March 2012 Archives
A 5-4 vote along ideological lines by the Supreme Court to overturn part or all of Obamacare would be extremely polarizing for the country, but this is probably the result that President Obama is longing for. Let's look at the possibilities:
1. Obamacare upheld: conservatives and independents are mobilized and boatloads of money pours in to overturn the law. Left-wingers are pleased and feel lower sense of urgency.
2. Obamacare overturned by 6-3 decision or higher: Left-wingers are outraged but the decision is broad enough that most people are satisfied.
3. Obamacare overturned by 5-4 vote along ideological lines: Obama gets rid of the Obamacare issue that has been plaguing him since he signed it, his base is mobilized, and he gets to campaign against the evil conservative justices who overturned the "will of the people".
It's easy to see that option #3 is the best for the President.
Just got married over the weekend! Yay! What an awesome time with family and friends. I'll probably post a picture once I decide which one I like best.
And of course the blog decides to stop publishing properly just when I don't have time to fix it. Argh! Everything should be working again now. Sorry for the interruption.
Writing about the "Roe Effect" James Taranto restates the aphorism that the future belongs to those who show up:
If ideology drives one segment of the population to reproduce less, the effect compounds over time. Whereas big families get bigger with each generation, a childless couple (or single woman) is unlikely to have grandchildren either. The future belongs to the fruitful.
It's been 1,056 days since the Democrat-controlled Senate has passed a budget, despite budgets bills being passed by the Republican House. Senate Leader Harry Reid has declared that we don't need a budget.
"We do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year," Reid told reporters last month, arguing that legislation setting limits on spending is sufficient.
"The fact is, you don't need a budget," agreed fellow Democrat and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer a few weeks ago. "We can adopt appropriations bills. We can adopt authorization policies without a budget. We already have an agreed-upon cap on spending."
In fact, the lawmakers are required by law to pass a budget each year. That's made conspicuously clear by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. But proposing and passing a budget can cause lots of problems. It can force a party to take potentially unpopular stands on critical issues. How much should the government spend on national defense? On health care? On social programs? As Reid and his allies see it, better to just ignore the whole thing.
Representative Paul Ryan has proposed yet another plan for reducing our debt and bringing our spending under control: the Path to Prosperity.
Lots of structural changes and spending cuts. This is the kind and scale of change we need to restore our fiscal health, even if we can quibble about the details.
How long until we have bionic limbs that are better than what we're born with? I say five years.
(HT: Better All The Time.)
StemCells Inc. is harvesting brains from aborted babies and injecting the cells into adults in an attempt to cure macular degeneration. It's important to note that these aren't embryonic stem cells, because embryos don't have brains to harvest -- these cells are taken from a functioning human brain from a person with a face, arms, legs, fingers, toes, and a beating heart. It's hard to think of anything more repugnant and inhumane.
I pity the adults who suffer from diseases like macular degeneration, but it is disgusting to attempt to treat them by murdering innocent children.
A new study claims that red meat causes 1 in 10 early deaths. First off, an "early death" is defined as dying before age 75, so that's not exactly young. Rob Lyons analyzes the study and decides that not only is red meat pretty safe, but also that other major lifestyle decisions seem to have little impact on longevity.
The authors claim that 9.3 per cent of deaths in men and 7.6 per cent of deaths in women could be avoided by eating little or no red meat. To put that into some back-of-an-envelope statistical perspective: multiplying that 9.3 per cent by the 20 per cent who actually died shows that about 1.8 per cent of red-meat eaters would die by the time they were 75 because of their meat-eating habit. Even if that claim were absolutely accurate (and even the authors call it an estimate), would you really give up your favourite foods for decades on the slim possibility of an extra year or two of old age?
A serious problem with the present study is that while the researchers excluded anyone who had a heart problem or cancer at the time the study started, there were some pretty important differences between the groups examined. In both the male and female groups, at the start of the study the people who ate the most red meat were also about twice as likely to be diabetic and took much less exercise. The men in the high red-meat group were also three times as likely to be smokers and drank much more, too. (Women who like their red meat also liked booze and fags more than their burger-dodging sisters did, but the differences weren't as large.)
There was also a clear trend in total calories consumed per day for both men and women. The low red-meat group consumed far fewer calories each day (1,659 for men and 1,202 for women) then the highest red-meat group (2,396 for men and 2,030 for women). These are enormous differences.
It's pretty amazing that someone who eats so badly and exercises so little only has a 1.8 percentage point increase in his chance of dying before age 75. Does that make diet and exercise pretty much a waste of time?
Final thought: what's the most dangerous risk factor?
The thing most likely to determine whether you live or die - apart from old age, of course - is whether you are male or female. One way to illustrate this is to add up the total number of years that people in each group lived and divide it by the number of people who died. The group of women who ate the most processed meat suffered one death for every 124 person-years lived. The group of men who ate the least processed meat suffered one death for every 89 person-years lived. Being a man is much more dangerous than eating bacon, it would seem.
Is speeding a sin? No. Just because speeding is a technical violation of the law and you may get ticketed for it does not mean that it's a sin.
"Everyone else does it" is actually a valid defense. America is a democracy in which sovereignty is held by the citizens and limited powers are delegated to the government. As a society we have reached a broad consensus that driving five to ten miles per hour above the posted speed limit, with the flow of traffic, is acceptable when conditions are safe. This consensus has more legitimacy than the traffic laws, and in fact the consensus depends on the posted speed limit being lower than the safe driving speed. We have a safety margin built into the speed limit, and we all agree that under good conditions it is safe to exceed the limit.
A few considerations:
- It is incumbent on us all to drive in a safe manner, regardless of the speed limit. Sometimes conditions are so bad that it isn't safe to drive the posted limit.
- When you exceed the posted speed limit you are accepting additional responsibility. If you cause an accident while speeding then this is strong evidence that you were driving too fast to be safe.
- A good rule of thumb is this: if twelve strangers (e.g., a jury) were to sit in judgement of your driving habits would they condemn you? If you're driving 40 MPH on an empty 35 MPH road on a clear day I think you'd be fine. If you're driving the speed limit while texting and weaving in and out of congested traffic in a construction zone you might be legally in the clear but I bet your peers would happily punish you.
In 2009 President Obama said his health care law would cost $900 billion over 10 years. Surprise! The Congressional Budget Office now estimates that the 10-year cost will be $1.76 trillion.
I think it is absurd and offensive that every law ends up costing drastically more than originally "estimated" by the politicians who pass it. The track record shows that the politicians are not making good-faith estimates -- they're scamming us. They're buying votes from favored constituencies with taxpayer money.
A new study reveals that women enjoy relationship drama.
The detailed study found that wives or girlfriends were pleased when their partner showed emotion because they believed it demonstrated a healthy relationship.
The survey, carried out by Harvard Medical School, also found that when men realised their wife was angry, the women reported being happier, although the men were not.
It revealed women most likely enjoyed spotting when their partner was dissatisfied because it showed his strong "engagement" or "investment" in their time together.
Dr Shiri Cohen, the study's lead author, said: "It could be that for women, seeing that their male partner is upset reflects some degree of the man's investment and emotional engagement in the relationship, even during difficult times.
Defendants are routinely threatened with extreme sentences to coerce them into pleading guilty to lesser offenses -- this coercion is the primary way that prosecutors bypass Constitutional protections and speed defendants into prison.
But in this era of mass incarceration -- when our nation's prison population has quintupled in a few decades partly as a result of the war on drugs and the "get tough" movement -- these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty.
"The truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used," said Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the libertarian Cato Institute. In other words: the system is rigged.
In the race to incarcerate, politicians champion stiff sentences for nearly all crimes, including harsh mandatory minimum sentences and three-strikes laws; the result is a dramatic power shift, from judges to prosecutors.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that threatening someone with life imprisonment for a minor crime in an effort to induce him to forfeit a jury trial did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to trial. Thirteen years later, in Harmelin v. Michigan, the court ruled that life imprisonment for a first-time drug offense did not violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The problem isn't really with prosecutors though -- our legislators have given them an impossible task. We have way too many laws, and far too many people in prison.
How much of our local, state, and federal borrowing, taxing, and spending is (indirectly) dedicated to transferring wealth from males to females? It's easy to find out how much tax is paid by income percentile, but very hard to find a breakdown by gender. Similarly, it's hard to find statistics on the gender of transfer recipients.
I recently created a free OnLive account for the sole purpose of playing a demo of FTL (a fun-looking game that you can support through Kickstarter if you're interested). Anyway, OnLive didn't blow me away, but this recent article about quantum computing makes me think that services like OnLive are going to dominate the future of computing.
Given the rapid progress that IBM has made, scalable quantum computing is starting to look like a real possibility. As error-correction protocols improve and coherence times lengthen, accurate quantum computing becomes a real possibility. But don't expect to have a quantum smartphone anytime soon using this technique. In order to get the results the IBM team has seen in either the 2-D or 3-D configuration, the qubits have to be cooled down to less than a degree above absolute zero.
"There's a growing sense that a quantum computer can't be a laptop or desktop," said Steffen. "Quantum computers may well just being housed in a large building somewhere. It's not going to be something that's very portable. In terms of application, I don't think that's a huge detriment because they'll be able to solve problems so much faster than traditional computers."
Emphasis mine. We may have quantum computing at warmer temperatures eventually, but the first few generations of quantum computers will be in giant warehouses, and we'll connect to them over high-speed networks. A quantum computer you access via a service like OnLive will be orders of magnitude more powerful than anything you could fit in your house, and so desktops and laptops will die off and be replaced with thin clients that have just enough computing power to display streaming video from a quantum computer.
I'll start with my own brief answer. Lifelong marriage is the cornerstone of Christian sexual morality. It is also God's design for the family and the structure in which children should be conceived and raised. If you want to have sex and/or have children, lifelong marriage is the only biblically sanctioned way to go about this.
Love and happiness are benefits which very often come with following God's plan, and there are specific commandments to both men and women as to how they are to treat their spouse. I also have argued strongly that in our current legal and cultural climate it is wrong to marry someone you haven't been able to fall in love with. But making marriage about love and happiness inevitably turns it into something different, especially in a world where the law provides direct incentives to wives who manage to become unhaaaapy.
There are many passages about marriage in the Bible, but 1 Corinthians 7:1-16 is probably the key New Testament passage and it reveals a lot about God's perspective on marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:1-16
1 Now for the matters you wrote about: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
8 Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Verses 1, 7, 8-9: The best way to live is unmarried and abstinent, because this condition enables a person to focus wholly on serving God. However, God created the excellent institution of marriage for the majority of us who are not gifted in this way.
Verses 2-6, 9: Marriage is about sexual purity. God has given us two acceptable modes of sexuality: single and abstinent, or married and sexually active with your spouse only. "For it is better to marry than to burn with passion".
Verses 10-11: Christians are not to divorce. A Christian who leaves his or her spouse is expected to reconcile the marriage or else remain single and celibate. In Matthew 5:31-32 makes an allowance for divorce in the case of sexual immorality.
Verses 12-16: A Christian must not divorce an unbelieving spouse, but if the unbelieving spouse seeks a divorce then the Christian must let the spouse go. "Let it be so" is a command, and the only instance in the Bible where divorce is commanded. Furthermore, the believing spouse is free from all obligations to the unbelieving spouse. Why? "God has called us to live in peace." Matthew 18:15-17 should also be considered, as Jesus instructs that a person who claims to be a Christian and yet ultimately refuses to submit to church discipline should be treated as an unbeliever ("excommunicated" is a commonly used term).
So, no where is "happiness" mentioned. In Genesis 2 God says "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.", but in what ways is having a companion beneficial? From the 1 Corinthians 7 passage, the only definite benefit is that a marriage partner provides an outlet for the sexuality of those of us who cannot remain celibate.
Rather than looking at the matter quite so narrowly, let's extrapolate a bit and consider Ephesians 5:21-33:
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church-- 30 for we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."[c] 32 This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
In Ephesians we see marriage used as an illustration of Christ's relationship to the church: love and submission; sacrifice and cleansing; holiness. Combined with the emphasis on sexual purity from 1 Corinthians 7 I think we're starting to form a complete picture here.
God intends for marriage to make us more like Christ. Marriage isn't about "happiness" in any earthly sense, it's about holiness. Holiness might make us happy, or it might make us martyrs. Whether we live or die, holiness will bring us love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If you don't find God growing those fruits in your life through your marriage, then pray for holiness. God is far more concerned with our holiness than with our happiness.