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Thursday, November 25, 2004
See ya next week!

I'm off to thin Pennsylvania's Bambi herd. See ya next week!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Giving thanks

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all my friends a marvelous Thanksgiving Day. We're blessed with many wonderful things, and there are more than you normally recognize if you really look around you.

I'm most thankful for the people in my life. My family and friends are what make my life as great as it is. So thank you for reading my little musings here. If it brings you some small pleasure, that's what makes my efforts worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Psychoanalysis of the blogosphere

Flea explains how bloggers sometimes feel compelled to write the occasional testy post. All I can do is concur.

Well, with one exception. There's no way for you to send me money. I don't want your money. I just want to plague you with my worthless opinions.

Via Dean.

Fun with search terms

Search terms that led people to my site today:

partially naked stripper
"death rate" spank

I'm speechless.

Rather retires

Heard on Fox News Channel: the Associated Press is reporting that Dan Rather will retire from his position as anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News in March 2005.

Update: It's official.

Hey stupid, put on your seatbelt!

If you end up in the right place for the wrong reasons, are you still right?

Sadie Mirth, guest-posting at In Search Of Utopia, laments the low seat belt use rate.

Today carried to my ears the umpteenth complaint against Mandatory Seat Belt Laws:
So I don't need anyone to tell me to wear a's none of the government's business whether or not I get hurt, and who can prove that the seatbelt would protect me from a fatal injury? Besides, I have health insurance...isn't that what it's for?

Yes, there are certainly quite a few people who are irrational and downright lazy when it comes to seat belts. You're only fooling yourself if you believe you're safer not wearing a seat belt.

I started wearing my seat belt all the time over twenty years ago. The obvious benefits finally sank into my thick skull. But when states started passing laws mandating that I had to wear a seat belt, I was irate. It's my choice to wear a seat belt. I don't need the nanny state telling me that I'm not allowed to be stupid.

Sadie continues:

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, increasing the national seat belt use rate to 90 percent from the current 68 percent would prevent an estimated 5,536 fatalities, 132,670 injuries and save the nation $8.8 billion annually.

So we both agree that we as individuals and also collectively as a society would be better off wearing our seat belts. But should the state force us to wear them? Here's Sadie's justification:

Those who refuse to wear seatbelts often make this choice as a matter of "personal freedom." Yet, like any constitutional right, the freedoms end where others are injured or killed.

Excuse me? I don't want to get thrown through my windshield, or tossed around the cabin of my truck like a ping pong ball, but Sadie fails to show how that is going to kill or injure someone else.

We agree on her next point that children need to be protected. Hey, if you want to be stupid, that's one thing. But if you're too lazy to strap in your child, or don't have the parenting skills to discipline your child to wear their seat belts, you should be punished — severely. On this point, I think our current laws are too weak. It should be very, very painful if you're caught with unrestrained children in the car.

So here's Sadie's suggestion:

Politically Incorrect Modest Proposal: Congress should carve out create an exception to the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act of 1986, where hospitals have the legal right to refuse medical treatment to unbelted drivers or passengers injured in an automobile accident. Of course, this wouldn't apply to children...who generally don't know better if their parents permit them to go unbelted. This may seem Draconian, but in my not-so-humble opinion, some tough lovin' would settle this issue very quickly.

I have my doubts, the Hypocratic Oath being what it is, that you'll find very many medical professionals who will refuse to treat crash victims, regardless of whether they were wearing seat belts. Plus, how are they supposed to determine in the Emergency Room that the patient wasn't wearing one?

Sadie's heart is in the right place, though. We need something besides laws to encourage people to wear seat belts, or at least protect society from bearing the costs they impose upon us through their irresponsibility.

My proposal? Health and life insurance companies should exclude coverage for insureds who are killed or injured in an automobile accident, but weren't wearing their seat belts. This allows medical treatment to go forward at the time of the injury, and gives some time to determine whether seat belts were used.

The hole in my proposal are those who already depend on the government (or other handouts) to pay for their health care. I'm not sure how to address that. But laws requiring seat belt usage strike me as the wrong way to accomplish the goal of getting people to wear seat belts.

Update: I just heard that nationwide seat belt usage is 80%, not 68% as Sadie reported.

Joining in the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Monday, November 22, 2004
Kevin Sites responds

Last week, I berated the bloggers who had already reached a conclusion about the guilt or innocence of the Marine who shot and killed an injured insurgent in a Mosque in Fallujah. There, I also expressed my disgust with some who held cameraman Kevin Sites in such contempt that they believed the Marines present should have turned their weapons on Mr Sites as soon as they realized that he had captured the shooting on videotape.

Now Mr Sites relates the events as they happened from his perspective. He also shares the conflicting impetuses that roiled within him on how to react to what he saw and taped, and how he came to his ultimate decision.

A telling portion of his post is where he quotes the Commanding Officer of the troops involved in this incident, Lieutenant Colonel Willy Buhl of the 3rd Battalion First Marines. In an interview before the battle for Fallujah began, Colonel Buhl told Sites,

We're the good guys. We are Americans. We are fighting a gentleman's war here -- because we don't behead people, we don't come down to the same level of the people we're combating. That's a very difficult thing for a young 18-year-old Marine who's been trained to locate, close with and destroy the enemy with fire and close combat. That's a very difficult thing for a 42-year-old lieutenant colonel with 23 years experience in the service who was trained to do the same thing once upon a time, and who now has a thousand-plus men to lead, guide, coach, mentor — and ensure we remain the good guys and keep the moral high ground.

Just as it's easy for the uninformed critics to sit back after something happens and criticize our troops for their actions, it's easy to blame Sites for what he did with this videotape. I don't know Sites, and I suppose it's possible that he concocted these words to cover a craven attempt to stab our Marines in the back. But I don't think that's what happened. Just as Marines face tough decisions in combat, Kevin Sites faced a tough decision on how to deal with these circumstances.

And while you may disagree with his decision, I believe it's dead wrong to declare that Sites is a saboteur trying to undermine our success in Iraq. While the difficulty of his job pales in comparison to the job of the Marines he's traveling with, it's a lot harder than the job of the pajamahadeen, sipping Diet Coke and nibbling bon bons safe at home in the United States.

Some folks need to start engaging their brains before they let their emotions vomit words of hate onto their blogs.

Update: Kevin Aylward asks for reactions to Sites' post. Well, here ya go, Kev.

Update 2: James Joyner, while somewhat persuaded by Sites' post, views the journalist as "a warrior wannabe who thinks that he's somehow both 'one of the boys' and a dispassionate journalist." By twice mentioning Rambo in his post, James reveals his disdain for Sites. Personally, I have a hard time believing Sites or any other journalist in that situation can avoid feeling a strong connection with the troops he travels with. These guys are doing a very difficult job, and are undoubtedly keeping Sites safe on frequent occasions. They're sharing some very high-adrenaline moments. And it's his job to be as much of a dispassionate journalist as possible.

I'm no apologist for the mainstream media in general or journalists in particular, but it continues to strike me that folks are, to varying degrees, being unfair to Sites. As I mentioned above, while it's a lot easier for him to do his job in Fallujah than it is for the Marines, it's a lot harder than reading blogs and news sites and expressing one's opinion about them.

Friday, November 19, 2004
A day in Jeff's life

Jeff Harrell has been under the weather for a few days, which is a shame since today is his birthday. And he does a masterful job of "time-shifted live blogging" Survivor every week. Go visit him and cheer him up with your hits, page views and visits.

Oh, and happy birthday, Jeff. Hope you get to feeling better soon.

Ick. I've gotta go take a shower. All this sticky sweet stuff is bugging me. Or maybe I'll just go back and read my previous post.

Yoohoo, Bambi!

Thursday, November 18, 2004
I wish all you omniscient bloggers would just shut up...

...because you're not omniscient. I'm not going to link to anyone over this — you know who you are.

We have a videotape, shot by embedded reporter Kevin Sites, which shows a Marine shooting what appears to be a wounded insurgent. But we're left with a lot of questions, and we have to establish context. Also, we have to remember that the videotape is one perspective, which isn't all-inclusive.

On the one hand we have the hand-wringing hate-America-first crowd weeping and wailing and calling this young Marine a murderer. On the other, we have the "our troops can do no wrong" blind defenders of this Marine.

And the most egregious offender I've seen is the one who chastised the other Marines present at this event for not shooting and killing Kevin Sites on the spot. Of all the immoral lunacy I've heard, this one is near the top.

So to both sides I say the same thing: shut up. You don't know what you're talking about. You have limited information, and you can't vouch for the validity or quality of the information you do have. That's the job of Navy investigators and the Marine chain-of-command. They know their jobs, they know how to pursue this issue, they're on the scene, and they'll figure it out. I can guarantee you that this Marine's Commanding Officer isn't going to send him to court martial if it isn't justified (if there is an unjust result of this, it will be in the Marine's favor, which is fine with me. I can (and Americans should) cut a lot of slack to a guy who is out there getting shot at, buddies dying, and being wounded himself. If you haven't been in a situation like that, you can't imagine what it's like.).

Pardon my slip from the usual decorum I try to maintain on this site, but all of you folks are talking out your collective asses. You think you know what's going on, but I guarantee you don't know a tenth of the information pertinent to this case.

So just shut up, 'kay?

That is all.

P.S. In case I was a bit too nuanced above, if you read it carefully you'll notice I'm addressing folks on opposing ends of the spectrum on this issue. I'm specifically not addressing the folks who, quite sensibly, say this is what we know, there's a lot we don't know, let's wait and see. So you guys calm down; I wasn't talking about you, capiche?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004
If indecency only generates three complaints, is it still indecency?

Kevin Aylward tells us that on Monday, Jeff Jarvis took the FCC to task for fining the Fox network for its April 7, 2003, episode of "Married By America."

With not much original reporting, I discovered that the latest big fine by the FCC against a TV network -- a record $1.2 million against Fox for its "sexually suggestive" Married by America -- was brought about by a mere three people who actually composed letters of complaint. Yes, just three people.

Jeff steps us through his calculation that the FCC's cited 159 complaints can be whittled down to 90, then to 23, and ultimately to just three letters. But I think he's making the wrong argument.

The FCC received some number of complaints about that program, which spent about six minutes on bachelor and bachelorette parties which were too sexually suggestive for airing before 10 pm. In their Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, the FCC in typical fashion steps through the Bill of Rights, United States Code as passed by Congress and their own regulations to outline what's permissible and what isn't.

They then describe the potentially offending part of the program, then provide their analysis of what was broadcast in light of the Constitution, US law and FCC regulations. While I'm not big on censorship, I'm apparently more tolerant of it in the protection of decency over the public airwaves than Jeff or Kevin.

Even with Fox’s editing, the episode includes scenes in which party-goers lick whipped cream from strippers’ bodies in a sexually suggestive manner. Another scene features a man on all fours in his underwear as two female strippers playfully spank him. Although the episode electronically obscures any nudity, the sexual nature of the scenes is inescapable, as the strippers attempt to lure party-goers into sexually compromising situations. Accordingly, we conclude that the broadcast satisfies the first prong of our indecency analysis and warrants further scrutiny to determine whether it was patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.


These scenes show, for example, partially clothed strippers, such as a topless woman with her breasts pixilated, straddling a man in a sexually suggestive manner; two partially clothed female strippers kissing each other above a male; two partially clothed strippers rubbing a man's stomach; a male stripper about to put a woman's hand down the front of his pants; and a man in his underwear on all fours being spanked by two topless strippers. The scenes also show one of the bachelorettes straddling and touching a topless female stripper and then licking whipped cream off the stripper's stomach and bare chest while the stripper holds her own breasts. Although the nudity was pixilated, even a child would have known that the strippers were topless and that sexual activity was being shown.

There's more, but that description satisfies me that the FCC is acting properly.

But Jeff (and by extension, Kevin) doesn't argue against the FCC's rationale in making their determination. His proclamation of "the tyranny of the few" is based on the "fact" that only three people complained.

So Jeff, how many people have to complain before the FCC is allowed to declare indecent material is, in their judgment, indecent? Five? Fifty? A hundred? If a program is indecent, but only one person complains, it's ipso facto not indecent?

I'm sorry, guys, but your logic seems to me to have some gaping holes in it. If only one person complains, but the FCC then evaluates for itself whether the material is indecent, the number of complaints is immaterial. It's indecent.

Argue with the Commission's rationale, dispute the regulatory limits on free speech over the public airwaves, show us where the FCC misapplied the laws and regulations, but quibbling over the number of complaints strikes me as grasping at straws. You're falling prey to the logical fallacy of argumentum ad numerum.

Update: Steve Verdon, posting at Outside the Beltway™, concurs with Jeff and Kevin and builds on that idea by proposing dissolution of the FCC, among other things. While I may disagree with some (much) of what Steve has to say, at least he doesn't limit himself to a logical fallacy.

Computers: trust them for money, but not for votes

In today's Washington Post, Anne Applebaum wonders over the seeming disparity between American society's trust in financial transactions that are often paperless and our distrust of electronic voting systems that don't produce a paper ballot:

When the ATM asks whether I want a receipt, I usually say no. When a Web site wants my credit card number, I usually say yes. When I pay bills online, there is no paper record of the transaction. In my failure to demand physical evidence when money changes hands, I am not very unusual. Most Americans now conduct at least some of their financial transactions without paper, or at least sleep happily knowing that others do. Yet when it comes to voting -- a far simpler and more straightforward activity than electronic bank transfers -- we suddenly become positively 19th century in our need for a physical record.

It is, if you think about it, quite inexplicable.

She carries on for several more paragraphs, meandering among conspiracy theories, the lack of any evidence of vote fraud, irrational paranoia about computer voting, distrust of politicians, and on and on.

But, Occam's Razor being what it is, it's much simpler than that.

While we may not have a paper record of financial transactions, they're auditable. We can see when, where and how much we're charged, how much is credited to or debited from our charge accounts, how much is paid to a merchant, and so forth. We can follow the trail, even though it's electronic, every step of the way to ensure that the numbers at the beginning, although rearranged and split and recombined, match the numbers at the end.

But voting is intended to be anonymous. By design, your vote can't be traced back to you. In this day and age, that may be an anachronism; I can't imagine where I'd be concerned about who may know how I voted on any particular candidate or question on the ballot, but let's say the anonymous approach is still necessary.

With that in mind, once you cast your vote electronically, you can't audit it. You can't trace it through the system to ensure it was counted, or if it wasn't, figure out why. It's completely anonymous and not auditable.

That's why we need a paper printout of our votes to accompany electronic voting. We need the computer to tell us how it thinks you voted, so you can examine it for accuracy and confirm your vote by depositing your paper record so that it can be used should any recount (it's just an audit, after all) be conducted. In a purely electronic system, what's to recount? All you can examine are aggregate counts, by state, county or city, district, precinct or machine, but no matter how finely you slice it, since it's anonymous, your vote will never be examined except as a part of some group of votes.

That's why it's vital now and for the foreseeable future to require electronic voting systems to produce a paper trail. Our votes must be auditable.

Sunday, November 14, 2004
The power of positive thinking

From the Unconventional Wisdom column in Sunday's Washington Post (registration required — use BugMeNot):

What's killing off Russians, particularly men, in the prime of their lives? And why did they start dying in disquieting numbers in the years immediately after the collapse of Soviet communism?

Hmm...since you're still a filthy Communist pig, you may still be safe, Commissar.

Between 1989 and 1994, life expectancy for Russian men fell by more than six years. In the slow-mo world of population demographics, that kind of movement is "almost unprecedented in its speed and scope," Brainerd and Cutler claim. Moreover, the Russian death rate increased most dramatically among middle-aged men and not the very young or the very old. Russian women also were dying younger, losing about three years in life expectancy during the same period, they found.

Yes, you read that right. Over a five year period, the life expectancy of Russian men declined by more than six years. That's astonishing.

So what happened?

The researchers first considered the role of the state-run health care system, which had declined dramatically in the transition period between Soviet communism and Russian-style democracy. But as hard as they looked, "we find no evidence that this deterioration played a major role in the demographic disaster," they wrote in a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. For example, the maternal mortality rate, often a key indicator of the quality of a country's health care system, did not increase at the same time that men were dying in ever-increasing numbers.

Okay, looking at the one of the most likely sources of the problem didn't pan out. Let's look at some other likely culprits.

Then they looked to see whether changes in diet, obesity or smoking might explain the drop in life expectancy. Nyet, they concluded. The proportion of Russians who were overweight or underweight hadn't changed much. Nor had the composition of their diets. And while Russian men do smoke like chimneys, per capita cigarette consumption had barely budged. the sorry state of Russian heath care doesn't appear to be the cause, nor were those filthy habits, eating a lot and smoking. (As a little sidebar, I had a physical therapist try to tell me once that my back problems were most likely a result of my smoking habit. Not bad posture, not failing to keep the muscles in my back strong. Smoking. I never went back to that quack)

Okay, two strikes. Let's look at another likely cause of this precipitous drop in life expectancy.

Unemployment soared after communism ended. Was that the culprit? Once again, close analysis pointed elsewhere. The best measures of material deprivation — income levels, share of household income spent on food, whether families had to sell possessions to buy food — appeared unrelated to the surge in mortality.

So none of the obvious causes panned out, let's look at some more obscure possibilities.

[Brainerd and Cutler] found that alcohol consumption soared by about 25 percent in the years following the fall of the Soviet Union -- an increase that all by itself would bump up mortality from heart disease by about 10 percent, they estimated. (Contrary to the stereotype, the average Russian typically drinks slightly less alcohol than other Europeans.)

I have it on good authority that the Commissar consumes much more alcohol than your typical European. But back to the study.

They also determined that accidental alcohol poisoning represented about 7 percent of the increase in male mortality and 6 percent of female mortality — "and may play a role in other violent deaths as well, either by instigating murder or suicide, or as a disguised cause of them," they wrote. Alcohol consumption explained about 25 percent of the decline in life expectancy after 1989, according to their estimates.

So consuming copious amounts of alcohol can bring about death — for the "consumer" or for someone else. It's worth bearing in mind.

So what else could be contributing to this drop in life expectancy?

Then Brainerd and Cutler tracked down survey data measuring optimism about the future, a bold stroke worthy of the foxy old TV detective Columbo. "Greater despair or hopelessness among middle-aged men is associated with higher risk of heart disease and heart attack, as well as earlier onset of artery disease," even after controlling for alcohol consumption and smoking, they claimed.

One question in the Russian survey asked, "Do you think that in the next 12 months your family will live better than today, or worse?" They found the odds of dying were about "30 percent lower for men who have positive expectations about the future; for women the odds of dying are 50 percent lower." When analyzed with other data, they estimated that increases in levels of despair explained about 25 percent of the drop in mortality during the 1989-1994 period.

So they're halfway there. The study continues.

Friday, November 12, 2004
Aspiring to the Empire

I hope when my blog grows up, it makes in onto one of the Commisssar's maps. I mean, even if he is a Commie Death Merchant, it'd be nice to be recognized.


Update: Whining helps. Well, sorta. Texas Best Grok and Texas Native get labels, but we're both located well off the map.

But now that I think about it, that's really not a bad thing. Texans are generally off the map anyway.

The Death Penalty

Crossposted at ISOU.

In case you haven't "met" me before, I'm a Texan. A "centrist conservative" Texan, as David would put it. For you non-Texan liberals, I suppose I match up with all your preconceived notions about Texans, especially conservative Texans (by the way, a "conservative Texan" is anyone who lives outside of Austin, pretty much).

I'm against same-sex marriage (but probably not for the reasons you suspect — I've explained my position extensively, starting here). I support our invasion of Iraq. I'm in favor of lower taxes in almost every case. I oppose abortion except in the most egregious circumstances. I think the now-expired ban on so-called "assault weapons" was idiotic pablum intended to lull people into a false sense of security, while doing nothing to make us safer. Oh, and I'm also in favor of "Right to Carry" laws which mandate that the state must have a compelling reason to deny a citizen the ability to carry a concealed weapon, rather than the citizen being required to prove it's needed.

So since you now know I'm one of those crazed, wild-eyed conservatives (not a Republican, thankyouverymuch) who are wrecking this great nation, you won't be surprised when I tell you that I've been a big supporter of the death penalty since I first thought about it as a teenager. Some crimes are so heinous that the only possible appropriate punishment is to take the criminal's life. Not just for murder, but some other crimes as well; certain categories of rape seem to cry out for execution of the rapist.

Then I read this article earlier this year. And then later that same day, there was something else (which completely escapes my memory) which seemed to make it click for me:

I think The Death Penalty is a bad idea, and should be abolished.

There, I said it. Even many liberal(ish) politicians support the death penalty, including former President Clinton. Support for the death penalty appears to be a make-or-break criterion for receiving a Conservative Club membership card. I guess I'll have to turn mine in.

There have just been too many people who have lately been proved to have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death. Unfortunately, not all of these people were still alive at the time that their innocence was determined. And who knows how many people have been executed in the past for crimes they didn't commit, back before we had the marvels of DNA science?

I'm also enough of a realist to know that there are prosecutors who are so determined to get a conviction in a capital murder case that they'll throw prudence, fairness and justice out the window. Some are blinded by their ill-founded beliefs, others do it knowing that they couldn't convict the accused if the jury knew all of the facts.

One of the founding principles in this great nation of ours is that it is better to let a guilty man go free than to imprison an innocent one. And imprisonment is a far easier penalty to bear, in most cases, than execution. There's nothing more final than that. There's no turning back; once the innocent man is dead, he's dead. There are no "do-overs."

We could devolve into arguments over the relative costs of lifetime imprisonment versus the costs of appeal after appeal, and the execution itself, but I think those discussions are contemptuous of the only point to be considered: will we never again put an innocent man to death? If we can't guarantee that with 100% certainty, the death penalty has got to go.

Note: Having said that, I can now never serve on a jury in a capital punishment case. I'm not sure yet how I feel about that.

Thursday, November 11, 2004
Holiday cheer

I saw this on the news last week, but a friend sent me the link today, so here ya go: Thanksgiving dinner in a bottle.

Note that you can suggest additional flavors at the linked page. Yum.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Problems with comments and trackbacks

I use Haloscan to provide comments and trackbacks, and they appear to be "off the air" right now, so comments and trackbacks aren't available until they rear their ugly heads again.

Update: Their ugly heads are reared. Comments and trackbacks are...back.

Watcher vacancy

The Watcher's Council has a vacancy, due to Patterico having to step down. If you have a blog and are interested in joining the Council, read the rules and let the ol' Weasel Watcher know.

I blame Dean

Bill and Seki are having a very public dispute. Seki posts that Bill hasn't paid his bill, so anyone else having financial dealings with him should beware. No other details are provided.

In his own self-defense, Bill gives a typically comprehensive report on his history with Sekimori Designs and Seki herself, and provides details on their current dispute.

I think it's astoundingly poor business practice to badmouth your customers in public, especially without providing any details, and especially over a measly hundred bucks! Also, by comparing Seki's stark smearing of Bill's reputation with Bill's detailed rebuttal, it certainly lends credence to Bill's side of the story (although all the anti-Bush/anti-War crowd will just state scream that Bill's a known liar, doncha know).

Regardless of the truth of the matter, Seki's waaaay out of line. And some other folks might want to think about what they've posted in reaction to Seki's mudslinging.

Oh, and I blame Dean Esmay because he broke Bill's site helped Bill do the MT upgrade. Y'see what you started, Dean?

Update: Apparently, Dean has ducked to avoid being involved in this conflict. I still blame him, though. :)

Happy Birthday!

The United States Marine Corps, of which my eldest son is a proud member, turns 229 today.

Here's how the local newspaper at Camp Lejeune, where Boyd Jr is stationed, reports on the event.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Why I oppose Same Sex Marriage (and you can't leave it to the states)

Part 1: It's not religion
Part 2: It's not homophobia
Part 3: You can't arbitrarily redefine marriage
Part 4: It's all about the money

There's a point that Scott Nolte distilled from my earlier posts that I neglected to mention: this is not an issue that can be left to the states. The federal government has an interest in the definition of marriage, certainly in the tax laws, but possibly in other areas, too.

This is a much more complex subject than many assume. We've already seen that letting a single state's judiciary decide the issue affects the entire country, and it appears that the majority of Americans oppose same sex marriage. But once again, our federation makes for a sticky situation.

I strongly favor letting states handle as much as possible, but the definition of marriage is truly a national issue. I'm not sure how the federal government goes about defining marriage, but it's work that needs to be done.

Monday, November 08, 2004
Watcher's Council

As you may or may not already be aware, members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote every week on what they consider to be the most link-worthy pieces of writing around. Per the Watcher's instructions, I am submitting one of my own posts for consideration in the upcoming nominations process.

Here is the most recent winning council post, here is the most recent winning non-council post, here is the list of results for the latest vote, and here is the initial posting of all the nominees that were voted on.

Why I oppose Same Sex Marriage (it's all about the money)

Part 1: It's not religion
Part 2: It's not homophobia
Part 3: You can't arbitrarily redefine marriage

Why does government recognize marriage? Do they really give a rat's patootie about whether the parties really love each other? What's the reason for governmental blessing and the resulting taxation considerations of marriage?

My position, as stated in Part 3, is that government attitudes toward marriage are all about perpetuation of the species, and the established benefits of a "traditional family" to achieve that end. Yes, you can point out many instances of "traditional" marriage that don't support the "perpetuation of the species" principle. But despite the many deviations from the desired result, the fact remains that the best, most effective path to perpetuation of the species depends on the definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

So it seems to me that the idea of support for marriage, and especially families, is the impetus behind tax breaks and other considerations that governments give to married couples. This strikes me as reasonable, but not entirely necessary. To be even more useful, I would limit these benefits to those at the lower end of the income spectrum, much as the Earned Income Credit is currently implemented.

So when it comes to Same Sex Marriage, I'm all for giving them the societal and legal benefits of marriage. It helps a small but significant slice of society with virtually no impact on everyone else.

But when they start sticking their hands into my pockets, I've gotta say, "hold the phone!" Tax breaks, non-contributory pension benefits, insurance rates, or anything else that's going to increase the cost to society is merely the transfer of wealth from us to them, without any justifiable reason. Why should a same sex couple get a part of my money, through taxes, insurance subsidies or any other method?

I respect their choices on how to lead their lives, even praise their decision to spend their lives together, devoted to one another. But why should they get my money?

So here are my preferences on how government should deal with same sex relationships in descending order:

  1. Establish a mechanism for providing the same legal rights to same sex couples as those available to married couples, such as joint ownership, rights of survivorship, medical visitation and decision-making, etc. Call it a Civil Union for simplicity's sake.
  2. If that's not acceptable (although I believe the above action should be taken in any event), remove any financial benefits, be they governmental, insurance or otherwise, which aren't supported by hard financial facts (such as actuarial tables in the case of insurance) for married couples. Put all devoted couples, regardless of sexual preferences, on an even playing field, and I would much prefer any change to be in the direction of reducing financial contributions, rather than increasing them. As an option, retain marital benefits for low income married couples.
  3. Eliminate all governmental recognition of marriage, and leave it to religious bodies. I believe this will require a compensating change to protect younger folks from the mixture of clueless (or truly evil) parents and adult predators.
  4. Change the government's definition of marriage to include same sex couples. As I've made obvious already, I'm strongly opposed to this choice.

I believe we can give same sex couples the rights and recognition that they deserve without forking over more money to support their lifestyles. There are many ways we can approach this, and I believe that there are several choices which would be acceptable to most Americans across the political and religious spectrum.

Part 5: And you can't leave it to the states

Why I oppose Same Sex Marriage (you can't arbitrarily redefine marriage)

Part 1: It's not religion
Part 2: It's not homophobia

I believe that marriage is naturally defined. It predates religion and its sanctification of marriage. It was established through the evolution of mankind as the mechanism for perpetuation (and continued evolution) of the species. To be as cold and calculating as possible on this subject, marriage has nothing to do with love. It has everything to do with perpetuation of the species.

Devotion between individuals has nothing to do with their sex. If homosexuals prefer to emulate marriage through life-long commitment, I think that's great. But it's not marriage. Among the reasons spouses stay together is because of their children, even when there is no love between them. Marriage exists to perpetuate the species, not to provide a life-long partner, or as an expression of devotion, or to pool assets. Marriage came about for the children. That's just what marriage is, and a society's redefinition of that fact doesn't change reality.

Nor will I deny that many heterosexuals have made a mockery of marriage. The examples of people throwing away a marriage as though it were a used tissue are innumerable. But just because people fail at marriage, or hold it in contempt, or view it as a plaything, none of these redefine marriage. It's still, at its core purpose, the joining of a man and a woman to produce children.

Rather than redefining marriage, we need to correct the legal constructs to acknowledge the societal changes with regard to homosexuals. There's no reason, no benefit to society, from preventing same sex couples from enjoying many of the legal benefits of marriage. Joint ownership of property and other assets, the ability to make legal and medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner, being the default inheritor when the partner dies; these are all things that could and should be done to support same sex couples.

But there are limits.

Part 4: It's all about the money
Part 5: And you can't leave it to the states

Why I oppose Same Sex Marriage (it's not homophobia)

Part 1: It's not religion

Next is my supposed homophobia. Granted, I don't choose to spend time with random homosexuals. On the other hand, I don't avoid them, either (beyond the ones who make unwanted sexual advances toward me, but I think that reluctance is understandable). At the risk of sounding trite and self-delusional, I have a few very good friends who are homosexual, or at least bisexual. I won't go beyond that description, because it's not up to me to talk about their sexual preferences and tendencies. Please accept that I'm not lying to you. I've got nothing against gays and lesbians.

To support that last proclamation, let me make this statement: I support civil unions, providing they're defined in a certain way. If a civil union is effectively marriage, the only difference being the sexes of the couple, I can't buy into that. But I'm a strong supporter of the rights of same sex couples for survivorship, the rights of family members and other social constructs. There's no reason society should prohibit anyone from designating their closest partner to share ownership of assets, share the rights of survivorship, rights for hospital visitation, and the disposition of assets in the case of death. You love who you love, and society has no business interfering in that, whether it's for your sexual preferences, your races or your societal classes.

Part 3: You can't arbitrarily redefine marriage
Part 4: It's all about the money
Part 5: And you can't leave it to the states

Sunday, November 07, 2004
Why I oppose Same Sex Marriage (it's not religion)

Depending on whom I discuss this with, I'm generally accused of two different reasons for my opposition to SSM: my religion or my homophobia. Both are wrong.

I'm a Southern Baptist, which is widely regarded by the Left as one of the most backward and fundamentalist of Christian denominations. People who believe that merely reveal their ignorance of the fundamental principles of Southern Baptists. In their defense, there are many Southern Baptists who have a different understanding of the principles behind our denomination, and can't figure out why I'm a Southern Baptist, beyond the fact that my father was a Southern Baptist pastor for over 50 years.

One of the fundamental principles of the Southern Baptist denomination is the priesthood of the individual: we require no intermediaries between ourselves and God. While there are overarching principles of Christianity, beyond those, my relationship with God is established and understood directly between me and Him. It's not up to some priest or pastor or even Karl Rove to determine my beliefs: that's between me and God.

But consider this: I'm also an evolutionist: I believe that God ordained that Earth and the universe evolved from a primordial goo through single-cell organisms and fish, then on to amphibious creatures and dinosaurs, primates ultimately surviving the trials and tribulations of our maturing planet, until ultimately homo sapiens emerges. And I interpret the Bible to support my theory. Needless to say, I'm not a member of the so-called "biblical inerrancy" crowd (they don't believe in biblical inerrancy; they believe that the interpretation provided by the authors and translators of the Bible are literally what God intended to provide us. They believe that God doesn't want us to think about what the words mean; He's already done that for us. Obviously, I disagree).

Part 2: It's not homophobia
Part 3: You can't arbitrarily redefine marriage
Part 4: It's all about the money
Part 5: And you can't leave it to the states

Good Rooney line

While waiting for Cold Case to start this evening, I caught Andy Rooney's bit on the results of the election. Paraphrasing, here's the most honest line I've heard emanate from his lips:

A lot of folks believe that journalists are overwhelmingly liberal. I know a lot of them and I can tell you they're pretty well evenly divided: half of them were for Kerry, and the other half were against hate Bush.


Update: James corrects my pseudo-quote in the comments, so I've corrected above.

Oliver comes out of the closet

I seldom read Oliver Willis, and when I do, it's invariably in response to a link from another blog (which may be taking either a positive or negative stance on Oliver's post). I find his venom, contempt and outright hatred of those who disagree with him so unpleasant, I choose not to subject myself to his poison pen without good reason.

Today, Oliver makes the amazing claim that he has always viewed himself as a moderate. All I can say is, if he has been a moderate, the level of insults, disparaging remarks and twisting of facts to suit his purpose have been focused only on the 50% of the world to the right of him; the other 50% to his left have emerged pretty much unscathed, based on my admittedly limited reading of his blog.

Oliver claims that he's now a liberal. I'm glad to learn that his label has finally caught up with his beliefs.

There's been a lot of discussion lately around the political blogosphere about healing the rift (or other similar terms) between left and right following last week's elections. While there's no shortage of Republicans or conservatives bombastically proclaiming their victory, and refuse to give their opponents any quarter, those on the left need to realize that any similar reaction from their side is equally idiotic. You're not going to make any headway, Oliver, by proclaiming that "Texas is populated with an abundance of slack-jawed yokels."

But hey, you're a Liberal now, Oliver. You're free to insult the majority, and thus cement you're party's defeat in upcoming elections.

Note to the sensible liberals: this is the kind of Democratic hero that got you defeated last week, and will continue to drag your party and your causes into the gutter of defeat in the future if you don't stop prostrating yourselves at their feet like supplicants to their gods. Turn them out on their ear, where extremists belong. Stick with the people who can hold a sensible conversation with someone who disagrees with them.

Although I once again found Oliver to be a disgusting repository of hate, I'm compelled to send a hat tip to David.

Who's nuts, me or Covad?

I have a question for those of you in the "commercial technology" world. For several years, the promise of Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, has been growing, and is now gaining a lot of traction and is being used by many companies instead of traditional phone service.

For a couple of weeks now, Covad has been advertising their VOIP service on the radio, and I just saw an ad for it on TV. In all cases, they've pronounced VOIP as "voyp." I've been tracking this technology for several years, and I've never heard it pronounced this way; I've always heard it as all four letters: Vee Oh Eye Pee.

Is it me, or is Covad going their own way on this vital point which is crucial to the future of technology, and dare I say it, the world?

Saturday, November 06, 2004
A personal note

I was just reading again about the last words John Kerry's mother told him before she died. It reminded me of the last words I exchanged with my father before his passing this summer. We both said the same words:

"I love you."

Friday, November 05, 2004
Wellstone's spiritual replacement

Presented without comment:

On the David Letterman Show tonight, Al Franken reveals that he's considering running for Senator from Minnesota.

I'm one of David's guest bloggers

I've offered a few suggestions to the despairing liberal fringe over at David's place.

It's worth noting that the post is targeted toward the bluest of the Blue. Bluish Purple people should continue to try and find common ground with us Reddish Purple folks. We're all basically Purple, so it shouldn't be too hard if we make the effort.

None of whom should be confused with one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eaters.

I nailed it!

As you can plainly see for yourself here, I predicted that Bush would defeat Kerry by 286 to 252 in the Electoral College, which is now that case since Iowa has fallen into the Republican column.

And nevermind the rest of the stuff in that post. So I was off a couple of percentage points in the popular vote, and totally blew the "they'll take it to court in Florida, Ohio and one or two other states" call. I mean, really, you wouldn't want to damage my self-esteem by pointing out where I missed it completely, would you? C'mon, can't we all just be happy that my prediction of the courts deciding the issues by December 8th was wrong?

I didn't think so. You're all such a charitable bunch.

Thursday, November 04, 2004
Kevin tells us why

Kevin McGehee gives us his perspective on why Senator Kerry lost the election. I tend to agree with him.

And, I also think it's great that Kevin is proof-positive that intelligence, insight and wisdom live in all parts of this country. Some folks think that smart people only live in pockets along the northern tier of our great country. But here's a shining example of smart people that live in the Land Of The Peanut Farmer.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Oops, they did it again

It seems that, for the second week in a row, the musical guest on Saturday Night Live used a "backing track." Eminem can be seen to take the microphone away from his face and stop talking (well, you can't call it singing, can you?) during his performance of his anti-Bush track, "Mosh." I watched his performance, but not that closely, so I didn't observe it at the time, but the DC NBC-owned station showed it on tonight's 4 o'clock news.

In the interest of fairness, this isn't necessarily a case of Ashlee-like lip-syncing. Backing tracks are use for many purposes, and Eminem's use of one for Mosh at least includes the fact that he uses his voice for two "tracks" during that...hmm, "song" somehow doesn't seem like the right word.

For what it's worth, I thought Eminem's performance on SNL sounded, to my ear, exactly as it does in the Mosh video. Is that because of exquisite engineering and performance discipline, or was it a case of pure lip-syncing? Only Eminem and his crew know for sure.

Answering my own question

To be fair, I suppose I should answer my own question: how will I behave over the next four years should John Kerry win today?

While I was never one of the virulent Clinton haters of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, I never passed up an opportunity to carp about his misdeeds, his actions that put his party (or himself) before his country, or his plain, old bad policies. I expect that I will follow a similar course with a President Kerry, although I pledge to keep myself better informed about what's going on.

I also intend to engage the more virulent attacks from the Right, admonishing them for doing me and the entire conservative cause a disservice when they overstate, exaggerate, jump to conclusions or invent total nonsense out of whole cloth.

As Kevin said, it's my country, and if he wins, President Kerry will be my President. I'll do my part to hold him accountable for the many mistakes I expect he would make, but I'll also defend him from unreasonable attacks from within and without our country.

We'll have to look to the future rather than wallow in the past (as so many have done, both Left ("Bush stole the election!" "He was selected, not elected!") and the Right ("Clinton wrecked our country!" "His immorality has ruined our youth!").

I suppose there's value in the bomb-throwers from the opposition, but I prefer those bombs to be based in truth, and will do my best to hold the loudmouthed Right accountable to the truth.

Should this upset me?

I just got back from voting, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lines were practically nonexistent. I was out in less than five minutes.

But here's the part that bothers me. As expected, there were partisans out front, passing out literature to folks on their way in. This always gets under my skin, because the literature is useless to me, and I've got to carry it around with me until I can find a trash can, which never seems to be nearby (certainly, that's what these folks prefer). I usually give them my "mean face," which almost invariably discourages them from trying to foist their blather onto me, but this time, I saw that I could just walk around them and avoid them altogether (although a part of me wanted to go past them, just so I could say, "Anybody who needs your crap to tell them how to vote is either too stupid or lazy to be allowed to vote.")

So I got inside, picked up my ballot, went to a booth, and what do I find lying on the table before me? A Democratic sample ballot, with votes marked (of course) for Kerry/Edwards, the Democratic candidate for Congress in my District and all the other ballot questions.

It just happens to have been a Democratic sample ballot, but it doesn't matter. I'm a conservative Independent who usually votes Republican, but a Republican sample would irritate me just the same. While I'll concede that there may be circumstances where voters should be able to take a "crib sheet" with them into the voting booth, conveniently leaving your partisan sample ballot behind strikes me as possibly illegal and certainly unethical campaigning in the polling station.

So tell me, am I just being overly irritable over this, or is my anger justified?

Why I laugh at claims of disenfranchisement

P. Diddy, being interviewed on CNN this morning, was asked how he was disenfranchised during the 2000 election. His answer? "Because neither of the candidates spoke to my needs."

Give me a freakin' break. I say the same thing to the nutjobs on both the Left and the Right (I'm not naming any names, but you know who you are): quit making wild claims with either no substantiation, or such idiotic rationale (à la P. Diddy) that anyone with half a brain who hears you knows you're full of crap.

I guess the arrival of Election Day and the recognition that this long sojourn is nearing its end is making it hard for me to bury my impatience with this nonsense.

Update: Rush Limbaugh picks up on the same P. Diddy appearance on his show this afternoon. His take added the point (which I missed) that P. Diddy was asked this question because, in response to an earlier question to name a person who had been disenfranchised in the 2000 election, he could only name himself. Even Rush gets it right sometimes. :)

The most realistic assessment of the choice before us

Regarding President Bush:

He's just a hired hand, and he's better than the alternative.

Virginia Postrel via Scott Nolte.

Monday, November 01, 2004
What will you do Wednesday?

...or whatever day it is when the Presidential election is decided by the judiciary?

For the purposes of discussion, I ask you to assume that your favored candidate for President loses the election. How will you react? What will you do?

Don't tell me how you'll feel — I already know that. What will you do? How will you comport yourself over the next four years?

Update: It occurs to me that McGehee's post subliminally inspired my question.

Update 2: Thanks to Bill for joining in on the question.

Update 3: In addition to welcoming INDCJournal readers, I'd also like to say "Hi!" to Wizbang! visitors.

You heard it here first -- Monitors allowed in Ohio polling stations

6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a lower court's ruling which would prohibit Republican election monitors in Ohio polling stations tomorrow. The Democrats want to appeal, but it can only be appealed to the US Supreme Court, and there's apparently no chance of that happening before the polls open tomorrow.

Update: I originally didn't provide any link because there wasn't any that I could find. It was such a scoop that no online source (that I know of) had it up before me (don't expect that to be a trend — it was a one-time shot of luck). I noticed that James Joyner originally had the same problem, but has links now.

Why are the biggies in the US not reporting this? I don't understand. At any rate, you can read about it at The Scotsman, the Cincinnati Post, an Aussie paper called The Age, and Newsday.

Update 2: By the way, Justice John Paul Stevens has denied the plaintiff's appeal of the Court of Appeals' opinion, so the decision now is final, and the challengers will be present at the polling stations. You can read about that decision at the Cincinnati Post and Newsday links above.

Boyd's election predictions

I believe that pollsters and pundits who project a winner in tomorrows race are pulling their predictions out of their nether regions*. But hey, it's a fun game, so let me pull one out, too.

I have no claim to fame, no quality of expertise, no overarching education or knowledge, and certainly no wisdom when it comes to American electoral politics. I hate politics. With rare exceptions, I believe all politicians are bald-faced liars, and most of the press are no different. They all want you to believe a certain story. Blech.

So, how will it go? Popular vote: Bush 52%, Kerry 46%. Electoral College: Bush 286, Kerry 252. Lawsuits: Ohio and Florida, plus one or two smaller states. Date election is actually decided (not the vote of the Electoral College, but when we know how the EC will vote, barring West Virginia's one faithless elector, who isn't included in above EC results — anyway, we were talking about the date): December 8th. How the race ends up after the various adjudications: I've got no clue, but if it's much different from the above prediction, it will be due to a Kerry victory (in the courts as well as, ultimately, the election).

So there are my predictions, worth every penny you paid for them.

* This is, of course, excluding all my friends in the blogosphere who are making predictions. They all have well-considered, rational reasons and thought processes for their predictions, and if any of them are wrong, it will be due to some unforeseeable Act of God. Or the faithless, scurrilous acts of some unnamed **cough**Democratic**cough** political party.

I've got to go now and try to pry my tongue out of my right cheek.


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In loving memory
Dr Edward N Garrett
1925 - 2004

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