising at all—like a right to arms limited just to your own home, you aren’t really disenfranchised as long as you can still vote between 1:30pm and 2:00pm in the state capital on election day—I suspect that they are less about preventing electoral fraud than they are about discouraging casual voters. Casual voters are the only group who will respond to get-out-the-vote drives, so these laws will undercut the effectiveness of such drives and thus threaten the political power of the party that most relies upon them.

I’ve seen with my own eyes just how easy electoral fraud can be, but I will oppose these voter-authentication laws and support the inevitable legal challenges. Assuming the laws are eventually stricken, the resulting jurisprudence can be used against very similar gun-control laws. In the same manner, again assuming victory for the pro-rights argument, the jurisprudence that results from the ongoing right-to-arms litigation will eventually be used to protect and expand other civil rights. What weakens one weakens all, and what strengthens one strengthens all.

And this is why I wish that I could win “liberals” over on the right to arms and “conservatives” over on private morality issues, but if I can’t convince my own brother of the importance and interdependence of all civil rights, then whom can I convince?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Friend for Woollard

Justice delayed is justice denied.

I’m no lawyer, but I doubt that I could construct a stronger legalistic argument in support of the right to carry a handgun under the Second Amendment than that presented in the Cato Institute’s amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court advocating its review in the matter of Woollard v. Gallagher. The high court must take up this case and settle the underlying constitutional question. To do otherwise would be to shirk its duty and expose the entire body of our civil rights to potential abuse under the same methods used to deny the right to bear arms.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bricklayer Tacos

All the ingredients for bricklayer tacos, except the tortillas.

I adapted this recipe from Pati’s Mexican Table. My version is spicier and uses more vegetables. It’s an attempt at one-skillet cooking, wherein the meat and salsa cook together—though I always end up transferring the ingredients from skillet to wok along the way. Different quantities and varieties can be easily substituted (ground beef in place of chopped steak, for example).


1/4–1/2 lb. thick-cut bacon, sliced
1 lb. beef, chopped or sliced
salt, pepper, and oregano to taste
4+ cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, sliced
6+ jalapeños (or other chilies), chopped
1 lb. fire-roasted tomatoes, diced.

All the ingredients cook together in a large skillet or wok.

Fry the bacon until it is nicely browned and most of the fat rendered. Tip off or drain the excess, depending on how lean the beef is. Add the beef and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Cook until the beef is slightly seared.

Add the sliced onions and mix them in gently. Once the onions begin to soften, add the chilies. Cook for several minutes, then stir in the tomatoes. Continue cooking the mixture until the vegetables have reached the desired texture and any excess liquid has been reduced.

A bricklayer taco ready to enjoy.

Serve with warm corn tortillas, top with crumbled cotija cheese, and garnish with chopped cilantro or lettuce. Enjoy!