Wednesday, December 31

Quote of the day

"The first lesson of economics is that we live in a universe of scarcity, and we face tradeoffs. The first lesson of politics is to ignore the first lesson of economics."

MJ Perry has more.

Tuesday, December 30

Wrapping up 2008

Dave Barry:
• In sports, the undefeated New England Patriots lose the Super Bowl to the New York Giants in a stunning upset that confounds the experts, not to mention Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which had $38 billion on the Pats to win.

• In economic news, the price of gasoline tops $4 a gallon, meaning the cost of filling up an average car is now $50, or, for Hummer owners, $17,500. Congress, responding to the financial pain of the American people, goes into partisan gridlock faster than ever before, with Republicans demanding that the oil companies immediately start drilling everywhere, including cemeteries, and Democrats calling for a massive effort to develop alternative energy sources such as wind, the sun, tides, comets, Al Gore and dragon breath, using technology expected to be perfected sometime this millennium. It soon becomes clear that Congress will not actually do anything, so Americans start buying less gasoline.

• Barack Obama, having secured North and South America, flies to Germany without using an airplane and gives a major speech -- speaking English and German simultaneously -- to 200,000 mesmerized Germans, who immediately elect him chancellor, prompting France to surrender.

• The CEOs of the Increasingly Small Three auto makers return to Washington to resume pleading for a bailout, this time telling Congress that if they can reach an agreement that day, they will throw in the undercoating, the satellite-radio package AND a set of floor mats. "We're actually LOSING MONEY on this deal!" they assure Congress. Finally they reach a $13.4 billion agreement under which the car companies will continue to provide jobs, medical insurance and pension benefits, but will cease producing actual cars. The agreement will be overseen by the federal government, using its legendary ability to keep things on budget.

• Tiger Woods, in an epic performance, wins the U.S. Open playing on an injured and very painful knee, thereby proving, beyond all doubt, that golf is not a real sport.
Ron Hart:

11. Doing nothing to dispel stereotypes about Southerners, Jamie Lynn Spears gave birth to a baby girl who, in turn, gave birth to a boy by year's end. Aunt Britney took time off to be with the kids and to teach them to smoke.

12. Upon further review, Sarah Palin proved to me that she should not be the future of the GOP since she is so much like the past. I am as fearful of her Religious Right side of the Party as she is of a follow-up question.

13. Caroline Kennedy, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and Oprah endorsed Obama early in his campaign against Hillary and Clinton, Inc., providing him with an early boost. There is a good chance that they may all end up in a mass grave in Arkansas soon.

14. Despite transparent political pandering and palpable tension, Barack Obama appointed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but only after careful vetting by the Obama transition team confirmed that she had no romantic links to Bill Clinton.

Monday, December 29

Study: Virginity pledges ineffective, correlate with unprotected sex

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.
Here's Klein:
Teenagers who pledged to avoid sex until marriage were as likely to have intercourse as other U.S. adolescents," reports a new survey. Which would be fine. I don't much care if your first sexual encounter invalidates a pledge you took in 7th grade homeroom. The problem is, "teens who took the pledge also were less likely to use birth control pills or condoms than those making no promise." As Steve Benen comments, "The difference between teens who make abstinence pledges and teens who don't isn't sexual conduct, it's that those who make the pledges engage in more dangerous sexual conduct."

Right. So the data we have says that abstinence pledges are definitely ineffective and possibly harmful. I'd treat that last as a provisional result: It's not clear that the pledge is leading to more risky sex. It could be that the folks who take the pledge have less access to birth control, or less knowledge about it, or simply love the idea of teen pregnancy. More study needed, etc. And the bottom line remains: Efforts to fund abstinence only education in place of sex education are efforts to fund an increase in teen pregnancy and STD transmission. At this point, the data is too clear, and too overwhelming, to support any other conclusion.

It's actually not about denying marriage, it's about denying love

Prop 8’s real purpose? Denying the possibility of homosexual love.

This makes a lot of sense. Speaking as a former fundie, I can tell you with certainty that 10 years ago I would have claimed: "Homosexuals don't really love each other, it's just a sinful lust of the flesh!". And I was 100% convinced this claim was true.

But now that I've met gay people like Mr. Rodriguez who've lived with their partner for 30 years and well and truly love each other, I realize how terribly wrong I was.

Religious fundamentalists will not admit this. They are terrified of a society which openly acknowledges the genuineness of homosexual love. You need look no further than the repression of gays in the most insular Islamist societies to understand this sad reality.

Freedom & Guns

David Kopel is working on a paper titled Is There a Relationship between Guns and Freedom? Comparative Results from 59 Nations.

Money quote from the conclusion:
As a general (but not invariable rule), countries with more guns have more economic freedom, less corruption, and more economic success.
This will come as no surprise to we libertarians, but I imagine many liberals and paternalistic conservatives statists will be miffed.

However, does he really have to publish this article in the Texas Review of Law & Politics? Cue the snark!

Quote of the day

"Conservatives pride themselves on resisting change, which is as it should be. But intelligent deference to tradition and stability can evolve into intellectual sloth and moral fanaticism, as when conservatives simply decline to look up from dogma because the effort to raise their heads and reconsider is too great." --WFB, NR

He was talking about drug policy in that essay, but I figure the point is broadly applicable.

Sunday, December 28

A fundamentalist approach to movie criticism

Today I asked a couple fundies whether they'd be interested in watching a movie with me. Since I hate having to figure out their standards I decided to list all the unseen ones I had on my hard drive and let them choose. I opened a Rotten Tomatoes browser tab for each film and passed the computer to them. They were curious about the site, and I explained that it collects critical reviews.

We then branched into a discussion of movie criticism proper. They expressed some outrage at critics having poorly rated one of their favorite films, Fireproof. They concluded that the critics' opinions were too divorced from reality and of little use, citing the fact that Fireproof had "changed peoples lives for the better". I directed them to the Daily Beast review I was familiar with and attempted to explain why a movie critic wouldn't see artistic value to Fireproof, but they were quite outraged by it all; I couldn't even get them to read the whole review.

To my mind this just goes to show that the review was quite right in concluding that:
in making evangelism—and acceptability to the most insular Christian audiences—a priority, Christianese films all but guarantee artistic failure. Art demands an honesty that the evangelical bubble would find intolerable. Committed to promoting an unambiguous message that God solves all problems, Fireproof never portrays Christians doing anything untoward, or even experiencing any sorrow. Caleb’s parents’ marital struggles pre-dated their Christianity. When Caleb’s best friend reveals that he divorced his first wife, he not only says it was before he found the Lord, but adds that after he did, he would have gotten back together with his ex had she not already remarried. In the perfect world of Fireproof, good Christians do not have bad marriages, any more than they drink, gamble or swear.
They of course differed and cited Fireproof's success, claiming it was going to be one of the "top 25 movies", and concluding that critics rated it poorly because it "bypassed Hollywood and didn't conform to [Hollywood's] standards".

I'm reminded of Stephen Colbert repeatedly claiming we now know global warming to be true because "Al Gore's movie made money," and hence "the free market has spoken".

By the same logic you could try to argue most Britney Spears albums are artistic masterpieces, Paris Hilton is a wondrous actress, etc.

In reality Fireproof is very likely an unimpressive film whose success is driven by evangelical fervor rather than any artistic, technical, or creative achievement. I say "very likely" instead of making a definitive assessment because I haven't actually seen it myself, and based on reviews am unlikely to do so. After all, isn't that the whole point of checking critical reviews before deciding to sit through a movie?

Now it's certainly true that Fireproof may have "changed peoples lives" the same way, say, a "powerful sermon" might. And that's fine. It's a preachy film rather than an arty or creative one. There is certainly a place for such things. But that place bears more resemblance to the DVD collection of your neighborhood's Bible Study group than that of your local film festival.

The arrogance of Cheney and the appeals court of history

Just staggering. And he thinks Bush will be popular in 30 years.

Sullivan recalled a comment on Tacitus:
It is not, as I gather, that Tacitus lacks veracity. What he lacks is what in the Thirties used to be called "the long view" of history. But to minds of a certain sensitivity "the long view" is the falsest historical view of all, and indeed the insistence on the length of perspective is intended precisely to overcome sensitivity---seen from sufficient distance, it says, the corpse and the hacked limbs are not so very terrible, and eventually they even begin to compose themselves into a "meaningful pattern."

On scientific engagement & welcoming disagreement

Gibbs: Obama "Wants And Expects" Disagreement Within His Administration
In an interview with ABC News, incoming White House press secretary Robert Gibbs responded to the idea that Obama's politically diverse cabinet could lead to serious internal divisions. "I think the far greater risk is assembling a group of people that whenever the president opens their mouth they all nod their heads in agreement," said Gibbs, adding that Obama "wants and expects there to be disagreement within that room," with Obama making the final decisions.
Isn't it nice having an adult in charge?

Why, just the other day:
"My administration will value science," Obama said, in what sounded like a pointed reference to his predecessor. "We will make decisions based on facts."
Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Let's hope it's as delicious as advertised.

As you may recall, the last one didn't turn out that way. Remember this guy?

Politically incorrect truth of the day

A large number of Africans have primitive tribal belief systems and low IQs. They stand to benefit significantly from widespread conversion to any major monotheistic religion.

Corollary: the mean African IQ is as-of-yet insufficient to support a flourishing community of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics, and some Buddhists) who reject supernatural superstition.

For more on this, see Secular Right and the comments.

For a background example on how religion relates to IQ, see this fascinating plot vs. biblical literalism.

Climate change denialism watch

Meme: 2008 was the year manmade global warming was disproved

Here we go again . . . people thinking areas with colder-than-normal temperatures proves the planet's mean temperature couldn't possibly warming. *facepalm*

Let's hope someone knowledgeable gives this a good fisk.

Update: Ok, here's Liberal Values:
While of course this would be fantastic if true, the article provides nothing of value other than for an excellent example of scientific illiteracy and how conservative science-illiterate bloggers will accept any misinformation which supports their ideological biases.

The biggest mistake is to think one can obtain scientific information from an op-ed piece rather than from peer reviewed scientific literature. The op-ed’s arguments come down to 1) it has been cold outside and therefore global warming is a hoax and 2) some meteorologist and others who are not experts in the field of climate change (not actually “many of the world’s most eminent climate experts”) do not believe the overwhelming consensus among those actually in the field, therefore there is no consensus.

But of course, as can be seen on the meme, conservative bloggers ate it up, going so far as to praise the "journalistic integrity" of UK's Telegraph.

Update II: A science blog retorts.

A tale of reckless greed

(meme) By Saying Yes, WaMu Built Empire on Shaky Loans

hilzoy summarizes

On the broader subject, last week Drezner round up five useful guides to the current crisis.

Friday, December 26

"Please don't divorce us"

Ask any equal marriage opponent you know to please watch this slideshow and explain why he or she insists on making life choices for others.

Tuesday, December 23

Exerpt of the day

Re-reading The Audacity of Hope this season, I came across this passage:
...for those of us who believe that government has a role to play in promoting opportunity and prosperity for all Americans, a polarized electorate isn't good enough. Eking out a bare Democratic majority isn't good enough. What's needed is a broad majority of Americans--Democrats, Republicans, and independents of goodwill--who are reengaged in the project of national renewal, and who see their own self-interest as inextricably linked to the interests of others.

I'm under no illusion that the task of building such a working majority will be easy. But it's what we must do, precisely because the task of solving America's problems will be hard. It will require tough choices, and it will require sacrifice. Unless political leaders are open to new ideas and not just new packaging, we won't change enough hearts and minds to initiate a serious energy policy or tame the deficit. We won't have the popular support to craft a foreign policy that meets the challenges of globalization or terrorism without resorting to isolationism or eroding civil liberties. We won't have a mandate to overhaul America's broken healthcare system. And we won't have the broad political support or the effective strategies needed to lift large numbers of our fellow citizens out of poverty.

I made this same argument in a letter I sent to the left-leaning blog Daily Kos in September 2005, after a number of advocacy groups and activists had attacked some of my Democratic colleagues for voting to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts. My staff was a little nervous about the idea; since I had voted against Roberts' confirmation, they saw no reason for me to agitate such a vocal part of the Democratic base. But I had come to appreciate the give-and-take that the blogs afforded, and in the days following the posting of my letter, in true democratic fashion, more than six hundred people posted their comments. Some agreed with me. Others thought I was being too idealistic--that the kind of politics I was suggesting could not work in the face of the Republican PR machine. A sizable contingent thought that I had been "sent" by Washington elites to quell dissent in the ranks, and/or had been in Washington too long and was losing touch with the American people, and/or was--as one blogger later put it--simply an "idiot."

Maybe the critics are right. Maybe there's no escaping our great political divide, and endless clash of armies, and any attempts to alter the rules of engagement are futile. Or maybe the trivialization of politics has reached a point of no return, so that most people see it as just one more diversion, a sport, with politicians our paunch-bellied gladiators and those who bother to pay attention just fans on the sidelines: We paint our faces red or blue and cheer our side and boo their side, and if it takes a late hit or a cheap shot to beat the other team, so be it, for winning is all that matters.

But I don't think so.
That post is an interesting look back.

Yes we cannabis!

Esquire airs speculation:
Turns out, with several drug-war veterans close to the president-elect's ear, insiders think reform could come in Obama's second term -- or sooner.
Hurray for sanity. I concur with sometime after re-election seeming a politically expedient time.

Update: Upturned Earth throws some cold water. But I'll hold out some hope...a lot can change in eight years.

Saturday, December 20

Palin 2010, 2012, or 2016...

She just..won't..go...AWAY!!

AllahPundit ran this poll:

Are those my only 4 options? seriously?

Friday, December 19

We Call on You Lord: Leaked Rick Warren Invocation!

At HuffPost:
(NOTE: Copies of what seemed to be a draft of an inaugural invocation by Pastor Rick Warren arrived in the fax machines of several prominent journalists this morning. This site does not vouch for the authenticity of the draft, although each of the statements does conform to material in Pastor Warren's speeches, interviews, or on his websites.)

O Lord, as we come together on this historic and solemn occasion to inaugurate a president and vice president. We pray, O Lord, for President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden, to whom You have entrusted leadership of this nation at this moment in history.

We pray for their advisors and supporters, particularly their Jewish advisors and supporters, who will surely roast in hell if they do not abandon their refusal to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Pray for the conversion of Obama chief advisor David Axelrod and his economic wise man Larry Summers, his early supporters Lester Crown and his campaign finance chair Penny Pritzker, for, as the Bible says, there will be a day when there will be a great revival of faith in God through Jesus among the Jewish people. (Romans 11). Obviously, this is a day that we, as believers in Christ, want to pray for! Let the light of Christian salvation come to the Jewish Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel and his family, some of whom survived the German effort to bring them to Christian truth in the last generation.

May all efforts to stop homosexuals from violating the ancient humanitarian institution of marriage succeed as did your will in California in the last election. Attend particularly, O lord, to President Obama's environmental chief Nancy Sutley, and to the man who has worked essentially without sleep for three months to save the American economy from total collapse, Representative Barney Frank. Use the government to bring an end to acts as bad as incest, pedophilia and polygamy, by stamping out homosexuality among the homosexuals, a people evolutionarily unfit, that we may truly become one nation before God. May the First Amendment to the Constitution protect all who want to compare homosexual sex to incest, pedophilia and polygamy from the arrows of hate speech accusations shot by the politically correct.

Change the hearts of the new administration's pro-choice advisors and supporters, including the Justices of the Supreme Court who stand here today with us: Holocaust denier Anthony Kennedy, holocaust denier Ruth Bader Ginzburg, holocaust denier David Souter, holocaust denier Stephen Breyer, and holocaust denier John Paul Stevens, who is about to swear in the Vice-President, in that abortion is a holocaust and the eighteen million or so women who have committed abortion in the thirty-five years since 1973 are thus no better than Nazis.

Bless the women, who have chosen to follow their ambitions into public life, but change the hearts, Lord, of Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis from independent lives of their own to submission to their husbands, if any, for I love the King James Version's rendition of Ephesians 5:22 "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands" and of course "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ if God." 1 Corinthians 11:3. These women have chosen to participate in the public life of the community. Enlighten them as to the requirement that women not speak in church, saving any questions they have about their common life to ask their husbands as they return home.

Now, O Lord, despite the plain language of the Constitution that created this great nation, we dedicate this presidential inaugural ceremony to You. May this be the beginning of a new dawn for America as we humble ourselves before You and acknowledge You alone as our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer. We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Crazy football play

I liked the Benny Hill version. Tempo fits perfectly.

But I don't see how this can beat "The Play". Flattening a Tuba player in the end zone is too good.

Huckabee argues against equal marriage

Worth revisiting amidst the Warren hatefest:

Bad science

Douthat and Levin remind us that this can be a bipartisan undertaking.

Iain Murray snarks.

New "Center for Republican Renewal"

RNC Chairman Mike Duncan is pushing the right buttons, picking up the pieces as he tries for re-election.

I still want Michael Steele, but that's looking less likely in a crowded field now that the incumbent is in the ring.

"Yes We Can."

..will live a long life. It's even in furniture stores for goodness sake.

And deep down, you know you want to watch this thing one more time:

Thursday, December 18

Three cups of tea for Rick Warren

Hartmann at HuffPost goes there.

Waldman defended Warren a day earlier.

Southern outrage

It's absolutely outrageous that Obama's cabinet doesn't contain a single white southerner.

Humanity, pain, and patience

A reader helps focus my evolving and conflicting feelings and thoughts:

It’s obvious what Obama is trying to do by having Warren give the convocation at his inauguration, and it is understandable – but for me as a human being who was personally damaged by Warren’s theology and his church specifically, it is unforgivable. And to cover it over with vague rhetoric about a politics of inclusion and unity is similarly unforgivable.
It's a moving read in full.

Update: Now he posts Taking Yes For An Answer. Amen.

A matter of conscience is a matter of choice

WaPo looks at the Bush administration's new regs:
Leavitt has said the regulation was intended to protect workers who object to abortion, but both supporters and critics said the rule remains broad enough to protect pharmacists, doctors, nurses and others who do not wish to dispense birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraceptives and other forms of contraception. While primarily aimed at doctors and nurses, it offers protection to anyone -- including ultrasound technicians, nurses aides, secretaries and even janitors who have any role in the service.
What, is a janitor going to refuse to mop a room where abortions are performed?

In this context "rights of conscience" are straightforward choices, similar to "I don't do windows".

If you don't want to do windows that's fine. But some places may have doing windows as part of the job description and be less likely to hire you. That's an institution's call to make.

The appropriated purpose of these government funds is to provide services, not subsidize a lack of them.

In a sane world the extent to which a person's conscience limits the services that person is willing to provide should be directly related to the extent that person might not be hired or retained for a particular job which involves providing those services.

Bad move, Bush administration. You fail us again. Luckily this won't be too hard for Obama and the Democratic Congress to fix.

The anti-choice pro-lifer outraged over Warren

The other side of the story, gathered by David Brody:

From Dave:

I just lost a lot of respect for Rick Warren. How can someone who professes to be a Christian, put himself into a situation where other Christians would question him? Rick has done some good work however he just lost my respect.

From Larry:

I was saddened to read that Dr Warren will be praying at the inauguration. I different with him on almost all areas of theology, doctrine and church polity, though he holds himself out as a evangelical. I was devastated by the election. Not that a Democrat was elected, I'm more of a person not a party voter. Not that President Elect is a mixed race. I was devastated by a number of reasons and one grieves me most when I think of Dr Warren praying at the inauguration. As the result of one Supreme Court Decision, over 50 million babies have been murdered to date. The President Elect has in no uncertain terms pledged to continue the pro abortion agenda. How could around 54% of Catholics, 96% of African Americans, many who claim to be professing Bible Christians, @ 100% of Jewish Voters, who apparently have forgotten about the Holocaust and probably 50% or more of all kinds of other professing Bible Christians vote for the President Elect in light of his pro-abortion agenda? How? The same reason Dr Warren is going to pray at the inauguration. There is no real moral outrage in our Nation about Abortion. "Just words, just words," as the resident Elect said often in his campaign about his opposition. Words, but not real outrage and action.

From Pat:

This is terrible; this man call's himself a Christian????Barack H. Obama is the most PRO-DEATH president America has ever elected!!!!! He has said that as president he is going to pass the "Freedom of Choice Act" how can our country get any better with this type of MURDER?????? Mr. Warren school be ashamed of himself, protection of the unborn is the MOST IMPERATIVE issue as a Christian!!!!! For without life do we continue to have a society at all??? I think not!!!!!

God Bless & MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

From Mary:

Unless Rick Warren has changed, he is very disappointing in the pro-life cause. Just ask pro-life leaders their opinion. He doesn't like to deal with it at his church. It just seems funny that he is known as 'pro-life' when he largely ignores the subject and teaches others to do the same. I fear God for these 'men of God'. We have lost 50 million babies, and most won't say a word. Reminds me of Nazi Germany or our slavery days. Very few spoke out. It was more comfortable to keep quiet.

From Billy:

I was very disappointed when Rick Warren gave his pulpit over to Obama a year or so ago, concerning the AIDS epidemic. Obama is an unapologetic supporter of unrestricted abortion, which has been responsible for more deaths than all the years of AIDS. A little leaven leaveneth the whole loaf, and Mr Warren should realize that the leaven of compromise is the beginning of unending compromise.

From Anonymous:

When I first saw this headline, I thought it was a joke. For a man like Rick Warren to give the invocation for a man that has pledged to sign the Freedom of Choice Act is beyond the pale. Moreover, the Orwellian concept of “social justice” with which Pastor Warren is so enamored belongs in the dustbin of history. To the trained ear, “social justice” is nothing but political cover for yet another failed government-run welfare program. I am a Christian trying to live a Christian life, and I feel no guilt for my disdain for the latest civil-rights fad called “social justice.” I do not believe that anyone’s compassion for God’s children must be directly proportional to his or her support for wasteful government programs that do little more than ensure reelection.

From Anonymous:

This is one swearing in of a President I will NOT watch..especially with the sickening thought that Rick Warren will be there saying Lord knows what. His way and Obama's do not meet.

From Anonymous:

I have had about all I can stand of Rick Warren's double standards. WHOSE side is he really on anyway? I'm beginning to think all he cares about are his questionable political connections. When I saw your article announcing his participation in "that one's" so called inauguration ceremony it absolutely sickened me. It isn't enough Obama is so full of himself that he "thinks" he's God. - Apparently now Rick Warren believes he is too. This is a complete mockery of all things sacred.

So there you have it. Praying for presidents who happen to be pro-choice is bad.

Argumentum ad historum

Warren's statement contains several simple untruths. The first is that heterosexual marriage between one man and one woman for life has been endorsed by every religion and every culture for five thousand years. This is so obviously untrue it's telling about Warren's own lack of knowledge that he would repeat it. Polygamy has long been a strong contender against that model in many societies and cultures, including plenty of revered and holy figures in the Bible. Moreover, divorce altered the definition of marriage far, far more profoundly than any other change in human history. For good measure, many faiths in America already acknowledge and support gay unions and gay marriages. So Warren was simply wrong on many counts.
Aye aye. And this is a common Christianist talking point espoused by other statist political preachers like Mike Huckabee.

Need we remind them how many other injustices humanity has upheld in pre-modern times?

Forget those 5,000 years, let's just limit ourselves to the 232 of US history and what was overturned:

Racial slavery (Emancipation proclamation, 13th and 15th amendments)

Alpha male suffrage (14th, 19th, 24th, and 26th amendments)

Anti-miscegenation (Loving v. Virginia)

Anti-sodomy laws (Lawrence v. Texas)

All these things used to be the law of the land. And as recently as 1973 the American Psychiatric Association officially listed homosexuality as a mental disorder.

But we advanced, scientifically, philosophically, sociologically. We outgrew our prejudices, gained greater appreciation of our differences and not-so-differences. In short, we developed the modern tolerance of the "other", and are better for it.

Equal rights for gays will not infringe on religious or free speech liberties any more than civil divorce infringes on the Catholic church's asserted right to only recognize the sanctity of first marriages and only ordain male priests.

And legal gay marriages are the next logical step in our collective "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" strive for equality.

In this, Warren and Huckabee are on the same side of history as a Jesse Helms: the wrong one.

Bush weighs "orderly" bankruptcy for automakers

Good news of sane compromise being considered by the administration in lieu of the failed bailout.

Here's Drum:
This is the "prepackaged bankruptcy" option that's been mooted a few times before. It actually sounds like a decent compromise to me: it keeps the companies from imploding in the middle of a huge recession, but at the same time it gives a bankruptcy court considerable leeway to impose serious restructuring of the kind that a political process probably can't. The end result — if it's done right — is a pair of companies that will end up smaller but still viable in the long term, and an economy that takes only a moderate hit instead of a killing blow. Call me tentatively in favor of this approach.
Donklephant goes on some more.

Megan chimes in.

I, Pencil

Celebrating 50 years.

Go take a read.

"should’ve done better, and a lot of other presidents would’ve done better."

Conor nibbles at Ross Douthat's formidable post on torture and what George Bush did for us.

Wednesday, December 17

Dept. of little things that make me smile

Reading a blog post discussing Obama's Secretary of Education pick and halfway through coming across a sentence beginning "When I was Secretary of Education,"

Apparently Mr. Bennett has some well-developed ideas of what he's talking about!

Flag of equal marriage

The site:
In 1902, when the Women's Suffrage movement was just getting warmed up, the American flag had 45 stars. In protest, the Suffragists created their own flag with only four stars, one for each state that allowed women to vote. This new flag is a protest flag for equal marriage rights. The flag only has two stars, for Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Via Digg:
Interestingly, the flag was made before the Prop 8 vote, so it originally had three stars. After the Prop 8 vote, the designer had to remove a star.
We'll win this fight eventually.

The real Blagojevich scandal

Cato and WaPo are on the case.
What’s far more worrisome is Blagojevich’s bizarre confrontation with the Bank of America. The day before he was arrested on charges of massive corruption, Blagojevich visited a group of striking workers at a North Chicago firm called Republic Windows & Doors. After being laid off the week before, the employees had begun a sit-in, demanding benefits they were still owed by their employer, which said it could not meet their demands because the Bank of America had cut off its financing. At this point, Blagojevich informed bank officials that unless they restored the shuttered window-and-door company’s line of credit, the state of Illinois would suspend all further business with Bank of America. A few days later, the bank caved in and ponied up a $1.35 million loan.

The idea that the governor of a state as prosperous and important and sophisticated and upscale as Illinois would make this kind of threat is terrifying. Even more terrifying is that Bank of America saw no alternative but to give in. Yet even more terrifying is that nobody outside Chicago seems to have gotten terribly worked up about the situation, riveted as they are on the governor’s more theatrical transgressions. But peddling a Senate seat or using scare tactics to shake down a newspaper are nowhere near so serious a menace to society as letting the government arbitrarily intervene in financial transactions between banks and creditors. A crooked governor we can all handle. But a governor who capriciously decides which commercial enterprises a bank must finance and which it can ignore is a scary proposition indeed.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. But get the wrong politician in office, and you can burn it in a day.

What the grandstanding Blagojevich reportedly attempted to do in the Republic Windows vs. Bank of America set-to is precisely the sort of thing that happens in China, where the government routinely orders up bank loans to politically connected firms. Whether a failing company actually deserves financing becomes irrelevant to the conversation; the government doesn’t want a company to fail, so it decides that it must not go under, even if it’s run by clowns, stooges, gangsters or in-laws.

Rick Warren is part of America too

The interwebs are aflutter with liberal outrage to Rick Warren's inaugural invocation.

Ambers defends Obama from the Human Rights Campaign's blistering criticism. Nice conclusion.

I probably disagree with upwards of 90% of Rick Warren's views. He's a statist and a Christianist, diametrically opposed to my libertarianism and atheism.

However, I'm not the only person in America. Rick Warren lives here too. The president of these United States is the president of a great many people, a sizeable subgroup of which identify with the views of one Rick Warren.

It's true that the hypocritically bigoted intolerance of people like Warren is indisputably bad in the eyes of anyone with a sufficiently developed & intellectually honest belief in equality. But people like him must have a place at the table.

It's difficult to convince a patient in denial that they need treatment if all you do is shout down their concerns.

Meanwhile, Jon Henke has the cynical take from the right.

Kennedy a serious contender for NY Senate

Andrew Sullivan et. al. have loudly decried this "fairy tale" as nepotism, arguing that she's never been elected to an office and isn't manifestedly qualified for it. (Sullivan argues that Palin would be more qualified, sadly enough)

Possibly. But Ms. Kennedy shunned the limelight intentionally, and there's some virtue to that.

Moreover, when your father and uncle have both been victims of political assassination, cries of nepotism at being given a chance to carry on their standard ring pretty hollow to me.

Kennedy is a NY and DC attorney who's written constitutional books and engaged in charitable public service.

Is she "patently qualified", as Sean wonders? No, but neither is she patently unqualified, and the polls indicate a fair level of support among Democrats. Yes, it's largely name-recognition-based, but see above about the assassinations. Rather than disqualifying her on nepotistic grounds, this "fairy tale" has something of an "arc of the universe bending towards justice" feel to me.

I trust Paterson will give her a fair hearing. The Larry King idea isn't too bad either, though I personally can't stand that particular show.

As far as her politics go, I gather they're close enough to HRC's for this to be a fair replacement. Clinton, by all accounts, will be fine with Kennedy replacing her.

Meanwhile, some on the right are having fun.

Provocation of the day

The importance of portraying 2 percent of the population as far more powerful than the 98 percent and the need to keep that 2 percent from destroying civilization - and allegedly making Christianity illegal - has some interesting historical forebears. --Andrew Sullivan on Christianists & gay marriage
He's right though. In some ways,

is to


is to

Obviously there are many ways in which the comparison doesn't hold.

But the ways in which it does are greater than a Christianist would have you believe.

Of course no one wants to be compared to Nazis. And if this comparison were made often, it could do more harm than good.

Nevertheless it's a valid point.

Dept. of things I didn't know

Obama's sister Maya is a high-school history teacher, and a Buddhist.

Some vids:

Pictures of the Year

This one is poignant.

Tuesday, December 16

That mix of "anger, uncertainty and guilt"

Ross posts Thinking About Torture.

There's some discussion at C11.

I think the post is very illuminating.

To answer the "Did we ask for it?" question for myself, I think I can offer a fairly emphatic NO. The special status of "enemy combatant" never made any sense to me. Ever.

We declared a "War on Terror". Bush has pounded the phrase in his speeches. So "prisoners of war" follow naturally.

Prisoners of war have rights. Regardless of what atrocities they've comitted: the Nazis, Japanese, Soviets, and Al Qaeda operatives all have the same rights when captured by the military.

The only alternative is civilian court, in whatever jurisdiction applies. Should the military decide someone is not suited to remaining a prisoner of war but still a criminal, then that person should be turned over to whatever civilian authorities claim jurisdiction.

Torture and torture-lite must never be legal options. We can conceive of a situation in which someone would have reason to decide the ends justify the means and go forward with these things. But when all is said and done, it was still illegal and must be prosecuted. Jury nullification and presidential pardons are the only recourse.

And if Officeholders like a President were involved, they should face impeachment.

No one is above the law.

Quote of the day

Since it's finals week:
You have just passed the bar in the State of Nirvana.
That's the first sentence of the final exam for the last University of Chicago Constitutional Law class taught by Prof. Obama in Fall 2003.

NYT piece here.

Monday, December 15

A Boo and some Yays

The first Open For Questions:
Q: "Will you lift the ban on Stem Cell research in your first 100 days in office?" James_M, Nashville, TN

A: President-elect Obama is a strong supporter of Federal funding for responsible stem cell research and he has pledged to reverse President Bush's restrictions.
Half-hearted Yay. (I'd rather we not federally fund any medical research, but so long as we're doing so let's go for the good stuff)
Q: "Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?" S. Man, Denton

A: President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.
Boo! The evils of prohibition are vast! Hemp has a rich history. This policy is an utter failure and makes absolutely no sense.
Q: "What will you do as President to restore the Constitutional protections that have been subverted by the Bush Administration and how will you ensure that our system of checks and balances is renewed?" Kari, Seattle

A: President-elect Obama is deeply committed to restoring the rule of law and respecting constitutional checks and balances.That is why he has pledged to review Bush Administration executive orders. President-elect Obama will also end the abuse of signing statements, and put an end to the politicization that has taken place within the Department of Justice and return that agency to its historic and apolitical mission of fair and impartial administration of justice.
Double Yay!

There are a couple other questions, but those responses strike me as meaningless marketingspeak asside from the transparency promises that aren't worth reiterating.

Here's something better than the question about education, Greg Sargent:

It's been pointed out dozens of times that it's pretty cool to have an adult coming in as president, and today's Obama press conference -- now underway -- is a case in point.

At the presser, Obama made his "green team" official: Steven Chu, a physics Nobel laureate, is his new energy secretary. Carol Browner, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is the head of a new policy council to coordinate climate, environment and energy issues. And Lisa Jackson, the chief of staff for New Jersey's governor, is head of the EPA.

"My administration will value science," Obama said, in what sounded like a pointed reference to his predecessor. "We will make decisions based on facts."

Obama went on to describe combating global warming as "a leading priority of my presidency and a defining test of our time."

The glowing praise from liberals of Chu would seem to constitute yet another blow to the "angry left" meme. More broadly, Obama's lines today will encapsulate for liberals as strongly as anything Obama has said just how big the potential of the moment feels right now, since the previous administration's disdain for "science" and "facts" contributed perhaps as much as anything else to the nightmarish quality the last eight years held for them.
A bit of that's worth quoting again:
"My administration will value science," Obama said, in what sounded like a pointed reference to his predecessor. "We will make decisions based on facts."
Wohoo, we have an adult in charge!

What should the new Administration know about drugs?

Via Megan, some facts.

Sunday, December 14

Thursday, December 11

Condensed inspiration

Via C11.

Omens of quick change

Obama going to Cairo in January?

Color me optimistic, but I have a mental image of a reconciliation speech that will go down in history alongside "Tear down this wall".

Wednesday, December 10

Bravo, Steele

Via Sanders:
“They have been beating me upside the head with it and let me give it to you straight on: Wake up people. I mean what are you going to do? Are you going to kick these folks out of the party? I have watched this party self disintegrate for the last four or five years. I’ve watched this party isolate itself from itself.”

“This may be a unique opportunity to build a relationship or a bridge between the conservatives and the moderates in our party and so she asked me to serve on her board and I said well this will be good. It’ll be a pro-life conservative voice on a board with a pro-choice leadership that is looking to elect moderates. We have to elect moderates in the party.”
Also, his plan is now up. Click the link in the upper-right of the Scribd to read fullscreen.

The Next Right just posted a straw poll which looks encouraging.

Blagging is light

..for end-of-semester work.

But I'd like to share this site: memeorandum.

It's a great resource for the topics it covers; much better than Google News.

Thursday, December 4

Comparative public opinions on healthcare

My libertarian friends and I used to joke that it would be nice to reach the day when we could disagree again. Reading Andrew Sullivan's reply to my post on the United Kingdom's National Health Service, I think we're there.
He then showcases some data. Interesting.

Tuesday, December 2

Monday, December 1

Go Steele, go.

A week ago I offered my not-so-prestigious endorsement of Michael Steele for the RNC.

So I'm not at all surprised to find Andrew highlighting:

The Christianists are concerned about Michael Steele heading up the RNC. He's not fanatical enough on abortion:

The Republican National Coalition for Life and the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association both have came out against Mr. Steele because he and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman were co-chairmen of the centrist Republican Leadership Council and because of his unclear comments about abortion on "Meet the Press."

He's soft on the gays too, apparently. The Washington Times, defending Steele, gets a little testy:

Republicans who are questioning Mr. Steele's credentials need to ask themselves why they find him so "threatening" and let his actual words speak for themselves.

And the beat goes on.

UPDATE: someone from Steele's home state of Maryland links me to

Alas, the "Steele Plan" section is "Coming Soon!".

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