I've Got Issues

Where I toss out armchair analyses on the news of the day.

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Monday, July 07, 2003
Essay question: Watch the movie Frailty. Explain what Frailty's plot has to do with the philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard.


Joy: Buy a box (or multiple boxes) of fruit-flavored chiclets. Open said box of fruit-flavored (they must be fruit-flavored) chiclets, and stuff every single one of those chiclets into your mouth. You'll be glad you did.


Thursday, May 29, 2003
Being as deeply concerned with blogdom as I am, I have been remiss in my own blogging. I would like to apologize to my faithful readers for being so involved in participating in (perhaps even advancing) the rugby scrum of knowledge that I have forgotten what is most important...my public. It is you, my fans, that set me apart from the legions of over-educated men with gravy-stained ties. You make me special. Wait, scratch that...I make me special.


Thursday, May 15, 2003


Sunday, April 27, 2003
One irony of Santorum's remarks is that it almost justifies a very old argument that was itself used to justify anti-Catholic bigotry back in the bad old days. As the old anti-Catholic argument goes, Catholics can't really participate in a free and democratic society because the Pope is their Supreme Authority, so they have more allegiance with a foreign potentate than they do with a free country like America. Past Catholic political leaders have given lie to that argument by strictly separating their religious beliefs from their politics. Now, Santorum wants to allow states to enforce the Church's moral teachings, and borrows the Church's language of "limiting individuals' wants and passions" to argue for his position. That's not good.


You've gotta be a special kind of stupid to spew the crap that Ricky "the Ayatollah" Santorum let fly. But despite some pretty good commentary from Glenn Reynolds, Josh Chafetz, Virginia Postrel, Dan Savage, and a series of angry but eloquent harangues from Andrew Sullivan, nobody's given the Rick Santorum interview a full frontal fisking. That's where I come in. I'll start at the point when he starts discussing his, er, unique approach to privacy rights:

AP: I mean, should we outlaw homosexuality?

SANTORUM: I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who's homosexual. If that's their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it's not the person, it's the person's actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions.

I have no problem with Indian people, as long as they don't ever practice Hinduism. The Japanese? I love 'em, but I better not catch them little fuckers eatin' any rice.

AP: OK, without being too gory or graphic, so if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?

SANTORUM: We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family.

So people having sex the "wrong" way in the privacy of their own homes undermines the basic tenets of our society and the family? How, Rick? Whatever people do with each other in their own homes doesn't stop you from being the sort of husband and father that you want to be. Unless, of course, the mere possibility of gay sex going on somewhere in your town, uh, distracts you from your duties as husband and father, Rick.

And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does.

Rick, since marriages are state-regulated contracts, then the right to consensual sex in your own home doesn't imply anything about bigamy, polygamy, and adultery. As for laws against incest, those are there to prevent three-headed babies. But this idea of jailing people for adultery is pretty interesting... adultery is still technically illegal in many states and it is a sexual behavior that definitely undermines marriage and families. So let's get rid of sodomy laws so that we can focus on the REAL family-undermining act of adultery. I say we start with Congress. Let's investigate their sex lives, and arrest and jail all of the adulterers. Rick, I look forward to your bill putting this into action.

But let's say that your nightmare world came true, Rick, and the state permitted bigamy, polygamy, biandry (a woman marrying two husbands), polyandry (a woman marrying multiple husbands), and incest between infertile adults (blech). Not one of those things would stop you, Rick Santorum, from taking your family to church or disciplining your kids in the way you choose. Not one of those things interferes with your marriage or parenting. Even in your worst possible world, nobody is stopping your from making your moral choices. However, Rick, you want to let the state take away others' right to make moral choices.

It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution

Reading is Fundamental, Rick. The 9th Amendment of the Constitution - "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

this right that was created, it was created in Griswold -- Griswold was the contraceptive case -- and abortion.

Wow, Rick, you're actually bitching about Griswold, where the Supreme Court said a state government cannot outlaw a married couple's use of contraception. So you think that a state government should be allowed to tell its citizens that they can't use birth control. You are on a roll, Rick. Please don't stop now.

And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you -- this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong, healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family. Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships.

Rick, you still haven't explained exactly how letting some people do consensual dirty stuff in their own homes makes it harder for other people like you to raise strong families. Rick, here in America, we agree not to bug each other over what we do in our own homes. I mean, if we made people's private lives an issue for the government, then we could end up having US Senators discussing anal sex and bestiality with reporters, which would clearly undermine our precious moral values and the stability of our families. Obviously, Rick, you'd hate to see that.

In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality _

Or maybe you wouldn't hate to see that. Okay, Rick.

AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.

Yeah, I think Rick's got us all a little "freaked out." But once our intrepid reporter gets over it, they'll realize that Rick has just made their career. Of course, maybe the interviewer likes Rick, and is signalling him to SHUT UP NOW. When your interviewer tells you that you're "freaking them out," this is a good sign that you've said some stupid things, and you'd better end this interview ASAP. But not Rick. No, Rick's shootin' the moon on this one...

SANTORUM: And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately.

Dammit, don't you see??!! I don't want to talk about man-on-dog action, but the wicked and evil world is forcing me to! People might have sex with Fido in their homes, and I must think really hard about that! I must show how letting married people use birth control without state interference leads straight to dog fucking! I'm doing it all for you, America!

The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society.

No, Rick, the state doesn't have the right to tell people what sort of consensual sex they have in their own homes. The state can only limit wants and passions that cause actual direct harm (and offense is not harm) to others. In this country, we limit the wants and passions of power-hungry government officials who want to use the state to enforce their own religious views on other people. That's what makes us different from the terrorists we're fighting, Rick.

AP: Sorry, I just never expected to talk about that when I came over here to interview you. Would a President Santorum eliminate a right to privacy -- you don't agree with it?

SANTORUM: I've been very clear about that. The right to privacy is a right that was created in a law that set forth a (ban on) rights to limit individual passions. And I don't agree with that.

Rick, you're still bitching that, under Griswold, states couldn't tell married couples not to use birth control. Rick, you're still pissed off over the invention of the Pill, aren't you?

So I would make the argument that with president, or senator or congressman or whoever Santorum, I would put it back to where it is, the democratic process. If New York doesn't want sodomy laws, if the people of New York want abortion, fine. I mean, I wouldn't agree with it, but that's their right. But I don't agree with the Supreme Court coming in.

Oh, I can't wait to see that: "Today, in a 72%-28% vote in favor of Proposition 69, the citizens of Pennsylvania ordered Rick Santorum's wife to give him a blow job on the grounds that he clearly and desperately requires immediate oral sex. Both Rick Santorum and wife are appealing the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that enforcing this referendum result would violate their privacy rights as established by the Supreme Court under Griswold."


Saturday, April 26, 2003
Irony: For all of our fears about terrorism, traditional Chinese farming practices may turn out to be the bigger threat.


Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Brad DeLong writes such a good blog that I usually let him pass on his occasional root-for-the-home-team approach to political economy. DeLong served as Assistant Secretary in Clinton's Treasury Department, so I don't blame him if his tally sheet of Republican vs. Democrat hints of very understandable bias. But now he's crossed the line with this:

One problem for us American liberals is certainly that Republican administrations tend to provide excellent demonstrations of Friedman's claim of governmental incompetence/capture/counterproductive behavior--massive government failure that outweighs probable estimates of market failure and creates a strong case for the shrinkage of the regulatory state. Witness Reagan, Bush II fiscal policy. Witness the Bush II farm bill, steel tariff. ...

Boy, is the good Doctor ever laying it on thick. Not that he's exactly wrong. Reagan and Bush II did turn in less fiscally responsible budgets than Clinton. Bush has betrayed free trade and has continued agricultural subsidies. However, DeLong forgets that Democratic congressmen and interest groups fight pretty hard for those agricultural subsidies and tariffs and always have. DeLong forgets that it was Republican votes in Congress that carried the day for Clinton's NAFTA in 1993. DeLong forgets that Republicans in 1996 were the ones who initiated reform of agricultural subsidies. DeLong also forgets how Clinton betrayed Tim Penny and other fiscally conservative Democrats, doing everything he could to prevent them from proposing spending cuts after he had agreed to let them propose these spending cuts as a condition for their votes in favor of his deficit reduction package. DeLong forgets a lot.

But DeLong's forgetfulness starts to rival Reagan's when DeLong forgets the massively irresponsible move that his former Boss made in 1995, when Republicans proposed cutting the growth of Medicare. Clinton went full-blown demagogue on that one, decrying the Republicans for "balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly" and whatnot. Clinton's strategy was politically successful, but it made any sensible early-term Medicare reform politically impossible. Clinton made it politically impossible to make gradual cuts in Medicare over the long-term, which moved America that much closer to that highly unpalatable future choice between higher taxes, sudden and severe cuts in Medicare/Social Security, or virtual elimination of non-entitlement Federal spending that DeLong outlines so well. DeLong rightly blasts the Republicans with "Oh, the decision to cut your Social Security and Medicare benefits by 1/3 was implicit in those tax cuts you voted for back in the early 2000s. You didn't realize that? Too bad," but somehow forgets to mention that Clinton did the same thing: "Oh, the decision to raise your payroll taxes to 33% (or cut your Medicare and Social Security benefits by 1/3) was implicit in preventing the Republican Medicare cuts in 1995-1996. You didn't realize that? Too bad." DeLong also forgets that later in his administration, Clinton (and later Al Gore) proposed expanding the Medicare program to include a prescription drug benefit for all seniors, a proposal that would exacerbate all of the problems that America faces in the future. DeLong's blind spot is starting to block out that light of economic truth that he likes to shine in the faces of those benighted Bushies.

But the real coup de grace arrives when DeLong, oops, forgets that his former boss, the beloved BC, started the Medicare battle by opposing a policy that he himself had proposed just months before! Under an optional part of Medicare, seniors could buy prescription drug coverage and pay 33% of the costs out-of-pocket. Under prior legislation, this portion covered by seniors out-of-pocket would drop to 25% starting in 1995. Clinton publicly expressed a favorable view on keeping the out-of-pocket share at 33%. When the Republicans arrived in 1995, they proposed that seniors continue to pay 33%. Suddenly, Clinton turned around and opposed the Republicans on this proposal for his political gain. It worked, but it was both shameful and fiscally irresponsible, and it showed the depths to which Clinton would sink. Clinton demonstrated how easy it is to achieve political success by opposing any and all entitlement reform, which is far more costly to our nation than Bush's tax cut.

I don't expect DeLong to agree with that final statement, and I expect him to make a pretty good case against it. But given what I have written, I would like to challenge DeLong to either show me where he has opposed a specific economic policy or proposal by the Clinton administration, or to point out the most irresponsible Clinton economic policy proposal. DeLong gets bonus points if he can point to a specific instance where Congressional Republicans were more responsible than Clinton.

I am going to copy this post and email it to DeLong. I will give DeLong ample time to reply before I diagnose him with Feverus Potomacus, as he is a busy man. I also allow DeLong to designate part or all of his reply email as confidential and not to be publicly shared.


Thursday, April 17, 2003
If Michael "Big Baby" Kinsley would get a snarkectomy, he'd be able to make his points a little better. As it is, his latest article, which deals with possible favoritism in the awarding of contracts to rebuild Iraq, makes a really good point. Some people may argue that contracts to rebuild Iraq should go to American and British companies, since America and Britain fought the war. As Kinsley points out, reserving contracts for American and British companies just screws American and British taxpayers, because then these taxpayers don't necessarily get the most bang for their buck. Kinsley is dead on with this point. We owe it to the American taxpayer, who footed the bill for this thing, and the Iraqi people, who suffered under Saddam, sanctions, and war, to stretch every dollar we spend in Iraq as far as it can go. If that means a German road company gets a contract because they can build a better road for a lower price, then fine. Anything less than that is just crony capitalism. My hope is that Bush will eventually open all rebuilding contracts to competitive bidding, but is holding out on these contracts for now in order to get Russia, France, and China to forgive Iraqi debts. There's a time and a place for settling some diplomatic scores, but Iraq right now is neither the time nor the place.

But I don't really trust that Bush understands the difference between good free-market capitalism and ugly regulatory-string-pulling crony capitalism. Bush's business history does not bespeak of a self-made businessman. Not one of his many, many thin dimes seems to have been made through any sort of business acumen. Worse yet, Bush was general manager of the Rangers when they tried to use the Arlington city government to steal land from Arlington property owners for their stadium. So I'm going to cast a gimlet eye at Dubya until he actually shows that he can distinguish between actual capitalism and tossing money at politically connected firms.


For a guy who's so sis-boom-bah about freedom for Iraqis, Dubya sure doesn't seem to be a big fan of freedom for Americans. No, I'm not going to go all self-important-lefty and call El Shrubbo a Nazi or claim he wants to see all dissenters jailed. I leave that to celebrity pea-brains like Alec Baldwin.

But I am saying that Patriot II is just pure evil. As the intrepid Matt Welch points out, this god-awful pile of freedom-killing dung lets Federal bureaucrats revoke your citizenship, lets the Federal Government spy on you at the request of any foreign government, lets the Federal Government build a DNA database and take a DNA sample from you without even a court order, permits secret arrests, and lets the government wiretap you and snoop through your email without a warrant. And that's just the highlights, boys and girls. I had some hopes for John "the Anointed" Ashcroft when Bush first selected him for Attorney General. Hell, even them lib'rals at Salon had nice things to say about Ashcroft's record on privacy issues. But hoo boy, now Ashcroft has me yearning for the restraint and cool-headedness of Janet "the Inferno" Reno.

Of course it gets worse. The days when you could count on mainstream Democrats to give a rats ass about civil liberties have gone the way of Billy Beer. First we have Democrat Joe Biden, Senator and noted plagiarizer, sneaking his idiotic burn-the-country-in-order-to-save-it RAVE Act into the Amber Alert Bill. The RAVE Act makes any club owner, concert promoter, even homeowners legally responsible for any harms resulting from drug use at their club, concert, or venue. Intelligent conservatives and liberals oppose this terrible idea, and this act was so obviously stupid that it wasn't even going to pass on its own. Heck, even two of its co-sponsors begged off once their staffers actually read it. So Biden, employing the honesty and decency that characterized his scandal-plagued run for the Presidency, snuck this bad and unpopular law as a rider onto the enormously popular Amber Alert Bill, which is designed to deal with child abductions and kidnappings and has nothing to do with drug policy. And it doesn't stop with Biden. Democrat Chuck Schumer's joining the Domestic Axis of Evil, trying his darndest to let your Federal Government spy on you for countries like France, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and China. All of this is very, very bad.