Saturday, November 01, 2008

Proposition 8 is Constitutional: Marriage is not a "Fundamental Right"

In this article, I would simply like to point out the absurdity of the most publicized argument against Proposition 8 on the November 4, 2008 ballot. The main argument against Proposition 8 is that it "would eliminate fundamental rights for a group of Californians." The purpose of this article is to point out the fact that State-sanctioned marriage is not a "right" to be found in the U.S. or the California constitutions. The definition of it is only something that we agree upon as a society, not something that we have forced upon us by a noisy minority or a handful of judges. Either the opponents of Prop. 8 are naive enough to believe they have the power to bestow "fundamental rights" upon whomever they wish or they understand that the right to marriage does not exist and they're intentionally misleading voters. All I'm asking for is a little bit of intellectual honesty in our argument here. That's all.

So where do the opponents of Prop. 8 and the California Supreme Court think they see the right to state-sanctioned marriage in our constitution? Don't tell me that we all have the right to pursue "happiness". That argument is nonsense. It makes some people "happy" to have more than one wife at a time, yet we're perfectly happy to restrict marriage from that. We the people have the right to decide on the laws under which we chose to live and thus have the right to define marriage any way we want to define it.

The original protection of marriage act, Proposition 22, was passed by the voters of the state of California in the 2000 election. The language was exactly the same as the language used for Proposition 8, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." The original Prop. 22, which was struck down by the California Supreme Court by a vote of 4-3 on May 14, 2008, was deemed unconstitutional - by FOUR people! - because these FOUR people think that the equal protection clause of the California Constitution was violated (I stress the language "four people" simply because, whether these people have a title or not, they're still simply people, citizens of the State of California, just like you and me, and many of us are equally capable of interpreting the language of a document). Let's examine:

Prop. 22: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Article 1, Section 3.4 CA State Constitution: "Nothing in this subdivision supersedes or modifies any provision of this Constitution, including the guarantees that a person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or denied equal protection of the laws, as provided in Section 7."

I don't know how this can be interpreted any other way - unless your personal biases cause you to see what you want to see. Prop. 22 became California law in 2000 as a result of a legitimate vote by the citizens of the state. The US and CA constitutions simply state that all citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law. Prop. 22 treats every citizen of California in exactly the same manner. Every man is treated equally and every woman is treated equally under this law. None of us is allowed to marry anyone else of the same sex. Every single citizen of the state must follow the same rule. Therefore, the law clearly does not discriminate against any person. A heterosexual man cannot marry another man any more than a homosexual man can and a heterosexual woman cannot marry another woman any more than a homosexual woman can.

Now, if the law's language was, for example, "Only marriage between two people who are in love with each other is valid or recognized in California, unless the people in question are homosexual.", then you could correctly argue that the statute is discriminatory. This law would be unconstitutional because it would not allow any homosexual person to be married to anyone else - not someone of the opposite sex and same sexual orientation, nor someone of the same sex and sexual orientation, nor opposite sex and opposite sexual orientation. This law would discriminate between a heterosexual and a homosexual and treat the two differently under the law. However, under the law established by Prop. 22 and Prop. 8 (if it passes) a hetero or homosexual man will be allowed to marry a hetero or homosexual woman and vice versa. So under the proposed law, the state does not make any differentiation between hetero and homosexual people and therefore cannot be accused of being discriminatory and/or unconstitutional.

If the majority of the citizens of California wants to change the definition of marriage in this election, then so be it. But don't tell me that if I vote 'yes' on Prop. 8 that I'm taking "fundamental rights" away from anybody. Rights that never existed in the first place cannot be stripped.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A new SN2 mechanism

See it here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Amtrak, Segway, and the DOT

Well, here it is, handed down from the powers that be. And I must say, I’m a bit disappointed yet not the least bit surprised. It seems that they think that a Segway, when not manned, is more of a safety hazard than a wheelchair. Please will you tell me please, have any injuries ever been reported that were caused by an unmanned Segway?

I must say though, that the hand-written response was a nice touch. Plus, the handwriting was magnificent.

“Dear John,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the use of Segways on Amtrak. Please find the response from Amtrak’s Office of Government Affairs enclosed. Amtrak has run their guidelines through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s operating administration for guidance and views it as a safety risk to transport the Segway. Although Amtrak will re-visit its policy on Segways, Amtrak has said that for now, this response is the final position.

Please feel free to call me should you require further information. I will communicate any updates regarding this policy as they become known. Thank you again for contacting me.

Joseph I. Lieberman
United States Senator”

Attached was the following response, originally written in response to somebody else’s similar claim, on 3/12/2007.

“Amtrak’s policy on Segways apparently was developed several years ago. Since that time, Amtrak has become aware that, although the manufacturer does not advertise its equipment as an aid for persons with mobility impairments, Amtrak is aware that an increasing number of persons with mobility impairments are beginning to make use of Segways. Amtrak is also aware of the U.S DOT guidance on this issue. Although Amtrak will re-visit its policy on Segways, Amtrak’s current policy requires that Segways be treated as checked baggage. That is because Amtrak trains have no closet or other storage place enough to store safely the large, heavy Segway machines in the passenger compartments of Amtrak trains. Even if, as your consituent seems to suggest, a Segway could be safely parked in the space reserved for passengers using wheelchairs. Segway users do not remain on their Segways during hours-long Amtrak’s intercity rail passenger trips. Thus, the Segway user would be occupying who revenue-producing passenger spaces on board the train. Unfortunately, not all Amtrak trains are equipped with baggage cars. However, at many rail stations Amtrak can assist persons with mobility impairments by wheelchair. I realize that this response is not the one that your constituent would like to receive. However, Amtrak must be guided first and foremost by safety considerations. While I can not give you a time frame as to when our review will be completed, I will be staying in touch with Amtrak officials who are going to revisit this issue and will keep you posted.”

Below, was a hand-written note from the woman who handled this case.

“John, above was response in 3/07 from the Amtrak Director of Government Affairs regarding a similar issue by another CT constituent. I checked with the Senator’s aide in DC who handles transportation issues and she said that there is nothing new. However, she will mention your inquiry to the Amtrak representative when she sees her again. Please feel free to call me if needed. I tried to get your number but found it unpublished.”

Friday, April 20, 2007

Stop Household Cleaners before They Stop You

Friday, April 20, 2007

I want to begin this article by saying that, of course, the events that unfolded at Virginia Tech this past Monday are horrifying and have touched the lives of every American, as well as people across the world. One can’t say enough about the strength of the VT community and the grief/shame of so many South Koreans, a very proud people who should not let one disturbed human being keep them from holding their heads high.

With that said, I think that it’s time to discuss (as Chris Matthews and Brain Williams felt it was appropriate to do the DAY AFTER on MSNBC – quite a tasteless move) the underlying issues behind this awful tragedy. If nothing more comes out of this massacre, we should make sure that we use it as leverage to ban all firearms. Yes, that’s right, what better event than a nationally televised mass murder, the worst in history, to catapult the anti-gun lobbyists to the forefront of national debate. Because, after all, it wasn’t a sick, uninstitutionalized, nut case who committed those 32 murders at Virginia Tech . . . it was those two handguns that did the killing!

In 2003, the National Safety Council published a statistical report entitled “What Are the Odds of Dying” in which they calculated the lifetime odds of an American citizen dying from a number of different causes [1]. Their study was based on data from National Center for Health Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau [2,3]. In 2003, 44,757 people perished in car accidents, 48,071 in all transportation accidents. 19,457 people died as a result of “accidental poisoning by and exposure to noxious substances” and 17,229 people died from falling, while only 11,920 people met their demise by being shot with a gun. In their study, the NSC found that the average American was over 4 times more likely to die in a transport accident than assault by firearm. The average American is about 63 % more likely to be accidentally poisoned to death and 44 % more likely to fall to their deaths than to be assaulted and killed with a firearm. Therefore, I propose that we put a ban on all automobiles, poisons (i.e. household cleaners – especially bleach, that one’s a doozy), and heights (i.e. stairs, tall buildings, cliffs – especially cliffs). I don’t like cleaning or heights much anyway. How does that sound?

I have yet to hear of a single case in which a gun jumped up off a table, pulled its own trigger, and killed somebody. For goodness sake, the problem is the people, not the guns.

[1] National Safety Council,, “What Are the Odds of Dying”,

[2] National Center for Health Statistics,

[3] U.S. Census Bureau,

Other websites of interest:


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Insincere Politicians

I wrote the following article several months ago, but still believe that it holds true today:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

President Bush addressed the nation today regarding the current situation in Iraq and the new strategy to be implemented in that troubled country. I am not a military expert. I don’t know if the proposed increase in troops and new plan will lead to success and thus allow the U.S. military to return home. As such I would never presume to know for certain what is best for our country in the long run when it comes to this scenario and I certainly did not sit down tonight to write an argument for the President’s decision nor for troop withdrawal. What I did sit down to discuss is the disillusionment I felt upon listening to the Democrat response to the President’s speech along with the consistent “it’s time to leave Iraq” mantra of the party leading up to and following the November 2006 elections.

I should be upfront and inform the reader as to my personal political persuasion. If it has not already been made obvious let me leave no doubt that I am a conservative mind. Consequently, I undoubtedly bring a bias to the discussion that is difficult for me to gauge, despite my human nature that insists I am capable of achieving an objective viewpoint. But upon watching the Democratic response to the President’s speech by Senator Dick Durbin I was not surprised to hear that the party’s position is still that it’s time for the Iraqi government to suck it up and for us to pack it up. This, I must admit, is quite an enticing position, not only for me, but for any American who hates to see American soldiers fall in the line of duty. As much as my moral compass insists that the lives and freedom of the Iraqi people are worth fighting and dying for, I am tempted to agree with the senator from Illinois and I must admit, part of me says they’re not. It is exactly this sentiment that won the Democrats control of both Houses of Congress and lost it for the Republicans last November – a position rarely disputed among political pundits – despite that fact that the party almost unanimously supported the war in its early stages (i.e. when it was popular). Upon agreeing with the President tonight on CNN Senator John McCain, Larry King asked McCain if he had considered the political implications of his position, especially considering the fact that many Republicans are now at odds with the President’s point of view. The Senator answered, “I would much rather loose and election than loose a war.” I was actually surprised to hear such strong words from a man who many consider to be the Republican frontrunner in the 2008 Presidential elections. McCain’s words sound to me to be absent of any political calculation. And therein lies my disillusionment with the Democratic Party. So I sincerely ask the reader, am I wrong to suspect that the current Democratic position on Iraq is not only the easy way out, but also the politically popular position that they believe will catapult their party to Presidential victory in 2008? I can’t really see it any other way – in which case it’s difficult to view the current democratic leaders as anything other than political opportunists, or in other words, insincere politicians.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Flying Box Assults Unsuspecting Grad Student on Prospect Street

Today I got hit by a flying box.

Yes, you heard me.

A flying box.

In re-living the marginally traumatizing event over and over in my head, I'm reminded of the old Macintosh screen saver with the flying toasters.

I was waiting to cross the street. Standing on the sidewalk. Minding my own business. A strong gust of wind came up from behind me, shortly after which I was accosted by an empty cardboard box that had managed to catch flight, using its sinister lid flaps as makeshift wings to execute the epic aerial assault.

After the initial strike, the assailant fell at my feet and was shortly thereafter whisked away down the street to continue its rampage, I’m sure, on other unfortunate and unsuspecting students.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Prisons: A Waste of Effort?

This piece was originally written by me in 2002 for an english class. I believe that it still holds true.

Throughout history all major civilizations have used some form of punishment for lawbreakers. The most common is incarceration. An individual would be isolated from his/her community as punishment for a crime. These individuals were also looked down upon by society. They were branded as the lowest of the low; individuals to be regarded as animals. In today’s American society there are sub-cultures that use these individuals as role models. For some, surviving a prison sentence is a right of passage. An ex-convict is thought to be “cool” or a “man”. It is typically the largest group in our society, the lower class, who views these individuals with respect. Youth of this group often choose to emulate a brother, uncle or cousin who has served in prison. Prison is no longer a deterrent. After the Vietnam era, law enforcement has been viewed with disgust; a new deterrent must be found, be it lethal consequences or merely toughening our prisons.

During the Vietnam War, Americans began to view law enforcement as vile. No longer were they heroes or role models. They were seen as no better then thugs. This view has been passed on from the individuals growing up at the time to the current youth, their children and grandchildren. This view also caused it to be unpopular to be a police officer and so in some cases the quality of officers has diminished. Many retired police officers view the current law enforcement as children. Not because of age, but because of the maturity and quality they possess. Not only did the Vietnam era perpetuate this “fight ‘the man’” philosophy it promoted seeking a free state of mind; be free of rules, free of laws, free to indulge. These ideas have slowly seeped into our society along with the “accept everyone” and “it’s okay, it’s not their fault” ideals. In today’s society police officers are still looked down upon and criminals are being looked up to. Youth feel they need to avoid the police and that laws must be disobeyed. Not that it’s okay to break them it is the “right” thing to do. These ideals must be corrected. Correctional officers will agree that prison does not work. They see the same criminals repeatedly, and new ones everyday. A Riverside county employee noted that Riverside county central jail processes approximately five thousand prisoners a month. Jail time is no longer a viable means of deterrent. We must change the current system or expand capital punishment. The only option left would be a more effective means of punishment, like execution.

First, expanding lethal consequences would act as a greater deterrent than prison. Enacting a bounty on individuals such as gang members would dramatically cut the amount of gang activity. The ethics of such a system will be questioned but is it ethical to let such individuals victimize the general populace. Some psychologists agree that this personality type will only respond to a “violent” punishment, something prison is not. The justice system must “speak their language”(Barbara Bertrand, interview). Many of today’s youth have grown up surrounded by these individuals and would agree with this system. The ideals of our parents do not work. The system would be strictly regulated. To qualify to be on a bounty sheet the individual would have to be a repeat offender with a minimum number of convictions. The amount of bounty would be decided be number of total convictions and rank of that individual within the gang. The bounty hunters would then have to take an accepted course in firearms training to avoid the injuring of non-targets. They would have to be licensed in order to buy bounty sheets and hunt gang members. They would have to renew their licenses every six months in order to maintain hunter standards. In order to collect the bounty they would have to take the individual to a central location, for identification and execution. With today’s capabilities regarding DNA testing and other forensic sciences no mistakes would be made. To most, this would seem to be an immoral way to solve the problem. No other methods seem to work. Training against gang involvement, education and teacher intervention, have proved futile. Crime rates are on the rise (CA DOJ, Adults Under State and Local Supervision). Gangs continue to spread and take over more and more cities. For those against capital punishment, which is more immoral, removing a few useless individuals from society or allowing them to take over our streets and hurt innocents?

Others might argue about the fairness of such a bounty. To make the bounty fair, those on the bounty sheets would have to opportunity to remove themselves. They would have one year to remove all identifying marks, move at least five hundred miles from city of residence, abstain from all contact with former fellow gang members and hold a job for ten to twelve months. Upon completion of these conditions; they would be removed from the bounty sheets. A return to criminal behavior or failure to complete all requirements would result in an issuance of a permanent bounty sheet. No second chances would be given, no probation. Another objection to this program would be funding. How would the bounties be paid? By having the hunters pay dues and “buy” bounty sheets funding could be accomplished with a minimum of government assistance. To some individuals this program would still be unacceptable. The final alternative is to modify the current systems. Prisons are only a deterrent to those who couldn’t deal with the other prisoners. To people who frequent our prison system this is not a problem. They deal with the same threats when in the general population. The threats are not as condensed perhaps, but they remain. Prison merely takes a criminal’s normal lifestyle and compresses it to the size of a few city blocks.

In prison an individual has three square meals a day, television, a library, schooling, weight lifting, a warm clean place to sleep and interaction with other humans. Most honest individuals don’t have this amount of comfort. The only threat to their safety or unpleasantness comes from other prisoners. People aren’t afraid to be in jail, they are afraid to be surrounded by other prisoners. The Discovery Channel had a special on prisons; one part was on the competitive weight lifting between prisoners. The lead lifter could lift over six hundred pounds in a dead lift. The individual was serving a sentence for robbery and rape. It would be impossible for an average woman to fight off an attacker that can lift over six hundred pounds, a few times the body weight of the average woman (Discovery Channel, “Supermax“). Instead of correcting criminal behavior the prison system is making it easier for them to commit crimes. To toughen our prison system would involve several steps. First instead of regular meals the prisoners would be served an oatmeal like substance with all the nutritional needs of the body. The prisoners would be healthy but the food wouldn’t be pleasant, it should be bland and uneventful. The next step would be to remove television and weight lifting. Prisoners should not have a way to pass the time or get stronger. Prison is meant to be unpleasant. Prisoners should also be kept from forming groups inside prison. Correctional facilities currently track groups/gangs inside prisons. These records should be used to keep prisoners in the same group from socializing. To further randomize socialization the prisoners should be rotated every six months to keep prisoners from forming bonds. This would cut down on gang formations inside prison. For the final step to making our prison system unpleasant enough to deter furthers criminal acts. The violent offender would be sent to a tent city in unpopulated areas. A county in Arizona has adopted this and found it effective. Making prisoners uncomfortable is the most effective way to keep them from returning. No longer would prison emulate the criminals’ normal daily life it would be exceptionally unpleasant. Their rights would not be violated. They would be healthy and taken care of. The public would merely no longer go out of its way to make them comfortable. Our prisons would also need less funding, there would be no television or expensive weight equipment to maintain of purchase, and food costs would be cut. Chain gangs could also be used for ditch digging and road maintained etc. Prisoners would be treated humanely and prisons would need less funding.

The Roman Empire, The Byzantine Empire and The Greek city-states all fell because they accepted corruption and criminal behavior. If the system is not changed, if we accept this behavior, our society will crumble around us. We must make the consequences unpleasant or lethal.

Works Cited

Supermax. Discovery Channel. Discovery Network. 10 Feb 2002

California Department of Justice Statistics. California Dept. of Justice. 2 Feb 2002

Bertrand, Barbara. Interview. Personal interview. 12 March 2002