Prop 8 Stands!

In a 6-1 vote, the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8! This is wonderful news for traditional marriage. However, keeping the existing 18K marriages as legally-recognized will only create some sticky political and legal situations. A lot of lawyers are going to make a lot of money over the years as a result of this. I understand why the Court kept the existing marriages, I just don’t agree with it – it leaves too many things open in the future. I’m glad the Court did not put the created “rights” of a small group of people over the will of the majority. There is no civil right to same-sex marriage.

I think Thomas Jefferson’s words are appropriate at this time: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever” (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781).

What rights we have are God-given rights. From the Declaration of Independence (also written mainly by Thomas Jefferson): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (emphasis added). Read more on this subject here.

Here is a link to the entire decision: http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/glrts/cal-prop8-same-sex-marriage.html.

I think it is interesting to see the number of attorneys in the briefing. There are roughly 7 pages of attorneys on the anti-Prop 8 side to just about 1 page of attorneys arguing for Prop 8 (does that mean those fighting Prop 8 spent roughly 7 times as much money just on legal counsel?). Even with all that legal firepower, Prop 8 still stands. Even with all the money that the anti-Prop 8 side spent (it was a lot more money than Prop 8 supporters spent), Prop 8 still passed. So far, no matter how much money same-sex “marriage” advocates spend on propaganda for their cause, the majority of people in California (and in the nation) still support traditional marriage.

I have to add another observation. I’ve been following the Prop 8 discussion on Twitter. Almost every post is against Prop 8. Talk about a biased sample. We know that a majority of Americans are in favor of traditional marriage (even Pres. Obama believes that marriage is between a man and a woman) but you sure wouldn’t think that just by reading tweets on Twitter.

The hate from some anti-Prop 8 people is astounding (there are a lot of anti-Prop 8 people who are not hateful – the extremists just stick out): [name removed] “thinks anyone who supports #prop8 deserves to be raped…then get beaten to death. EVERYONE deserves the right to marry.”

Also, many tweets are calling for people to vote “No” on Prop 8. Aren’t they 6 months too late?

I also think it’s funny that so many people are spreading the following Abraham Lincoln quote: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” What they conveniently leave off is the context of the quote: “This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it” (Source). Pres. Lincoln was talking about slavery. Are homosexual people slaves? Are they living lives that are anything like the lives of slaves? Are they owned by another person? Are they denied their basic God-given rights? Are they forced to work without pay and beaten on a whim? The answer to all these questions is, “No.” Using that quote by Abraham Lincoln as if it somehow supports same-sex marriage is offensive to the memory of a man who gave people real rights – the God-given rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Critics Still Haven’t Read the ‘Torture’ Memos – WSJ.com

Critics Still Haven’t Read the ‘Torture’ Memos – WSJ.com.

Ms. Roensing recently wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. She starts her article with the following paragraphs:

“Sen. Patrick Leahy wants an independent commission to investigate them. Rep. John Conyers wants the Obama Justice Department to prosecute them. Liberal lawyers want to disbar them, and the media maligns them.

What did the Justice Department attorneys at George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) — John Yoo and Jay Bybee — do to garner such scorn? They analyzed a 1994 criminal statute prohibiting torture when the CIA asked for legal guidance on interrogation techniques for a high-level al Qaeda detainee (Abu Zubaydah).”

Is it right for attorneys to be prosecuted for providing an interpretation of the law? From no critic (or anyone else for that matter) have I read or heard anything that contradicts their interpretation. In other words, it appears that their interpretation of the law was sound. These attorneys acted like judges ideally should – they interpreted according to the law. If people do not like the laws, they should try to change them. Yet, how much have people (namely Congress) tried to change the laws regarding Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs) and torture? As Ms. Roensing points out, “the Senate rejected a bill in 2006 to make waterboarding illegal.

Ms. Roensing also wrote about the laws about torture:

“The Gonzales memo analyzed “torture” under American and international law. It noted that our courts, under a civil statute, have interpreted “severe” physical or mental pain or suffering to require extreme acts: The person had to be shot, beaten or raped, threatened with death or removal of extremities, or denied medical care. One federal court distinguished between torture and acts that were “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” So have international courts. The European Court of Human Rights in the case of Ireland v. United Kingdom (1978) specifically found that wall standing (to produce muscle fatigue), hooding, and sleep and food deprivation were not torture.

Even waterboarding (which I am opposed to) is not illegal (as referenced above). One columnist for the Washington Post stated his belief (which mirrors many other liberals) about the legality of waterboarding: “waterboarding will almost certainly be deemed illegal if put under judicial scrutiny.” What this means right now is that waterboarding, again, is not illegal. As far as I’m aware, under no U.S. or international law – at present – is waterboarding officially considered torture. Some legal experts and politicians have expressed their opinions that waterboarding is torture but those are all unofficial opinions and have not been codified into law or statutes.

I do have to point out that the Wikipedia article on waterboarding states the following: “Waterboarding is a form of torture.” Well, I guess since it is on Wikipedia, it must be true! Further, the citation for that statement about waterboarding being torture is a Vanity Fair article [Update: This reference has been removed between when I wrote this article and now {May 25, 2009}. At least some of the introduction to the waterboarding article on Wikipedia has been edited a bit]. Now that’s a definitive legal source! The whole Wikipedia article (from my quick skim of it) is quite biased against waterboarding. It starts off with the statement that waterboarding is torture when that in fact has not been legally determined (which is the logical fallacy called begging the question). How is this begging the question? According to United States law (and all or most international law), waterboarding is neither torture nor is it illegal (Pres. Obama calling for the end of its use does not make it illegal – he is part of the executive branch and not the legislative branch). Thus, hinging an argument against waterboarding on the basis of it being torture is begging the question.

Do I think waterboarding should be outlawed? I think there are more arguments against its use than for its use. Does that mean I want it outlawed? I’m not sure. What is the cost of doing so? Is its use justified if it provides real results even once that save lives? Should we not have dropped the atomic bombs on Japan to end WWII? Doing so, according to the best estimates, saved the lives of millions of Japanese and hundreds of thousands or millions of Allied forces. Sometimes when lives are at stake we need to make hard decisions. I know some people say we should never have dropped those bombs but that is the minority opinion and it’s easy to criticize in hindsight without really understanding the circumstances of the time.

What I do not support is any sort of legal reprimand or trial of CIA personnel or of Bush administration Justice Department personnel or anyone else (including Nancy Pelosi) for the use of EITs. If you do not like the procedures, fine. Get laws passed outlawing them and go forward from there. Let’s stop all this bickering and finger-pointing.

Update: I came across a transcript of a speech Sen. Ted Kennedy gave during Michael Mukasey’s nomination approval meetings.

Here’s a key part: “Make no mistake about it: waterboarding is already illegal under United States law. It’s illegal under the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit outrages upon personal dignity, including cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment. It’s illegal under the Torture Act, which prohibits acts specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering. It’s illegal under the Detainee Treatment Act…” (emphasis added).

The problem is that Sen. Kennedy is wrong. Waterboarding is not illegal under U.S. law. Whether or not the Geneva Conventions apply to these “enemy combatants” or “detainees” or whatever they are called (other than terrorists) is debatable. Waterboarding is neither illegal under the Torture Act nor the Detainee Treatment Act because it has not been officially declared as torture by any significant governmental entity. What is interesting is to do a Google search on the legality of waterboarding (not that a Google search finds definitive sources but it is interesting). You get everything from “waterboarding is illegal and has been for 40 years [other sites say 100 – which is it?]” to “waterboarding may not be illegal but it should be” to “waterboarding is torture” to “waterboarding is inhumane” and so forth. So, is it illegal?

My favorite is this chain: “Waterboarding = Drowning = Torture = Illegal = Immoral.” Waterboarding does not equal drowning. Waterboarding simulates drowning but that does not mean it is exactly the same as drowning (which the equal sign signifies). Waterboarding is immoral though. Of course, war is immoral too and war is sometimes justified (this brings in the whole discussion of moral dilemmas). Terrorism is immoral too. So, is it justified to do something that is immoral – namely waterboarding – but not physically or even psychologically harmful in the long term (if anyone can point me to research showing that waterboarding produces lasting physical or psychological harm, I’ll gladly revise my statement)  in order to try to prevent terrorist acts? Do the ends justify the means? Do we need to sometimes make the hard choices in order to save lives?

National Committees, Money, and Socioeconomic Status

Obama Aims to Trim Party’s Money Gap With GOP – WSJ.com.

“This year, Republicans are again outpacing Democrats. First-quarter fund-raising reports show the Republican National Committee had $23.9 million in the bank at the end of March and no debt. The Democratic National Committee reported $9.8 million on hand and a debt of $6.7 million, which grew in the first quarter.”

Now, why is it that the party that pushed so quickly to bail out so many companies also happens to be in debt? Granted, they could pay off their debt with their cash but their debt is growing. The RNC, on the other hand, has  a lot more money on hand and no debt, yet the Democrats are largely responsible for managing the federal budget (not that Republicans and Pres. Bush did such a hot job from 2001-2006 when they had control of the White House and Congress; however, the spending got worse after 2006 once Democrats had control of Congress {not that they necessarily are to blame for the increased budget deficit} and is now much worse than it ever has been). Is the DNC looking for their own stimulus package or federal bailout? This reminds me of the father of modern socialism – Karl Marx – who was always dirt poor and in debt. Is it telling that people who either don’t have a lot of money and/or have a lot of debt seem to favor more government control over business and the economy?

Further, Republicans, on average, have higher socioeconomic status (SES) than Democrats (Subramanian & Perkins, 2009). Democrats also tend to favor more government control of the economy (e.g., more “socialist” economic policies) than Republicans do. This means that people, on average, who have less education and lower incomes (i.e., lower SES) tend to favor governmental policies that are economic equalizers (this means that they, as people with lower incomes, are more likely to receive money from the government). Again I return to Karl Marx. He started the modern economic socialism movement (at least he was one of the major theorists) and he was always in debt. He was terrible with money; it’s not that he wasn’t earning money, he just had no control over it. Marx reminds me of our federal government right now – always in debt and poor managers of our – the taxpayers’ – money.

Reference

Subramanian, S. V., & Perkins, J. M. (2009). Are republicans healthier than democrats? International Journal of Epidemiology, doi:10.1093/ije/dyp152 (http://ije.oxfordjournals.org)

Obama Opposes Release of Detainee Abuse Photos – WSJ.com

Obama Opposes Release of Detainee Abuse Photos – WSJ.com.

This is the best news so far in Obama’s administration. I think the prisoner abuses are sick and immoral, however, no good would come from releasing the photos. They would only serve as fodder for terrorist organizations to use as anti-American propaganda and recruitment tools.

Further, there is no evidence that such abuses were mandated or condoned at all. In any case, the Stanford Prison Experiment shows what happens when normal people are placed in stressful prison situations. I’m not approving or excusing the abuse but just because the abuse occured does not mean that it was condoned or tolerated from anyone “higher up.” It’s important to try and safeguard against such abuses in the future but releasing more photos is not the solution.

White House Boosts Deficit Projections – WSJ.com

White House Boosts Deficit Projections – WSJ.com.

The budget deficit was predicted (by the administration) to be $1.752 trillion for the current fiscal year. How much money is that? It’s $1,752,000,000,000. That’s too large a number to really understand. If you took $1 bills and laid them end to end around the earth, you would wrap around the earth 6,477,130,690 times! That’s about 6.5 billion times. That’s still too large a number to really understand. Using the same end-to-end laying of $1 bills, you could travel to the sun and back 865,700.554 times! What that means is that using $1 bills, we could travel 1,731,401.11 AU (astronomical units). That’s 27.38 light years! These are astronomical amounts.

Of course, my use of the length of the U.S. $1 bill was arbitrary, I could have made any number of other comparisons but the point remains the same; that is a lot of money. And that’s just the projected 1 year budget deficit! Of course, that deficit includes additional bailout money Congress might not approve but even so, we’ll have at least a $1.5 trillion budget deficit with another large one next year (and so on for the forseeable future). I’m not even going to broach the subject of the actual national debt.

I appreciate that Pres. Obama and Congress are trying to address the weak economy and the budget shortfalls but right now Pres. Obama seems too much like Pres. Lyndon Johnson trying to escalate the Vietnam War while pushing for his Great Society; it was more than he could handle so he wasn’t particularly successful at either. I’m not saying all of the Great Society programs were bad – many were good – but he was not able to focus on both social and military programs at the same time. He should have done one or the other, not both. Pres. Obama, like LBJ, is trying to do everything. I think he’s more capable than LBJ was but Pres. Obama is not only trying to “fix” the economy, he is trying to create his own Great Society while fighting the War on Terrorism (including two ongoing campaigns – Iraq and Afghanistan). I recognize that Pres. Obama was thrown some flaming torches and asked to juggle them but instead of letting some fall and go out, he decided to keep juggling them all while asking for more.

I applaude that Pres. Obama did not implement his original plan to start taking troops out of Iraq immediately, at least he listened to his military leaders and implemented what is essentially Pres. Bush’s withdrawal plan (although Pres. Bush did not like that word). I think some bailouts were probably necessary, although they should have been much smaller than were approved, but much of Pres. Obama’s “stimulus” or other budgetary monies are going towards social programs at a time when we cannot afford them. Increaing Pell Grants is a nice idea (I know many other conservatives disagree) and as a researcher, I always appreciate having more money available for reserach grants, but this money is borrowed money. It’s not real; we are borrowing against the future for things we cannot afford now. Fix the budget first, then try to work on social programs. We need to cut spending, not increase it.

Obama’s Budget “Cuts”

Today Pres. Obama proposed a $17 billion budget cut today. According to CNN.com, some of the cuts are as follows:

  • Recruiting and retention adjustments: $6.24 billion
  • Future combat systems of manned ground vehicles: $2.98 billion
  • F-22 raptor fighter aircraft: $2.9 billion
  • Transformational satellite: $768 million
  • Joint strike fighter alternate engine: $465 million

That is $13.35 billion cut from defense spending alone (other estimates put the defense department cuts at $9.4 billion; my guess is that the numbers in the CNN article are off, or at least counted differently). However, are these really cuts? No, the $17 billion is going to go towards previously unfunded health care, education, and energy initiatives! There is no budget cutting occurring, there is just budget shifting. That’s pretty disingenuous for an administration who talks so much of reducing spending and cutting the deficit. Of course, these proposals have to muster support in Congress in order to pass; Congress has the real power over the budget so all of these “cuts” are moot at the moment.

I applaud the Obama administration for taking serious looks at the budget and trying to find ways to reduce spending, no matter how small, but if they plan on cutting spending they should really cut spending rather than shift spending onto other priorities. I’m not even opposed to reduced defense spending if the reductions really are unnecessary programs (i.e., inefficient/outdated ones that are being replaced with more efficient and modern programs). After all, one of the major reasons for the federal government is to help defend the nation, so defense spending is important and Constitutionally mandated.

All politics, all the time – Romney, Cantor say market turmoil mostly to blame for 2008 loss « – from CNN.com

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive – Romney, Cantor say market turmoil mostly to blame for 2008 loss « – Blogs from CNN.com.

Whenever I feel like punishing myself I read comments on CNN.com political stories. They are seriously that bad. I don’t mind intelligent commentary from liberals or conservatives or whomever but there are so few logical, balanced, and intelligent comments that it is painful for me to read, which is why I rarely do. On this particular story, not more than 10% of the comments are from conservative posters. That is the norm for CNN.com stories. Why are only about 10% of comments from conservatives?

I posted a comment a number of hours ago, well before some of the most recent comments. Is my comment on the site? Nope. Hmm, maybe I didn’t submit it correctly. Maybe my 15 year experience with the world wide web does not give me enough skills to successfully interact with websites and successfully submit my comments. That’s probably why my comment went missing.

Or, maybe my comment was too inflammatory. I guess when I set up a straw man and ad hominem attack like the following it is to be expected that my comment would not be posted: “Isn’t it funny that so many liberals comment so frequently on CNN.com stories. Maybe it’s because they are all living off welfare and aren’t doing anything more useful than comment on online news stories while conservatives are out working or at church (since it is Sunday) or otherwise being productive.” Okay, I really did not post that. I didn’t even think of it until just now as I was trying to come up with some completely off-the-wall, ridiculous, and stupid comment for my somewhat sarcastic post.

So what terrible comment did I really post? I replied to the many people who said things like, “This just goes to show that this Dying Old Party has not got a clue” or ” It was because of the Bush Economics [sic] that the economy fell apart”. Mainly I replied to the people who posted scathing, hateful comments that insulted Mitt Romney (and Republicans in general) as well as who said that he was just trying to deny any Republican responsibility (e.g., “The arrogance of this party [Republicans] is revolting. Still not willing to own up to any thing, truly pathetic [sic]”).

This is roughly what I said (I’m expanding on my comment here on my blog). Romney was not denying Republican responsibility. He said, “Republicans and Democrats have been playing this game, passing the hot the [sic] potato, spending money like there was no tomorrow.” All he did was include Democrats in his criticism yet so many people think he’s trying to push the blame onto anybody but Republicans or Pres. Bush (“speaking” of Pres. Bush, here’s a wonderful, hateful ad hominem comment on the story: “The Republicans still don’t get it…They picked a drunk sot, hooker chasing, coke sniffing, moron, loud mouth, scum bag, out of Texas in 2000…”; I guess it could have been worse!).

Romney was simply criticizing the constant fiscal irresponsibility of Washington. Democrats are to blame as well as Republicans. Democrats have had control of Congress since 2006. Congress have the authority to actually pass budgets; they have to work with the executive branch but Congress “pays the bills” (technically, we pay the bills, or actually the Chinese and the rest of the world who loan us the money, but that’s beside the point).

Further, the causes of the economic crisis started in the 1990s (actually, they started a long time ago when we as a people started individually being more fiscally irresponsible, which I believe started en masse some time after WWII). Some people decry the Republicans for not providing enough oversight of Wall Street (hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Not that more regulations are the best idea.) while forgetting that many Republicans (including Pres. Bush) pushed for oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2004 and Democrats refused to vote for that oversight (to be fair – so did some Republicans). Further, in general, Democrats weren’t exactly clamoring for any sort of financial markets oversight. In fact, it was mainly Democrats (including Clinton) in the 90s who pushed (successfully) to force lenders to carry more risky debt by offering mortgages to historically unqualified borrowers (again, Republicans are partially to blame for this too). If you want a cause of the financial crisis, that’s certainly a big part of it.

Romney did criticize Republicans but he also criticized Democrats. He criticized all wasteful spending, regardless of who authorized it. Pres. Bush was a big spender (actually, Congress was the big spender, Pres. Bush just asked them to spend a lot of money; however, Pres. Bush’s spending is “small potatoes” to Pres. Obama’s spending). Unlike what many people believe, Pres. Obama is not spending money (again, it’s really Congress spending the money) to clean up Pres. Bush’s mess – that’s a naive and ludicrous argument; it’s like saying Pres. Bush physically caused Hurricane Katrina (there are people who believe that!) and Pres. Obama has to clean up New Orleans because of Pres. Bush’s hurricane. Republicans in general did not even cause the financial crisis. We (citizens of the United States) all did – all of us who were irresponsible with our money, from the top down and the bottom up! We speculated on speculations of real estate or oil or whatever else we could. We let the government’s size grow out of control and few even tried to stop it; certainly most Democrats didn’t.

That’s basically what I posted (it was much briefer on CNN.com). Yet, my comment did not make it through moderation; however, hateful anti-Mormon comments (e.g., “Romney still does not get it! No one will vote for him a cult member aka MORMON.” [note: that is a direct quote]) and otherwise inane or bigoted comments did. Like I said, I only read CNN.com political comments when I want to punish myself.