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Prop 8 [Aug. 4th, 2010|08:42 pm]
Is overturned.  Their own witnesses undermined one of the key reasons- welfare of children- that they advanced in support of Prop 8.

I'm uncomfortable with a federal mandate to the states on gay marriage, whether it's for or against.  I'll dig up my old post on that if anyone wants me to, but basically, I would be happiest with the federal government recognizing any marriage that is recognized by any state, and leaving the question of who can get married to the states.  It's something that should happen, I'm not entirely happy with the means being used.

That said, the judge appears to have made the only constitutionally correct decision possible.  The 14th Amendment requires equal treatment before the law.  It does not limit this equal protection by sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or anything else.  So, to selectively restrict civil rights requires a rational basis to do so.  Something more important must be at stake before the restriction is permissible.

They raised a concern that children will do better when raised by straight couples than by gay couples.  If the evidence bore this assertion out, this would fit the rational basis. Whether it was a strong enough rational basis or not is another matter(I don't know the specifics, but there are different levels and apparently this case merited the highest level of scrutiny), but it would bring a gay marriage ban into the realm of possibly passing 14th Amendment scrutiny.

But... Their own experts had to admit on the stand that there is no actual evidence to support this, the evidence that exists consistently shows that gay or straight parents has no bearing on how well the kids turn out.

That left the simple belief that it was immoral as a basis for Prop 8.  Simple belief doesn't even approach 14th Amendment ok, and the generally religious basis of that belief brings in the 1st Amendment against Prop 8.  Actual potential for harm to someone must be demonstrated and the Prop 8 supporters utterly failed to do this.  

So, gay marriage win.  I'd rather this have come through the states, but the end result is at least something I'm fully behind.  But whatever I feel about how this win should have occurred, looking at Judge Walkers ruling, and looking at the Constitution, this decision appears to be on pretty solid ground.  He's going to be ripped apart by the right for being an activist judge, but as far as I can tell this is actually a fairly strict reading of the Constitution.  He didn't reach or adapt the words under a living document theory, he took it as it was.  The 14th Amendment didn't rule out gays by any stretch of the imagination, and nothing in the Constitution would support gays being exempt from any of it's provisions or amendments. 

All in all a good day for sanity and fair treatment to all.  
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wow. [Jul. 25th, 2010|12:28 am]

I expected something a bit more, well, intelligent. The articles basic premise is that white privilege is a myth, and that special programs to aid immigrants and blacks are discriminatory against whites. My comments here apply to the United States. The basic principles likely apply in other mixed race societies, but probably manifest in somewhat different ways.

Immigrants... Hmm. So we let them come, and then leave them to fend for themselves? Isn't it kind of a smart idea, even ignoring the immigrants welfare, to help them get established? Just for our own damn benefit, it would be good to help them become productive members of society. "Ok, your paperwork is in order, good luck!" just sounds like a terrible idea, and it seems like that is what he is advocating we do with immigrants.

You know why some people turn to crime? Because they can't get on their feet with a legal way to support themselves. They get desperate. This happens to people born and raised in our culture with roots going back centuries. How much harder is that going to be with cultural and perhaps linguistic barriers in the way? I want to stress that I'm not saying immigrants are bad or stupid people. But when our own people go down a bad path due to difficult circumstances, I can't imagine that immigrants would be any less likely to follow that path as well.

What seems strange is that he recognizes that there is a cultural inertia at work. We might achieve 100% equality before the law for all racial and ethnic backgrounds, but that isn't enough. Culturally our society would still be built on the old order of things for quite some time after we get the laws fixed. But isn't that an argument in favor of affirmative action and other support programs? There may be a point where the expected benefits of such programs are outweighed by the expected costs, but that's not what he's arguing. He's arguing that the programs should simply end.

He had an interesting point about white culture not being monolithic. This would have been good if he was writing a Sociology paper discussing the cultures that form the United States. But he misses a huge, huge point. If someone of Swedish or French or Italian descent wants to get ahead, and their cultural background might cause a problem... They can simply decline to mention it. They can even pretend to be a more accepted form of white if they want to. While it is horrible if someone has to do this, the fact is that they can. Yes, cultural inertia might play a role, but white people don't have obstacles to participating in the collective culture based on their skin color.

Ok, and to drive him down even more, let's say we got all the laws in order. Full equality before the law. And let's even banish racist thoughts and actions from everyone in society. There's still a problem. Webb isn't taking the cultural inertia far enough here. Black people will still be disadvantaged relative to white people. White people got to positions of power over two centuries ago. Their families have vast fortunes and influence in many segments of society. Sure, we might have a situation where, all else being equal, a black person and a white person have an equal chance of getting ahead. But it's not equal. Powerful people nearly always get that way in part due to family connections. Maybe a huge inheritance, help getting a CEO position, daddy helping you with your presidential campaign strategy. These things go to help family first- most people would even argue that it's good that you help your own family first. Bill Gates- while he wasn't super wealthy, his family was well off enough that he could quit Harvard and get right back in if that whole Microsoft thing didn't work out. His family had connections and money, that was quite helpful in getting him started.

The problem of that, with respect to race and cultural inertia? Black people don't have family members in positions of power. Sure, there are occasional exceptions, but by and large the positions of power are already taken up by white people. Given the importance of family connections to rising up to the top tiers of society, and often even the middle tiers, how are black people supposed to actually do anything with the theoretical equality I've pretended they have for these last two paragraphs? They might be allowed and encouraged to break the cultural inertia Webb discusses, but they simply don't have the tools. Until they advance, they won't be able to advance. I'm at a loss to think of anything other than some form of affirmative action that might be able to break this dilemma.
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Unmanned combat systems [Jul. 12th, 2010|03:56 pm]
Pulled this from a facebook comment I recently made.

Unmanned combat systems bother me. They have the potential to vastly reduce the physical and psychological human costs of war.

On the surface this sounds good, but it's not happening across the board. I see that turning out very badly in the long run. The threshold for initiating hostilities might drop dramatically in the nations that have such technology. And the nations without it just have to take it, and have no effective way to protect themselves or convince the aggressors to stop- Terrorism against the agressors civilians starts looking like the only option left. Noone wins here.

Lets say the tech was equally available to all. Ok, so you can now fight the invader on equal terms. But what does it matter? Weapons that you are resigned to losing anyways and don't care much about get lost. The only targets that can potentially win you the war are civilian targets.

Even if that didn't happen, you still have the idea that war is a trivial thing to do- you aren't resolving issues by seeking a greater understanding and cooperation, you are still fighting over it. The world might not get destroyed, but it doesn't get built up to something better either.

Advances in unmanned combat systems really bother me. I hope social advances start obsoleting war before these systems become primary combat forces, or we might be in for a hellish future.
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(no subject) [Jun. 23rd, 2010|04:19 pm]
Right wing is about to go even more nuts on Obama for relieving General McChrystal of command.

If he hadn't publicly disrespected the chain of command before, I'd be complaining too- even the people at the top need some allowance for mistakes. But while the general certainly has a right to his opinions, the nature of military service demands restrictions on sharing those opinions that civilians don't have to deal with. Repeated failure to show respect to the chain of command, even when you disagree with it, is not something that can be accepted in a four star general.

He may have been good in lower level field commands- I hope he was if he got his fourth star. But respect for the chain of command- ESPECIALLY when it crosses into the civilian command levels- is just about the central concept of American military doctrine. The founding fathers knew their history, and knew what happened when nations allowed the military to break loose of strict civilian control. Whatever battlefield advantages it might bring, it destroyed nations, in fact this sort of a thing was a major factor in the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire.

Sure, McChrystal's comments were pretty far from a dangerous disregard for orders and policy- he disrespected his commander, but he was likely still going to follow orders- but this is not something to play around with. Sure, the potential existence of a slippery slope is no guarantee that we will go down it, but this is one we don't want to take even small chances on.

I'm concerned about what might happen in Iraq though with Petraeus being placed in charge of Afghanistan. Not that Petraeus is a bad choice, but if he has to handle Iraq as well, that's just going to be a mess. Hopefully Obama finds another general to head the Iraq mission. Afghanistan is more justifiable, and more important to our security. It needs a commander focused on just Afghanistan and getting that sorted out.
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Video Editing Software [Jun. 21st, 2010|12:00 am]
Ok, I don't need much, but messing around wtih iMovie, well, it's just too limited.  I'd like to do machinima more advanced than setting a boss fight to music, and that is really about the limit of what can be done with iMovie.  Also have a few other video ideas that iMovie would, at best, be a severe pain in the ass to use for.

So I'm looking for video editing software more powerful than iMovie, not too much harder to use*, and less expensive than Final Cut Express.  FCE would be considered, but it's way out of my budget at this time.  If this takes off as a long term serious hobby, sure, I might find a way to afford it, but it is not an option at this time.

It must work with Macs.  That is not negotiable.  Intel macs specifically, but if that's only through Rosetta that is perfectly fine.  I'm not on a Mac Pro, so video editing through Parallels or any other sort of virtualization/emulation probably isn't a great idea, so it needs to be OSX native.

I'd spend a few extra bucks for software that can edit high def videos, as long as including that feature does not come at the cost of more general editing capabilities.   

I definitely want some reasonably convenient chroma key ability.  

Anyone have any suggestions?  I don't know enough about this stuff to really evaluate options on my own, though I'm trying.  

*-Whatever I get will probably be harder than iMovie for simple stuff, I just want difficulty that scales reasonably with the extra capabilities.
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Aid ship incident [Jun. 2nd, 2010|12:46 am]

Ok, lets assume that the Israeli commandos were attacked when they boarded this ship.

That doesn't matter. This was a civilian vessel, under the flag of a nation(turkey) which is not at war with Israel, in international waters. Israeli interception and boarding of this vessel is an act of war, and absent having come under fire *before* the interception and boarding, a flagrant violation of international law.  As much as such a pre-boarding attack would have changed things, there's no way Israel simply forgot to mention it.

Any violence against the Israeli commandos was a perfectly legitimate attempt to repel hostile boarders.  The ship was subject to a completely unjustified assault, and they have a right to defend themselves against imminent threats.

Had Israel waited until the ship was in her own territorial waters, this situation might be somewhat different.  All they had to do was shadow this ship, at a safe distance to avoid an accidental collision, and board once they crossed the territorial waters limit.

Actually, on second thought, I don't think that would change much.  It might remove the objection to stopping and boarding the vessel, but the conduct of the raid?  Sending commandos in armed for lethal combat- what you'd expect them to do when boarding a hostile warship- is just asking for trouble.  Could they not have ordered the ship to hold position while some riot police were brought in with actual crowd control equipment and training?  They sent instead, people trained and equipped to fight a war.  

Ok, have the commandos available as a last resort in case the cops get overwhelmed, but sending them in as the initial wave sounds like they wanted to provoke a fight.  These are people whose training says "if it attacks me, or looks like it might, it dies".  YOU DO NOT USE THESE PEOPLE FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT.  They might be very good at what they do, might be wonderful people, and while not all of you agree, there is the argument that a nation needs people like this(though I do hope this changes eventually).  But this is not the situation where they are your option of first resort.  That's mental.  The only reason to use them as the first resort is flat out incompetence or an actual desire for a violent confrontation.  Actually, both, because Israel perpetrating an act of war on one of the few Muslim majority countries they are on decent terms with is a pretty damn stupid thing to do.  

Civil unrest in the US.  In the 20s, the Marines were dispatched to guard the mail.  This was done only after the Post Office and law enforcement were unable to do so after a series of mail robberies.  Troops were sent in to enforce desegregation, AFTER law enforcement was unwilling or unable to do so.  Troops went into LA after Rodney King, AFTER law enforcement was overwhelmed.  Truly extreme circumstances can justify deploying the military in support of law enforcement.  But I can't think of *any* situation where the military should be used AS law enforcement, the way the Israelis have done here.
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