Monday, December 17, 2012

The right to keep and bear muskets

In response to the Newtown shooting, people are arguing that the word "arms" in the Second Amendment should be construed to mean those arms that existed in 1791. I explained back in 2000 here why that was not such a good idea:
Helier Robinson (Letters, February 12th) suggests that an originalist interpretation of America's Second Amendment to mean the “right to bear swords, pikes and muskets” would make gun control much easier. If courts adopted this reasoning, what would stop them from limiting the First Amendment's speech and press clause to the use of 18th-century communication technology? This would make censoring the Internet a great deal easier.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Today's vocabulary word: imitation

imitation, n. the act of observing and replicating another's behavior; a reproduction or copy of a genuine article. It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but stealing the credit is an even sincerer form.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I could have told you that. Oh, wait: I did.

From William Eskridge and Hans Johnson, "Commentary on marriage grants: Marriage equality’s Cinderella moment" on SCOTUSblog:
The nation has arrived at this moment for marriage equality, essentially, because lesbian and gay couples came out of their closets. Once Americans got to know something about LGBT people and their relationships, the overwhelming anti-gay attitudes of thirty years ago have steadily eroded. When we were growing up, in the small-town South and Midwest, almost everyone said that “homosexuals” were mentally ill and dangerous predators. Indeed, the central anti-gay stereotype was (and remains) the idea that “homosexuality” is anti-family. This is the conceptual basis for the Clinton/Bush-era idea that marriage and family need “defending” against LGBT persons.
I predicted that in law school two decades ago, only to have an ACT UP higher-up give me a lecture on how completely wrong I was and on how that would never work.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What are gay men up to? How not to find out

From Gay Star News comes this revelation:
[West Hollywood, California,] was crowned the country's most popular place for gay men looking for casual sex after users of dating website admitted to having 10 or more sexual partners over the past year.
How is that a representative data set? For those of you who don't know, and I'm guessing that most people have no reason to know, is a "sugar daddy" site, as described in The New York Times here. Also, the answers were from those who had chosen to answer the question. Thus, there are two levels of self-selection bias right there. Besides, who knows how honest the respondents were being?

That raises the question of how to get more reliable data. If more representative polling can be used, we should use that. If not, then why write the article at all? "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fabulous queer dating tip #26: Tell one thing, but show another.

Telling an obvious lie about your age or body shape is standard, but it doesn't end there. If you want to impress him with your wealth, take him to Burger King, and then argue with him over whether he gets to order dessert. Better yet, stiff him with the bill. If you want him to know what a genius you are, consistently misspell that word. Claim to be an expert on a certain topic, and then get basic facts wrong; if he asks you a simple question about that topic, change the subject. Yes, I've seen all of these things happen.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Calm down, Princess Clara: My thoughts on the Nevada marriage ruling

As you may know, a federal judge in Nevada has ruled against marriage equality in that state. The opinion shows the intellectual dishonesty that so often characterizes 'phobes. For example, the judge tries to distinguish the case at bar over Loving v. Virginia,, which struck down laws against miscegenation, in the following manner:
Here, there is no indication of any intent to maintain any notion of male or female superiority, but rather, at most, of heterosexual superiority or “heteronormativity” by relegating (mainly) homosexual legal unions to a lesser status. In Loving, the elements of the disability were different as between Caucasians and non-Caucasians, whereas here, the burden on men and women is the same. The distinction might be gender based if only women could marry a person of the same sex, or if only women could marry a transgendered person, or if the restriction included some other asymmetry between the burdens placed on men and the burdens placed on women. But there is no distinction here between men and women, and the intent behind the law is to prevent homosexuals from marrying.
Here the judge puts words into the Loving court's mouths, since he emphasizes an argument that the Loving court explicitly declined to consider:
Appellants point out that the State's concern in these statutes, as expressed in the words of the 1924 Act's title, "An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity," extends only to the integrity of the white race. While Virginia prohibits whites from marrying any nonwhite (subject to the exception for the descendants of Pocahontas), Negroes, Orientals, and any other racial class may intermarry without statutory interference. Appellants contend that this distinction renders Virginia's miscegenation statutes arbitrary and unreasonable even assuming the constitutional validity of an official purpose to preserve "racial integrity." We need not reach this contention, because we find the racial classifications in these statutes repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment, even assuming an even-handed state purpose to protect the "integrity" of all races.
The opinion also includes the following rant, which works best if you imagine that it is being read in a Princess Clara voice:
Should that institution be expanded to include same-sex couples with the state’s imprimatur, it is conceivable that a meaningful percentage of heterosexual persons would cease to value the civil institution as highly as they previously had and hence enter into it less frequently, opting for purely private ceremonies, if any, whether religious or secular, but in any case without civil sanction, because they no longer wish to be associated with the civil institution as redefined, leading to an increased percentage of out-of-wedlock children, single-parent families, difficulties in property disputes after the dissolution of what amount to common law marriages in a state where such marriages are not recognized, or other unforeseen consequences.

An interesting admission

... from two sources not easily dismissed as having a libertarian bias, namely, The New York Times and the Sierra Club: The article Post-Storm Cost May Force Many From Coast Life discusses the effect of more expensive flood insurance on low- and middle-income beach dwellers and includes the following:
“The irony is, if we allowed market forces to dictate at the coast, a lot of the development in the wrong places would never have gotten built,” said Jeffrey Tittel, director of the Sierra Club’s chapter in New Jersey. “But we didn’t. We subsidized that development with low insurance rates for decades. And we can’t afford to keep doing that. Should a person who lives in an apartment in Newark pay for someone’s beach house?”
We can argue over how ironic* that is, but the point remains that allowing government do-gooding to eliminate price signals has achieved the wrong result.

*Cue a certain song by Alanis.