Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


Old comments migrated to Disqus, currently working outtechnical issues

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Homeland Security Games

I just finished watching Patriot Games. Hmmm...what takes more courage, confronting an armed thug, or confronting Britain's draconian laws restricting the legality of confronting armed thugs?

I hope the IRA and Sinn Fein really are pursuing peace, and that the feeling is unanimous among their ranks. Otherwise, England's gun laws have made their job a lot easier.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

First They Came For Tobacco...

Dutch Ban on Smoking Hits Pot Businesses

Thanks For The Memories

 photo BobHopeCollage.jpg

Happy 100th birthday to Bob Hope.

Also On This Day In History

1967 Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, was named Archbishop of Krakow. See also here for biographical information.

1953 Sir Edmund Hillary, with his Sherpa guide Tensing Norgay, was the first to reach the peak of Mount Everest.

1453 Constantinople was conquered (or liberated, if you believe by the Ottoman Turks 550 years ago this day. Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency wrote an article on the historic event for Military History in 1992; he has a reprint of the article here. Background info on the Byzantine Empire can be found here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Away From The Blog Due To Writers Block

In the meantime, I've been playing Civilization III as the French. (For some reason, the game chose Jeanne d'Arc as the French leader and not Louis XIV or Napoleon.) Just conquered all of German territory except for one lonely outpost, and troops are now massing on the English border. No cheese-eating surrender monkeys here!

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Annika To Play At Colonial, Singh Voices Objections

 photo AnnikaKhan.jpg

(Roiters) Annika Hansen, formerly Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One, has accepted a sponsor exemption to play at this year's Bank of America Colonial Tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Earth.

Objections have been raised by several golfers, including Khan Noonian Singh, the former Eugenics Wars-era world leader and winner of this year's Utopia Planetia Invitational.

"A woman, especially one going through Borg collective withdrawal, has no place on the men's tour." Singh said. "It's like getting a Ferengi team in the NBA. They don't have the lobes to compete with even the Los Angeles Clippers."

When asked about Singh's remarks, Annika replied, "Resistance is futile."

One reporter asked Singh to offer a prediction on her chances to make the cut. "She has Borg strength, but have you seen her putting game? It's very difficult to concentrate with all those millions of voices in her head calling her back to the collective."

Prior to joining the PGA tour, Singh had survived the Genesis Planet incident by using his superior intellect to create a temporal rift into this century. He was pardoned after making some daring assaults against the Dominion. Disagreement still exists over whether he was actually trying to help the Federation or simply looking to conquer some interstellar realm that's never heard of him.

"I no longer have need for empire. I get all the satisfaction I need from my golf game and from the knowledge that I outlived James Kirk."

Labels: ,

Friday, May 23, 2003

What Is Weird With This Picture?

PETA vs. David Duke.

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

Catholic cardinal raises controversy by expressing Catholic beliefs during commencemet ceremony at Catholic university.

What Is Right With This Picture?

Dixie Chicks raise controversy at Academy of Country Music Awards by simply showing up (via satellite) and by having their names announced.

Reba McEntire cashed in with this joke: "Everybody here loves to gamble. They're backstage right now checking the latest odds on the Dixie Chicks playing the Bush family reunion."

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Junk Political Science

Michael J. Totten thinks that this test put out by is cool. Perry de Havilland thinks it's the world's dumbest political test, and dislikes it so much he did a second post on it.

The results are graphed like so:

 photo PoliticalCompass.gif

Contrast to the graph of the results of the World's Smallest Political Quiz:

 photo SmallestQuiz.gif

What's the difference between the two graphs? Isn't the lower graph the same as the upper, just turned at a 45 degree angle? No it's not. postures that economic issues are the sole determinant of left vs. right, and, more importantly, that social issues are the sole determinant of libertarian vs. authoritarian - as if socialism were not inherently authoritarian and that free markets were not inherently libertarian. The World's Smallest Political Quiz has both of the axes beginning at the authoritarian end of the graph, recognizing that both affect left-right and "up-down" leanings.

The quality of the questions is also highly suspect. The World's Smallest Political Quiz is careful to ask about specific political policies. asks several questions that have nothing to do with politics, as well as some with faulty assumptions and vague language.
If globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.
First, the question does not define "globalization." Does it simply mean private-sector international trade? Or does it refer to international trade pacts between governments? Second, the question speaks of humanity and trans-national corporations as two completely separate entities; last time I checked, corporations are made up of people. Of course, what is not revealed is how these bozos define "serving humanity."

I'd always support my country, whether it was right or wrong.
Since the country is properly defined as its entire population, and since an entire population is almost never completely in the wrong (and is absolutely never always in the right), I suspect the translation is: "I'd always support my government, whether its actions were right or wrong." Now what is the definition of "support?" It could mean withholding criticism, or it could mean being willing to remain a law-abiding citizen even when the authorities abuse their powers. Need some clarification here.

No one chooses their country of birth, so it's foolish to be proud of it.
What is this, the European Union entrance exam? Note that the question does not read, "so it's foolish to be proud of it if it's a bad place."

Our race has many superior qualities.
"Our?" I don't have a singular racial identity; I am descended from Normans, Saxons, and other malcontent races who fought over the title deed to what eventually became England. Races do differ in physical attributes (contrast Zulus to pygmies) and in specific types of disease resistance, but physiology is such a tiny portion of human advantages.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Military action that defies international law is sometimes justified.
Much of what passes for international law is unjustified. Treaty obligations are the only legitimate form of international law, and ONLY if such treaties do not violate the laws of the signatory nations.

The growing fusion between information and entertainment is a worrying contribution to the public's shrinking attention span.
Boring crap in the mass media and in public school reading materials are worrying contributions to the public's shrinking attention span.

People are ultimately divided more by class than by nationality.
Nationality is a subset of class, so this is a non sequitur. Of course the testmeisters probably mean socioeconomic class. I'm not sure what the answer is in that case.

Controlling inflation is more important than controlling unemployment.
False dichotomy. Both are equally important. The money supply and the job creation machine must remain sound.

Corporations cannot be trusted to voluntarily respect the environment.
The alternative is trusting governments to micromanage their interaction with the environment, and trusting that they are always scientifically incompetent. See yesterday's post on Christie Todd Whitman and try to guess what I think.

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need is a fundamentally good idea.
As in voluntary private charity, or public-sector forced redistribution?

It's a sad reflection on our society that something as basic as drinking water is now a bottled, branded consumer product.
I'm not willing to pay for bottled water, but others are, and it provides jobs. Who am I to argue with that?

Land shouldn't be a commodity to be bought and sold.
Absolutely false.

Many personal fortunes are made by people who simply manipulate money and contribute nothing to their society.
Most rich people are honest rich people, but there are the occasional international terrorists, dictators, trust-fund-dependent senators (that means you, Ted), and nominally capitalist parasites who leech tax dollars to build sports arenas and high-risk ventures that the marketplace won't touch.

Protectionism is sometimes necessary in trade.
Protectionism is the coward's way out of competition.

The only social responsibility of a company should be to deliver a profit to its shareholders.
Of course not. A company cannot survive if it delivers no profit, and it cannot earn a profit unless it provides a product that enough people want to buy. It an defraud, but dishonesty is far riskier than honesty and is therefore a bad business decision.

The rich are too highly taxed.
We're all being overtaxed.

Those with the ability to pay should have the right to higher standards of medical care.
The alternative is either a) limiting the rich to the same level of health care available to the poor, or b) subsidizing the poor to give them the same level of health care available to the rich - or perhaps both. In the long run, health care subsidies bring up medical costs and stifle medical innovation, so the health industry works best when completely privatized.

Governments should penalise businesses that mislead the public.
You mean businesses like CNN and the New York Times? "Mislead" is a broad term that can include many activities that constitute criminal fraud and many more that do not.

The freer the market, the freer the people.
You betcha.

Abortion, when the mother's life is not threatened, should always be illegal.
Yes. See this site.

All authority must be questioned.
That's what blogs are for :-) But seriously folks, authority that is never questioned is never held accountable.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
In the proper biblical context - that a punishment should match and not exceed the severity of a crime - the answer is yes. In the popular context - that personal revenge is always a moral duty - the answer is no.

Taxpayers should not be expected to prop up any theatres or museums that cannot survive on a commercial basis.
Art is a luxury. Government must not fund luxuries.

Education should involve enabling children to develop their own personality.
Huh? Personality isn't something that's developed, it's something that comes naturally. Skills and knowledge are developed.

Everyone has their rights, but it is better for all of us that different sorts of people should keep to their own kind.
This is a political issue? Define "own kind." Same race? Same political stripe? Same religion? Same opinion of this stupid quiz? Each person belongs to a wide array of subcultures, and no two belong to the same mix. The concept of one's "own kind" is a myth.

Good parents sometimes have to spank their children, to teach them right from wrong.
This is a political issue? Yep. Depends on the kid and the situation.

It's natural for children to keep some secrets from their parents.
This is a political issue? Yes, and it's also natural for citizens to keep secrets from their government so that their government isn't encouraged to excessively interfere with their lives.

Marijuana should be legalised.
I'll have to do a lengthy post on this some day.

The function of schooling is to equip the future generation to find jobs.
It is a function, and a vital one, but not the only one. What are the others? Whatever the customer (parents) says it is.

Significantly physically disabled people should not be allowed to reproduce.
A "yes' answer assumes that the value of a human life is rooted in acuity of the senses and in motor skills. I don't buy that.

The most important thing for children to learn is to accept discipline.
Once again, it's vital but only one of several important goals, depending on what the customer wants. And why should this be treated as a political issue? Schooling should be a completely private matter.

There are no savage and civilised peoples; there are only different cultures.
Ask a Holocaust survivor or a Cuban refugee what they think.

Those who are able to work, and refuse the opportunity, should not expect society's support.
Those who are able to work, and refuse the opportunity, are selfish. Charity is properly a gift, not a demand, and one that should seek to assist in the short term. Recipients are morally obligated to seek self-sufficiency, within their abilities, in the long run.

When you are troubled, it's better not to think about it, but to keep busy with more cheerful things.
Isn't that how Jimmy Carter does foreign policy? The correct answer is: don't ignore problems, but don't obsess on them.

First-generation immigrants can never be fully integrated within their new country.
To be nit-picky about it, I don't think that even natives are ever fully-integrated into their communities. I offer Natalie Maines as Exhibit A. Immigrants can function quite well in their new homes, though. Iain and Pejman seem to be doing well.

What's good for the most successful corporations is always, ultimately, good for all of us.
What's good for the most successful corporations is free markets, so the answer is yes. Some successful corporations, or rather their officers, pursue goals that serve their own desires at the expense of the corporations they nominally serve, and that sort of thing is not good for anybody.

No broadcasting institution, however independent its content, should receive public funding.
Separation of media and state is a good idea. And since when has a publicly-funded media source had truly independent content?

Social freedom should be the priority of government.
ALL freedom should be the priority of government.

A significant advantage of a one-party state is that it avoids all the arguments that delay progress in a democratic political system.
In a one-party state, government efficiency is not a good thing.

Although the electronic age makes official surveillance easier, only wrongdoers need to be worried.
Only if government is morally and informationally perfect, which it is not.

The death penalty should be an option for the most serious crimes.
I've explained my opposition to capital punishment before.

In a civilised society, one must always have people above to be obeyed and people below to be commanded.
Technically the answer is "yes" - not to imply some sort of aristocracy, but to reflect that every person operates in many spheres and is a master in some and a subordinate in others.

Abstract art that doesn't represent anything shouldn't be considered art at all.
This is a political issue? Depends on the abstract art.

In criminal justice, punishment should be more important than rehabilitation.
I am of the opinion that punishment is the sole concern of the State, and that rehabilitation should fall under the province of the private sector.

It is a waste of time to try to rehabilitate some criminals.
Of course some criminals are beyond reach. Some even win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The businessman and the manufacturer are more important than the writer and the artist.
This is a political issue? All professions are important, except for that of necktie manufacturer, which should be outlawed for inflicting silk nooses on humanity in the name of fashion.

Mothers may have careers, but their first duty is to be homemakers.
Everybody's first duty is the home, male and female alike. And what in the bloody blazes does this have to do with politics???

On environmental issues, thinking globally and acting locally is a basically good idea.
Can somebody tell me what this tired cliche really means, other than sucking up to whatever Greenpeace says?

Making peace with the establishment is an important aspect of maturity.
Not if it's an evil establishment.

Astrology accurately explains many things.
Yet another non-political issue (to all but Nancy Reagan) in a political quiz.

Religion and morality are closely linked.
Since all religions grapple with moral issues, I'd say yes.

Sex outside of marriage is usually immoral.
This shouldn't be a political issue at all, except that government schools are trying to convince us that the sexual revolution was a good idea despite the body count and the vast emotional wreckage.

Charity is better than social security as a means of helping the genuinely disadvantaged.
It worked before the advent of the leviathan welfare state, and it still works despite it. I'll take the Baptists over FEMA any day.

Some people are naturally unlucky.
Who is the moron who put this question in a political quiz?

Faith-based schools have a positive role to play in our education system.
Yes, it serves those customers who demand religious instruction they can't get from the competitor.

A same sex couple in a stable, loving relationship, should not be excluded from the possibility of child adoption.
Growing up in a single-gender household tends to be disadvantageous. Kids learn to relate to both genders best when they have parental leadership from parents of both genders. Disadvantages can be overcome, however, but the likelihood of that happening is unique for each situation. There is a greater question that is often overlooked: who should decide which people may adopt? There are those who believe that adoption should be completely privatized.

Pornography, depicting consenting adults, should be legal for the adult population.
Prohibition is rarely a good idea (WMDs being a notable exception), and tends to breed organized crime syndicates that inflict more harm than the item being prohibited. Legalize the porno.

What goes on in a private bedroom between consenting adults is no business of the state.
Why stop at the bedroom? Why can't the bank account be as sacrosanct as the bedroom? Of course, it depends on what the adults are consenting to do. Sex? Blogging? Bioweapons lab? Crank calls to the Bush twins?

No one can feel naturally homosexual.
This is an issue of psychological science, not politics. The statement appears to be saying, "Homosexuality is necessarily a dysfunction." I believe so - visit NARTH for some politically incorrect research on the matter. The answer to this debate is far less relevant to politics than it is made out to be - another lengthy post for the future.

It's fine for society to be open about sex, but these days it's going too far.
I think that the quality of many discussions on sex sucks dirt.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Another White House Resignation

This time it's EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman. This site gives examples of her mixed environmental record:

  • Favors: EPA principles: local cooperation, clear science-based goals
  • Favors: Spearheaded preservation in heavily developed NJ
  • Strongly Favors: Supports “smart growth” against suburban sprawl
  • Favors: Unfettered development is ugly; smart growth instead
  • Favors: Protect clean water via watershed management plans
  • Neutral: Voluntary partnerships reduce greenhouse gases economically.
  • Opposes: Kyoto Treaty must include reductions by all countries.
  • Favors: Tax credits & more funding for renewable energy research.
  • Strongly Opposes: Open small fraction of ANWR for regulated production.

The glaring problems in her record are that she actually supports the Kyoto Treaty in some form,and that she thinks involvement in scientific research and containment of private residential property development are legitimate roles for government.

Hey Christie, if you want to reduce greenhouse gases, think nuclear. Those fuel cell cars you love aren't going to make the air any cleaner if it means shifting the power source from a bunch of internal combustion engines to a bunch of car batteries powered by coal-fired plants.

Memo to the President: Appoint somebody like Jerry Taylor, the Cato Institute's Director of Natural Resource Studies. It's time to declare total war on Pleistocene Liberation Organization junk environmental science. Don't attack environmental policy with the wishy-washiness of a UN peacekeeping force.

Update: I have emailed the following message to President Bush at

Dear Mr. President:

I am pleased to read of the resignation of Christie Todd Whitman from her post at the Environmental Protection Agency. The country needs an EPA chief who stands fully, not mildly like Ms. Whitman, against the statism and the crackpot junk environmentalist science that plague national policy. Looking to the Cato Institute for a candidate, or at least as a template of the sort of policy positions an EPA chief should hold, would not be a bad move.


Alan K. Henderson

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

UN Abets Funding Of Tyranny

Back in November, Samizdata contributor Perry de Havilland wrote a commentary on an article written by UK libertarian writer Sean Gabb. Following is an excerpt of Gabb's essay:

Regardless of its moral status, it is also an unwise transfer of funds. As Peter Bauer once said, foreign aid is the process by which money is taken from poor people in rich countries and given to rich people in poor countries. Very little of the aid ever reaches the advertised recipients. At best, most of it is stolen by those in charge of distributing it. At worst, it becomes a cushion for corrupt and oppressive ruling classes. They can insulate themselves from the effects of their policies. Directly or indirectly, they can get the money to pay the security services on which their power rests.

Now read this ABC news story:

An international investigation conducted by ABCNEWS found widespread corruption in the U.N. program, which helped Saddam build his fortune in U.S. currency.

"Everybody knew it, and those who were in a position to do something about it, were not doing anything," said Benon Sevan, the executive director of the Office of Iraq Program. When asked if that included him, he told ABCNEWS, "I have no power."

The program was originally designed to provide food and medication to the Iraqi people, after the U.N.-imposed sanctions prevented Saddam from selling Iraqi oil as a result of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Under the program, all money from the sale of oil was supposed to go into U.N. bank accounts in New York to buy food and humanitarian supplies.

That's how it looked on paper, but in practice...

But that's not what British businessman Swara Khadir found when his company sought contracts to sell Iraqi oil. "We discovered that we had to bribe a lot of people," said Khadir. "And because it was Iraqi oil we were talking about, it was bribing top Saddam officials."

Khadir refused to go along [with the bribes], but still has the Iraqi documents instructing him in which Swiss and Jordanian bank accounts the bribe money should be deposited.

"They made no show of concealing it," he said, "because the U.N. was just turning a blind eye to it."

One Russian oil dealer actually complained to the United Nations that Saddam's son Odai took a $60,000 bribe, but never came through with the oil contracts.

The money was deposited in a bank in Amman, Jordan, in a private account for Odai, according to documents submitted to the United Nations last year but never acted on by the Security Council.

"Of course it troubled me," said Sevan. "What do you think, I'm what you call a 'dodo,' sitting here what do you call, cold-blooded? Of course it bothers me."

Memo to King Hussein Abdullah of Jordan: fork over the cash if you haven't done so already. And Mr. Putin, your country needs to behave a bit more like Adam Smith and a bit less like Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Update: A reader pointed out that I made a reference to the wrong Jordanian king. That I'm used to thinking of Hussein and not Abdullah as the head of state should give y'all some idea of my age :-) Correction is noted.

UN Irrelevancy Update

Tony Adragna of QuasiPundit illustrates the impotency of United Nations peacekeeping forces. He links to two pages that summarize UN failures in Rwanda and Srebrenica, respectively.

In Rwanda:

Romeo Dallaire who, as the former head of the U.N. Peacekeeping Force witnessed unspeakable horrors in Rwanda, as extremist Hutus massacred over 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus in the space of a few days in 1994. General Romeo Dallaire did everything he could, pleading for 2000 more peacekeepers to be added to his insufficiently equipped 3000 man force. If they had answered Gen. Dallaire's pleas, the U.N. could have stopped the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans. Instead, following the deaths of 10 Belgian Peacekeepers assigned to protect the President, his forces were cut down from 3000 to a mere 500 men, who had to watch as one of the most horrible genocides in human history took place before their very eyes. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, frustrated, and disheartened by the U.N.'s passive attitude, nonetheless stood for his beliefs, repeatedly confronting his superiors who did nothing to prevent the horrific events from unfolding.

In 1993, 60,000 Bosnian Muslims had fled the advancing Bosnian Serb Army to the town of Srebrenica. The UN sent a Dutch battalion of 350 to face a threat that 171 times its number couldn't counter. UN Resolution 819 declared "that Srebrenica and a 30 square mile area around the town is now the first United Nations Safe Area." (Safe from what - UN peacekeepers?) Serb forces under General Ratko Mladic surrounded the Safe Area and took thirty peacekeepers hostage. Colonel Ton Karremans filed three written requests for additional military support; he used the wrong form on the third try and was told to resubmit using the proper form. Mladic's forces took Srebrenica, deported 23,000 women and children, and killed 7,000 men. Dutch forces complied with an ultimatum to release 5,000 refugees that had fled to their base.

History now repeats itself in Congo. United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) peacekeepers are unable to contain the escalating violence in the town of Bunia. A Telegraph article linked in the post reveals that at least 50,000 civilians have died in the five-year Congolese war. Adragna sees the root of the problem in a clause in UN Resolution 1468, which states that the Security Council "[r]equests the Secretary-General to increase MONUC?s [presence in the Ituri area, as security conditions permits."

"As security conditions permit"? Why not send in a force large enough to provide security?

Kofi Annan, you've got 600 troops in a war-ravaged town of 350,000. Does the name Custer mean anything to you?

(Link via InstaPundit)

Monday, May 19, 2003

Who Wants To be A White House Spokesman?

Ari Fleischer is quitting his White House post in search for greener private-sector pastures. A memo leaked to the press reveals that the Bush Administration is considering several people to fill the post. Following is an excerpt from a leaked White House Memo:

Each candidate was asked the following question: "Does the President express confidence in the new Palestinian leadership?" The candidates gave the following responses:

Candidate 1: Heh.

Candidate 2: Quoi?

Candidate 3: Not as long as the Palestinians and Nazimedia are singing the same tune.

Candidate 4: Confidence in the Paleswinian leadership? Maybe when the suicide bombings come to an unconditional screeching halt. Maybe when their TV shows stop preaching hatred against the "evil J-E-W-S." Maybe when they stop teaching their kiddos songs about the "virtues" of martyring themselves for Allah. Maybe when they tell the CIA and Mossad everything they know about every terrorist they've ever rubbed shoulders with. Maybe when they start handing over terrorists. Maybe when they DECLARE WAR on terrorists. Until then, you can kiss that friggin' roadmap goodbye!

Friday, May 16, 2003

Why Texas Need Redistricting - Anecdotal Evidence

 photo TexDist30-2003.jpg

This is the Congressional district I live in, covering portions of Irving (I live pretty close to that dot), Grand Prairie, and Dallas and its southern suburbs. The narrowest portion is between 3 and 4 miles wide. Gerrymandering, anybody?

District 30's Congressindividual is Eddie Bernice Johnson, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. Here's some information about her:

  • Supports "hate crimes" legislation
  • Approaches education reform in terms of tweaking government schools rather than enhancing competition and reducing bureaucratization
  • Approaches health reform in terms of expanding health welfare benefits rather than injecting market and regulatory reforms that would make health care costs
  • Worked toward doubling funding for the National Science Foundation
  • Thinks the "digital divide" between the Internet haves and have-nots is a goverment problem (while you're at it, could you get the government to buy me a satellite dish, Eddie?)
  • With bipartisan support from Dallas area Congressindividuals and both Texas senators, worked toward securing pork federal funds for Dallas Area Rapid Transit
  • Voted for the Sudan Peace Act, signed by President Bush last year to put pressure on the Sudanese government to end its civil war. Johnson is quoted as saying, "The Sudan Peace Act maintains the pressure on the warring parties to resolve their conflict, demonstrates the continued interest of the United States in finding a lasting peace in this troubled nation and provides desperately needed assistance for the people of southern Sudan." Considering the history of international sanctions, I'm not placing a lot of hope in this effort.

Blogroll Additions

An Unsealed Room "The Middle East, motherhood, journalism and life on the cultural fault line between the U.S. and Israel. Allison Kaplan Sommer wrote for "The Jerusalem Post" for 12 years. She lives in Ra'anana, just north of Tel Aviv." She reports on an unlikely rap group, and has posts on the recent bombing of Mike's Place here and here.

Clayton Cramer's Blog "Clayton's commentary on news and events of the day. Broadly speaking, I'm a conservative with libertarian sympathies (getting more conservative as my children get older)." He has a (to date) eight-part series titled "How to Become Wealthy" that's well worth reading. Here's the links: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8.

Editor: Myself "Hossein Derakhshan's English weblog on Iran, technology and pop culture." Known by the nickname "Hoder," he is an Iranian living in Canada. He has one archive category devoted to the arrest of blogger Sina Motallebi, charged with "threatening the national security by giving interviews to Persian language radios outside Iran, writing articles both in newspapers and his weblog." He's out on bail now (300,000,000 rials, or US $38,000) and awaiting trial. Hoder also has a sample list of websites blocked by the Iranian government - I think I can guess why and are on the list .

In Between Naps Veteran blogger Amy Welborn is back (well, she's been back for a while). No direct link is available, but on May 15 she wrote a fascinating piece on what she calls apatheism, "a disinclination to care all that much about one's own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people's." Check it out.

Lady Sun "My naked observasions from this crazy world of words and worries and wishes..." Lady Sun is an Iranian blogger who had published a Persian-language blog in the past and is now blogging in English. She cautiously introduces herself here.

Teekay's Coffeshop Tomas Kohl hails from Czechoslovakia. He is a fan of The West Wing (despite its politics) and classical composer Alfred Schnittke, and not a fan of American liberalism ("A quick look at positions held by Democrats suggests that those on the left in the US who call themselves "liberal" aren't liberal at all: affirmative action, overregulating gun ownership, appeasing foreign dictators, to name just few").

Update: Andrew & Sasha have a new flag icon.

Bogus Gay Issues

Andrew Sullivan has this to say in his comment on the gulf between gays and Republicans:

Check out yesterday's latest Gallup poll on attitudes toward homosexuality. To the question: "Do you think homosexual couples should or should not have the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples regarding healthcare benefits and Social Security survivor benefits?" 62 percent answered yes.

These are two classic examples of "gay issues" of which disputes over the nature of homosexuality should be absolutely irrelevant. On healthcare benefits, the government shouldn't be telling insurance companies who they may or may not insure. Let the companies experiment: some will insure legal spouses (assuming the institution of marriage isn't completely privatized as it should be), some will insure gay roommates, some will insure any roommates gay or straight.

As for Social Security, that program shouldn't even exist. But while it does, the person paying the Social Security taxes, not the Vampire L'Etat, should decide who survivor benefits will go to.


LGF says give the Palestinians a homeland - in France!

Halfway There

Senate Passes $350 Billion Bush Tax Cut

In the Decade of Bush and Clinton, each of the two presidents passed a $300 billion tax hike. This tax cut negates just one. If this is the best that this session of Congress can do, then let's finish the job in the next session.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Texas Standoff

Pejman Yousefzadeh, Perry deHavilland, and Eugene Volokh have commented on the bizarre events surrounding the Texas legislature. On Monday, to block passage of Republican-led redistricting plans, 58 of the state's 62 Democrat House representatives staged a walkout. One hundred out of the House's 150 members must be present to pass legislation.

Roberto Gutierrez (D-McAllen), Vilma Luna (D-Corpus Christi), Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), and Ron Wilson (D-Houston) did not take part in the protest. Al Edwards (D-Houston), Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Dallas), and Helen Giddings (D-DeSoto) - the latter escorted by a Department of Public Safety officer - returned on Tuesday. As of now, 51 are staying at a motel in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and the whereabouts of four others is unknown.

I'm probably not the first to come up with the idea, but I've made up a deck of 55 playing cards with faces of the AWOL lawmakers, affectionately known as the Chicken D's. The image file is too huge (547KB) to display on the blog; click here to view it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Tyranny By Committee

Nat Hentoff's FrontPage Magazine column explains how the Senate Judiciary Committee has usurped authority that is constitutionally delegated to the whole of the Senate. This statement sums it all up:

There have been times when the Senate Judiciary Committee itself - when either Republicans or Democrats are in the majority - has refused to even hold hearings, or to send nominees to the floor, for votes by the entire Senate. Article II, Section II of the Constitution says clearly that the president nominates "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate." Not the advice and consent of the Senate Judiciary Committee alone.

If there were any justice, the obstructionists would be impeached for their violations of constitutional law. Unfortunately, the Senate lacks the spine to enforce the separation of powers.

Monday, May 12, 2003

The Condottieri Of Capitalism

This is the title of Vox Day's latest WorldNetDaily column. The condottieri were mercenaries who were hired by the Italian nations of the Fifteenth Century to provide national defense. Day likens these government contractors to corporate CEOs. The condottieri were almost always non-Italians, having no patriotic stake in the integrity of a foreign homeland, thus being an unreliable means of military protection when the going got tough, as the French conquest of Milan in 1495 would prove. Here he draws the parallel:

Much has been written about the failure of capitalism with regard to the chicanery practiced by the executive officers of companies like Enron, Worldcom and Tyco. But it is not the capitalists who were guilty of misdeeds in any of these situations – for in a free market system, it is not the executives who are the capitalists, it is the shareholders.

Management is not ownership. While there is occasionally some overlap between the two, the average CEO holds only a very small percentage of a company's total shares and those only because they have been given to him by the ownership. But America's capitalists have been imprudent to place their trust in a group of mercenaries with no more loyalty to their shareholding employers than had Francesco Sforza to the Visconti of Milan.

The problem is not just that CEOs can manipulate their earnings to the detriment of the company, but that "government interference...through the tax laws and S.E.C. rules and abetted by investment-bank preferences, creates a constant bias toward the elevation of the management echelon at the expense of the shareholding owners."

This is a prime example of the thesis Albert Jay Nock's Our Enemy, The State. One can earn money in two ways: through economic means (voluntary trade) and by political means ("the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others"). I'm skeptical of Nock's inclusion of land speculation as an example of "political means," but otherwise it's an excellent book.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

TlhIngon Hol Dajatlh'a'?

Speaking of bilingualism, Eugene Volokh reports that Multnomah County in Oregon has a position open for a Klingon translator.

(Title of post is Klingon translation of "do you speak Klingon?" - source: The Klingon Dictionary, Marc Okrand, Pocket Books, ISBN 0-671-54349-0)

Update: The story turns out to be false one, based on a statement by a Multnomah County official being taken out of context. Eugene Volokh has the details.

A Latvian Perspective On Bilingual Education

Aleks Tapinsh blogged an English translation of a comment posted on the Latvian section of his site:

One more example from California. Because of the large Mexican population, just like Russians in Latvia, in schools you can study in Spanish. There are separate schools for Spanish-speaking people. The Mexicans had as valid arguments as Russians in Latvia. But it turned out that children from those schools were left behind, didn't learn any English and thus, couldn't compete on the labor market. Little by little those school were liquidated.

If I were to move to Latvia and neglected to learn the native language, I imagine my job prospects would be pretty slim, too.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

The Red (Apparel) Menace

Check out the latest judicial fashions over at the Volokh Conspiracy.

More Reader Mail On The Texas Sodomy Case

Sean LaFreniere emailed a response to my recent post:

Alan, you wrote:

First, the Ninth Amendment. How may a judge objectively determine what is and isn't a right "retained by the people?" There's only one way - the right must be written down in law, either in the US Constitution, state constitutions, or in federal, state, or local statutes.

The Ninth Amendment states: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage other [rights] retained by the people." The word "enumerate" comes from the Latin for "[to] count". The 9th is simply an acknowledgment of the limits of time and space. The Founders knew they could not think up and write down all the rights, prerogatives, and privileges that they intend to grant to the citizens… so instead they wrote in a blank check, they are allowing EVERYTHING.

The Fifth Amendment's "due process" clause serves, in part, as a barrier to government seizure of property in lieu of a criminal conviction. It also states that liberty cannot be seized without due process.

The Fifth Amendment doesn't really apply to this case, since it addresses not the rightness or wrongness of including certain activities in criminal code, but to bar summary executions, jail sentencing, and fines without trial, and prison detainment without criminal charges.

This sounds like a misunderstanding of "due process". Neither the 5th Amendment, nor its rather redundant cousin, the 14th, should be read as ALOWING the violation of the rights of a citizen if the State merely "jumps enough hoops". Rather we must go back to the 18th century rulings of the Court that the State may only restrict the Liberty of a citizen to protect the Rights of others. So it is not just that the State jumped enough hoops in following a local statute, but that the statute had a compelling reason for being passed. Keeping a sidewalk clean is not enough, and enforcing local bigotry is not enough either, it must be an issue of pressing public safety.

I don't see in Sean's commentary evidence that a right to sex of any kind exists in the Constitution.

Please read again the first 10 Amendments. You are given the right to EVERYTHING that you can think up to do even sex, any kind of sex. This is the Webster's definition of Liberty, "the power to do as one pleases." If one is still confused they added "the pursuit of happiness". If one were still not sure, they added the Ninth Amendment saying: "if we left out a right, you still have it." The fundamental Radicalism of the Founders was that they gave UNLIMITED power to the people in the 9th and then wrote the 10th Amendment limiting THE GOVERNMENT! This is key to why our nation is said to have a "Liberal Democracy", that word Liberal is important, it is from the Latin word "libertas," it means freedom.

One of the concerns shared by many Founders was that if a Bill of Rights were implemented, future governments would interpret the document to mean that government is allowed to do "everything else."

Yes, hence amendments 9 and 10. Are you with me yet?

Our over-dependence on the Supreme Court is symptomatic of government checks and balances that have done a poor job of holding back incursions against "everything else."

It is not "over-dependence" it is simply "checks and balances," it was intentional. You are correct to state that a duty of the Court is to hold back Congress from taking new on powers.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper number 78 in 1788: ''The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between two, the constitution ought to be preferred to the statute….''

The only reason that the government may pass laws limiting your actions is when these actions would jeopardize the rights of your fellow citizens. Even then, the SC holds that the States must PROVE the need for the restriction and prove that the law, as written, doesn't otherwise violate the Con.

This might seem unworkable at first, but actually, think about it this way… your Liberty extends to shooting a gun on your property, if you live on 80 acres in the woods… but if you live in the city, and shooting your gun could reasonably be determined to cause a risk to the "life, liberty, and happiness" of your neighbors, then the city may restrict that action.

Merriam-Webster defines two types of due process:

1 : a course of formal proceedings (as legal proceedings) carried out regularly and in accordance with established rules and principles -- called also procedural due process
2 : a judicial requirement that enacted laws may not contain provisions that result in the unfair, arbitrary, or unreasonable treatment of an individual -- called also substantive due process

Jacob G. Hornberger wrote a seven part series titled Economic Liberty and the Constitution for the Future of Freedom Foundation. Part 4 addresses the concept of substantive due process:

There was one big problem with the due-process analysis, however. Recall that the term "due process of law" stretched all the way back to Magna Charta. Historically, the term had connoted procedural protections, such as notice, hearing, and trial. For example, in civil actions due process requires that before the state takes a person's property from him, it must accord him notice, a judicial hearing, and a trial at which he can dispute the state's evidence and put on his own evidence in defense. Or in a criminal proceeding, due process requires that before a state could incarcerate a person, it had to formally charge him (i.e., indict him), grant him a jury trial, and permit him to confront and cross-examine witnesses.

But what did these procedural protections have to do with the plaintiffs in the Slaughterhouse Cases? The monopoly law had been duly enacted by the Louisiana legislature. The plaintiffs had been duly notified that the law had been enacted. So how could they argue that they had been deprived of due process of law?

The answer is that "due process of law" developed into two separate but related concepts - "procedural due proccess" and "substantive due process." Procedural due process pertained to the traditional concerns involving procedural protections.

But substantive due process was something completely different. It held that there are certain inherent and fundamental rights of man that could never be legitimately taken away by government, even if all the traditional legal procedures were followed. Because they were "substantive" in nature, any law that infringed upon them automatically deprived a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

In the Slaughterhouse Cases (1872), the Court ruled 5-4 to uphold a Louisiana law that established a slaughterhouse monopoly in New Orleans. The four dissenters argued that the law violated, as the article states, "the right to sustain one's life through labor by pursuing an occupation or profession." It was used in Slaughterhouse Cases by the minority to conclude that monopolies rob the unalienable right to private commerce. A majority relied on the theory in 1856 to strike down the Missouri Compromise in Dred Scott v. Sandford, on the grounds that it violated the due process of slaveholders traveling to free states. Then there's (irony intended) the mother of all invocations of substantive due process - Roe v. Wade.

The problem with this theory is that there is no clear, objective standard for judges to determine "when...actions would jeopardize the rights of your fellow citizens." There's a lot of whacked ideas about the very meaning of rights and about what jeopardizes them floating around out there among jurists. Courts must adhere strictly to the letter of the law; the "spirit of the law" is the domain of legislators. Bad legislation is far easier to overturn than court decisions that flaunt the law - ask anybody who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where a judge was once allowed to run a school district in violation of the separation of powers.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Headline Of The Day

Georgia Governor Approves New Flag, Urges Calm

At least now they've got a better looking flag.

It's got something for everybody - the absence of the Stars and Bars to please haters of Confederate emblems, thirteen stars to please fans of the Founding Fathers and the better aspects of post-Revolutionary War heritage, "In God We Trust" to please those who trust God, and the Georgia state seal to please those who trust soulless bureaucracies.

They could have always gone with this:

Update: The Confederate battle flag that any "Dukes of Hazzard" fan would recognize is not the same as the "Star and Bars" flag. The new flag is actually patterned after the latter - Huw Raphael has the scoop.

Today's Economics Lesson: The Income Gap

Thomas Sowell has an excellent column on the income gap. He notes one behavioral difference between the highest and lowest income brackets:

While there are more than 19 million people working in households with incomes in the top 20 percent, there are fewer than 8 million people working in households in the bottom 20 percent. How much of an injustice is it that people who work get more money than people who don't work?

If you are talking about working full-time, 50 or more weeks a year, then there are more people doing that in the top 5 percent of households than in the bottom 20 percent. As Casey Stengel used to say, you can look it up. These are Census data, available on-line from the Current Population Survey, Table HINC-06.

So how are the nonworking poor managing to get by?

How do people live without working? Millions in the bottom 20 percent live on the money earned by other people who do work and whose income gets taxed to pay for the non-workers. In addition, more than 4 million families in the bottom fifth in income live on property income and nearly 6 million live on various forms of retirement income, including Social Security. (Table FINC-06, for those who demand proof only from those they disagree with.)

And who exactly are these "rich" people:

What about those "rich" people we hear so much about? Studies that follow the same individuals over time have found that those in the top 20 percent and those in the bottom 20 percent are mostly the same people at different stages of their lives. Not only does work pay, when you have worked a longer time, it usually pays more.

Earlier in the article, Dr. Sowell points out one flaw that plagues income gap analysis: measuring wealth on income rather than net assets. I'll point out another: failing to take into account the differences in the costs of living between various states and localities. As this bit of anecdotal evidence illustrates, a 100K in Texas, in real terms, exceeds a 100K salary in California.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Blog Traffic

Looks like the blog got its 20,000 visitor last Thursday. Yay! I accidentally mangled the HTML code for the eXTReMe Tracking account during an Instalanche, so its a few thousand off from the Site meter totals. I had also lost my eXTReMe Tracking password after my email address changed, and can't get a new one. Nyurgh.

According to eXTReMe Tracking, the numer one keyword in search engine referrals to this site is "sahhaf." The strange thing is that I've never (until now) mentioned Iraqi information minister Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf by name in the blog. Cue the Twilight Zone music...

Speaking of which, here's some of the latest search phrases that are leading people to this site:

  • marxism and religion in Monty python and the holy grail (more shrubbery for the masses!)
  • "David Trowbridge" seattle (uh, wrong blogger)
  • applying for release of vow of celibacy (uh, wrong profession, wrong religion)
  • gondor lawsuit (sounds like a Volokh Conspiracy topic)
  • 1800s deflation (sounds like a Brad DeLong topic)

Palestinian Regime Change Update

FrontPage Magazine has a column written by the staff of on the "new" Palestinian leadership. On the new Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), along with his Fatah roots and his Holocaust denial, these interesting bits of information are mentioned:

- Abbas is widely perceived by Palestinians as corrupt, illustrated by his construction of a lavish $1.5 million villa in a poverty-stricken area of Gaza.

I don't begrudge anybody of building mansions in low-scale neighborhoods. The question here is, where did he get the money? PLO/Fatah members aren't known for earning big bucks through peaceful capitalist ventures.

- Finally, we recall that Abu Mazen was never elected to public office, but rather appointed directly by Arafat. This was clearly not what President Bush had in mind when declaring last June: "I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy."

I expect that any day now all those people who chanted that Bush was "selected not elected" will now be voicing bitter opposition to Mazen's appointment. I also expect that the State of California will pay off all its debts by the end of this year, and that Hillary Clinton will sell more books than J. K. Rowling.

The column also has something to say about Muhammad Dahlan, one of Mazen's key ministers. As head of Gaza security, in 1996 he had arrested several Hamas leaders in the wake of some recent terrorist attacks. Classifying him as a "moderate" may be premature, though:

Promising, perhaps, but not necessarily anti-terror. Note, for example:

- In the Arab press, Dahlan expressed personal regret for cracking down on Hamas leaders, stating: "We erred with our harsh and discriminatory attitude toward Hamas... the presence of Hamas in Palestinian territory is very important for the building of the Palestinian homeland."
Read the story

- Last June, Jerusalem ex-mayor Ehud Olmert censured Dahlan in The Wall Street Journal for personally sheltering Muhammad Dief, "a leading Hamas mastermind with the blood of scores of Israelis on his hands." Olmert noted further that Dahlan is a primary suspect in the terror attack on an Israeli school bus in Kfar Darom in November 2000.
Read the story

These men show no sign of ever supporting long-term peaceful relations with Israel - and even so Mazen has support from only three percent of Palestinian Arabs (viewing page requires free registration).

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

To The Conscience Of The Appeasers Of The World

Several bloggers including Pejman Yousefzadeh reported on a document titled, "To the Conscience of the World," a manifesto crying out against an imagined threat posed by the United States against Cuba. Sadly, the news services printed only a tiny portion of the screed. I finally managed to find copies of the complete text; one site has it in English (site for the Union of Journalists of Cuba) and another in Spanish (site for Por Cuba). This is what it says:

The international order has been violated as a consequence of the invasion against Iraq. A single power is inflicting grave damage to the norms of understanding, debate and mediation amongst countries. This power has invoked a series of unverified reasons in order to justify its invasion. Unilateral action has led to massive loss of civilian life an devastation of one of the cultural patrimonies of humanity.

We only possess our moral authority, with which we appeal to world conscience in order to avoid a new violation of the principles, which inform and guide the global community of nations. At this very moment, a strong campaign of destabilization against a Latin American nation has been unleashed. The harassment against Cuba could serve as a pretext for an invasion. Therefore, we call upon citizens and policy makers to uphold the universal principles of national sovereignty, respect of territorial integrity and self-determination, essential to just and peaceful co-existence among nations.

Mexico, April 2003

Por Cuba has a link to a list of all the original signers - click "Firmas iniciales" to get there. Here are some of the more prominent:

Rigoberta Menchú - Nobel Peace Prize, 1992
Nadine Gordimer - Nobel Prize in Literature, 1987
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel - Nobel Peace Prize, 1980
Gabriel García Márquez - Nobel Prize in Literature, 1982
Harry Belafonte - American singer
Noam Chomsky - American university professor
Danny Glover - American actor

Reader Mail On The Texas Sodomy Case

Blogger Sean LaFreniere wrote a letter in response to my posts on Lawrence & Garner v. Texas. I have some comments inserted in brackets followed by general commentary:

Alan, in your recent posts here and here, you discuss the Texas Sodomy law. I like many of your comments. I wonder if you would address my own post on the subject here and here.

You wrote: "Rehnquist and company: your highest concern is due process, not the wisdom of legislatures. You people have not been authorized to judge whether or not states can regulate sexual activity between consenting adults. If states pass such laws and they suck dirt, then jurisdiction belongs to state legislatures (or, in those states that have them, citizen referenda), not you. Your ruling should be that you can't do a thing about the Texas sodomy law. If its a bad law, then Texans should lobby for its change."

Your call for Texas to handle this themselves is echoed by Chief Justice Waite in Munn v. Illinois in 1876: "For protection against abuses by legislatures the people must resort to the polls, not to the courts." [Legislative abuses come in three forms - bad law, unconstitutional law, and violations of the criminal code; proper due process for each is elections, appeals to the courts, and criminal prosecution, respectively - AKH]

However, those people (the Supreme Court) HAVE been authorized to judge whether or not states can regulate sexual activity. This is granted explicitly by the several Amendments. The highest concern of the court is not just the "due process" clause of the 14th Amendment; rather it is upholding the entire Constitution.

Sure, Texans COULD "do something" about the law themselves, but what if they don't have the will; interest; money; or skill to do so? Our nation is not built on the principle that you can have all the Freedom you can get out of your neighbors by cleverness or litigation. We have some particular guarantees in our Constitution.

The essential rights that are in danger in this case, and many other local so-called "morality laws", are granted by the 4th and 5th Amendments which grant us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and uphold the sanctity of private property. And the 9th mandates that they not allow States to whittle away at these provision.

It is NOT ok for one state, or some, or all to legislate human behavior and the personal liberties of citizens simply because a majority of the citizens of that state do not "like" the behavior, the people doing it, or both. The legislature may only prohibit actions of citizens if these actions infringe on the rights of other citizens - and the bar for this is set very high. Since the 18th century the high court HAS ALREADY ruled on this.

It will be damned hard to see Texas argue that gay blowjobs, or ANY blowjobs, given in the home and not effecting the neighbors one bit, is actually infringing on the constitutional rights of others such that the Supreme Court would be willing to allow legislatures to intervene. Hell, in Texas they don't even stop you from SHOOTING PEOPLE on your front lawn and I can make a MUCH better argument that THAT Texas pastime is MUCH more likely to cause my neighbors "harm" than a gay "hummer".

I find the 14th Amendment to be erroneous and unnecessary. Its primary purpose was to clarify the rights of blacks in America. But in this regard it is merely restating (literally, if you read it) the rights granted in 4 and 5. Thus, it wasn't really necessary. Worse, it was written in a confusing manner to make room for State and local policing powers, this is the reference to "due process". This has caused no end of confusion in the courts.

Justice Miller wrote in Davidson v. New Orleans: "There is here abundant evidence that there exists some strange misconception of the scope of this provision as found in the Fourteenth Amendment… If it were possible to define what it is for a State to deprive a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, no more useful construction could be furnished by this or any other court to any part of the fundamental of law"

A review in Find Law, here, shows that the Justices appear to have come to a conclusion, one that upholds the 18th century view of State police powers: “The Justices noted that the due process clause could not be appraised solely in terms of the "sanction of settled usage." Justice Mathews, speaking for the Court in Hurtado v. California, declared that "arbitrary power, enforcing its edicts to the injury of the persons and property of its subjects, is not law, whether manifested as the decree of a personal monarch or of an impersonal multitude."

It is my opinion that many people, even some Supreme Court justices, are allowing the inflammatory nature of this issue get the better of their legal judgments. Our system of government verges very close on "Mob Rule". This was a fear of many of our most intellectual Founders. An important feature of their new government was therefore the Supreme Court, whose most important job is to toss bad laws, whether they are State or Federal, or even passed by Referendum. It doesn't matter if most people would ban the rights of any one-minority group; that does not afford them Constitutional permission to due so.

Make this issue a state law against clapping after a movie in one's own home… no such law would stand. Make the issue wearing black before Labor Day (or is that after?). [Since it's a holiday for union hacks invented by union hacks, perhaps we should wear black ON Labor Day - AKH] Now make the issue having sex with the lights on… forget about it. But make it a law about the personal behavior of a despised minority and this is ok? No way.

Most states removed their own "blue laws" before 1840. They only came back under the Victorian Era and the Progressive social movements made drinking, gambling, and most sex illegal. Reading the Law is a cut and dried affair. No room exists for prudishness or religious crusading in the courthouse. Santorum and Texas are on the wrong side of history.

We both agree that criminalizing gay sex is bad law, but disagree on whether or not the Supreme Court has the authority to strike down such laws. In one post Sean argues that such authority is granted via certain clauses within four amendments:

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V
No Person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment XIV
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

First, the Ninth Amendment. How may a judge objectively determine what is and isn't a right "retained by the people?" There's only one way - the right must be written down in law, either in the US Constitution, state constitutions, or in federal, state, or local statutes. (That states have the authority to define individual rights for residents is an idea that doesn't sit too well with the Drug Enforcement Agency, but that's a different controversy - well, maybe several.)

"Due process of law" reflects the fact that constitutions and statutes (the former having precedent, as always) define jurisdictions for law enforcement agencies and courts, grant certain powers, and place certain limits on that power. The US Constitution has several amendments that address the framework for criminal prosecution; the Fifth Amendment's "due process" clause serves, in part, as a barrier to government seizure of property in lieu of a criminal conviction. (This just isn't my day for pleasing federal agents.) It also states that liberty cannot be seized without due process - citizens cannot be held in jail without a formal charge of an actual crime and cannot be sentenced without a proper trial. The Fifth Amendment doesn't really apply to this case, since it addresses not the rightness or wrongness of including certain activities in criminal code, but to bar summary executions, jail sentencing, and fines without trial, and prison detainment without criminal charges.

There is an unfortunate word that appears in the Fourth Amendment: unreasonable. It is a vague term, lacking a precise definition such as that of the archaic word "militia," which refers collectively to all men of draft age. (If anyone knows of a case where the Second Amendment was cited to deny gun ownership to women, let me know.) The term "probable cause" is a little less vague, meaning that a search or seizure cannot be executed unless authorities have at hand a certain amount of evidence that a crime has been committed. How much evidence? One thing can be said for certain: government agents may not conduct a search if it has no evidence of a crime having been committed. (See if I ever get a job interview with the IRS. Or the Coast Guard.) This amendment cannot be applied to determining whether or not something should be declared illegal. All sorts of incriminating evidence exists in the form of written documents (ask any former employee of Enron or Worldcom), and such evidence can be discovered by law enforcement legally and illegally.

Sean summarizes his position with this statement:

So, if we accept that the Supremes do have the right to review a State Statuete and overturn it if it contradicts the Constitution... and if we accept that a law forbiding gay sex that occurs in private cannot pass muster as being necessitated by public saftey... then it MUST be tossed out.

Does this make it impossible to police ANY actions that occur "in private", such as in the bedroom? No, don't get hysterical, reread the above info. If a person's private actions are in any way physically dangerous or threaten the civil rights of others then the government is fully authorized to intervene and the Supremes are bound to uphold such policing. So, if you engage in non-consensual sex; or if you kidnap, bind, or harm another person; if you murder them; then you are violating their civil rights. But a gay person being gay when I don't have to watch it, or even pay it any attention, is not a case for Legislative intervention. Now, sex in a public toiolet, by anyone, gay or not, there ought to be a law!

I don't see in Sean's commentary evidence that a right to sex of any kind exists in the Constitution. I wish I could remember the blog where I read this, but one of the concerns shared by many Founders was that if a Bill of RIghts were implemented, future governments would interpret the document to mean that government is allowed to do "everythig else." Our overdependence on the Supreme Court is symptomatic of government checks and balances that have done a poor job of holding back incursions against "everything else."

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

In The Beginning Was MS Word...

Mean Dean at blogs4God reports Microsoft's upcoming acquisition of the Catholic Church.

I guess this means that Dante's nine layers of Hell will be replaced by the Blue Screen of Damnation.

Random Thought

Gambling may be the sole industry in which money can be made only when the customer is denied what he or she wants.

Labels: ,


NewsMax publishes a monthly magazine that rehashes a lot of its online news stories and throws in some original stuff. In the May issue I saw a picture that had been taken in California that freaked the living daylights out of me. The salient portion can be reproduced in text:


319 9/10

Power Plus

379 9/10

Power Premium

429 9/10

The most I ever paid for a gallon of gas is 159 9/10 - and I thought that was steep.

I have only one word for my California readers: flee!

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Today's Tolkien Devotional

(Yes, I finally got around to watching The Two Towers a second time last night.)

Treebeard: The Ents cannot hold back this storm. We must weather such things as we have always done.

Merry: How can that be your decision?

Treebeard: This is not our war.

Merry: But you're part of this world! Aren’t you? You must help, please! You must do something!

Treebeard: You are young and brave, Master Merry. But your part in this tale is over. Go back to your home.

Pippin: Maybe Treebeard’s right. We don’t belong here, Merry. It's too big for us. What can we do in the end? We've got the Shire. Maybe we should go home.

Merry: The fires of Isengard will spread. And the woods of Tuckborough and Buckland will burn. And all that was once green and good in this world will be gone. There won't be a Shire, Pippin.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

What Did He Fisk, And When Did He Fisk It?

Glenn Reynolds gets around.

(Link via The Prof)

Friday, May 02, 2003

If The Shoe Fits

The BBC has a profile on the new Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen. He is a founding member of Al-Fatah, an arm of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He was also a PLO fundraiser and a chief architect of the Oslo Peace Accords.

MEMRI has its own lengthy profile on Abbas. He is known for his criticism of the militarization of the Intifada uprising. He often condemned Palestinian violence - but citing as his reason not that killing innocent citizens was immoral but that it was bad tactics. MEMRI reports one such occasion:

"All military action must be stopped, both in the occupied territories and within the 1948 [territories]; then [we must] say to the world that we want negotiations. In my opinion, under such circumstances we will be able to embarrass the Israeli government… But in military action, Israel is much stronger [than we are] and it will exploit [any military operations on our part] as a pretext not [to comply with its commitments]."

He also claims East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory:

"Our position on Jerusalem remains simple and completely uncomplicated: Jerusalem is part of the lands occupied in 1967; thus Resolution 242 applies to it. [East] Jerusalem must return to our sovereignty, and we will establish our capital in it. We will not prevent Eastern and Western Jerusalem from being open to each other and cooperating in municipal affairs."

The Dudley Knox Library at the Naval Postgraduate School has a profile on Al-Fatah:

In the 1960s and the 1970s, Fatah offered training to a wide range of European, Middle Eastern, Asian, and African terrorist and insurgent groups. Carried out numerous acts of international terrorism in western Europe and the Middle East in the early-twiddle 1970s. Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) with Israel in 1993 and renounced terrorism and violence. There has been no authorized terrorist operation since that time.

Abbas spent decades working with a major terrorist organization which he co-founded; while it no longer places official sanction on terrorism, it makes no effort to bring terrorists to justice. Abbas demands a sovereign nation for Palestinian Arabs that never existed before in world history, claiming territories Israel took fair and square from Egypt and Jordan during an invasion abetted by the two Arab nations. He's a thug.

Could he be a reformed thug? Only if he weeds the pro-terrorist faction from the Palestinian Authority (which likely describes the entire PA), calls for mass arrests of Palestinian terrorists, forks over to the US information about the terrorist organizations that PLO/Fatah worked with in the past, and preaches against the hatred for Jews that dominates Arab culture.

May Is Here And The Time Is Right For Fightin' In The Streets, Boy

The Yahoo News headline reads:

May Day Violence Mars Celebrations in Europe

During the Cold War, you never saw the headline, "State Oppression Mars May Day Celebrations In Eastern Europe."

Thursday, May 01, 2003

The Second Henderson Prize For The Advancement Of Liberty

May Day began in 1886 in the United States as an occasion for labor protest. It was eventually adopted as a major celebration by at least two other movements purporting to be advocates for the working class: socialists and Communists. The holiday is most often associated with the latter, who had become the largest and most ostentatious faction to commemorate the day. Every May 1, people and armaments would flood the streets of Moscow, Beijing, and other Communist capitals in massive parades. Throngs would be serenaded by speeches extolling the virtues of the workers' paradise and prophesying the destruction of capitalism.

I would like to mark this day by sticking a finger in the eye of world Communism, and I can think of no better way than to honor some of those who have stopped the movement in its tracks.

 photo Wenceslas.jpg

Today the Henderson Prize is awarded to various individuals and organizations who contributed to the Velvet Revolution, the bloodless revolt that led to the downfall of the Communist government of Czechoslovakia and a peaceful transition to representative government. This is a story that is largely unknown to most Americans, deserving much more attention than it has received.

Another prize has been awarded to the three men behind the development of a technological advance that played a vital role to dissident movements within the Warsaw Pact.


Site Meter