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I’m fairly strictly libertarian with my views of marriage, that consenting adults should be able to associate as they like and call it whatever they choose (“marriage,” “friends with benefits,” etc.). This obviously could be called a pro-gay marriage argument. In debates with people who favor traditional marriage, the issue always eventually leads to “Well, then, what about polygamy? Would you be fine with that, you heathen?!” And yes, I generally say I would — whatever consenting adults choose to do and to call it is fine, so long as it doesn’t hamper my ability to do the same.

The argument in defense of traditional marriage is usually something referring to tradition, to majority preference, or in some cases even religion. I’ve never given much credence to any of them, but I recently stumbled on a novel take on the subject that impressed me. It doesn’t ultimately change my opinion, but it’s without a doubt the most cogent defense of “one man, one woman” that I’ve yet seen.

Marriage has been for years a way to ensure an equal distribution of males to females. Attraction develops from ancient rites of selection which favored those that were stronger, faster, and more likely to survive. However, as a requirement for society to develop, we suddenly need “experts” in various fields not directly connected to survival — i.e. the person good at farming may not be “attractive”, the person who knows how to predict the weather may not be “attractive”, and so forth. We’ll call these “beta mates”, and under a non-rigorous system they would simply never mate, and therefore have much less reason to participate in society — depriving it of their expertise.

There is another factor, as well. Historically, it has been shown that in unstructured environments, a greater number of females mated than males. The deduction to be made is that females will flock to a male they consider attractive, accepting the presence of other mates in exchange for the higher attraction and potentially stronger offspring. That we don’t see this as often nowadays is precisely because of the point I’m about to make:

Structured monogamous marriage is a method of distributing males and females equally, and provides all mates (“alpha” and “beta”) with a reward for participating in society — the “alphas” benefit from the additional expertise brought by the “betas”, and the “betas” have a very high chance of successful mating. This was for quite some time enforced through arranged marriage, and I would even make the argument that arranged marriage is what made civilization possible.

Polygamy would lead, ultimately, to alpha flocking again, and greatly reduce the encouragement for beta experts to contribute meaningfully to society. I would further argue that we have begun to see the effects of this in the USA with the considerable reduction in the sanctity of marriage and a (I would postulate) corresponding drop in technological leadership worldwide.

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Tonight is the night before the election, which seems like the longest and most deeply divided in modern history. To even call it an election “season” is a bit imprecise — people were discussing Hillary Clinton and other candidates nearly two years ago. But tomorrow it all comes to an end, and we’ll need to decide what to do afterwards.

Every presidential election is different — new candidates, new voters, new issues on which we all feel passionately. Yet some things always seem to stay the same. Baseless personal attacks. Hype for debates that turn out to be snoozers. Charges of voter fraud and intimidation fired in both directions. Here’s one positive custom we also usually see: at the end of the night, the runner-up for president makes a private concession to his rival, followed by a public congratulations and appeal to his supporters to accept their new leader. It’s an often ignored practice these days, but the message behind it is one we should all consider as we go into Tuesday, before we know which role our candidate will be playing.

This is not a partisan message because its point is equally valid no matter who wins. After tomorrow, the next President of the United States will be chosen (we pray). For half of the voters, it will be a moment for celebration and victory and hope for the future. That shouldn’t be taken away from them. For the other half, the evening will end in defeat, sadness, and even resentment at the other party’s jubilation. Years of work and struggle, bitterer and angrier than I’ve ever seen, will come to a sudden, thundering halt like a car speeding into the side of a concrete building.

We should leave the anger and bitterness there as well.

Americans will not wake up two days from now miraculously changed people. There will still be political and ideological divisions, we’ll still fight for our causes, and that’s okay. Our country was founded with the very notion of disagreement in mind; it’s written into our First Amendment. After tomorrow night, half of the country will be unhappy with the outcome, but it’s what they do the following day that really matters. Swallow the anger, look past the divisions, and accept the man who will be our next President. You can’t change it now. But you can help bring this country back together and face the global and economic challenges as one nation, united.

To the winners, be happy. Celebrate your historic achievement, you’ve earned it. Don’t gloat; you are as instrumental to mending our nation as the other side. Your candidate is now the President-elect, and your tone going forward will set the tone for the whole country. Bipartisanship, reaching across party lines, healing the divide — it all begins with you, and it starts the day after tomorrow.

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More than any other Democrat-leaning entity, Saturday Night Live deserves much of the credit for defanging McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin. In the weeks since her elevation to the public stage, SNL has drawn record audiences through its hilarious and deceptively accurate parodies of the Alaska governor, and if polling data on McCain’s VP is right, its underlying message is paying off in spades.

As partisan as any side’s campaign ad, the SNL skits have succeeded in lowering the nation’s overall perception of Palin, but the brilliance comes from how it’s done rather than the message itself. Every time Tina Fey has bunned her hair and adopted a Northern accent to play Palin, the comedic point hammered home to viewers is the dual themes of building up one aspect of the candidate (her looks and affect) to satirical heights and simultaneously savagely distorting another (her intelligence and ability to answer a question). Not coincidentally, the former has no bearing whatsoever on Palin’s fitness for office, while the latter cuts to the core of it. When the McCain campaign first broke the news of Palin’s selection following the Democratic National Convention, Americans had nearly as many questions about “who was Sarah Palin” as they did about Barack Obama. Into this informational vacuum stepped an eager and partisan Saturday Night Live, and by focusing on Palin’s beauty as much as her inexperience, audiences bought NBC’s message far more than if the show had come across as simply disparaging her. This is evident when you compare SNL’s mockery of Sarah Palin to the similarly brutal, but far less effective, hatchetry it uses to take down John McCain. No attempt is made to disguise the show’s intentions, painting the GOP candidate as old, out of touch, cronyistic, and in this latest sketch following the third presidential debate, actually insane. But rather than maintaining an insidious balance between Sarah Palin’s looks and brains, the only counterpoint to McCain that audiences see is a cool-headed Barack Obama look-alike, realistically impersonated more than parodied, especially in comparison to its circus clown rendition of McCain. This makes for an obvious partisan message — both portrayals have probably wormed their dubious messages into the national consciousness, but Tina Fey’s Palin has actually become a sensation!

All this should make for an interesting encounter this weekend, when the real Sarah Palin is set to make a guest appearance on the show. Her presence will make it more difficult for the show to pigeonhole her, but don’t expect them not to try. The reason SNL’s parody worked so well is that it attacked her in ways that count, without making it look like the show was on the warpath. Smart as the real Palin is, NBC could still make her look like a fool by simply pulling the rug out from under her when the show goes live, ask her some questions that weren’t in the script, rehearse things one way and change them up at showtime. This might work, but it also risks spoiling the illusion of Fey’s parody, and the last thing they want McCain’s running mate to garner is sympathy.

That being said, Sarah Palin will be entering a real den of wolves on Oct. 18, filled with professional’s whose entire livelihood is in wearing a mask other than their own. Even if NBC should wisely decide against publicly humiliating her, mark my words come this Saturday: SNL’s goal will be to make Sarah Palin’s appearance hugely successful and not overtly partisan in the slightest, but in a way that also dovetails ever so slightly with the Palin that Tina Fey has been introducing us to for past six weeks.

Update: DAMN, was I wrong. It wasn’t funny in the slightest! Interesting though that Josh Brolin, star of “W”, hosted the show that night and followed up Palin’s sketch with a non-stop “comedy” rant against Bush and McCain.

Prediction: The election’s already over.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that libertarianism is the only form of political philosophy that can ultimately work, because it is the most in line with fundamental human nature.

Liberal philosophy, or social liberalism, is flawed in its reliance on the state (i.e. force) to arbitrarily redistribute one thing or another (money, education, health care, opportunity) in pursuit of the preservation of civil rights. Conservative philosophy, or social conservatism, is equally unworkable in the long run because it risks dismissing one man’s civil rights in preservation of another man’s traditional values. The problem with both of those ideas is that they ultimately rely on one entity’s (be that an individual’s, a party’s, or even “society’s”) perceptions of the way things should be in order to make policy decisions. You may believe gays have a right to marry, or that everyone has a right to basic health care, but how can you irrefutably tell someone who disagrees that their belief is wrong? On the flip side, you may believe that embryonic stem cell research is immoral or that Creationism should be taught in science class, but to impose those beliefs on everyone via government mandate is to at some level deny others the right to come to a different conclusion. No matter which way you come down on it, one person is imposing his beliefs on someone else, and right and wrong become a matter of who has the greatest ability to enforce.

The only real long term solution, in my humble opinion, is embodied in libertarian philosophy. At it’s core, it is the individual’s right to believe and act as they think best, restricted only such that the exercise of such rights does not interfere with any other individual’s right to do the same. It recognizes the inherent selfishness of human nature — that at the end of the day, despite anything one might say to the contrary, people will choose to act in the manner that they believe most benefits them. This applies at the individual level: if I think sitting on my couch all day every day eating Burger King and entertaining myself is what will give me great pleasure, and to me the immediate gratification outweighs the long term health risks, I’ll likely do it. It applies at the macro level: if the price of oil increases to a point that it becomes economically viable to invest serious capital in developing alternative sources of fuel, you can bet there will be companies pursuing it. And of course, it applies to all aspects of politics as well: if a politician can gain more power and retain it by voting for pork barrel spending, increasing governmental regulation of health care and promising it “for free,” or supporting a war only tangentially related to the attacks on 9/11, you can bet he or she will do it.

Libertarianism is the ultimate free market. Let people/companies/industries do what they want (or what they believe is best). You can put whatever restrictions in place that you want, that’s still what they’re all going to do anyway. If the government never taxed cigarettes, the price would be lower and more people might smoke, because at some level that’s what they wanted to do. Raise the tax to $500 per pack, and almost no one would smoke, because they’re still making that assessment about what’s best for them, and given the cost, choosing not to do it. Ban smoking entirely — most people will choose not to because in their assessment, it’s in their best interest not to run afoul of the law. But at the same time, it will incentivize others to fill the vacuum and provide product to those people whose assessment is different (i.e. they want to smoke, despite it being illegal). No matter what you do, people will always choose to do what they believe is best for them given all the circumstances. All you do by restriction, regulation, and taxation in pursuit of your own individual political philosophy is push around the pieces that make up that assessement. And each time you do it, you infringe on one entity’s rights in order to do so.


Common Question #1: Isn’t that just anarchy?

Enshrining individual rights doesn’t mean societal breakdown or the abolition of all government. A state would be necessary to perform functions that would not practically work on a large scale in a purely market-based system, most especially the protection of individual rights. Breach of contract. Law enforcement. Punishment for crimes. “Aha!” you say, “but what are those laws based on?” Quite simply, the law is broken when I do something (in the free exercise of my individual rights) that hinders your ability to do what you want. Considered objectively, that one basic rule is all you need to guide the whole of government policy.


Common Question #2: Won’t that create a world of haves and have nots?

You mean unlike what we have today? Allowing individuals greater freedom to do what they think is in their best interest makes it easier for people to achieve their goals, including material and monetary acquisition. It’s all well and good to believe you’re doing good by demanding an artificial, government mandated floor for those who fail, but the more floors you create (food, education, housing, health care), the more has to be taken from those that don’t need those floors. Leaving aside for the moment the infringement occurring on those individuals’ rights, it also creates incentives for them to find ways around the mandates, to become less generous rather than more. Because people will always assess what’s best for them differently, they will invariably come to different conclusions and make different choices. Some of those will be better than others; you’ll never be able to prevent some from rising and some from falling. The world of the haves and have-nots won’t be fixed by giving people the opportunity to fail, but it’ll only be exaggerated by drawing an arbitrary line and telling the people on one side, “You are a have-not. You need to be helped,” and the people on the other side, “You are a have. You need to pay up.”

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I generally detest just posting things said by other people (this is my blog, after all), but radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh made a statement today that I thought was just too succinct, eloquently put, and completely in line with my own beliefs to pass up.

It started because Juan Williams wrote in a Washington Post column that “Amnesty is just the nice thing to do.”  So Rush replied, “In five words, he summed up the liberal argument for amnesty.  It’s a ‘nice’ thing to do, and it really is!  … And how can anybody argue with that, ‘a nice thing to do’?  I mean, it’s even hard for me. …  All I can do, ladies and gentlemen, is look at other ‘nice’ things we did, and maybe examine how they turned out.

“It was really ‘nice’ to declare war on poverty.  It was so ‘nice’!  It was just ‘nice’ to give a woman the right to choose.  It was ‘nice’ not to disturb our pristine nature to get ‘filthy’ oil.  Now let’s see how all these turned out, shall we?

“It was ‘nice’ to declare war on poverty.  It’s the longest war in our history, and it’s the costliest.  We have spent over $6 trillion on the war on poverty and guess what?  No end in sight; it didn’t end poverty, but it did destroy the family structure in the inner city, to the point now that 56% of all African-American kids live in single parent homes, and most of the single parents are mothers.  Did anything ever sound so ‘nice’, ending poverty, that ended up so badly?

“And of course, it was ‘nice’ to not disturb the pristine nature of our country to get ‘filthy’ oil.  Did anything ever sound ‘nicer’ than ‘alternative energy’?  Oh, we get so sentimentally attached to this notion of ‘alternative energy’, biofuels and ethanol and so forth.  Cheap, clean, non-polluting fuels.  Sounded ‘nice’!  …forty years ago, with synthetic fuels.  And it sounds ‘nice’ today with biofuels.  And the result is, our heads are filled with ‘nice’ thoughts and our independence is threatened by ‘not nice’ dictators, from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hugo Chavez and the Saudi kings.  We are totally dependent on the importation of foreign oil!  And that’s so ‘nice’, folks, to not tear up our country.  At the same time, that’s right, we were not ‘nice’ to them.  We were mean, as the world’s lone superpower we were bullies.  And so it’s ‘nice’ to have them with their hands around our throats.

“And of course, it was so ‘nice’ to give a woman the right to choose.  It was!  It didn’t sound ‘nice’ to oppose abortion or to tamper with nature, but it did sound ‘nice’ to give a woman the right to choose.  Now, it’s cost us 40 million births, 40 million needed workers since 1973.  That’s how many Americans have not been born.  And guess what?  How many illegals are here?  And why do we need them?  Because we’re short on bodies.  We aborted them because it was so ‘nice’ to give a woman the right to choose.  40 million contributors to Social Security, snuffed out because we were ‘nice’.  If that wasn’t ‘nice’ enough, it caused us to find these 40 million immigrants, legal and illegal, to fit the bill.  Did anything ever sound that ‘nice’, and end up that ‘not nice’?

“As we now suffer through the ‘nice’ ideas on immigration and the ‘nice’ results we will not get, we can look forward to ‘gosh, it’s so ‘nice’ to save the planet from global warming?’  It’s just ‘nice’.  Why can’t we just be ‘nicer’ to people?  Why can’t we just get along?  Why can’t we just sit around and let the country be destroyed?  At least we’ll be ‘nice’ in the process.  We will like ourselves.  But our children and grandchildren will HATE OUR GUTS.”

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HEADLINE: Former Senator John Edwards Turns to Wal-Mart for PlayStation3

Just like the millions of Americans who turn to their neighborhood Wal-Mart for their holiday shopping needs [[including the esteemed former SC senator, I’m sure]], Wal-Mart announced today that former Sen. John Edwards is seeking to be one of the first to get a Sony PlayStation3, one of the most coveted holiday gift items this Christmas season.

Yesterday, a staff person for former Sen. Edwards contacted a Wal-Mart electronics manager in Raleigh, North Carolina to obtain a Sony PlayStation3 on behalf of the Senator’s family. [[Wow, way to use political staffer as personal shopper. But wait, isn’t Walmart for poor people?]] Later that night, Sen. Edwards reportedly re-told a homespun story to participants of a United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union-sponsored call about how his son had chided a fellow student for purchasing shoes at Wal-Mart. [[Yup, apparently so.]]

[Wal-Mart] noted the PlayStation3 is an extremely popular item this Christmas season, and while the rest of America’s working families are waiting patiently in line, Senator Edwards wants to cut to the front. [[Well, he’s rich, and IMPORTANT , after all. What good is being a soulless trial attorney and failed vice-presidential candidate if you can’t use it to screw over the average Joe?]]


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So we have a new videogame industry ratings scandal du jour. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has officially changed its content rating of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for Xbox 360 and PC from Teen to Mature. At issue was that “partial nudity in the PC version of the game can be created by modders.” This would be the equivalent of the MPAA changing Star Wars from a PG-13 to an R rating two weeks after its DVD release.

It is also highly reminiscent of the high profile “Hot Coffee” scandal that got GTA: San Andreas moved from M to AO (Adults Only). Both cases dealt with content intentionally created by the developers and shipped with every copy of the game, but inaccessible to the player absent some 3rd party hackery. Setting aside the issue of whether you believe such inaccessible content should even be considered by the ESRB in its rating (I do), the Oblivion case is overreaching and sets a dangerous precedent. With Hot Coffee, the offending mini-game was intended to shock, obviously went beyond the scope of the M rating, and was most likely removed from the game for that exact reason. But as I understand it, in Oblivion, the nude texture was included because Oblivion’s clothing and armor textures/meshes would not always look correct with a bra texture going straight through it. The bra mesh would also cause clipping and it would be rather clunky to re-texture it with each piece of armor.

Hot Coffee was included because the developer negligent, cunning, or otherwise forgetful. Hot Mead (as it is being called) was a developer’s tool and had to be transformed into its offending use, whereas the former merely had to be unlocked. Under the rating standard set by the GTA re-rating, developers have to ensure none of the content they include in the game exceeds the rating the game receives. After Oblivion, they have to be sure all content and any transformation thereof is considered.

To what extent must a content maker second guess its product to avoid a public flogging by the ESRB? The once radical step of re-rating a game after its release should be used to correct developer negligence or recklessness, not to force them to waste time and money making their game less open to modding.

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Entertainment Software Association president Doug Lowenstein, in his E3 2005 keynote:

We can use things like the American Constitution’s guarantee of free speech as a shield to legitimize virtually any content. Indeed, the very essence of art is that it has no boundaries, and the critical acclaim accorded various paintings, photographs, or books attests to that. But I submit to you it is one thing to say a product is protected speech, which it is, or that it is rated and parents need to accept responsibility for shaping the quality and values of the culture we live in. We’ve all seen games that depict content that is constitutionally protected artistic expression and yet which also raises the question of whether it really was necessary to realize the designer’s artistic vision. That’s not a call for censorship or government intrusion into videogame sales. But it is meant to say that it is fair for critics, and us, to ask whether everything that is cool and pushes the envelope is, in fact, creatively necessary.

Like flag burning, racial slurs, and pro-Nazi propaganda, maybe once in a while Rockstar could stop making GTA and Bully and The Warriors, and ask that just because they can make it (and it will sell like mad), should they?

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People in New Orleans are getting an illustration of what we members of the right have preached for years: “You can’t expect the government to cover everything.” At some point, you have to be willing to look to yourself. It’s amazing that in this day and age people expect instantaneous response. Never mind the fact that the hurricane was only a cat. one when striking Florida. No one knew where exactly the hurricane was going to strike. If the ships had been there earlier, they would have been subject to the fury of the storm, just as the oil rigs and everything else.

However, having said that, the first line of defense for the city of New Orleans resided first in the local law enforcement. While notable exceptions remain, few will confuse the actions of the local police here with that of the heroism of the 9/11 firefighters. Allegedly, many of the local police threw their responsibilities out the window. In addition, others allegedly chose to join the mobs in the destruction and looting.

Beyond the city police, the people were looking to the National Guard. However, it was the responsibility of the Governor of LA to call up the National Guard. Guard members from neighboring states were ready and waiting for the call that was delayed. When the residents of New Orleans were looking for a Rudy Giuliani, what they got was a sobbing finger pointer. Why use your own state funds, when you can wait a few days for a national response and then blame them for slow response? Never mind the fact that this is the largest national relief effort to date. What happens when relief does arrive? Citizens of the town fire weapons at rescue vehicles. Is this gratitude?

You are left with a relief effort that many of us are feeling is under appreciated at best. I realize when you are in a deplorable situation spirits are not going to be high. However, those of us who have given or are contemplating donating our dollars to charities would at least like to think that our funds are going to be well managed and appreciated. It’s hard to muster support for hoodlums and looters. Make no mistake, while some looting may have been for food, the images charred into our mind is that of men and women taking T.V.’s and sneakers. Not just from New Orleans, but communities many miles away. Add to that the complete and utter lack of compassion for the fellow man with the rapings, beatings, and alleged murders of people within the Super Dome.

After 9/11, communities received funds to prepare in the case of an emergency. What if anything had the city of New Orleans done with the Federal funds? Would this situation have been any different if there had been a terrorist attack? Coordination on the ground has been difficult because of the loss of cell phone towers. Why is this the technology of choice? Perhaps the finger pointing is a distraction technique. Members of the left know the true cause of the societal breakdown and the ensuing tragedy, but would rather look to the past, to the Right, and most unfortunately of all, President Bush.

So if Black Lawmakers (their title, not the one I would give) want someone to blame, perhaps they should look at themselves: at their policies, at their inadequate spending of resources since 9/11, at the entire doctrine of the left which has diluted the moral fiber of this country thus allowing a population turn almost feral, and most of all at the decision to blame. Instead of standing up, leading, and working with others to save the people of New Orleans, these law makers would choose to blame, and that is the biggest tragedy of all.

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Economist August 6th Cover - Breeding EvilI saw this cover in the local supermarket this morning as I was waiting to check out, and I cannot tell you how much it made me cringe. It takes scandal on the industry level of Monica Lewinsky to get videogames major international press, even making the cover of the Economist. As if Democrat senators like Clinton playing to the center weren’t bad enough, Rockstar has made the whole world question whether games are “breeding evil.”

In truth, however, the article is the polar opposite of its cover. Available online here, the article discusses a generational divide between gamers and non-gamers leading to an entire segment of the population (the elder) that reject videogames outright, just as was done with rock and roll, novels and even written words. It generally speaks positively about videogames as educational tools, whether they be Sim City and Rollercoaster Tycoon or the problem solving and quick decision-making of GTA. All in all, it’s seriously worth the read.

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