Tag: Conservatism

A Planet of Cops

Freddie deBoer, one of the few liberals I genuinely enjoy reading, has a great post on how our country has turned into a nation of tattle-tales. Money quote:

The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7. You search and search for someone Bad doing Bad Things, finding ways to indict writers and artists and ordinary people for something, anything. That movie that got popular? Give me a few hours and 800 words. I’ll get you your indictments. That’s what liberalism is, now — the search for baddies doing bad things, like little offense archaeologists, digging deeper and deeper to find out who’s Good and who’s Bad. I wonder why people run away from establishment progressivism in droves.

This has now reached overdrive with Trump in power. Now granted, Trump is ineffective and possibly corrupt. But the tendency over the last four months has been to go nuclear about everything. Even harmless little jokes are made into the Outrage of the Hour.

Liberals aren’t the only ones becoming Constant Guardians of Morality, of course. But the tendency in our culture to mind everyone else’s business is alarming and ultimately destructive. At some point, we have to start leaving each other the hell alone.

Bad for America? Maybe. The “Cure” Would Be Worse

So this happened:

Veteran TV journalist Ted Koppel analyzed the media’s role in the political divide in Trump-era America on “CBS Sunday Morning” — and had a pointed moment interviewing Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“We have to give some credit to the American people that they are somewhat intelligent and that they know the difference between an opinion show and a news show,” Hannity told Koppel on camera, registering the veteran newsman’s doubt. “You’re cynical. … You think we’re bad for America? You think I’m bad for America?”

“Yep,” Koppel replied. “In the long haul, I think that all these opinion shows…”

“Really?” Hannity asked. “That’s sad, Ted.”

Koppel explained: “You know why? Because you’re very good at what you did and because you have attracted … people who have determined that ideology is more important than facts.”

I’m not a fan of Koppel and I think the cause he went on to blame for this problem — the demise of the Fairness Doctrine — is horribly misguided. But I think he has a point on Hannity and talk radio/TV in general.

Last year, Conor Friedersdorf wrote a great article on how talk radio precipitated the rise of Donald Trump:

Here are some of the cues and signals that even anti-Trump members of “the party” have sent to voters, over many years, that made the rise of a populist demagogue possible if not likely, and that Trump voters absorbed into their world views:

  • Career politicians cannot be trusted. This widespread conceit in “the party” has effectively made it impossible for candidates with governing records and public sector experience to be accepted by large swaths of GOP primary voters.
  • When the base doesn’t get what it wants, it is because of betrayal by party elites, never because a majority of Americans disagree with what the base wants.
  • Rhetorical stridency is a better heuristic for loyalty than core principles or governing record—and there is nothing disqualifying about extreme incivility (hence, for example, a buttoned up think tank giving a statesmanship award to Rush Limbaugh, a gleeful purveyor of bombastic insults).
  • Complaints about racism and sexism are always cynical fabrications, intended be used as cudgels against conservatives.
    Political correctness in governance is one of the biggest problems facing America.
  • Illegal immigration poses an existential threat to America.
  • President Obama has deliberately made bad deals with foreign countries to weaken America.

If any movement conservatives in the #NeverTrump crowd doubt that “the party” has sent all of those signals or cues, I’ll gladly expound on any of them. Taken together, it’s easy to see why a majority of an electorate that bought into those premises would be more attracted to Trump than to anyone else in the GOP field.

I would add to that list the claim that global warming is a hoax, unemployment numbers are faked, there’s a War on Cops, that opposing anti-terror policies is siding with the terrorists, that tax cuts pay for themselves, etc., etc. When people said “Trump says what no one else says” or “Trump tells it like it is” this is what they mean: that Trump reiterates the (often false) doomsday rhetoric of the conservative echoshere.

And now we’re reaping the results of this. Last week, we saw the utter immolation of Republican efforts to replace Obamacare. There are many authors of that disaster but a big one, as Josh Barro argues, was that Republicans spent years misleading the voters on Obamacare and pretending that healthcare reform was easy.

For years, Republicans promised lower premiums, lower deductibles, lower co-payments, lower taxes, lower government expenditure, more choice, the restoration of the $700 billion that President Barack Obama heartlessly cut out of Medicare because he hated old people, and (in the particular case of the Republican who recently became president) “insurance for everybody” that is “much less expensive and much better” than what they have today.

They were lying. Over and over and over and over, Republicans lied to the American public about healthcare.

To be fair, many Republican politicians understood there would be trade-offs and crafted policies around those. But those policies were never implemented because the Republican base believed that Obamacare had to be repealed instantly, replacement or no replacement. Friedersdorf lays the blame for that on the commentariat:

Still, even the insight that Republicans spent years willfully obscuring the tradeoffs involved in health-care policy doesn’t fully explain the last week. Focusing on GOP officials leaves out yet another important actor in this debacle: the right-wing media. By that, I do not mean every right-leaning writer or publication. Over the last eight years, lots of responsibly written critiques of Obamacare have been published in numerous publications, and folks reading the aforementioned wonks, or Peter Suderman at Reason, or Yuval Levin, or Megan McArdle at Bloomberg, stayed reasonably grounded in actual shortcomings of Obamacare.

In contrast, Fox News viewers who watched entertainers like Glenn Beck, talk-radio listeners who tuned into hosts like Rush Limbaugh, and consumers of web journalism who turned to sites like Breitbart weren’t merely misled about health-care tradeoffs.

They were told a bunch of crazy nonsense.

He lists hysterical claim after hysterical claim. Death panels, forced fat camps, depression, slavery, the end of individual liberty. There were and are plenty of problems with Obamacare. But claiming it was the end of America was ridiculous.

The problem is not conservatives nor conservatism. The problem is faux conservatives like Hannity and Limbaugh and every other joker out there who has no solutions, no answers, no philosophy, no ideas … just acres of doom and gloom and anger. Conor talks about his grandmother, who spent her last years terrified by what she was hearing from right wing hacks like Hannity. I see it in my Trump-supporting relatives, who hear a constant deluge from Fox News about how doomed America is and how awful the Democrats are. It’s incredible disheartening. And it angers me to think of these jokers making millions by convincing millions of Americans that the end is nigh.

I don’t mean to downplay real concerns, which are legion. We are in a lot of debt. Obamacare is staggering around, avoiding a death spiral only because of subsidies. Crime appears to have spiked, especially in certain cities. Rural areas are hurting badly (see my earlier post on the opioid epidemic).

But lately the conservative commentariat has no ideas for how to deal with these problems. Only a steady diet of doom and gloom, blame-storming and uncompromising rhetoric. And yes, this is bad for country. It makes people fearful who have no need to be and it instills an us-vs-them mentality, turning people we disagree with into hideous villains who hate America.

It was not always so. Friedersdorf is a bit too young to remember but in the 90’s, there’s no question in my mind that talk radio hosts like Hannity and Limbaugh were a good thing. They served as a critical counter-weight to a very liberal media. Their broadcasts played a big role in the Republican revolution of 1994, the subsequent balancing of the budget, the passing of NAFTA and the destruction of numerous corrupt politicians.

However, something changed in the aughts. I’m not sure why exactly — I suspect it was 9/11. But the tone of conservative commentary began to be less positive and more negative. Liberals stopped being mocked and started being demonized. I stopped listening to Limbaugh because his show, which has always left me feeling upbeat and inspired, became a huge downer. Everything was awful. America was going to hell. Compromise was a bad word. And now we’re at the apotheosis of this: a Republican party that can’t get anything done because they can’t approach issues in any kind of a realistic way.

That’s not to let liberals off the hook here. It wasn’t conservatives who called half the country “deplorables”. It’s not conservatives who are writing off half the electorate as evil racist sexist monsters for having voted Trump. But liberal idiocy does not make conservative idiocy OK. No matter how bad the commentary on the Left gets, that does not excuse Hannity for being a demagogue who has worsened the debate.

I don’t know that there’s a fix for this. My gut feeling is that we are in the grip of a national fever of partisanship that has yet to exhaust itself. But I do want address one supposed “cure”, which I referenced above, because it’s becoming a bigger liberal talking point these days.

Koppel blamed talk radio on the end of the Fairness Doctrine, the FCC policy that Reagan killed in 1987 that had previously forced television and radio stations to present “both sides” of an issue.

Put bluntly, the Fairness Doctrine was an awful policy and it should stay dead. The only reason we should ever dig it up is to put a stake through its heart and make sure it stays dead. Consider:

  • The Fairness Doctrine was blatantly unconstitutional piece of garbage, no matter what the Supreme Court said. Having the government dictate what constitutes “fairness” in commentary is an invitation to abuse. And indeed, Limbaugh, in one of his books, noted several times where politicians — including Nixon — used the Fairness Doctrine to bludgeon commentators into shutting up about issues the politicians didn’t want discussed.
  • This is why Fairness Doctrines have long been rejected for newspapers and print media, despite the long history of partisan commentary therein (Thomas Paine was not known for his “Fairness”). The justification for the Fairness Doctrine the last time it was upheld was that radio and TV media are limited to only so many channels. So the government has to ensure that all views are represented. This view is nonsense, of course. Most cities have one, maybe two newspapers, both of which are liberal. By contrast, TV has innumerable stations, some of which — MSNBC, for example — are decisively liberal. In that light, the Fairness Doctrine is one of the most liberal of things: a solution running around in search of a problem.
  • People who want government to do things never seem to consider that the powers they give government could be turned against them. Let me ask you something, Fairness Doctrine-supporting liberals: do you really want to give that kind of censorship power to Donald Fucking Trump?! Does it never occur to you that he might decide that “Fairness” dictates that Samantha Bee needs to make more jokes about Democrats or SNL needs to mock Nancy Pelosi more? Can you, for once, consider what government power will look like in the hands of people you don’t like?
  • The Fairness Doctrine is not going to magically create a more skeptical and reasonable populace. This is an appeal to government policy as magic.

Ultimately, the Fairness Doctrine plugs into the Ultimate Progressive Conceit: progressives’ firm belief that they are the only reasonable people in the room; and that if people disagree with them it’s only because they’ve been brainwashed by nefarious forces. This is an outgrowth of the Marxism that underpins much of liberal thought. The Marxists maintained that Marxism was as scientifically proven as the Law of Gravity and, if anyone disagreed, it was because they were mentally ill or had been brainwashed by bourgeoisie interests.

But that is never the case. People disagree with Progressive ideas because they disagree with them. Sometimes it’s because the progressives have the facts wrong. Sometimes it’s because progressives’ logic is poor. Sometimes it’s because progressives are being irrational and stupid. And sometimes — most often — it’s because people disagree with progressives on values (e.g., progressives think it’s “fair” to take money from rich people and give it to power people; many conservatives think that’s the definition of unfair).

I am very concerned about the nihilist direction conservatism has taken. And I think that Sean Hannity and his ilk have played a large role in that and, yes, I think he’s been bad for the country in some ways. One can not behold the election of Trump and not be concerned with the direction we’re going.

But getting government more involved is not the answer. If you really think Trump is fascist, why on Earth would you give him the tools to implement fascism?

Science Sunday: A Big Social Science Oops

Wow:

Social science can be so amusing. There is a bit of a contretemps over several recent articles that used datasets supposedly measuring the personality traits of liberals and conservatives which has resulted in several abashed corrections. The researchers used the data in an effort to show that personality traits are not the cause of political attitudes, but instead both are correlated with some other factor, most likely genetic. Interesting enough. This finding is not what is being corrected.

Instead, what is being corrected is the rather casual assumption in the studies by the researchers that a personality factor identified in the datasets they used is supposedly associated with conservative political views. That factor is called Psychoticism. They hasten to explain that Pyschoticism is not the same thing as psychotic. The original article, “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies,” in the American Journal of Political Science explains:

Having a high Psychoticism score is not a diagnosis of being clinically psychotic or psychopathic. Rather, P is positively correlated with tough-mindedness, risk-taking, sensation-seeking, impulsivity, and authoritarianism (Adorno et al. 1950; Altemeyer 1996; Eysenck and Eysenck 1985, McCourt et al. 1999). In social situations, those who score high on P are more uncooperative, hostile, troublesome, and socially withdrawn, but lack feelings of inferiority and have an absence of anxiety. At the extremes, those scoring high on P are manipulative, tough-minded, and practical (Eysenck 1954). By contrast, people low on P are more likely to be more altruistic, well socialized, empathic, and conventional (Eysenck and Eysenck 1985; Howarth 1986). As such, we expect higher P scores to be related to more conservative political attitudes, particularly for militarism and social conservatism.

Well, guess what. It turned out that they’d coded their spreadsheet wrong. Higher “psychoticism” scores actually correlated with liberal beliefs, not conservative ones. So their study, cited by many liberals as proof that Conservatives Be crazy, showed the exact opposite of their conclusions.

Digression time:

The best thing about science is that it has a corrective mechanism: someone else can do the experiment and check the results and see if they’re borne out. This mechanism works well in the physical sciences, where mechanisms are fairly deterministic — no matter how many times you drop a steel ball, it will always follow the same law of gravity. It works reasonably well in the biological sciences. In biology, systems are more complex and a bit more unpredictable. On balance, heavy drinking will kill you. But there are people who drink like fish and live long lives because genes or other factors or just plain luck keep them going. You also have a problem of reproducing experiments — I can mix chemicals over and over again and weed out the bad results. But I only get to do a 40-year study of people’s eating habits once.

In the social sciences, though, all bets are off. Part of it is that you are dealing with complex systems. Economies are complex, humans are complex and we only get to live out history once. Part of it is an “observer effect”. People behave differently or even lie to researchers when they know they are part of an experiment. For example, Sweden claimed the number of men who had ever seen a prostitute dropped massively after they imposed their “Nordic Model” on sex work, which only makes sense if massive numbers of Swedish men were struck dead by the legislation. In reality, fewer men were willing to admit they had because of the social pressure.

But it’s also ideological. Physicists, chemists, engineers and biologists tend to have a mix of political views; social scientists tend to be almost exclusively liberal. Physical and biological research only occasionally has big political implications (e.g., global warming, GMOs, evolution). And even in these cases, the science is not political; the science is politicized by opportunistic politicians.

But in the social sciences, almost everything has some political implication. So results that confirm the ideological bias of the researchers sometimes isn’t questioned too carefully. Massive tomes on income inequality are praised despite serious methodological flaws. Papers supporting Keynesian economics are taken as gospel despite huge flaws. Garbage research claiming massive amount of sex trafficking is used to inform policy.

An example more germane? A lot of people have claimed that Donald Trump’s supporters are authoritarian. This sounds about right to me except … that analysis is based on sociological debris. Here are the questions used to determine if someone is authoritarian:

Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?

Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?

Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?

Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?

Everyone claims this is the “definitive” test of authoritarian tendencies. Is it? Those traits seem to track culture far more than they track politics. My grandparents’ generation would have shown up as very authoritarian even though they voted FDR in four times and huge numbers of them had fled Europe because of the rise of authoritarianism. But because this test shows that conservatives are more authoritarian and all the sociologists believe that conservatives are more authoritarian, everyone accepts it.

But which is more authoritarian? Believing in a government that governs least? Or believing in a government that controls our lives? The problem here is that liberals don’t think of themselves as authoritarian even thought they are. If you believe in government controlling healthcare, education, retirement and half of the country’s wealth, you’re authoritarian, no matter how sincerely you believe that gays should be able to get married or how liberal your parenting methods are.

(This problem of nomenclature comes up a lot. I can’t find the link, but McArdle has written about a study that showed that liberals valued “fairness” more than conservatives. Every liberal scholar and pundit cited it was proof of how unfair conservative ideas were. But conservatives objected, arguing that wealth redistribution was not “fairness”. They saw it as plunder. Conservatives think that allowing people to keep what they’ve earned is “fairness”. In the end, the researchers agreed that people might differ on the definition of “fairness” and changed their word choice.)

In any case, this is yet another demonstration of how bias clouds the social sciences. This was a very basic error, something that even a modicum of checking would have shown. but no one questioned it, no referee gainsaid it, no one reproduced the results because it confirmed what liberals wanted to believe.

A Small-l Libertarian Primer

With Gary Johnson threatening to be a factor in the election, Ken White has must-read where he argues that libertarianism isn’t a a series of answers, it’s a series of questions.

I’d like to propose presenting libertarianism as a series of questions rather than a series of answers or policy positions. Even if I don’t agree with people’s answers to these questions, getting them to ask the questions and confront the issues reflected in the questions would promote the values that I care about.

These are all questions that I think ought to be asked whenever we, as a society, decide whether to task and empower the government to do a thing.

You can click through and read them. I think a conservative audience will like it, as well, because what Ken says of libertarianism, I would also say of conservatism: that it’s more about questioning whether government should do things. It is what Andrew Sullivan calls “a conservatism of doubt”. As I said in my own essay:

Conservatives are leery of sudden radical change because they understand that the human engine is complex. Sudden shifts can produce bad Unintended Consequences. This is seen as a resistance to “change”. But resisting change is sometimes a good thing. Not all change is good. And all of it needs to proceed carefully. We have a wonderful society. Improving it is our second duty; protecting it our first. Conservative thought on this is akin to the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. Big Grand Plans for Remaking the Universe — like socialized medicine — draw opposition from conservatives because they know these plans will not work as advertised … if they work at all.

The reason I left the conservative movement was because it not only stopped being about doubt and caution, but saw doubt as unpatriotic. It became a conservatism that was dead certain it had the answers to everything. Me again:

The problem, of course, is that conservative philosophy and the conservative party have diverged. The ideas I list above really don’t reflect the Republican Party or many of the commentariat who call themselves conservative. Faith-based initiatives, abstinence education and compulsory volunteerism are based on the notion that government can make people better. You will not find a more hair-brained Grand Plan for Remaking the Universe that throws caution to the wind than the attempts to create democracy in the Middle East. Institutional responsibility has been tossed out the window with regulatory capture and deficit spending. Arrogance has replaced humility, zingers have replaced thought. A healthy suspicion of ruling elites has morphed into a raging anti-intellectualism. Conspiracy theories — about global warming, Obama’s birth, Obamacare — have become acceptable discourse. It’s no longer enough for the Democrats to be wrong; they have to be evil socialists who hate America.

Policies that were good ideas have been chased too far, dogma has become the order of the day. The GOP has taken good ideas and chased them into a cul de sac. And on culture issues, they’ve gotten more extreme. I don’t agree with everything in this diatribe, but it cuts deep. Here’s Bainbridge again on the problem: the lack of prudence and caution in today’s GOP; the canonization of views on taxes, regulation and government; is alarming. During the debt debate, the GOP openly contemplated default. That’s not a “conservatism” I can embrace. It’s a dim-bulb populism masquerading as conservatism.

Donald Trump is the apotheosis of this. He is spectacularly ignorant on the issues. He seems to regard knowing things about issues as a weakness. And yet he’s absolutely certain that he’s right.

The Somalia Canard

In Josephine County, Oregon, a woman was recently raped by her ex-boyfriend while she was on the phone to 911, begging for help which never came. I’ll forgo the usual “this is why we have the second amendment” point to concentrate on something a little different.

The Sherriff’s office is blaming the lack of response on recent budget cuts and the refusal of the citizenry to support a tax hike. But as Radley Balko points out, the city has had plenty of resources to go after legal medical marijuana growers or small-time illegal pot smokers. When it comes to the things that bring in asset forfeitures and pad arrest stats, they have all the resources they need.

This problem, however, is being enabled by the likeliest of political suspects:

The partisan political reactions to this story are typically awful. Wonkette’s Rebecca Schoenkopf mockingly calls Josephine County a “libertarian paradise,” and chides the dumb rubes for rejecting property tax increases that would (allegedly) fund police officers to respond to 911 calls. (More likely: It would fund more drug raids.) The post then takes the obligatory shots at people who favor local government over national government. You can find similar reactions at ThinkProgress and The Stranger.

Here’s the thing. Maybe part of the reason Josephine County is facing budget woes is because more than half the land in the county is owned by the federal government. The federal government doesn’t pay property taxes. And property taxes are primarily how local government is funded. Perhaps, just perhaps, the county’s residents reject the idea that their federal tax dollars are going toward buying up local land that is sapping the county’s tax base, and they resent the notion that if they then want basic services — like police protection — they are then asked to make up the difference through higher property taxes. And perhaps — just perhaps — they also resent the federal government because while county residents can’t get the local cops to respond to a woman being raped, the federal government is imposing its will on the state by funding task forces to raid medical marijuana facilities in a state where voters have expressed a clear will to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes.

But that would require an analysis of this story that involves some nuance, extra reading, and empathy. Better to just make Ayn Rand jokes and mock the dumb, low-income bumpkins for mistrusting the government.

This is simply another variation on the Somalia Canard. Idiotic liberals have a tendency to respond to libertarian-conservative arguments with some variation of, “Well why don’t you go live in Somalia?! That’s a libertarian paradise!” I regard the Somalia Canard as the libertarian version of Godwin’s Law. When someone brings up Somalia, you know they have run out of arguments and are just going for the ad hominem.

But, OK, assholes. I’ll do this thing. Here’s why we don’t all move to Somalia: because Libertarianism is not anarchism. And conservatism is a long way from anarchism.

The vast majority of libertarians and conservative have no problems with funding things like law enforcement and fire-fighting. Most of us don’t have a problem with making sure our water is clean and our meat is healthy. And many of us even think public schools are OK!

But these are not the only things that government does. They are not even a majority of what the government does.

A lot of what the government does is either unnecessary (if we’re lucky) or damaging (if we’re not). It pays out hundreds of billions in transfer payments every year. It pays employees generous salaries and extravagant benefits for which we are now on the hook to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. It uses asset forfeiture to seize people’s property without trial because they might be dealing drugs. It uses eminent domain to force people to sell their property to rich developers. It fights unnecessary wars. It fights a stupid and devastating War on Drugs. It shovels tens of billions into corporate welfare and tax exemptions to favored businesses. It seizes well-cared-for children because their parents have a little pot.

I have no problem giving government money to do the things that government needs to do. But no one should be willing to just throw money into the equivalent of a wishing well in the hope that, somehow somewhere, it might be spent wisely.

How about, instead of laughing at the low-income people of Josephine County for not wanting yet more money extracted from them, you look into what kind of stupid shit Josephine County was spending money on instead of funding the police? If you can’t find any waste, then I might be prepared to listen to you chuckling at the brutal rape of a defenseless woman.

Update: I shoulde not that what is going on in Oregon is a pattern we have seen at all levels of government in response to budget cuts: getting rid of essential services first in order to increase pressure on the public for tax hikes. One place where this did not happen was Wisconsin, where Walker’s reforms allowed the state to retain thousands of teachers they would otherwise have had to fire. But anytime shrinking governments choose to cut the meat instead of the fat, can you count on the entire Liberal Ecosphere to blame conservatives.

Thomas Revealed

One of the most amazing things for SCOTUS watchers to see over the last year has been the slow realization about Clarence Thomas. For conservative Court watchers, it’s been obvious for some time that Thomas is a capable and influential jurist. His dissent in the Raich medical marijuana decision, where he disagreed with Scalia, was excellent.

If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption (not because it is interstate commerce, but because it is inextricably bound up with interstate commerce), then Congress’ Article I powers — as expanded by the Necessary and Proper Clause — have no meaningful limits. Whether Congress aims at the possession of drugs, guns, or any number of other items, it may continue to “appropria[te] state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce.”

..

If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison’s assurance to the people of New York that the “powers delegated” to the Federal Government are “few and defined”, while those of the States are “numerous and indefinite.”

That’s good federalism, friends. But the Left, because he was a black conservative, continued to insist that he was a “lawn jockey” and Scalia’s hand puppet.

Earlier this year, Jeffrey Toobin came to the sudden realization about Thomas’ substantial body of work. And now, on the 20th Anniversary of his appointment, people are talking about his record, which shows a disregard for stare decisis, even to the point of — gasp! — occasionally supporting liberal ideas because … that’s what’s in the Constitution:

Based on his reading of the Commerce Clause, for example, he unsuccessfully urged his brethren to strike down most of the federal drug laws—which made him an unlikely hero in my hometown of Berkeley, Calif., if only for a day. He joined a majority to invalidate thousands of criminal sentences because judges, instead of juries, had found the vital facts—in violation of the Bill of Rights.

This refers to the Feds’ repulsive attempt to get judges to tack 25 years onto convictions when guns were used during a crime — a finding not made by a jury but determined from the bench.

Justice Thomas opposed the court’s pro-business decisions that capped punitive damages because he believes the issue is for the state courts to decide. He voted to suppress evidence produced by police using thermal-imaging technology to scan homes for marijuana growth as unreasonable searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Because the Framers wanted broad protections for political speech, Justice Thomas joined opinions protecting violent movies and offensive protesters at military funerals.

None of this is a surprise to those of us who took Clarence Thomas seriously from day one. But it’s nice to see everyone else figuring it out.