Monday, October 30, 2006

Where They Come From

It is my opinion that since at least the 90s, probably long before, the average American knows who they are going to vote for years in advance of any election. It doesn't seem to have too much to do with ideology... in fact, I'm not really sure what it has to do with these days: you have big government Republicans and low tax Democrats, you have pro-war Democrats and pro-choice Republicans, and on and on. It doesn't seem like the people who make up the parties are all that different, which is probably part of the reason why most of the country is so evenly split in most recent elections. Charles has a post in which he discusses the possibility that there are a multitude of people who voted for both Bill Clinton and George W Bush. I guess its possible.

Here I'm going to go off on ideas that I don't have data for. It seems to me, despite Charles's post, that most people know who they are going to vote for well beforehand. So the deciding factor in who gets into office is who's party gets the best turnout. That being said, it seems logical for politicians to spend far more time and money motivating their own party rather than trying to convince undecided voters. I think that recent trends, such as incredibly negative campaign ads designed to show voters what a horrible person a candidate's opponent is, reflect this. The politicians try to prove to people that letting their opponent win will be a horrible thing, rather than trying to convince people that they are the better candidate. Since most people won't be changing their minds, its not worth the effort. You just need to sufficiently scare your party into voting to secure a win. And I think that means that politicians have lost their motivation to present themselves as, and possibly become, the best candidate possible. And I think that this is a horrible thing that is hurting American politics. I'm not sure exactly what the best thing is to do about it... and I'm about to go to bed. So maybe I'll think of something good to do about it later.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Marriage Issue

I guess this is as a good a time as any to talk about the marriage issue facing the country today. Let me begin by saying that I do not understand the legal rationale for why the government recognizes marriage. To me it seems like an arbitrary set of rules that has long been desired and accepted by the people of this country. I feel that marriage is a religious institution and the government's recognition of it is strange. My dad, a pretty party-line Republican, says that the government recognizes marriage because its the fundamental unit of government, and he believes this is an adequate explanation. I disagree, cynically believing that there are as many destructive marriages as constructive, if not more. However, that may still have been the motivation of those who made the laws. Fine, that works. Others more pragmatically have suggested that supporting child raising is the motivation for the government's recognition of marriage. To this I say that not all married couples are raising children, and some that aren't married are. So it seems that child-raising status ought to be the measure then, not marriage.

One way or the other, I'm not seeing much hard data on why heterosexual marriages deserve recognition by the government and homosexual marriages do not. It seems to me that if those opposed to homosexual marriage are correct and it violates the reason to recognize marriage or its bad for society that it should be a simple matter to prove their point. This is what I require to be convinced: a plain, rational reason why heterosexual marriages deserve recognition by the government and clear evidence that homosexual marriages do not. Saying that heterosexual marriages deserve recognition because they're "right" or because "that's the way its meant to be" are not good reasons. If someone was trying to get me to live with a law that prevented me from getting treatment I felt I deserved those reasons would only incite anger and resentment in me. I believe that our homosexual citizens, as full and equal citizens under the law as well as fellow human beings, deserve better.

All that being said, I will be voting in favor of an amendment in Colorado that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Sound hypocritical? Here is why: I don't believe that the ends justify the means. I am not convinced that I should support government recognition of marriage at all. However, I do not believe that it should ever be right for a judge to change the law by reinterpreting what it means over a technicality when its obvious what the law originally meant. I firmly believe that the marriage laws that are now on the books were made with the idea that marriage would solely belong to one man and one woman. So my vote says this: "The laws we have on the books now are for marriage between a man and a woman. They may not be right, but we need to know exactly where we stand and those are the laws currently. Now that we've established that, we have the freedom and space to have a real conversation about whether these laws are the way they should be or whether they should be further amended, perhaps out of existence."

Opponents of this amendment are trying to take a short-cut to government approved homosexual marriage by exploiting a lack of clarity in the laws. If they are successful then homosexual marriage may become a part of American government without the people ever getting a chance to debate and and discuss why it should or shouldn't be. It will sidestep all the channels that new laws are supposed to go through, and I feel this will be detrimental to society, perhaps homosexuals especially, in the long run. I believe that whenever we clearly know the intent behind a law, that is what should be upheld, not the letter of the law, so to speak. If a law is wrong in intent then the law should be changed through the correct legal process, which is through the legislature. Not by reinterpreting its meaning to something acceptable through the judiciary.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Firefox 2.0

If you haven't already done so, download and install Firefox 2.0. Besides being faster and more secure it introduces some really nice new features -- most everything from TabMix Plus. My favorite new functionality is the ability to have multiple tabs as my homepage, so whenever Firefox starts I have gmail, google news, and my Baylor email all up. Conveniently, and probably necessarily, Firefox 2.0 will keep most of your old plug ins, so the switch should be nearly seamless. But, best of all, Firefox 2.0 does not suck down obscene amounts of RAM! I would recommend moving to it if that were the only change they made, the rest is bonus in my opinion. Oh, and Firefox 2.0 is ready for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux so no matter what OS you're using you can download and enjoy Firefox 2.0 right now.


Its amazing to me how much of good modern music (Radiohead, Muse, Death Cab For Cutie, Jimmy Eat World, Foo Fighters... that sort of thing) you can hear in Queen. It drives my wife crazy that I listen to Queen, and its true that they don't really sound like anything else I listen to -- on the surface. But in their music you can hear so much that wasn't being done by contemporary bands and so much that has been carried over into great music today. I love that about them. I think that it is a testament to their musical prowess. Its always amazing to me to look back at people/groups who were ahead of their time. Radiohead is the same way if you consider their music from the 90's and the way it affects music being made today, like Muse's. I like listening to Queen because I like hearing the foundations of the other music I love today, and its fun music that is unashamed to be ridiculous from time to time -- a distinction that is so uncommon in most music today. Whatever you think about Queen there are a few things I can say with certainty: Freddy Mercury was one of the most flamboyant homosexuals and best rock vocalists ever, and "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a work of genius.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Under God

I was perusing "The Charter and The Bylaws of the Democratic Party of the United States" when I came across this phrase: "Under God, and for these ends and upon these principles, we do establish and adopt this Charter of the Democratic Party of the United States of America." Now, I'm not a person who really thinks that its that big of a deal that the pledge of allegiance says "under God," but I also wouldn't really care if the phrase were removed. When I found out that the phrase was added in the 1950's to combat Communism I felt that any argument about how it was connected to our founding principles became much weaker, and I pretty much stopped caring. However, many prominent Democrats didn't stop caring. I don't mind that they're upset by it and want it changed, but doesn't it seem logical that if it is an offensive phrase to them they would want it taken out of their party's charter? It just seems odd to me that they're fighting to take it out of a semi-official pledge that most people don't say after they are out of grade school and don't seem to mind at all that its part of the foundational document of their party. I know its different in many respects, but it still strikes me as odd.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Horrible Idea

Frank Lasee, a Wisconsin state representative from Green Bay, is advocating allowing teachers to carry guns at school in light of recent school shootings. Before commenting on the utterly lunacy of this proposal, it should be noted that, according to this interview with forensic psychologist Dr. Helen Smith, "we haven’t had that many particular school shootings. I mean, they’re definitely not accelerating." So we're not dealing with something new this year or looking at an increase in numbers. But even if we were, I cannot imagine an American classroom with an armed teacher. Can you imagine reading Shakespeare aloud in high school English while your teacher has a .45 strapped to her hip? I think it might be a bit of a distraction. How could we feel safe going to school or sending our kids to school if our schools are places where teachers need to carry guns? According to the above mentioned article, Pete Pochouski, Director of School safety, Milwaukee Public School said, "statistically, schools are the safest place for children." If that's true then Lasee's recommendation is even more ludacris. Perhaps even more important is the fact that teachers carrying guns, in my opinion, will be largely ineffective and probably more likely to cause harm than good. Can you imagine a teacher shooting at a student? Probably not likely. So maybe its not for stopping crazy students (the cause of most of school shootings) its just for stopping outsiders who come in like in the recent shootings in Bailey and Nickle Mines. I suppose its possible, but if a shooter grabs a student and uses that student as a shield do you think there are many teachers bold enough to take a shot at the aggressor? Most police officers wouldn't take the risk of hitting the student accidentaly, I can't imagine that it would be a good thing if a teacher did. Finally, adding that many firearms to a school environment in the hands of people whose primary concern is not the firearms is a very bad idea. We have had many cases in the past of police officers being shot with their own weapons. If a police officer can have his weapon stolen then I find it highly likely that the same could happen even to the most diligent teacher. So now you are introducing the possibility of arming an aggressor who might otherwise not have access to a firearm. Brilliant. This type of security at schools should be handled the same way it is everywhere else -- by police officers. If we don't have enough police officers to put enough in every school then we need to raise the pay of police officers so that more qualified people will want the job. If there isn't money to pay the police officers then we need to take some from the glut that is being given to mostly useless school bureaucracy. If there still isn't enough money then we need to raise taxes for it. It should be a priority. The safety of our children is one of the most important things for this or any nation. If the solution is having more guns on campuses then we need to do whatever it takes to provide that protection in the form of police officers.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Please, Don't Encourage Them

I know that people on both sides of the political fence are already talking about this, but I just can't help saying something. This line comes from a campaign ad for Minnesota Democrat Petty Wetterling that I read about here:

"It shocks the conscience. Congressional leaders have admitted to covering up the predatory behavior of a congressman who used the internet to molest children."

I realize that I have very little to say that hasn't already been said, but this particular quote seems incredibly horrible to me. My two problems with it: No one has admitted to covering anything up in regards to the Foley scandal, and Foley, as far as the public knows, never molested anyone. I'm not going to go on a tirade like Dean Barnett or others from the fairly far right about how this shows us something about the nature of Democrats or the left. I am not so partisan to believe that politicians on the right wouldn't do the same type of thing, in the right situation. This doesn't show us anything about the left in particular, in my opinion, but it does show us something about politicians. Its not something new, its just a reinforcement of what we already know. Apparently they will say whatever they believe most benefits them, even when it doesn't involve the facts quite correctly. Furthermore, this tells us something about the American public. Again, its not something new. This shows us once again that the American public, in general, is apathetic. It could not be advantageous for a politician to run an ad like this if the average American paid attention at least to the daily news reports. One doesn't need to dig past the headlines to read the Foley story, and even a cursory read over any coverage will show that at this point in time all we know Foley did is have completely inappropriate conversations over IM and email with teenagers. No molestation. And it doesn't take a whole lot of interest to find that no one is claiming to have covered up anything for him. So, maybe its the Senator's opinion that people covered up for Foley, but claiming that they have admitted so is paramount to slander. Perhaps she has her own definition of molestation that diverges from the normally accepted one, but levelling a molestation charge without any clarification is again disingenuous at best, slander at worst. This is an example of politician opportunism at its worst, and it saddens me and hurts my trust in politicians in general.

On a connected note, it further damages his credibility, with me at least, that Markos Moulitsas links this ad without any mention of its inaccurate accusations. It makes me sad when people, politicians or otherwise, put their party above common decency. It doesn't matter to me if Kos believes that Republicans did cover up for Foley, he still should at least make mention of the fact that the ad goes too far in asserting that they have admitted such. Propogating political campaign lies makes the problem even worse, because now people who read Kos's blog and are somewhat interested, although not interested enough to read the news themselves, will assume that everything in the ad is true because Kos linked it without any cautionary note. It is a politician's responsibility not to lie in their campaign ads or any other time, it ought to be the responsibility of each of us not to propogate such lies when we come across them.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Moment of Truth?

What will we, the US, do if it turns out to be true that Pakistan masterminded the Mumbai bombing in India? That would make Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, which, under our current standing doctrine, would make them our enemies. However, there is some truth, although probably not as much as he would like us to believe, in Pakistan's President's words in regards to our "war on terror": "'You'll be brought down to your knees if Pakistan doesn't co-operate with you... Pakistan is the main ally. If we were not to be with you, you won't manage anything. Let that be clear. And if ISI is not with you, you will fail.'" So, what will we do? Will we, once again, allow our political and military needs to trump our stated standards like we did during the cold war when we supported and/or installed "benevolent" dictators? Will we give a free pass to anyone who gives us enough help in whatever we're most interested in at a given time? I don't expect that we will come down hard on Pakistan, and I am sure there won't be an regime toppling by the US there. But what should we do? Is there anything we can do that won't make us hypocrites without severing ties with a seemingly much needed ally in our current conflicts?