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March 26, 2005

When victory is everything

I've spent a lot of time reading the left wing press about Terri Schiavo. They're ecstatic.

Perhaps "ecstatic" is too strong a word, but then, perhaps not. They're gloating. They're thrilled. They're exulting in the failure of the Republicans to save Terri's life and they're salivating over the prospect of this harming the GOP in the next election.

On that last point, they're probably wrong. Regardless of how polls show the American public feels about this issue, Democratic candidates will find it very difficult to take political advantage. What are they going to do? Campaign on the slogan, "My opponent tried to keep Terri alive, I would have helped kill her"? But never mind that.

I've tried to imagine how I'd act in their shoes, and the easiest way is to change the circumstances a little. Suppose there did exist clear and convincing evidence of Terri's wishes. Suppose she had left a living will, duly witnessed and notarized, explicitly stating that she would want nutrition and hydration withdrawn if she suffered a brain injury from which recovery was unlikely. And suppose the other circumstances remained the same: her husband was attempting to withhold food and water, her parents were fighting to keep her fed and watered, and the judicial branch unanimously sided with the husband while the legislative and executive branches unanimously sided with the parents.

In those circumstances, I'd support the courts and oppose the involvement of Congress and the governor. But I don't think I'd act as the starve-Terri crowd has acted. I don't think I'd exult in victory, and I don't think I'd be dancing on Terri's soon-to-be-occupied grave. I think the behavior of those who are doing so is repugnant.

And I think I know why they're acting this way. They've lost sight of everything but victory. They've suffered defeat after defeat after defeat, and they've reached the point where they'll cheer a win, no matter how unseemly such open exhuberation is. To them, any defeat of the Republicans is worthy of celebration... even if what you're celebrating is the end of an innocent life.

March 26, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 25, 2005

Perspective

Fatalities

I apologize that the graph to the left is so elongated, but if it were any shorter, you wouldn't even be able to see the bar representing Iraq.

I also annualized the casualties. Since the war in Iraq to date has been shorter (by a factor of at least two) than the other wars, a graph of straight fatalities would minimize Iraq even further. For reference, I measured World War II from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, the Civil War from Fort Sumter to Appomattox, and Vietnam from the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to the Paris Peace Accords.

The Civil War bar only counts military fatalities. If I included civilian fatalities, it would be the tallest bar by far.

Casualties are tragic. I mourn our brave men and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice. But, c'mon, let's show a little perspective. There is not one single person who would otherwise favor the war who should oppose it on account of casualties. The casualty rate is not an argument against this war, and shame on those who try to make it one. They exploit America's heroes for their own political ends.

March 25, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The culture of life

Hat tip to Taranto:

Cabot farmer serving reparative sentence for cow deaths

BARRE – A Cabot farmer convicted of starving his cows to death has begun serving a reparative sentence imposed by Washington County prosecutors as part of a plea bargain.

Christian DeNeergaard pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty in January. He received a suspended one-year sentence as well as 30 days of work crew assignment as part of a deal with prosecutors. DeNeergaard, 47, may not own or possess livestock during his year of probation and must also undergo alcohol-abuse counseling.

In October, then-Washington County State's Attorney Tom Kelly said he would seek at least some jail time for animal neglect, which claimed the lives of at least 11 cows.

"We think some jail time is appropriate," said Kelly in an October interview. "The cows suffered tremendously."

Thank goodness we live in a society that simply will not tolerate those who allow innocent cows to starve to death. I mean, if we permit the slow death by dehydration and starvation of bovines, what's next? Horses?

March 25, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

The Neolibertarian Revolution

Neoconservatives, as far as I understand them, are a wing of the conservative movement that's particularly interested with expanding American hegemony for the good of the world; instituting a sort of Pax Americana. By way of analogy, I've been calling myself a neolibertarian for awhile. While most libertarians happen to favor an isolationist foreign policy, this does not necessarily follow from basic libertarian principles. All libertarians agree that national defense is a proper function of government. As a neolibertarian, I just think that the best defense is a good offense. I believe that a muscular foreign policy is good for this country and good for the world.

My neolibertarian ideals were fully on display when I wrote my three part essay on the libertarian case for war in Iraq.

Turns out that not only am I not alone, I'm not even particularly creative in my naming. The fine folks at QandO have created the Neolibertarian Network for likeminded bloggers. They lay out the essence of their vision for a neolibertarian ideology. Personally, I think it could use a little fleshing out, but it's a heck of a good start.

I have no illusions that neolibertarianism will be any more successful in the political sphere than simple libertarianism, but stranger things have happened. I am proud to join the Neolibertarian Network, and to wave the flag of pragmatic, hawkish libertarianism high.

March 23, 2005 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 21, 2005

Rebuttals to the arguments against feeding Terri

1. It's a violation of state's rights. No, it's not. I've railed against the 14th Amendment on more than one occasion, but if the Amendment means anything at all, it means that the states cannot kill innocent citizens without the federales getting involved. I'd say that being fed by willing and able parties is a pretty substantial privilege and/or immunity. I'd also expect many of the people crying "state's rights!" to change their tunes if a state declared open season on, say, the homeless.

2. It's a bill of attainder. Afraid not. A bill of attainder is a law passed to impose punishment on a specific person without a conviction. If the law that Congress passed and the President signed had specified that Terri's feeding tube were to be restored, one might be able to make a colorable argument that this involved a violation of Terri's rights and thus imposed a punishment, but that's not what the law says. The law allows a federal court to hear Terri's case. It's hard to see how a transfer of jurisdiction constitutes a punishment.

3. The court ruled that Terri should be starved. It most certainly did. Courts have also ruled that black people can't be citizens, that "separate but equal" is just fine and dandy, and that the United States Constitution contains within its relatively clear language a right to abortion on demand. You'll pardon me for giving court decisions minor evidentiary value at best.

4. Terri would have wanted it this way. That's nice. Prove it. She can't tell you so herself, and she left no written record of her wishes. Arguing against this is the fact that Terri is a Roman Catholic, a faith which traditionally frowns on this sort of thing. What's the evidence in favor? Hearsay, nothing but, and hardly from disinterested parties. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read the trial court's decision where it said (paraphrasing), "The guardian ad litem says that Michael Schiavo's unsupported word shouldn't be enough to kill Terri... but fortunately, we also have the testimony of two other witnesses, who happen to be Schiavo's brother and sister-in-law!" Huzzah! Now, let's release all criminal defendants who are alibied by a close relative. After all, if such testimony is sufficient to establish a fact clearly and convincingly, it's surely enough to establish reasonable doubt.

5. It violates the sanctity of marriage. To be honest, I haven't heard this one from any mainstream pro-starvation advocates (update: now I have), but it's a favorite among the whackos at DU. News flash, guys: your marriage may be sacred, but that doesn't give your spouse the right to kill you without your say-so.

March 21, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (45) | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

So if Terri Schiavo is already dead...

Many of those on the "Kill Terri" side are arguing that Terri is basically already dead. "She's an empty shell!" they say. "She died long ago! She's just a husk!" So the question then becomes:

If she's already dead, why are you fighting so hard to starve her to death? What difference does it make to you or to anybody if someone wants to waste the money to pour food and water into a corpse?

March 20, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

March 17, 2005

I hereby pledge

Per Patterico:

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

Now that's an easy pledge to make.

March 17, 2005 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

Equal protection sucks

The San Francisco Superior Court has a website that is truly laughable. It looks like something an 8th grader would whip up in FrontPage.

I mention this only in passing, as I had occasion to visit the site to dig up the writings of the latest judge who thinks it's his job to make law, as expressed in Marriage Cases, and yes, that's the official title of the case. I've come to the conclusion that constitutional provisions guaranteeing "equal protection under the laws" just plain suck. The term is so damn vague that it's an open invitation to any jurist to make it mean whatever he wants it to mean.

I support gay marriage. I also support multiple marriage, consanguineous marriage, limited-term marriage, and any other form of consensual human relationship that can be derived. In point of fact, I wish the state would just get the hell out of the marriage business and let people enter into whatever kinds of contracts they want. If two or more people wish to form a contract combining their assets and granting certain rights of inheritance and other powers of attorney under whatever terms they find mutually acceptable, that's their business, not the government's.

But I recognize that what I want and what the law says are two different things. And I consider the sanctity of law to be more important than merely getting what I want. Some judges, apparently, disagree.

It's important to distinguish between the arguments in favor of gay marriage, and the arguments that the state lacks the authority to prohibit it. It's much easier to argue that gay marriage would be good than it is to argue that the constitution actually mandates it.

In fairness to Judge Kramer, there is a colorable legal argument that California's constitutional provision extending "equal protection under the laws" prohibits the state from restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples. But what I'd like to ask Judge Kramer, and others who agree with this ruling, is this: if the "opposite-sex" part is void, why not the "couples" part? Kramer ruled that a strict scrutiny standard was applicable to the heterosexual marriage law, which means that the state bore the burden of proving that it had a compelling interest which justified the law. Not only that, the state also had to prove that the law was necessary (i.e. it was the only way) to meet that compelling interest. Do laws against polygamy meet this standard? I don't see how the state has any compelling interest in precluding polygamy that it lacks in precluding homosexual marriage.

And then there's consanguineous marriage -- or, for those who don't like ten-dollar words, marriage between closely related persons. Judge Kramer actually takes up this argument in his opinion:

[Opponents of same-sex marriage] suggest that to do otherwise [than defining marriage in terms of whom one may marry] will open a door to such improprieties as brothers marrying their sisters or the marriage of an adult to a child.

...

Thus, when Perez recognizes that "...the essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one's choice...", it is not saying that therefore anyone can marry anyone else (e.g. siblings to each other or adults to children), but rather that the starting point is that one can choose who to marry, and that choice cannot be limited by the state unless there is a legitimate governmental reason for doing so.

...

Likewise, the state can preclude incenstuous marriages as well as establish a minimum age for effective consent to marriage because such limitations on the fundamental right to marry would further an important social objective by reasonable means and do not discriminate based on arbitrary classifications.

Excuse me? Why is precluding consanguineous marriage an "important social objective" while precluding gay marriage is not? Certainly the citizens of California considered it important enough to bar it by initiative. Who decides what's "important" and what's not? You, Judge Kramer? Why is your judgment of social objectives more reliable than that of the voters? And why is forbidding me to marry one woman while permitting me to marry another merely because the former happens to be my twin sister any less "arbitrary" than forbidding me to marry a man while permitting me to marry a woman?

Again, the equal protection argument that the constitution mandates gay marriage is colorable, simply because the text is so vague. That's not to say that it's correct, merely that it's not inconsistent. But if one accepts the argument, one can only preserve consistency by accepting that the constitution also mandates polygamous and incestuous marriage. One can't say that the gays are entitled to equal protection under the law while the polyamorous and the cousinlovers are not.

March 14, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

What if Bush was right?

By Dawn's Early Light has a nice roundup of articles that have been popping up lately, asking the question, "Could Bush have been right?" These are written by longtime naysayers who are somewhat disquieted by the signs of democracy starting to flower in the Middle East, who have the integrity to ask themselves about the possibility that they were wrong all along and in fact President Bush has embarked the United States on a policy which will lead to freedom and hope in a region that has been tragically lacking in both.

I say to these authors: good for you. But now try taking it a step further. And I'll ask this of all Bush's critics, not just those who are beginning to question the validity of their criticism. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we are engaged in a historic noble pursuit, and we will make the world a much, much better place. What does that make you? You, who not only criticized Bush, but who went out of your way to actively thwart him? You, who wrote your nasty articles, who organized your smelly marchers, who compared the President to Hitler and found him worse? You, who spewed your hate and your vitriol and who fought tooth and nail every step of the way? You, who made your disgusting movies exploiting wounded servicemen without their consent or knowledge? You, who stood on American cadavers as if they were soapboxes and perverted academic research to deceive others into buying your cause? If all of your actions were standing in the way and attempting to derail one of the greatest undertakings Americans have ever been called to, how do you feel about yourself? Do you ever consider the terrible, terrible possibility that you might have succeeded? What do you see when you look in the mirror?

March 14, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 08, 2005

Another brief hiatus

No more blogging for the rest of this week. I'm heading to scenic San Francisco, baby, the heart of Blue America. I regret only that I don't have any inflammatory T-shirts to wear to tweak the locals.

March 8, 2005 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack