Friday, July 30, 2004

Buxton-Bound

Posting has been light the past week or two. This should be good practice for the next two and a half weeks, in which I expect posting here to be VERY light, or possibly non-existent. I'm leaving tomorrow for the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England. I won't return to the U.S. until August 18, and I don't really expect to blog here or at FBC until then. I will also not be accessible by phone. (This will be my first extended period since I got a cell phone during which I won't be using it. It's random things like that that make me nervous.) I will check email at least sometimes, and I hope to do a fair amount of blogging about Buxton in my Buxton Diary. Have a good two-and-a-half weeks, everyone.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Texas Sex Education

The Texas textbook situation is worse than I'd realized. The Texas Freedom Network gives this press release. I quote the whole thing because I don't have enough time to clip and analyze.
FROM BAD TO WORSE: PUBLISHERS MAKE RECKLESS CHANGES TO PROPOSED NEW HEALTH TEXTBOOKS Leading Publisher Glencoe Says 'Protected Sex' Is a High-Risk Behavior for STDs FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 28, 2004 Contact: Dan Quinn, Communications Director, Texas Freedom Network 512-322-0545 AUSTIN – Documents released by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) reveal that publishers have agreed to make reckless new changes to their proposed high school health textbooks. One publisher even equates unprotected and protected sex, calling both "high-risk behaviors" for acquiring sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The changes came at the insistence of state review panelists who evaluated the textbooks in June. The panelists included teachers, parents and other Texas citizens who are not experts in science, medicine or health education. "Replacing no information about sex education in the textbooks with bad information will have dangerous consequences for Texas teenagers," said Samantha Smoot, president of the Texas Freedom Network. "To raise responsible, healthy adults, families need the most accurate and reliable information possible, not dangerously misleading facts." Glencoe/McGraw-Hill agreed to change in its Glencoe Health book a list of behaviors that place people at high risk for STDs. The passage (on page 649) had included, "Engaging in unprotected sex." The new passage now reads, "Engaging in either unprotected or protected sex." "Glencoe's change contradicts established medical research," said Janet P. Realini, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the Texas Medical Association's Committee on Maternal and Perinatal Health. Dr. Realini is also coordinator for Project WORTH, the city of San Antonio's teen-pregnancy prevention program. "The change would also endanger teens by discouraging efforts to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and other STDs." Dr. Realini also said Glencoe failed to correct a part of the same passage stating that barrier protection "is not effective at all" against humanpapillomavirus (HPV). Some HPV strains can cause cervical cancer. "Condom use reduces the risk of HPV diseases such as genital warts and cervical cancer," she said. Dr. Realini pointed out the textbook's error at a July 14 hearing before the State Board of Education (SBOE). The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also notes the importance of latex condoms in preventing STDs, especially HIV: "Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS." (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pubs/facts/condoms.htm) Holt, Rinehart and Winston also made changes to its textbook, Lifetime Health. Holt added more information about the effectiveness of abstinence in preventing unwanted pregnancy and STDs. Yet Holt added nothing about the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods. The Holt and two Glencoe textbooks, Glencoe Health and Health and Wellness, still lack this basic information. The information is required by Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum standard 7i. Thomson/Delmar Learning added nine substantial references to abstinence in its textbook, Essentials of Health and Wellness. Delmar Learning also added information about the effectiveness of condoms and oral contraception. The SBOE has scheduled a second public hearing on the textbooks for September 8. The board will vote in November to approve the textbooks for adoption or to reject them. Until that time, publishers may make additional changes to the books. The Texas Freedom Network is a non-partisan, grassroots organization of nearly 19,000 religious and community leaders who advance a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right. TFN, Planned Parenthood and other organizations have joined together in the Protect Our Kids campaign (www.protectourkids.com) for responsible health textbooks.

Statistics

According to ethicsdaily.com, 33% of Americans favor a Constitutional amendment to establish Christianity as the national religion. 59% favor the teaching of Creationism in public schools, and over 80% approve of government-sanctioned references to God and religion, such as in the pledge of allegiance.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Texas Legislature and Ideal Agent Theory

Today I discover the following definition in the Texas Penal Code:
(42) "Reasonable belief" means a belief that would be held by an ordinary and prudent man in the same circumstances as the actor.
So apparently, an insane and irresponsable woman's belief that she is an ordinary, responsible man is reasonable. False, but reasonable. Take that, Clayton!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Just a quick plug

Blogging has been light lately. I've been busy. BugMeNot.com is a great web site. It generates login information for online newspapers and such things, so that you can bypass annoying free registrations to read stuff.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Sitting here on Capitol Hill

I read via Focus on the Family the following about the Child Custody Protection Act, a bill proposed to criminalize the transport of minors across state lines to avoid parental notification requirements for abortions:
The House is expected to again pass the Child Custody Protection Act, but the measure faces stiff opposition from the Senate. The first time this bill was introduced in 1998 it was blocked in the Senate by the Clinton administration.
I'm a little embarrassed about the possibility that this question has a really simple answer that I ought to know, but how does a Presidential administration block Senate action on a bill? The Executive check is the veto, which happens after the bill passes both chambers. The only way I can think of in which the Clinton administration could have "blocked" the CCPA in the Senate was if Al Gore had cast a tie-breaker vote in his faculty as President of the Senate. I don't *think* that happened, but I haven't been able to find records online. If it was merely a case of Presidential lobbying against the bill, it's disingenuous to say they "blocked" it.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Mikado Pictures

I've posted two photos of myself in my Mikado costume, make-up, and wig to my Buxton Diary.

Brian's Papers Blog

Brian's taken over the Papers Blog again.  I slacked a little bit my last week or two, but I was proud to serve the philosophy community for the time I did.  Brian will, I expect, update more regularly than I have been the last couple weeks.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Right-Wing Roundup

I've come across a few amazing bits from some of the loonier elements of the Right in the past few days. These could be either funny or depressing, depending on your mood.
  1. I'm apparently sinning in more ways than I knew.  It's a sin to remain unwed!
  2. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa) responds to the charge that lawmakers have more important business than the FMA to focus on, such as dealing with homeland security.  "Isn't that the ultimate in homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"
  3. Planned Parenthood's secret agenda, unveiled: To make teenagers sexually active and generate business for abortion clinics!
The world is fun.  Or upsetting.  Or something.

Harm of Death

Some readers here who don't read Fake Barn Country might be interested in the thread at OrangePhilosophy.  The question under consideration is, is it more harmful to the victim if (1) a three-week-old baby is murdered, or (2) a 23-year-old adult is murdered?  If the casting vote's with me, I give it for the latter...   I have some discussion of the question here, as well as in the comments thread to the OP post.  My position is summarized in a comment here:
Much of the harm of death comes from the frustration of our deeply-held interests, and since infants have no such things, they are harmed less by that aspect of death.
This, incidentally, is why I think abortion is permissible. It has nothing to do with the ill-formed question, at what point does life begin?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

What's Plagiarism?

m-w.com gives me the following as a definition for 'plagiarize':
to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
Pre-theoretically, this sounds right. But I think it might be too limiting. In order to plagiarize, do I *really* have to pass off the work as my own? Allan posted today to Fake Barn Country, starting up the epistemological internalism/externalism debate again. Suppose I posted the following in comments, anonymously.
Suppose we think of virtues in general as excellences of character. A virtue is a stable and successful disposition: an innate ability or an acquired habit, that allows one to reliably achieve some good. An intellectual virtue will then be a cognitive excellence: an innate ability or acquired habit that allows one to reliably achieve some intellectual good, such as truth in a relevant matter. We may now think of justified belief as belief that is appropriately grounded in one's intellectual virtues, and we may think of knowledge as true belief that is so grounded. By adopting this position, we can see the foundationalist's epistemic principles as instances of this more general account of justified belief and knowledge.
I did not author this paragraph -- John Greco did. If I posted it, anonymously, to FBC, without citing Greco or suggesting that I was quoting, I think that I intuitively plagiarize. But it does not seem that I am attempting to pass the work off as my own -- I'm not even identifying myself as the person who posted it. Admittedly, there may be some sense in which I might attempt to pass off the work as 'my own', where I am an anonymous person. I might be hoping that people will think, "the person who posted that comment was very smart". They'd be thinking that about me, even though they don't know that I'm that person. But I can make an even clearer case by supposing that *Allan* anonymously makes that comment on his own post. I've no idea why he'd do such a thing, but it could be done. He, certainly, would not be attempting to pass the comment off as his own. What is the appropriate response? I think we must either deny that this commenting is an act of plagiarism or revise our definition. I don't know how the definition would end up having to look.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Papers Blog, Finally

The long-overdue Papers Blog entry is up. So am I, at almost 2:00 a.m., but not for long.

Papers Blog Update

Sorry there haven't been any updates for a little while. I've been having very long Mikado rehearsals (we open Friday). I meant to do one when I got in at around 11:30 last night, but I was too tired. I hope to update tonight. It will transition back to being run by Brian sometime soon.

It's not evidence.

The issue with Focus on the Family and Michael Moore prompted me to subscribe to FOTF's email list. It's an organization I'm curious about. Today's Citizen-Link update included this gem:
It might be to soon to start saying 'I told you so,' but evidence confirming what many already know -- homosexual relationships are notoriously unstable and short lived -- is already filtering in. One homosexual couple issued a marriage license by the city of San Francisco and Mayor Gavin Newsom just a few months ago is already trying to dissolve that decision.
Wow, ONE COUPLE provides evidence for the notorious instability of all homosexuals!? Incredible! In related news, Americans were treated last winter to evidence confirming what many already know -- blondes are notoriously dumb and promiscuous.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Gay Marriage Petition

MoveOn.org has arranged a petition organizing public opposition to the proposed Constitutional Amendment outlawing homosexual marriage. If you're so inclined, sign it today -- it's being submitted to lawmakers tomorrow. Here is text from MoveOn.org:
Dear friend, Congress is about to vote on amending the U.S. Constitution to deny marriage equality to same-sex couples. Never before has our Constitution been amended to take away anyone's rights. Yet our Senators will vote on this amendment in the next 48 hours. It's urgent that we speak up now. This hateful divisiveness has no place in America. Please join me in saying so, at: http://www.moveon.org/unitednotdivided/ Equality in marriage is the civil rights issue of our generation. We can't let anyone, or any group, be singled out for discrimination based on who they are or who they love. Thank you.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Blogger Comments

I'm going to start using Blogger's integrated comments. Unfortunately, that means I'll lose my old comments. Maybe I'll save a few specific threads manually. I'll have them both up for a few days, but I'll be taking Haloscan links down soon.

Texas Flag Burning

Eugine and David have been posting at the Volokh Conspiracy about flag burning. This gives me a chance to address an issue that's been bothering me for years. Disclaimer 1: I'm not a lawyer, or a law student, or a person who did especially well in my Constitutional Law class at Rice. I'm very likely missing some important legal insights; pointers welcome. Disclaimer 2: I'm a huge believer in freedom of expression, including the right to burn flags. But I don't think this has anything to do with the point I'm about to make. As I understand it, the United States Supreme Court has declared flag burning to be a form of expression protected under the First Amendment. This the landmark decision of Texas v. Johnson in 1989. The Court struck down former Texas Penal Code §42.09, which read thus:
PenC §42.09. Desecration of Venerated Object (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly desecrates: (1) a public monument; (2) a place of worship or burial; or (3) a state or national flag. (b) For purposes of this section, 'desecrate' means deface, damage, or otherwise physically mistreat in a way that the actor knows will seriously offend one or more persons likely to observe or discover his action. (c) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
The Supreme Court overturned this statute, writing that: "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." This was June 21, 1989. The Texas Legislature apparently observed the Court's nullification of its law, and turned around that very summer and passed a new anti-flag-burning statute. The following has been on the books ever since:
PenC §42.11. Destruction of Flag (a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly damages, defaces, mutilates, or burns the flag of the United States or the State of Texas. (b) In this section, “flag” means an emblem, banner, or other standard or a copy of an emblem, standard, or banner that is an official or commonly recognized depiction of the flag of the United States or of this state and is capable of being flown from a staff of any character or size. The term does not include a representation of a flag on a written or printed document, a periodical, stationery, a painting or photograph, or an article of clothing or jewelry. (c) It is an exception to the application of this section that the act that would otherwise constitute an offense is done in conformity with statutes of the United States or of this state relating to the proper disposal of damaged flags. (d) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
Is the new §42.11 substantively different from the unconstitutional §42.09? I haven't found any record of a court challenge to §42.11, which I find rather suprising. It seems to me as if the Texas Legislature in 1989 just decided to reword the old statute and put it up again, Constitutionality be damned. If this is right, it's kind of scary -- it means that when the Supreme Court makes a decision, we're not very safe from state who want to ignore it. What if Texas passed a new anti-gay-sex statute next year? Does anyone know if there's something more complicated going on here? Could I really be arrested for burning a flag as a political expression in Texas? If I were, is there any chance I'd lose a court case? Would my defense have to amount to anything more than "look what the Supreme Court wrote in Texas v. Johnson"?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

No Papers Blog tonight

Too tired. Unfortunately, I don't know if I'll be able to make one tomorrow, either -- rehearsals are really picking up. I should definitely be able to post one Friday, if not sooner. Sorry.

A sensible Christian reaction...

...to the Focus on the Family events of late is here.

FOTF, Michael Moore follow-up

Last week I posted about Focus on the Family sending Michael Moore's home address to its email subscribers. I had written to FOTF to ask for confirmation or denial of the allegation, which seemed somewhat shady at the time. Ted at Crooked Timber has long since confirmed the story (although one commentor on my entry apparently still refuses to believe it). I did finally get a response directly from FOTF, also confirming it. I was hoping for some sort of apology and assurance that higher-ups found the sending of the address to be an error of judgment, but they're standing by their decision. Here's the email response I got:
Thanks for writing to Focus on the Family, Mr. Ichikawa. We appreciate the time you took to express your concern regarding the update you read attributed to one of our CitizenLink e-mails. While this communication did originate from our ministry and was sent to those on our distribution list, it is not posted anywhere on our site. Furthermore, we strongly believe the context in which we published his address was not hateful or designed to provoke harassing communication directed to him. We simply stated that if our readers had an opinion about his new movie Fahrenheit 9/11, they could send it to the address given. We did not ask, instruct or demand anyone to communicate with Mr. Moore, nor did we ask anyone to attempt to visit his home. The address is a matter of public record and was provided so constituents could share their views of his movie in the same way that he provided the "private" contact information of a congressman with whom he disagrees in that movie. We hope this brief explanation has been helpful.
The commentors in Ted's post got it right -- there is absolutely no reason to dig up a home address to send to subscribers, as opposed to a business one, other than to threaten and harass. This email has the flavor of lawsuit insurance, period; there's no way it should mollify those of us who are upset on moral grounds. (By the way, why point out that it's not on their site if they stand by the appropriateness of publishing it in an email?) Under the most charitable possible interpretation, FOTF has decided that it would be appropriate to seek revenge on Michael Moore for his stunts (indeed, the last line of the quoted email seems to state as much pretty clearly). This is bad enough. But it's also recklessly irresponsible -- whatever FOTF's motives, they have succeeded in placing Michael Moore and his family in danger. A lot of people get their distribution list, and not all of them are as stable and undangerous as FOTF may or may not be. Whether this consideration figured into FOTF's actual motivation or not, I won't speculate. Just for reference, here is the relevant part of the original email they sent out, starting this whole mess:
Filmmaker Michael Moore, writer/director of the new Bush-bashing documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," has made quite a career out of marketing himself as a man of the people, a populist everyman who fights passionately for the little guy. That's why we wanted to make sure "little guys" could let Moore know exactly what they think about his new movie. So, if you have an opinion about the film -- in which Moore plays fast and loose with the facts to build a case that President Bush is an idiot and the war in Iraq is all about oil profits -- we suggest you send it to the following address: [omitted]

SWA Sale

Southwest Airlines is having a gigantic sale. $39-$99 one-way, anywhere they go. Cool.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Papers Blog

A long papers blog entry is up after a long weekend, then a long day. There is some really cool-looking stuff that I'm too tired to detail right now. Go look at it.

Great Responsibility

A major Hollywood blockbuster whose central thesis is the denial of a morally significant distinction between doing and allowing? I must be dreaming! If you haven't seen Spider-Man 2 yet, do it. Now.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Focus on the Family and Michael Moore's home address

Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber sent me yesterday evening to Non Prophet, who tells an extremely unsettling story. Allegedly, Focus on the Family (a large traditional-values Christian family-oriented group) sent out Michael Moore's home address to its email list yesterday, encouraging readers to tell Mr. Moore how they disapprove of the dishonesty in his new film, Farenheit 9/11. Ted, Non Prophet, and a number of readers at both blogs rightly feel like such an action would be utterly reprehensible. I have to say I was surprised -- although I disagree with a lot (ok, almost all) of what Focus on the Family has to say, I've never thought of them as being the type that would pull a malicious stunt like this. So I've been looking into it. Non Prophet wrote this before quoting the message that included Mr. Moore's address:
Living in Colorado Springs I've become interested in following the local mega social-political organizations that drape themselves with a veil of christianity and family values. One of the biggest is Focus on the Family, known mostly for it's nationally broadcast radio show featuring Dr. James Dobson. These people are kind enough to send me a daily e-mail titled "Citizen-Link" that keeps me up to date on what they feel are the important issues of the day. It's mostly anti-gay rights, anti-abortion, anti-welfare, anti-TV violence, anti-birth control, pro-christian supremecy news bulletins. While I find most of it to be crass they are usually fairly polite and skirt going for the jugular in favor of naming a few of the more oddball reasons why "those people" are evil and must be stopped. Today they crossed the line into pure nasty-ville. Here, have a look:
The clear implication is that the quoted email comes from the Citizen-Link email of that day (his post is from yesterday at 10:03 a.m.). I've obtained the Citizen-Link email in question, and there is no reference to Mr. Moore, his film, or his home address in it. Nor is there one anywhere to be found on the FOTF or Citizen-Link web sites. A google search for pieces of the text of the alleged email gives no hits. I'm officially suspicious. I've asked (in comments, as I couldn't find an email address) Non Prophet to offer more details as to what announcement he'd read, and to forward it to me. I've heard nothing back yet, but in fairness, I asked him yesterday evening (at around 6:00) and it's still fairly early morning now. I've also emailed FOTF, explaining what I've heard and my basis for suspicion, asking them to confirm or deny that they've sent out Michael Moore's home address to email subscribers. Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong place for corroboration. Or maybe FOTF realized their mistake and removed every trace of their indiscretion. I'd like to find out. A moral of the story is, if you have something interesting and surprising to say in the blog world, site it thoroughly, and link to it if you can. UPDATE: Ted confirms (update on the original CT post) the alleged disclosure -- he spoke to a FOTF representative, and the address WAS given out (in Tuesday's, not yesterday's, Citizen-Link). It's still not on the web, which is of course a good thing. Thanks to Ted for following up, and thanks to Non Prophet for breaking the story. Second Update (7/7/04): here.