Weekend Open Comments

Professor Vickie B. Sullivan of Tufts University:

If legal barriers sometimes fail to protect us from miniature despots, then political despotism is not as distant as many think. Montesquieu, the 18th-century French philosopher who brought the term ‘despotism’ into our political vocabulary, would not be surprised at the disjunction between the putative liberty of our society and the experience many have as the victims of irresponsible power within it. In The Spirit of the Laws (1748), he shows that despotism is an ever-present danger and a persistent threat to human flourishing everywhere and always. Even those fortunate to live outside the borders of a despotic government can still be victimised by despotic practices. In response, Montesquieu teaches that the unmasking of despotism must remain a central endeavour in social and political life.

To the extent that he is remembered at all today, Montesquieu is credited with being the inspiration for the theory of the separation of powers, those constitutional barriers to despotism that can, paradoxically, render us complacent as to our liberty. The framers of the Constitution of the United States, in fact, termed him the ‘oracle’ of the separation of powers when drawing liberally from his political teachings. Nevertheless, reflection on his writings reveals that despotism is a vastly more pervasive and intransigent phenomenon than individuals in so-called enlightened and free societies tend to believe. Throughout The Spirit of the Laws, he shows that despotism lies at the very core of the European mindset. Salient aspects of its religious and philosophical traditions encourage the concentration of power and a harshness that can too readily eventuate in despotic violence. With this constant countervailing pressure, constitutional arrangements, as critical as they are, cannot alone contain this phenomenon.

Read the rest of Professor Sullivan’s essay here.

Here is a link to Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws.

Thursday Open Thread

Lisa and A.J. Demaree’s decade-long legal ordeal started with, by all accounts, an utterly innocent family moment.

In 2008, the couple took their three daughters, then infants 5 months, 4 months and 18 months old, on a vacation to San Diego. They snapped more than 100 photos during the trip, like parents do, including several of the girls playing together during bath time. When they returned to their home in Peoria, Arizona, they dropped the camera’s memory stick off at a Walmart for developing.

Within a day, a police detective came knocking.

A Walmart employee had flagged the bath time photos as pornographic, the detective told the parents. One showed the girls wrapped in towels with their arms around each other; another showed their exposed bottoms.

Never talk to police no matter how innocent you believe you are.

When the detective showed up at the couple’s door in August 2008, he brought photocopies of the bath time photos and pressed the parents about them, according to court documents. One showed the three girls lying on a towel with their bare backsides showing.

“Obviously you’re not going to share it with anybody, I would hope,” the detective said, according to court documents.

“No, absolutely not!” A.J. Demaree responded.

In this era of hysteria and false moral panic, Coppertone would be charged with distributing child pornography:

Wednesday’s New Insanity Open Comments

Government-Approved Workouts? The Fight Against Fitness Licensing.

Crossfit is fighting to keep the government from regulating how Americans are taught to exercise. The health of the nation may be at stake.

Almost everything the federal government has told the public about healthy diets over the past three decades may have been wrong. The U.S. Surgeon General suggested avoiding saturated fats and prioritizing grains and other carbohydrates. Low-fat products started filling the aisles at grocery stores, as families tried to follow the government’s infamous food pyramid. Obesity rates continued to climb, and some dissenting scientists and started questioning the consensus. The U.S. government and major health organizations were slow to react, but in recent years have finally started updating the official recommendations.

Is the exact same scenario about to play out in the fitness industry?

“All of these government agencies, all of our universities, they’ve all sat silent through one of the worst declines in health the modern world has ever seen,” says Greg Glassman, who’s the founder of Crossfit, which runs more than 14,000 gyms around the world. “And their response is still exactly wrong.” (Crossfit is a corporate donor to the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.)

and this,

 The fight is occuring largely behind-the-scenes at state legislatures across the country, where licensing laws have been introduced on 26 separate occasions since 2005. Crossfit supporters have pushed back just as hard, at times showing up in person to speak out against the bills.

The one place Crossfit lost is Washington, D.C., which passed the nation’s first fitness trainer licensure law in 2014.

“It’s an attempt to silence Crossfit on the subjects of nutrition and exercise,” says Glassman.

Of, course, because the dumbest politicians we have are in Washington, D.C.

RTWDT.

Tuesday Open Comments

Jazz Shaw:

We’ve done enough of these gender dysphoria stories by now, particularly when it involves the potential abuse of children, that we don’t need to go through it all again here. But Nutt adds a new layer to an already unbalanced cake when she begins veering off into various scientific fields. Nutt *covers* health and science for the Washington Post, but none of the bio blurbs I’ve found thus far indicate precisely what her educational background entails. One thing seems to be for sure, however… it probably wasn’t biology.

Cathy Ruse:

A Northern Virginia public school held a school-wide assembly before Christmas break featuring transgender crusader Amy Ellis Nutt.

George Mason High School in the city of Falls Church brought in Nutt, a Washington Post reporter, to lecture students on her book “Becoming Nicole,” about a boy who “identified” as a girl as a toddler, had his puberty suppressed as a child, and was castrated as a teenager.

Nutt’s lecture hit all the usual notes. Your gender is “assigned at birth” by people who might get it wrong. Toddlers can be transgender. Moray eels change sex and female reef fish produce sperm when there are no males.

“Gender is a spectrum,” everyone must get “comfortable” with new gender language that is “changing every day.” Asking a biological boy to use the teachers’ rather than the girls’ restroom is “bullying.”

Falls Church is an independent municipality located within Fairfax County, Virginia, the second richest county in the nation.  Residents there brag about having the lowest poverty rate of any town in America and for voting 75% in favor of Hillary Clinton in 2016.

When Barack Obama’s gang of thieves issued the dicta to public schools in America about providing transgender restrooms, the Falls Church High School principal jumped up and down like a circus monkey.

The plaques on the staff bathrooms in the science hallway have recently been changed to become “more accessible to everyone.” GM Principal Mr. Matt Hills asked the maintenance team to replace the male and female signs over the two single-stall bathrooms, with two gender neutral signs; one for students, and one for staff.

This is something Hills has wanted to do for a while now, and with the current U.S. Supreme Court case regarding transgender students using bathrooms at school, he wanted to make Mason feel like the inclusive environment it strives to be.

“There’s a model that has been changing,” Hills said. “If you’ve gone out to public restaurants and public facilities, there are definitely more unisex bathrooms [now], and we figured we could have unisex staff and unisex student bathrooms.”

The full video of the appearance at the school by Washington Post reporter Amy Ellis Nutt is here if you have the stomach for it.