Who will care for the children?

Reading Andrew Sullivan’s response to James Dobson’s nonsense about why the Federal Marriage Amendment is still necessary, maybe more now than ever, I had a thought. If the Defense of Marriage Act is so wonderful and “federalist”, would the logic that a state doesn’t have to recognize another state’s civil marriage if it offends its citizenry’s sensibilities hold regarding adoption by same-sex couples? Would an adopted child’s parents have no parental rights if they move from California to Florida, for example? Would the state take the child, in the child’s best interest, of course? Is there anything different between respecting marriage and adoption as conferred by civil law?

I could be way off in my logic (I don’t think so), or marriage amendment supporters could argue that my scenario proves why the FMA is necessary (they’d still be wrong), but it seems that support for ignored marriages equates to support for ignored adoptions. That’s not a trend I think we want in this country. The naked bigotry included in Virginia’s proposed Constitutional amendment isn’t what we should want, either, but I expect that to pass in November. The battle for reason is uphill. That doesn’t mean I have to like it or respect the thinking of those who refuse to accept individual rights.

P.S. I find it amusing that Dobson laments the media’s conspiracy to thwart “traditional” marriage by writing about it at CNN. Yep, those crazy liberals, always trying to shun Christians.

Attention to detail can be a weak point

I didn’t test the site enough before resuming activity. Apparently, the comments link on each entry isn’t working. Until I fix the comments, if you click the permalink, you can comment there with no problem.

Also, I’m still figuring out some of the features in Movable Type 3.2. The most obvious of that is the comment approval section. My current setting is for moderated comments, but that’s not my goal. Frankly, I don’t get enough comments to turn anyone (legitimate) away. I think if you comment once, your comments will show up forever more once I approve the first one. I’m looking into it, though.

What isn’t a public good?

Sebastian Mallaby offered a suggestion on Monday:

But there’s one antidote to loneliness that is at least intriguing. In an experiment in Austin, Princeton’s Daniel Kahneman found that commuting — generally alone, and generally by car — is rated the least enjoyable daily activity, but commuting by car pool is reasonably pleasant. Measures that promote car pooling could make Americans less isolated and healthier.

I take mass transit to work. Not because I like people; I don’t. Most days I talk to no one on the train. Not even my brother. My perfect commute would be me, in my car, alone. I only trade that away for the cost and sanity savings. Government promoting what it thinks should be my personal happiness is not a public good. Any public policy promoting car pooling to make me “less isolated and healthier” is a failure upon implementation. Liberals and conservatives need to accept this.

A question for readers

I’m very passionate about the Phillies, although my interest in this season is rapidly waning. We’re losing at an alarming pace, playing horrible baseball. I’ve commented that we look worse than little leaguers on more than one recent occasion. Pitcher Brett Myers exacerbated that on Friday when he was arrested early that morning on a street corner in Boston. I’m not going to provide details, because it’s not really my business. I’m not interested in the gossip/gawking aspect. My question for you is this: would you have suspended Myers if you were Phillies management?

As expected, with Philadelphia phans a notoriously opinionated bunch, the phlogosphere went nuts. Calls for his suspension, trade, or dismissal arose. The general sentiment is that spousal abuse is an unforgivable offense. Duh. But… he’s still presumed innocent, no matter how compelling the evidence. Shouldn’t that matter? I think it does, which is why I’m not angry or disgusted with the Phillies for saying and doing nothing, or for letting Myers pitch Saturday afternoon.

So, I’m interested in some impartial opinions from you, who aren’t avid fans. Should the Phillies have taken action against Myers immediately after his arrest?

P.S. The Phillies and Brett Myers announced yesterday that he’ll take a leave of absence from the team until mid-July at least. Forced by public opinion? Probably, but I don’t know. It doesn’t change my opinion.

Update: I didn’t test the site enough before resuming activity. The comments link isn’t working. Until I fix the comments, if you click the permalink, you can comment there with no problem.

Joe Buck could be a Congressman

Sen. Charles Grassley is quite the innovator:

Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, wants the Internal Revenue Service to chase after pimps and sex traffickers with the same fervor it stalked gangster Al Capone for tax evasion.

Grassley, R-Iowa, would hit pimps with fines and lengthy prison sentences for failing to file employment forms and withhold taxes for the women and girls under their command.

The proposal would make certain tax crimes a felony when the money comes from a criminal activity. A one-year prison sentence and $25,000 fine would become a 10-year sentence and $50,000 fine for each employment form that a pimp or sex trafficker fails to file.

Implement a little extra residency in the federal pen, and prostitution ceases. Or pimps start reporting their income and we nab them for being dumb enough to implicate themselves running a prostitution ring. This has the smell of success. Just like drug prohibition with stiffer penalties eliminated drugs, this’ll be quick and effective.

Why is Sen. Grassley so stupid? If he really wants to protect our poor, vulnerable women, he could seek to decriminalize prostitution and, dare I suggest, regulate it? Might that do more to help women working as prostitutes, excuse me, being exploited by evil men, than threatening criminals with extra-super punishment?

I know, I know… think of the children. Why do libertarians hate children so much?

Final word on the flag amendment

The flag amendment is toast. Good riddance, although it’s safe to assume it’ll be back. I’m going to guess 2008. I don’t know why, it just feels like it’s on some strange cycle. Anyway, I thought I’d heard every possible stupid remark going into yesterday’s vote, courtesy of Senators Hatch and Specter. Alas, no:

“All rights enshrined in the Constitution have certain limits,” said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.). “There is no such thing as unlimited rights. Although we treasure and value our right of free speech . . . we protect our national monuments,” including the flag.

“Congress shall make no law” is pretty ambiguous about limits, I admit. It’s just strange that protecting our national monuments isn’t in the Constitution. And if the flag is a national monument, does it need public restrooms to meet any federal regulations.

In other burning news, James Taranto chimed in to make his partisan point, even though he pretended to be on the side of common sense. What I don’t understand, and he presents a perfect example, is why so many people hate the New York Times as if its publishers are Hell’s army unleashed on us all? I concede that its reporting is often smug, self-important, ideological crap. My response is to avoid it. I rarely link to its stories because I find better, less-biased reporting elsewhere. Free speech with free markets is a sufficient combination for me to mentally handle any real or imagined offense to public sensibility by the New York Times. Why this isn’t enough for those on the right, other than needing a bogeyman to whip up the masses, is a mystery to me. Seriously, get over it.

That said, I’m amused that Mr. Taranto works a defense in yesterday’s Best of the Web Today aimed merely at attacking the New York Times for its editorial against the amendment. I imagine the effort necessary to navigate to his point was tremendous. Actually, probably not. Practice makes perfect, right? I digress. Mr. Taranto quotes the New York Times, writing about the flag amendment:

With the Fourth of July fast approaching, Senate Republicans are holding a barbecue. Unfortunately, instead of grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, they are trying to torch a hole in the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee by passing an amendment to the Constitution that would allow federal and state authorities to punish flag-burning.

Some things should be out of bounds even in a competitive election year. Messing with the Constitution is one of them.

Seems reasonable, but it’s the New York Times. They’re just a bunch of dumb liberals who don’t realize that the rest of America is patriotic enough to love the flag. So what is Mr. Taranto’s snappy retort?

But the ability to amend the Constitution is part of the Constitution. “Messing with the Constitution” also ended slavery, gave blacks and women the vote, and repealed Prohibition. (OK, that last one is a wash.)

In fact, if the First Congress had refrained from “messing with the Constitution” by proposing the Bill of Rights, there would be no First Amendment. Forget flag-burning; if the Times were true to its principles, it would be against free speech altogether!

Haha! He’s poking fun at the literal interpretation of “messing with the Constitution.” Funny, and damn if doesn’t catch them in their logic failure. Conservatives 1,239,938,839, New York Times 0.

Except, everyone understands that the editors at the New York Times did not mean the actual process of amending the Constitution. Congress followed the procedure exactly. Big deal. The anti-flag desecration amendment violated Constitutional principles, which Mr. Taranto clearly knows, unless he’s blinded by his disdain. I doubt it.

Best of the Web Today is hack journalism at its finest.

Just vote on it, already

Sen. Arlen Specter is a genius. How else to describe such brilliant words defending our nation’s immediate need to alter the Constitution in word and spirit to protect the flag:

“I think it’s important to focus on the basic fact that the text of the First Amendment, the text of the Constitution, the text of the Bill of Rights is not involved,” Specter argued.

I don’t understand that, so I can only assume he knows more than me. Thank God he’s a United States Senator. Mere mortals who can’t understand what he said shouldn’t be allowed to disagree. Imagine the damage that could cause.

Of course, I am also thankful for Sen. Orrin Hatch.

“They say that flag burning is a rare occurrence; it is not that rare,” he told the chamber. An aide hoisted a large blue poster detailing 17 incidents of flag desecration over three years. Hatch, citing “an ongoing offense against common decency,” read them all. “That’s just mentioning some that we know of; there’s a lot more than that, I’m sure,” he said.

That is 5.67 flag burnings per year, or 0.0000000189 for every man, woman, and child in America. Don’t worry, I’m doing my part being pissed off. And holy crap, am I ever offended by flag burnings that nobody knows about. Sweet Hell, I won’t be able to sleep tonight.

The Eighth Amendment isn’t on the ballot

This is why I do not like Justice Antonin Scalia as a Supreme Court Justice:

Like other human institutions, courts and juries are not perfect. One cannot have a system of criminal punishment without accepting the possibility that someone will be punished mistakenly. That is a truism, not a revelation. But with regard to the punishment of death in the current American system, that possibility has been reduced to an insignificant minimum. This explains why those ideologically driven to ferret out and proclaim a mistaken modern execution have not a single verifiable case to point to, whereas it is easy as pie to identify plainly guilty murderers who have been set free. The American people have determined that 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. It is no proper part of the business of this Court, or of its Justices, to second-guess that judgment, much less to impugn it before the world, and less still to frustrate it by imposing judicially invented obstacles to its execution.

(concurring opinion in Kansas v. Marsh, 04-1170)

Reprehensible logic. The possibility that someone will be punished mistakenly is indeed a truism. However, when the punishment is death, “reduced to an insignificant minimum” is not acceptable. Executing an innocent man is murder, regardless of how happy the American people are with the derived good. Gleeful retribution is not a derived good. The possibility of a mistake is exactly the reason the government should not have the power to execute a prisoner. Do we still believe in a society where individual rights are protected from the whims of the majority?

Just as disturbing is Justice Scalia’s abdication of judicial responsibility. It’s an accepted position by the Court that capital punishment is Constitutional. But, and this is important, it makes no difference that the people love sending convicted felons to the executioner. The Court’s role is to interpret the Constitution. Interpreting “cruel and unusual” warrants a look, regardless of the outcome, beyond blind deference to mob rule. (Or taking collective joy in thumbing our judicial noses at for’ners.) If it doesn’t, there is no reason to bother with a Constitution.

Reckless disregard of our history

Like many people, I saw the scare tactics masquerading as news this weekend surrounding the New York Times. Fox News ran a story with “Is the New York Times risking American lives,” or some such nonsense. I don’t know enough to go in-depth, but I’m always inclined to side with the First Amendment as a default position. That’s why I found this essay particularly interesting. Instapundit found this section particularly useful, in a bit of “gotcha” mentality to the New York Times, I think. I disagree.

Why does the Times print stories that put America more at risk of attack? They say that these surveillance programs are subject to abuse, but give no reason to believe that this concern is anything but theoretical.

I don’t believe these stories put America more at risk, for the simple reason that I believe anyone who would attack America is (unfortunately) smart enough to assume all of the top secret programs the New York Times writes about. I think that’s a reasonable assumption for anyone interested in winning against the threat we face, rather than winning against the threat we face, as long as the right team does the ass-kicking. I have no time for partisanship in this war. So, I don’t think the New York Times is putting America at more risk of attack. On the contrary, I suspect it will lead to increased preparedness when intelligent people understand that our enemies must be taken seriously. The anti-bigotry of soft expectations, as the case may be.

As such, I find the second sentence in that excerpt more informative. Every bit of the Constitution protects against theoretical future abuses. That civilization had thousands of years to grasp how dangerous government can be when given power, our Constitution is designed to safeguard us from such future excesses. The founders knew that waiting to protect the people from abuses until after the abuse will only encourage abuse. Hence, the Constitution. And the First Amendment.

More thoughts at A Stitch in Haste.

Will his face be on the dollars he saves us?

President Bush wants a line-item veto. Never mind that he claims to want it to weed out wasteful spending, none of which has been so egregious (in his mind) to force his veto pen into action since taking office, despite threats to the contrary. Also, the Constitution, and previous Supreme Court rulings, suggest that it’s not an option. The executive veto power is all or nothing. The Constitution apparently means little this decade, though, so it might be helpful to analyze the “problem”:

“A line-item veto would allow the president to remove wasteful spending from a bill while preserving the rest of the legislation,” Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Or he could suggest that Congress send him bills with a narrow focus, rather than omnibus spending bills without any sense of constraint. Or he could veto bills, and attach a Post-It note saying “remove this spending and send it back”. That might work.

“A line-item veto would reduce the incentive for Congress to spend wastefully because when lawmakers know their pet projects will be held up to public scrutiny, they will be less likely to suggest them in the first place,” Bush said.

Or Congress could read the full text of the bills it passes. Or he could read it when it hits his desk, veto the bill, and publicly call the lawmakers who sneak pork into the bills he’s asked to sign on their waste.

“I call on the Senate to show a bipartisan commitment to fiscal discipline by passing the line-item veto so we can work together to cut wasteful spending, reduce the deficit, and save money for American taxpayers,” Bush said.

A commitment to fiscal discipline would mean not proposing such spending waste in the Congress, and definitely not passing such bills. But the Congress hasn’t shown such commitment, nor has President Bush tried to impose it. Instead, he now asks for the power to say “no”, like any good father would. This will work how? Instead of trying to extend his nanny powers beyond the Constitution’s current boundaries, President Bush could lead. He could exercise the power he already has in a prudent manner, without asking for more.

With almost 5½ years of evidence to the contrary, I’m not optimistic.