Politics: June 2013 Archives

NRA and Video Games

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Wayne LaPerriere says, "Isn't fantasizing about killing people, as a way to get your kicks, really the filthiest form of pornography?"

I don't understand how it is pornography; but is it filthy, or bad? Isn't that what almost every little boy does: gets "kicks" by playing games about killing people? Cowboys and Indians, little green army men, whatever it is ... that is what many of our species (mostly boys, but not all boys and including many girls) just naturally do, and I think there's probably a natural evolutionary reason why: because through play, we prepare ourselves with skills we might need in real life.

Maybe you could argue that as adults, we should no longer do such things, but I don't see any basis for this claim. We play throughout our lives.

Fantasies are not real, obviously. We seem to mostly understand that, but what we don't seem to get is that most of us do not want our fantasies to be real. Whether it is clouds that taste like cotton candy or killing hundreds of cops in a video game or something more adult, we want these things to remain fantasies. Our fantasies have implications for real life, but they are not real life and we do not want them to be.

I consider that maybe we should worry about people who do not have fantasies that couldn't be realized. If you have no fantasies, or all of your fantasies are just real life, then it seems to me your mind is not growing and learning.

But the real problem is not the people who fantasize about violence, nor those who do not fantasize, but rather people who want their fantasies -- whatever they are -- to be real. People who reject their real life, who want to recreate reality to match their dreams, are the issue. This is not just where we get certain types of killers, but even more mundane, but still tragic, societal problems like broken families: people see fantasies about what their lives could be and reject their current lives for a fantasy that will never be realized.

Again, we get back to mental health and the isolation of modern life, where people have problems with reality, and don't have a structure of people around them to give them the help or outlets or doses of reality that they need. And yes, video games can be an outlet for such people, but they do not create such people. Video games at worst are a symptom, not the disease, nor a cause of the disease, nor even a catalyst for an expressing of the disease.

On Gay Marriage

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Up front, I want to reiterate (for those who haven't followed me on this before, or who have fogotten) that I am not in favor of government restrictions on marriage. To me, the only two proper positions are getting government out of the marriage system entirely, or opening up government marriage to any pair of unmarried consenting adults. Therefore, I oppose both sides to the marriage debate. I think DOMA is wrong, and I think the state laws that legalize gay marriage, but keep marriage between close blood relations illegal, wrong.

But deeper than my hatred of such government restrictions on marriage, is my hatred of tortured legal decisions that are clearly designed to reach a particular outcome, while ignoring the rule of law. And that's what we've got here, with the DOMA decision.

I agree with the Prop. 8 decision. I agree Prop. 8 is arguably unconstitutional, because of the equal protection claims, but I would find a law legalizing gay marriage to be equally unconstitutional, as it would similarly discriminate against other marriages. But regardless, the petitioners had no standing. Only Roberts and Scalia were consistent in this. The dissenters -- including Kennedy, Alito, and Thomas -- said that the point of the California initiative process is to bypass public officials. But that puts no burden on the federal courts to intervene: if the California government refuses to defend the voter initiative, then the California voters should pick new people to represent them in that government. That is not the federal court's concern.

On DOMA, we have a similar issue: President Obama refused to defend DOMA in Court. That necessarily means that the Court should not have heard the case, because there was literally no dispute before it. The case's name is United States v. Windsor, but in effect, the case decided on was United States and Windsor, because both parties agreed with the lower court's ruling.

And the argument for DOMA was similarly nonsensical. It doesn't actually make a case for unconstitutionality. It claims that the purpose of DOMA is to punish or harm gay couples, and uses that falsehood as a jumping-off point to assert that the government can't punish people for such things, therefore it's wrong: "By seeking to injure the very class New York seeks to protect, DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles." But they were not seeking to injure. The argument is obvious nonsense.

The other half of the argument was that DOMA was so broad and spilled over into the states, it couldn't be justified, but somehow that argument didn't fly in regard to a much broader law, the Affordable Care Act. And even if this were the case, they could have struck down only the portion of the law that intruded onto state responsibilities, and left alone the part that was strictly regarding federal responsibilities (federal taxes and so forth).

It's hard to see how Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan would have applied the same reasoning to other state vs. federal power disputes. The ACA is one obvious example. Also consider a case of the EPA vs. a state law to protect property rights from the EPA.

What's absolutely clear here is that on both the issue of standing, and on the constitutionality question, the majority just feared being on the "wrong side of history," and threw out the rule of law to achieve their desired ends. And that -- not the legalizing of gay marriage at the federal level -- is the scary part of this decision.

In response to the Supreme Court's decision today to strike down an unjust law -- a law which said that people are punished for election discrimination done 50 years ago by other people -- Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) announced the "Right to Vote Amendment." You may be thinking, "don't I already have the right to vote?" Yes, you do. But it is arguable that the right is not explicit in the Constitution (I'll save that discussion for another time). Therefore, the first section of the amendment:

SECTION 1: Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.

Seems straightforward enough. As does the second, and last, section:

SECTION 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.

I was all set to support this amendment -- I agree everyone has the right to vote, I don't mind it being made more explicit, and I like the idea of amending the Constitution more often -- until it struck me: why put this amendment out now? Saying every adult has the right to vote doesn't have any bearing on the recent Supreme Court decision. It's assumed in the decision that everyone has the right to vote. The first section has no relevance to the decision.

It's the second section that matters. What the proponents of the amendment will do is use this second section to argue that any law the Congress comes up with, including one that enforces perpetual discrimination against Southern states, is valid so long as its goal is to enforce the fundamental right to vote.

I don't think it would actually change the Supreme Court's decision, had this amendment already been law. But I dislike the attempt.

Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer is leading the effort to give us universal background checks for gun sales in Washington.

Hanauer says, ""We want to keep guns out of the hands of people that are dangerous criminals or insane." That's fine. We all want that. But there is no reason to think universal background checks will do that. The data shows that only a tiny, tiny percentage of guns purchased through legal means but without background checks are purchased by people who cannot legally own them, and the black market for guns dwarfs this so-called "grey market."

That didn't stop him from saying that anyone who disagrees with him -- that is, people who can read the data -- are "irresponsible."

This isn't the first time that Hanauer has ignored the data to push his agenda, and lied about it. Last year, Hanauer -- in a widely viewed talk at TED -- showed a graph that supposedly demonstrated that as wealthy people get lower tax rates, unemployment increases. It shows the two data points in 1995 and and 2009, and then a bunch of data points in between, and sure enough, unemployment was consistently up while wealthy tax rates consistently fell.

The problem is that the data in between 1995 and 2009 were completely made up. The numbers were wholly fabricated. You can see the fake data and real data side-by-side, and tell that actually, tax rates and unemployment were on similar trajectories for most of those years: they fell together until about 2000, increased together during that recession, fell together during the recovery (although tax rates started falling sooner), and then rose together during the next recession (although unemployment rose much faster).

I didn't even remember this was the same guy when I heard Hanauer on TV the other night, lying about how the universal background checks would keep guns out of the hands of bad people, and defaming people as irresponsible if they disagreed with him. But now that I remembered he's the same guy who told such a baldfaced lie about effective tax rates vs unemployment to millions of people, well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from June 2013.

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