It’s a great privilege and honor to be invited to write at Notes On Liberty. Brandon’s invitation for me to join the team actually came as something of a pleasant surprise, since my economic politics tend to fall pretty far to the left of the consensus here. I cast a straight libertarian ticket in the 2000 general election (the first election in which I was eligible to vote) and I voted for Gary Johnson last year, but I much more often vote for Democrats, generally because I find the social and civil liberties policies advanced by their Republican opponents absolutely frightening and the economic policies advanced by their Libertarian opponents naive, unduly dogmatic and hence unfeasible.
That said, I believe I’m what one of my favorite bloggers, Fabius Maximus, usually regards less as an accurate self-description than as a self-serving pretension: a true nonpartisan. Fabius occasionally posts survey data indicating that the incidence of nonpartisanship in the electorate is exaggerated, an exaggeration that he attributes largely to voters’ desire to be hip. By contrast, one of my most common reactions to the two major US political parties (probably to the annoyance of many of my Facebook friends) is that they’re both overdue for the federal death penalty, and that there’s room for both of them on the prison van to Terre Haute. There’s a certain facetiousness and poetic license to my peddling of this imagery, but it does not exaggerate the disgust and exasperation that I all too often have with the behavior of both parties, and especially that of their leaders.
I’ll probably have more on that theme in future posts. Tonight, however, I’m going to devote the rest of this post to links that I’ve found inspirational, resonant, or too ghoulish to resist, from various corners of the internet. The only caveat is that the links are going to have a more disjointed appearance than they would in a standard list format; I like to provide some context for links that I include in my writing, especially since the links themselves can be longer than some readers have time to read, so tonight I’ll be providing a synopsis for each.
Fabius Maximus is the pseudonym of a geopolitics blogger who, as far as I can tell, is based in the Washington, DC area and employed in something pertinent to the federal government, although he is extremely coy about himself. His tone can be authoritative and brash, rather like a less screechy literary version of John McLaughlin, and he can be very cynical. But cynicism, I’d say, is warranted in times such as ours, particularly as an antidote to the saccharine earnestness that many mainstream journalists and commentators seem to regard as the only appropriate approach to the world.
This piece by Noah Smith is one of the most provocative broadsides on Ron Paul and libertarianism that I’ve found. It takes a more strident tone than I’d be inclined to take, but I have to support any essay that includes the phrase “my freedom to punch you in the face curtails quite a number of your freedoms.” That’s a pretty succinct articulation of one of my longstanding critiques of the libertarian movement and likeminded classically liberal movements abroad: that they all too often ally themselves with thieves and other unsavory, predatory characters. These unholy alliances strike me as a big reason that libertarianism has such trouble gaining popular traction as an alternative to the two-party status quo, manifested by the tendency of Libertarian Party candidates to win less than five percent of the vote in three-way contests. This is a very unfortunate situation, if for no other reason because libertarians are damn near the only people willing to take a serious stand against the erosion of civil liberties in the United States.
Dateline NBC, formerly a respectable news magazine, has taken to devoting Friday nights to lengthy reviews of sordid murders, a great thing for those of us who find that Keith Morrison’s hushed tones and ever more skeletal face appeal to our dubiously maudlin tastes. I don’t see why I shouldn’t do the same, especially for a case involving Brandon’s fellow Bruin, LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus.
I actually don’t remember whether I’ve ever seen a Dateline NBC special on Lazarus or just saw the 48 Hours version, but the pieces above, in the Atlantic and Vanity Fair, respectively, are better in any event. (I can’t exactly recommend my own television viewing habits.) The Lazarus case wasn’t spectacular just because the suspect (since convicted and sentenced to 27 years to life in prison) was a highly regarded police detective. The intricacy and sensitivity of the investigation were also far beyond what I’ve ever seen a broadcast account do justice. The investigation was started by a cold case squad at the Van Nuys Division (in the provinces by LAPD standards) before being reassigned to the Robbery-Homicide Division, the elite squad at LAPD headquarters that is responsible for high-profile murder investigations. That posed an even touchier problem: Stephanie Lazarus worked across the hall from RHD at Parker Center and was friendly with many of the division’s detectives. The detectives ultimately chosen for the case, Dan Jaramillo and Greg Stearns, were in effect chosen because they were out of the loop socially. (Judging from their portrait in Vanity Fair, Det. Stearns is also out of the loop sartorially, and proudly so. The portrait suggests that those two are classics, and know it.) On the morning of the arrest, teams were posted in Simi Valley, Lazarus’ hometown, with sealed envelopes instructing them to execute search warrants on her house and car. One of their colleagues surreptitiously trailed Lazarus downtown on a Metrolink train. It was the LAPD at its best, in contrast to the original investigation of Sherri Rae Rasmussen’s murder, which was the LAPD at its most incompetent. Lyle Mayer, the lead detective in the original investigation, will be forever remembered as the idiot who let a murderer stick around at the LAPD for another 23 years after telling her victim’s father that he watched too much TV. (Unless he was crooked. Reasonable people disagree on this point.)