The Phantom City

Notes from our travels across a mysterious world.

Author: Shane (page 3 of 70)

Rest in peace, Andy Griffith

You were a great actor. Thanks for the performances.

You went from this:

To this:

To this:

To this:

And were excellent in all of them. You reminded me of my home and that always made me happy.

Update: The Knight Shift has a good remembrance, including Griffith’s most famous comedy routine.

I Can Haz Perspective?

So, apparently (I’m not linking to it) Editor-at-large Ben Shapiro had this Twitter reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act:

“This is the greatest destruction of individual liberty since Dred Scott. This is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration.”

I do try to keep the perspective that everyone’s problems are big to them, and current problems seem larger than the ones we faced in the past, but this is a good example of the reason why I don’t read many of the bigger partisan political sites and ignore 90% of what I see on the ones I do. And that reason would be Idiots.

But let us let tell us more about why this particular statement is flawed:

Now, we didn’t attend Harvard Law (well, one of us did, but he’s a Stanford man at heart), and so we have no fancy book-larnin in the law, but we were motivated to learn by Shapiro’s subsequent challenge to find a case more awful than yesterday’s. Was National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius the greatest destruction of individual liberty (presumably at the hands of the United States Supreme Court, which allowed us to disregard extrajudicial and foreign tragedies such as the Great Leap Forward and GULAG) since Dred Scott?

And in our many seconds of study, we could only name six:

Korematsu v. United States, in which the Supreme Court affirmed the deportation of every Japanese American from California to a concentration camp;

Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the Supreme Court affirmed that states could segregate Dred Scott’s descendants, now American citizens, into separate facilities such as schools and buses, facilities which turned out not to be quite equal to those provided the descendants of Dred Scott’s master;

Schenck v. United States and its progeny Debs v. United States, which had something to do with imprisoning people and stripping their citizenship for expressing unpopular political opinions;

Herrera v. Collins, in which the Court held that executing prisoners whom post-trial evidence shows to be actually innocent of any crime is not a “cruel” or “unusual” punishment;

Bowers v. Hardwick, in which the Court held that it’s constitutional to jail two consenting, unrelated adults for the physical act of love; and

Kelo v. City of New London, in which the Court held that government may seize valuable private property for the purpose of giving it away to government cronies who intend nothing more than to flush it down the toilet.

I’d add to this that, if you’re crying now about ACA being upheld, but weren’t crying last week about:

  • The Patriot Act
  • Guantanamo
  • The lack of federal prosecutions for torture
  • Bush lying to America to start a war and kill thousands
  • Free Speech Zones
  • The criminalization of ever-larger percentages of our population (due to the drug wars)
  • RICO and other law-enforcement property seizures (no trial needed, as long as someone says the Magic Word: “Drugs”)
  • The militarization of police
  • Lack of accountability for prosecutors who hide evidence
  • Domestic surveillance programs
  • Executive power to start wars without Congressional approval
  • Assassination lists
  • Classification of anyone standing near an enemy combatant as a combatant (for instance, at a wedding)
  • The combination of the previous two with the pinpoint precision of air-to-ground missile warheads
  • The increasing need to carry identification at all times
  • Over-classification of government information, by a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
  • Secret national security trials, if you are lucky enough to get one in the first place.
  • Our own knee-jerk reactions to anyone who exercises their freedoms in a way in which we do not personally agree

then you need to sit down, read some history for perspective, ponder what you think America is all about…and, quite frankly, how much you care about freedom as a universal ideal, rather than just caring about how government affects you directly. We’ve got ~99 problems, clauses in the ACA aren’t anywhere near the top of the list right now, and the two major parties aren’t offering any answers.

If you were already concerned about that sort of thing, however, then, as Ali G would say, “Respek.” 🙂

Update: I almost forgot. A special shout-out to the executive director of the Democratic National Committee, who tweeted after the Supreme Court decision: “it’s constitutional. Bitches.” Hahahaha…it’s so funny that he decided to be all hip and current by using a derogatory term normally used for women in serious political discourse. Wow, Patrick Gaspard, you are certainly a man to admire. (Really? REALLY?!? Mr. Gaspard, you’re the head of the DNC. Time to grow up.)

Update II: Added in the bit about over-classification and secret trials. We’re at a point right now where even the most innocuous information is often classified…not for security reasons, but because government action can’t be judged if we don’t know what to judge.


Mike Munger on why Single-Payer Healthcare would be better than what we had before and what we have now. These are the exact reasons why I’ve converted to the Single Payer idea myself as the most pragmatic solution, after years of dismissing it, but he writes it a lot better than I can.

And let’s face it, folks…do we really have a better healthcare system than Canada, France, or Switzerland, no matter the horror stories that come up every time someone mentions that other countries might have a better solution? (Yes, I know those three countries have different solutions. Each also happens to be a lot closer to single payer than they are to us.) Note I didn’t throw Britain’s NHS in there. That ends up sounding like going to the doctor at the DMV. 🙂

(If anything, that old saw about how our system lets us get all the latest and greatest in technology and medicines as long as we can pay for it, if true, just means we subsidize the rest of the world in medical research. We can’t afford that.)

While I was happy about the limits on the Commerce Clause, I kind of wish PPACA had been struck down yesterday so we could potentially move on to talking single payer again, rather than waiting a few years to notice that PPACA hasn’t done a thing to control costs.

Update: Rereading this, I realized used the DMV as an example of unpleasantness. Actually, a couple of years ago when I realized my license had expired the day before, I had an entirely pleasant experience at the DMV office on MLK in Durham. No lines, friendly people, and very efficient. So, in the spirit of privatization, I’ll compare the NHS to holding for credit card customer service while standing in line at the car mechanic’s. 🙂

Six almost inevitable economic steps

Mike Munger, former Libertarian Party candidate for NC governor, recommends some steps to get past this economic morass.

I’ll summarize, but you should really go and check out the article.

  1. Single Payer Healthcare, to divorce healthcare from employment compensation.
  2. Cuts to the military, while reducing mission.
  3. Cut the deficit with tax increases and spending cuts
  4. Pay for Social Security by removing the tax cap, and means-testing the rest.
  5. Reduce business uncertainty by slowing down the pace of regulation.
  6. Cut corporate tax rate to 20%, but remove all loopholes to ensure it is actually paid.

Pretty interesting, and in my opinion we’re going to be forced to do a lot of these things eventually, but we’re going to wait long enough for it to be much more messy and painful than it had to be.

Amendment One

So, in North Carolina we’ll be voting on this measure for an amendment to our state Constitution, which has somehow survived for many years without it:

Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

See, if I was in the state legislature, I would have voted to amend that measure as follows:

Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman, for life, is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

(Also, each time a person referred to the amendment measure in public, they’d need to do the “4 Life” hand sign. Marriage would be just like the N…W…O….)

If we’re going to legislate marriage as defined in the churches in which I grew up, let’s go all the way. Let’s see how many of our state legislators would vote for that one. Or Republican Presidential candidates would. I know one who wouldn’t, because of principle; one who couldn’t, because he’d be laughing too hard; and one who wouldn’t, because it says “one woman.” (Sorry, bad Mormon joke.) Oh, and one who would, because of principle — that would be the Catholic guy who was successfully convincing a bunch of Protestants that the Mormon guy was the scarier option. What happened to my Baptists, folks? Nobody read those freaky Jack Chick Crusaders Comics from the ’70s? 😉

When you’re going to the polls in May, think about this: Do you really want the state to completely legislate based on man’s interpretation of God’s words…because I think you’ll notice if we start putting in all of the stuff that the pastors of my youth conveniently decided was overridden by grace, or just plain ignored, we won’t really need to worry about Sharia law. We’ll be used to something quite like it, whenever we have enough radical fundamentalist Muslims to somehow override the voting preferences of ~350 million people. (Look out, women of 2525!)

I’m still not exactly sure what the purpose of this amendment even is for its proponents. To protect the sanctity of marriage? I didn’t realize the strength of my marriage had anything to do with anyone else’s, but if that’s the case, the couple who were getting their marriage license next to us in Pigeon Forge, TN, didn’t get us off to an auspicious start. (“And this will be your…?” “Fifth marriage, ma’am.”) Marriage doesn’t seem to be tied to children in this state, so I’m not sure what it’s supposed to do there, other than remove a possible avenue of stability for them. Does it somehow encourage people not to be gay? I’d think the last 250 years of non-gay marriage are evidence that wouldn’t work. Heck, as near as I can tell, it’s not doing anything except lessening the possibility that some other generation will be able to disagree with us without having to first pass Amendment Minus One.

I’m not a very good Libertarian, even though I voted for Munger in the last governor’s race. I’d probably be called a Liberaltarian in the commenter’s section in Reason, and I couldn’t really argue with that. But, I do believe in it enough to ask: Why is the State in the Marriage business?

The state government of North Carolina is partially here to provide services a majority of us, at one point or another, implicitly agreed would be better supplied by the collective. It’s also here to enforce laws that we agreed we didn’t want to live without, for one reason or another. (It’s part of that social contract you didn’t even realize you were agreeing to, just by being born into it and not leaving.) Just as importantly, to my view, NC is here to enforce agreements between private parties. Those contracts often take commonly used shapes for commonly desired outcomes. Business incorporation, for instance, serves as an agreement about liability between you, the State, and your customers.

This is what the marriage license means to the state: It’s a legal agreement, a contract between two parties that confers certain rights and responsibilities, so commonly understood and established in precedent we don’t even have to sign a real contract with every clause listed. If you want to dissolve that contract, we have a nice large body of law and standard rules that allow you to do so. If you want to override that behavior, then you draw up a legal agreement beforehand that will take precedence. If one partner dies, that contract conveys certain privileges to the survivor. If one partner is sick, or disabled, that contract also conveys certain privileges. It’s shorthand for a very complex legal contract between two parties. And, as far as the State is concerned, that’s it.

My marriage, much like yours probably, was also a religious ceremony. We found a pastor who we’d never met before who was willing to marry us on a mountain in Tennessee as part of a complete paid wedding package, and committed to each other before God and our families. That part was important to us as a symbol of our commitment. You know the State’s concern about all of that? They cared whether the pastor was qualified to sign the wedding license. In other words, for the State, we got married by a special kind of Notary Public. We could have been married by the Pope in Times Square, or an atheist ship captain on a gambling cruise, and the State would have been good with it.

Why do we continue to act like the religious part has anything to do with the legal part? The marriage you have right now, to the State, is a recognized form of civil union, certified by that license, recorded in a courthouse somewhere. You can have all of the religious ceremony you want, and all the faith in the world, and if you don’t get that license, you’ll only be legally married by coincidence after you fall under common law.

If keeping a particular religious belief about marriage and the legal definition of marriage synced is so important, I’m wondering why we don’t seem to pay much attention to these milestones and what they could be linked to as far as legal status:

  • Christening
  • Bar Mitzvah
  • Immersion baptism
  • Church membership

Perhaps legal personhood? Voting? Driving? Drinking age? Heck, at least one or two of those have often been required for full rights — such as they were — in various places in various times. (I grew up a fundamentalist country Baptist. You know what we liked? Separation of church and state, because we were suspicious of the State and anyone who wanted to gain power through it. A bunch of years being killed by the various State Churches after the Reformation kind of guaranteed that reaction.)

So, my preference? We start treating the State part like what it is, a civil contract between consenting adults. Not part of our religion…I suspect there are some sects out there that have a problem with the idea of my marriage. (Heck, to a couple of guys who were wandering around the neighborhood the other day, I’m going to Hell because I’m a Baptist, so I doubt being yoked to a Presbyterian would make them happy — and I’d sure hate for them to start trying to impose that through the state.) We can all have our religious parts, and continue gossiping about the quality of other’s unions and the states of their souls, but for the State, I do not want to start restricting the kinds of private contracts into which consenting adults can enter. Particularly not the kind of contract that conveys rights helpful to stability, care, and companionship.

Before you mention it, yep, that would apply to groups of more than two people as well. I get your slippery slope argument, and still say free agreements between individuals are still very seldom going to be my business or yours. My reluctance there is the fact that our body of law and precedence actually doesn’t have much to say about dissolving those unions, or priority of rights amongst the individuals in the case of sickness, death, and children. But to pretend, like one of our illustrious state representatives, that we don’t know how to divorce two gay people married in other states? Really? We divorce couples every day without asking if either of them has a penis.

So, if any of this sounded right to you, go out and vote against Amendment One on May 8th. Or before. Early voting, you know.

Further details:
Carolina Review: Conservatives, Vote Against the NC Marriage Amendment

The News & Observer: Leading NC conservative opposes marriage amendment

Charlotte Observer: N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis: Gay marriage ban likely to be reversed

Update: Further articles on the topic, better said than I am able.

Mike Munger: Federalist Society Debate

Chris Knight: I’m Christian. I’m called “conservative”. I’m not voting for Amendment One.

By the way, Chris’s mention of Ron Baity surprised me, since I didn’t realize he is as involved in Amendment One as he apparently is. The only thing I have to say is that, if I find myself on the same side of any issue as Dr. Baity nowadays, I take that as a warning sign I might need to reexamine my opinion.

8 Years Ago Today…

I got married to the best person in the world. Happy anniversary, Lorrie!

Game of Thrones, out today

I’m speaking as a fan of the books, but I have to say Game of Thrones, Season One, is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Take the acting from Battlestar Galactica, give it the narrative direction you can only get from an established story, and you get ten episodes of compelling television. (DVD and Blu-ray sets out today.)

My impressions:

  • You don’t need to have read the books to enjoy the show. They do a fair amount of exposition during the storyline.
  • “They got their True Blood in my Game of Thrones!” Not sure why HBO figured we wouldn’t pay attention to the exposition scenes without a naked woman wandering around, but the nudity wasn’t as exaggerated as I thought from earlier reviews. And, yes, for those who’ve read the books, they show Hodor’s hodor.
  • That being said, is it kid-appropriate? Nope. Too many throats getting sliced.
  • The producers took the opportunity to add in a few non-expository scenes that I don’t think were in the books. They should have been.
  • Having living actors added a new dimension to some of the books’ more one-dimensional characters.
  • Heck, the Lannister kids are even better, and they were good in the books. Cersei is a lot better when being played by Lena Headey. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime is excellent, and Peter Dinklage would have been the perfect choice to play Tyrion even if he’d been 6’4″.
  • As in the books, a friendly warning: Don’t get too attached to any characters. GoT has the approximate mortality rate of the actual Middle Ages.
  • Update: Almost forgot: It does continue the GoT tradition of moms are crazy.

And, for anyone who has already seen Season One, here’s the Season Two trailer (starts April 1):

October 20th

Sometimes days are just special:

October 20

Happy 41st birthday, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Michelle Malkin, Aaron Garcia, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Sander Boschker, and Tiger Mask IV!

A Favorite Place

Night Motion Timelapse: Outer Banks from Daniel Dragon Films on Vimeo.

President Obama on the death of Osama bin Laden

Full remarks here. This is an important quote:

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

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