Little ears! Big ears! Sensitive ears!

The following is a guest editorial from the Denver Post from 2011. I heard local conservative commentator Mike Rosen read it on his radio program and wrote an Email in response. I will paste the editorial first, followed by my response.

I find it darkly ironic, since I now endure Omaha’s mass transit system. Yet, I would not change a word I wrote.

Guest Commentary: A car-free life in Denver
Special to The Denver Post
June 7, 2011 at 3:17 pm

We are raised on cars. For many Americans, the idea of riding a public bus or train seems foreign and inconvenient. Car owners who have no experience with
public transportation may believe a car is always the necessary method to get from here to there.

Two years ago, I moved to Denver from Chicago, well practiced in public transportation and committed to life without a car. To me, there is independence
in the car-free lifestyle. It is freedom from hefty car payments and dealings with insurance companies. It is the freedom to walk any way I want down one-way
streets, to cut through fields of untouched snow on the way to the store, to observe the moving city around me without worrying if I am holding up traffic
or about to cause an accident.

It is the opportunity to get more exercise and support a cleaner environment.

The year after college, I lived in a suburb of Seoul, South Korea, where public transportation was not just abundant, it also was efficient. Digital postings
at stops and stations told me exactly when the next bus or train would arrive. (They arrived often and crowded.)

Few of my peers owned cars in Chicago. We all took the “L” or bus to work or play — always a faster and cheaper alternative to driving.

So when I moved to Denver, I searched for an urban neighborhood that had all necessary conveniences within walking or busing distance. I settled on Uptown,
where, unlike other neighborhoods, I could walk to the grocery store, the movie theater, restaurants, cafes, shops, and the bus stop.

In Denver, when I tell people I don’t have a car, I get varied reactions of bewilderment: “You live without a car?” “Isn’t it dangerous?” “Isn’t it inconvenient?”
“Doesn’t it take longer?”

To these questions, I ask: Have you experienced the pleasure of reading a novel all the way to work? Do you know the convenience of finishing work on the
commute home? Do you know the peace of mind in not worrying about ice and snow? Have you watched the world move from day to night during the 5 o’clock
rush while someone else stresses about traffic?

This freedom, however, comes at a cost. Without a car in Denver, it takes longer to go just about anywhere. It takes more planning and more patience. The
appeal of owning a car is not lost on me, especially in Colorado, where cars are necessary for trips to the mountains and Sunday rides in the foothills.
Like most American cities, Denver’s adequate but inefficient public transit system will never reach its full potential without more citizens who use it.
Denver could lead the country in greener, community-oriented practices that encourage lifestyles where we walk, ride and bus more often.

Denverites, in general, love the environment, are committed to healthy lifestyles and will do anything to be outside. So why does it seem like the number
of Denverites who support those ideals is disproportionate to the number who use public transportation?

Denver needs improvements: safer bike routes, more comprehensive light rail, more bus users so routes run more frequently and at a lower cost. The city
needs more neighborhoods like Uptown, whose conception begins with, “How can we make this neighborhood as self-sustained as possible?”

The other day, when I got on the No. 10 bus on the way to the Highlands, I found it full of middle-schoolers on a field trip. For many, it must have been
their first experience on a bus. I applaud their teachers for exposing them to public transportation. On this trip, the kids no doubt learned where to
catch the bus, how to pay their fair and how to act.

We may be raised on cars, but we can learn to move in other ways. The first step, truly, is to try.

Elizabeth Costello of Denver is a writer at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora.

June 9, 2011

Dear Mike:

I listened to your program today on public transit with great interest. I am a blind guy who relies on public transit on a daily basis. I’m currently unemployed, though I recently worked as a cashier at Lowrey Airforce Base; a job I could not have done without the aid of RTD. I’m also a rarity, a blind man who is a conservative. I’m stating this directly so you won’t misunderstand the intent of my message.

Elizabeth Costello’s guest editorial seems to serve RTD very well. It’s full of the same puffy propaganda that I read every day, courtesy of RTD’s Twitter feed. If Ms. Costello is as fulfilled as she claims to be, living life without a car and at the whims of RTD, then I am truly happy for her. More to the point, I’m amazed by her.

Most of us who use RTD services do it, not because of any moral obligation or intrinsic desire. Quite the opposite. We do it because we are compelled to avail ourselves of bus and light rail to get where we need to go.

I relocated to Denver four years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska, and RTD is a big step up from the pathetic transit system I was forced to endure there. RTD is a good bus system with good hours and adequate coverage of the Denver area. Having said that, if I could wave a magic wand and restore my ability to drive a car, I would do so in a heartbeat. I hasten to add that I’m not whining about my blindness. I live a comfortable life. I’m merely acknowledging that a car is a far more convenient mode of transportation than is RTD.

During your program, you stated a number of sound objections to public transit in favor of the automobile. The most persuasive argument for me was the time factor. This past Memorial Day, some friends and I decided to visit a local restaurant for lunch. If we were to have hired a driver to take us, the ride from my front door to the restaurant would’ve taken approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Since my friends and I are all blind, we naturally took the bus. From the time I walked out my front door to the time we arrived at the restaurant, an hour and five minutes had elapsed. This was due to a phenomenon I term, The Domino Effect.

An RTD route often involves one or a series of transfers from one bus to another, or from bus to light rail and back, in order to reach one’s final destination. If one of those buses happens to be even a minute or two late, it can cause a disruption that can result in the collapse of the traveler’s intended schedule. In our case, the driver of the originating bus was a few minutes late. The connection we needed to make was tight, so I asked him to radio ahead and ask the driver of our connecting bus to wait until we got to our first stop. I was within my rights as an RTD passenger to request this as it was in compliance with RTD policy. However, the driver either couldn’t or wouldn’t make the call. I’m not entirely certain as to his reason, since the driver’s thick accent made it virtually impossible to discern what he was saying. Whatever the explanation, we missed our transfer and had to stand at the bus stop an additional half-hour and wait for the next bus to arrive. I am hard pressed to think of a comparable inconvenience we would’ve faced had we been driving a car.

I mentioned previously that I used to work at Lowrey Airforce Base and that I used RTD to get to and from work. The commute home to Littleton usually took approximately an hour and 40 minutes. Near the end of my employment, I hired a driver to come pick me up after work and take me directly home. It cost more money, but it cut my travel time by over half. The cash I spent was well worth the extra hour I got to spend at home unwinding from the day.

As a regular RTD passenger going on four years, I had to chuckle at some of Ms. Costello’s assertions. She talks of happily trudging through snowy fields to get to the store. Such a scenario would constitute an annoyance for me at best and a nightmare at worst. Snow travel is often difficult for blind people and usually results in wet clothes, cold feet and in some cases, bruises or even broken bones. Moreover, I don’t know a single sighted person who would enjoy such an activity when they could more easily drive to the store.

The biggest laugh I got from her commentary came when she wrote about a joyful trip on the number 10 bus with a group of middle school students. I’ve taken many a long and arduous voyage with children of middle and high school age. I’m not a puritan by any stretch of the imagination, but I wouldn’t perform a sex act on my worst enemy with the mouths of any of those juvenile brats. The cacophony of yelling, swearing, extraneous cell phone conversations and blaring electronic devices results in stress that is only made worse by passive drivers who refuse to enforce RTD’s policies of civility and low music volume by all bus passengers.

Furthermore, if I could get back all the time I’ve wasted waiting on buses and light rails in my life, you and I could take three back-to-back cruises together. By the conclusion, maybe you will have broken down “A Conflict of Visions,” to a comprehensible level for me.

I’m not writing this to disparage RTD. They have a job to do and they do it fairly well. But Ms. Costello’s premise is that a car-free lifestyle is what she prefers and that more people should join her in this mentality. This is utter nonsense.

Recently, the National Federation of the Blind unveiled a car that could be operated independently by a blind driver. This was just a test run and I don’t suggest that a car will solve all of our problems, but if such a thing becomes a mainstream reality, I will kick, beat and claw my way to the front of the line to buy one in order that my life may become more convenient. You’ll be my first stop, Mike. We’ll go out and lift a jar or two and you can begin your translation of Thomas Sowell for me. Until that happy day arrives, thanks for taking the time to read this.

Yours truly,

Ryan Osentowski

That was written in June of 2011, three years before I took a job in Boulder that required me to spend over four hours a day commuting to and from work via RTD. It was also three years before ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber became a reality in my life. With that experience in mind, plus the downgrade to Omaha’s meager bus system, let me add a few additional thoughts to Ms. Costello’s assertions.

She says, “Have you experienced the pleasure of reading a novel all the way to work?”

A lot of people read novels while driving a car. Ever hear of audio books?

She asks, “Do you know the convenience of finishing work on the
commute home?”

Nope. I leave work at work. Based on some of the cell phone conversations I heard from my fellow RTD passengers, I wish they would have as well.

She further asks, “Do you know the peace of mind in not worrying about ice and snow?”

Umm, I presume you mean while riding the bus? I spent many a harrowing walk to and from the bus stop during Denver’s cold winter season worrying about ice and snow. And we won’t even talk about Nebraska’s brutal winter season. I nearly got killed more than once while worrying about ice and snow.

She says, “Have you watched the world move from day to night during the 5 o’clock
rush while someone else stresses about traffic?”

Yes, the buses in Denver were much more crowded during peak hours. However, if traffic or weather were severe, the passengers did not simply chill out and ignore it. The collective stress level would go up exponentially if we were in a traffic jam or an ice storm. See my above remarks about The Domino Effect for clarification.

IN closing, it’s been seven years since I wrote that Email to Mike Rosen. I miss Denver. I miss RTD. I miss Mike. Sorry, Elizabeth, but I still want a car.

The Future is Obdurate

Is the future really feminine? It’s a popular slogan right now, but as usual, it’s a slogan that does not stand up to scrutiny.

I will readily admit that the best boss I’ve ever worked for is my current boss, Jane. She is fair, firm and friendly. Most of all, she doesn’t cramp my style. She allows me to
implement that creative spark that makes my job such a joy. My two coworkers are women and I get along with both of them swimmingly. Bekah is a Sith lord and she’ll force choke me if I don’t write that, but never mind…

You might read that and say, “See, ass-kisser!? The future is female!”

Whoa there, Trigger!

The worst boss I ever worked for was also a woman. Her name was Tonya and she was the manager of a BEP location where I ran a cash register in Colorado.
She wasn’t technically the boss of the company. Her blind husband ran the place (on paper), but she was definitely the power in charge. Tonya was rude,
brash, conniving and unscrupulous. I spent months in a cold war with her, documenting all of her transgressions, before I quit one step ahead of being
fired. She actually sexually harassed me one day on the job. I’m not being flip. It really happened. One of the happiest days of my life was the day I
heard that Tonya and her husband were frog-marched out of their location with termination papers from the state. All of their employees (including me)
testified against them at a state hearing. When they walked out of the hearing, the city of Lakewood was waiting to slap tax leans on them. I have no idea
where she is now and I don’t care.

So, which female future are we in for? Jane, or Tonya?

Why I am a Federationist

From the Braille Monitor:

Why I Am a Federationist: Both Ends of the Spectrum

by Ryan Osentowski

From the Editor: The following speech was delivered at the 2002 convention of the NFB of Nebraska. Ryan is now a junior philosophy major and is
still a Federation leader: secretary of the Nebraska affiliate, first vice president of the Lincoln Chapter, and NFB-NEWSLINE� coordinator for
Nebraska. I uncovered this document the other day and remembered why I had thought it would be a fine addition to the Braille Monitor sometime. This
issue seemed to need some leavening of hope and inspiration. So here it is:

In considering why I am a Federationist, my train of thought began with the obvious reasons. The National Federation of the Blind is the largest,
most powerful movement of the blind in the country. We’re doing more for the blind than any other consumer organization for and of the blind. We’ve
developed NFB-NEWSLINE, America’s Jobline, and the Kernel Books. We have built the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore; training centers
in Colorado, Minnesota, and Louisiana; and now the NFB Jernigan Institute. We work every year to pass legislation that benefits the blind at the
local, state, and federal levels, and we come together annually for our national convention so that we can be heard en masse. Then we have the Braille
Monitor, divisions of all types, and a plethora of historically important speeches by such greats as Jacobus tenBroek, Kenneth Jernigan, and President

I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to describe my ascent to the Federation and throw those facts in along the way so I could demonstrate
how great the NFB is. Then I realized that most of the people in this room already knew about those things. Those who don’t will come to know about
them during the course of this convention. I decided that my speech might seem redundant and I would have to throw in some jokes just to keep the
crowd awake.

Then my mind turned to more personal reflections. I thought I would talk about what I have benefited from in the Federation. But as I thought about
that, one of the many voices in my head broke free of the chaos and said to me, “Easy there, Ryan O. You don’t want to come off looking too selfish.”
I agreed with Mr. Voice, knowing that I shouldn’t take this opportunity to stand before a convention audience and look like a golddigger. Yet for
some reason the word “selfish” stuck in my head, and I began to ponder the concept of selfishness. What is it, and what does it truly mean? So
I ran with the idea of selfishness.

When we think of selfishness, we view it negatively. We think of selfish people as putting themselves first, people who are egocentric, self-centered,
and greedy. Those traits are often present, but is that all there is to the picture? What would happen if none of us ever acted selfishly? The
chances are that our lives would go nowhere. When Jacobus tenBroek founded the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, what were his motives?
Were they entirely selfless? Probably not. He surely wanted a better life for himself. He would not have been content to spend his days as a blind
man begging for food and money just to live. He wanted more than that.

When Kenneth Jernigan became involved in the Federation, was he doing it just because he had nothing better to do with his time? Not very likely!
He did it because he wanted to improve the quality of his life. He believed that there was more to life than making furniture at home to help support
his family. When our own state president, Carlos Servan, was blinded in a military accident in his home country of Peru, he could have stayed home
and become a wine taster. But he wanted more for himself as a blind person, so he came to America and achieved it. Didn’t these men do what they
did for selfish motives? Wasn’t a great deal of self-interest and self-preservation involved? Of course!

When I was growing up in my hometown of Kearney, my parents pushed me to strive to be better than average. They wanted me to be happy and successful
in life. Were they wrong to teach me these things? I firmly believe that my parents are a big part of the reason I am standing before you today.
They taught me to some degree to be selfish in my life.

Let me expand that idea. Many of us have selfish motives for being part of the Federation; let’s admit that. We all love socializing with our friends,
throwing parties at conventions, traveling to places like Washington, D.C., and rubbing elbows with the folks on Capitol Hill. Many of us get a
kick out of those things, and nothing is wrong with that. Yet something beneath those superficial desires also drives us. We all want better lives
for ourselves as blind people. We all want to be employed and work at a decent job, making decent money. Many of us want to go to school and acquire
a quality education. We all want to live in a world where our dignity as blind people will be protected from humiliation and discrimination.

Isn’t it selfish to want these things for ourselves? Yet they are positive, healthy things to strive for in our lives. How would it be if we all
just wanted to sit home with no job, no education, and no goals in life, indulging in simple, everyday pleasures? I say that this would be selfish,
but not nearly selfish enough to be constructive.

If we were an organization of people focused only on ourselves, we wouldn’t get very far. What about the other end of the spectrum? What about
selflessness? We all know what that term means, don’t we? A selfless person is someone who does for others or puts others ahead of him- or herself.
Isn’t that also a large part of what our movement is about? I mentioned Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan earlier and the fact that they were probably
fueled by selfish motives when they founded and built the National Federation of the Blind. Yet it only makes sense that a large part of their
motives were selfless. They were wise enough to realize that life does not exist in a vacuum and that their actions would affect many others. Sure,
they wanted a better quality of life for themselves, but they also wanted a fuller, richer quality of life for all blind people.

If you doubt that, just look at history. Dr. tenBroek endured a civil war within his own organization and stepped down as president for a time.
Yet he stayed. Dr. Jernigan endured public abuse from his enemies and the media during several years as NFB president in Iowa, but he kept on fighting
for the blind. Could you continue in a job where you were assaulted every day? Would you want to continue when everything from your character to
your personal life was attacked from every angle? Wouldn’t any self-absorbed man say, “Enough! I’ve had it! You go your way and I’ll go mine, and
that’s the end of it. Starting right now, I’m looking out for number one!” If you can say no to that, than you are a stronger person than I. Most
people would walk away, but these men didn’t. They stayed because they realized that the welfare of the blind was more important than their own self-interest.

That spirit of selflessness is still with us today. I recently attended a leadership seminar in Baltimore, and Dr. Maurer told us about his upcoming
schedule. He read his calendar to us, and we all noticed that he didn’t have a free weekend for at least three solid months. Can you imagine working
a full-time job with no free weekends? That would be tough on us and our families, wouldn’t it? Yet he does it without complaint because he realizes
that it is necessary for him to work tirelessly for our cause.

Our movement is so successful because men like President Maurer, Dr. tenBroek, and Dr. Jernigan were selfish enough to want more for themselves,
but selfless enough to want and work for it for others as well. As it is with so many things, a healthy balance must exist between the two. If
we leaned too far in either direction, our efforts would stall, and we would become bogged down.

The selfish and selfless motives of our past great leaders are still remembered today through many of our actions in the Federation. Take, for
example, our scholarship program. We’re giving money to students so that they can improve themselves, thereby improving the quality of their lives.
We also do it in the hope that they will come back to us and give the Federation the time, effort, and love a movement like ours requires of many.

America’s Jobline is a service for people to use to gain employment so that they can achieve the same result. When more blind people find jobs,
it makes us all stronger. Those training centers I mentioned earlier are there solely to teach blind people to do for themselves, but they also
help more blind people to become independent and demonstrate a more positive image of blindness that will benefit all of us.

I could go on, but I think you understand. The Federation continues to teach blind people to strive to do better for themselves. We have our own
motives that are both selfish and selfless. Whatever our members’ personal motives are, we have plenty of altruism to go around. Thousands of people
dedicate their time, energy, and loyalty to this organization, and they don’t receive monetary rewards for it. The rewards are intrinsic, knowing
that we are building a better life for blind people in our country. People join together each year to help raise funds, spread our positive message
about blindness, take minutes, balance the treasury checkbook, lobby for new and better legislation, spend time on the phone with newly blind people,
bring people to chapter meetings, chair committees, and do countless other things that benefit our organization. They do these things because they
are selfless.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am a Federationist. I’ve gained a great deal personally during my time here. I’ve had a lot of fun, but I’ve
also had the chance to grow as a blind person. My confidence has increased, and my attitudes about blindness have improved. My goals for myself
have expanded. Yet while I have taken my share of what the Federation has to offer, I would be remiss if I didn’t realize that I must give back
as well. When the day arrives that all blind people can work in an atmosphere of fairness and equality; when everyone, blind and sighted alike, comes
to know and respect our philosophy about blindness; when people are not ruled by their fear and ignorance of blindness, my time as an NFB volunteer
will be over. Until that day comes, I will stand proudly upon the barricades with my blind brothers and sisters, helping to make our positive vision
of the future come true.

Don’t Kick My Dogma

Every Friday afternoon when I open Jonah Goldberg’s G-File newsletter, I am tempted to share it on various social media, then cut-and-paste the text of it in this blog for preservation, much like my grandma used to paste newspaper articles in her scrapbook.

Yet, I restrain myself. I used to try forwarding his stuff to select friends and family, but no one ever gave me any feedback. It felt as if Jonah’s words and my efforts were futile.

But this G-File, published last Friday, June 29, might be one of the most profound that he has ever written. I was seriously considering saving it even before I read an article in the New York Times. It’s as if the author read Jonah’s newsletter, then wrote an article bound and determined to prove his point.

I will first offer an excerpt from Jonah’s newsletter, followed by excerpts from the New York Times piece which appeared in the A. Section, not the opinion pages. That in itself is telling. I will leave the reader to judge the obvious correlation for him or herself.

First, here is Jonah Goldberg’s newsletter.

Dear Reader (Including those of you not cursed to endure the sweatpant-fog climate of Washington, D.C.),

Sometimes we use certain words only to describe the forms of that word we do not like.

Let me explain: Let’s imagine that my daughter says, “French food is awful.”

I respond: “What do you mean?”

She replies, “Snails, Daddy. They eat snails.”

To which I retort, “Oh, I agree. We never should have let them talk us out of those toasted cheese sandwiches, that time. But you love duck confit and
croissants. That’s French food, too.”

Daughter: “That’s different.”

The same dynamic plays itself out in many political and policy debates.

My go-to example of this is the word “censorship.” Over my many years of debating with intense libertarians of the left and the right, I’ve heard many
times that “all censorship is wrong” or “I am 100 percent against censorship.”

“Oh really?” I ask. “So riddle me this: The FCC prohibits hardcore child pornography on Saturday-morning TV. Are you against that?”

The answers tend to vary, but one very common retort is something like, “Oh come on. That’s not censorship; that’s just reasonable regulation. Besides, no
one is proposing doing that.”

To which I reply — and I’m going to stop using quotation marks because this is getting silly — of course it’s censorship. You just approve of it, so you
don’t call it censorship. As for the fact that nobody is proposing running kiddie porn in the cartoon hour doesn’t mean much. If someone did propose it,
you’ve conceded that it would be reasonable to proscribe it. Ergo (an incredibly douchey word to use in debate over beers, by the way) you’ve conceded
that you’re not 100 percent against censorship. Censorship, in other words, is the word we use for censorship we don’t like.

Now, I’m being unfair to people who have better or more interesting responses to my case, but that’s okay because a) that’s very rare and b) I’m not here
to discuss censorship.

There are all sorts of words that work this way in our politics. Every day I hear people say that one shouldn’t be “dogmatic,” or that their political
opponents are dogmatists, or some such. But as I have written many times, everyone subscribes to all manner of dogmatic convictions — and they should.
People not dogmatically opposed to genocide, premeditated murder, rape, etc. aren’t brave and pragmatic free-thinkers. They’re sociopaths.

The accumulation of dogma — good dogma, duck-confit dogma, not-snail dogma — is the process by which civilizations advance. In a state of nature, man is
open to all possibilities if he can be convinced he will gain an advantage in a bid to survive. With no controlling moral authority beyond the basic programming
of our genes, we were free to take the shortest route between any two points, so long as we believed it would work out well for us. Even after the Agricultural
Revolution, civilizations defined morality largely according to what benefitted the rulers. Child sacrifice — common around the globe for millennia — seemed
like a plausible way to get better crop yields, so why not go for it?

Over time, through the process of trial and error informed by reason and faith, we accumulated some conclusions about how society should operate. These
conclusions became dogmas. Dogma is simply the word we use for settled questions we no longer want to reopen. Not all dogmas are good. Some are evil, to
be sure: child sacrifice, slavery, etc. But the process of refining our dogmas is what makes us, if not human, then certainly humane. Conversely, the process
by which we unthinkingly smash dogmas without understanding their function is the fastest route to barbarism. The Bolsheviks rejected the dogma of universal
human dignity and slaughtered people with an abandon more closely resembling the Aztecs than anything resembling secular humanism.

Here’s how Chesterton put it:

When [man] drops one doctrine after another in a refined skepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions,
when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is
by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips
are singularly broad-minded.

When I was flying over the North Slope of Alaska with a bush pilot nearly 20 years ago, the pilot told me how he once discovered a field of dead moose,
almost entirely intact, save for the fact that they had their bellies ripped open. He explained that a grizzly bear or bears had killed all the females
just to eat the unborn calves out of their bellies — because that was the tastiest part. Rather than eat just one whole moose, the bear was simply guided
by the turnip-like dogma of its instincts. The history of humanity is full of stories where people, likewise, lived with such undogmatic cruelty. Of course,
it’s unfair to describe the bears as cruel, because they have no concept of cruelty. They think it is good to eat your face, because that is their nature.
We do have a concept of cruelty, and we have dogma to thank for it.

So when I hear people say that they don’t like dogma, what I hear is that they don’t like the dogma of people who disagree with them.

The same goes for ideology.

In the last 48 hours, amidst the flop-sweat panic over Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, I’ve heard one abortion activist after another — including many who
play objective journalists on TV — insist that abortion opponents are crazed ideologues who want to impose their ideology on others. I have no doubt that
these talking points test very well in focus groups. I also have no doubt that these talking points are sincerely held.

Last night, I saw a tweet from the president of NARAL and responded to it:

Twitter Tweet frame

Jonah Goldberg (screen name: JonahNRO)
View on Twitter

All positions on abortion are ideological.

ilyse hogue Verified Account Verified Account @ilyseh
Replying to @ilyseh

Access to abortion is not an ideological litmus test but a human right for women who must be in charge of our own families in order to survive and thrive
economically and physically. The ideologues are those who think their beliefs are more important than our lives.

10:37 PM – Jun 28, 2018

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The replies are instructive.

Ideology is the first draft of dogma. The good kind is merely a set of preferences, grounded in conviction, evidence, experience, or reason, that helps
guide us when we think through an idea or when we encounter new problems or facts. Progressives have an ideology. Conservatives have an ideology. Libertarians,
socialists, and, yes, pragmatists have ideologies, too.

Part of my ideology is the idea that we should err on the side of protecting individual liberty. I am not categorically opposed to restrictions on individual
liberty, however. I favor a military draft when it’s necessary (and I am ideologically opposed to one when it is unnecessary). I believe in putting rapists
in jail and executing the most heinous murderers. But part of my ideology holds that we should only do so after providing due process. My concern isn’t
that we might be unfair to a rapist or murderer, however. My concern is that without such systems in place, there’s too much potential to be unfair to
someone falsely accused of murder or rape. The mob hates due process.

The debate over abortion revolves around a question of fact — or interpretation of fact — that then determines the ideological course of action like the
first choice in a “choose your own adventure” book. If you conclude that the unborn, either at conception or at some later point of the pregnancy, acquires
moral status and rights, you go down one path of thought. If you believe,
like Barbara Boxer does,
that it’s not really a baby until you bring it home from the hospital, that sets you down another path.

Both sides in this dispute share some dogmatic and ideological convictions. They just apply them differently. The hardcore pro-abortion crowd uses the
language of individual liberty about the mother: How dare the state tell me what to do with my body!? In order to make this argument, however, they must
define away that other life as nothing more than uterine contents, a glob of cells, or some other euphemism. The hardcore anti-abortion crowd starts from
the premise that the fetus is an individual human being and as such deserves protection from harm. And it is the state’s first obligation to police or
regulate violence.

Both of these positions are ideological. One common response to this claim, peppering the replies to my tweet, is that abortion isn’t ideological for the
pregnant woman. There’s some truth to this, in the sense that we often shed our abstract commitments when pressed with real-life choices or difficult circumstances.
That’s why we have the saying, “There are no atheists in fox holes.”

The progressive who pounds the table in defense of public schools but sends his own kids to a private school is one example. The conservative CEO who talks
a great game about the free market and the evils of crony capitalism but barely hesitates to accept a subsidy is another. This hypocrisy is entirely human,
and our capacity to rationalize such things is often infinite.

And one of the most common ways we grease the skids for our retreat is by simply switching one ready-made ideology for another.

Bad ideology, like bad dogma, is a very real thing as well. Bad ideologies confuse is and ought. They hitch themselves to an unproven or unfalsifiable
conviction about the way things should be. The worst ideologies assume humans are clay, dispensable when insufficiently pliable. They heap scorn on the
hard-learned lessons of civilization in favor of glorious castles built in the air. Opposition to their agenda is seen as an evil desire to deprive people
of happiness not attainable in this life.

Other ideologies are just silly — not in the desirability of their aims necessarily, but in the belief that they would work. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won
her congressional primary contest in New York this week by championing one such ideology. It basically boils down to what someone called “open-borders
socialism.” It is grounded in an ancient romantic notion that economics — the science of competing choices amidst finite resources — is a con. We can do
all the good things simultaneously. Everyone can become an American, and every American is entitled to free housing, free school, guaranteed work, and
every other good thing. It is the ideology of the child or the aristocrat — often the same thing — that holds we can of course have our cakes and eat them
too. And as with the more evil forms of ideology, its advocates assume that those opposed are motivated by a desire to deprive the deserving of something
they could easily give them.

In a world of infinite resources, it would indeed be a crime to deprive others of their fair share of the infinite. But we don’t live in that world. Part
of the job of parents is to explain to children that “We are not made of money” and even if we were, we could not or would not satisfy our children’s every

But we live in a time of epidemic childishness, working on the assumptions that we can borrow money forever and that the government is made of money. “Example
is the school of mankind, and he will learn at no other,” says Edmund Burke. What he meant by that is people must learn from actual events: They must be
shown, not told. This doesn’t mean that every generation must relearn first-hand the mistakes of the past. It means they must be taught about the mistakes
of the past. That’s what parents do with their kids. And it’s what grown-ups do in politics.

But there’s a marked shortage of grown-ups these days, which is a real calamity when childishness runs free.

That was Jonah Goldberg’s newsletter. Now, here is the very chilling article, published as news in the New York Times, on Saturday, June 30.

How Conservatives Weaponized the First Amendment

Adam Liptak

WASHINGTON — On the final day of the Supreme Court term last week, Justice Elena Kagan sounded an alarm.

The court’s five conservative members, citing the First Amendment, had just
dealt public unions a devastating blow.
The day before, the same majority had used the First Amendment to
reject a California law
requiring religiously oriented “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide women with information about abortion.

Conservatives, said Justice Kagan, who is part of the court’s four-member liberal wing, were “weaponizing the First Amendment.”

The two decisions were the latest in a stunning run of victories for a conservative agenda that has increasingly been built on the foundation of free speech.
Conservative groups, borrowing and building on arguments developed by liberals, have used the First Amendment to justify unlimited campaign spending, discrimination
against gay couples and attacks on the regulation of tobacco, pharmaceuticals and guns.

“The right, which had for years been hostile to and very nervous about a strong First Amendment, has rediscovered it,” said
Burt Neuborne,
a law professor at New York University.

The Citizens United campaign finance case, for instance, was decided on free-speech grounds, with the five-justice conservative majority ruling that the
First Amendment protects unlimited campaign spending by corporations. The government, the majority said, has no business regulating political speech.

The dissenters responded that the First Amendment did not require allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace and corrupt democracy.

“The libertarian position has become dominant on the right on First Amendment issues,” said
Ilya Shapiro,
a lawyer with the Cato Institute. “It simply means that we should be skeptical of government attempts to regulate speech. That used to be an uncontroversial
and nonideological point. What’s now being called the libertarian position on speech was in the 1960s the liberal position on speech.”

And an increasingly conservative judiciary has been more than a little receptive to this argument.
A new analysis
prepared for The New York Times found that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has been far more likely to embrace free-speech arguments
concerning conservative speech than liberal speech. That is a sharp break from earlier eras.

As a result, liberals who once championed expansive First Amendment rights are now uneasy about them.

“The left was once not just on board but leading in supporting the broadest First Amendment protections,” said
Floyd Abrams,
a prominent First Amendment lawyer and a supporter of broad free-speech rights. “Now the progressive community is at least skeptical and sometimes distraught
at the level of First Amendment protection which is being afforded in cases brought by litigants on the right.”

Many on the left have traded an absolutist commitment to free speech for one sensitive to the harms it can inflict.

Take pornography and street protests. Liberals were once largely united in fighting to protect sexually explicit materials from government censorship.
Now many on the left see pornography as an assault on women’s rights.

In 1977, many liberals supported the right of the
American Nazi Party to march
among Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Ill. Far fewer supported the free-speech rights of the white nationalists who
marched last year in Charlottesville,

There was a certain naïveté in how liberals used to approach free speech, said
Frederick Schauer,
a law professor at the University of Virginia.

“Because so many free-speech claims of the 1950s and 1960s involved anti-obscenity claims, or civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests, it was easy for
the left to sympathize with the speakers or believe that speech in general was harmless,” he said. “But the claim that speech was harmless or causally
inert was never true, even if it has taken recent events to convince the left of that. The question, then, is why the left ever believed otherwise.”

Some liberals now say that free speech disproportionately protects the powerful and the status quo.

“When I was younger, I had more of the standard liberal view of civil liberties,” said
Louis Michael Seidman,
a law professor at Georgetown. “And I’ve gradually changed my mind about it. What I have come to see is that it’s a mistake to think of free speech as
an effective means to accomplish a more just society.”

To the contrary, free speech reinforces and amplifies injustice,
Catharine A. MacKinnon,
a law professor at the University of Michigan, wrote in “The Free Speech Century,” a collection of essays to be published this year.

“Once a defense of the powerless, the First Amendment over the last hundred years has mainly become a weapon of the powerful,” she wrote. “Legally, what
was, toward the beginning of the 20th century, a shield for radicals, artists and activists, socialists and pacifists, the excluded and the dispossessed,
has become a sword for authoritarians, racists and misogynists, Nazis and Klansmen, pornographers and corporations buying elections.”

Changing Interpretations

In the great First Amendment cases in the middle of the 20th century, few conservatives spoke up for the protection of political dissenters, including
communists and civil rights leaders, comedians using vulgar language on the airwaves or artists exploring sexuality in novels and on film.

In 1971,
Robert H. Bork,
then a prominent conservative law professor and later a federal judge and Supreme Court nominee, wrote that the First Amendment should be interpreted narrowly
a law-review article
that remains
one of the most-cited
of all time.

“Constitutional protection should be accorded only to speech that is explicitly political,” he wrote. “There is no basis for judicial intervention to protect
any other form of expression, be it scientific, literary or that variety of expression we call obscene or pornographic.”

But a
transformative ruling
by the Supreme Court five years later began to change that thinking. The case, a challenge to a state law that banned advertising the prices of prescription
drugs, was filed by Public Citizen, a consumer rights group founded by Ralph Nader. The group argued that the law hurt consumers, and helped persuade the
court, in Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, to protect advertising and other commercial speech.

The only dissent in the decision came from Justice William H. Rehnquist, the court’s most conservative member.

Kathleen M. Sullivan,
a former dean of Stanford Law School, wrote that it did not take long for corporations to see the opportunities presented by the decision.

Conservatives in Charge, the Supreme Court Moved Right

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s last Supreme Court term contained hints of his retirement and foreshadowed a lasting rightward shift.

June 28, 2018

“While the case was litigated by consumer protection advocates,”
she wrote
in the Harvard Law Review, “corporate speakers soon became the principal beneficiaries of subsequent rulings that, for example, struck down restrictions
on including alcohol content on beer can labels, limitations on outdoor tobacco advertising near schools and rules governing how compounded drugs may be

That trend has continued, with businesses mounting First Amendment challenges to gun control laws, securities regulations, country-of-origin labels, graphic
cigarette warnings and limits on off-label drug marketing.

“I was a bit queasy about it because I had the sense that we were unleashing something, but nowhere near what happened,” Mr. Nader said. “It was one of
the biggest boomerangs in judicial cases ever.”

“I couldn’t be Merlin,” he added. “We never thought the judiciary would be as conservative or corporate. This was an expansion that was not preordained
by doctrine. It was preordained by the political philosophies of judges.”

Not all of the liberal scholars and lawyers who helped create modern First Amendment law are disappointed.
Martin Redish,
a law professor at Northwestern University, who wrote
a seminal 1971 article
proposing First Amendment protection for commercial speech, said he was pleased with the Roberts court’s decisions.

“Its most important contributions are in the commercial speech and corporate speech areas,” he said. “It’s a workmanlike, common sense approach.”

Liberals also played a key role in creating modern campaign finance law in
Buckley v. Valeo,
the 1976 decision that struck down limits on political spending by individuals and was the basis for
Citizens United,
the 2010 decision that did away with similar limits for corporations and unions.

One plaintiff was Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, Democrat of Minnesota, who had challenged President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1968 presidential primaries
— from the left. Another was the American Civil Liberties Union’s New York affiliate.

Professor Neuborne, a former A.C.L.U. lawyer, said he now regrets the role he played in winning the case. “I signed the brief in Buckley,” he said. “I’m
going to spend long amounts of time in purgatory.”

To Professor Seidman, cases like these were part of what he describes as a right-wing takeover of the First Amendment since the liberal victories in the
years Chief Justice Earl Warren led the Supreme Court.

“With the receding of Warren court liberalism, free-speech law took a sharp right turn,” Professor Seidman wrote in
a new article
to be published in the Columbia Law Review. “Instead of providing a shield for the powerless, the First Amendment became a sword used by people at the
apex of the American hierarchy of power. Among its victims: proponents of campaign finance reform, opponents of cigarette addiction, the L.B.G.T.Q. community,
labor unions, animal rights advocates, environmentalists, targets of hate speech and abortion providers.”

The title of the article asked, “Can Free Speech Be Progressive?”

“The answer,” the article said, “is no.”

Shifting Right

The right turn has been even more pronounced under Chief Justice Roberts.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a larger share of First Amendment cases concerning conservative speech than earlier courts had, according to the study
prepared for The Times. And it has ruled in favor of conservative speech at a higher rate than liberal speech as compared to earlier courts.

The court’s docket reflects something new and distinctive about the Roberts court, according to the study, which was conducted by Lee Epstein, a law professor
and political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis; Andrew D. Martin, a political scientist at the University of Michigan and the dean of its
College of Literature, Science and the Arts; and Kevin Quinn, a political scientist at the University of Michigan.

“The Roberts court — more than any modern court — has trained its sights on speech promoting conservative values,” the study found. “Only the current court
has resolved a higher fraction of disputes challenging the suppression of conservative rather than liberal expression.”

The court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren from 1953 to 1969 was almost exclusively concerned with cases concerning liberal speech. Of its 60 free-expression
cases, only five, or about 8 percent, challenged the suppression of conservative speech.

The proportion of challenges to restrictions on conservative speech has steadily increased. It rose to 22 percent in the court led by Chief Justice Warren
E. Burger from 1969 to 1986; to 42 percent in the court led by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist from 1986 to 2005; and to 65 percent in the Roberts court.

The Roberts court does more than hear a larger proportion of cases concerning conservative expression. It is also far more likely than earlier courts to
rule for conservative speech than for liberal speech. The result, the study found, has been “a fundamental transformation of the court’s free-expression

In past decades, broad coalitions of justices have often been receptive to First Amendment arguments. The court has protected
videos of animal cruelty,
hateful protests at military funerals,
violent video games
lies about military awards,
often by lopsided margins.

But last week’s two First Amendment blockbusters were decided by 5-to-4 votes, with the conservatives in the majority ruling in favor of conservative plaintiffs.

On Tuesday,
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority
that requiring health clinics opposed to abortion to tell women how to obtain the procedure violated the clinics’ free-speech rights. In dissent, Justice
Stephen G. Breyer said that was a misuse of First Amendment principles.

“Using the First Amendment to strike down economic and social laws that legislatures long would have thought themselves free to enact will, for the American
public, obscure, not clarify, the true value of protecting freedom of speech,” Justice Breyer wrote.

On Wednesday, in announcing the decision on public unions, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the court was applying settled and neutral First Amendment
principles to protect workers from being forced to say things at odds with their beliefs. He suggested that the decision on public unions should have been

“Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such
effort would be universally condemned,” he wrote. “Suppose, for example, that the State of Illinois required all residents to sign a document expressing
support for a particular set of positions on controversial public issues — say, the platform of one of the major political parties. No one, we trust, would
seriously argue that the First Amendment permits this.”

In response, Justice Kagan said the court’s conservatives had found a dangerous tool, “turning the First Amendment into a sword.” The United States, she
said, should brace itself.

“Speech is everywhere — a part of every human activity (employment, health care, securities trading, you name it),” she wrote. “For that reason, almost
all economic and regulatory policy affects or touches speech. So the majority’s road runs long. And at every stop are black-robed rulers overriding citizens’