Happy Martin Luther King Day!

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This holiday is as good a time as any to remember how one of our greatest Americans was bugged and harassed by a paranoid, power-mad J. Edgar Hoover, in the name of National Security. From an L.A. Times op-ed today by former attorney general Nicholas deB. Katzenbach:

When Hoover asked for the wiretaps, Bobby consulted me (I was then his deputy) and Burke Marshall, head of the Civil Rights Division. Both of us agreed to the tap because we believed a refusal would lend credence to the allegation of communist influence, while permitting the tap, we hoped, would demonstrate the contrary. I think the decision was the right one, under the circumstances. But that doesn't mean that the tap was right. King was suspected of no crime, but the government invaded his privacy until I removed the tap two years later when I became attorney general. It also invaded the privacy of every person he talked to on that phone, not just [Stanley] Levinson.

But what we didn't know during this period was that Hoover was doing a lot more than tapping King's phones. As King's criticism of the FBI continued, and as Hoover became more and more convinced there must be communist influence even though no evidence ever materialized, he determined to discredit and destroy King. He went further, putting bugs in King's hotel bedrooms across the country. (He claimed that Atty. Gen. Herbert Brownell had authorized him to use such listening devices in cases involving "national security" back in the 1950s, and that he did not require further permission from the current attorney general, who in any case had no idea that the FBI was doing it.)

The FBI recorded tapes of King conducting extramarital affairs—and later had the tapes mailed to King anonymously, in one case actually encouraging him to commit suicide. Tapes were played for journalists, and the FBI sought to discredit King with foreign leaders, religious leaders, White House personnel and members of Congress. The bureau tried to kill a favorable magazine profile and encouraged one university to withhold an honorary degree.

More here.

King's still-astonishing Letter from Birmingham Jail here. If you haven't read it in a while, it's worth a refresher (I don't recall noticing before his name-checking of "Hungarian freedom-fighters"). And there's really no beating the line, "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

NEXT: Celebrity Road Rage: Case Closed

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  1. Before anyone reminds me of my arguments supporting taps without warrants, I’ve changed my mind!

    The FBI recorded tapes of King conducting extramarital affairs — and later had the tapes mailed to King anonymously, in one case actually encouraging him to commit suicide.
    (shiver!)

  2. For another story about how a power-mad Hoover tapped, followed, etc. a harmless man, check out this column by Robyn Blumner at the St. Petersburg (FL) Times:

    http://www.sptimes.com/2006/01/15/Columns/America_loses_a_true_.shtml

    Mark Lambert

  3. One thing has always bothered me about the Letter from the Birmingham Jail: it’s logic seems just as compelling when invoked in the name of blocking abortion clinics as it does when invoked in the name of civil liberties. Where is the check on the unrestrained exercise of civil disobedience?

  4. Well, I for one am glad that our government was monitoring MLK’s cell phone calls to known foreign terrorists against whom congress had authorized Hoover to pursue military force.

    /sarcasm

  5. Well, the “check” is that you go to jail for it; that’s what makes it “civil disobedience” and not just “breaking the law.” (Of course, plenty of people just break laws they see as unjust too, which is why lots of people don’t feel especially guilty about smoking pot in private–they just don’t call it “civil disobedience.”)

  6. Great topic!

    Hoover was maybe obsessed with surveillance because he himself had frilly undies to hide?

    He may have felt that only by spying on all other potentially powerful people who could challenge his authority..could he prevent someone from using his own gay secrets against him.

    Rove, scooter,Guckert/gannon…and friends come to mind somehow.

    At any rate this is a good thread to put the liberty back in libertarian… and get the neo out of conservative.

  7. The “check” is in the court of public opinion, and then in the voting booth…civil disobedience is a means by which to raise the morality of an unjust law into public consciousness…ie, jailing humans for lining up to register to vote…if middle class america didn’t find that practice morally offensive, the civil rights movement wouldn’t have had any impact.

    Smoking pot in your home is not civil disobedience. Smoking it in public, and allowing yourself to get arrested is. If massive goups of folks did it together, weeks and weeks at a time, for the sole purpose of filling jail cells, to keep the issue in the public debate…then change might happen.

    I strongly recommend Parting The Waters by Taylor Branch…if you only have a TV public interest spot knowledge of the civil rights movement, it may blow your mind as to the scale of participation of everyday folks in making changes to the USA that are easy to take for granted a mere 40-50 years later.

  8. Until last year I thought MLK Day might just be a toss-out to PCness — why do we only have one President’s day for such greats as Jefferson and Washington, etc. etc.

    Then I heard (on NPR, natch) a full-length recording of one of his speeches on non-violent civil disobedience. It was so powerful and compelling, I almost found myself crying. (Then I got a little mad that I had never heard this speech before in, oh, I don’t know, school or something.) I can only imagine what it must have been like to witness him speaking live. There is not an orator today who comes within a fraction of him.

    The fact that he remained resolute in his advocacy of non-violence in the face of all the violence done against him is all the more amazing.

  9. Julian, if going to jail is the only check on civil disobedience, we’d better hope 30-40% of the population doesn’t decide to make a habit of it. Or do you think there should be some kind of ultimate “minority veto power” on laws that otherwise meet the requirements of constitutional due process? Wasn’t that essentially what the South said before the Civil War? The issue is whether civil disobedience as a doctrine based upon natural law is helpful or injurious to a society based upon the rule of law. I am not convinced that it ultimately helps more than it hurts.

  10. Smith: Who is the ultimate arbiter of what is an unjust law under natural law? I guess its whatever number of people are necessary to bully the majority into submission.

  11. Quit whining about the wiretaps, King obviously hated America, just look at what he said:

    I have walked among the desperate and dejected and angry young men. I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my convictions that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action. And they ask and rightly so, “But what about Vietnam?” They ask if our own nation wasn’t using is using massive violence to solve its problem to bring about the changes it wants? Their questions hit home. I knew that I could never raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos?without speaking clearly against to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government. I cannot be silent.

    They have applauded me in Montgomery when my home was bombed. They applauded the sit-in movement, they applauded us on the freedom rides, when we accepted blows, without retaliation. They praised us in Birmingham, in Selma, Alabama. There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you they you say be nonviolent against Jim Clark, yet condemn you when you say be non-violent towards little brown Vietnamese children. There’s something wrong with that press.

    If those aren’t the words of someone who’s objectively pro-Commie, I don’t what is. Now get your seditious asses back to work before I wiretap the lot of ya’!

  12. There was an awful lot of effort put into “bullying people into submission” during the campaign of civil disobedience celebrated on this day.

    Abosulely none of it was conducted by the protestors; every single example of such was performed by the majority and the government.

  13. Ron,

    I’m not equipped to answer that philosophically, but in practical terms, for an unjust law to be overturned, it seems to me, it must affect a certain critical mass, that critical mass must respond in some manner that appeals to moral sensibilities of the unaffected, and the unaffected need to be made aware of the situation, to the degree to which they feel the moral conflict.

    You can look at that as bullying by the majority, but it doesn’t need to be…unless you happen to not like the result.

  14. Joe: The right to lifers love you.

  15. We are each the ultimate authority on what we deem to be unjust. Society, through political institutions, formalizes the sensibilities of various influences. Democratization has yielded greater influence to the “lower” classes than in the past. The politically powerful must walk a fine line between compromise and yielding all.

  16. “Hoover was maybe obsessed with surveillance because he himself had frilly undies to hide?”

    I’d just like to point out, fruitlessly as ever, that there’s no evidence Hoover was a transvestite. Lots of evidence that he was gay, either active or deeply closeted, self-aware or totally repressed, we don’t know. But none that he ever put on women’s clothing. The total “evidence” for this was the discovery in some crook’s file that, during interrogation, he razzed the FBI agents grilling him by making a crack about Hoover wearing a dress, mistakenly confusing homosexuality with transvestism. There is no reason to believe that said crook was in any position to know anything actual about Hoover other than the common scuttlebutt that he was gay (which had been hinted at in the press as early as the mid-30s).

  17. I have a friend whose father-in-law used to work for the FBI under Hoover. He defends the man and all his scumbaggery to this day. My friend tried cracking a “J. Edgar in a dress” joke exactly once.

  18. Smith: What I am concerned about is the threat to freedom presented by those that say we should ignore the Constitution when it conflicts with their deep-felt beliefs. There are far more of those on the right than on the left nowadays, but the principal at issue is the same–why should anybody follow the rule of law when people are actively encouraged not to when it conflicts with their conscience?

  19. “One thing has always bothered me about the Letter from the Birmingham Jail: it’s logic seems just as compelling when invoked in the name of blocking abortion clinics as it does when invoked in the name of civil liberties. Where is the check on the unrestrained exercise of civil disobedience?”

    Is “blocking” non-violent? I submit that it is not.

  20. Ron,

    So be it. Idiots have rights too. Don’t be so partisan.

    When a faction refuses to follow the law, the government is bound to enforce that law. And it is then that the “consent of the governed” – the ultimate arbiter of legitimacy – comes into play: will the People go along with the protestors and rein in their government, or not?

  21. Dogzilla: “non-violent” does not mean “non-coercive”. Martin Luther King understood that very well.

  22. Dogzilla,

    Blocking the entrance to a clinic is just as non-violent, and just as criminal, as taking up all the seats in a diner, and refusing to move when ordered to.

  23. “One thing has always bothered me about the Letter from the Birmingham Jail: it’s logic seems just as compelling when invoked in the name of blocking abortion clinics as it does when invoked in the name of civil liberties. Where is the check on the unrestrained exercise of civil disobedience?”

    Is “blocking” non-violent? I submit that it is not.

    Ah, the perils of public property.

  24. Sho, I wuz a commie and a homonger. So whut! Fuk yew white boys.

  25. Well put at 1:43, Ron.

  26. Blocking the entrance to a clinic is just as non-violent, and just as criminal, as taking up all the seats in a diner, and refusing to move when ordered to.

    Diners are considered “mostly” private property, whereas clinics are usually accessed via public property. Hence the contention.

    Ah, the perils of public property.

  27. Clinic-blockers are trying to prevent women from undergoing a legal medical procedure. People who sat at a counter to eat the sandwich they paid for (rather than eat it in the alley where the black folk were supposed to eat) were preventing–what, exactly?

  28. That’s not really the contention, kgsam. Actually blocking someone’s entrace to their property is a criminal act, aking to trespassing. Putting your hands on someone while doing it is assault.

    The contention is about buffer zones and such in the public space. Ron went right to blockades in his comment.

  29. Who is paranoid today?

  30. akin, not aking.

  31. Is “blocking” non-violent?

    Its pretty hard to do it effectively without at least threatening violence.

  32. It should be noted that one of the reason Dr. King and his followers were able to survive as non-violent activists is that they were defended by armed cohorts organized by the NRA which on more than one occasion shot it out with KKK nightriders.

  33. whereas clinics are usually accessed via public property

    As I stated.

  34. Shirley (don’t call me shirley)you all know of scooter’s book?

    The one about bestiality? Bear rape of a 10 year old girl, honest he wrote it.

    Gonna deny that as well? Your heros are kinky.

    Joe McCarthy? Come on boyz. Confess. Hehehey.

    Kinda makes Bill C look normal eyyh?

    And how DID guckert get his press pass? Gannon/guckert worked for talon news a texas young republican front organization.

  35. Given a swift boat crew on the left that used the underhanded tactics of the tricky dickster apprentices like rove, your heros would pack 5 times the tabloid space.

    The US constitution is designed to prevent this kind of spying by government insiders with political or personal agendas.

  36. Is this guy under the impression this is a Republican site, or is he just one of those troll-bots?

  37. Joe: Partisan? Moi? Hi Joe, I’m the kettle. You must be the pot. What do “rights” have to do with it? It’s a far cry to say everyone is entitled to his opinion and the right to express it pursuant to the rule of law, and to say that people are free to break the law and suffer the consequences (maybe) whenever their deep-felt principals are violated.

  38. Meanwhile, Musharif is about to lose custody of his nuclear weapons to Osama.

    Osama set up the sacrifice of one village in order to take over Pakistan and become a nuclear power.

    Poor duuuhbya, this government gig is working out as well as his oil drilling bidness. He may as well start drinking again.

    But the uninformed prattle on about MLKs sex life. He did it with GASP!! ..white women!! Hehehey.

    Wake up lil fellers, your favorite cowboy just gave nukes to the good folk that wanna nuke india, israel, and the US!!

    Neeehaaaww says duuuuh ..bya, bring ’em on!! what a stategeryist..

  39. I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

    How true these words are yet today in the fight for the protection of civil liberties in the “War on Terror”

  40. Blocking access to abortion clinics is every bit the equivalent of lunch counter sit-ins (aside from my personal support of both civil rights and abortion). Both are criminal acts deliberately committed to challenge what the protestors believe is unjust law. Civil disobedience is designed to draw attention to the cause and inspire others to join the fight. The major difference between the two movements is the opposition. The stories of black diner customers showed them as peaceful protestors demanding nothing more than common courtesy while the white onlookers that taunted them and the police that arrested them were seen as obnoxious, crude, and brutal. In contrast, while clinic protests may be effective in ‘energizing the base’, they have also been effective in energizing the opposition. For those that think abortion should be a crime and lament the current law, civil disobedience is an appropriate course of action. I do not support the ‘pro life’ cause, but if they are willing to openly defy the law, I consider it a good use of my tax dollars to continue to arrest and convict them.

  41. What, no one’s going to make the token “I wish more government agencies were on permanent holiday” crack? 😉

  42. Blocking access to abortion clinics is every bit the equivalent of lunch counter sit-ins (aside from my personal support of both civil rights and abortion). Both are criminal acts deliberately committed to challenge what the protestors believe is unjust law.

    Yes, but the clinic-blockers are trying to prevent other people from utilizing a legal service. There is no equivalent for the diner sit-ins.

  43. Yes, but the clinic-blockers are trying to prevent other people from utilizing a legal service. There is no equivalent for the diner sit-ins.

    Huh? Of course there is. They are preventing whit customers from eating in a segregated diner.

  44. Rejigger your punctuation and you get your wish, 1/2. Government agencies are on permanent holiday crack.

  45. Despite my pseudonym (chosen on a whim one day) I don’t claim to be well-versed in my namesake’s theories of civil disobedience. As far as analogies between abortion protests and desegregation efforts, I would observe that both movements are composed of committed and (frequently) religious people who truly believe that they are combating a gross injustice. Both movements violate the law in hopes of drawing attention and sympathy to their plight. One group has been notably less successful than the other.

    The biggest difference, I would say, is in the types of laws being violated. People protesting against racial segregation violated laws mandating segregation, or laws protecting segregation. They violated the laws that they opposed. (Obligatory disclaimer: Yes, I know, libertarians would say that private property owners should have the right to segregate on their property, yadda yadda. Nonetheless, they opposed certain laws and they violated those laws, hence they were violating the laws that they opposed.)

    Now, they also violated other laws. King, in his essay, talks about how there’s nothing all that objectionable about a parade law, but if it is used to stop his fight against injustice he will break it.

    The abortion protestors, of course, violate laws that are not particularly objectionable in their own right: No trespassing, no parading without a permit, etc. That’s because they can’t really violate the laws that they object to, or the absence of laws that they would like to see (pick your preferred phrasing). I mean, they can get pregnant and carry a child to term, but that isn’t really civil disobedience. Because they can’t actually violate the policies that they disagree with, they have to violate more mundane laws and hope to get sympathy.

    So there are some differences there. King violated a variety of laws, including laws directly opposed to his cause and unrelated laws that were pressed into the service of his opponents. Abortion protestors, OTOH, can only violate laws that aren’t directly related to their cause. That limits the scope of analogies.

  46. Warren beat me to the punch. At the time, eating in a black-person free environment was utilizing a legal service.

  47. Good point as always, Dr. T.

  48. Huh? Of course there is. They are preventing whit customers from eating in a segregated diner.

    The white customers could still buy food at that diner; no white person was in danger of starving to death because of the diner sit-ins. Whereas the abortion clinic blockers hope to make it impossible for women to get abortions.

  49. “Both of us agreed to the tap because we believed a refusal would lend credence to the allegation of communist influence, while permitting the tap, we hoped, would demonstrate the contrary.”

    Am I the only one who suspects this is more of a post-facto justification than an honest description of his and Kennedy’s thinking at the time?

    (On the broader subject of Bobby Kennedy and racial sensitivity, Gore Vidal claims in his memoir that JFK and RFK’s nickname for James Baldwin was “Martin Luther Queen.”)

  50. Thoreau: I’m afraid your nuanced view isn’t very persuasive in the argument that “my civil disobedience is good, while your civil disobedience is bad”.

    Yogi: I never said Martin Luther King used bad rhetoric.

  51. I think Katzenbach is getting a little (and trying, with Bobby Kennedy) to give a little too much credit. They wiretapped a man, he says, that he had no reason to suspect of anything, to prove that there was really no reason to wiretap him.
    I can’t wait to find a bug and discover that it was because someone in government (who didn’t think I had done anything wrong, mind you) thought they would “prove” my innocence.
    That’s more scary than Hoover.

  52. Jennifer: So we should use a “relative inconvenience” standard to evaluate the merits of various tactics of civil disobedience?

  53. Ron-

    I never said that one type of civil disobedience was morally superior. I just discussed limitations on analogies.

    Jesse-

    Yeah, that does sound like a weird justification. Maybe some day we’ll be told “The warrantless wiretaps were ordered to prove to the American people that in fact there wasn’t a huge network of terrorists on US soil.”

  54. Am I the only one who suspects this is more of a post-facto justification than an honest description of his and Kennedy’s thinking at the time?

    No.

  55. Jennifer: So we should use a “relative inconvenience” standard to evaluate the merits of various tactics of civil disobedience?

    I am simply pointing out that the diner sit-ins and the abortion-clinic-blockers are two different animals. If you want to extrapolate some greater law from that, go right ahead.

  56. The white customers could still buy food at that diner; no white person was in danger of starving to death because of the diner sit-ins. Whereas the abortion clinic blockers hope to make it impossible for women to get abortions.

    OK but this seems to be a difference without distinction. I would agree with thoreau’s nuance. But what are you saying, that the clinic protestors are morally inferior (they’re saving children from murder for Christ sake)? They are breaking the law and should therefore be arrested and convicted, as far as I know that is what has been happening. I think you overstate the issue by claiming they “make it impossible for women to get abortions”.

  57. Jennifer: Then I will take your original comment as a non-sequitur.

  58. More people swear that they’ve seen Elvis get out of a flying saucer than claim to have seen J. Edgar Hoover in a dress, and yet the latter is accepted as fact.

  59. But what are you saying, that the clinic protestors are morally inferior (they’re saving children from murder for Christ sake)?

    I will repeat to you what I said to Ron: I am merely pointing out that the clinic-blockers and the diner sit-ins were two different animals.

    The first group prevents people from utilizing a legal service; the second group protests an injustice being inflicted upon them.

  60. Actually, here’s a more succinct difference between the clinic-blockers and the diner sit-ins: the sit-in protestors were protesting the way the law was treating them; the clinic-blockers protest what the law does or does not do to someone else.

  61. Jennifer: Well, that sounds suspiciously like “the ends justifies the means” to me. The right to lifers would argue that they are trying to prevent an injustice being done to an innocent third party (an unborn child).

  62. The first group prevents people from utilizing a legal service; the second group protests an injustice being inflicted upon them.

    As I said before, the diner sit-ins prevented people from accessing a legal service as well. (Even if they could still get something to eat, they were denied the*perfectly legal* amenities of a segregated diner). The clinic blockers are protesting an injustice being inflicted on innocent children. Children that are powerless to protest their own oppression.

  63. Jennifer, so a white person could not legitimately practice civil disobedience in your view, by blocking access to a “whites only” facility?

  64. It’s certainly racist and sick and morally reprehensible that a restaurant would not allow black people in its doors, but should it be illegal?

  65. Jay,
    MLK’s reputation enjoys saintly status. We libertarians therefore prefer to focus on the excesses of the state perpetrated against him than the excesses of state he helped to institute

  66. The right to lifers would argue that they are trying to prevent an injustice being done to an innocent third party (an unborn child).

    I fully agree, Ron; I am simply saying that what they are doing is not analogous to the diner sit-ins.

  67. It’s certainly racist and sick and morally reprehensible that a restaurant would not allow black people in its doors, but should it be illegal?

    With the laws at the time, it was illegal for restaurants to let black people eat inside, even if the restaurant owner wanted to do so.

  68. People who sat at a counter to eat the sandwich they paid for (rather than eat it in the alley where the black folk were supposed to eat) were preventing–what, exactly?

    I’ll play bigot’s advocate. Well, weren’t they preventing the owner of diner from conducting business in the way he saw fit? Weren’t they preventing the owner from having the authority to decide who gets to step onto his private property?

    I ask because I don’t know if we should prevent asshole business owners from conducting their businesses like assholes.

    Having played bigot’s advocate, I must now take a shower.

  69. I fully agree, Ron; I am simply saying that what they are doing is not analogous to the diner sit-ins.

    Jennifer: So am I going too far in assuming that you believe civil disobedience is OK and should be encouraged as long as you agree with it?

  70. Jennifer, I posted before I saw your 3:20 post. I did not know that. Ignore my bigot’s advocate post. I still have to shower, though.

  71. Jennifer: I really would like your thoughts on my 3:14 post.

  72. Jennifer: So am I going too far in assuming that you believe civil disobedience is OK and should be encouraged as long as you agree with it?

    Yes, Ron, you are going too far in assuming that. You also have an amazing talent for reading things nobody ever wrote; “Clinic blockers are not identical to sit-ins” does not mean “one is morally inferior to the other.”

  73. I fully agree, Ron; I am simply saying that what they are doing is not analogous to the diner sit-ins.

    Thoreau made the point that the civil rights people broke the very laws they were protesting (in addition to other laws broken for tactical reasons), while the abortion people break laws solely for tactical reasons. That is a discernable difference, but of no particular significance that I can see. Otherwise I find the two groups wholly analogous

  74. Jennifer: Sorry to have misread. I thought you were responding to my point about civil disobedience being problematic in a society based upon rule of law.

  75. Ron, your 3:14 post shows that my 3:05 post wasn’t such a good way to put it after all. Now, what’s your opinion of my 3:26 post?

  76. Never mind, Ron, you did so at 3:28.

  77. Joe, Warren, Jennifer, Thoreau, et al. Thanks for everyone’s comments. I’ve been wanting to get that “Letter from Birmingham Jail” thing off my chest for a long time.

  78. I admire the man for his commitment to civil rights, and his strategy of using nonviolence to achieve it (and his willingness to sacrifice himself). But let’s not put the man on too high a pedestal, and forget all about his faults.

    The difference between King and all the other flawed people wandering around this planet (libertarians included) is that King did a tremendous amount of good in his life, and remedied some genuinely monstrous injustices. Say whatever else you will about him, the fact remains that he did a hell of a lot more good than most of us.

  79. Another way to put Thoreau’s remark at 3:39 – “So he wasn’t a libertarian. BFD.”

    Which is my feeling.

  80. Anyone else notice the profusion of “Thoreau 3:39” and “Jennifer 3:14”-style citations on this thread? I thought I was in some bible quoting battle for a moment

  81. Jennifer 3:16–For Jennifer so despised the world that she said “I’m not having any goddamned son, and whosoever doubteth in me can kiss my ever-loving ass.”

  82. Quoting my word as scripture? Oh, my. Next thing you know this place will turn into a cult of personality.

  83. Heehee. I like the Book of Jennifer! Speaking of which, St. Jen, are these appropriate analogies to illustrate your earlier point? Took me a long time to work this out, but I think now I see what you mean.

    1. If it were LEGAL for non-whites to eat in a restaurant and a group of people blocked them from entering
    vs. the abortion blockers

    2. If it were ILLEGAL for women to have abortions, and a group of women protested by breaking the law and having them
    vs. the diner sit-in

  84. Linguist, I’m not sure what your last post was saying, but here’s another way to say what I said earlier: the diner sit-ins were deliberately breaking a law which made it illegal for them to do something others were allowed to do, whereas the clinic blockers are preventing someone else from doing something legal which the clinic-blockers think they shouldn’t be allowed to do.

    It’s like the difference between a bunch of people publicly smoking marijuana in hopes of getting arrested, versus a bunch of people preventing another bunch of people from getting medicine which is absolutely legal.

    Now I have a headache.

  85. Jen 3:16

    That’s a good one. Definitely worthy of frequent citing. We should get t-shirts and bumper-stickers.

  86. Forgot to mention: the diner protestors are the people publicly smoking marijuana in hopes of getting arrested, while the clinic-blockers are the ones preventing others from getting legal medications.

  87. Jay,
    We look admiringly at MLK because he did what we consider good. He also did things some people would consider bad. I’d like you to name more than three people who you respect or look up to or consider an icon of libertarianism (or anything for that matter) and tell me they were perfect in that respect. If you can, you probably don’t know enough about them (and I won’t know enough about them to prove you wrong, either; this is just rhetorical).

    I don’t think anybody can embody wholly that which they advocate. People are fallible. If you’re looking for perfection, my limited knowledge points only to Jesus Christ, whose legend is perfect (but likely made up along with the person.)

  88. As a follow up to my previous post, that is way it is safer to judge one’s actions and not the person, themselves. But what is anybody but their actions. Maybe that should be judge the actions and not the cumulative actions taken by someone. Or it could be…

    …my chief weapon is surprise. Surprise and fear. My chief weapons are…Oh, forget it.

  89. “I’d like you to name more than three people who you respect or look up to or consider an icon of libertarianism (or anything for that matter) and tell me they were perfect in that respect.”

    Ayn Rand was perfect. Except when she wasn’t.

  90. Another difference comes to mind: the sit-ins protested because they thought the law was too restrictive; clinic-blockers protest because they think the law isn’t restrictive enough.

  91. OK Jennifer, it’s possible to distinguish the two groups. But why? What is the point?

  92. Warren, I’m just saying that it’s erroneous to say the two groups are equivalent. That’s all.

  93. As Larry David pointed out Jennifer, many more people would join your religion if you had a daughter…worshipping a guy is kind of gay.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  94. You are all racists, especially Julian Sanchez, for working on this sacred day. I hope you die of sickle cell anemia.

  95. joe,

    And it is then that the “consent of the governed” – the ultimate arbiter of legitimacy – comes into play: will the People go along with the protestors and rein in their government, or not?

    A couple of weeks ago you claim that the ultimate arbiter was God and now you claim that its the people. I’m pretty sure its neither.

    Jennifer,

    Why must they be exactly and wholly equivalent? What do you think of war protestors or handicap advocates who barricade or block doors or the like? And its not as if civil rights protestors didn’t barricade doors during the 1960s. There are many examples detailed in the work of Taylor Branch. Oh that’s right, I forgot, you tend to talk out your ass based on limited or no knowledge.

  96. I for one like MLK day — it affords you the opportunity to sit at the fireside in the library of your all-white dinner club sipping Mint Juleps and reading Murray’s & Herrnstein’s ‘Bell Curve’. Ah, there’s nothing like a public holyday!

  97. I’ve decided that there is a significant difference between the two groups, beyond simply that one supports a political goal I dislike and one supported a political goal I admire:

    The actions that got the civil rights protestors in trouble were simply those that a citizen engages in through the normal daily actions of living in our society. Getting a sandwich at a lunch counter. Riding a bus. Walking down the street. They were being arrested for performing actions that are in no legitimate sense criminal.

    The abortion protesters, on the other hand, are being arrested for actions that involve going out of their way to break the law. Blockading buildings. Harrassing people.

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