Thursday, June 30, 2005

Love Won Out

Psychology is under assault from all sorts of crazies lately, isn't it? First Tom Cruise's bizarre diatribe about its history on The Today Show, and now the religious right is getting into the act. Well, "getting into the act" implies that this is a new thing, which it's not. But they're certainly always stepping up their assertion that homosexuality is a psychological disorder to be cured. How do they know this? Were they gay, and cured of it? Of course not! Never speak of it!

God told them that it's a sin, and as such, it must be a choice. As a choice it must be something that can be reversed. Voila. On the foundation of the Bible, Dobson and his cronies are able to dismiss years of mental health science as irrelevant simply because they don't agree with it.



An Odd Experience

I'm a bit lazy. I haven't yet taken the John Kerry '04 bumper sticker off of my mid-sized foreign sedan yet. Well, somebody noticed that yesterday while I was on my way home from work (and, as you might guess, he was in a ridiculously big SUV, maybe a Yukon or a Suburban). He was behind me for a while, and then he made a big show of passing me. Except he didn't pass. He pulled up even with me on the left until I looked over at him.

When I did, he held up a Bush/Cheney '04 pin with one hand, pointed at it with the other (I guess the steering wheel was taking care of itself, and looking at me was more important than looking at the road at 70 miles per hour), and started screaming. I couldn't tell what he was screaming, because both of our windows were closed, but it didn't seem to me to be a sentiment where the specifics were too important.

This wasn't an impetuous youth. This wasn't a crazy hippie. This was a guy who looked to be in his early 50s, with gray hair, probably with grown kids of his own, around my age. He was probably coming home from work, where he does some respectable job in some respectable manner. But seeing that bumper sticker set him off, I guess, and boy did he ever show me!

This is the kind of thing, once again, that's so wrong with our public discourse. It's usually not this literal, but usually it consists of pointing to your candidate and screaming, whether or not anybody's listening.


Slightly New Look

So you may notice that I changed the background image on the sides, I took away all the too-busy profile and poll stuff up top, and most importantly, I got a banner instead of the plain text title. Thanks to Will from for the banner.

Maybe I'll make some more changes in the near future, if I'm feeling ambitious. I was always thinking I'd like to have sidebars on both sides.....


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Impending Supreme Court Vacancies

What do they mean? Well, for most people, who couldn't care less about the ins and outs of politics, they simply mean that we'll be barraged with ad after ad from conservative and liberal groups alike. Liberals will claim that the right to an abortion is at stake, and conservatives will claim that their religious rights are at stake. In other words, everybody will be playing their emotional cards from the get-go.

As always, Mark Coffey at Decision '08 is a good source of information on this (and many other things). Read through some of his more recent posts to catch up on some of the Supreme Court speculation.

As for who will be nominated, there's plenty of speculation there as well. Many think that Alberto Gonzalez will be nominated as the court's first Latino Justice. Many on the right think that Owen, Brown or Pryor should be nominated, since they already have been passed through the "extraordinary circumstances" test posed by the Senate's notorious "Gang of 14." There are a lot of other people that you and I have never heard of who are under consideration as well, and I'm about to direct you to a bunch of people who know a lot more about all this than I do.

I'd like to see justices passed through who would agree with what I would want. Who wouldn't? I'd like to see justices passed through who would view bans on gay marriage as unconstitutional. I'd like to see justices passed through who wouldn't overturn Roe v. Wade. I'd like to see justices passed through who understand and respect the wall of separation between church and state. But all that is too much to hope for.

At this point, I'll just be happy if someone nominated to the Supreme Court pisses off James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, etc.

Whatever's the case, though, the politics and strategy and nastiness will likely surpass anything we've seen recently, even with how nasty it's already gotten.


LINKS: 43rd State Blues on Harry Reid's pre-emptive bipartisan strategy.
KarensKorner has a Gary Bauer article beseeching the President to fill vacancies with Scalia-like nominees.
The Narrow thinks Alberto Gonzalez is too soft on abortion.
Civil Commotion liked the Ten Commandments decision as well, but is scared that the likes of Dobson are trying to ratchet up believers for the coming vacancy.
Election Law warns about the imposition of special interest groups on judicial nominations and elections.
Jeff Gannon (yes, that Jeff Gannon) thinks that Democrats won't be in a place to strongly oppose Supreme Court nominees after the brouhaha over Bolton.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Valerie Plame

Well, Miller and Cooper have been denied their appeal to the Supreme Court, and they face jail time and fines for not revealing their sources in the now-infamous outing of Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson, as a CIA agent.

Now I might just be a little confused here or something, but why is Bob Novak not also being prosecuted for failing to reveal his sources?


LINKS: Wind 'n Sea agrees, and Bread and Circuses thinks Novak should be facing jail time. The Peoria Pundit is stumped, as is WashingtonRox. The Lion and the Donkey waxes philosophic about the larger implications of the case, and Live Free or Blog can be forgiven cynicism in this case. The Talent Show wonders why Miller and Cooper were covering up for the source.

Ten Commandments

In case you hadn't heard, the Supreme Court issued two decisions yesterday on two similar cases involving public displays of the Ten Commandments. They gave what appeared to be mixed messages, ruling one display constitutional and one display unconstitutional, but when you view the two decisions together, what they're really saying is that these things have got to be decided on a case-by-case basis. In other words, the Supreme Court isn't going to get into the business of having a rigid policy specific to the Ten Commandments. I think that's a smart idea.

As I've thought about it, I agree with the decisions, at least constitutionally. I'd prefer for there not to be any Ten Commandments displays on public property, as it fuels the arguments of those who would assert that this is a Christian nation founded on Christian ideals, but the two decisions issued yesterday seem to me to be a nice compromise. The display in Texas was seen as constitutional since it was there with other monuments, placing it in a historical context. As I said, I wouldn't agree on a personal level, but I can see where they're coming from and I'm fine with it.

The display in Kentucky, on the other hand, was viewed as specifically endorsing religion (in fact, the county in question passed a resolution lauding America as a Christian nation while this was all going on, not helping their case). As such, the Kentucky display was ruled unconstitutional.

I don't think that America is, as the religious right has been saying over and over again, a "Christian nation." There's nothing in our Constitution talking about Christianity, and since they're such strict "originalists," as it were, you'd think that would be enough. Freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom to establish your own religion. It means freedom of religion for all men.

My personal take on the Ten Commandments on public display is that they send a message. They send the message (unless, like in the Supreme Court's frieze, they're in the context of thousands of years of examples of laws) that the Judeo-Christian worldview is going to be the preferred one. I think that a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or an atheist would have reasonable cause to think that, if he professed his faith (or lack thereof), the opinions of a court with such a display would automatically be biased against him.

Judges are elected and appointed to uphold the laws of the United States of America. Displays of the Ten Commandments (especially like in the case of Alabama's Roy Moore) assert that there is a law higher than that of the United States. Judges are free to believe that, but to place "higher laws" in the context of their positions as adjudicators of the laws of the United States is directly contrary to what they're in office to do.


LINKS: Dean Stephens sees the split rulings as totalitarian.
Half Sigma thinks this is an invitation for Christian groups to put up Commandments displays willy-nilly, and Julien's List agrees.
The Hedgehog Report is dismayed by Breyer's swing between the two cases.
HoyStory gives us the requisite conservative talking points.

Monday, June 27, 2005


A quick post to let you all know that I'm in the process of updating my blogroll, on the sidebar on the right side. I'm adding a number of conservative bloggers who stumbled upon my blog a few posts ago, when I linked to their posts about obstructionism. Some have commented, some have responded in kind on their blogs, and I thank them all for coming by and making their voices heard. We may not agree on terribly much, but we can talk civilly, and that's the most important thing, I think.

The Opinionator
GM's Corner
The American Patriots
Bill Karl
Speak Easy
Mark in Mexico

Thanks, y'all, for stopping by, and I hope to see you some more!


What's wrong with America?

There are so many things right with our country. What is it that makes both sides of the political process feel so under assault? I got into a comment exchange this weekend that I think helps to illustrate one of the things that I feel is so deeply wrong with our process, and with our collective mindset.

I said:

I think one thing that everybody (myself included) needs to keep in mind is that everybody wants the best for the country. Nobody (despite what Karl Rove might have you believe) wants for harm to come to the country. We just have different ideologies about what exactly is best for the country.
Here's the response that I got:
If you are defining “everybody” as the people that comprise our political process, I would disagree even more strongly. I think the very point people like myself and Jim are trying to make is that the democrats have been acting in the best interests of their party and not in those of the nation at large.
That's it, in a nutshell. If we can't all start out from the gate knowing that we all have the best interests of the nation in mind, then where can we be expected to go? Sure, Republicans and Democrats have different ideas of where the nation should go and different ideas of how it should get there. But those ideas come from a sincerely held belief that they're really working for the betterment of the nation. While I may not agree with them, I have no problem believing that conservatives and Republicans want what they feel in their hearts is best for the country. That gives me some perspective, some common ground, and some respect.

It'd be nice if we could all take a step back and see each other as people trying to help. It wouldn't stop the arguments and the disagreements, but maybe it'd make it more civil.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Missing Children

In the most dangerous city in America, Camden, NJ, three children between the ages of 5 and 11 are missing.

Let's see how much play this gets in the news in view of the Utah kid and the Aruba girl.


Karl Rove Has No Morals

I'm falling victim a little bit to a story that I know will be prevalent all over the blogosphere, but it's too outrageous not to at least mention (thanks to Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo for the link).

"Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."
Do I even need to say anything about how despicable this is? His own quote says it himself. This is the kind of talk reserved for Ann Coulter. Not for a senior advisor to the President of the United States.


Flag-Burning Amendment

The House passed its flag-burning amendment, as it always does, but for the first time it looks like the Senate might actually have enough votes for a two-thirds majority to pass the amendment. At that point, as you all know, it would get thrown to the states, and 38 of the 50 state legislatures would have to approve it in order for it to become part of the Constitution.

I find the burning of the flag in protest distasteful. I would never do it. But I also find the precedent of infringing on the First Amendment frightening. I'm not a slippery slope guy, but amending the Constitution to take away rights is a dangerous precedent. Look at how well Prohibition worked, right?

Of the Mind agrees, as does The People's Republic of Seabrook. The blogosphere seems uncharacteristically united on this issue, though some evidently need some education on the subject.


John McCain

McCain's name has been looming large in the media for a while. He's the rock star of the Senate, with "supporters" on both sides of the aisle. See Mark Coffey's candidate profile of John McCain at Decision '08 for some excellent right-leaning coverage.

MSNBC's Howard Fineman has an interesting article about McCain's 2008 prospects, and it says what I've thought all along. Though McCain would likely be the Republican Party's strongest candidate in a wide-open race against any Democrat (there's certainly a case to be made for Giuliani in this capacity as well), there's some real doubt as to whether he could bring the Dobsonite base around to his side enough to win the nomination. If you listen to the right-wing blogs, McCain is about as likely to get the Republican nomination as Hillary Clinton is.

Johan suggested to me last night that he believed McCain had been made promises in return for his stanch support of Bush in 2004. I don't find that terribly hard to believe, but he certainly wouldn't be Rove's go-to guy. What's more likely, I think, is that McCain used the election to jockey himself into position, rather than being explicitly promised support by the current Administration. He knows how to work the media, and he's been making a name for himself among non-religious-right Republicans and moderate-to-conservative Democrats.

This one'll certainly bear watching.


Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes...

...have nothing to do with this post about Social Security.

Normally I don't agree with almost anything that's ever said at Blogs for Bush. But Matt Margolis makes a wonderful point when he says the press has been misleading, to say the least, in telling the world that Bush is backing off of private accounts by backing the most recent bill. Folks, there are private accounts in that bill. They're not precisely the same as the ones Bush wanted to create, but it's certainly not a reversal of position.

Matt and I are upset about those headlines for different reasons, but it all comes down to the media's lying down on the job.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Justice in Mississippi




John Bolton and the Recess Appointment

I don't have many thoughts on John Bolton. I haven't followed the case too closely. All I've seen are the charges that he's less than diplomatic, let's say, and that he didn't really do too wonderfully at his former job (thanks to Mark Coffey of Decision '08 for the info). So having said all that, I really don't have an educated opinion on whether Bolton should be confirmed. My opinion is more of a knee-jerk reaction, and there's enough of that out there. You don't need to hear it from me.

But the prospect of a recess appointment is indeed interesting. Before anybody gets out there with Clinton references, let me say that I've only been paying attention to politics for a year and a half. I don't know how I would have reacted to Clinton's recess appointments, because I wasn't following things at the time.

That all having been said, I don't like the idea of recess appointments. They could be important in emergencies, but they seem more like sneaky ways to get controversial nominees in the door. There are obviously problems with Bolton, no matter how much the Congressional Republicans would like to say that it's all just Democratic obstructionism (click on a few of the links two posts down), and a recess appointment would put Bolton in place as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. until December 2007. That's two and a half years from now.

I'd have less of a problem with a recess appointment if it only lasted until the next time the Senate was in town. But it lasts until the end of the session of Congress ends, and I don't quite understand why. Well, it's probably so that there's at least some continuity, even though the appointment's temporary, but I still don't really like it.


Bush and Yalta

I haven't commented on Bush's comments about the Yalta Conference over a month ago, and I don't really have much to say about it. This fellow, a history professor at Rutgers, says it quite well himself:

If a right-wing Republican like George W. Bush had defeated Franklin Roosevelt in November 1944 and had come to Yalta, what would he have probably done? Sign a separate peace with the remnants of the Nazi regime and try to make the defeated European fascist forces into an army to fight World War III against the Soviets? The peoples of Europe would have generally revolted against that, and the effects of World War II merging into World War III are incalculable. Perhaps a Bush administration might have used the atom bomb against Moscow. There were right-wing “preventive war” elements in the U.S. military in 1945 who dreamed of such a policy. However, the American people in 1945 would not have supported such a war.

Right on.


UPDATE: It appears that I was slightly unclear with this post. The professor was basing his comments on Bush's condemnation of Roosevelt and Churchill for their participation in the Yalta conference. The comment is not an extrapolation of current policy from Iraq applied to World War II. Rather, it is a question of what the options would have been had the U.S. and U.K. not participated in the Yalta conference.

So-called Obstructionism

The mantra of the right lately has been that the Democrats are nothing but obstructionists, and that they have no ideals of their own. Democrats exist, say Republicans, only to try to make life difficult for Republicans (and on a side note, let the 24 links up there that I found in 10 minutes be my not-too-subtle comment on the disgusting homogeneity of the blogosphere).

Am I the only one who doesn't buy this nonsense? To say something like, "They can only criticize our plan when they've brought one to the table" is ignorant and dangerous in itself. It's awfully close to (and only superficially different from) saying, "Any idea is better than no idea." And that's just a nice way of saying, "A bad idea is better than no idea." In other words, "Moving backwards is better than not moving at all."

Nonsense, all of it.

If you believe an idea is bad, then there's nothing wrong with opposing it. You don't have to offer up a countering idea to show that the proposal is bad in comparison. Replacing Social Security with a less-secure system of private accounts is a bad idea no matter what. Letting up the pressure on the privatizers to cave to Republican pressure and "bring something to the table" would be stupid and counterproductive.

Republicans are running scared on a lot of their issues, because they're running up against more roadblocks than they should for a party that controls all branches of government, and which claims to have had the mandate of the American people. But when a minority party is doing all it can to temper the majority's desire to fundamentally alter a lot of our time-honored social structures, that's not obstructionism. That's defense. That's survival.

Not all change is good change, and sometimes being "progressive" means standing still when your opponents pursue negative progress.


Back again

I haven't written for a week, and for that I apologize. I was overwhelmed by wall-to-wall coverage of the Michael Jackson case, and the case of the missing Aruba girl. I haven't looked at too much news over the last week, since the actual news has been few and far between.

I did have a nice visit with some family out in Pennsylvania, and my face is recovering quite nicely. I'm not going to say it's definite, but I may have some sort of mutant healing power. More on that later, maybe.

Anyway, I had a few thoughts today for things to write about, and sometime this week I'd love to write about a few Harper's Magazine articles that my father gave me to read. But really, this time, look for something later today!


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Finally, a new poll!

Y'all said you wanted a poll about me, and today's events finally gave me an idea. It's sort of about me, anyway. Check it out, up at the top of the page.


Lesson Learned

Well, actually I guess it was a lesson I should have learned when I was a kid. Stay away from strange rope swings. Even if you've been swinging on them already, you can never trust them.

Lesson learned.


The Death of Journalism

We've been hearing the death rattle of real journalism for a long time. It's been a sad thing to watch. But though the media's own shortcomings have had a lot to do with its own slow decline, so too has the public's acceptance of opinion as the new journalism.

According to an Annenberg poll conducted from March 7 though May 2, more Americans see Bill O'Reilly as a journalist than see Bob Woodward as a journalist. They were asked the simple question, “Please tell me if you think (the individual named) is a journalist or not?” A full 40 percent said that Bill O'Reilly is a journalist while only about 30 percent said that Bob Woodward is a journalist. For another measure of comparison, 27 percent of respondents said that Rush Limbaugh is a journalist. Rush? Do you have anything to say about that?

“I am America’s anchorman, doing news play-by-play 15 hours a week for nearly 17 years now, and this is just more evidence that the old media’s monopoly-like dominance is finished,” the conservative talk show host said.
Oh, right, I forgot. I don't care what Rush Limbaugh has to say.

The poll goes on to say that overwhelming numbers of the press consider Woodward a journalist and Limbaugh and O'Reilly opinion peddlers, but that doesn't really matter.

These guys, the punditocracy, as Eric Alterman termed them, have made their mark by criticizing the "Main Stream Media." MSM, if you want to be cute and impress the bloggers. They've accused the press of being lazy and biased, but they've always been able to escape criticism for being biased by claiming that they're not journalists. They're paid to give their opinions, and that's an inherently biased job. Basically, they've built their own bases of power from the premise that the public wants unbiased journalists. And not just that they want unbiased journalists, but that they want people to call journalists on their biases.

So what of the fact that the members of this self-styled watchdog group are now apparently viewed as journalists by the public? What does that do to their world view? Is a meta-punditocracy going to emerge, complete with cable and radio broadcasts, to call O'Reilly and Limbaugh on their all-too-apparent biases?

I think not. I think that these fellows feel better about themselves if they say they're for the little guy, but they'll likely be the first to say that the public's perception of them doesn't change a thing so far as their own "journalistic" responsibilities. Rush will be content to hear himself described as a journalist so long as it helps him cry out against the MSM, but as soon as accountability is mentioned, he'll be the first to say that he's not a journalist.



Monday, June 13, 2005


PBGC stands for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. It's a government organization that insures private pensions. Employers pay a premium to the PBGC, just like any insurance organization, and in return the pensions covered by those employers are guaranteed.

But all is not sunny in the land of private pensions. The PBGC is having to pay out more than it normally would. Why? Because some employers (notably United Airlines, recently) have been defaulting on their pensions, and the PBGC has had to step in. As such, they're going to have to start charging higher premiums to their member corporations. Many fear that an increase in premiums will make some corporations drop, or at least drastically decrease, their pension plans. Because it wouldn't be profitable, see?

When the phase-out contingent is asking us to place so much of our faith in the private market, what sort of signal is this supposed to send to us? That somehow Social Security is a worse deal than a company pulling your retirement legs out from under you just to better its own bottom line? I don't buy it.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Body Parts from Heaven

According to CNN, a man's leg (with the hip and spine attached) fell in a lady's yard in New York today. It was a piece of a stowaway on a plane, evidently. Here is an artist's poor attempt at recreating the scene:


Best of the Fargus Report!

This is a cheap post, but I don't really care. Before my readership had catapulted up all the way to 40 people a day, 35 of which came here by accident while looking for porn, I had some pretty good posts. I'm going to put up links to what I felt were my best, both in this post and on the sidebar, so that you'll always have access to them.

Jon Stewart on Crossfire - Still one my favorite pieces of television ever. The post deals with the insularity of the pundidtocracy, and Jon Stewart's calling them out.

Patriotism - What makes one person a better American than another? Blind adherence or the ability to realize what we need to work on and the desire to become the best we can be? Is there any such thing as being a better American as somebody else?

Curiouser and Curiouser - This post is poorly titled, and I apologize. It deals with the difference in views between liberals and conservatives as to where the country is moving and where the country should move.

Abortion - This is a pretty short post. I put it up here because it's got a pretty well-researched refutation of the supposed "abortion-breast cancer link" purported to exist by social conservatives.

Social Security Primer - This post takes its body from an e-mail I wrote to a Social Security novice, explaining how the system works. I was sort of proud of it.

Torture - We must have the highest of standards of conduct if we're fighting a war for freedom based on the fact that we hold the moral high ground. Torture can never be condoned.

Rick Santorum Is Evil - Because you can never hear it too many times.

The Economy - Come read with me as I try to puzzle out the intricacies of international economics!

Gay Marriage - The issue that got me interested in politics about a year and a half ago, and one that I still feel very strongly about today.

Tipping - Not a political post, but I thought it was cogent and well-written. You may as well.

Let the Pandering Officially Begin! - My take on faith and its role in life today. Another poorly titled post, and I apologize.

Assumptions - It might be better titled, as Mark Coffey at Decision '08 referenced it, "On the Need to Question Assumptions." This is one of my favorite posts, as it got me out of my comfort zone, so to speak.

Of Education and Politics - Sort of a sister post to the Assumptions post, this one examines the frequent assertion by conservatives that conservatives are systematically driven from educational careers.

Estate Tax - Sort of a litmus test post, so y'all can see how I feel about one of the day's hot-button issues.

The Lesson of Bubbles - Everybody claimed to have learned their lessons after the dot-com bubble of the late nineties, but it's happening again with real estate.

Anti-blogging - On the desperate need to be loved, accepted and recognized of the current crop of political bloggers. We all do it, and we're all secretly ecstatic when we get a link at a site that gets a lot more traffic than our own.

Stem Cell Research - Another hot-button issue post, just so you can see where I stand if you don't already know.

The Media - A controversial post, most certainly not my most coherent and well-written, but in it and the comments is the kernel of what I'm trying to say.

Gonzalez v. Raich - I just really like how well-researched this post is. And it was written earlier today.

I'll put better titles on the poorly titled ones when they're in the sidebar. Enjoy!


Propaganda wallet

OK, folks, I have the show stopper. I was out at Borders over lunch, and I found a fake wallet within a copy of The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King. I will write to you what was inside it when I folded it out:


1. If this was a real wallet, packed with real money, would you:
[A] Keep it?
[B] Take it to the police?
[C] Give some of the money to the poor?

2. You have been underpaid for years. There's a BIG mistake in your paycheck to your advantage, would you:
[A] Tell the boss?
[B] Keep quiet?
[C] Give some to a church?

3. If telling a white lie would save a friend's job, would you:
[A] Tell the truth?
[B] Act dumb?
[C] Lie?

4. Do you consider yourself to be a "good" person?
[A] Yes
[B] No

5. Have you ever told a lie for any reason (including "fibs" and "white" lies--be honest)?
[A] Yes
[B] No

6. Have you ever stolen something--irrespective of its value (listen to your conscience)?
[A] Yes
[B] No

7. Would you consider a person who admits that they are a liar and a thief, to be a "good" person?

8. Who do you think will enter Heaven?
[A] Those who say they are good when they are not?
[B] Liars and thieves?
[C] Those whom God has forgiven and cleansed of sin?

9. Did you realize that the Bible warns that thieves, liars, fornicators (those who have had sex out of marriage), idolaters (those who create a god to suit themselves), adulterers, and the covetous (the greedy), will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

10. Did you also realize that the Bible says "whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery already with her in his heart"? On Judgment Day God will bring to light "every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil." When you stand before God on Judgment Day, will you be innocent or guilty? Will you go to Heaven or Hell (there is no such place as Purgatory)? Please, let go of your self-righteousness (saying that you are good when you are not). Instead, put your faith in Jesus Christ. He suffered and died on the Cross, taking the punishment for all of your sins: "God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death. If you will repent and trust Him, God will forgive your sins and give you everlasting life. Death will lose its sting!--"What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul?" Pray something like this right now: "Dear God, I have sinned against you. I now turn from all sin and trust Jesus Christ alone as my Lord and Savior. I will read Your Word daily and obey what I read. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen." LWP: (562) 920-8431

My favorite parts are these:

[1] Question 7 has no answer choices.
[2] Questions 9 and 10 are not really questions.
[3] By the end of question 10, they're not really questioning, but commanding: "Pray something like this right now."


Gonzalez v. Raich

I've had some time to look over a lot of the details concerning yesterday's ruling about medical marijuana, and it's a lot more complicated case than people are giving it credit for. I now understand where the majority opinion comes from, and where the dissent comes from as well.

In 1942, the Commerce Power of Congress was tested in Wickard v. Filburn. Filburn was a wheat farmer in Ohio who grew about twice the amount of wheat permitted by the Department of Agriculture quota. He was supposed to be limited to 11.1 acres, and he grew almost 12 acres on top of that. Filburn's argument was that since the wheat was for use only on his farm, it was not subject to the interstate commerce laws. He lost the case, though, because the court found that if all wheat farmers, on the aggregate, did the same thing as Filburn, the result would have a tangible impact on interstate wheat commerce. None of those wheat farmers would buy wheat from the market, which would drive prices down and affect the wheat trade at large.

The Commerce Power of Congress, enumerated by the commerce clause in the Constitution, has been used for a lot of things, and for a long time it was pretty much unlimited. But in United States v. Lopez, that commerce power was ultimately limited. Lopez was charged with bringing a handgun and bullets to school, thus violating the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act, and it was the constitutionality of this act that was called into question. Congress argued that this law fell under the commerce clause because guns at school would decrease the quality of education, thus producing a less capable citizenry and a weaker economy. This argument was found wanting, as was a similar argument that the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 fell under the commerce clause (United States v. Morrison).

So recently, the commerce power of the United States has been limited. Prior to 1995, with Lopez, Congress seemed able to make pretty much whatever law it wanted, so long as it could thinly justify it with the commerce clause. The majority opinion, however, used Wickard as its main rationale in the recent decision. Their argument was that marijuana has an interstate market (though illegal) which would be adversely affected by the legalization of medicinal marijuana in certain states, and that it's in the best interests of Congress to regulate that market.

The dissenting opinion (written by O'Connor) doesn't dismiss Wickard, but rather takes note of the fact that with Wickard, the statutes exempted plantings less than six acres from falling under the commerce clause. As she puts it, "Wickard, then, did not extend Commerce Clause authority to something as modest as the home cook’s herb garden."

I happen to agree with the dissenting opinion, as is probably obvious from my previous post about the subject. For the main reason that I do, I'll refer you to another quote from O'Connor's dissenting opinion:

"One of federalism’s chief virtues, of course, is that it promotes innovation by allowing for the possibility that “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 U.S. 262, 311 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting)."
Now I'm no government-fearing conservative, but I do believe that there have got to be some clearly defined lines between the roles of the federal governments and of the state governments. Otherwise, why are we going to bother having states at all? And why, then, couldn't they change state laws that would affect my life further, like keeping the liquor stores in Connecticut open past 9:00 and on Sundays?

And I don't know if anybody considered this, but wouldn't the legalization of marijuana considerably boost the interstate munchie trade?


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Activism, anyone?

So the Constitution says that the federal government has the power to regulate interstate trade. Then why did the Supreme Court rule 6-3 (including strict "originalist" Antonin Scalia) that the federal government has the right to overturn states' medical marijuana laws, even if none of that marijuana crosses state lines?

Again, what makes me sick about politics is that so many fights are fought on a case-by-case basis, not on principle. For all the crowing we heard from conservatives about judicial activism in recent months, I doubt we'll really hear much from them about the judicial activism (legislating from the bench, they like to call it) involved in this decision.


Friday, June 03, 2005

Something that always bugged me

Here's a random thought. In the Batman movies, when we see Bruce Wayne dressed up as Batman, it's fairly clear that Batman's got some black eye makeup around his eyes to darken the area up.

Otherwise, he'd look like sort of a tool.

But in Batman Forever, when Val Kilmer's Batman gets his mask ripped off, ain't no eye makeup to be seen! Sorry I can't find a picture of it. But really, that's pretty glaring, even in view of how much the 4 previous Batman movies sucked.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Constitution Restoration Act

Y'all may have seen this before, but it's worth another mention since it was recently reintroduced in the House and the Senate. The Constitution Restoration Act would, among other things, disallow the Supreme Court from hearing cases related to a Federal or State official's "acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."

This bill will not pass. It doesn't have enough traction, and no matter how much they try to erode it by talking about the "myth of church-state separation," the wingnuts haven't managed to destroy that fundamental principle yet.

But that there are at least 38 Congressmen (30 in the House, 8 in the Senate) co-sponsoring this piece of garbage legislation is pretty deeply troubling to me.


The Media

I'd been thinking about writing a post about the media for some time. I think I'd even explicitly mentioned it a while ago. Well, with the sharp contrast offered by the Newsweek story and the revelation of the identity of Deep Throat, it seems like the appropriate time to do it.

I'd personally rather have a media that was more vigorous and willing to make mistakes, so long as it also had a deep and honest accountability. I feel that a vigorous investigative press is much more important to our country than a press that's cowed and scared by claims of bias and undersourcing. Of course there should be standards for publishing stories, and I don't think anybody would argue that. But especially thrown into contrast with the Newsweek fiasco of a couple of weeks ago, the revelation of Deep Throat reminds us why anonymous sourcing is so important to that vigorous press.

There are stories that would not be told, comments that would not be made, information that would not be disclosed, if the provider of that information had to compromise his or her own identity in order to do it. Whatever you think of Nixon's presidential policies, he was committing crimes and he was held accountable for them. I cannot think of a realistic scenario where Nixon would have been held accountable if Felt had resigned and gone public with his accusations. His own personal biases would have been scrutinized, and a cover-up would have been much easier to perpetrate without a man on the inside.

In short, people may disagree with me like crazy, but I'd prefer to have a media that might get one story wrong out of a hundred, coupled with a high-profile retraction when the facts are straightened out, than a media that takes the likes of Tom DeLay and his cadre of wingnuts even remotely seriously.