Whew, George Allen weighed in on New Jersey’s decision

I’ll have more thoughts later on yesterday’s ruling by New Jersey’s Supreme Court. Until then, I do want to note Sen. George Allen’s statement:

“Today’s decision by the NJ Supreme Court is another example of activist judges inventing the law and subverting the will of the people. This is why I support the marriage amendment, because it will protect the values and views of the people of Virginia from judges who would want to impose their elitist views on us. This is a clear difference between my opponent and me – I support protecting marriage from judges who do not understand their role: to interpret the law, not invent the law. My opponent does not. “My opponent says that this amendment would infringe upon the rights of ordinary Virginians, and he opposes it. But I and many members of the Virginia Assembly joined in asking the Attorney General of Virginia to render an opinion. His response: ‘I can find no legal basis for the proposition that passage of the marriage amendment will limit or infringe upon the ordinary civil and legal rights of unmarried Virginians’. “This amendment does exactly what it says it does; it defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, and I’m for marriage between a man and a woman while my opponent is against it.”

I’m sure that majoritarian plea about the will of the people (and current law being more than individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution) is a sacred part of his own libertarianism. Of course, I’ve already debunked the silly notion that values will disintegrate if we don’t pass draconian bills and amendments. I’ll refute the rest of what Sen. Allen said when I post my thoughts on the ruling. Until then, perhaps someone should tell Jim Webb’s wife that he’s against marriage between a man and a woman. Although, I’m amazed she doesn’t know, since that is a giant plank of The Homosexual Agenda&#153.

Rep. Don Young will be my inspiration

I know how I’m planning to avoid dangerous military service if the draft returns¹: I’ll spend like a Congressman.

Thousands of U.S. troops are being barred from overseas duty because they are so deep in debt they are considered security risks, according to an Associated Press review of military records.

The Pentagon contends that financial problems can distract personnel from their duties or make them vulnerable to bribery and treason. As a result, those who fall heavily into debt can be stripped of the security clearances they need to go overseas.

While the number of revoked clearances has surged since the beginning of the Iraq war, military officials say there is no evidence that service members are deliberately running up debts to stay out of harm’s way.

Damn, they might be on to my brilliant plan.

The problem is attributed to a lack of financial smarts among recruits, reckless spending among those exhilarated to make it home alive after a tour of duty and the profusion of “payday lenders” — businesses that allow military personnel to borrow against their next paycheck at extremely high interest rates.

My brother is in the Navy, and I’d suggest that the first suggestion is the issue. Perhaps this is just another data point suggesting economics education for kids while still in school? Of course, the red flag went up when I read mention of payday loans. Good grief, we know where this will end up is already going:

Runaway interest rates at payday lending businesses, many of which are clustered outside bases, are another source of the problem. Several states have cracked down on payday lending practices, and President Bush signed legislation this month limiting how much these businesses can charge military personnel.

Is President Bush taking economic advice from that model libertarian, George Allen? He’s clearly absorbed the “trust free people with free enterprise” lesson. All military personnel are now affected because some military personnel may degrade their financial health with stupid loans. Well done.

¹ I do not believe the draft is coming back any time soon. It’s just a literary device, so no crackpot ranting about its inevitable return if we elect Democrats or fail to re-elect Republicans next month.

Supervised peril beats unsupervised peril

USA Today has an interesting, if not surprising, story on teen driving fatalities between 3pm and 5pm on weekdays. I say not surprising because teens are getting out of school at that time and don’t have much driving experience. Sometimes, statistics simply present the obvious. However, the story contains one useful quote that I think is much more universal than in the exclusive context of teen driving. It comes from a mother whose son died in a traffic accident in 1999.

[Kathryn] Orosz says she had such rules for her son: “I had Michael sign a contract that he would not have his friends in the car, he would not drive after dark.”

In the end, though, the rules were not enough. “Parents need to not just say this,” she says. “They need to get in the car and drive with the kids, monitor them. You don’t want to just throw them in a car. You need to be teaching them. They need … to gain experience.”

She offers sound advice for driving, but it could just as easily be applied to drinking, for example. We believe in a training period for driving, which clearly involves a risk of negative externalities on society, but abstinence is the only allegedly justifiable policy for drinking. Why? Drinking problems for teens and young adults (including those barely 21) can involve those same negatives, but more likely the impact will be on the individual only. Is the risk to society greater for an inexperienced teen driver to hurl 2,000 pounds of automobile down the road or for him to pound 13 beers in an evening? The answer is clear and it should inform public policy more than any moral aversion to free choice/fun/whatever that drives anti-alcohol hysteria.

Wanting to do and Doing are not the same

It’s now obvious that the Republican strategy over the next two weeks will be to hammer away at the supposed fringe liberal agenda Speaker Pelosi would force upon America. It’s an amusing narrative, if only because what it ignores – the benefit of divided government – is so painfully obvious. We’re not changing the president in this election, and I don’t even buy the promise of impeachment proceedings. That leaves a Republican president to veto any and every fringe bill that comes from Congress. That assumes the Democrats gain both houses. If not, the “dangers” of a Democratic Congress never arrive on the president’s desk. This fear is overblown.

Not surprisingly, more of this appeared in yesterday’s Opinion Journal. It’s a valiant effort, I suppose, except it ignores the last half-decade and pretends that we don’t remember it. Among many hilarious bits of nonsense:

Second, President Bush will not be able to re-energize his effort for individually owned Social Security accounts, for “preventing the privatization of social security” is in the Democratic National Committee’s “6-Point Plan for 2006.” Democrats don’t trust people to own or invest their own retirement funds–better to let a wise government do that, for as socialist Noam Chomsky says, “putting people in charge of their own assets breaks down the solidarity that comes from doing something together.” And since Congress gets to spend Social Security tax receipts that aren’t needed to pay benefits, letting people invest their payments in their own retirement accounts would be a costly revenue reduction that the new, bigger-spending Congress won’t allow to happen.

Privatizing Social Security is necessary. The longer we wait, the worse the pain when we finally fix it. I get it. But provide me one example of how the current Republican Congress fought for privatization. Show me evidence that President Bush didn’t pack up his reform agenda (saving his political capital for other expenditures?) at the first hint of resistance from the Republican Congress. And, no, quoting Noam Chomsky’s stupidity isn’t proof.

I don’t like the idea of Democrats in power, but I despise the reality of Republicans in power. A few years out of power won’t hurt any more than what we’re suffering now. Maybe I’m wrong, but shouting “they suck more” won’t convince me.

We are hypocrites if one is bad and the other is good

I’m sorry for the theme today, but this story warrants a mention:

A father stands accused of the unthinkable: brutally cutting his daughter’s genitals.

The girl was only 2.

I’m not going to say anything beyond the obvious, for it’s unnecessary. The Female Genital Mutilation Act prohibits what the father allegedly did to his daughter. His action¹ is despicable and demands a harsh penalty if he is convicted.

That’s not the end of the story, from my perspective. The obvious connection to male circumcision should be clear. I’ve made the comparison in the past, maintaining that the difference between the two is one of degree, not kind. For anyone who disagrees, consider:

Adem’s trial may be a landmark case for health and human rights activists fighting against the African custom they call genital mutilation. But for those close to the victim, this trial is about vindication and healing for a little girl who was forced to endure unbearable pain.

In America we circumcise healthy infant males without anesthesia². How much pain do they endure? Is it unbearable? The comparison is not ridiculous.

“When I saw that child I saw myself. I could see the pain in her eyes,” said Soraya Mire, a filmmaker and activist who was circumcised when she was 13 in Somalia. Mire is known for her 1994 documentary “Fire Eyes” in which she chronicled her struggles after having the procedure.

I met Ms. Mire at the 9th International Symposium on Circumcision in Seattle this August, where she shared her story. I listened as she advocated the position that both male and female circumcision are genital mutilation. By stating that, and in posting my agreement, I don’t mean to minimize what she endured or what this little girl endured. It only indicates that the severity of the cutting does not change the ethical violation of the action, the genital cutting of a healthy, non-consenting person. Societal customs may differentiate between the two, as our’s does, but where it differs, it is wrong. Both are barbaric violations of individual rights.

Fortunate Adem [the girl’s mother] refused to comment for this article but has said her daughter suffered severe pain since the circumcision.

“Her whole life has been changed,” she said. “She is going to be traumatized psychologically. Parts of her body have been taken away from her without her consent. They need to look at this child the same way they would if she had been raped.”

We can argue about the various issues involved with Ms. Adem’s statement, but one of her claims applies to male circumcision, as well. If removing parts of a girl’s healthy genitalia without her consent is wrong, it’s wrong for boys. There are no exceptions based on ease of removal or societal tradition.

¹ The father pleaded innocent. The article mentions a claim that the mother’s family could’ve performed the circumcision. I do not know. Whoever circumcised the girl should be punished.

² Please do not mistake this as an argument that using anesthesia permits the surgery’s justification. Anesthetized circumcision should be the minimum level of medical intervention, but it does not change the unethical nature of non-medically indicated circumcision on an unconsenting individual. Any argument that it does is mind-numbingly misconceived.

The first of many needed victories

I’m anxious to read the judge’s reasoning, but this is unexpected and amazing:

In a case that has been closely watched by anti-circumcision groups nationwide, a Cook County judge today ruled that a 9-year-old Northbrook boy should not be circumcised against his will.

In a written opinion handed down today, Circuit Judge Jordan Kaplan found that “the evidence was conflicting and inconclusive as to any past infections or irritations that may have been suffered by the child.”

“Moreover,” he continued, “this court also finds that medical evidence as provided by the testimony of the expert witnesses for each of the parties is inconclusive as to the medical benefits or non-benefits of circumcision as it relates to the 9-year-old child.”

The case was a clear victory for the growing number of so-called “intactivist¹ groups” across the country that have argued that circumcision is harmful and violates the rights of children who are not old enough to consent to the irreversible medical procedure.

Kaplan, who also cited the irreversible nature of the operation, said his order would remain in effect until the boy turns 18, when he can decide for himself whether or not he wants to be circumcised.

Finally, a dose of sanity from our court system regarding the limits of parental rights existence of a child’s rights. Granted, I suspect Judge Kaplan’s ruling is much more limited than I’d like, since the boy’s parents are divorced. If they’d agreed, this case wouldn’t happen and the boy’s rights would’ve been ignored. That societal oversight isn’t going away just because Judge Kaplan ruled correctly in this case. However, this is still great news.

Worth noting in this is something I’ve heard from pro-infant circumcision individuals. They’ll ask why I care so much about their son’s penis. The short answer is that I don’t care about his penis. I care about his rights, which I know are clearly being violated. He can’t consent and enough evidence exists to indicate that he wouldn’t consent if given the choice later in life. I’m not against circumcision, but it should be medically necessary or left to adult males to decide for themselves. As such, I don’t believe the question should be why I care so much about a boy’s penis. Instead parents should ask themselves why they care so little. He is born with a healthy, intact penis. Amputating part of it is the radical position.

¹ I’m familiar with the term intactivist. It’s cute and descriptive, but because it’s cute, I do not like it. As the article shows, it does little more than give reporters an excuse to fill in the story with details at which typical readers will roll their eyes. That’s not helpful.

Should we prosecute those who say “Boo!”?

I didn’t comment on last week’s story about the Wisconsin man who posted bogus warnings about terrorist attacks on NFL stadiums because I didn’t care enough to ramble about the obvious. But this quote in conjunction with the story amused frustrated me:

“These types of hoaxes scare innocent people, cost business resources and waste valuable homeland security resources. We cannot tolerate this Internet version of yelling fire in a crowded theater in the post-9/11 era,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie in Newark, N.J., where Brahm was charged in a sealed complaint filed Thursday. One of the stadiums mentioned was Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Kudos to Mr. Christie for working in a bogus use of September 11th to explain law enforcement action. (And for reciting the time-worntested example of yelling fire in a crowded theater.) But this recitation of the “post-9/11” talking point is only useful if we can reasonably assume that, pre-9/11, we would’ve ignored what we’re now prosecuting. Maybe we should just regulate The Internets, since we’re in the post-9/11 era. For the innocent people. The children, especially.

I might vote for myself for Senate

Skimming my hometown newspaper today, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, I found this Q&A with Sen. George Allen and James Webb, dealing with domestic issues such as Social Security, federal deficits, making Bush’s tax cuts permanent, No Child Left Behind, illegal immigration, manned space flights to the moon (huh?), and various federal and state constitutional amendments. I won’t bore anyone, most of all myself, with a recap of each position. Neither candidate is one I’d happily support. I know I won’t support Sen. Allen, but I can’t believe the Virginia’s Democratic Party can’t do better than Webb. I can’t believe I have to vote for this if I want to cast a lesser-of-two-evils protest vote. On immigration, courtesy of James Webb:

I do not support guest-worker programs. I do not believe the myth of the tech-worker shortage. Our priority as a society should be to invest in and improve domestic technical and scientific education programs so that there are enough qualified job applicants available from the pool of domestic labor. Until our borders are secure, and the status of the 12 million illegal immigrants already in America is resolved, guest-worker programs are counterproductive.

If the tech-worker shortage is a myth, then why does society (i.e., the federal government) need to “invest” in domestic technical and scientific education programs? There are either enough qualified domestic applicants or there aren’t. You can’t deny the latter and propose a solution to correct it. This is what Republicans mean when they complain abouot Speaker Pelosi. It’s crap, because a vote for Democrats this year is a vote to have the hacks bicker with each other rather than continuing to increase spending and reduce civil liberties. But, good lord, this is why I am not a Democrat.

Of course, Sen. Allen’s answers were no better, as a whole. That didn’t stop the Times-Dispatch from announcing its predictable support for Sen. Allen. But, really, shouldn’t they at least use facts as support?

On taxes, Allen supports making the temporary federal tax cuts permanent, including repeal of the federal estate tax. He says: “I trust free people with free enterprise.” His opponent says we cannot have permanent tax cuts in time of war (meaning he would let the temporary tax cuts expire, thus raising taxes). And he is on record as favoring higher state taxes for transportation.

That’s his famous self-proclaimed “libertarian” streak, I presume. So, that explains his support for an increase in the federal minimum wage? And why he voted for the port security bill without trying to strip out the anti-free enterprise internet gambling ban? And what about this?

The most important institution in our society is the family. For the raising of children, the ideal is to have a mother and a father. I strongly believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. In our representative democracy, the will and values of the people should be determined by the people or their elected legislatures, not activist judges who superimpose their elitist point of view legislating from the bench. I support passage of the Virginia definition of marriage to uphold the views of Virginians against activist judges. I’m a sponsor of a Federal Marriage Amendment.

And the rights of individuals should be protected by the Constitution. We can’t always get what we want, I guess. But wouldn’t civil marriage, which is a pre-defined contract blessed by the Commonwealth, be a form of free enterprise? Virginia’s proposed marriage amendment would adversely impact me, if interpreted as some believe it should be since we’re going for the whole “no judicial interpretation of something not mentioned by the words” thing?

Contrary to Sen. Allen’s belief, not all Virginians believe we’re in a cultural war with our judges. Okay, that’s not true, we are. But Sen. Allen’s side fired the first shots. That’s not the mark of a man who cares about free people, let alone free enterprise. I can do better than that with my vote, even if it’s James Webb.

This isn’t a video game

Charles Krauthammer gets it right on the issue of Japan and nuclear weapons:

Japan is a true anomaly. All the other Great Powers went nuclear decades ago — even the once-and-no-longer great, such as France; the wannabe great, such as India; and the never-will-be great, such as North Korea. There are nukes in the hands of Pakistan, which overnight could turn into an al-Qaeda state, and North Korea, a country so cosmically deranged that it reports that the “Dear Leader” shot five holes-in-one in his first time playing golf and also wrote six operas. Yet we are plagued by doubts about Japan’s joining this club.

The immediate effect of Japan’s considering going nuclear would be to concentrate China’s mind on denuclearizing North Korea. China calculates that North Korea is a convenient buffer between it and a dynamic, capitalist South Korea bolstered by American troops. China is quite content with a client regime that is a thorn in our side, keeping us tied down while it pursues its ambitions in the rest of Asia. Pyongyang’s nukes, after all, are pointed not west but east.

Japan’s threatening to go nuclear would alter that calculation. It might even persuade China to squeeze Kim Jong Il as a way to prevent Japan from going nuclear. The Japan card remains the only one that carries even the remote possibility of reversing North Korea’s nuclear program.

For whatever reason nuclear weapons are proliferating in East Asia (Pakistan, India, and apparently North Korea), the problem is here to stay. We must work to solutions based in present reality. Considering the only sway we have is with our allies, of whom Japan is the clear winner in Asia, we must use their power to promote stability. Rather, we mustn’t stand in the way of Japan using its power.

It would be nice if we could just make this go away, but deterrent is all we have left. As Mr. Krauthammer points out, we’re delusional if we think China is going to act in our best interest as a matter of policy. The only nations with which we hold any power to negotiate towards success are allies. We wish to persuade the Japanese from joining us as a superpower at the precise time we most need them to match us in ability.

The administration’s policy is understandable, but stuck in a worldview where we haven’t squandered our flexibility, if not our capacity for leadership. As such, it is wrong.