ByWord

4.8.03

THINGS LEFT UNSAID

Colin Powell on radio, as reported by Drudge:

SECRETARY POWELL: It's nonsense. I don't know what they are talking about. I serve at the pleasure of the President. The President and I have not discussed anything other than my continuing to do my job for him, and this is just one of those stories that emerge in Washington that reflects nothing more than gossip, and the gossip leads to a rash of speculation about who might fill a vacancy that does not exist.


So Colin, are you planning on resigning? Or has it just not been discussed? I understand the vacancy doesn't exist, but will it?
posted by ByWord 8/04/2003 08:41:00 PM

18.7.03

I DON'T NORMALLY DO THESE...

Democrat
Threat rating: High. The Bush administration is
concerned that it may not get a second term.
Therefore, we are going to change the rules so
that each Democrat vote only counts as 0.2
votes because Democrat is a shorter word than
Republican


What
threat to the Bush administration are you?

brought to you by Quizilla

posted by ByWord 7/18/2003 09:09:00 PM

14.7.03

BURYING THE LEDE

Eugene Volokh rebuts an argument that gay people shouldn't be allowed to marry because gay people couldn't possibly reproduce. His correspondent argues that heterosexual infertility is 'accidental' while homosexual infertility is fundamental.

Given this, it seems to me that society is not giving up the principle that marriage is an institution designed to protect the family by allowing infertile heterosexual couples to marry. Everyone sees the differences between the infertile and fertile as small or shallow. On the other hand, allowing the fundamentally infertile to marry damages the principle precisely because everyone sees the difference between a fertile heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple as deep. Making exceptions for deep differences throws out the principle. . . .


Eugene replies that he doesn't see how there is intrinsic moral content to 'fundamental' infertility versus 'accidental':

From a biological perspective, labels such as "accidentally" or "essentially" infertile don't really work here: The incapacity to conceive and bear children is just as "essential" an aspect of women who aren't menstruating, or who have had certain surgeries, as it is of men.

So if there is a moral distinction between a heterosexual couple in which the parties are biologically incapable of producing children together, and a homosexual couple in which the parties are biologically incapable of producing children together, it can't just be shown by labeling one cause of incapability "accidental" and the other "essential." One has to explain just why one cause of infertility is morally different from the other.


Eugene has it right, but he went after the wrong part of the argument. It's fine to get into a detailed debate about the precise nature of infertility. But it's important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. The important question to ask when someone tells you that homosexual couples are infertile is not 'but what about infertile straights?' Rather, it is 'so what?'

Is marriage really about fertility? If so, why should it be about fertility? What intrinsic value does that have? Why not make it about, oh, I don't know, love?

How will allowing infertile couples, even 'essentially' infertile ones, harm marriage? Is marriage really that frail an institution? I'm curious about this logic. What does the correspondent imagine happening?

"Two men can't have a baby, so the government should be able to tell me who I can and can't marry."
"Two men can't have a baby, but they can get married, so I'm getting a divorce."
"I do love you honey, but I don't want to marry you, because two women got married, but they can't have a baby."

Yes, we need to defend good traditions (like marriage). But we don't need to defend them arbitrarily. We need to defend those of our traditions we judge helpful against threats.

We don't need to defend marriage from, say, tigers. Because tigers aren't a threat to marriage. Nor do we need to defend marriage against, well, more marriage. Because more marriage isn't a threat to marriage.

Plus, as a heterosexual, I'm frankly insulted that someone would suggest that I might be less committed to a future wife, or less likely to commit to a woman I loved, because of anything anyone else did. Let alone because two people who love each other got married.

It's important to stay on track in these arguments. Opponents of gay marriage need to show that it is demonstrably harmful to society, and that that harm outweighs the harm caused by giving the state a right to deny equal treatment to a group of its citizens, and outweighs the harm caused by giving the state a veto right over all our marriages.
posted by ByWord 7/14/2003 10:07:00 PM

11.7.03

JOHN KERRY LOSES MY SUPPORT

In the Washington Post, Kerry opines:

I have a belief that marriage is for the purpose of procreation and it's between men and women.


In the linked piece, TNR's &c. does a fine job of quickly finishing off the logic of that bit of foolishness. I have bigger fish to fry.

Five years ago, I supported gay marriage. But I thought then that it was an issue about which reasonable people could disagree. Protect our heritage, and whatnot.

I've come further since then. I've stepped up. I will no longer brook opposition to gay marriage. I can't accept it.

There is a simple fact of the current state of marriage in the United States:

The government of the United States denies equal treatment to an arbitrary group of its citizens.

It's really that simple. If I want to marry a woman, I am allowed. If I want to marry a man, I am not allowed. There need be no other differance between two people for them to receive totally different treatment from their government.

As a matter of fact, the person who wants to marry across sexes could be far worse. A convicted male felon can marry a woman, but an honest and successful male taxpayer cannot marry a man. A female traitor can marry a man, a female patriot cannot marry a woman. Two firemen cannot marry, two firebombers of opposite sex can. The government appears to believe that homosexuality is so awful, so hideous, that homosexuals should be denied a right that is extended to criminals, the mentally ill, even wifebeaters, if you can believe it. That's right. People who have proven empirically to be harmful in marriage - people repeatedly convicted of spousal abuse - are allowed to remarry*, while two gay parents wanting to raise a kid together - a set of people for whom marriage is clearly beneficial - cannot.

This is not a policy issue. It's not a morality issue, even - you could oppose homosexuality, and still believe that the government ought not tell people who they can and can't marry. You could still believe that homosexuality was not so much worse than spousal abuse that convicted wifebeaters are allowed to marry while lesbians aren't. It's a human rights issue, it's a just role of government issue. The state has no business - none - denying equal treatment to its citizens. It has no right defining love to its citizens. It has no right telling its citizens that some of them love more deeply than others. Gay marriage is not negotiable, it's not a place to waver, it's not a place where tradition can outweigh justice. It's just plain right.

Dean? Edwards?

*and should be

posted by ByWord 7/11/2003 06:42:00 PM

3.7.03

ON FORGETTING

Orin Kerr:

Who would have guessed on 9/11/01 that almost two years later, there would have been no successful terrorists attacks on U.S. soil since then?


Ahem.

I suppose it would be convenient for Republicans, though, if everyone were as forgetful as Orin.
posted by ByWord 7/03/2003 10:27:00 PM

2.7.03

FROM DRUDGE

Regular cannabis users 'at greater risk of mental illness'.

Or, alternately, Those with mental illness at greater risk of cannabis usage.
posted by ByWord 7/02/2003 08:28:00 PM

26.6.03

DENOUMENT

Today is the day for me to reveal myself. I have been blogging anonymously hitherto, but here it is:

My name is Michael Savage.

As you may have heard, I am A Homosexual Who Enjoys The Private Company Of Immigrants. Let me tell you how I was turned to this life of indulgent sin.

Many yeras ago, I was at a meeting of the local branch of the VRWC. Lynne Cheney was giving a speech, and we were all very excited. She spoke long, hard, and powerfully, her hands thrusting violently as made each enthralling point. I was enraptured. I was enamoured.

After the show I approached her.

"Mrs. Cheney? Madam, your performance was stunning. Staggering. Luscious. May I buy you a drink, so that I can hear more?"

Well, not only did she accept, she insisted we do so in the accomadating privacy of her hotel suite. As we drank, first wine, then scotch, then whatever was left in the minibar, our passion grew. We fell into one another.

"Oh Lynne," I cried, "make me yours, take me in your arms, let me feel your skin touch mine, let us never be apart!"

She gently laid her hands on my shoulders, pushing me subtly away. I stood back, just a little, and let my eyes feast on her ravishingly powerful body. Its strong square shoulders and powerful forearms drew my eyes in. She undid her dress, and let it fall to the floor. I was awed. But never more so than when she slowly slid her underwear down her legs, and revealed what I must have known was there all along. A huge, throbbing cock. An instrument of pleasure, and pain. Of love.

I knew I should be repulsed. But I couldn't turn away. She commanded me to my knees, and I bent willingly, my skin tingling at what I knew was coming next. My heart was pounding in my ears, but I didn't even need to hear her next order. I took her into my mouth. First a little, then more. I gagged, but I couldn't stop. She was all I wanted.

I knew my destiny, that night. I knew what I was. And ever since I have celebrated my deep love of fellating strong men. Ever since, I have been A Homosexual Who Enjoys The Private Company Of Immigrants.

-MS

This is parody, obviously. Please read the posts below for my real opinions.
posted by ByWord 6/26/2003 06:14:00 PM

YES!

The Supreme Court just made me very, very happy.

I'm not a lawyer, but as I read Kennedy's decision for 5 judges, the majority this is a watershed. As far as I can tell, they:

- Overturned the Texas anti-sodomy law.
- Established a generalized right to sexual privacy, subject to a rational interest test.
- Overruled moral condemnation as grounds for rational interest in sexual privacy.

The right to sexual privacy was not exclusive to homosexuals. We are all more free this afternoon than we were this morning.

Reading around the legal bloggers (see here for a list), this could:

- End don't ask don't tell. Gays in the military are here.
- End laws against sex toys
- End laws against pornography, where that pornography is used as a part of the sexual conduct of consenting adults
- Provide a basis for gay marriage
- End laws against sex with multiple partners
- End laws against adultery
- End laws against incest between consenting adult brothers and sisters or cousins.

Wow. Breathe deep. That's free air. Long live liberty in America.
posted by ByWord 6/26/2003 05:55:00 PM

23.6.03

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Read this. Then read this.

Basically, USA Today is flogging a study that shows, as many studies have already shown, that women are nearly as likely to hit their male partners as their partners are to hit them.

This is garbage, and the second link above discusses a whole lot of reasons why.

Mostly, the biggest reason is that these studies don't distinguish between the physical ability to cause harm. I've been slapped by girlfriends, as hard as they could. It hurt. But me slapping them as hard as I could would drop them and draw blood.

Here's Amptoons, from the second link above:

More subtly, the CTS's method of measurement may be overly literal, measuring narrowly-defined actions while failing to consider their context and meaning. As Straton points out, results of violence are ignored: the CTS "equates a woman pushing a man in self-defense to a man pushing a woman down the stairs." Similarly, the context of violence is ignored: playful kicking in bed, considered aggressive by neither partner, is counted as more severe violence than a bone-jarring push against a wall.

The CTS ignores not only different physical impacts of violence, but also different mental impacts of violence. A recent study indicated that violence, "even when both the man and woman participate," leads to significantly worse outcomes for women; women are more frightened by the violence, with a greater sense of loss of personal control and well-being.

As a matter of common sense, there's an enormous difference in mass and physical strength between most women and men, and that can make a big difference in how abuse "feels." An ex-girlfirend of mine - who weighed 100 pounds less than I do - once punched me, as hard as she could, on my chest. It left a bruise and hurt my feelings, but I certainly didn't feel frightened or helpless. Why not? Because I could walk out the room whenever I pleased, and she couldn't stop me.

Now, what if I had hit her? Although the action would have been the same, the dynamic would have been totally different - because she would have been effectively trapped with me unless I chose to let her go.


There's lots more where that came from, including a painfully obvious reminder about sampling (how many massively abusive husbands are going to let their wives participate?), and a run-down of the contradictory social science data. Go read.
posted by ByWord 6/23/2003 02:18:00 AM

21.6.03

MEDIA BIAS, MEDIA OBJECTIVITY

Let's be clear, there is a difference between an unbiased media and an objective media.

Tim Blair notices a line in his local paper that says

Herald Correspondent Ed O'Loughlin in Gaza meets the Palestinian group that answers Israel blow for blow


and accuses them of bias.

Tim's commenters jumped all over 'Palestinian group', which they didn't think was the best phrase to describe Hamas. The tone of their comments suggests that they'd have preferred 'Palestinian terrorist organisation' or 'Palestinian jew-hating sociopaths'.

But hold on. By any dictionary definition, Hamas is both 'Palestinian' and a 'group'.

So this statement is objectively true. Tim's commentors are criticizing this report not for lack of objectivity, but rather for lack of subjective judgement. Maybe that's right, but please let's not pretend that this an obvious case of horrible media slanting. It's actually a case, if anything, of overly-objective reporting.

This happens to both the right and the left. Often the Bush administration will make a bold-faced lie about some aspect of budget politics ('this will create xxxx new jobs' or 'this will not lead to a long-term deficit'), and the Democrats will reply with the truth ('every economist ever, including your own CBO, says it will create a deficit').

The media, rather than making the judgement between the two cases, and presenting "the dems say X, which is true, and the reps say Y, which is false", instead retain maximal 'objectivity' and treat the two statements as competing claims.

This isn't a partisan issue -- I'm sure my conservative friends can name hundreds of examples of this going the other way.

It's just dumb journalism. The media have adopted a doctrine of objectivity and neutrality, when they should have been adopting a doctrine of fairness and judiciousness.
posted by ByWord 6/21/2003 11:32:00 AM

19.6.03

And can we all agree to just ignore this?
posted by ByWord 6/19/2003 09:29:00 PM

You've got to be kidding.
posted by ByWord 6/19/2003 09:26:00 PM

COUNTERFACTUALS

Reproducing here a comment I made in this Yglesias post:

I think that perhaps causation is best understood as a shorthand for inferred logic:

"When A happens, B tends to happen afterwards".

When I drop the ball, it has, in every experience so far in my life, fallen to the ground. Quantum mechanics tells us that this is not necessarily the case, but is the case in all reasonable probabilities. The claim "dropping the ball causes it to fall to the ground" is a fairly convenient shorthand for that probability.

In more abstract cases, as I think you're [you = Matt] mostly talking about, it gets a little more complex. We don't have a whole lot of inferred knowledge about Gore campaigns for the presidency. We do have inferred knowledge about presential campaigns in general, though, and this is what Kevin [Drum] really means: "In my experience, candidates with simple tax plans tend to be more successful".

If causation is essentially a shorthand for this kind of inference, then we can evaluate counterfactuals on the basis of the size of the body of inferrential knowledge we have.

The counterfactual "Had I not dropped the ball, it would not have fallen to the floor" is pretty secure - we have a lot of experience with dropping things.

The counterfactual "Had Gore used a simpler tax proposal, he would have won" is a bit more tenuous, but still supportable based on the moderately large sample we have of electoral camapaigns.

The counterfactual "Had the Nazis not lost the Second World War..." is way more tenuous, since we have little experience with fascist dictatorships occupying entire continents.

posted by ByWord 6/19/2003 12:06:00 AM

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Wisdom praises herself, and tells of her glory... "Those who eat of me will hunger for more, and those who drink of me will thirst for more. Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame, and those who work with me will not sin." (Sirach 24:21-22)

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ByWord First Rule of Political Discourse
If the best reason you can come up with for why people disagree with you is that you're smarter or more moral than they are, you're probably wrong.

Corollary to The First Rule
If the best reason you can come up with for why people disagree with you is that they, unlike you, have been indoctrinated by an ideological media conspiracy, you're probably wrong.

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