Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Libertarian Gay Marriage
The whirl of Stanley Kurtz, Thomas Sowell, Arthur Silber, & Julian Sanchez in a big Conservative-Libertarian argument on Gay Marriage.

If we could have imagined it, we would have warned you that this would happen back in the 19th Century when Dom Rel Law was nationalized. But we could never have guessed. We should have left Dom Rel to the Church where it belonged. Particularly since this would now be "churches". Politicization is an ugly thing to behold.
Gays in the Military

I think there's a difficult and important empirical question here -- would allowing openly gay soldiers in fact materially interfere with the morale, cohesion, and thus effectiveness of the armed forces? I know that I know very little about the answer to this question, and thus can't have anything remotely approaching a truly informed opinion.

How's this for empirical evidence on the question:

Thought experiment only please!

Take all the armed forces that enlist gays and have them fight all the armed forces that exclude gays. See who wins. My best guess is that the "exclude" forces would win. Although, perhaps, the exclusion doesn't have anything to do with it. Hard to conduct experiments in the social sciences.
Here's one of my old essays that I found while doing disk cleanup:


The last few years have been bad ones for privacy in America. As of June 1st, 1987 it became a crime to hire anyone, even your own child, who does not present identification cards. The "drug" laws passed in recent years require ever more detailed reporting of smaller and smaller cash transactions. Any children over the age of two who are to be claimed as dependents on their parent's tax returns now need Social Security numbers. I suppose that with all this new prying there will be less illegal drug use and everyone will pay
their fair share of taxes although past restrictions on privacy did not seem to reduce these problems.

We seem headed for a National Identity Card system. According to government officials promoting ID cards, the main argument in favor of this radical step is that the law-abiding would have nothing to fear from it. This seems a curious argument for the proponents of such a dramatic change in the relationship between the people of the U.S. and their government since it fails to state any benefit for the law-abiding either.

The fact is that the argument is false. The law-abiding have a great deal to fear from all invasions of their privacy by the minions of the state. If the history of this century has proved anything, it has proved that the innocent have far more to fear from government than the guilty.

Why guard the privacy of the innocent (the guilty can and will take care of themselves)? After all the enforcers say, "If you have nothing to hide, you don't need privacy." The answer should be obvious, "The innocent won't know what they have to hide until it's too late."

The reason to value privacy is simply that we know from the most casual reading of the history of Europe that every sort of person has at certain times and in certain places been killed because of what others knew about
them. Over the last 400 years, within the confines of Europe, peasants, workers, aristocrats, bourgeois shopkeepers, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Communists, Nazis, anarchists, monarchists, and others have faced death simply because of what they were. These people may have gone about their business in seeming safety for years until a change in circumstance marked them for death. By then it was too late for them to hide their selves.

This is why privacy must be valued. It may be that every single one of the millions of current employees of the international, national, state, and local governments who will make use of the information collected about us is a noble human being without a tyrannical bone in his (or her) body but we cannot guarantee the future. The average American has some forty years of life left and forty years is a long time in the life of today's nations. There may come a time within those forty years when innocent information surrendered to the state will mean death. No nation is immune to domestic or foreign tyranny, given the fluid nature of modern politics.

To make the abstract concrete, how was it that the Nazi government of Germany identified Jews for extermination? It proved to be a simple matter of consulting local records. Did the Jewish mother and father in 1880 or 1900 or 1920 realize when they listed their child's religion on birth records in full compliance with the law that they were condemning that child to death? Or what about the passport. Promoted at the beginning of this century as a means of easing international travel and safeguarding the passage rights of
neutrals, it has become a major impediment to international travel and even a threat to life. If one is on board an airliner with armed Palestinian terrorists, would one rather be carrying an American, Israeli, British, Swiss,
or Syrian passport?
Kerry on the Death Penalty

SEN. KERRY: I'm opposed to the death penalty in the criminal justice system because I think it's applied unfairly…and because I'm for a worse punishment. I think it is worse to take somebody and put them in a small cell for the rest of their life, deprived of their freedom, never to be paroled. Now, I think that's tougher.

And here I thought Kerry was some kind of intellectual. Doesn't he know that prison is no punishment for the literate. Boy just give me the chance to finish Napier's History of the War in the Peninsula and France (1808-1815).

Monday, December 02, 2002


"DOWNLOADING HAS BECOME ALMOST A WAY OF LIFE" on college campuses, the L.A. Times reports in Monday's paper. More specifically, downloading copyrighted works using the university's network has become part of the student culture. This isn't news to those of us who follow these issues, but the shift in attitudes in the last decade still strikes me as remarkable. Thanks to reader Phil Carter for the link.

Those of us who have been personally computing since the '70s do not find this phenomenon so remarkable. We remember a time when software was shipped on copy protected media, millions broke the copy protection, software was copied promiscuously, and eventually copy protection went away. This was a decade before Mr. Bill earned his (sometimes) $100 billion fortune. The software industry and users survived.
Most-ever U.S. moms breast-feed six months

A record share of new American mothers are following the advice that the "breast is best" for babies, a study released today shows.

Presumably the author of the piece meant most in recent decades not most ever since prior to the development of formula breast feeding was even more common than it is now.

This is a common error in contemporary reporting. On NPR this morning, a reporter described Virginia as "one of 7 states that have executed juveniles". Presumably more than 7 states have executed juveniles since the Colonial Era.