DUI, Refusal, and Procedural Rights

Here’s a question (or two, or a bunch) for the lawyers out there, particularly anyone specializing in traffic law, especially DUI in New Jersey, assuming that any of them read Policy of Truth:

I don’t drink, much less drink and drive, so I’m sitting here in a calm moment with no legal issue at stake trying to understand New Jersey law (NJSA 39:4-50.4a) on DUI testing and prosecution for refusal. It just amazes me how poorly drafted even the simplest and most ubiquitous law turns out to be. Continue reading

Poetic Justice with Donald Trump

Didn’t Donald Trump do members of “the Squad” a favor of sorts by telling them to go back to their countries of origin?

After all, one of the members of the Squad, Rashida Tlaib, is Palestinian. If Trump thinks she should go back to her country of origin, it stands to reason that she must have one. So does Donald Trump think that Palestine is a country? That’s news to me, and would probably be news to Jared Kushner, David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, and the entire cohort of Zionist frauds that populate the Trump administration.

Beyond that, if Tlaib has a country to go back to, one that is in some sense hers, it seems to follow that she has a right of return to it. So, does that mean that the United States Government now takes the Palestinians to have a right of return to Palestine? I guess it does, but has anyone informed the Israelis? Continue reading

Modesty, Courage, and Other Vices

Believe it or not, I’ve heard people describe modesty as a “virtue.” It obviously isn’t: it’s a direct, frontal assault on truth-telling. There should be less of it in the world, and more grandstanding.

With that ill-argued and implausible preface, I make a plug for a modest essay of mine, “David Solomon on Egoism and Virtue,” just published in a festschrift for the same Solomon, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame, until recently Director of ND’s De Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, and in perhaps his most daunting academic role, my dissertation advisor. My essay appears in the volume, ridiculously, among essays by the likes of Alasdair MacIntyre, John Haldane, and Candace Vogler, not to mention a response (which I haven’t yet read) by Solomon himself.  Continue reading

Reason, Naturalism, and Free Will

People familiar with Objectivism will remember an old article by Nathaniel Branden titled, “The Contradiction of Determinism,” (Objectivist Newsletter, May 1963). In it, he argues, not that the doctrine of free will is true, nor that determinism is false. Rather, he argues that if determinism is true, we cannot know it. And the reason we can’t know it is that, if determinism is true, no knowledge is possible at all.

The argument is that knowledge must be validated by a process of reason. Our suppositions about the world are not self-certifying. The mere presence of an idea in your mind does not establish that it is true. Therefore, we have to evaluate our suppositions about the world by means of sensory evidence and other tests, such as coherence. This must be done by a process of reason. But the process of reason cannot be realized by merely mechanical causation of the sort that is expressed by causal laws. Causal laws determine that a certain sort of event results in consequence of a certain sort of prior event, and this sort of determination is entirely different from that of seeing reasons or recognizing logical connections.

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Tanks Alot

Many people seem upset at Trump’s planning to use tanks in the Independence Day festivities in Washington, D.C. I’m not.

“When I was a child, we saw pictures of military parades in the Soviet Union,” tweeted Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. “We were told we don’t do that, that we’re proud of the fact that we don’t do that because we don’t wish to be a militarized society. Celebrating July 4 with army tanks on the National Mall is repugnant.”

“Trump says there will be military tanks at Fourth of July celebration, tweeted NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “This is so beyond the spirit of the holiday.”

I hate to break the news, but Independence Day celebrates a declaration of war.  So there’s no better symbol of the “spirit of the holiday” than a weapon of war. In this respect, Trump has it right. He’s more in touch with the essential militarism of the holiday than many of his critics. Continue reading

The Dual Legacy of the Declaration of Independence

No one should raise the stars and stripes on the 4th. The proper flag to raise on the 4th of July is the black flag of anarchy.


The Fourth of July commemorates the anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence, a document which the anarchist must view with mixed emotions.

The document’s stirring proclamation that “all men are created equal,” with inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that no government is entitled to infringe; its further insistence that all authority must depend on the “consent of the governed,” and that when such authority becomes abusive it is the “right of the people to alter or to abolish it” – all of these are welcome statements of a philosophical outlook which, if logically pursued, leads inexorably to a much wider liberation (an implication clearly grasped at the time by many of the Revolution’s critics).

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Reason Is Treason

With the huge movement of both civilian and military populations in and out of nearly every major seaport from Savanannah to Boston between 1775 and 1781, urban slaves had unprecedented chances for making their personal declarations of independence and for destabilizing the institution of slavery. Similarly, as loyalist and patriot militia crisscrossed the countryside plundering the farms and plantations of their enemies, slaves found ways of tearing holes in the fabric of slavery.

A turning point came in November 1775, when the royal governor of Virginia, Lord John Dunmore, issued a dramatic proclamation that guaranteed freedom to slaves and indentured servants who escaped their masters and reached the King’s forces. Against this concrete offer of unconditional freedom, slaves could only hope that the American patriots would respond to calls for the end of slavery advocated by the first abolition society established in Pennsylvania just a few months before. Waiting for freedom as a gift at some indeterminate point turned out to be a poor substitute for immediate freedom. When word of Dunsmore’s proclamation quickly spread through the South, hundreds of slaves fled their masters to British lines where officers formed them into the Black Regiment of Guides and Pioneers. Some marched in uniform with the inscription on their breasts, “Liberty to Slaves.”

Dunsmore’s proclamation galvanized the South against England, for it conjured up a vision of a large body of free Negroes, armed by the British, abroad in the land. “Hell itself,” wrote one southerner, “could not have vomited anything more black than this design of emancipating our slaves.” But thousands of slaves did find freedom by reaching British lines. The black war for independence occurred in every part of the country  and was especially intense whenever slaves were within running distance of the British army or navy.

In the South, the pursuit of freedom through flight to the British was so large that the British army was often hard-pressed to provision the fleeing slaves. Thomas Jefferson, Virginia’s wartime governor, reported that 30,000 slaves fled their masters during the British invasion of Virginia in 1780-81. Twenty-three of Jefferson’s slaves fled his plantation to join the British, as did 17 of Washington’s slaves. In South Carolina and Georgia, probably one-third to one-half of the enslaved fled to the British during the southern campaigns between 1779 and 1781. Without doubt the American Revolution marked the greatest slave rebellion in the long history of American slavery.

–Gary B. Nash, “Forgotten Americans,” in The American Revolution, Official National Park Service Handbook (undated), pp. 75, 78.

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You Say You Want a Revolution

Perhaps the most radical consequence of the American Revolution was the creation of a self-governing republic in North America at the expense of the Native Americans whose land that republic would occupy–and expand into. The new republic, which guaranteed the rights and liberties of its citizens, excluded Native Americans from these, thereby rendering those rights privileges. Article 1, section 2, paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution as ratified in 1789 stated:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons (emphasis added).

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Let Him Not Have Thy Coat (of Arms)

It is also a federal offense, again carrying a potential penalty of up to six months in a federal prison, if you use the Swiss coat of arms in any advertising for your business. I would include a picture of that coat of arms here so you could see what I am talking about, but I cannot take the chance that I might be sent to prison.

–James Duane, You Have the Right to Remain Innocent, p. 17

Disagreeing with Plato at Medium

I have a piece over at Medium, On Disagreeing with Plato: Reflections on Plato, Popper, and Mill. I suspect it will meet with disapproval from the libertarian-leaning readers of this blog, but you might find it of interest anyway. I discuss a recent article by classicist James Kierstead, who offers a qualified defense of Popper and takes classical liberals like Popper to task for their limited commitments to democracy as genuine popular rule.

In the meantime, I have been and will continue to be scarce in these parts for a few weeks, but I’ll make my way back to pester you all in the comments section soon enough.