June 27, 2006

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

from - RSA

I'm always happy to learning something new about the art of deception with numbers. From the most recent White House press briefing, here's Tony Snow:

But, for instance, during the course of the Clinton administration, there were 110 signing statements -- I'm sorry, 105 signing statements, 110 at this point in the Bush administration.

What's interesting about this is that Tony is being just a little bit coy about what he's counting. According to the Boston Globe, Bush has challenged over 750 laws; according to Tony's count, these challenges came in the form of 110 signing statements. How does Clinton compare? His signing statements objected to 140 over his entire eight years.

Posted by RSA at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)

Tuesday

from - smijer

Good morning.

In no particular order:


  • Dave, on Scalia, on the death penalty. Notice Scalia's words: "...the good to be derived from capital punishment — in deterrence, and perhaps most of all in the meting out of condign justice for horrible crimes — outweighs the risk of error." Notice the frame of reference - the "good" from capital punishment is perhaps more a result of simple retribution ("condign justice" according to his flowery misnomer) - than from deterrence. Its appeal to our emotional need for retribution is more important than a result that objectively improves society and protects life. Of course this result is purely illusory with relation to the death penalty - since it is a poor deterrent. Maybe that's why flowery references to our emotional impulses get the bigger role in Scalia's mind.
  • Got a call from a friend in Oregon - he had just seen and been very impressed by a documentary about this. Wanted to know if I was familiar with it. I told him that I remembered reading about it in the paper, but that I've never been to the place the locals call "Whutwull". It's neat that this is still reaching people.
  • Saturday, I listened to the audio of the Pulse Concert on my e-bay special VCD from Singapore. Maybe the 20th time listening or watching. This was the first time I noticed that, at the end of the first disc, in an instrumental number the name of which I can never think of, the long-haired guitarist who isn't Gilmour slips in a line from the Dr. Who theme song. Ha.
  • Hold 'em for Jesus. Ha.
  • Been experiencing site problems. Very befuddling - looks like a name server had the URL mixed up, but even wierder than that in some ways. I won't go into details. Anyway, that's one small part of my absence yesterday.
  • Conversion to Wordpress is sidetracked by too many other projects, but we will get there.

Posted by smijer at 07:32 AM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2006

Cutting and running, eventually

from - RSA

Eventually the U.S. will pull out of Iraq, and all the Republicans who are now accusing Democrats of favoring a "cut and run" strategy will have to perform an awkward flip-flop, saying that while it would have been cowardly to withdraw earlier, it's the honorable thing to do at whatever point we've reached.

Given the Bush administration's history, we have to think that American political considerations (rather than the reality in Iraq) will dominate the decision to withdraw from Iraq, if it happens before Bush leaves office. What are the possibilities for how the withdrawal plays out?

  1. Political pressure builds until Bush feels he has no choice but to start drawing down troops. He takes advantage of some minor piece of good news from Iraq and makes an unexpected announcement.

  2. Political pressure builds until Bush feels he has no choice but to start drawing down troops. He makes an unexpected announcement that commanders on the ground think withdrawal is appropriate.

  3. Bush sets up a set of political, social, and security conditions. As Iraq meets these conditions, troops are withdrawn.

Now, the last option is obviously something that a responsible administration would go for. I think that the first two are much more likely, however. It took me some time to come up with an explanation for why Bush seems unwilling to be explicit about what needs to happen in Iraq for us to leave. I think it's because until that happens, he's stuck saying that we're making incremental progress. If we had conditions against which we could measure progress, it would be much harder to put a happy face on our situation, which might go on for months or years. That would have bad political ramifications, which, after all, are Bush's main concern.

Posted by RSA at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)

Compare and contrast

from - Buck

Take a look at this one from Boortz.

MORE GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ!

A senior al-Qaeda member has been captured in Iraq! Not a freshman, sophomore or junior but a SENIOR member! The insurgency is being crushed.

Now take a look at this one.

Is the insurgency thriving after Zarqawi?

You tell me.

Baghdad is under curfew.

The only place in Iraq with any semblance of safety is the Olive Garden and we are still asked to believe that things are getting better instead of worse.

I can only hope that the current administration is assessing the situation more honestly in private than they are in public.

Posted by Buck at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

Honesty (Is Such a Lonely Word)

from - smijer

I looked for this early yesterday morning, but had to wait until today since Boortz posted late yesterday. Nevertheless, I knew it was coming, as soon as I saw that Rep. Hoestra had prevailed on John Negroponte to declassify "key points" of an intelligence report that echoed the findings of the 2004 Duefler report. Quoth Boortz:

Now a new report from the Pentagon sheds some light on just how many WMDs have been found, and it's a lot. We're not just talking an old Sarin shell here and there. No less than 500 chemical weapons have been found since 2003, according to a recently declassified defense department intelligence report. The weapons are of the mustard gas and Sarin nerve gas variety...nasty stuff.

So why isn't this major breaking news?

Because the WMDs are said to be manufactured before 1991....not in recent years. Therefore, the mainstream media and the Democrats don't count those. For some reason, they want WMDs made in recent years. Evidently the left likes their mustard gas just a little fresher. But that's not the point. This stuff can kill ... but to the left it's harmless.

All that matters is Saddam Hussein was lying when he said he got rid of all his WMDs. He clearly did not. Also, what do you suppose would have happened had Hussein sold some of these WMD's to Islamic terrorists? It wouldn't have been pretty. But this story will be ignored...and the leftist propaganda machine that says Saddam Hussein wasn't a threat will roll on.

Bearing in mind that the 500 munitions (read "shells") found were those buried by troops along the border with Iran during that war, degraded beyond functionality as artillery (though, yes, still chemically potent and therefore dangerous), and forgotten, and Bearing in mind that the Administration's Iraq Survey Group knew about them when issuing the finding that, "While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad’s desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it should WMD be discovered," and bearing in mind that Neal Boortz knows all of this, then my only question is:

Neal, why do you have to be such a liar?

Posted by smijer at 07:26 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

Withdrawal

from - Buck

Well, this went exactly as expected.

"Withdrawal is not an option. Surrender is not a solution," declared Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, who characterized Democrats as defeatists wanting to abandon Iraq before the mission is complete.

Now Richard Armitage says he believes the Iraqis will soon ask the US to leave their country.

Uh-oh. What if that newly formed Iraqi government that we are so proud of tells us to get our shit and go home.

Do you think we would? Would you think we should?

Posted by Buck at 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2006

Freedom versus Book Banning

from - Buck

Can you have it both ways?

Is it really against the law for school board's to ban books from their schools? I thought school boards ultimately made those kinds of decisions.

The longer I live the more confused I get.

Posted by Buck at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)

TennCare on NPR

from - smijer

here, here.

Posted by smijer at 07:42 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2006

Science Video Seminars

from - smijer

Helping the smart get smarter and the dumb feel smart since 2006...
Installment number 1: Examining Natural Selection in Humans. New seminars are published every other week.

Posted by smijer at 08:12 PM | Comments (0)

Love it or leave it

from - Buck

Well, Neal has taken the "if you don't love it, leave it" angle concerning the Dixie Chicks.

People care about patriotism, Natalie, because they love their country.....Natalie --- you have the cash. If you live in a country you can't feel patriotic about, then you can move. Many entertainers have moved overseas. You won't be the first. In the words of my pal Ken Hamblin, pick a better country.

I was reminded of the words of the song "I am a patriot"

I am a patriot And I love my county Because my country is all I know I want to be with my family The people who understand me I've got nowhere else to go

I am not a big fan of patriotism in that it is usually just another word for nationalism and I think that is was Maines is referring to. There is great confusion when people talk about loving their country. If you love your country do you automatically love it's government? Do you automatically agree with all of the policies it enforces via the loaded gun?

Rabbi Sherwin Wine once said,

There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.

The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.

This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies.

My hope is that free men and women who do not love the policies of our government will not leave the country. My hope is that they will stay and help to set it on the right course.

Posted by Buck at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2006

Ups and downs

from - RSA

Froomkin points to a Gallup survey showing that George W. Bush is apparently making Bill Clinton look better in retrospect and George H. W. Bush worse.

(Hmm, can't seem to get the table to display; oh, well, the link is above.)

What I find interesting is the Republican view of Bill Clinton, at a 30% approval. For comparison, that's 12 percentage points below Richard Nixon. Independents and Democrats have a far more positive view, of course.

Posted by RSA at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

A "Warm" Welcome Back

from - smijer

For our resident cynic, here.

Posted by smijer at 08:23 AM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2006

Incremental progress

from - RSA

One thing that Bush emphasizes in his speeches is that we're making progress in Iraq. This may be true, but it really depends on how we measure progress. How should we? I thought I'd try to come up with a reasonable list of concrete, quantitative measures, which would help me see if I'm too pessimistic (or even too optimistic) about the war and its eventual outcome. In my Web search, though, I ran across an article from the Weekly Standard, by Robert Kagan and William Kristol, which slightly derailed my search. Here's a sample:

We may have turned a corner in terms of security. . .

This administration did not do a particularly good job of preparing for postwar Iraq before the invasion, and it has not always made the right decisions on how to proceed politically, diplomatically, and militarily in the reconstruction of Iraq. . . But the most important thing the administration has done is to make clear, both in word and in deed, its determination to see our mission in Iraq completed.

This article was written in March, 2004, a year after the invasion and, of course, well over two years ago. It's obvious that the same people are saying the same thing about Iraq and will probably continue to do so indefinitely. Nowadays they may add, "It's slow going."

This answer has become (actually, it's always been) unsatisfactory. Are we making progress? Are we losing ground? I want the President to tell us what we should look at to understand the situation.

Posted by RSA at 05:01 PM | Comments (0)

Numbers

from - RSA

When I read the White House press briefings, sometimes I just get mad:

Q: Tony, American deaths in Iraq have reached 2,500. Is there any response or reaction from the President on that?

MR. SNOW: It's a number, and every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something.

I can't help thinking that someone who begins a response that way ("it's a number") has a problem with empathy. That number is the sum of individual deaths; for the guys who put the soldiers in harm's way, it should be much more than a number. (To be fair, Snow does go on to praise the soldiers in Iraq later in his answer.) And the second part of Snow's sentence ("people want something") is also tremendously dismissive. What people want, I expect, is for fewer Americans to be dying in Iraq. That's a very important "something" that shouldn't be lumped in with everything else.

Posted by RSA at 02:38 PM | Comments (0)

A week off....

from - Buck

is followed by an off week.

It is hard trying to get back into the swing of things after a vacation. That is true every year as far as I am concerned. Things pile up on the work front and the home front and I have spent days feeling like a lost explorer in the deep, dark jungle hacking my way through with a dull machete.

I have tried to catch up on some of my blog reading and I found this classic poem by Buddy Don. It sums up the ho-hum death of Zarqawi perfectly

So many turning points have come before –
Are we marching in circles through this war?

When I heard the news of Zarqawi's death it was announced by a disc jockey blasting out tunes around a swimming pool. So many of the vacationers pumped their fists and immediately started dancing to the timeless classic "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue".

Hey Uncle Sam Put your name at the top of his list And the Statue of Liberty Started shakin' her fist And the eagle will fly Man, it's gonna be hell When you hear Mother Freedom Start ringin' her bell And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you Brought to you Courtesy of the Red White and Blue

When I heard these words and thought of the tens of thousands who have been killed or maimed during the current debacle in the desert I could not help but wonder what there was to sing, laugh and dance about.

So I went back up to my room and spent the rest of the afternoon on the balcony staring out across the vast ocean.

That always puts things into their proper perspective.


Posted by Buck at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)

Quote of the Day

from - smijer

I'm an inerrantist -- I believe in the word of God -- I'm just not mad about it. - Frank Page [incoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention]

I think if you haven't been inside the SBC culture, you may not realize the full meaning and humor behind this statement... but if your background is like mine, it will make you laugh.

I grew up Southern Baptist - I have memories from age twelve or earlier - of being confused over why the pastor was so incensed over the existence of "moderate" baptists; why so proud that our church and neighboring congregations with whom we once joined in some sort of mini-convention (I have only the vaguest recollection of it... I remember green walls and a series of boring and ineloquent speakers) were Southern Baptists, and not just any old kind. This was during the early Reagan years. Page seems to have very strong conservative credentials, but those opposed to him call him a moderate in sheeps clothing. That he won the job in spite of this criticism may be a sign of hope that the hard-core fundamentalism of the SBC is slipping.

Interestingly cited as a reason for Page's success was online activism from Baptist bloggers. Curious about what Baptist Bloggers blog? Check out their blog aggregator.

Posted by smijer at 07:23 AM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2006

Work thoughts

from - RSA

I think I have a great job, but I can only dream of one like this. . .

Me: After a three year investigation, it turns out that I'm not going to be indicted.

Boss: I trust you implicitly.

Hmm. . .

Posted by RSA at 05:08 PM | Comments (0)

Danger in DC

from - RSA

Representative King is yet again explaining how the average citizen is safer in Iraq than in Washington, DC. Some explain that he's lying with statistics, but I prefer more direct responses:

  • Truthful contradiction: I've walked the streets of DC many times, day and night, and have felt entirely safe, but I've never been in Bagdad without being shot at.

  • Testing of implications: George W. Bush wears a flak jacket for a five hour visit to Iraq. Does he wear a bullet-proof jockstrap when he jogs in more-dangerous DC?

  • Total agreement: With 150,000 American soldiers in Iraq, it damn well better be safer than DC!

Posted by RSA at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

Mehlman

from - smijer

Onegoodmove has Ken Mehlman on the Daily Show. I don't think that Ken meant for it to come out that way.

Posted by smijer at 08:15 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2006

Yellow Deli

from - smijer

I don't want to be part of a witch hunt, if that's what this is... but taking it for what it's worth - here's a former insider's account of the Yellow Deli/Twelve Tribes group, which seems to be coming back home to roost.

Posted by smijer at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

I Don't Like PHP but...

from - smijer

I am very seriously considering taking RW's advice. Without upgrading to the not-free Movable Type 3.?, I will continue to fight the spam wars from a disadvantage. Those internal sever errors you get when you post a comment (and that we get when we add a post)? I'm sick of them. I think the Berkley database system, combined with a somewhat weak host server are the culprits. I could re-configure Movable Type to work with MySQL, but it would be hard, and what if it didn't work?

So, I've installed Wordpress 2.0.3 and I'm in the process, between working on my other projects, of installing the needed plugins, and going through the laborious proecess of reproducing the site themes. Meantime, I've registered a new URL, reflective of the fact that this site isn't just "smijer" any longer.

I won't be porting all of the archives to WordPress. I see no point in it, and I don't wish to kill links to the old pages. So, the MT version of the blog will continue as an archive.

If you don't want to read (or write, Buck & RSA) t-t-t on Wordpress, now's the time to register your objections.

(P.S. I just looked at the default template file for the page header alone on the WP dashboard... did I mention that I dislike PHP?)

Posted by smijer at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2006

Sequels are never any good

from - RSA

I was against U.S. involvement in the Gulf War, back in 1990. Was I stupid? Looking back, fifteen years later, I don't think so (though I have gone back and forth in my opinion). My objections to it, now, are pretty easy to see as implications of the so-called law of unintended consequences. Basically, the idea is that if the U.S. hadn't gone into Kuwait, there would have been a downside for not having backed an ally, but it wouldn't have been nearly as bad as what has actually happened years later.

First the hypothetical downside:

  • America's international reputation suffers.
  • America's foreign policy becomes more constrained in response.
  • Americans pay more for gas.
  • A foreign despot in the Middle East increases in strength and influence.

I'll grant that I'm not especially knowledgeable about history, but I see an obvious pattern here, except perhaps for the last point (which I'll argue is pretty much inevitable no matter what we do).

What about unintended consequences? Here's one: According to Wikipedia, "[A]s of the year 2000, 183,000 Gulf War veterans, more than a quarter of the troops who participated in the War, have been declared permanently disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs." The other consequences that I have in mind are more psychological. What lessons did George W. Bush and his cronies learn from the Gulf War?

  • It's easy to line up an international coalition for a war in the Middle East. Not so much.

  • A war doesn't need to cost much, and the burden can be spread around internationally. Not so much.

  • A war can be won quickly and easily, with few casualties. Not so much.

  • The people in a war zone will be grateful to the soldiers. Some, but not all.

  • The American people will stand behind a man who stays the course. I do think this is true, but the underlying assumption is that the man is not a lying dunce.

I'm sure it would be possible to construct a very long list of comparisons of what went right in Desert Storm and what went wrong in Iraqi Freedom, but it would be a bit depressing.

Posted by RSA at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

We'll All Be Gray...

from - smijer

...when Johnny Comes Marching Home.

Posted by smijer at 07:43 AM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2006

Pure narcissism

from - RSA

Here's a funny thing: It turns out I have the second best job in America. Okay, not me, but college professors in general. I wouldn't disagree with CNN Money's overall rating, but I don't really know what the component grades mean.

  • Stress: B. If a 'B' means low stress, it's not quite accurate. There's a reason the phrase "Publish or perish" has come into being. These days it should probably be expanded as follows: "Publish or perish. Get funding or perish. Graduate students or perish."

  • Flexibility: A. I even have time to contribute to this blog.

  • Creativity: A. Modesty prevents my saying more. Cough, cough. Actually, creativity is in the eye of the beholder; I'd bump this down a notch or two. Some professors are creative, while others just do the job.

  • Difficulty: C. Is a 'C' high or low difficulty? I can see many, many people doing the job I do, but having to spend the greater part of a decade in school after an undergraduate degree is a high entry bar.

What I really do is better described here, though. The job market aside, I really do think I have the best job in the world; I'd add Fun: A to the list.

Posted by RSA at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)

Watada

from - smijer

This is a tough one.

Ehren Watada is refusing to go to Iraq, because he believes that will make him a party to a crime.

What happens now?

Well, now comes the debate over whether a soldier has the right to refuse service under circumstances like this. Peace activists will hold him up on their shoulders while Ann Coulter and company will be calling for him to be executed as a deserter. Joe Sixpack will maybe see him as a coward and be turned off toward peace efforts because the oganizers support Watada. And, at the end of the day, almost no one will debate whether a soldier has a right to refuse participation in a war he or she deems illegal.

If I'm in the Pentagon at this point, and am respectful of Watada's position, but worried about army discipline, I transfer him to a unit deploying to Afghanistan, where Watada has indicated he does not believe military action is/was illegal. But, that's a pragmatic solution, not an answer to the ethical dilemma. If a soldier cannot refuse orders on the basis Wataba claims, then "following orders" must become a valid defense in war crime trials. If he can, then we are left trusting the troops themselves to keep troop discipline without threat of court martial.

My gut says the latter is the preferable outcome, but like I said - it's a tough one. It would be interesting to hear reasoned thoughts from both sides of this emerging debate.

Posted by smijer at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2006

Radio rage

from - RSA

I heard Senator James Inhofe (R, OK) on the radio yesterday. He was talking about whether Senate hearings should be held on the incident in Haditha in which U.S. Marines are suspected of having killed 24 unarmed Iraqis. To quote Inhofe:

But Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, who has backed the war, said, "It gives some justification or some credibility to some of the lies that have been told by people who are just anti-war. I think they're rejoicing in this."

I was briefly infuriated. "People who are just anti-war": well, I'm one of them, at least for the case of this ill-conceived preemptive war. So I'm a member of a group that has told lies about the war? And I'm rejoicing over the deaths of 24 people? I know that Inhofe is, technically speaking, a nutcase (he holds, for example, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict " is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.") but it's still hard to make allowances. Have they run out of attics in Oklahoma? Doesn't the Bible have something to say about beams and motes and such?

Posted by RSA at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

Republican strategery

from - RSA

Senate Republicans have a strategy for charging up their base in the upcoming fall elections: schedule votes on hot-button items that are, realistically speaking, guaranteed to fail. From the Houston Chronicle:

Neither the same-sex marriage nor the flag-burning proposals are expected to win the two-thirds votes in both chambers of Congress needed to get the issues to the state legislatures. Nevertheless, the Republicans hope that their efforts will motivate a key constituency that needs to turn out in force at the polls in the November elections if the party is to retain control of Congress.

So let me get this straight. You completely ignore an issue while you're governing, but when it becomes likely that you might not be able to stay in power, you suddenly bring the issue up to show that it's important to you, even if there's no chance you'll get your way with it? How convincing is that? This maneuvering strikes me as a "Stop me before I do something stupid" policy: if they thought that Constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and burning flags were worthwhile on their own merits, they would have tried a bit harder and a bit earlier to get them passed.

Despite some misgivings about this approach to electioneering, Republican strategists seem to think it will make their base happy. I, on the other hand, suspect it will only appeal to a small number of people. I have a suggestion, however. Flag burning, gay marriage, abortion, and school prayer may not be issues that enough voters think are important to make a big difference in their voting. What Republicans need to do, following the strategy of making proposals that sound good but are guaranteed to fail, is to broaden the appeal. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Propose that every U.S. citizen should be sent a check for $1,000,000 from the government. Who wants to turn down free money?
  • Propose that every day be Christmas Day. Got to have opportunities to spend that money. And Christmas makes everyone happy, except perhaps for nonChristian malcontents.
  • Propose that peace reign on earth. The only constituencies they'd be neglecting would be prize fighters and people who watch Jerry Springer.

A party that made these kinds of proposals would be worth watching.

Posted by RSA at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2006

National Anthem Chattanooga Remix

from - smijer

I'm very proud of my hometown, and the people in it. So, join me in laughing with, this member of Chattanooga's Finest (video link), via WDEF channel 12 news.

Posted by smijer at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

Cool Stories

from - smijer

I just found my copy of UU World that came in the mail a few weeks back. Some seriously interesting stories in it...

This one, for instance

And this one...

For UU's mainly, but good thoughts...

and maybe a little flaky, but still thought-provoking, if only as a jumping off place.

Artsy stuff.

Much more. This was a good issue.

Posted by smijer at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

Mawwiage

from - smijer

Priest.jpg

You come from many backgrounds and faith traditions, yet united in this common belief: Marriage is the most fundamental institution of civilization...

For ages, in every culture, human beings have understood that marriage is critical to the well-being of families. And because families pass along values and shape character, marriage is also critical to the health of society. Our policies should aim to strengthen families...


The words of someone supportive of the institution of marriage? Someone who is getting ready to make a move to strengthen families?

No, someone working to ban some marriages, and weaken some families.

Why?

"This national question requires a national solution. And on an issue of such profound importance, that solution should come not from the courts, but from the people of the United States."

Because the courthouse shouldn't have any say in marriage (tell that to Dolly Parton). It's true that "the people" should make most of the decisions regarding marriage... but when one is talking about who is or is not empowered to participate in this "most fundamental institution of civilization", it helps to remember that "the people" is not the same thing as "the majority". To give the power of exclusion to the majority of the people is to silence the minority, and remove that part of "the people" from the decision-making process. And, in this case that means that the very people who will be affected by the decision are the ones who have no part in making it. It happened once before, and the activist judges did the right thing. They gave back to the minorities being affected a voice in their own destiny. And today, as a result, there are many strong families living in America.

I suppose I treat this too seriously. The amendment won't pass. It's just an attempt to manipulate the conservative base prior to an election - gee when did this happen before? But I believe that we must remind people that they are undermining both democracy and families by attempting to institutionalize exclusion, so we can get past this - so that 50 years from now our nation will no longer be mired in this effort, no longer sullied by it. So that 50 years from now, no prominent politician will run on a platform of overturning the marriage rights being considered today, just as no prominent politician will run on a platform of overturning the marriage rights that were before the court in Loving v. Virginia. So that our same-sex neighbors will no longer appear to us as the bogeyman; instead, they will be a source of strength to our communities for which we will all (or most all) be grateful.

Posted by smijer at 07:57 AM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2006

Storming the Beach

from - Buck

Okay guys and gals. I'm on my way to Myrtle Beach for a week. The air conditioner broke down in my car yesterday so it is off to the beach with one of those automobile fans attached to the dashboard.

It was either that or $200.00 for a rental.

I will fill like I am driving to the beach in a trash truck.

I'll check back in with ya'll on the 12th!

Posted by Buck at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2006

Press zingers

from - RSA

I couldn't help laughing at the last exchange between the new White House press secretary, Tony Snow, and a reporter:

MR. SNOW: I understand, but you're asking me to respond -- April, I can't help you. I haven't seen it.

Q You haven't been able to help me since you've been here.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: All right, thank you, Steve.

Posted by RSA at 05:43 PM | Comments (0)

Louisiana Pro-Life Legislature Doesn't Think Abortion is Murder...

from - smijer

...so they write a bill to punish providers with up to 10 years + $100,000. Those who hire the providers to carry out the deed get off scott free.

Posted by smijer at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

No soup for you!

from - RSA

Tapped has today been filled with posts about the allocation of terrorism preparation funds: mainly away from DC and New York and toward smaller cities like Charlotte, NC, and St. Louis, MI. The Times gives an explanation from the Department of Homeland Security as follows, for the case of New York City:

The federal agency distributing $711 million in antiterrorism money to cities around the nation found numerous flaws in New York City's application and gave poor grades to many of its proposals.

New York's funding was cut by 40%. While there are good arguments to be made for and against allocating money to smaller potential terrorism targets, it's plausible to ask whether politics had a role to play. The process was described as being objective, involving peer review, and drawing on models of risk constructed by experts. I'll be watching the news for the next few days. If the process was really as open as the DHC claims, it should be possible to understand why they reached the results they did.

I have my doubts, given the Bush administration's opinion of openness and accountability. Here's the thing: One of the arguments the DHS makes against giving New York and DC more funding is that their proposals for using the funding were flawed. But it should be obvious that in the evaluation of the risks of terrorism, there are both problems and solutions. If you think that a problem is very dangerous and a proposed solution is inadequate, then one possibility is that funding should be granted to improve the solution. Let's take an extreme hypothetical case: next year New York City forgets about the deadline for submitting proposals for antiterrorism funding, and at the very last minute submits a single paragraph written in crayon on a page torn out of a notebook. A totally shabby proposal. Based on what seem to be the DHS's criteria, that should count significantly against New York's getting funding. But that doesn't seem right. Even if New York and DC's proposals were not well-conceived, that just the kind of issue that an influx of funding could address.

Posted by RSA at 12:14 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2006

Honestly, now

from - RSA

I caught a bit of a radio show on NPR yesterday, in which various people were talking about the new pick for Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson. One of the external talking heads said something that gave me a double-take. Here's a close paraphrase:

The President and the Treasury Secretary will regain credibility by being honest about the good and bad of the economy.

What struck me is a basic assumption underlying this prediction: What kind of person can be expected to regain credibility simply by being honest? This is the kind of thing said about people who have lost credibility through dishonesty--and it seems to be taken completely for granted about our President. It's sad.

Posted by RSA at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)