Doc Rampage
Saturday, April 09, 2005
  creative health care advice
Get an interesting take on placebos at Monday Evening. And there's this line:
... if the pain is extreme, then I kick it up a notch and pursue a strategy of benign neglect and denial. Sometimes I eat a cookie.
My thought: could you just use cookies as the placebo?
 
  common courtesy and the royal wedding
Believe me, you are no more surprised to see me blogging about this tedious bit of the unhealthy English obsession with royalty than I am. But I just have to say something about the scandalous and cruel comments I've heard about the couple. Look folks, calling a woman ugly is just plain unkind. It doesn't matter whether it's true or not. And calling a woman ugly on TV or radio or in a public forum is more than unkind, it's cruel.

Women, far more than men, have their self-esteem bound up in their physical appearance (speaking statistically, of course. Not that men are any better or less shallow, they just have different things that they care about). This fact is used far too often by the press to hurt women that they don't like, or (as in this case) to hurt the men who care about the women.

The same sort of cruelty was used to punish Linda Tripp (who told people about Clinton's affair), Paula Jones (who sued Clinton for sexual harassment) and Katherine Harris (who certified the 2000 Florida elections). Ann Coulter documented these unkind attacks and their effects in her book Slander. There is a clear message here: if you hurt the Democrats, the Democrats will do their best to hurt you.

Republicans are not innocent in this regard. Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and especially Janet Reno have all been attacked that way. It's not unlikely that I've done so myself on this blog (I'd do a search, but google indexes so few of my archive pages that it's usually useless). In my defense, I don't expect any of them to ever read the blog, but even so, I should have shown more discretion.

Of course, it's a bit different when the target is professional politician. Women who strive for political power are expected to be able to take a bit of rough mockery, just like the men. But Linda Tripp was just a woman who got involved with the president's doxy. And the poor Camilla Parker Bowles is just a woman who wants to get married. Unfortunately she wants to get married to a man that the tabloid press hates because he isn't charismatic enough for a prince. Of course they also hate him because he had an unpleasant marriage to a woman who was charismatic enough to be a princess.

It's not just the tabloid press. Yesterday on the talk radio station, I heard one of the local "conservative" commentators mocking the wedding because they allegedly had a hard time getting enough people to attend (yeah, right. There are millions of people in England who would pay thousands of dollars to attend a royal wedding). Then the moron goes off on a tirade about why a prince couldn't find someone good-looking to marry instead of that ugly woman.

Well, maybe, just maybe, he loves her. Don't you think ugly people deserved to be loved? And doesn't a bride have a right to expect at least a minimum of common courtesy on the occasion of her wedding?

NOTE: I was prompted to write this by a post over at Mostly Cajun --another guy you wouldn't expect to see writing about the royal wedding.
 
  federal plea bargains
Before I posted my conspiracy theory about Sandy Berger, I emailed Russ Petti of Roscoe's Blog to ask a few questions about plea bargains (good thing I did, I was seriously confused about a couple of things). His answer was interesting and so well-written (like his posts always are) that I thought it was a waste for just one person to read it. So here it is:
First, under federal criminal law, the judge doesn't confirm a plea bargain. The plea bargain is strictly between the prosecutor and the defendant. The judge is free to ignore it, if he or she chooses (although generally the judge goes along).

The hearing where a defendant changes his plea from "not guilty" to "guilty is called a "change of plea". During the hearing, the judge confirms the nature of the plea bargain, although he makes sure the defendant knows that the judge retains the right to sentence the defendant to anything he determines is appropriate, up to the statutory maximum. (In other words, Sandy Berger could still go to jail, even though the plea bargain doesn't require it).

One of the key things that occurs during a plea hearing is the "factual basis". The judge is required to ascertain, from the defendant, whether he is really guilty of the crime. This can take a variety of forms. Sometimes the judge will ask the prosecutor to state what he believed happened, and then the judge will ask the defendant whether this is all correct. Sometimes the judge will question the defendant directly, ask him what he did, and ask him follow up questions (like why he did it, that sort of thing). (This is a federal court rule, in some state courts a defendant could plead guilty while still maintaining that he is factually innocent).

The allocution doesn't happen at the change of plea, but rather at the sentencing, which generally takes place 90 days or so after the guilty plea (although in the case of minor crimes might occur right away, if the defendant and the prosecutor waive a pre-sentence report). The allocution is a right the defendant has to address the court. However there is no requirement for the defendant to take advantage of this right, so some defendants address the court at sentencing, and some don't.

I can't imagine anyone getting prosecuted for lying during the allocution. Most of the time the defendant just says how sorry he is, nobody takes it very seriously. However, when making the factual basis the defendant is placed under oath, so he could be tried for perjury if he makes material misstatements. However I have never heard of that happening.

Finally, a prosecutor might have reasons for keeping the factual basis to a minimum, for example where the defendant was part of a larger conspiracy that is still being investigated, or where the defendant is cooperating with the prosecutor to help catch other bad guys.
 
  how did the blogosphere miss that?
Noel Hillman, the prosecutor that let Sandy Bergman off with a mild sentence, is chief of the Department of Justice Public Integrity Section. That's the group that goes after public corruption including, apparently, campaign finance.

In researching him, I ran across this old article where Hillman and other federal prosecutors openly declare that they intend to prosecute selectively with respect to campaign finance laws. Doesn't it make you feel good to know that federal prosecutors are going to pick and choose which people get prosecuted for exercising their constitutional right of free speech? You don't think this prosecutorial discretion might just favor the prosecutor's party a little bit, do you? Or that it might favor incumbents over challengers? Or that it might favor other powerful established interests over less powerful challengers to the status quo?

In fact, over time all of those things are bound to happen. Whenever you set the government up to pick winners and losers, you take just a little more freedom away. I wish our freedom-loving president understood that.
 
  who paid for Sandy Berger?
Did someone get something for Sandy Berger's plea bargain? I wonder. But before I tell my conspiracy theory, let me review the situation.

Sandy Berger stole secret documents --the highest level of secrecy that the US has-- and destroyed three of them. Berger claims that he only destroyed copies and that the originals are still available, but he hasn't given us any explanation for why he destroyed them. The prosecutor, Noel Hillman, claims to believe Berger's entire story, and is letting him off with a minimal punishment.

Hillman claims to believe that there was no unique information destroyed, but he isn't very convincing. He says the documents were "printed from a hard drive" but he doesn't say when. If they were printed six years ago, then it is plausible that there were unique hand-written notes on the copies that were destroyed. Hillman says he personally read the documents and that he can testify that there were no hand-written notes. But how could he read documents that have been destroyed? Furthermore, people who work at the archives say there where hand-written notes on some of them.

In addition, no one required Sandy Berger to explain himself. He wasn't required to say under oath why he destroyed the documents, and apparently also wasn't required to say that the documents were all exact copies with no hand-written notes. Isn't that odd? After all, wouldn't the judge and prosecutor need to know those things to decide whether the plea bargain was right?

Noel Hillman is not only the prosecutor, he is also the chief of the Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section. He has made speeches about the dangers of political corruption and the importance of tough penalties to weed it out. Yet here he is, giving a slap on the wrist to one very bad-smelling bit of political activity. Even if Sandy Berger's entire story is true, this sentence makes it look like high-level officials can get away with murder. Is that good Public Integrity enforcement?

Some people have speculated that Sandy Berger is going to cooperate with investigators. I doubt it.

We will probably never know exactly how this plea came about, but it occurs to me that this plea is payment for services already rendered. If Berger really is guilty of something, then what he is most likely guilty of is covering for the Clintons. So by letting Berger off the hook, the prosecutor is also letting the Clintons off the hook for possible conspiracy charges. Once he's no longer facing prison time, how could anyone get him to testify against them?

While Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Al Gore, and the other high-profile Democrats have been attacking the Bush administration like mad dogs, the two most high-profile Democrats, Bill and Hillary Clinton, have been strangely silent. In fact, both of the Clintons have made pro-war noises now and again, lending the Bush administration some much-needed support. Pundits have chalked this up to smart politics. Supposedly Hillary was moving to the center for a presidential bid (and Clinton always did hover around the center). That seemed like a good explanation at the time, but now I wonder.

And don't forget Bill Clinton's heart surgery, which came at the worst possible time for John Kerry. The surgery made it impossible for Clinton --by far the most popular Democrat-- to campaign for Kerry during the last months before the election. And Hillary --easily the second most popular Democrat-- was the next thing to invisible during most of the presidential campaign season.

Did the Bush administration have something hanging over the heads of the Clintons?

Oh, did I mention that Noel Hillman was not only handling the Berger case, he is also handling the federal investigation into Hillary's fund-raising? Isn't that interesting?
 
Friday, April 08, 2005
  the impossibility argument
Over at Right Wing News there is an argument going on over whether it is "possible" to prevent illegal immigration over the Mexican border. One commenter is using some strange assumptions to claim that it would take 150,000 troops to guard the border. And that, he claims is only effective if we are willing to shoot the invaders on sight.

Arguments of this type are annoyingly common. Someone doesn't want you to do something so they claim your goal is impossible or your plan can't work. You can't stop illegal immigration. You can't stop terrorists with ethnic profiling. You can't democratize a country with war. You can't stop missiles with a missile defense system. You can't stop teenage promiscuity. You can't stop AIDS by changing behavior. You can't stop inner-city crime with punishment.

Such arguments rely for their shallow plausibility on the fact that nothing is perfect. Of course, no border patrol is going to stop 100% of all illegal immigration. But no one demands 100% perfect solutions at any other time, only when they don't really want a solution at all.

I used to complain when my mother told me to clean my room, "But, Mom, it's only going to get messy again. What's the point?" I was dishonestly arguing that since one cleaning is not a perfect and ultimate solution to the messy-room problem, that it was not solution at all. Mom wasn't fooled, and you shouldn't be either.

immigration
No, we can't put a 100% stop to illegal immigration. But we could put a 95% stop to it with some simple and inexpensive measures. We could have the military patrol the borders. This would have a cost, but the cost would be offset by a more experienced military that would need less training. Some people like to pretend that this idea is so crazy that it's not even worth discussing. Yeah. Have the military protect the nation's borders. What a wild concept. What these people really hate about the idea is that the US military does things right, and would quickly shut down the large majority of illegal immigration.

The next measure isn't just inexpensive, it could save us money: get serious about immigration enforcement. The large majority of illegals are only here illegally because they know the government doesn't take it seriously. It's the same reason a lot of people exceed the posted limit. If I thought every cop that sees me doing three miles over the speed limit was going to pull me over, I'd be driving a lot slower. Illegals are no different. They know that cops aren't going to arrest them and judges aren't going to deport them. What reason do they have to obey the laws?

Give them a reason to obey the law and they will. In fact, I think you would have to be careful about this one. If we passed a law tomorrow that provided serious penalties for illegals (say a $5000 fine and immediate deportation), and if we convinced the illegals that we are going to find them and prosecute them seriously, and if they knew that once caught, they would not get out of jail except to be put on the plane home, then illegals would begin deporting themselves at such a quick rate that it would probably cause a serious economic problem. We wouldn't have time to fill all the jobs they would be leaving behind.

terrorism
Some opponents of ethnic profiling argue that the terrorists would just start using people that don't fit the profile. Of course they would. The question is, how large is the pool of potential terrorists who fit the profile vs. the pool of those who don't? How many resources would they have to put into recruiting people who don't fit the profile? How many potential terrorists would be rendered essentially useless to them?

No, we can't stop them entirely, but we can make it much more difficult and more expensive and by that we can greatly reduce the number of terrorist incidents. That is the whole point of any security measure. There is no such thing as absolute security; all you can do is make the attacker's job harder.

democratization
Can you democratize a country with war? Obviously, yes. Germany, Japan, South Korea and Nicaragua are all obvious examples that prove it is possible. And many other democracies became democracies through civil war: America, France and England come to mind.

Of course anyone who is opposed to a war in the first place can come up with dozens of reasons why it will fail this time. But before you take such objections seriously, you have to ask them what their general theory is, and what evidence they have for it. Iraq can't be democratized because of the ethnic and religious demographics? What measure are you using and what examples do you have of past attempts that failed when the measurements were similar?

In the case of Iraq, the anti-war types made no serious attempts at a general theory that could be evaluated and tested. They wouldn't commit themselves to fixed opinions that could be used against them in a different situation. All they would say was that because of this vague reason and this vague reason, democracy can't work this time.

They could have been right. There were (and are) no guarantees. But it's looking more and more like they were wrong, and their obstructionism is looking pretty bad right now.

missile defense
I was in the computer science Ph.D. program at the University of Arizona when Ronald Reagan first proposed the SDI, a continental missile defense program. Other computer scientists were passing around a petition that they wanted everyone to sign. The petition made some remarkable claims about what the program would require in terms of software. It argued that the program would require some ten times (as I recall) the number of lines that were in the BSD operating system at the time. It ended with a dramatic quote something like this:
The BSD operating system is ten years old and has been subject to thousands of hours of testing and debugging, yet it still contains many serious problems. By contrast, the SDI software can never be tested and the first time it is used it has to work perfectly, with no bugs at all.
Of course the number of lines of code was a complete fiction. No one had any idea even what the technology would be (laser, anti-missile missiles, orbital smart rocks) or what problems would be encountered. Any attempt to put a number of lines of code to a completely undefined problem is laughable.

Furthermore, it isn't true that the code could never be tested. With partial-activation testing and simulation testing, you can get any degree of confidence you want (short of 100%). And demanding 100% perfect performance was neither necessary nor reasonable.

The entire petition was a joke, and I was embarrassed at the number of my colleagues who signed it.

promiscuity
Both history and recent statistical studies have proven that you can effect teenage and adult promiscuity with social changes. Perfection, no, of course not. But improvement in the rates of unwanted pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases, and other problems associated with promiscuity? Absolutely. And in many cases, the results are better than the condom approach.

crime and punishment
Practically everyone has been forced to admit by now that rigorous law enforcement can reduce crime. It's shocking that we ever had to argue about it, but we did. They kept telling us that inner-city crime is caused by poverty and that we could never completely eliminate crime as long as there was poverty. We kept telling them that inner-city crime is caused by inner-city criminals and that we would never completely eliminate crime until we completely eliminated criminals. Poverty-elimination strategy has failed over and over. The criminal-elimination strategy has succeeded over and over. Yes there hare no 100% successes, but no reasonable person ever expected that.

room cleaning
Yes, the room will get dirty again, but until then it will be clean. And when it gets dirty, you will clean it again. So get in there and clean it before I take a switch to you.

So when a Democrat or bratty teenager tells you that some Republican or adult goal is impossible or that some Republican/adult plan can't possibly work, ask them what their criteria are. Almost without fail you will find out that their idea of success is some absolute ideal that no one thinks can be reached anyway. The purpose of a solution is to make things better, not to make things perfect.
 
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
  border vigilantes
La Shawn has a great post about the Minuteman project.
 
  cool science stuff
From milblog: a permafrost tunnel.
 
  storyblogging
Sheya is hosting the next Storyblogging Carnival. Get your entries in!
 
  barf scenes
By the way, I just wanted to assure my readers that, much as I enjoy South Park, I have no intention of emulating them. "A Meating of Mines" will have no drawn out fight scene taking place over a floor slippery with vomit where characters fall down and get up drenched, to pull disgusting bits of half-digested food out of their ears.

I intend to handle the side-effects of Rolf's fumigation spell with my usual tact and grace, effortlessly passing by the temptation to score cheap gross-out points with characters covered in regurgitated food or having one character spew into the face of another. There will be no undignified efforts to intensify the emotional background of the screenplay by the use of ghastly devices such as characters trading sword blows knee deep in a pool of blood and vomit, where one loses his footing and is completely immersed in the repulsive fluid.

I'm not the sort of writer who even thinks of such things, so you may happily anticipate the next scene, secure in the knowledge that the gracious Doc Rampage wouldn't subject you to ten-foot streams of barf or barf-a-ramas.
 
  get that woman a Valium
A startling tale of discipline, revenge,and hair-pulling from The Gunner.
 
  A Meating of Mines, scene 11
This is a continuation of the screenplay Heroes for Hire Episode 2 -- A Meating of Mines.
Scene 11

The scene is the inside of the Lucky Unicorn. Jerrod and his thirty henchmen are eating, drinking, smoking cigars, and celebrating.

HENCHMAN1: I loved it when ol' John came running out of the house with his hair on fire screaming, "Don't shoot, I give up!" (laughter)

HENCHMAN2: A second later he looked like a pincushion! (more laughter)

Henchman3 wobbles his way to the door and outside.

JERROD: (from inside) I was going to tell you guys not to shoot my buddy John, but you were too quick for me! (laughter)

Henchman3 stumbles his way down the board walk until he comes to a board that seems to crack a bit under his weight. He pulls back and then stomps at it a bit to see if it will break. It does. Then the board he is standing on gives way and he falls through, a short drop that leaves him with the boardwalk nearly at his waist.

HENCHMAN3: Ouch! Damn shoddy workmanship. I'm going to ... (he pulls up a bit) Hey what ...

Henchman3 is jerked beneath the walkway with a yelp. His second yelp is cut off abruptly as Rolf pokes his head up through the hole. We hear a disturbing crack. All the bruising is gone from Rolf's face and he is clothed again in his usual clothing.

ROLF: This is close enough.

Rolf pulls a thick cigar and a small silver box from his vest and lays them on the boardwalk. Zantar's head pops up next to Rolf as Rolf takes a bit of clay like substance from the silver box and rolls it in his fingers for a moment. Zantar squints up at the sun.

ZANTAR: High noon. The sheriff said he'd be ready out back by now.

Rolf snaps his fingers and the ball is gone but his thumb is on fire. He calmly uses the flame to light the cigar and then blows it out. He takes a few puffs on the cigar while he puts the silver box back in his vest. The saloon door is about six feet away and has a gap of two feet between the bottom of the swinging doors and the floor. Rolf takes a deep draw from the cigar and blows the smoke toward the door. It travels all the way to the door and underneath without slowing down.

ZANTAR: That tar we ate better work.

ROLF: Even without the tar, the effect on sober people is not overwhelming.

Rolf takes another deep draw and blows again. This time the smoke not only travels all the way to the door but seems to expand to about twice it's original volume and thickens a bit.

ZANTAR: Why are you using a barf spell anyway? How about a massive death spell?

Rolf (panting slightly): This is not a barf spell. I assure you that I am not the sort of wizard who knows barf spells. This is a fumigation spell to kill ants, termites, roaches, and the various other sorts of pests that might bedevil a place of food and drink. The induced nausea is a mere side-effect.

Rolf blows a third stream of smoke under the door. This one expands and thickens even more. The tenor of sound in the bar changes a bit. Is there some gagging and retching to be heard among the chatter?

ZANTAR: So why not use one of your death spells. You have death spells, don't you?

ROLF: (panting) Of course! Any competent dabbler in the arcane has a few lethal effects in his inventory, and I am somewhat more than a dabbler, I assure you.

ZANTAR: So why not use it?

ROLF: (panting) The ingredients are expensive. I do not wish to waste them.

ZANTAR: But you have the ingredients?

ROLF: Of course.

Rolf draws and blows another cone of smoke into the bar, even larger and thicker than the last. There are shouts of disgust.

HENCHMAN4: Damn, Frank! Go barf all over someone else, you tender-bellied little ... (sounds of retching, disgust, and anger)

ZANTAR: They've got hours of hooch to barf up. It's not going to be fun fighting in that.

Rolf is resting and panting.

ZANTAR: So, you have the ingredients, right?

ROLF: (panting) As I said.

Rolf blows another cone of smoke, yet larger and thicker.

ZANTAR: So, if I had a chance to grab a bunch of gold, say, and I knew the only way to get away was with one of your massive death spells, then I should just go ahead and grab it and rely on you?

ROLF: (panting) You certainly should consult with me first.

ZANTAR: Yeah, but what if there was no time? I could just assume you would be ready to go?

ROLF: Such a course might not be wise. It would take me some time to prepare the spell.

ZANTAR: How long?

ROLF: A few weeks perhaps. I would have to gather various ingredients.

Rolf blows another cone.

ZANTAR: I thought you said you have the ingredients.

ROLF: (panting) Well, if you insist on defining "have" as meaning "in my possession". What I meant was that such ingredients are lying around within reach on various plants and animals, in magic shops, and etcetera. They aren't actually on my person at the moment.

Rolf blows another cone of smoke, this one is huge, over two feet in diameter as it reaches the door and nearly black.

HENCHMAN5: Hey, where is that smoke coming from?

Henchman5 steps out the door waving smoke away from his face. He looks down to see the hole in the sidewalk. It is empty except for the slight stream of smoke rising from Rolf's magic cigar. Henchman5 saunters over to look in. Nothing. He gets down on his hands and knees and pokes his head down. A dwarven hand grabs him by the throat and jerks him down into the hole. Rolf pops up and sends another smoke cone toward the door as we hear another disturbing crack down in the hole.

ZANTAR: Well, maybe we should gather the ingredients so you're ready.

ROLF: (panting) I find your suggestion impractical. You have no idea what obstacles we would face.

Rolf blows another thick cone of smoke toward the door.

ZANTAR: Like the obstacle that you don't know any death spells?

ROLF: (panting) Well if you insist on defining "know" as meaning that I actually have the knowledge myself, then no. I would need access to the spellbook of a wizard who had such a spell. With that and the components I could cast a spell powerful enough to level a town. (gesturing to the cigar) This is the last.

Rolf blows one more stream as Zantar hops out of the hole. Rolf puts out the cigar on a plank. He is panting heavily. The sounds inside the bar are getting pretty disgusting.

ROLF: (panting heavily) Let me catch my breath.

A man comes bursting out the doors, bent over double in pain. Zantar smashes him absently with the flat of his axe, knocking the man away from the door and leaving him crumbled on the boardwalk.

After a moment, Rolf gets his breath back and goes to stand next to Zantar. He draws his sword. They are both facing the door.

ROLF: OK, Zan. Let's go do some good.

ZANTAR: (looking at Rolf in surprise) You think they have something worth stealing in there?

ROLF: No, I meant we were going to avenge ourselves horribly on them.

ZANTAR: Oh! Right, partner.

The two heroes step forward and slam the doors open to the sound of a room full of men retching and gagging.

UPDATE: continued.
 
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
  elite media privileges
Via Michelle Malkin, Personal Democracy Forum writes about San Francisco's proposed new restrictions on blogging:
Blogs that mention candidates for local office that receive more than 500 hits will be forced to pay a registration fee and will be subject to website traffic audits, according to Chad Jacobs, a San Francisco City Attorney.

The entire Board is set to vote on the measure on April 5th, 2005.
Another blog, Riding Sun, disagrees with PDF's interpretation, arguing that registration is not required. All that the law really requires is that a blogger who (1) reaches more than 500 unique readers within a 90 day period and (2) spends more than $1000 dollars on electioneering communications, and (3) receives money for electioneering, must report the money received.

Frankly, I don't find those terms all that onerous. But I think both PDF and Riding Sun passed too lightly over the real story here, and that is the media exemption. Most likely the purpose of the media exemption is to avoid costly litigation with the SF Chronicle and the networks. But the effect of the exemption is that it helps to legitimize the idea that freedom of the press only applies to the traditional mainstream media.

I don't know how much of an effect a San Francisco city ordinance has on state and national law and precedent (I'd guess not much), but this is a clear example of a law-making body assuming that freedom of the press is a special privilege of the media elite. That is the real danger of this ordinance and the real reason to oppose it.
 
Sunday, April 03, 2005
  well, that's disappointing
Bill Quick is continuing to make anti-Christianity a part of his new organization All.us. Several of us tried to talk him out of that, but I think this post serves notice that he is not to be swayed. He still considers us the bad guys.

I'm very disappointed. I liked a lot of his plans and if he would have given up his crusade against religion, then I would have probably been one of the founding members of All.us. As it is, of course, I'm not going to support someone who despises me, my family, and a lot of the people I care about.

Religious conservatives have a lot in common with libertarians. Both groups want to maximize liberty. There are differences in what we consider liberty, of course. Most libertarians seem to feel that it maximizes liberty when the government lets a man kill his severely disabled wife or a woman her unborn children. Religious conservatives tend to be concerned about the liberty of those being killed.

I don't see why libertarians should consider this such an outrageous position. After all, they wouldn't argue that the government should let a man beat his wife or a woman murder her two-year-old child. One of the primary purposes of the government is to protect the weak from the strong. The issue then, is whether a severely disabled person or an unborn child deserve this protection. I say yes. Bill Quick, apparently, says no. And because we disagree on this, he sees fit to insult me and call me names (not personally, but as a member of a group).

And then there is gay marriage. Yes, there is a liberty argument for allowing gays to marry. But there is also a liberty argument for not forcing me to condone that marriage. And Bill knows very well what the ACLU will do once gay marriage is allowed. Companies will be forced to give insurance benefits, pastors will be forced to perform ceremonies for gay couples if they perform ceremonies for normal ones, religious organizations will be forced to recognize the couples, religious retreats will be forced to allow them to cohabit.

In other words, it will lead to enormous violations of freedom of religion. Churches will pay huge fines and some courageous people will very likely go to prison for defying the courts over it. That's what the libertarians are happy to bring down on us. They don't seem to mind governmental coercion so much when it's against religious conservatives. Right now, gays can have just about everything they want that _doesn't_ interfere with the liberty of others. The only thing marriage would get them is the right to force others to go along with them.

So there we have it. Three issues where religious conservatives differ from conservative libertarians over what, exactly, constitutes liberty. Three issues that Bill Quick just can't let go. Forget government spending, national defense, illegal immigration, socialist government programs, creeping federal power and the creeping power of an unchecked judiciary. Forget the enormous popular support he could get on these issues from the religious right. He just hates us too much to drop it.

I still wish him success in the areas we have in common, but I won't be joining him.
 
  realignment
Just finished a ... well, I guess you could call it a "discussion" in the comment section of another blog. You know, intellectually I realize that there are people out there who really aren't interested in basic decency, but it's still a shock to run into one.

It's also a bit disconcerting how many of them seem to be gravitating toward the political left. Just a few short years ago, guys like Joe90 would have been considered nut jobs by almost everyone. Now, he's pretty much a mainstream Democrat.

In hindsight, I guess it isn't that remarkable. The Democrats have welcomed the KKK, violent union activists, violent "peace" activists, anarchists, communists, and other violent, oppressive groups. They have always --in large part-- been the party of special interests, a coalition of self-interested groups, each with an agenda opposed to the good of the country as a whole. It is only natural that one class of such special-interest groups would be the violent ones.

The coalition is falling apart now as many of these special interests decide that they can no longer tolerate the extremism of the other special interests. I hope that a new alignment will emerge soon, one that will again effectively ostracize the violent and sociopathic elements.

UPDATE: In a comment, Singkong asks when the Democrats ever welcomed the KKK. Until recently white southerners were 90% Democrat. That didn't start to change until the 1980s. From the end of the Civil War to the 1960's, the KKK was largely a terrorist group associated with the southern Democrat party (although it appeared in the north as well). I don't know that national Democrats ever embraced the KKK, but they didn't repudiate it until Kennedy (or maybe Johnson. Although Kennedy was pro-civil-rights, I don't recall that he ever specifically attacked the KKK).

There is still one national politician who used to be in the KKK: Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat. As late as the 1970's Byrd still privately supported the KKK. Robert Byrd, racist terrorist, is a major spokesman for the Democrat Party today.
 
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