Monday, 9 February 2004

Andrew Sullivan, Keith Burgess-Jackson, Eugene Volokh, and the FMA

Andrew Sullivan thinks that the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment would ban even legislatively enacted civil union statutes, such as Vermont’s.

Keith Burgess-Jackson accuses Sullivan of hysteria:

Andrew Sullivan has lost his bloody mind. In today’s blog (see here), he gives a hysterical misreading of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, then chastises The New York Times for not misreading it the same way.

How Sullivan could misread this simply worded amendment boggles my mind. His lack of legal training may explain some of it (does he not have legally trained friends?), but I think there’s more going on. His otherwise sound intellect fails him repeatedly when it comes to homosexual marriage (or homosexuality generally). Please, Andrew, get a grip. You’re embarrassing yourself.

Prof. Burgess-Jackson may want to take note that Eugene Volokh thinks the FMA admits just such a reading:

And if courts do treat the ambiguous phrase “incidents of marriage” as referring to the benefits, burdens, and practices that have traditionally accompanied marriage, then legislative civil union statutes may well become unconstitutional or at least unenforceable: As I said before, government officials would be prohibited from construing the statute according to its literal text, as providing some of the traditional benefits of marriage to unmarried couples. And if someone goes to court to challenge the official’s refusal to provide such benefits, then the court court would likewise be forbidden from construing the statute according to its literal text.

So is Prof. Volokh being "hysterical" as well? Has he too "lost his bloody mind"? Is his "otherwise sound intellect failing him"? Or maybe it’s Prof. Volokh’s "lack of legal training"?

UPDATE: Prof. Burgess-Jackson's Mea Culpa.

ECON 201: Evaluating ECON 101

Greg of En Banc links a short paper on the economics of student evaluation forms. Ole Miss just transitioned from paper “bubble sheet” forms handed out in-class to an opt-in online system somehow tied into our all-knowing but completely-screwed-up SAP campus management system.

Last I heard, compliance with the evaluation procedure was sharply lower—something I think would lead to a non-random error that biases responses downward, as students who disliked a class will probably be more likely to bother filling out the evaluations. On the upside, at least you don’t have to keep the original copies of the evaluations around for the written comments—which is a good thing, since the university managed to shred one semesters’ worth of evaluations a couple of years back, making those written comments lost to history.

The C word

Steven Taylor thinks conservatives need to learn to love the Shrub, since otherwise they may well receive eight more years of Clintonism. On the other hand, if you’re a conservative—not necessarily a Republican, mind you—a spell of divided government might well be desirable.

It seems to me, at the simplest level, that different sorts of conservatism require the control of different branches of government. Fiscal conservatism rests largely on control of Congress; if you keep spending and taxes down, there isn’t much the White House or Supreme Court can do about it. Social conservatism, on the other hand, rests on control of the presidency and the judiciary; the Justice Department effectively decides to what degree morals violations (like prostitution and drug crimes) are prosecuted, while the judiciary effectively sets the limits of what personal behavior Congress and the states can regulate.

There are, of course, other issues to base one’s vote on; the Clinton administration fiddled while North Korea and Iraq burned during the 1990s, instead expending political capital on dubious adventures like Haiti (which is now in more of a mess than when I was a wee intern in D.C. being briefed on this problem 9 years ago) and saving the Europeans’ asses in the Balkans. And, at the moment, it’s hard to tell if Kerry’s campaign-trail pronouncements are simply part of a red-meat distribution effort to keep the Deaniacs on the Democratic bus through November or actually serious foreign policy views—if you believe they’re the latter, you might think twice about jumping on the divided government bandwagon.

But, given that Congress is essentially a lock to remain in Republican hands for the forseeable future,* if you’re not much of a social conservative and you make under $200k it’s hard to see what you’d lose under a Kerry (or Edwards) administration.

This is today’s entry in the BTJ™.

Firefox, Firebird, what's the difference?

Oh, goody, YAFNC. The browser that changes its name every season is now at 0.8. Download it early and often. No word yet on whether Clint Eastwood plans to sue.

Now off to dig through some SQL tables to rename this topic of the blog…

Monday-morning Toast

The Toast-O-Meter for this week has arrived, courtesy of Steven Taylor, although the bread is apparently borderline stale at this point due to Charter Communications’ ineptitude.

In other Campaign ’04-related news: Venomous Kate is perched on the fence for now, for a long list of reasons (via Dan Drezner, who’s doing some fence-sitting of his own).

Nuke it… nuke it real good

Dan Drezner isn’t buying rumors that al-Qaeda has an unspecified supply of tactical nuclear weapons, but recommends vigilence nonetheless; the Belgravia Dispatch has similar thoughts.

I don’t have anything to add to either analysis; it seems rather implausible that the group would have such weapons yet not use them—if not against the United States, then certainly against Israel, which would seem to be an easier target. To paraphrase the Dispatch, terror groups generally aren’t known for their strategic geopolitical wherewithal, and mutually-assured destruction is pretty meaningless as a deterrent when your territory is a few hundred square miles of borderline-uninhabitable territory to begin with and you have a martyr complex to boot.