Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

September 24, 2008

Biden on the Financial Crisis

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:50 am

The AP Reports on Sept. 23

WASHINGTON – Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden says today’s leaders should take a lesson from the history books and follow fellow Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to a financial crisis.

“When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened,’” Barack Obama’s running mate recently told the “CBS Evening News.”

Except, Republican Herbert Hoover was in office when the stock market crashed in October 1929.

It’s actually even worse than that.

The first presidential TV appearance wasn’t until 1939, and the first televised presidential “address to the nation” was by President Truman in 1951 — a full 22 years after the stock market crash!

But hey, at least Biden has EXPERIENCE, so he won’t make stupid ignorant mistakes like Palin will!

September 1, 2008

Smearing Sarah Palin

It didn’t take long for the Democrats to come up with a preposterous smear of Sarah Palin — just going to show that they will say anything to discredit their opponents, no matter how nonsensical it is.

This posting at DailyKos, the leading website of the liberal “netroots,” and its followup here, claim she faked her pregnancy for political gain.

Yup, you read that right. They claim that a 43-year-old governor, constantly in the public eye, faked a pregnancy, and produced a child of which she is not the real mother, to burnish her pro-life credentials. As if, with four children already, these needed any burnishing. After all, they seem to think, you aren’t really pro-life unless your baby has Downs’ syndrome, which this child apparently has.

And where, do they claim, she obtained this baby? They are claiming it is really her then-16-year-old daughter’s baby. And they are claiming that this makes Sarah Palin a hypocrite as far as her pro-life credentials go.

Now, putting aside the fact that there is no credible evidence to support this claim, let’s look at the logic here. Suppose, for the sake of the argument, that Palin’s daughter got pregnant out of wedlock, and Palin decided to cover for her and claim it’s her baby. How does this make her a pro-life hypocrite? The claim seems to be that by providing her daughter with an option other than abortion, she would be hypocritical.

That is, in fact, completely backwards. Hypocrisy means claiming it’s OK to do yourself what you say others shouldn’t do. If she’d told her daughter to get an abortion, which seems to be what the DailyKos folks want — that would have been hypocritical for a pro-life person. Providing an alternative — especially one that gives the daughter a second chance to live the values she’s been taught — is exactly what a pro-life person would be expected to do. Obviously, most pro-life parents don’t want their daughters getting, or sons causing, pregnancies out of wedlock. But everybody knows that (a) kids don’t always do what their parents want, and (b) people sometimes succumb to temptation and do things that contradict their own values.

So the liberals have “accused” Gov. Palin of doing something that is entirely consistent with her expressed values. In fact, most people would consider doing what she’s accused of to be incredibly noble and compassionate. But since a Republican did it, it must be awful, right?

Keep in mind that this is assuming that the DailyKos claims are correct — and there is, at present, exactly no evidence for those claims. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this baby is anyone’s but Gov. Palin’s. The “evidence” they present consists basically of three things:

  1. Gov. Palin was age 43 at the time of the pregnancy. According to DailyKos, “everyone knows” 43-year-olds don’t get pregnant. Baloney. My own mother did, and without fertility drugs. I saw my sister 30 minutes after she was born.
  2. Gov. Palin flew around in a plane to give a speech shortly before the birth, then returned to Alaska to deliver the baby. This is viewed as “impossible” since pregnant women generally don’t travel late in pregnancy, therefore this “proves” that she was in fact returning to Alaska to be there when her daughter gave birth, to “pose” as the real mother. Now it’s true that most pregnant women generally don’t travel late in pregnancy — but maybe pregnant Governors do. I don’t think we’ve had a pregnant governor before, so there isn’t any prior data to support this claim.
  3. They have some pictures in which it’s not totally obvious that Gov. Palin is pregnant under her big coat, and one picture in which her daughter has a little fat showing above her waist. Folks, some pregnancies don’t show much. And sometimes fat looks a bit more round than normal, especially with the kind of dress the daughter is wearing. Sheesh.

But of course, none of that matters, since everything is justified in pursuit of the higher goal of smearing Republicans (especially non-white-males who have the uppity to be Republicans, and of course electing the Messiah Obama president.

This isn’t just the nutcases at DailyKos by the way. Some mainstream liberals, like Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic are starting to pick this up.

Fortunately, at least one reasonable liberal is calling them out on this. Ann Althouse writes:

“Stop prying into other people’s vaginas, even if you happen to oppose them politically. What is wrong with you people?”

The insane obsession with Sarah Palin’s pregnancy rages on.

This will all go down in the annals of feminism, people. So think before you write. …

The top one is a new Kos diary, from ArcXIX:

Well, Sarah, I’m calling you a liar. And not even a good one. Trig Paxson Van Palin is not your son. He is your grandson. The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better.

Whew! That is ugly. Pictures are posted, with captions like: “Sarah’s waistline never changed. Her wardrobe still remained tight and professional.” Note the gratuitous insult to pregnant working women. They can’t possibly dress in a professional manner. There are also enlarged photos of the 16-year-old daughter with comments about the shape of her abdomen. The whole world is invited to talk about that teenager’s body.

How nice. How feminist. How “liberal.”

And they say the other side objectifies women and doesn’t respect their bodies?

And by the way — back when Clinton was president, didn’t these people say that personal life isn’t relevant politically, and that lying about sex was OK?

Who again are the hypocrites?

August 12, 2008

Police to track every car in New York City?

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:24 pm

CBS is reporting that they New York Police Department is planning to use “Radiation Sensors, Surveillance Cameras Used To Screen & Follow Every Vehicle Entering Lower Manhattan.”

They quote a supposedly representative “NYC resident Sam Mauer” as saying, “Good idea I think. Anything that makes the city safer is a very good idea.”

Well, yes.

But would someone please explain to me exactly how this is going to make the city safer?

If they don’t have a list of terrorists’ cars, how are they going to use this system to stop anything? And if they do have a list of terrorists’ cars, why waste the time and resources to track all the other cars?

And in any case, how is simply “tracking” cars going to stop any terrorist attacks? If they actually have a list of terrorists’ cars, why not stop them at the entry points, instead of tracking them all over the place — perhaps watching as they do their vile deeds, without bothering to stop them?

It seems to me that there is not only a massive invasion of privacy, but no corresponding benefit in terms of safety or security.

Big Sibling is Watching You.

March 26, 2008

Obama’s Time Machine

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:18 pm

An inspiring passage from Barack Obama’s speech on March 4, commemorating the Selma march and crediting it for his very existence:

What happened in Selma, Alabama and Birmingham also stirred the conscience of the nation. It worried folks in the White House who said, “You know, we’re battling Communism. How are we going to win hearts and minds all across the world? If right here in our own country, John, we’re not observing the ideals set fort in our Constitution, we might be accused of being hypocrites.” So the Kennedys decided we’re going to do an air lift. We’re going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is.

This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. He met this woman whose great great-great-great-grandfather had owned slaves; but she had a good idea there was some craziness going on because they looked at each other and they decided that we know that the world as it has been it might not be possible for us to get together and have a child. There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don’t tell me I’m not coming home to Selma, Alabama.

Only one problem:

The first Selma march took place on March 7, 1965. Barack Obama Jr. was born on August 4, 1961. Do the math.

Hat tip: Ed Morrissey

In the interest of equal treatment of candidates, note that Hillary Clinton claimed she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the who climbed Mt. Everest — a few years after she was born and named.

December 4, 2007

Jew Against Channukah

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:08 pm

Some Jews — in Israel, no less — are now against Channukah. On the grounds of … Global Warming!

In a campaign that has spread like wildfire across the Internet, a group of Israeli environmentalists is encouraging Jews around the world to light at least one less candle this Hanukka to help the environment.

The founders of the Green Hanukkia campaign found that every candle that burns completely produces 15 grams of carbon dioxide. If an estimated one million Israeli households light for eight days, they said, it would do significant damage to the atmosphere.

“The campaign calls for Jews around the world to save the last candle and save the planet, so we won’t need another miracle,” said Liad Ortar, the campaign’s cofounder, who runs the Arkada environmental consulting firm and the Ynet Web site’s environmental forum. “Global warming is a milestone in human evolution that requires us to rethink how we live our lives, and one of the main paradigms of that is religion and how it fits into the current situation.”

United Torah Judaism MK Avraham Ravitz called the environmentalists “crazy people who are playing with the minds of innocent Jewish people.” He said the campaign would only convince people who do not light candles anyway.

“They should encourage people to light one less cigarette instead,” Ravitz said.

But if they do that, they’ll only make people live longer, and produce more carbon emmissions!

November 6, 2006

“Dancing on Streets of Baghdad”

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:15 am

Saddam has been sentenced to hang, and Iraqis are dancing on the streets of Baghdad. This according to the London Telegraph — not exactly a bastion of neo-conservatism.

Yet, there are still UN officials American Democratic politicians who think that the Iraqis were better off under Saddam than they are now.

Some U.S. senator better go tell them they were better off under Saddam; they’re too busy celebrating Saddam’s downfall to realize it!

November 1, 2006

Why isn’t Kerry “stuck in Iraq”?

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:57 am

In case you’ve haven’t heard the news for the last 24 hours, John Kerry’s been at it again. Campaigning at Pasadena City College for the Phil Angelides, Democratic candidate for Governor of California, John Kerry said:

“You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

The clear implication of this is that if your in the military, it’s because you were too lazy or stupid to “do well.”

Kerry is “defending” himself in classic Kerry style, saying, “I’m sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks.” It’s a despicable attack on Kerry indeed, to quote Kerry’s own words. Kerry is also defending himself on the grounds that he was not referring to the troops, but to President Bush — as claiming that Bush is stuck in Iraq because he didn’t study hard is some sort of a reasonable argument against the war.

It’s especially disingenuous because Kerry arguably didn’t study as hard as Bush — as this blog documented, Kerry and Bush both went to college at Yale, and Kerry’s Yale grades were worse than Bush’s.

The real scandal is that Kerry — perhaps like many liberals — thinks is a reasonable thing to say that “study[ing] hard, do[ing] your homework, … be[ing] smart” is somehow the opposite of being in the military. It’s as if the joining military is a punishment for doing poorly in school.

If that was ever true, it isn’t now. The military rejects people who don’t do well in school. It’s virtually impossible to enlist without a high school diploma, or with bad grades, or if you’ve gotten into trouble with the law. It’s hard to get promted to the senior enlisted ranks without a college degree — and the military will send you to college to get one. You can’t become an officer without a college degree, and you almost can’t get promoted beyond major without a master’s desgree, and you certainly can’t get promoted to General or Admiral without a master’s degree. Most Generals/Admirals have two masters degrees, and a substantial percentage have a doctorate.

I teach economics to senior military officers. They are studying for a master’s degree. For some it is their second. Not one of them is a “classroom dud” — they do all the readings, they work hard, they show up to class with good questions, they write well, and they are clearly interested in learning, even if at the beginning of the term they weren’t sure what economics had to do with their jobs. (They know now!) One of my fellow instructors is an Army Colonel with a master’s degree in management and Ph.D. in operations research (that’s a field of math, for you Kerry people!). I know a Marine Lieutenant General with an Ed.D and four (!) master’s degrees. I was once in a training session with a Marine Lieutenant Colonel who was a lawyer — he not only had a J.D. (the regular law degree), but an L.L.M., indicating a level of education higher than probably 90% of lawyers.

Study hard, John Kerry. You aren’t good enough to get “stuck in Iraq.”

UPDATE: (11/1/06 4:00pm) Matt Drudge has this picture posted on his web site. I think this tells us what the troops think of all this:

UPDATE: (11/2/06 2:05am) The guys in the picture above are from the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division (1/34th BCT), a unit of the Minnesota Army National Guard.

August 14, 2006

MoveOn.Org’s Alternate Universe

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:12 pm

MoveOn.org recently sent this e-mail out to its supporters:

Ever wonder why some campaigns–like Dean in ’04, MoveOn’s “Save PBS”, Net Neutrality, the Downing Street Memo, or Ned Lamont for Senate–go big online, while hundreds of others go nowhere? Our friends at the New Organizing Institute (NOI) have assembled a network of phenomenal online organizers to share the secrets of their success.

I don’t know where these MoveOn guys live, but in the world I inhabit, “Dean in ’04″ flamed out in the Iowa Caucuses, “Save PBS” was based on a urban legend and was really about “saving” a small portion of of the government-provided portion of PBS funding, not about saving PBS as such, the Downing Street Memo just proved that Bush had been planning what his opponents had accused him of failing to plan, and Ned Lamont, while making an impressive primary win, has a long way to go before he actually sits in the Senate, and is currently behind in the polls.

And these guys call themselves the “reality-based community.” It’s more like an “alternate-reality-based community.”

August 7, 2006

“Oil Companies Care Only About Short-Term Profits”

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:29 am

Yet another myth was shattered today — the myth that oil companies don’t care about anything but short-term profits, and will do anything to get them unless government regulators control them. BP Exploration Alaska, Inc., a unit of British Petroleum, annouced they are shutting down the entire Prudhoe Bay oil field — accounting for half the production of Alaska North Slope oil. They are doing this because they found some corrosion in the pipeline that carries the oil out — in other words, there’s a risk of leakage, which would be an environmental disaster.

Major Alaskan Oil Field Shutting Down

Aug 6, 10:40 PM (ET)

By Mary Pemberton

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – In a sudden blow to the nation’s oil supply, half the production on Alaska’s North Slope was being shut down Sunday after BP Exploration Alaska, Inc. discovered severe corrosion in a Prudhoe Bay oil transit line.

BP officials said they didn’t know how long the Prudhoe Bay field would be off line. “I don’t even know how long it’s going to take to shut it down,” said Tom Williams, BP’s senior tax and royalty counsel.

Once the field is shut down, in a process expected to take days, BP said oil production will be reduced by 400,000 barrels a day. That’s close to 8 percent of U.S. oil production as of May 2006 or about 2.6 percent of U.S. supply including imports, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The shutdown comes at an already worrisome time for the oil industry, with supply concerns stemming both from the hurricane season and instability in the Middle East.

“We regret that it is necessary to take this action and we apologize to the nation and the State of Alaska for the adverse impacts it will cause,” BP America Chairman and President Bob Malone said in a statement.

Malone said the field will not resume operating until the company and government regulators are satisfied it can run safely without threatening the environment.

Of course, the “regulators” wouldn’t have even known there was a problem if the company hadn’t said so.

This will, unfortunately, increase oil prices, and thus the price of gasoline and anything else made from oil. Here’s the estimate:

A 400,000-barrel per day reduction in output would have a major impact on oil prices, said Tetsu Emori, chief commodities strategist at Mitsui Bussan Futures in Tokyo.

“Oil prices could increase by as much as $10 per barrel given the current environment,” Emori said. “But we can’t really say for sure how big an effect this is going to have until we have more exact figures about how much production is going to be reduced.”

Some cynics will say that this is a plot by BP to increase oil prices. But that’s wrongheaded — BP can only benefit from high oil prices to the extent that they can sell oil. When they are selling less oil, they make less. The ones who will make money off of this are all the other oil companies — in other words, BP’s competitors. Shutting down the oil fields hurts consumers a little, helps competitor’s a little, and hurts BP a lot. But in the long run, it’s the right thing to do.

July 7, 2006

GA Supreme Court Rules Constitution Constitutional

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:13 pm

Back in May, I noted that a Georgia court ruled a constitutional amendment unconstitutional, purportedly on the grounds that it failed a requirement that amendments deal with a single subject, even though that amendment dealt with only one subject.

Now the Georgia Supreme Court has overruled the lower court, stating that the amendment did, in fact, cover only one subject:

‘‘It is apparent that the prohibition against recognizing same-sex unions as entitled to the benefits of marriage is not ’dissimilar and discordant’ to the objective of reserving the status of marriage and its attendant benefits exclusively to unions of man and woman,’’ the court said in its ruling.

This is a victory for the English language, even more than for advocates of opposite-sex marriage.

June 22, 2006

Turns Out They Actually Did Find WMDs in Iraq

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:30 am

Well, waddaya know — it turns out there actually were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq!

WASHINGTON — The United States has found 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003, and more weapons of mass destruction are likely to be uncovered, two Republican lawmakers said Wednesday.

“We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons,” Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said in a quickly called press conference late Wednesday afternoon.

Reading from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, Santorum said: “Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.”

You can read the recently-declassified document for yourself Howard Dean or Michael Moore to acknowledge this — they’ll keep on saying “Bush lied” about Iraq having chemical weapons, even though what he said was true.

Nor should we expect the pollsters that reported that most Americans are “ignorant” for believing tht Iraq had weapons of mass destruction to report that it was, instead, the pollsters who were ignorant.

June 20, 2006

Backyard Global Warming

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:49 pm

James Taranto points to this gem from ABC News, which sounds like the sort of thing you’d see in the satirical newspaper, The Onion:

Witnessing the impact of global warming in your life?

ABC News wants to hear from you. We’re currently producing a report on the increasing changes in our physical environment, and are looking for interesting examples of people coping with the differences in their daily lives. Has your life been directly affected by global warming?

We want to hear and see your stories. Have you noticed changes in your own backyard or hometown? The differences can be large or small — altered blooming schedules, unusual animals that have arrived in your community, higher water levels encroaching on your property.

Well, I’ve noticed that in my community, there has been significant warming over the past six months. And yesterday, there was a massive rainstorm which caused a much higher-than normal water level in my backyard.

I guess by ABC’s standards, that’s proof of global warming!

June 15, 2006

How Hated Are You?

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:32 am

Clayton Cramer, and one of his readers, together have what makes a fascinating analysis of the FBI Hate Crimes data.

The report says, for example:

Law enforcement agencies reported 4,863 offenses within single-bias incidents that were motivated by the offender’s racial bias. Among those offenses, 67.5 percent resulted from an anti-black bias, and 20.5 percent were due to an anti-white bias.

Clayton analyzes:

At first glance, the high number of crimes that “resulted from an anti-black bias” suggests that racism against blacks is a bigger problem than racism against whites. But spend a little time thinking about these numbers. In 2004, blacks were 12.8% of the population; whites were 80.4% of the population. Unless some of these hate crimes against blacks were being done by blacks (which seems rather unlikely), this means that the hate criminals came from the 87.2% of the population that are non-black, and these hate criminals committed the 67.5% of the racially based bias crimes that were designated as anti-black.

Similarly, the white haters must have come from the 19.6% of the population that are non-white Americans, and these criminals committed the 20.5% of the anti-white racial bias crimes.

Non-whites are thus more likely to commit anti-white crimes than non-blacks are to likely to commit anti-black crimes. This suggests that anti-white hate crimes are disproportionately present. Not quite what you were expecting, is it?

Let’s define a ratio of “potential sources of hate crimes” to “percentages of hate crimes” and you get what I call the “How Hated Are You?” Ratio. Divide 67.5% by 87.2%, and you discover that blacks are the victims of racial bias crimes only 77.4% of the amount that you would expect if racial hate crimes was evenly distributed. On the other hand, 20.5% divided by 19.6% gives 105%–whites are slightly more likely to be victims of a racially based hate crime than you would expect for their numbers.

In short, the HHAY percentage, if it is below 100, indicates that you are victims of a hate crime less than you might expect, relative to the percentage of the population that isn’t a member of your group. If your group’s HHAY percentage is above 100, then your group is receiving more hate crimes than you would expect.

Clayton reports that a(n unnamed) reader looked at the problem from the other direction — the percentage of each group that becomes a victim of hate crime, rather than the percentage that commits a hate crime:

It seems to me your “How hated are you” statistic does a poor job of measuring the actual problems caused by hate crimes for different groups. For example, using the figures you give, 67.5% of 4863, or 2164 crimes were motivated by anti black prejudice and only 20.5%, or 997 were motivated by anti-white prejudice. But 12.8% of the population (let’s call the US population 250 million, though that’s a bit out of date) is black, or 32 million people, while 80.4 %, or 200 million, is white. So a black person has a probability of 2164/32000000=0.000068 of being a hate crime victim in a given year — 17 times the odds of 0.000004 that a white person does. It seems to me reasonable to say that hate crimes are 17 times as significant a problem for black people as for white people.

What your HHAY statistic measures is the probability that a randomly chosen person of a different race will have committed a hate crime against someone of your nationality. It seems to me that, if I were given a chance to choose my race, this would matter much less to me than the odds that I would be a hate crime victim. (Or, for that matter, a crime victim of any sort.)

It is strange that black people are both more likely to commit and to be the victims of hate crimes than white people are, but I guess that’s just a nice example of how statistics don’t always do what you’d expect.

Actually, I’m not sure that we shouldn’t expect precisely that results. Blacks make up about one-eight o the U.S. population, which means there are about 7 non-Blacks for every Black. That means that even if a much lower percentage of non-Blacks commit hate crimes, there can still be a lot of anti-Black hate crimes simply because there is a much larger pool of non-Blacks. In fact, non-Blacks will commit more hate crimes (in absolute numbers, not percentages) as long as their rate is greater than one-seventh of the Black hate crime rate. Furthermore, since there are far fewer Blacks “available” to become targets of each hate crime, then for any given number of hate crimes, the probability of any one individual Black becoming a victim is much higher.

To take an extreme example, imagine for a moment that Blacks and non-Blacks each committed, as a group, precisely the same number (not percentage) of hate crimes. In that case, each Black individual would be both seven time more likely to be victim of hate crime — and seven times more likely to commit one. Even if the rates are closer together, as long as the percentages of non-Blacks commiting hate crimes is lower than that of Blacks, we will see something like this outcome.

So the figures that Clayton and his reader found are in fact precisely how you should expect the statistics to come out.

May 26, 2006

Georgia Judge Declares Constitution Unconstitutional

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:39 am

Yes, you read that right. Reuters reports:

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A Georgia judge on Tuesday struck down a ban on same-sex marriage that was approved by voters in 2004, saying it violated the Southern state’s constitution.

What Reuters calls a “ban” was in fact a constituational amendment. An amendment to the Georgia State Constitution. The judge declared this part of the Georgia State Constitution to be a violation of the Georgia State Constitution.

Here’s the “reasoning”:

Judge Constance Russell of Fulton County Superior Court ruled that the measure violates the state’s “single-subject rule” as it asked voters to decide on multiple issues in one amendment, said Jack Senterfitt, an attorney with gay rights group Lambda Legal Defense.

Now I can see the logic of having a “single subject rule.” But there are two problems with this. First, the amendment deals with only a single subject. And second, the Georgia Constitution specifically allows “related” issues to be considered together in one amendment.

Here’s the full and complete text of the proposed amendment:

Article I of the Constitution is amended by adding a new Section IV to read as follows:


Paragraph I. Recognition of marriage. (a) This state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state.
(b) No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage. This state shall not give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state or jurisdiction respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state or jurisdiction. The courts of this state shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce or separate maintenance with respect to any such relationship or otherwise to consider or rule on any of the parties´ respective rights arising as a result of or in connection with such relationship.”

Could someone please identify for me the more-than-one issues in that amendment? It seems to be that the two issues to be decided are

  1. A requirement that the state recognize only marriages that consist of one man and one woman, and
  2. A requirement that the state recognize only marriages that consist of one man and one woman.

Can someone please explain the difference?

I can’t find the judge’s decision online (yet — the court’s home page is here), but Arthur Leonard of Gay City News has some more details on the attempt to carve out two subjects in that amendment:

The Georgia measure defined marriage for all purposes of state law as the union of one man and one woman but added a somewhat ambiguous paragraph that could be interpreted as barring the Legislature from creating domestic partnerships or civil unions or conferring anything that might be called a “benefit of marriage” on any “union between persons of the same sex.” That paragraph also stripped Georgia courts of jurisdiction to decide legal issues arising “as a result of or in connection with such relationship.”

Lambda’s challenge to Amendment One was based on two arguments—that the amendment language appearing on the ballot seriously misled Georgia voters by creating the impression that the measure dealt only with the definition of marriage, and that the state Constitution’s “single-subject rule” was violated because voters who favored civil unions but not marriage for same-sex partners would have to vote to ban both in order to prevent gay marriage.

[Judge] Russell rejected the first argument, finding Georgia law merely required that ballot language “identify which amendment they are voting on;” a voters are left to educate themselves about an amendment’s content.

However, Russell found merit to the single-subject issue, although she did not accept Lambda’s entire argument. Amendments can accomplish several goals, so long as they are germane to their central purpose, and the state contended that all aspects of Amendment One related to “the non-recognition of conjugal relationships between persons of the same sex.”

Russell agreed that this what the amendment would do, but found that the ballot question and the amendment’s text stated that banning same-sex marriage was its purpose; to the degree that the measure ventured beyond that purpose it was improperly embracing more than one policy question.

Lambda argued that the amendment had four policy objectives—to exclude same-sex couples from marriage, to prohibit recognition or creation of legal unions between persons of the same sex, to bar courts from recognizing certain official actions taken in other states and jurisdictions, and to divest courts of jurisdiction related to same sex relationships.

Russell found that the amendment measure fell short by addressing non-marital legal relationships, such as civil unions.

So we are expected to believe that “same sex marriage” and “same-sex civil unions” are two separate topics. Are they serious? Can they find a single context in which anyone — judge or otherwise — discusses “same-sex civil unions” without any reference to “same sex marriage”?

And even if those are, in some technical sense, separate legal issues, the consideration of related issues in a single constitutional amendment is specificall permitted in the Georgia Constitution. Article X, Section I, Paragraph II states in part:

If such proposal is ratified by a majority of the electors qualified to vote for members of the General Assembly voting thereon in such general election, such proposal shall become a part of this Constitution or shall become a new Constitution, as the case may be. Any proposal so approved shall take effect as provided in Paragraph VI of this article. When more than one amendment is submitted at the same time, they shall be so submitted as to enable the electors to vote on each amendment separately, provided that one or more new articles or related changes in one or more articles may be submitted as a single amendment.

Any reasonable reading of the last clause above should specifically permit “related changes” like “same sex marriage” and “same-sex civil unions” to be considered together — even if they are amending difference articles of the Georgia Constitution. (As it happens, the proposal amended only one article, by adding a single section with a single paragraph.)

This judge’s decision literally defies the plain meaning of the English language. It would be no less logical to claim that the “freedom of speech” clause of the U.S. Constitution actually mandated censorship. And the fact that a judge deliberately misread the constitution to overturn a vote that was specifically designated as an amendment to that constitution — that is, specifically intended to remove the issue from the discretion of the courts — and that was passed by 76% of the voters, can only show the deep contempt in which this judge, and likely a significant proportion of judges throughout the country, hold the voters.

UPDATE (7/7/2006):

The Georgia Supreme Court has overruled the lower court and allowed the amendment to stand,

May 23, 2006

Dismantle the Military!

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:03 pm

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering banning Junior ROTC from San Francisco high schools because they think the military is “discriminatory.” And oh, yes, for one other reason as well:

Supporters such as [sophmore student Timothy] Twyman say the program helps students develop self-confidence and prepare for the working world, while opponents counter that it’s just an easy way for the military to get a foothold in public schools and encourage teens to enlist after they graduate.

Oh, really? I’d never have guessed that the purpose of JROTC is to recruit! Imagine that! And the real scandal is, the Pentagon hides that information, by posting it on their web site:

Although JROTC is not considered a recruiting tool, defense officials say about 40 percent of high school graduates with more than 2 years in the program end up with some military affiliation or continue with community service. They may enlist on active duty or in a reserve component, or enter an officer precommissioning program.

And one Supervisor has an even more, um, interesting reason for wanted to get rid fo JROTC:

In February, Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval appeared on Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes” show and said, “The United States should not have a military. All in all, we would be in much, much, much better shape.”

If Supervisor Sandoval thinks life would be better in a country without a military, perhaps he should move to one. I would recommend Somalia. Since they don’t have amilitary, it must be much more peaceful there … right?

(Hat tip: Thanks to reader “Bruce” for sending me the article link.)

April 21, 2006

Bad Gas Economics

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:08 pm

I was recently sent an e-mail which is apparently circulating around the internet asking everyone to stop buying gas from Exxon-Mobil. (Exxon and Mobil merged a few years ago and are now the same company.) This is, supposedly, a sure-fire way to force gas prices down. The claim is:

By now you’re probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $2.79 for regular unleaded in my town. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 – $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace..not sellers. With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.

How? Force a Price War. That’s right. A Price War.

Since we all rely on our cars, we can’t just stop buying gas. Not ALL gas, anyway. But we can stop buying a PARTICULAR gas. Do you see where this is going?

Here’s the idea: For the rest of this year, DON’T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. From there it’s simple Economics 101: If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit, because if the price is right, we’ll start buying the cheaper gas. Get it?!

Sorry, but that’s not “simple Economics 101.” I know — I’ve taught “Economics 101″ (only now it’s called “Principles of Microeconomics — but I digress).

Their “theory” is that by reducing demand for Exxon/Mobil gas, Exxon/Mobil will have to cut their prices. But if everybody switching all their gas purchases to other companies, there would be MORE demand for OTHER companies’ gas, so by exactly the same logic, the other companies will RAISE their prices.

And even if enough people did this long enough to force Exxon/Mobil to lower their prices, the other companies would NOT have to match — because the other companies are selling more gas than every at the higher prices because of this e-mail.

The author of this “plan” seems to think that there is some outside factor that forces gas companies to lower their prices when other gas companies lower theirs. But in truth, companies have to match competitors’ lower prices ONLY when they are losing sales by having higher prices. If this plan is implemented, the other gas companies will not be losing sales, because the whole point of this “boycott” is to get people to buy gas from these other companies “for the rest of the year,” even when their prices are higher. The boycott of one company is, by its very nature, self-defeating.

The “magic factor” that forces companies to match competitors’ lower prices is the fact that customers will go and buy from the companies with lower prices. In other words: If, by some miracle, everybody in the U.S. refused to buy from Exxon-Mobil, and Exxon-Mobil saw this drop in demand and lowered their prices, then the other companies would see an increase in demand and raise their prices. As long as the “boycott” of Exxon-Mobil continued, there would be absolutely no reason for the other companies to lower their prices to match Exxon-Mobil’s lower prices — since the other companies wouldn’t be losing sales to Exxon-Mobil because of the “boycott.”

And this situation would continue until either (a) customers saw the lower prices at Exxon-Mobil and started buying from them, causing the situation to revert bag to what it would have been without the boycott, or (b) the other companies will buy and refine more oil to meet their higher demand, and Exxon-Mobil would stop buying and refining oil to avoid having their inventory pile up, with the result that the same amount of gas is sold, and at the same prices, as otherwise would have sold — just through different gas stations. If somehow this boycott persisted over time, then eventually, Exxon-Mobil would eventually either sell oil and gasoline to other companies, or would change the signs on their gas stations, or would sell their retail gas stations to other companies, and become a wholesaler.

In short, there is absolutely no reason that this strategy would reduce gas prices — even if they succeeded in getting everyone to boycott Exxon-Mobil. Which they wouldn’t anyway — since as soon as Exxon-Mobil’s price started to drop, people would switch over to buying from them, and their price would go back up to what it was before.

I don’t know who wrote that e-mail, but I highly doubt they learned it in “Economics 101.” If that’s what they think they learned, then they should have flunked.

April 11, 2006

The “Straw man of presumed innocence”

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:45 am

Here’s a small sample of the unbelievable idiocy of the politics of the Duke lacrosse incident. This from a Duke faculty member:

Racism doesn’t require DNA testing

Deborah Sebring

I don’t get it. What does DNA have to do with racism, misogyny, serving alcohol to minors or blatant disrespect for one’s community? Just for a minute, forget about DNA testing or even the question of rape. There are established and profoundly disturbing dimensions of this incident being effectively shielded by the straw man of protecting the presumed innocent. By now we’ve all heard the 911 tape and read a neighbor’s confirmation of racial epithets hurled that night. Not much question about that one. And I am sick to death or hearing the alleged victim-a young black woman, student, mother-summarily referenced only as an “exotic dancer” while a mob of drunk, out of control men is described as the “the highly successful men’s lacrosse team.”

The “straw man of protecting the presumed innocent”? Does she prefer that there would be a presumption of guilt, rather than of innocence? What if the races were reversed — suppose a white woman accused a bunch of black athletes of raping her. Would that have “disturbing dimensions … shielded by the straw man of protecting the presumed innocent”? Would she presume guilt in that case? Would she want to “forget about DNA testing” that might exonerate black athletes of charges of raping a white woman?

Or does the presumption of innocence apply only in certain circumstances, based on the race of the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrators?

(La Shawn Barber has some thoughts along similar lines.)

Somebody’s got some ‘splaining to do!

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:42 am

So, nearly the entire Duke mens’ varsity lacrosse team was accused of raping a woman — or more precisely, 46 out of 47 players were accuesed of being among the three to rape this particular woman. As a punishment, a few games, and then the rest of their season was cancelled (that is, forfeited), their coach resigned (was he fired?) even thought he wasn’t even there when it (allegedly) happened, protests and vigils were held all over campus, and there were ugly allegations of a racist conspiracy from the race hustlers both on and off campus, since the alleged rapers were white and the alleged rapee was black. Never mind how it could be racist when practically no one was supporting the accused players; in fact, all 46 were regarded as guilty even though they woman only claimed that 3 of the 46 touched her.

Then, there were some inconsistencies in the timing of the alleged events.

And now it turns out none did. The DNA tests have come in, and not a trace of even a single player’s DNA was found anywhere on the woman’s body.

Furthermore — get this — there was no DNA of the victim in the room where the alleged rape was supposed to have occurred. And there was no DNA of anyone else either — in fact, the test results indicated the alleged victim had not had any kind of sexual contact with anyone in the recent past.

Now, let’s see if the candlelight vigils are cancelled, and if anyone apologizes to the team. I’m not holding my breath — in fact, the DA says he’s still going to prosecute!

District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he would have other evidence to make his case should the DNA analysis prove inconclusive or fail to match a member of the team.

“I believe a sexual assault took place,” Nifong told The News & Observer of Raleigh on Monday. “I’m not saying it’s over. If that’s what they expect, they will be sadly disappointed.”

He would not comment about the results to the AP.

Earlier he said that they used to prove rape cases before there was such a thing as DNA evidence, so if the DNA evidence didn’t match, he’d just prove it the old way — you know, “he said, she said, she wins.” The trouble is, he doesn’t seem to realize that DNA evidence works both ways — it’s more or less impossible to commit a rape without leaving DNA evidence. The fact that it’s not there is as close as you’ll ever get to proof that the crime did not occur.

Meanwhile, someone has soem explaining to do. That’s because the state crime lab said, based on evidence taken from her body at the emergency room, that there was no evidence the alleged victim was raped at all. Yet, according to a warrant sworn out by the police,

A Forensic Sexual Assault Nurse (SANE) and Physician conducted the examination. Medical records and interview that were obtained by subpoena revealed that the victim had signs, symptoms, and injuries consistent with being raped and ….

(If you want the gory details, look here. This is a family blog!)

The bottom line is, either this is the most incompetent state crime lab imaginable, or someone somewhere between the emergency room and the police department is blatantly lying. And it looks like the latter.

Now here’s something really interesting — the world champion of DNA evidence is Peter Neufeld of “The Innocence Project,” which searches the entire country for death penalty defendants who can be exonerated by DNA evidence. They keep hoping that they’ll find someone who’s been executed who can be proven innocent, so they can get rid of the death penalty, but so far they’ve just found some people who haven’t been executed yet, and gotten them off death row. They claim that DNA is the best way to prove innocence. Or at least, when the defendant is a non-white on death row. When the defendants are white scholarship athletes at an elite college, suddenly DNA isn’t so useful anymore:

“The truth is if you speak to crime lab directors, they will tell you that in only a relatively small number of cases is there any DNA evidence,” said Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project.

I’ve been a cautious supporter of The Innocence Project in the past, because like any decent person, I really, really don’t want to see innocent people punished. But their hope of finding an innocent person who’s already been executed ahs always struck me as kind of creepy — clearly, they care more about the principle that the death penalty is bad than they do about the welfare of innocent people wrongfully convicted. But now we find out that it’s only if those innocent people are the right sort of innocent people.

La Shawn Barber has more long-term perspective.

April 7, 2006

San Francisco Condemns the Catholic Church

It was just a couple of weeks ago that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution officially condemning “Christian fundamentalist[s]“, in what appears to me to be a blatant violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) — that “The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.”

Now, it turns out that 10 days before that, they took it upon themselves to condemn the Catholic Church, as well — and to tell them to change their religious beliefs, and to tell local Catholics to “defy” (their word!) the Vatican:

Resolution urging Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity has head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.

WHEREAS, It is a insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great City’s existing and established customs and traditions such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need; and

WHEREAS, Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Supervisors urges Archbishop Niederauer and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to defy all discriminatory directives of Cardinal Levada; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors urges Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican (formerly known as Holy Office of the Inquisition), to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.

Now, put aside your opinions on adoption for the moment, and take this as a pure First Amendment issue. Since when does the government have the right to condemn a specific religion, and to direct its citizens to “defy” their religious leaders?

Eugene Volokh suggests that the government:

… is quite entitled to express its views … and to condemn groups that, in its view, express “hateful” ideas.

But it seems to me that the right rule is that government officials must be able to comment on religious groups when their actions touch on secular matters, for instance arguing that terrorism is antithetical to the proper understanding of Islam, or that the Catholic Church’s views on adoption by homosexual couples are wrong.

In a rare [for him] oversight, he seems to miss the distinction between “government officials … comment[ing]” and an official resolution passed by an official governmental body. He also seems to miss the Supreme Court’s clear language in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) — that “The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.” This proclamation clearly violated that neutrality.

Clayton Cramer noted the non-neutrality by pointing out what would happen in the reverse case:

I guess San Francisco county government is free to express their opinion — although I would expect if the Butte, Montana city government passed a resolution praising the Southern Baptist Church, the ACLU would be looking through the precedents, looking for some way to turn this into an establishment of religion clause violation.

Frankly, I kind of hope that Butte, Montana, or some other place, does just that, just to prove the point.

One of the commenters on Volokh’s blog adds:

I think the Vatican would revoke the City’s right to use the name of one of their saints.

This might also present a solution to the banning of stuffed rabbits in St. Paul, Minnesota, on the theory that they are offensive to non-Christians.

And Dave Hardy, also commenting there, adds this (obvious?) point:

I suppose that, in light of the Mohammed cartoon affair, it is now mandatory that Catholics riot and break things and kill people in order to get a little respect?

The blatant religious discrimination only seems more blatant when you note the obvious fact that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors would never condemn an Islamic organization on such terms. It’s not that Islam is pro-gay — after all, in Islamic Iran, gays are publicly executed by hanging on the orders of Islamic courts.

No, the difference is, radical Islamicists are opposed to the United States in a way that the Catholic Church and Christian fundamentalists are not — and that gives the Islamicists immunity from criticism in San Francisco.


  • The vote for the anti-Catholic resolution was unanimous. There was not one member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who thought it inappropriate for the government to condemn a religion.
  • The Catholic League is suing, claiming “that the First Amendment ‘forbids an official purpose to disapprove of a particular religion, religious beliefs or of religion in general.’” Thanks to Crescat Sententia for the pointer

March 29, 2006

Hollywood Ethics

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:31 pm

Sharon Stone discourses on the “need” to go behind mothers’ backs to teach their daughters (how) to submit to sexually aggressive males.


(Link from Drudge.)

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