Saturday, April 26, 2003

I just found a new writer of whom I'm quite fond: Lucas Sayre's Daily Contentions. Check it out -- there's some serious workmanship there (it doesn't hurt that it has two of my three favorite colors for the template).
Ok, I lied: Here's Paul Cella, on the uproar (now entering minute twelve of its fifteen minutes of fame -- can anyone say "steel tariffs"?) over Santorum and his entirely defensible position:

With characteristic brilliance, the framers perceived that such an itemized "free speech" clause (I’ll use that phrase as a shorthand for the bevy of rights encompassed by the First Amendment) would actually injure liberty, not secure it; it would effect not an expansion of individual freedom but a diminution. The reasoning is simple, if counterintuitive: By enumerating precisely what government cannot do, one installs within the very fabric of the Constitution the dangerous assumption that government is authorized to do everything else.
I couldn't say it so well if my life... well, ok, I could say it that well if my life depended on it, but for anything short of that, forget it.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, April 25, 2003

For those of you who, for some benighted reason, read this blog, I'll be gone for a couple of days. Check back in Wednesday.

In the meantime, try your hand in Ben's comments section here. I'm out of this discussion (in part because I've been accused of misrepresentation (of what, I'm not clear), in part because the one guy who argued at any length with me wouldn't even explain the basis of his complaint, in part because I'm tired, in part because Firefly, the My Little Pony, told me to stop... you get the idea). It is, however, a worthwhile discussion, and I commend it highly.

Point taken, Ben.

Best to all, and to any Orthodox (Christians) out there, Happy Easter, assuming I didn't mess up and miss it. (Even then, Happy Easter.)

Thursday, April 24, 2003

This is what 100 megaton warheads are for, kids.
What he said:

You know, after a day of combat and a pretty lousy day at work overall, I really do thank God for little bits of sunshine like this one.
Shameless self-promotion: Fun argument in the comments section here. Join in, please.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

What is his bull$&!#? I'm only 5.2 flipping planets' worth of resources?! I'm easily a whole solar system, dammit!

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

I think this is a neat site. I think. I'm too tired to explore it at length, but my personal suggestion is to stay away from the "Chicks" section.

Hat tip to Jimmy, who, blessedly, is back, for this one.

Semi-related post: What the heck happened to Tacitus?
Neat article, as much for the analysis as the conclusion:

The future of conservatism depends on how these two factions cooperate. Unlike past divisions between conservatives, this division will only increase, because the ethnic diversity within the U.S. keeps increasing, and Israel’s stability in the Middle East keeps declining. What most conservatives do not realize, and are not prepared to address, is that ethnic-related issues are going to be the crucial problem facing them this decade. At the present moment, conservatism appears unified, because the paleocons were not able to thwart the intervention into Iraq, probably because their numbers are still too few. After all, according to a recent ABC news poll, an overwhelming 81% of Americans believe it was right to go to war with Iraq, and 60% believe that it was right even if no weapons of mass destruction are ever found. But resentment is building, and as long as the paleocons are convinced that conservatism has been hijacked, they will not stop their assault.
Read, as they say, the whole thing.
Amen, sister!
Ok, so I was at least partly wrong: Gephardt is screwed:

Rep. Richard Gephardt is staking his presidential ambitions on a plan he says would provide universal health insurance and give the economy a jolt. To pay for the plan, the Missouri Democrat would cancel most of President Bush's tax cuts scheduled to take effect after the next inauguration, on Jan. 20, 2005.

In a speech Wednesday before New York City union members, Gephardt will propose a large infusion of federal money into the system under which most people get their health coverage: through their jobs. Employers receive a tax deduction if they provide health insurance, but the most they can recoup is 34% of total costs. Gephardt would install a tax credit offsetting a flat 60% of costs. And he would require companies to provide or continue offering coverage.
Dick, Dick, Dick: People don't care. Those 46 million, or however many it is, who are uninsured, are: (1) illegal aliens, or (2) people who can make the system work, somehow, either by getting hospitals to accept discounted prices or repayment plans. The poor have Medicaid and Medicare. Everyone else gets by. As the article points out:

It's not clear that health care is what analysts call a ''voting issue,'' one that motivates voters and determines their choice of candidates. Health care generally rates below the economy, terrorism, war-related issues and even declining morality in some polls when people are asked to rank the country's most important problems. And their health care concerns often are focused on the cost of their own insurance or prescription drugs. But Gephardt intends to make health care for everyone a central theme of his campaign.
Brilliant. Be the next John McCain. Please. Indeed, everyone not named "George W. Bush" should be the next John McCain -- because John McCain lost. So push that single idea for all it's worth. Get rave press reviews for your single-minded bravery. Be the toast of the town. Go for it.

Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who!

What Monty Python Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
This response to Senator Santorum has all of the intellectual consistency of toddler babble. And I'm being kind. (It's actually kinda surprising; Silber's usually a lot more on his game than this. Oh, well:)

Here, in case you haven't seen it, is what Santorum said:

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," Santorum, R-Pa., said in the interview, published Monday.
Here is (some of) what Mr. Silber said in response:

First, Santorum, like many others, forgets the crucial difference between whether you have -- and ought to have -- the legal right to commit a certain act, and whether one might not personally view that act as right in a moral sense. They are not the same thing, although a great many people (and all too frequently religious conservatives) act and talk as if they should be one and the same. You might well view a certain act as immoral, but that does not mean that it should be illegal, or that the state should have the right to criminalize it. But assuming that Santorum knows the meaning of the words he speaks -- surely not too high a hurdle for a Senator, is it? -- he believes you should not have the right to commit even adultery, and that the state properly may make adultery a criminal act.

I will refrain from making the obvious point concerning the similarity of such views to those of certain religious zealots who are among our enemies in the war on terror, and rely on you to fill in the dots. (But perhaps I just did make that point. Oh, well.) I've been over this ground at length before, in this post about the Texas case, and follow the links to previous posts on this subject. People who "think" as Santorum does really ought to learn the difference between personal morality and the meaning of individual rights. A consistent recognition of individual rights means that people have the right to act in ways that you may disapprove of morally. So long as such individuals are not violating the rights of anyone else, it is none of your damned business. Is that clear enough?

Insofar as Santorum was saying that the recognition to a right of privacy that encompasses the (negative) right to do dirty things in one's own bedroom would necessarily encompass the (positive) right to force the state to legitimize unions of more than two people, he was committing a logical error. And that was his only mistake.

His broader point is valid, as Mr. Silber concedes in the comments section:

A large part of the problem is state involvement in marriage to begin with. Second, I think the Ninth Amendment, together with the general understanding and historical context at the time of the Constitution's adoption, makes it clear that all rights and powers not specified in the Constitution as given to the govt. belong to the people (or to the states). But I would argue that the "right to be left alone" means that bigamy, polygamy, etc. should not be illegal. (Incest might be a somewhat more difficult case, but I tend to think that, if we're talking about adults, that shouldn't be illegal either.) As I said, though, if all of it were privatized, then adults can make whatever private contractual arrangements they want, the state is kept out of it (except to enforce contracts as it does all the time), and all these issues go away.
I should point out that the idea that the Founding Fathers intended any sort of sodomy to be implied in the panoply of rights lurking beyond the Ninth Amendment is wishful thinking, at best. As for incest, bigamy, and polygamy... they still lynched folks back then, you know.

Did you see anything about adultery in Santorum's quote? I didn't.

As for that twaddle about no laws governing personal behavior that doesn't directly hurt others... hell, this is old ground. You forsake certain liberties by being part of a society. (Read the Preamble to the Constitution some time, instead of just the juicy parts. There's enough there to make most Libertoids' underwear freeze solid in terror.) If society as a whole decides that exercising those liberties negatively impacts society as a whole, and there is no explicit Constitutional provision otherwise forbidding the prohibition of that exercise, then you're S.O.L. Is that clear enough? Don't like the law? Go to the damned legislature. Otherwise, don't yammer about rights hiding somewhere in the Constitution, if you'll just turn around fast enough and yell, "Peekaboo!" (I've always loved the penumbra form of Constitutional interpretation; it's like a Where's Waldo? of new and exciting "rights.")

Put most simply: You have a liberty interest in privacy. You may have a liberty interest in sodomy. The former is to some extent protected by the Constitution. The latter is not. If you don't like the Constitutional restrictions of the state in which you live, move.

Oh, and "I will refrain from making the obvious point concerning the similarity of such views to those of certain religious zealots who are among our enemies in the war on terror, and rely on you to fill in the dots" is the equivalent of the following: HITLER!!! or "If we don't affirmatively state that homosexual sodomy is a protected right, then the terrorists will have won!!" A lot of politicians in the Northeast are in favor of (efficient?) state-run rails; should I therefore, in arguing against their positions, point out that Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini were all in favor of state-run rails?

If someone isn't calling for killing all the Jews, killing all Americans, forcibly converting everyone far and wide to Islam, putting women under terribly unfashionable body wraps, and dropping walls on gays, then equating them to Islamic terrorists is stupid. Is that clear enough?

UPDATE: As usual, Ben Domenech does it one step better -- he even cross referenced it to South Park.

FURTHER UPDATE: Never argue when a smear will do; Jack Balkin once again proves that the left would rather insult than engage (and proves that he deserves less respect with each passing day):

Conservative religious groups used to have the upper hand in the debate over gay rights. But now they have seen the writing on the wall. They are, for the most part, resigned to the Supreme Court's overruling or severely limiting Bowers v. Hardwick. Santorum's comments should be understood in this light. He is giving this feature of right wing politics its last hurrah. Right wing politicians will quickly see that the most overt forms of gay baiting do not work except to an increasingly small number of their constituents, and so they will gradually give up trying to do it. Instead, they will shift to more subtle forms of homophobic appeals, just as they did in the case of race.
(Emphasis added.) I never knew how I felt about not attending Yale Law, until just this moment. I actually feel great.

FINAL UPDATE: Eugene Volokh, though tenderly dipping into the "ick" factor ("if two gay men are constitutionally entitled to have sex (as I think they should be), then adult siblings would similarly be constitutionally entitled to have sex (as I think they should be)") in a way that I suppose makes sense in Blue State Land, nonetheless puts more precisely, and more fairly, Santorum's comments in perspective from a Libertoid point of view.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've read too many men (who aren't from West Virginia, Massachussetts, or the Ozarks) arguing that there's nothing wrong with brother-sister love today to be entirely comfortable closing my eyes tonight, so I'm gonna go back to work now.

ACK, FINAL, FINAL UPDATE: Santorum didn't squirm. Good for him.

Monday, April 21, 2003

I've got the cyanide. Especially for Breslin.
Ben was too kind: The correct title of this article should be Howard Dean seeks meaningful support.

Dean is a leftist, and I mean, we're not talking Bill Clinton's left-lean here, either. He will not be the nominee. He certainly will not be President.

Let's re-cap: America is a right-of-center country. Not, sadly, as right-of-center as I, but certainly not purely centrist, or left-of-center. Want proof? Abortion: We're still uncomfortable with it. We still debate it, and part of why there's broad support for it at all is because folks mistakenly think it's rarer than it is. In left-of-center countries, they treat it as a fait accompli. Taxes: We like lower ones, thank you kindly. The one candidate of whom I can think who ever called for a tax increase became synonymous with political failure. Pick an issue, and we're either right, or right-leaning.


To win a national (presidential) election, one must win over a significant enough plurality of the population to gather the requisite 270 electoral votes. Practically, this means you must gather unto yourself your base (20-25% each of the electorate from the farther ends of the spectrum, depending on which party you're using), and enough of the rest to put you over the top. You must convince that middle 50% -- or, rather, enough of that middle 50% to win -- that your ideas are smart, useful, or, at the very least, very little like Jimmy Carter's. Jimmy Carter had to show that he wasn't Richard Nixon. No problem there, and he (barely) won. (Ford was a stand-in, let's be honest.) Reagan had to show that he wasn't frightening, and that he wasn't Carter. He won. Mondale had to show that rolling over for the Soviets, and hiking taxes, were winning ideas. He lost, and got panned on SNL. Dukakis had to show everyone that every failed Democrat idea of the last two decades was a good one, and his only remaining supporter is a fat guy who lives in the Upper West Side and pretends to be from Flint. Clinton had to prove that he wasn't as patrician and silly as Bush, and that he was willing to execute people for the cameras. He won.

You get the idea. The broad point is that to win the Presidency, you must make yourself tolerable or attractive to a slightly rightist country. It's therefore easier for (light) conservatives to accomplish this than for "moderates" (what are those, anyway?) to do so; "moderates" than liberals; and liberals, than Howard Dean. Carter -- the only avowed liberal in the above recitation -- could only barely win, because he convinced enough folks that, first, he wasn't dangerous (he wasn't McGovern, in other words), and second, he wasn't as crooked as Nixon. Clinton, who wasn't as far left as all that, won because he managed to convince folks that "law and order Democrat" was suddenly possible again. They appealed to the broad middle with vaguely conservative-sounding platforms.

It bears repeating: Howard Dean will never be President, because most Americans will think he's nuts. The same goes for Kucinich, and Sharpton, and Moseley-Braun. They're too far out there for most Americans to be serious about.

Think of it this way: Howard Dean and friends are New Coke. At first, you're shocked they'd even roll out a new model; then you try it. Some people will love it, and will try their damnedest to get everyone else to drink it. Most folks will think it tastes too much like that Pepsi crap, and want the old model back. Now, the question is this: Do the executives at Coca Cola Headquarters -- which is to say, the part of the Democrat party that pushes a favored son to the fore, gambling that he'll be the best standard-bearer -- stick with the new model, for which sales, let's be honest, suck, or go back to the older model, with new packaging?

The question barely deserves a response. No "liberal" will win the Dem nod, especially after 9/11. No "liberal" will be able to convince the American people that Democrats can be trusted with the nation's security. It's why Kerry's an iffy proposition, at best -- you can tell he'd much rather be waving a white flag. A "moderate" in the Clinton mold -- only with a spine -- is the only chance the Dems have.

Much as it hurts me to say this, the Dem primaries will therefore be amusing for only the first few. After that, one of the more moderate liberals will get the party banner, and get trounced by Bush in the general election. Edwards woulda been my bet, but he's not ready for prime-time, and he has no power base: Even the folks in North Carolina don't want to elect him. Gephardt, anyone?

Oh, and by the way. This:

Dean routinely talks about other issues, notably health care; he and his wife are physicians. One of his biggest crowd-pleasing lines is "White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back ought to be voting with us and not [Republicans], because their kids don't have health insurance either, and their kids need better schools, too."
is why the Democrats will remain the ugly girls home alone on Saturday night for a very long time. Treating what used to be your base -- and still represents a large, active voting chunk, as Max Cleland will attest -- like simple-minded children is only gonna end you up in Mondale-land.
Wow, what a surprise.

Yes, I'm mailing it in. Deal.
Oh, dear God, no.

Via MedPundit.

There are days when I wonder if I'm in the wrong damned profession. Or at least on the wrong side.