Saturday, April 30, 2005

metapost -- self-aggrandizement edition

So, I was tooling around the internets, and I find that I've been cited by the Dodge Globe (free registration required).

Also, I see an article of mine was published in its entirety on's Washington Week: Student voices, back in November. Cough, royalty check, cough?

Lastly, I see I got second place in the Men's Light Heavy Weight category in the NAGA World Championship.


Wall of Hate: In memoriam. It's times like these I wish I had a TV.

Friday, April 29, 2005


So funny it hurts. Read the description, too.

update: If you don't get it, you probably weren't in the public school system during the '90's.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Friday, April 22, 2005

metapost -- the "because I have better things to do" edition

No more posting for awhile, because finals week is approaching. Not that I'm going to be studying, its just that I have more productive ways of not studying. Right now I'm reading The Seduction of Unreason by Richard Wolin, a fascinating look at the link between fascism and modern relativist thought, such as postmodernism and deconstructionism.

Next on the list is Color Consciousness by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann. Kwame Anthony Appiah is a Ghanaian philosopher at Harvard who, despite his liberal politics, has some iconoclastic things to say about race. I haven't read the book yet, but I take it that he thinks race an untenable concept inherently fraught with divisions. This doesn't stop him from prescribing affirmative action and such, but his reasoning is what I'm interested in.

So, posting will be light. Get some sun. I mean, geez, I can almost see your internal organs through your skin. How 'bout a little tan, 'mkay?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Why I sacrifice small animals to Scott Adams

(click to enlarge)

I knew he was hilarious, and an incisive social commentator, but I never knew Mr. Adams was a philosopher.

And he's right. Aren't we all wearing a stranger's underpants, in a way? I mean, I know I am, but that's because I never got around to asking the bum what his name was. Because he was dead.

On the plus side, though, these skivvies are virtually stain free. Assuming that they are supposed to have a yellow to yellow-brown gradient, that is. They're also scratch and sniff, which is great, because I'm a huge fan of both scratching and sniffing. I'm a hedon that way.

Posted by Hello


Just got around to reading Friday's fourum. 'Tis uncharacteristically good; better than its been in quite the while. Check it out.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

REVEALED: Who will be the next pope!

I was eating with two of my brothers and my mom today at "Famous Dave's" barbeque, and we briefly got on the topic of where the next pope would be from. I mentioned Ratzinger's name, my older brother said it would be a German pope, and then I said it might be an African pope. Then, my younger brother said it would probably be a Jewish pope.

update: Burn! Classic Comeback! Your the insult master!

update II: Uh, the above update is from ATHF. Here is the context, although it will make zero sense unless you have seen the episode, it is nonetheless hilarious:

Vid. Game Guy #1- Hey, man! You stole my wristwatch.

Vid. Game Guy #2- You done already have a wristwatch. You dumb!

Vid. Game Announcer- BUUUUUURNED!

Meatwad- Ha ha ha ha, yeah! Burned!

Vid. Game Guy #1- I saw you looking at it!

Vid. Game Guy #2- Tcht! Yo mama you did!

Vid. Game Announcer- CLASSIC COMEBACK!

Vid. Game Guy #2- Yo mama! Yo mama! Yo mama!

(Other guy spontaneously combusts.)

Vid. Game Announcer- INCINERATION!

Meatwad- All right!

Vid. Game Announcer- You're the insult master!

Frylock- So, where's Video Ouija?

Meatwad- I'm done with that game. I talked to that ghost about his sister's baby for like 3 hours. Boring.

Frylock- Well, maybe there's someone else in there.

Meatwad- Yeah, his sister's baby. All you get in there is "wah, wah, wah" cause the ghost baby cranky.

Frylock- Well, you never know. Lets give it another shot, OK?

Meatwad- Uh, I don't think you heard me. I said NO!

Frylock- ...

Meatwad- Burned! I am the insult master!

Frylock- Meatwad, Master Shake is dead.

Meatwad- That's good.

The world's hatiest wall (updated) (and again)

From the Collegian, "Symbolic destruction of discriminatory words promotes campus unity"

The Writing on the Wall was torn down in the culmination of "End Discrimination Week" on the Haymaker/Moore lawn.

The Wall, which was sponsored by the Kansas State University Association of Residence Halls and the Student Governing Association's Diversity Programming Council, was built last weekend, and people were free to paint words of hate on the wall starting Monday.

Volunteers were guarding the wall 24 hours a day because of safety reasons, Tiffany Happer, senior in architectural engineering, said.

Yeah, that, and we wouldn’t want anyone defacing the wall of hate, would we? Can you imagine if some punk-ass, shaved head, white kid had come during the night and spray painted “can’t we all just get along” on the wall of hate? There would've been blood in the streets, man.

There were two speakers that shared their experiences with hate and discrimination. Peter Wetzel, sophomore in elementary education, said to fight hate, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech.

"To fight hate, we have to know hate," he said.

And build walls, don't forget that. But, really, anyone that didn’t already know what hate is, is, to borrow a word I learned from the wall of hate, “retarded.” From the wall of hate I also learned that "robot" and "landscape architect" are terms of hate. I plan to use these in the future. To end hate, I mean. Always to end hate.

Words, as well as actions, are capable of inducing hate.

So, words absent of actions are still capable of inducing hate. By this logic, the wall of hate, scrawled as it was with numerous racial, religious and ethnic epithets must be the hatiest, inducingest thing around.

"Words are powerful. Not unused. They are still said," he said.
I have little to no idea what this means. Maybe it was a little bit of freeform poetry.

Discrimination and hate, however, don't have to happen.

"It's important for people to see that oppression doesn't have to exist, and we can do something about it," he said.

And, to that end, a wall was created and inscribed with hundreds of hateful words. Obviously.

The other speaker, Candi Hironaka, associate director of educational administration, is third-generation Japanese. She said walls do not help with eliminating hate.

Walls are built to keep something out and also to keep something in," she said. "You walk around that wall and everyone can see words directed at you."

However, the wall is a "visual projection" of hate.

"We hear words and they are gone for some. But by seeing words, it can be more hurtful," she said.

Hironaka, who teaches leadership in practice, said relationships with others can help with discrimination.

"Leadership is about relationships with others. If leaders aren't stepping up, progress won't be made," she said.

Happer, who coordinated the event the last time it was done in 2003, said the idea came from a conference she attended at the University of Utah.

The wall helps show the different forms of hatred.

"It puts a face to diversity and discrimination," she said.

It’s nice to see it acknowledged that diversity and discrimination have the same face, and that this face is actually a wall. For the symbolism, y'know?

Sarah Decke, coordinator for leadership development, said the wall can remind us of our words of hate.

"We aren't going to truly live together peacefully if we don't remind each other of how hurtful hate can be," she said.

Ooh! Ooh! I volunteer to be the societal hate reminder! Every once an' awhile, for no apparent reason, I’ll just randomly insult bystanders. For diversity, y’know. To help end hate. Always to end hate.

Although the program had the same level of success this year, it was still beneficial.

I love the construction of this sentence. “Although…” it was the same as last year, “it was still beneficial.” Implicit in this sentence, is that in previous years the success level of the wall must have been very low, and that this is also true for this year.

"It impacted a new group of people," she said.

In addition to The Wall, Haymaker also put together a display of flags in their front lawn. There were five different colors of flags to represent hate crime statistics in 2004.

So all the hate crime statistics, for a population of 293 million (assuming this a statistic for the whole USA) can be fit on half of one lawn outside of Haymaker. Never have I been more proud to be an American.

Hironaka asked the crowd to be courageous.

"Challenge to exercise your courage muscle. Speak up. Don't be silent," she said.

"Challenge to exercise your courage muscle." FDR couldn't have put it better.

update: I must say, in defense of the wall, that it is not completely ridiculous, at least as an idea. I mean, the idea is a coherent idea (unlike, say, diversity). The idea being that words, when written out, would impress upon people their significance. For example, people flippantly throw around the word "retard." But, when it is written out on the wall of hate, people might realize that this is not the best thing to do. I tend to use the word retard, and will continue doing so (at least in certain contexts, such as among friends and family), because I realize that hate requires a hateful motive. Still, the written epithets on the wall might impress upon people a certain significance that the spoken word, with its inherently temporal nature, might not.

But, in execution, the wall was a horrible flop. Having huge obscenities scribbled on a wall in plain view of a street that children might be going down is a, y'know, retarded idea. That, and the idea of impressing upon people the significance of their words by writing them down simply doesn't translate into reality, however appealing as an idea. I went and saw the wall with a couple of friends, and we ridiculed it merciless, as I would guess most people did. For some people, seeing the wall was just a way to expand their vocabulary. After we left the wall, we kept on trying to think of more and more hateful words. Not exactly a success for the wall, I would think.

A liberal friend of mine even said that the wall was stupid. That some things might seem like a good idea in the abstract does not mean that they will translate into a reality as planned. Unintended consequences are near inevitable, as it is impossible to plan for every eventuality.

At the risk of lapsing into self-parody, I will say that this is one of the central tenets of Hayek's social and political philosophy. We shouldn't undergo radical courses of action against traditional morality (i.e. building a wall scrawled with obscenities) because we will never be able to know exactly what the outcome will be. Traditional morality has undergone a process of cultural evolution, and so is the best morality for this world we live in, according to Darwinian "survival of the fittest." Therefore, to ensure the best possible consequences for our actions, traditional morality should be foll0wed as a rule of thumb, and radical courses of action only taken in drastic circumstances.

updated 2: I tend to agree with Steve Carrell from the office when it comes to invidious discrimination. In the diversity episode (which, again, you simply must see) he says, and this is a paraphrase, "Abraham Lincoln once said, if you are a racist, I will attack you with the North."

Because that's how much of a geek I am

Nintendo, a capella. (via ASV)

Feser on Capitalism, Conservatism and Catholicism

Edward Feser has an interesting post on the Conservative Philosopher, "Capitalism, Conservatism and Catholicism." In it, he quotes Cardinal Ratzinger's writings in regards to fitness to recieve Holy Communion:
"Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia." [emphasis Edward's]

Cardinal Ratzinger's writings on this can be read in whole here. Cardinal Ratzinger also writes on those politicians that support abortion and euthanasia:
Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

Ted Kennedy and John Kerry better hope that Cardinal Ratzinger doesn't become the next pope (which, according to many, is a distinct possibility--the NYT is planning a story on it tomorrow, according to Drudge). Those that fervently promote the legalization of abortion should also be wary of the repercussions:
A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.

Feser also writes on the seeming Catholic hostility to capitalism:
Regarding capitalism, it is important to remember that even Pius XI, who was perhaps more critical of existing capitalist societies than any other pope, said in Quadragesimo Anno both that the capitalist system “is not to be condemned in itself” and that “no one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true socialist.” Leo XIII, who in Rerum Novarum inaugurated modern Catholic social teaching, also excoriated socialism as intrinsically unjust, defended a natural right to private property on the basis of arguments that echo those of John Locke, condemned high levels of taxation as a violation of private property rights, rejected equality per se as incompatible with the natural order, and expressed reservations about governmental action as a means of remedying the plight of impoverished workers. And John Paul II, in Centesimus Annus, went farther than any of his predecessors in acknowledging the superiority of the free market as a means of generating wealth, the legitimacy of profits, and the dangers inherent in the welfare state.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

metapost "cheesy clip show version"

I have a tough test on Friday, and busy weekend coming, so I might be sparse on the blogging. So I combed the ol' archives for a few old posts:

1. Phyllis Bennis, Queen of the Moonbats.

2. Zomblogging!!! Zombies are always relevant. This is actually a journalistic rule.

3. My post-election Michael Moore pep-talk. They guy just seemed so down, yunno, and he was takin' the rocky road to another heart attack, so I had to help out.

4. An inner dialogue that would've better been left as such.

5. Abe Lincoln, revealed. Not literally, but kinda, in a Mary Cheney sort of way.

6. Fisking a letter to the ed.

update: fixed link to Abe Lincoln post. Because that's how much I care.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


This is awesome. Feel the rush. The only thing more fun--heck, I would even venture to say funner--than studying anthropology, is blogging about studying anthropology. Imagine riding a flaming rollercoaster as it slammed into a building full of clowns--that's how fun it is.

Anyways, this grammatical or semantic quirk is bothering me, from my anthropology book, Humankind Emerging:
The brandishing of sticks or branches enhances that effect and may have been enough, on occasion, to swing the balance to the hominids in a set-to with hyenas over the possession of a kill. [emphasis added]

What in the world is a "set-to"? Is it an ancient Chinese word for confrontation? How am I suppossed to study if I keep on being set-to by weird verbiage?



set-to: n. pl. set-·tos. 1. A brief, usually heated conflict or argument. 2. Ancient Chinese word for that thing that hangs down in the back of your throat. You know, that thing.

Life momentarily suspended

Anthro test on Friday.

update: be sure to read today's Best of the Web Today. Good stuff.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

In praise of ideology

This David Brooks column is excellent:

Much as I admire my friends on the left for ingeniously explaining their recent defeats without really considering the possibility that maybe the substance of their ideas is the problem, I have to say that this explanation for conservative success and liberal failure is at odds with reality.

Conservatives have not triumphed because they have built a disciplined and efficient message machine. Conservatives have thrived because they are split into feuding factions that squabble incessantly. As these factions have multiplied, more people have come to call themselves conservatives because they've found one faction to agree with.

I'm a living microcosm of this. Witness my tortuous deliberations on the gay-marriage issue. I've also noticed this:

Moreover, it's not only feuding that has been the key to conservative success - it's also what the feuding's about. When modern conservatism became aware of itself, conservatives were so far out of power it wasn't even worth thinking about policy prescriptions. They argued about the order of the universe, and how the social order should reflect the moral order. Different factions looked back to different philosophers - Burke, Aquinas, Hayek, Hamilton, Jefferson - to define what a just society should look like.


Liberals have not had a comparable public philosophy debate. A year ago I called the head of a prominent liberal think tank to ask him who his favorite philosopher was. If I'd asked about health care, he could have given me four hours of brilliant conversation, but on this subject he stumbled and said he'd call me back. He never did.

Liberals are less conscious of public philosophy because modern liberalism was formed in government, not away from it. In addition, liberal theorists are more influenced by post-modernism, multiculturalism, relativism, value pluralism and all the other influences that dissuade one from relying heavily on dead white guys.

As a result, liberals are good at talking about rights, but not as good at talking about a universal order.

I've noticed this as well. Modern liberalism doesn't seem to have a coherent philosophy, or even any strong philosophical currents within it. Most liberals adhere to some watered down version of relativism and deny any objective truth or highest good. Its all what the "facts" of each case say, not whether some higher principle such as "freedom" or "liberty" should trump these specific facts. Liberals call this "reality-based" decision-making, and seem to think it a good thing.

An example of this is the social security debate. If you believe that it is a fundamental good to let people control their own money, to have financial freedom, then private accounts seem like a no-brainer. But, if all you are worried about is efficiency and preserving an ailing pyramid scheme, then you begin to worry that people might invest badly, or spend the money on other things. No matter that this is their money, and a principle of freedom would justify letting them do as they wish. Freedom is useful only insofar as it can be used to justify pre-drawn social engineering schemes. It is not a fundamental principle to be applied.

This also goes hand in hand with the derision that is heaped on the word "ideology" nowadays. Frankly, I wouldn't trust someone that doesn't have an ideology. Having an ideology is a good thing. It merely means that you see certain principles as always being better than others, and as ends to be persued. A person with a Libertarian ideology sees "liberty" to be the overriding virtue. A person with a conservative ideology believes that the collective wisdom of past generations contains an inherent virtue. A person without an ideology would hold no principles as better than others. A person without ideology would prefer slavery to freedom if the price was right.

In volume one of "Law, Legislation and Liberty," Friederich Hayek wrote:
If I am not mistaken, this fashionable contempt for ‘ideology’, or for all general principles or ‘isms’, is a characteristic attitude of disillusioned socialists who, because they have been forced by the inherent contradictions of their own ideology to discard it, have concluded that all ideologies must be erroneous and that in order to be rational one must do without one. But to be guided only as they imagine it possible, by explicit particular purposes which one consciously accepts, and to reject all general values whose conduciveness to particular desirable results cannot be demonstrated (or to be guided only by what Max Weber calls ‘purposive rationality’) is an impossibility. Although, admittedly, an ideology is something which cannot be ‘proved’ (or demonstrated to be true), it may well be something whose widespread acceptance is the indispensable condition for most of the particular things we strive for.

Hayek holds that it is impossible to have a 'purposive rationality' which lets one build rational laws, because we don't have all the necessary information. This is why conservatives love him. But, if I start writing on that, this post will go on forever. Don't want to let that cat out of the bag yet. I'll put together a post on Hayek soon. I'm also thinking about writing a column about it, but I don't know if I could do his view justice in just one column, or if the average reader of the Collegian would even care at all.

The noble (ignorant, poverty-stricken) savage

Don Boudreaux on harmony with nature:

During our time in Orlando, my family and I visited Sea World. At the manatee exhibit we were shown a brief film whose opening scene showed an American Indian paddling his canoe through pristine waters while the announcer informed the audience that the Indians "lived in harmony with nature."

Of course, the film implies that we moderns don’t live in harmony in nature, and one consequence of our inharmonious existence is the manatees’ near-extinction.


Pre-Columbian peoples lived simply, to be sure, but let’s stop mistaking ignorance and poverty with harmony.


Nature devastated them. Nature battered them into early graves. Their ignorance of nature prevented them from achieving much material wealth. To dance to imaginary rain gods or to chant and pray for a child dying of bacterial infection is not to live harmoniously with nature; it is to live most inharmoniously


It is we today, with our knowledge of how to irrigate fields using science and engineering, and how to make and administer antibiotics, who live harmoniously with nature. We don't demand miracles. We don't expect nature to change its logic simply because we arrogantly wish it to do so. We accept nature's logic and work with it.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

metapost-"shameless link-whoring edition"

Added K-State Blogroll. If any other K-Stater with a blog happens across this, I'd be happy to link them if they reciprocate.

Rathergate was nothing compared wait, that sounds stupid

More on the CBS cameraman detained by US forces in Iraq with a look at a disturbing angle:

How much does CBS pay it's cameraman? Do they pay a set salary or per video provided? Or only if the video is usable by CBS?

Were any American soldiers or Iraqi citizens hurt or killed in any of the attacks videotaped by CBS' cameraman?

Does he in turn pay the terrorists - or is he simply one of them? If so, how do the surviving family members feel about CBS funding the attacks on their sons, daughters, husbands, or wives?

If this story moves in that direction, Rathergate will have been nothing. But it won't. If the story is not true, then obviously it won't move in that direction. But even if it is true, which of the major media outlets is going to report on it? Who knows how many are guilty of subsidizing terrorist attacks for news?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Amateur Photography

I took a picture of myself holding the new EiMtHooDaISRDBYIsAIILERTBFOORIDKHETWWBISIWILoA award. You may also have noticed that I'm wearing my new Nike Frees in the picture. They're the best running shoes I've ever owned.

The award looks like a tree because I am really good at drawing trees, and I have no idea how to draw a diversity. I've expended thousands of words trying to define diversity and that has provide futile--so how am I 'sposed to draw it?

Posted by Hello

The Office

If you haven't watched NBC's "The Office" yet, watch it. Run, jump, swim, steal, answer riddles from a troll--do whatever it takes. I'm not sure why you would have to swim, I'm just saying if that comes up GO FOR IT.

I watched the diversity episode, and I laughed so much my ass actually disconnected from my body. It's like Dilbert and Office Space thrown in a blender with Steve Carell on top. Short of me seeing a cowboy suit wearing monkey lashed to a miniature dachsund at open house tomorrow (fingers crossed), this is the funniest thing I've seen in quite awhile.

That diversity episode is... is...*wipes tear from eye* sublime. You simply must see it. I give it the ... uh... what's the name of my blog at this minute... uh, "Creative Destruction" award for Excellence in Mocking the Hell out of Diversity as It So Richly Deserves, Because, Y'know, It's such An Inane Idea. "Let's Ease Racial Tensions By Fixating Obsessively On Race!!!" I Don't Know How Exactly This Will Work, But I'm Sure It will Involve Lots of Acronyms!

update: The Creative Destruction Award for EiMtHooDaISRDBYIsAIILERTBFOORIDKHETWWBISIWILoA won't be given out to terrorists, like the pulitzer, or flippantly, like the academy awards, of that you can be sure.

Because this award actually means something. Here, why don't you take four of them. For doing what you do.


And the reward for best piece of terrorist propaganda disguised as news photography goes to…

...the Associated Press! Congrats, guys. Walter Duranty would be proud, were he not so dead and communist.

Sure you just reported on the usual “dog bites man, blows up schoolchildren” type of story—but you did it with such bravado. With such zest. And with numerous other adjectives that would make good soap names.

Hey, maybe if you play your cards right, you can cut a deal with al-Qaeda too! What if you could’ve had cameras on the twin towers when they where hit by airplanes? That would be worth like a million Pulitzers, plus the authentic, hollowed out skull of Ansel Adams!

update: We have an early contender for next year's pulitzer.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

How I'm more for gay empowerment than most liberals

In my column about gay marriage, I made what I thought to be a rather commonsense observation: that, if gays are semantically and spiritually capable of marrying, then nothing is preventing them. Government endorsement or privileges are not an intrinsic part of any substantive definition of marriage.

That it is not, should be intuitive. Just ask yourself these questions:

1) in a world without government, would marriages still exist?

2) if the government all of the sudden said they would no longer legally recognize marriages, would that mean an abrupt end to marriage? Would long-time husband and wife immediately split up? Or would they stay together, and operate as if still married?

5) In the future, if you walk down the aisle with with another person, what is going to be going through your mind? Is it going to be excitement over the legal benefits that you will now qualify for? Or is it going to be excitement over the commitment you are about to make to your partner, in front of whatever deity you choose?

4) Some gay people have solemnized their marriages already, without government help. Do you consider these marriages to be fake? Would you be willing to go up to these people and tell them their marriages are not real?

This last question raises a point that many missed, such as, for example, the Fourum commenter who compared me to Fred Phelps (a one-time guestblogger). What they missed was that I was making the most profound statement on gay empowerment possible: that the ultimate freedom to define oneself through marriage is reserved to a person regardless of what others might say. The freedom to commit yourself wholly to another person cannot be taken away by any temporal authority. This is the most profound statement that can be made in support of gay rights [now where's my bracelet?].

Liberals take a different track. They say that, in order for gay marriages to be real, the government must say they are. Their can be no spiritual, loving commitment without the government's imprimatur. From a libertarian viewpoint, this is a frightening swift step down the road to serfdom.

The more powerful liberal argument for gay marriage, than that marriage should be a right,(but flawed in the end) is one of equality. It says that, even though people can commit themselves wholly to one another in marriage, the legal incidents thereof are being denied gays, which is unjust because it violates a prinicple of equality. But this is a separate argument, and as soon as a person has shifted their position to here, they've admitted that marriage, as a right, is not being denied gays.

As I've said before, the liberal argument for gay marriage boils down to two points:

1) Marriage is a right, that shouldn't be denied anyone

2) Under some principle of equality, gay marriages must have the same treatment as regular marriages.

The first of these propositions is obviously flawed, as explained above. The second is also flawed.

When the argument becomes really interesting, is when Liberals start arguing about taxation and inheritance rules--which brings us around full circle back to the Libertarian view, and reaffirms the connection between strong property rights and human freedom in a way that liberals probably don't want to. I'll write more about this later.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

No or yes on marriage amendment?

I'm not voting, but, if I did what, hypothetically, would I vote? Honestly, I don't know.

I haven't fully grappled with the implications of the twin views I have. The first view, which I will call the "Neolibertarian view" for lack of a better term, is the basic argument that I made in my column last week and fleshed out a little more in the previous posts. But, as I said, I don't adhere completely to this view. I also view this from what could be called the "Hayekian cultural evolution" view, a view that I have mentioned but haven't described (I refer you back to Goldberg's take on it for a quick reference). I haven't tried to mesh these views, or see if they are even compatible or comparable.

Either way, I really don't know the implications of either view. In the past, I have not been loathe to support gay marriage if my reasoning lead me in that direction. And neither would that be the case here. It may be that the amendment should be opposed because it not only affects "gay marriage" (insofar as such a concept can exist) but also affects civil unions, which might be permissible under the Neolibertarian view (as any contract entered under freewill should be). Certain things, like delegating who your inheritance goes to, and who you want by you on your death bed making decisions for you, should be able to be decided by any person, regardless of marriage.

If I want the Milkman to make life and death decisions for me, and he agrees and we sign a contract, why should the government be involved? Perhaps this is a naive view, and I certainly don't know to what extent the government actually is involved. But suffice to say that people should be able to enter into contracts with whoever they want, for whatever they want, as long as such does not affect others in an undue way. So if the amendment makes it impossible for people to enter into freewill contracts with other people, it should be voted down according to the views I have previously explicated, I think (but by no means am I any degree of "sure").

But, on the other hand, if the amendment just prevents "gay marriage" from recieving benefits from the government, it is entirely unclear to me at the moment what the proper choice would be. Surely preventing crusading courts from imposing gay marriage on an unwilling populace by autocratic means is a laudable goal. But the very unchangeability of an amendment, once passed, could make it harder for a Hayekian cultural evolution to take place as the opinions of the population change.

So, in conclusion, a qualified "whatever."

Monday, April 04, 2005

Gay marriage and equality

As I mentioned in the previous post, I think the stronger argument for gay marriage is not that it is not allowed right now, but that it is not given equal legal treatment as traditional marriage.

To answer this equality rationale, I looked first at the reason why traditional marriage is privilged legally in the first place, and found a legitimate government interest in propagating society (note, by "propagating society" I mean more than the physical reproduction--I also mean the transmission of norms, traditions, mores, manners, beliefs, ideals, etc to the next generation--basically the creation of future, model citizens, at which I think the traditional family structure is unparalleled). This compelling government interest is not found in gay marriage, therefore it should not be equally legally privileged.

This is not to demean the marriage of gays (insofar as such a proposition is spiritually or semantically possible). This is why I said it was a "subsidy" of marriage, to legally privilege it as such. For example, if the government decides to subsidize wheat production, because they say we need more of it, but not corn production, does this demean corn production, or say that it is morally "wrong" or legally impermissible? No; it merely means that government has an interest in the former, but not in the latter.

In this way, I don't think equality is violated in the gay marriage issue.

At a more basic level, since I believe gay marriage to be an absurdity, it is no violation of equality to not treat gay marriage as regular marriage. As I've stated previously, equality does not mandate the like treatment of unlikes, so if gay marriage is not like real marriage (which must be admitted by everybody at some level) then it is not entitled to exactly the same treatment. What treatment it is entitled to is up for debate.

I tried not ramble, really I tried...

A letter to the editor in the Collegian:


The letters written by AJ Bradley and Ian Otte in Friday's Collegian tackled the issues of love, acceptance, judgment and even forgiveness: all in regard to Christian beliefs.

As a Christian myself, many of the points made in those letters put me in a very introspective mood; I realized that I have not been practicing love and acceptance the way I preach it.

It is not my place to judge others, nor should I allow myself to think I may be better than someone else.

Many of the points made were well-intentioned, but misguided nonetheless.

In the end, it is up to God to judge us for our sins, but if I see a friend steal and tell him that stealing is wrong, am I judging him? On the contrary, I am simply holding him accountable.

It is true that God promises to forgive our sins if we ask for it. But that does not mean that God doesn't mind if we live in sin for 70 years and then ask for token forgiveness on our deathbed.

It is not the people I am not accepting, only the lifestyle. I have sinned as much as anyone else, and I am no better than anyone who practices homosexuality; but I have asked for forgiveness of my sins, and I do not continue to live a lifestyle I believe is wrong.

That is why I will vote not to allow homosexual marriage, and I will do it only with genuine love and concern for my neighbors' souls.

Chris Morrill

Freshman in mechanical engineering

An excellent letter, and I bet the last sentence made the Liberals out there absolutely cringe. The analogy of holding the thief accountable for his actions is an excellent one: not judging others, does not mean they have a blank check to act in moral repugnant manners, free from the disapproval of others, as many libertines often think. I also thought this line was very powerful:
I have sinned as much as anyone else, and I am no better than anyone who practices homosexuality...

This should take the wind out of the sales of those who accuse all religious opposition to same-sex marriage of having the same fire and brimstone insanity of Fred Phelps. It is compassion for gay people that causes religious people to oppose gay marriage, not homophobia or the thought that they are spawns of Satan.

The religious position is, I think, an extreme libertarian one. It seems un-Christian to use the power of the state to coerce people into not doing immoral things. Would it be moral for you to steal from a rich man to give to a poor man? Would it be moral for you to lock up people that engage in Sodomy? In the same way, would it be moral for the government to do either of these? Does the ends justify the means? Not under any doctrine of Christianity, I think.

As for gay marriage, as I said in my column and in a previous post, if it isn't legal and possible now, it never will be (and, as I stated earlier, I think the concept of gay marriage is contradictory and absurd at a fundamental level).

But one thing needs clarification. When I say that "gay marriage is legal" it seems to cause quite a lot of confusion. What I am saying is that people are, and always will be, allowed to get married regardless of whether they are entitled to the legal incidents of marriage as defined by the state. In a world without government, marriage would still be possible, ergo government is not an essential part of marriage.

Even the most ardent supporter of gay marriage can and should accept this basic point. It wouldn't really affect their support for gay marriage, either. There strongest point is not that gays are being denied marriage (that is merely the decieving rhetoric that is used) but rather that some principle of equality is being violated by privileging traditional marriage (or, I would say, real marriage) over gay marriage. This is why I conducted a lengthy explanation of the reasons why traditional marriage was privileged (that is, because it is vital to society and our future liberty, and therefore should be "subsidized" with legal privileges--a view that I think moderate Libertarians or Neolibertarians should support).

When I say that gay marriage is legal, I say so in the sense that it is not illegal. Some people interpret "legal" as to mean requiring explicit recognition of validity and legality from the government. This is why I came at the view from a Libertarian view, to counter this notion that government must explicitly recognize and "legalize" something in order to make it real.

Supposedly, people that hold the view that government recognition and endorsement of gay marriage is necessary for its existence would also think that if a toothless law was passed outlawing love, then no one would be allowed to love.

The objection could be raised to this, though, that there is something special about marriage that requires government recognition, because marriage is a public display of commitment (among other things), rather than a private thing. If gay marriage isn't legal, then people say that no one will recognize them, thus rendering them irrelevant, and not real. For example, if I say that I'm married to my television, but no one really treats me like this, then am I really married to it? Thus, explicit legal recognition is necessary.

But then the argument isn't about government recognition of gay marriage per se, but rather about public approval of gay marriage. This cannot be legislated or adjudicated. In fact, the push for gay marriage has polarized the nation, with the vast majority against it. If public recognition of gay marriage is the goal, then the push for "legalizing" gay marriage has been entirely unproductive. As it was doomed to be this way. Just like Roe v. Wade polarized the nation, so would forcing gay marriage on it. And it is unlikely that time would quickly heal the wound--look at Roe, and look also at Canada. Despite legalization of gay marriage, only 39% of the supposedly ultraliberal population of Canada actually supports it.

phew... now that is a rant. Moving from one thought to the next, with no end in sight... I could keep going to, but I have the feeling no one reads blog posts longer than two or three paragraphs.


Saturday, April 02, 2005

My Thoughts on the Terri Schiavo affair


Some thoughts on gay marriage

An interesting post on gay marriage by Megan MCardle, with some important observation. I find especially insightful the observation of the liberal argument for gay marriage, which is, essentially, "Your a stupid bigot."

Her post is close to my view on gay marriage, a view that I really haven't written much about. Although I agree with many of the points I made in the column on gay marriage, I wrote it more because I wanted to show that a libertarian defense was possible of an anti-gay marriage view, and to show people that the gay marriage debate isn't as black and white as they think.

I'm perhaps unique in the gay marriage debate in that my views have changed signifcantly, multiple times.

First, I opposed gay marriage along essentially religious, Catholic lines. This was a pretty unreflective view, and more of a default answer if someone would ask me about it. This view changed, not because I think religious beliefs shouldn't be translated into law (well, actually I'm not sure on whether they should be, but I'm giving it a lot of thought lately), but because 1) if I wanted to convince other people, I would have to reach beyond religious views, 2) Andrew Sullivan makes a somewhat compelling argument that maybe gay marriage isn't so much against Catholic theology as we might think, and 3) I was becoming more libertarian, and saw the government illegalization of gay marriage, just like if the governmetn were to illegalize sodomy, or raise taxes, to be immoral along Catholic lines (it seemed to met that Jesus wouldn't say, "if two men have sex, through them in jail" which is what illegalization, in the end, does, but would try to convince them of their wrongness, and in the end, let them decide on their own free will what to do. He would also never condone stealing from one man, even to help another in dire need, which is why I saw taxation as immoral).

Second, I moved on to a somewhat peculiar position, the conservative argument FOR gay marriage, which I still believe is a stronger case (see Andrew Sullivan again) than the liberal argument for gay marriage (insofar as it can be called such).

The truncated version of the conservative argument for gay marriage: it is exactly because marriage is such a great institution that it should be extended to homosexuals. It is not good for the health an institution if some are excluded that wholeheartedly want to join in, and others are included that might not be so committed. Such an exclusion could, like acid, eat away at the foundations of marriage. Also, gays are especially in need of the benefits of marriage. The promiscuous bathhouse culture has lead to an explosion in AIDS cases. To combat this, we must make clear to gays that this behavior is NOT okay, and that we expect for them to get married. When gay marriage is not legal, gays could use this as a justification for not committing to one person, and so lead a dissolute lifestyle. Thus, from a religious perspective, it seemed to encourage sin to leave gay marriage illegal. Surely it is less sinful for a gay person to commit themselves exclusively to another person than to live a promiscuous gay life--that is, we should choose from the lesser of two evils.

Third, I became against gay marriage from a conservative viewpoint. A lot of the reasoning came from this Stanley Kurtz column, that gay marriage was part of a slippery slope toward much worse--that if you could see no distinction between it and real marriage, then you could also see none between polygamy, and more worringly, polyamory (marriages of any number and combination of men and women). I no longer find this view very compelling, because I believe distinctions CAN be drawn (even if, down the road, liberals will argue that they don't exist, and that polyamory should be legal too) and that it IS the place of the law to draw somewhat arbitrary lines.

As part of my conservative argument against marriage, I also believed that gay marriage would weaken regular marriage be decreasing its "specialness"--that is, if we recognized it essentially as a contract, why bother? Also, I used the reasoning that if everyone was elligible for a medal of honor no matter how significant the wound, then it would decrease the importance of the medal of honor. I don't know if this latter reasoning is valid, but I still hold that it would reduce the specialness of regular marriage to continue redefining it.

Third, as I continued to become more libertarian in my views, I began to think that government shouldn't be into the business of marriage at all. I believed that anyone should be allowed to marry, but no one should be eligible for special government benefits.

Fourth, well, here I am. I'm still fleshing out my views, but I'm tentatively against legally recognizing gay marriage. "Legally recognizing" being a phrase that I know realize is imperative, for two reasons. One, as I said in my column, government cannot define who is married (in the real, emotional/spiritual/loving sense) and who is not, except for in a totalitarian society (even then, probably not). I also realize that if government said that gay marriage was marriage and so eligible for benefits, it would only be legally recognized as marriage, not actually gay marriage.

The phrase "gay marriage" is a contradiction in terms. It is an absurdity. It is a moral, spiritual, and semantic imposibility. It cannot be. Not to demean whatever relationship two gays might have with each other, but it is surely lying to say that that relationship is "marriage," because marriage is inherently and exclusively one man and one woman.

As I mentioned earlier, I think that Hayek has much to say on the gay marriage issue (and Megan touches on what his writings tell us). I have more reading to do (and, in any case, need more writing time) before I can possibly explain it. Jonah Goldberg does a good job explaining most of it. It is basically a veiw that calls for a little humility on our part as too changing a millenia old institution. We shouldn't modify marriage because, as Jonah says, that would be like a person with no knowledge of cars trying to fix their engine by messing with random parts. Society is surely infinitely more complex than a car, so we should take care too only tamper with its basic institutions when something serious arises.

In my column, I tried to explain why marriage is as it is--because procreation and subsequent societal propagation through a stable family structure is of immense importance. I also made the libertarian argument, that it should thus be subsidized because it would increase liberty in the future (libertarians are all about liberty, you know) becuase stable families need less government help. I agree with all of this, BUT I still realize that these are only my speculations as to what some of the benefits could be. I can have no sure idea as too what the "purpose" of marriage is, or even that it has a unified, expressible one, because marriage arose through a process of cultural evolution. The latter part of that sentence about cultural evolution might be a bold statement (which I will write about later after some more Hayek reading is done), but I think we should all realize, simply out of our own humility and recognition at the limits of our knowledge, that we cannot know what the purpose of marriage is, and so what the effects of gay marriage would be.

Megan does a better job of explaining this, and in her conclusion she writes:
If you think you know why marriage is male-female, and why that's either outdated because of all the ways in which reproduction has lately changed, or was a bad reason to start with, then you are in a good place to advocate reform. If you think that marriage is just that way because our ancestors were all a bunch of repressed bastards with dark Freudian complexes that made them homophobic bigots, I'm a little leery of letting you muck around with it.

Which is what is the main point of this meandering post. Gay marriage is a complex (and, I think, philosophically interesting) issue. I have never read or heard a compelling liberal argument for gay marriage, but I realize there are compelling arguments for gay marriage. The issue has two sides. Liberals would do well to acknowledge this.

(a ps: I didn't proofread this post, and I wrote it rather quickly, so please forgive any errors, or gratuitous comma usage--an addiction, I've been trying, to, kick for some, time.

Environmental de-alarmism

Jonah Goldberg:

The bad news is that a new United Nations report says the world's coming to an end.

But, first, some good news: America's doing great!

Seriously, forests are breaking out all over America. New England has more forests since the Civil War. In 1880, New York State was only 25 percent forested. Today it is more than 66 percent. In 1850, Vermont was only 35 percent forested. Now it's 76 percent forested and rising. In the south, more land is covered by forest than at any time in the last century. In 1936 a study found that 80 percent of piedmont Georgia was without trees. Today nearly 70 percent of the state is forested. In the last decade alone, America has added more than 10 million acres of forestland.

This sounds right. I know Kansas has to have more trees now than at any time since roughly the Jurassic period. Jonah then describes how all the little fuzzy animals are doing great too, and even the air and water are cleaner now. Why?

America's environmental revival is a rich and complicated story with many specific exceptions, caveats and, of course, setbacks. But the overarching theme is pretty simple: The richer you get, the healthier your environment gets. This is because rich societies can afford to indulge their environmental interests and movements. Poor countries cannot.

Unsurprisingly, rich countries tend to have a better grasp of economics and the role of markets, private stewardship and property rights, reasonable regulations, and so forth. With the exception of some oil-rich states, they're also almost always democratic and hence have systems that can successfully assign blame to, and demand restitution from, polluters. In socialized economies, a "tragedy of the commons" almost always arises. As Harvard president Lawrence Summers says, nobody's ever washed a rented car.