Archive for February, 2009

A Possible Compromise on SSM

February 22, 2009

David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch have written the following proposal in the New York Times

[W]e agree that the time is ripe for a deal that could give each side what it most needs in the short run, while moving the debate onto a healthier, calmer track in the years ahead.

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

(HT Dale Carpenter at Volokh)

I think their proposal is a good start, but it misses out on one of the key issues of this debate, which is a due respect for democracy, and opposition to judicial trampling of the rule of law.  So I offer the following proposal:

  1. For the purpose of the Act, the phrase “Same Sex Union” shall be taken to refer to Same Sex Civil Unions and to Same Sex Marriages.
  2. Whereas no State Constitution currently in existence actually grants a right to any sort of Same Sex Union, and Whereas the Federal Constitution does not grant such rights either, nothing in the rest of this Act shall apply to Civil Unions or Marriages awarded in States where the Courts forced the State to create or recognize any kind of Same Sex Union.  Same Sex Unions from such States will continue to be covered by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
  3. If a State where the State Supreme Court has ruled that the State Constitution required / recognized Same Sex Unions wants its Same Sex Unions to be covered by this act, then either the State Supreme Court must first reverse the ruling that created Same Sex Unions, and issue a final judgment saying that the State Constitution does not require the State to honor, recognize, or create any sort of Same Sex Union, or a State Constitutional Amendment must be passed that overturns the State Supreme Court’s ruling creating the Same Sex Unions, and the State Supreme Court must have acknowledged that Constitutional Amendment as being superior to its previous ruling.  After that is done, any Same Sex Unions created by the proper democratic process will be eligible to be covered by this Act (pursuant to part 6 of this Act).
  4. Non-severability and non-reviewability:  Per article 3, Section 2 of the US Constitution, this law is not appealable to State or Federal Courts.  If any part of this Act is struck down, for any reason, then the entire Act becomes null and void, and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act resumes being the law of the land with respect to Federal and State recognition of Same Sex Unions.
  5. Federal Religious Freedom and Liberty: Neither the IRS, nor any other element of the Federal Government, may deny tax exemption, the awarding of contracts, or any other government benefit to religious organizations that refuse to support, honor, or otherwise recognize Same Sex Unions, nor may any element of the Federal Government grant any benefits to any organization because of that organization’s support for or recognition of Same Sex Unions.
  6. State Religious Freedom and Liberty: States that wish their Same Sex Unions to be recognized under this Act must have laws in effect that prohibit any element of the State government from punishing a religious group for refusing to acknowledge, honor, or support Same Sex Unions, and that prohibit any element of the State government from rewarding any organization because of that organization’s support for or recognition of Same Sex Unions.  In particular, no religious adoption agency may be forced or required to place children with unmarried couples, or required to consider same sex couples to be married (even if the State has granted that couple a marriage license).
  7. Federal Civil Unions: Same Sex Unions awarded by States that meet the above criteria will be considered Federal Civil Unions.  The members of such Unions will be entitled to the same Social Security survivor benefits, tax-free inheritance, spousal immigration rights and protection against mutual incrimination in Federal Court that they would be eligible to receive if they were married to a partner of the opposite sex.

(Note: Article 3, Section 2 of the US Constitution says “In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”  This implies that Congress can keep the Courts for meddling in an issue, and is the basis for part 4.)

This is a compromise I could, and would, support.  It would get the judiciary out of an issue where it has no business, place SSM in the political arena (which is where it belongs), and give same sex couples the chance to have the government benefits of marriage, without giving gay activists a club they can use to pummel those who disagree with them.

This last bit is, of course, the reason why gay activists will oppose my proposed compromise: they don’t really give a damn about getting “married”, they’re simply looking for a club to use against those who disagree with them.

While I’d be happy to be proved wrong about that, I’m not going to hold my breath.

Megan McArdle misses the point

February 17, 2009

Megan has some interesting comments on how we measure poverty

Interestingly, the argument I had with Dean Baker over makework jobs is a mirror image of the debate over the poverty rate, in which conservatives “prove” that there’s no such thing as poverty because we really spend quite a lot on poor people, and liberals point out that it still sucks to be poor.

Again, this is fundamentally a debate over what we’re trying to measure. If the poverty rate is supposed to be a measure of how many people are trying to live on the puny incomes that fall beneath the line, then of course conservatives are right: it doesn’t measure that very well…

But the poverty measure also measures something else: how many people in the United States are unable (for whatever reason) to secure the basics of life for themselves without substantial government aid. If we include government aid, we are in danger of obscuring that important figure, because we will be measuring variations in government aid as well as variations in the underlying economy. [bold mine]

All well and good. But the liberals typically turn around and use the “poverty rate” as an excuse for more government aid. And that’s cheating. If you’re going to argue for more government aid because it sucks to be poor, then you have to start out with an honest assessment of of the status of the poor. And to get that, you need to include the value of thei government and private aid that they’re already receiving.

People who don’t believe in genetics

February 10, 2009

Henry Ferrel at Crooked Timber is babbling about “gender justice”. He does an interesting study with his students

1. Are you male, or female. (If you’re not sure, just pick one, if you reject the question, sit out the exercise).
2. During your teen years did you get paid to do babysitting more than 10 times?
3. Do you anticipate having children? If not, sit this out.

Here are three kinds of parenting arrangement.
A)Father led parenting: the father spends substantially more time than the mother looking after the children and thinking about their wellbeing over the course of their childhoods
B)Mother led parenting: the mother spends substantially more time than the father looking after the children and thinking about their wellbeing over the course of their childhoods
C)Egalitarian parenting: the mother and father spend roughly the same amount of time looking after the children and thinking about their wellbeing.

4. Think just about yourself for the moment. Which of A, B, and C best characterizes your expectations for your prospective family life.
5. Now think about your FIVE best friends. Which of A, B, and C best characterizes your expectations for most of their family lives? (eg, you expect 3 or more of them to be Father-led, answer A).

…But for 4 and 5 I get almost exactly the same numbers almost every time. Here they are.

4. Boys: A 0%; B 85%; C 15% Girls A 10%; B 25%; C 65%
5. Boys: A 0%; B 85%; C 15% Girls A 0%; B 75%; C 25%

Unfortunately, he displays his complete cluelessness with the following remark:

I only recently added question 2), so I have less confidence about the answers to that one than the others. The one time I’ve done that in a large class, about 5% of the boys answered “yes”, whereas about 65% of the girls did. (The point of that question is abut socialisation, which has a key role in Okin’s argument).

This inspired the following comment from me.  Since they moderate their comments, i’m not holding my breathe waiting for it to get posted:

Gosh, or it could be that, even as girls, females are more interested in “caring” rolls that guys are.

Ask a 13 year old boy or a 13 year old girl the following question: would you rather do yard work at $5 / hour, or babysit at $5 / hour? What do you think the distribution of answers will be? Is that because they’ve been “socialized” differently, or is it because males and females are different, both physiologically and psychologically?

It’s a never ending source of amusment for me how leftists claim to believe in “science”, except when it gets in the way of their politics. Men and women are inherently, genetically, different. Women have two X Chromosomes. Men have one X Chromosome, and one Y Chromosome,. The Y Chromosome, has genes on it that don’t appear on the X Chromosome,. While most of the genes on one of a woman’s X Chromosomes will get inactivated (each cell gets to chose which X will be inactivated), not all are. Furthermore, hormones affect which genes are active, and are known to affect how we think / act. And men and women have different hormones active in their bodies, in different concentrations.

You can lie to people, you can play games with people. You can try to indotrinate them with your fantasies as to how life should be. But not matter what games you play, reality still gets a vote. And the reality is that the major differences between men and women aren’t caused by “socialization”, and they aren’t just “social constructs”. Until you and your co-fantasists are willing to accept that, “gender justice” will remain a sad and pathetic joke.

Comment on Eugene Volokh’s comment on the Federal DoMA

February 5, 2009

Eugene Volokh commented

I like the idea of giving same-sex spouses the same health benefits as opposite-sex spouses; and I support same-sex marriage as a policy matter. But it seems to me that these claims that the law lacks a “rational basis” are not sound. The principle behind the Defense of Marriage Act — and nearly all states’ recognition of opposite-sex marriage but not same-sex marriages — is that (1) heterosexual relationships are better for society than homosexual ones, and that the (2) government’s preferring same-sex marriages in a wide range of contexts will tend to reinforce that norm among the public. I’m skeptical of both these claims, but I don’t think they can be said to be irrational, or animated by a “bare desire to harm”: Many critics of same-sex marriages genuinely believe (even if in my view ultimately wrongly) that specially fostering heterosexual relationships is indeed materially better for society than treating heterosexual and homosexual relationships equally — their desire is to try to help society (even if this in the process means excluding some groups for benefits), not “bare[ly]” “to harm” people.

I had the following comment:

So, I’ve now read, or at least glanced at, every single comment to this post. And I can’t find a single person willing to try to claim that there is any actual evidence that homosexual relationships benefit society the way heterosexual ones do.

You want your “rational basis”? Fine, here it is:

The is a large pool of studies showing that heterosexual marriages benefit society. The result in better children (children who do better in school, have better criminal records, and do better in life), and in better parents (in particular, marriage matures men, and makes them less reckless, and less criminal). That is why society rewards heterosexual marriage, and that is why it should continue to do so.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no such studies showing the same for homosexual marriages / civil unions. Until such studies are produced, there is no reason to believe that homosexual marriages provide the same benefits to society as heterosexual marriages.

In short, it would be contrary to rationality to give SSMs the benefits of of heterosexual marriage, unless and until valid studies are produced to show that SSMs provide society the same benefits as to heterosexual marriages.

Yet another “scientific” whore caught in the act

February 4, 2009

So much for the bullshit about “hundreds of thousands of excess Iraqi casualties”:

In a highly unusual rebuke, the American Association for Public Opinion Research today said the author of a widely debated survey on “excess deaths” in Iraq had violated its code of professional ethics by refusing to disclose details of his work. The author’s institution later disclosed to ABC News that it, too, is investigating the study

AAPOR, in a statement, said that in an eight-month investigation, Gilbert Burnham, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “repeatedly refused to make public essential facts about his research on civilian deaths in Iraq.”

Hours later, the school itself disclosed its own investigation of the Iraq casualties report “to determine if any violation of the school’s rules or guidelines for the conduct of research occurred.” It said the review “is nearing completion.”

Both AAPOR and the school said they had focused on Burnham’s study, published in the October 2006 issue of the British medical journal the Lancet, reporting an estimated 654,965 “excess deaths” in Iraq as a result of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. An earlier, 2004 report, in which Burnham also participated, estimated approximately 98,000 excess deaths to that point.

Sounds like another Michael Bellesiles

Silly boy, liberals don’t have principles, only politics

February 2, 2009

A heartening story from England:

A protestor threw a shoe at the Chinese Prime Minister as he spoke at Cambridge University, marring an official visit to Britain.
The insult mimicked that of an Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoe at George Bush while the American President was speaking in Baghdad.
The shoe landed a metre away from Premier Wen Jiabao, who is on a five day tour to Europe which has been dogged by free-Tibet demonstrations.
The protestor screamed: “This is a scandal.”
He was then bundled out of the concert hall by university security staff.
As he was dragged out he shouted: “How can the university prostitute itself with this dictator?”

Easy.

  1. They’re academics, prostituting themselves is what they do.
  2. They’re left-wingers / “liberals”.  They have no principles, just politics.  So what if China is destroying the environment, oppressing Tibet, torturing and killing prisoners, killing people with tainted products, and doesn’t allow free speech, or political freedom?  China’s an opponent to America.  Nothing else matters.

Nice to know SOMEONE is paying attention

February 2, 2009

Too bad it’s Adrian Nathan of IndiaDaily

It is easy to project yourself as a clean politician after making your debut in South Side Chicago with buddies like Rahm Emanuel. US president Obama has appointed more than 17 lobbyists after talking big on anti-lobbyist Governance and rooting corruption out of the American Government.

Dreams are dreams. Facts are facts. President Obama is surrounded by corrupt lobbyists ready to sell America cheap. One good silver lining – if Obama Adminsitration’s corruption index is 10, Bush Administration’s was 95. [Got to love the obligatory, and totally bullshit, Bush bashing here. Of course, Adrian doesn't actually give any examples if this Bush corruption]

Take the example of the newest exposure of doubletalk from Obama! After calling for clean Governance, he appoints a Treasury Secretary who “forgot” to pay for his ‘business tax’ for years! Tom Daschle, a top lobbyist in Washington, who has amended his U.S. tax forms to pay back taxes with interest, is now Obama’s best choice for America’s chief health official.

Just imagine the kinds of stories an American journalist who cared about doing his or her job could write!

The WSJ is on target, too:

The Washington Post reports that Mr. Daschle has earned more than $5 million over the past two years, including $220,000 from the health-care industry he’s been nominated to regulate. Capitalism is wonderful, but at the very least Mr. Daschle’s record strips the veneer from President Obama’s moralizing that lobbying and special interest pleading are the root of all evil in Washington. In appointing Mr. Daschle, Mr. Obama is showing that lobbying is fine as long as it is done by people who agree with him.

My favorite comment on all this comes from Tom Maguire:

Obama’s emerging deficit-reduction strategy – keep nominating wealthy Dems to top posts and watch the back taxes flow in

The Generosity of Democrats

February 2, 2009

I love this revealing comment by an utterly brain-dead twit named Denise Williams

My opinion remains mostly unchanged due to one main reason learned long and hard in the Clinton administration. No matter what you offer, no matter how many concessions you make, you’ll never get Republican Congresscritters on your side. Keep offering face-to-face meetings in the Oval, cocktail parties and Super Bowl get togethers, but you’ll change nary a vote. Anything else is naivete.

Note what Denise is not willing to offer: substantive changes in the contents of the bill.  See, Denise is one of The Elect.  A person who possesses the One True Way.  So Denise couldn’t possibly offer a change in the bill.  What Denise wants is right, what you want is wrong.  No compromise is possible.  Or, rather, “compromise” is you giving up what you want.

Hey Denise, remember Welfare Reform?  Remember “triangulation”?  Clinton got Republican votes when he was willing to work with the Republicans, not just wine and dine them.  You enjoy the next two years, while the Democrats have the House, Senate, and White House.  Just like they did in 1993 and 1994.

Great news from President Obama

February 2, 2009

Jake Taper has the following to report:

President Obama had a one word answer when asked today if he still supports Tom Daschle, his pick for Secretary of HHS, in light of his tax problems.

“Absolutely,” the president replied.

Obama spoke briefly at the top of his meeting in the Oval Office with Republican Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont about the need to pass the economic stimulus package, even amid some dissent.

“There are still some differences between Democrats and Republicans on the Hill, between the White House and some of the products that’s been discussed on the Hill,” Obama said, “But what we can’t do is let very modest differences get in the way of the overall package moving forward quickly.”

So, we now know two things:

  1. It’s really not all that important to pay your taxes, and the Obama Administration will not go heavily after tax cheats.
  2. The Democrats will be accepting all of the Republicans’ proposed changes to the “stimulus” bill. After all, the differences are “very modest”, and there’s no reason for them to “get in the way of the overall package moving forward quickly.” So the Democrats should have no problem with gibing the Republicans everything they want.

Happy days are here again!

Disillusionment, your time is now

February 2, 2009

Darren Lenard Hutchinson is disillusioned by “Human Rights Watch’s” response to the Obama Administration’s plans to continue rendering prisoners to foreign countries, where the other countries can torture them / imprison them without having to prove they’re guilty of anything. It’s kind of funny to watch:

Human Rights Watch, a very respected and passionate defender of civil liberty, was one of the most vocal critics of the CIA’s rendition program. In fact, Human Rights Watch prepared a comprehensive document that reports incidents of alleged torture of rendered individuals. The report makes the following policy recommendations:

The US government should:

Repudiate the use of rendition to torture as a counterterrorism tactic and permanently discontinue the CIA’s rendition program;

Disclose the identities, fate, and current whereabouts of all persons detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001, including detainees who were rendered to Jordan; [Emphasis mine]

Repudiate the use of “diplomatic assurances” against torture and ill-treatment as a justification for the transfer of a suspect to a place where he or she is at risk of such abuse;

Make public any audio recordings or videotapes that the CIA possesses of interrogations of detainees rendered by the CIA to foreign custody;

Provide appropriate compensation to all persons arbitrarily detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody (emphasis added).

Human Rights Watch rightfully opposed the practice of torture by the Bush administration, but it also demanded the cessation of rendition and that victims of the practice receive compensation.

The part I highlighted shows, I think, everything you need to know about Human Rights Watch and their “opposition” to rendition. Because there’s only one reason to limit the report to “all persons detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001.” And that’s because they just don’t care about the people “rendered” by the Clinton Administration.

Just Don’t Care.

They didn’t care while the Clinton Administration was doing it, didn’t care about those people even though the Bush Administration was using their fate as one of the justifications for the Rendition program that HRW was attacking, and don’t care about the people the Obama Administration will render to other countries. What HRW cares about is scoring political points against Republicans, nothing else matters.

The same is true of any and every other “human rights group / crusader” who gives the Obama Administration a pass on rendition. If you actually care about human rights, then at a minimum, you’ll hold Democrats to the same standards as you hold Republicans. (After all, how should care more about your good opinion, Republicans, or Democrats? Isn’t that the argument “human rights advocates” make when they justify focusing all their attention on Western Democracies, rather than the truly thuggish regimes of the world? They can have more effect on the democracies? Fine. You can have more of an effect on the Democrats. So have that effect.) Failure to do so is clear proof that all your bleating about “human rights” is nothing more than partisan posturing.

Personally? I’m glad we waterboarded KSM. I’m glad we’ve done it to other terrorists caught waging war against the US. I’m happy we’ve “threatened” them with dogs and female interrogators, using their nutcase beliefs against them. AS unlawful combatants they’ve forfeited the protections of the Geneva Conventions, and should not be treated like we would treat honorable opponents.

But I’d much rather that we do the above to the people we capture, rather than expose them to real torture (dental drills, electrodes on the genitals, beatings, etc.). The fact that HRW disagrees makes me very happy that they’re on the other side. (Note, here’s what the HRW spokesman said about the Obama Administration’s plan:

“Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “What I heard loud and clear from the president’s order was that they want to design a system that doesn’t result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured — but that designing that system is going to take some time.

And Tom’s willing to give them all the time they need (at least, until the next Republican President is elected).

Why Obama lost when Pelosi won

February 1, 2009

Gordon Smith had the following to say about the passage of the House Democrats’ “stimulus” bill (aka “The Pelosi / Reid / Obama Trillion Dollar debt bill)

This was a big whiff for Obama. And if the Reagan and Clinton Administrations are the guide, this may be a tone-setter for the next eight years.

Commenters have demanded to know various things, such as why it was a “big whiff”. In answer I offer the following comment:

People has sort of danced around these questions, so I’m going to hit them straight on:

1: What was wrong with this bill / How is this a loss for Obama?

Obama wants to be able to claim that he’s “post-partisan”. He wants to claim to be “a uniter, not a divider.” And he does not want to be, and most certainly does not want to appear to be, subservient to the Democrats in Congress. Finally, he’d like for the economy to get better, since that’s what he hopes to be judged on in 2012. (If he’s judged on national security / foreign policy, it will be because those things blew up on him. Which is to say: he’ll be losing in 2012.)

Now, this “stimulus” bill does not meet any of those goals. The No votes were bipartisan, the Yes votes were not. He wined and dined the Republicans, and could not get a single vote. The reason why he could not get a single vote is because his “heavy hitter chief of staff” pissed off the Republicans, and failed to keep the Democrats in line.

The bill was created by the Democrats in the House with no input by the Republicans, and almost no input by Obama. It is the “wish list” of the Democrat Interest Groups / lobbyists, and of the Democrat House Committee Chairpeople (and their staffs). So much for Obama not being subservient to Congressional Democrats.

Finally, very little of the money in the bill is going to go to anything that will actually help the economy get better. And sucking $1,000,000,000,000 out of the US Economy and putting it in the hands of the politically connected is not going to help the economy recover faster. Hell, it’s not going to be neutral. this pig will almost certainly slow down the recovery. Not what President Obama wants.

2: What did the Republicans want?

More tax cuts, less pork / spoils for the politically connected. A bill that’s 40 pages long, instead of 900 (“earmarks” are where money is directed to a particular project, and the direction doesn’t come as part of the bill. This bill “has no earmarks” because all the direction is in the bill. That’s not much of an improvement). Less than $500,000,000,000 in spending, instead of more than $1,000,000,000,000. (Note: the House Republicans offered a “stimulus” bill. It was voted down in a party line vote. So the Republicans can say they offered an alternative.)

3: What’s the comparison to Reagan / Clinton?

In 1981, Reagan got a Democrat majority House of Reps to go along with his tax cuts. In 1993, Clinton “won” passage of his plans with no Republican votes. Reagan was able to get more done because of his ability to work with Democrats, and generally got the Democrats moving on his agenda. Clinton stayed in office only by working with the Republican agenda (after the 1994 elections) (think welfare reform). Democrats leaning pundits have been proclaiming that Obama will be the Democrats Reagan, imposing a (left wing) change on how we see our government. Right now, he looks like he’s going to be another Clinton, minus (we hope) the Monica Lewinskis.

4: Who cares about the Republican votes? They lost, we won!

Well, if you want “cover” when it turns out your plan failed, it helps to have had some chumps from the other side voting with you. If the economy bounces back in the next 18 months, the Democrats will crow that their stimulus is what made things better, and use that to do well in the 2010 elections.

If, as is much more likely, the economy hasn’t bounced back, the Democrats will try blaming it all on Bush, the Republicans will trash the Democrats for acting like pigs at the trough during a recession, and the voters will take the Democrats to the woodshed.

If a few Republicans had voted with the Democrats on this bill, then the Democrats could try to shift the blame to the Republicans in the second case (after all, they voted for it to). No Republican votes == no cover.


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