He’s a political promise keeper

Two quick points on President Bush’s veto explanation, now that he’s actually used that power. (I know, I’m as shocked as you that it took him this long to discover a real power. With all the imagined powers he now has, you’d think he would’ve already burned through all of his real powers. Anyway…)

“This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others,” Bush said at the White House, following through on his promise to veto the bill. “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it.”

First, if I was mistaken in my post yesterday, so is President Bush. Hopefully every Congressman who voted for the bill should call him out if he’s wrong. Otherwise, this is just politics as usual. Ahem…

Second, of all the reckless misadventures of the last 5½ years by the Congress and the Administration, this is the first to “cross a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect”? Right. Perhaps the President needs a better moral compass, one that involves civil liberties and fiscal responsibility.

Imagine the fun of National Healthcare!

I can’t imagine a better story to support my contention from yesterday that the federal government should not be funding medical research than this story:

Federally funded “pregnancy resource centers” are incorrectly telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma, a minority congressional report charged yesterday.

The report said that 20 of 23 federally funded centers contacted by staff investigators requesting information about an unintended pregnancy were told false or misleading information about the potential risks of an abortion.

The pregnancy resource centers, which are often affiliated with antiabortion religious groups, have received about $30 million in federal money since 2001, according to the report, requested by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.). The report concluded that the exaggerations “may be effective in frightening pregnant teenagers and women and discouraging abortion. But it denies the teenagers and women vital health information, prevents them from making an informed decision, and is not an accepted public health practice.”

It’s not essential to take the specific topic of abortion out of this debate. Like it or not, abortion is legal in America. If the federal government should be funding science, or not funding science for moral rather than constitutional reasons, does it not have the obligation to tell the truth? Or is the truth, as based on evidence, too inconvenient to fit with a specific political agenda? Just like I don’t want my tax dollars paying for circumcisions, religious Americans probably do not want their tax dollars paying for abortions. This isn’t a complicated argument. Keep the government checkbook out of science.

I hope Tom Clancy is not a prophet

If Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman paid any attention to national politics, he’d know that Gambling Is Bad and Americans Hate Gambling. But, until the House gets around to outlawing Las Vegas, Mayor Goodman is in charge. And Tom Clancy has him working feverishly to protect Las Vegas from its no doubt imminent economic collapse, thanks to his new “terrorists invade Las Vegas” edition of Rainbow Six:

“It could be harmful economically, and it may be something that’s not entitled to free speech (protection),” Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said of the game’s realistic scenes, which he had not personally viewed.

“It’s based on a false premise,” Goodman said, adding federal and state leaders have repeatedly assured him that Las Vegas is “the safest place imaginable” nearly five years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the East Coast.

“I will ask … whether or not we can stop it,” Goodman said of the game’s planned November release.

In other news Destroy All Humans has completely turned me off the idea of visiting strange towns filled with stereotypical bumpkins. I might end up dead with my brain stem extracted through mental powers. Or worse, I might end up the victim of mind control and be forced to sing and run around in circles. And I definitely fear being in a hotel when a UFO launches a sonic boom or two at the structure’s foundation, thereby causing it to collapse. Why didn’t someone acknowledge that the game’s makers don’t deserve free speech because the resulting fictitious game might scare me?

As stupid as Mayor Goodman’s comment is, I’m going to happily give (hopefully legally take from, of course) Las Vegas some of my money next month when I’m there on vacation. He’s worrying for nothing.

Source: John Dvorak

More lessons in civics and fewer in social appeasement.

A few days ago, Glenn Reynolds wrote of Tennessee’s proposed Constitutional amendment aimed at protecting marriage from those who believe that individual rights should determine how the government treats the citizenry. Mr. Reynolds and I are in agreement that constitutional amendments for this question are a bad idea, but I mostly added on that last bit as a summary of my own feeling because I don’t care for parts of his explanation. Consider:

My own sense is that this sort of thing belongs in the political sphere, and that efforts to insulate it from the political sphere, either by judicial fiat or constitutional amendment, are a bad idea.

UPDATE: This is part of a string of losses for gay marriage advocates, reports Dale Carpenter, who has detail on what’s going on. As I’ve noted before, it seems to me that the big push on gay marriage came before the public was ready. You have to educate first; there’s been good progress on public attitudes toward gays, but it actually seems to go faster when gay marriage advocates aren’t getting a lot of publicity and calling people who disagree with them bigots. (Kaus has noted this, too — scroll down due to lack of permalinks at Kausfiles.) Honey, vinegar, and all that.

My own feeling is that Americans are basically fair, and will come to support gay marriage on their own given a bit of time. And I think that — despite claims that they’re really just opposing “judicial activism” — gay marriage opponents fear that I’m right.

I understand his point, and I believe he’s right that Americans will eventually support same sex marriage on their own. I also think he’s right in describing what will be most effective, given our current political atmosphere in which selling out one group of Americans is an accepted strategy for buying another, larger group. That’s a practical realization of how malignant our political climate remains. We shouldn’t pat ourselves for working within that system, though.

The larger, more troublesome challenge in accepting that thinking is that this flawed climate should invalidate a Constitutional approach to achieving equality. It’s ridiculous to assert that the opinion of a majority of Americans matters in this. Why should a segment of Americans wait for future generations to grant them fundamental rights that should be respected now? We live in a republic based on individual rights, not a land where mob rule should dictate how our courts interpret our Constitution. Judicial fiat or not, the role of our judiciary is to interpret the Constitution, thereby protecting the individual rights of every citizen from government and other citizens. Only in not faithfully administering its duties is a court engaging in judicial activism.

The legislature may be the best location for this fight, but that doesn’t make the courts a bad place for it. The majoritarian mentality consuming the willingness of our elected representatives to uphold the Constitution indicates the fallacy of abandoning the Constitution to meet the mob’s delicate condition that it never be offended by others and that the minority must bow to the majority until the majority is ready. Our liberty doesn’t work that way.

Oxymoron of the Day

Commenting on Ezra Klein’s post about Charles Murray’s book In Our Hands is well past its timeliness, but I enjoyed this bit:

I do, however, want to use my blog’s blissfully unlimited space to go into some added detail on Murray’s policy mistakes. The base assumption of his plan is that he can halt the growth of health spending — the primary driver of budgetary inflation — by restoring all power to the individual, who will then bargain with private insurers and demand better care, lower cost, and snappier service. His basic premise is that given the trillions floating around our government, the concept that we have any problems at all is absurd, and it must mean that government waste is subverting America’s abundance.

The problem is, our country’s entitlement programs are models of bureaucratic efficiency. Social Security spends less than one percent of its budget on administration; for Medicare, it’s two percent. Compare that to the private health insurers, who blow about 14 percent on administration. Indeed, if you imposed the Plan immediately, it would cost staggering $355 billion more than the government currently spends. Some efficiency.

Perhaps Mr. Klein’s summary of Mr. Murray’s plan is correct; I haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment on the details. Its details aren’t essential to understand that Mr. Murray is probably not talking about overhead. It doesn’t matter how efficient the bureaucracy is at administering entitlements, if it’s paying too much for unnecessary procedures, there is waste that should eliminated. If the public wants its unnecessary procedures, they should pay for those procedures themselves. So, if you spend 14% on overhead to keep prices in line, you may be able to save more than if you efficiently overpay.

Link from a Balloon Juice discussion on minimum wage proposals.

Save our souls (and state monopolies)

Congress: Boo yourself!:

The House passed legislation Tuesday that would prevent gamblers from using credit cards to bet online and could block access to gambling Web sites.

The legislation would clarify and update current law to spell out that most gambling is illegal online. But there would be exceptions — for state-run lotteries and horse racing — and passage isn’t a safe bet in the Senate, where Republican leaders have not considered the measure a high priority.

The House voted 317-93 for the bill, which would allow authorities to work with Internet providers to block access to gambling Web sites.

Work with is a euphemism for force. Anyone still want to claim that Republicans and Democrats are for economic freedom, and liberty in general? I don’t. Paternalism marches on.

I don’t have any more to say on this bill specifically, but I want to savor the stupidity of this quote:

“Never before has it been so easy to lose so much money so quickly at such a young age,” [Jim Leach, R-Iowa] said.

When will Congress act to outlaw citizens from using credit cards to finance a new business? As a business owner, I could lose everything I own. Won’t you protect me?


Cover the First Amendment in Whipped-Cream and Pasties

Now that it’s been called on its bullshit, the FCC wants a do-over.

“Today the Commission, supported by the ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates, filed a motion for voluntary remand and stay of briefing schedule in Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission,” the commission said in a statement. “It did so at the request of broadcasters who complained they did not have the opportunity to be heard by the Commission before it issued its decision in its “Omnibus” order in March. Additionally, the remand would allow the Commission to hear all of the licensees’ arguments which is necessary for the broadcasters to make these same arguments before the Court.”

I’ll ask the obvious: does no one understand that “Congress shall make no law” is an absolute? And is it any surprise that an arm of the government granted unconstitutional power by that Congress will somehow abuse that power beyond its own rules? The key lost in this story is that Fox is not one of the networks asking for this “voluntary” remand in Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission. Good. If it sticks this out through to trial, I promise to watch every So You Think You Can [Insert Unwatchable Activity Here]? show its producers can imagine. Just include lots of T&A and swearing when if the court realizes that the bulk of the FCC’s Congressionally-sanctioned nanny-mongering is unconstitutional.

Hat tip: Jeff Jarvis

Exceptions prove the fallacy of majoritarianism

Where to begin today? New York’s Court of Appeals ruled that the state can continue discriminating against same-sex couples. Apparently, a heterosexual oopsy with birth control proves that gays and lesbians don’t need the same rights.

The Legislature could find that this rationale for marriage does not apply with comparable force to same-sex couples. These couples can become parents by adoption, or by artificial insemination or other technological marvels, but they do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse. The Legislature could find that unstable relationships between people of the opposite sex present a greater danger that children will be born into or grow up in unstable homes than is the case with same-sex couples, and thus that promoting stability in opposite sex relationships will help children more. This is one reason why the Legislature could rationally offer the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples only.

My interpretation is a slight simplification of the majority’s opinion, but only slight. Because a heterosexual couple can create¹ life because they forget to use a condom, they need marriage rights to help those potential offspring. Even if the couple isn’t married when the child is conceived. Or seeks to stay married. Or intends to ever get married. Nope, doesn’t matter. This decision is crap². Remind me again who is seeking special rights in this debate?

Meanwhile, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld its citizenry-supported bigotry today. I don’t have anything to say about the decision itself. Instead, I’d like to highlight the patronizing majoritarianism of Georgia’s governor:

“We don’t do a referendum very often,” Perdue said. “But when we do a referendum such as a Constitutional amendment, I think we need be very respectful of the people’s voice and listen to that. I think the Supreme Court has done that and I’m very grateful for their action and their affirmation of the people’s voice in overturning the trial court’s opinion.”

The governor also said that he hopes gay Georgians do not feel marginalized by the decision. He said they are free to work and live their lives here – they simply can not marry in the state of Georgia.

I’d like to find a direct quote supporting that second paragraph. If his words verify that summary, does that come with a pat on the head? I can only hope that every gay Georgian says a big “Fuck you” on his or her way out of the state.

For excellent analysis of this decision, read this thread at A Stitch in Haste.

¹ Excuse me. Since we’re now going with majoritarianism instead of science, our bigotry must conclude that a man and a woman cannot create life. Only the monotheistic God our nation’s founders included in our Constitution’s First Amendment is capable of such divine action. And traditional marriage is his conduit.

² Read Chief Judge Kaye’s dissent. It’s not possible for someone who understands our principles defining individual rights could walk away from reading this dissent and still think the supposed majority has any right to deny a fundamental right to anyone in America.

“It is uniquely the function of the Judicial Branch to safeguard individual liberties guaranteed by the New York State Constitution, and to order redress for their violation,” she wrote. “The court’s duty to protect constitutional rights is an imperative of the separation of powers, not its enemy. I am confident that future generations will look back on today’s decision as an unfortunate misstep.”

Majoritarianism can’t accept that. The New York Court of Appeals proved today that it’s an activist court.

Have you paid your buck-oh-five today?

Being Independence Day, I want to put thoughts together about our liberty and what’s most important to remember. Had I sat down to write something myself, I hope it would’ve turned out like Timothy’s post at The One-Handed Economist. Every word but one is true, and that one word is only a quibble of hyperbole.

It has come to pass that we obtain freedom too cheaply, and thus we do not value it. Unlike generations before us, unlike our forefathers, and unlike many in much of the world today, we’re born with liberty and face no great struggle in keeping most of it. Or at least keeping enough to go about our daily lives without too much hassle. And parts get neglected, or we don’t feel too bad about giving up things at the margin: flashing an ID here, filling out a form there, being searched without cause this other place…. And each transgression taken individually perhaps isn’t that much, but taken in sum the results are disastrous. To simply enter into an agreement with a private party to hold our money, we must show two government pieces of identification. To move from one state to another by air, we must show ID and walk barefooted through the airport. It’s come to the point where we are not even secure in our homes. Liberty dies slowly while nobody is watching.

I’d change “nobody” to “everybody,” but yeah, what he said.

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.