May 2015 Archives
Luke 16:18 is interesting because here Jesus only condemns actions of men as adultery:
"Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."
The word "adultery" comes from the same root as "adulterate" which literally means "to render (something) poorer in quality by adding another substance, typically an inferior one". In origin, adultery is sexual behavior that corrupts the line of inheritance, and therefore can only be committed against a husband -- there's never any doubt about the identity of a child's mother, so a wife's line of inheritance cannot be corrupted. In this legal sense, the crime of adultery was not so much about morals as it was about protecting a husband's assurance of legitimate offspring. (An assurance that a wife has thanks to biology.)
Which raises the question: in the two scenarios Jesus speaks of, who is the victim of adultery? Both cases are interesting in their own right.
Case 1: "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery". In the literal sense the man can only be committing adultery if the woman he marries was already the wife of another man, in which case the adultery is being committed against the other man. However, Jesus doesn't directly say that the new wife is or was married, which leaves open the door to the thought that Jesus is declaring that the spurned wife is actually a victim of adultery herself.
Case 2: "[H]e who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery". In this case it seems clear that the the first man is committing adultery against the divorced husband. However, if the marriage no longer exists then how can there be adultery? Perhaps the timing or circumstance of the woman's second marriage calls into question the legitimacy of the first husband's children? That seems like an overly specific reading for which there is no direct evidence.
Anyway, it's interesting to me that we've expanded the definition of "adultery" to include all sorts of marital sexual infidelity while at the same time "adulterating" the original purpose of the term: to protect husbands' assurance of paternity.
The New York Times carries a river-full of water for the Democrats' argument that the words of the Affordable Care Act don't mean what they say. The NYT invokes the phrase "drafting error" four times and the words "intend" or "intent" five times in the story, as if these magic talismans can protect the sloppy law from itself. Jonathan Gruber is not mentioned even once!
The story opens with a juvenile non sequitur:
They are only four words in a 900-page law: "established by the state."
It's crazy how just a few words can change the meaning of a whole document! You'd think that a journalist who works with words would grok the power of words, rather than be astonished.
But it is in the ambiguity of those four words in the Affordable Care Act that opponents found a path to challenge the law, all the way to the Supreme Court.
How those words became the most contentious part of President Obama's signature domestic accomplishment has been a mystery. Who wrote them, and why? Were they really intended, as the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim, to make the tax subsidies in the law available only in states that established their own health insurance marketplaces, and not in the three dozen states with federal exchanges?
The "ambiguity" only exists insofar as the reader wills it into existence by invoking "drafting errors" and ex post facto "intent".
The answer, from interviews with more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law, is that the words were a product of shifting politics and a sloppy merging of different versions. Some described the words as "inadvertent," "inartful" or "a drafting error." But none supported the contention of the plaintiffs, who are from Virginia.
If every single person you talk to falls on one side of "the most contentious" issue at hand, perhaps there's some selection bias at work? The only elected Republican quoted is former Senator Olympia Snowe, who was always extremely liberal but voted against Obamacare anyway.
Also, "who are from Virginia" is apropos absolutely nothing.
The Senate bill was on the floor for 25 consecutive days before it was approved on Christmas Eve 2009 by a party-line vote of 60 to 39. Senators always assumed that their bill would be polished and refined in negotiations with the House. But the expected conference between the two chambers never occurred. Democrats switched their plans after Scott Brown, a Republican, won a special election in January 2010 to fill the seat long held by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who had died the previous year.
Having lost a filibuster-proof majority, Democrats believed they could not afford to make significant changes in the Senate bill; it was then approved by the House and sent to the president, with an agreement that lingering questions could be answered separately. Some were, though these four words were unaddressed.
Elections have consequences?
Anyway, it's completely nonsensical to enforce what someone claims ex post facto the law was "intended" to say. That's rule by men, not rule by law. The written word is the shared understanding that Congress voted on and the President signed. If the written words don't reflect the intent, then the solution is to pass a new law with the correct intent. Problem solved.
We humans use writing to coordinate all kinds of shared activities: contracts, laws, regulations, procedures, religious beliefs, etc. The point of writing things down is to make sure that there's a common understanding that everyone can rely on. If you can't rely on what's written down to mean what it says, then what's the point?
Real Clear Politics has constructed an election index that attempts to quantify Republican and Democrat party strength based on five values. I think it's a valuable tool for analyzing the disparate numbers.
Our index is the sum of five parts: presidential performance, House performance, Senate performance, gubernatorial performance and state legislative performance. The first is measured by the party's performance in the previous presidential popular vote (NB: In this, and all other measurements, third parties are excluded).
House performance is the average of the popular vote for the House and the average of the share of the House won by the party. This helps mitigate the effects of gerrymandering. Senate performance is the share of the Senate held by the party.
Gubernatorial performance is the party's share of governorships (again, with third party candidates excluded). We do not weight for population, for reasons explored further below. For state legislatures, we average four numbers: the share of state Houses and state Senates held by each party along with the share of state House seats and state Senate seats held by each party.
This gives us five metrics, all of which run on a scale from 0 to 100. Adding them together gives us a scale from 0 to 500. We then subtract 250 from the total. All this does is assign a score of zero to a situation where the parties are evenly matched, rather than 250. A positive score then means that the Republican Party is stronger while a negative score means the Democratic Party is stronger.
Sometimes it pays to be nice, and sometimes it pays to be a jerk. It shouldn't be a surprise that neither kind of behavior dominates every situation. The trick is knowing when to act how. Apparently the important aspect of jerkiness is the confidence, not the cruelty.
The problem with competence is that we can't judge it by looking at someone. Yes, in some occupations it's fairly transparent--a professional baseball player, for instance, cannot very well pretend to have hit 60 home runs last season when he actually hit six--but in business it's generally opaque. Did the product you helped launch succeed because of you, or because of your brilliant No. 2, or your lucky market timing, or your competitor's errors, or the foundation your predecessor laid, or because you were (as the management writer Jim Collins puts it) a socket wrench that happened to fit that one job? Difficult to know, really. So we rely on proxies--superficial cues for competence that we take and mistake for the real thing.
What's shocking is how powerful these cues can be. When Anderson paired up college students and asked them to place 15 U.S. cities on a blank map of North America, the level of a person's confidence in her geographic knowledge was as good a predictor of how highly her partner rated her, after the fact, as was her actual geographic knowledge. Let me repeat that: seeming like you knew about geography was as good as knowing about geography. In another scenario--four-person teams collaboratively solving math problems--the person with the most inflated sense of her own abilities tended to emerge as the group's de facto leader. Being the first to blurt out an answer, right or wrong, was taken as a sign of superior quantitative skill.
The Islamic State has conquered Ramadi in a stunning blow to American and allied forces. If we want to gift-wrap Iraq for Iran why don't we just say so and save some lives and money? What's the strategy? I don't understand what we're trying to accomplish, but it certainly doesn't look like victory.
Just a month ago, when the ISIS offensive against Ramadi began in earnest, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tried to reassure the world that it was no big deal. Ramadi, he claimed, "is not symbolic in any way.... I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won't be the end of a campaign should it fall."
We can only watch and wait to hear what spin General Dempsey--who has increasingly defined his role as telling the president what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear--will put on this latest catastrophe. It is, in fact, unspinnable. The fall of Ramadi is a sign of the abysmal failure of the misnamed Operation Inherent Resolve launched by President Obama in August 2014 to "degrade" and ultimately to "destroy" ISIS. Operation Uncertain Resolve is more like it.
There is no doubt that US bombing has succeeded in slightly degrading ISIS--Central Command helpfully puts out a long laundry list of all the buildings and vehicles its aircraft have blown up. But there is scant sign that ISIS is on the path to destruction. True, its offensive toward Baghdad has been blunted and it lost control of Tikrit. But the fact that the assault on Tikrit was led by Shiite militiamen under the effective control of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, indicates the self-defeating nature of this offensive. Sunnis will never turn on ISIS, as they turned on AQI in 2007, if by doing so they will open themselves to domination by Shiite militias.
Jonathan Adler is mostly right but ultimately wrong in his argument that the federal government lacks the power to regulate abortion, and that such power is reserved for the states. However, he seems to slide past the most powerful and obvious counter-argument: the Supreme Court has injected itself into the issue (and it's part of the federal government).
(Obviously I'm not a lawyer, but I believe that abortion is a moral and political question, not primarily a legal one. I'm not trying to create an air-tight legal position that supports any specific abortion restrictions.)
Relevant legal questions -- how to define murder, when to excuse the taking of life as defensible or otherwise permissible, even defining what constitutes the end-of-life for medical and other purposes -- have always been matters of state law. Drawing such lines necessarily involves drawing distinctions that will please some and offend others, but that hardly creates an equal protection problem, let alone justify federal legislation. Again, where protected classes are not involved, a state's decision to draw different distinctions than would the federal government, even on matters involving life and death, is insufficient to justify a federal law.
Note there the invocation of "protected classes" -- who decides what the protected classes are? Can't Congress? Of course it can; Congress (with sign-off from the President) can decide that unborn babies are a protected class. Most of the protected classes were created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was was passed by Congress and signed by President Johnson.
Glenn Reynolds also argues that Republicans should oppose abortion legislation because they support limited government. I respect the Instapundit a lot, but I think he misses the same element that Mr. Adler did.
One such conflict is likely to appear this week, when the House is expected to vote on a 20-week limit on abortions. Such a limit polls well-- Americans are much more supportive of early abortionsthan late-term abortions -- and would still leave the United States with more-liberal abortion laws than nearly all of Europe. Even so, the Republicans need to be asking themselves -- and the Democrats need to be asking them, too -- where, exactly, Congress gets the power to limit abortions to 20 weeks?
Where did the Supreme Court get the power to enable abortions? Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution says that Congress may limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (except for "Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party"). So clearly Congress could remove abortion from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court if it wanted to. That's de facto power to regulate abortion without interference from the courts, if Congress chose to exercise it.
As I wrote at the top, I'm not skilled enough to make an air-tight legal argument. But I know that if the law allows the slaughter of millions of babies every year then the law is wrong.
Congrats to the UK for awarding an outright majority to the Conservatives. I wonder if this stunning landslide makes American Democrats nervous? Prime Minister David Cameron had previously led a coalition government because the Conservatives didn't hold a majority of Parliament, but now he can form a majority government and lead much more freely.
Free and peaceful elections seem so routine to those of us in the West, but let's not forget how astounding they are.
David Cameron today vowed to make Great Britain 'greater still' as he set out how he will use his shock outright Tory majority to ensure the 'good life is in reach for everyone who's willing to work and do the right thing'.
The Prime Minister used a statement outside Number 10 to pay tribute to both Labour's Ed Miliband and his former Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg who have both resigned after suffering heavy losses in one of the most unpredictable election results for a generation. ...
Mr Cameron had earlier walked out the doors of Number 10 to declare he was forming a majority Tory government after routing Labour and the Lib Dems in the biggest electoral shock in living memory.
Congress has passed the first budget in a decade thanks to the new Republican majority. I haven't read the details, so who knows if it's a good budget, but at least it's something we can look at and debate. That's better than the omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions we've had for years. Good job! But, of course, President Obama will stonewall.
The White House signaled in statement Tuesday evening that the budget has no chance of getting Obama's approval. "The president has made clear that he will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward, nor one that reverses sequestration for defense - whether explicitly or through backdoor gimmicks - without also reversing sequestration for non-defense," the White House said.
Sequestration is law and will require an act of Congress to reverse, so it looks like the President is going to hold it hostage.
Even China -- home of the world's "cheap labor" (though not as cheap anymore!) -- is investing in robotic manufacturing. The numbers look big, but these are baby-steps. Once the bugs in the robotic systems get ironed out we'll see robots displacing millions of workers.
Robots are set to take over in many factories in the Pearl River Delta, the area of southern China known as the 'world's workshop' because of the huge export manufacturing industry there, as labour shortages bite and local authorities face the need to spur innovation to counter the economic slowdown.
Since September, a total of 505 factories across Dongguan have invested 4.2 billion yuan in robots, aiming to replace more than 30,000 workers, according to the Dongguan Economy and Information Technology Bureau.
By 2016, up to 1,500 of the city's industrial enterprises will began replacing humans with robots.
At current exchange rates that's about $22,500 per worker.