Thursday, July 03, 2003

Are Bloggers the new Soccer Moms? 

This article over at Salon.com suggests that weblogging, and more specifically the bloggers themselves, are energizing Howard Dean's election campaign. All well and good. In fact yours truly has provisionally thrown his support behind the former Governor of Vermont. So now the news hype is about how much the Dean campaign uses the internet, and the energizing of the bloggers.

Remember the 2000 election, when news pundits claimed that the "soccer mom" was going to be the swing vote? The argument went that whichever candidate could successfully woo the married, suburban, politically liberal but socially conservative "soccer mom" was going to have the election in hand. And then after the election, the pundits came out and admitted, "Well, there weren't really that many soccer moms out there anyway." Well, you're going to get the same thing here. The news will be full of stories about how the whole internet is rising up to bless Dean, or about how g.w. is going to try to woo those voters away. And then after the election the pundits will admit that it was really only like 7 or 8 people on the internet making lots of noise.

But, since it is still early in the election, Dean can only be helped by stories like this. Name recognition is name recognition after all.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Legislating Morality (work in progress) 

Early Monday morning (or late Sunday night, depending how you look at it) I came across an article about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's aching desire to add an amendment to the U.S. Consititution forever banning gay marriages. At the time I read the article, I was so incensed that I added a post to this website calling Sen. Frist a Nazi, and saying that I would write more later. Well, here it is a day and a half later, and I'm still struggling with what to write. It's not that there are no good arguments for the legalization of gay marriages. There are. Instead, it's my basic inability to understand one of the basic tenents of the oppositions arguments, which is this: "It is acceptable to legislate morality."

Our morals are our basic understanding of right and wrong, given to us by our parents, our society, and our spiritual beliefs. Our morals are as individually unique as our fingerprints. For a broad example, look at the moral differences between Christians and Muslims. Muslims believe that one should never drink alcohol. Catholics believe that wine is an important part or their religious ceremony. Some Muslims believe that a woman should keep her head covered in public. Most Christians accept that a woman can be uncovered in public. Morals are internal, and vary from person to person, and often change during a person's lifetime.

Laws, on the other hand, are external. They are constructs of society's political system. Where morals govern the behavior of the individual, laws govern a group. Laws ensure the continued viability of a society, by prescribing punishments for behaviors which damage the whole. The only just laws are those which benefit society as a whole. (Not those which benefit the whole of society, but those which do more good to society than harm.)

There are some people who advocate outlawing behavior which they are morally opposed to. The now-Unconstitutional laws banning gay sex, last century's "Prohibition," and attempts to outlaw abortion and flag-burning are just a few such cases. What this does is to force people to conform to behavior patterns which they don't agree with, and which do not affect society. Am I harmed by two consenting adults having sex in the privacy of their own home? Am I harmed by women having abortions, or protesters buring the American flag? No. Am I harmed by these things being illegal, even though I do not participate in these behaviors? Yes. Why? Because the cost and time involved in enforcing those laws take resources away from enforcing just laws. But what about those laws, like the Texas anti-sodomy law, which are rarely enforced, but are kept on the books just in case they are needed someday? This merely gives the police the opportunity to harass people in a capricious manner, which should not be the aim of government.

"But are law and morality really that seperate? I mean surely, things like murder and rape are morally reprehensible, and are rightly illegal." Ah, but they are morally wrong, and illegal, for different reasons. Take murder, for example, in the Christian context. The Bible clearly says "Thou shall not kill." Four simple words, given by God to Moses. And yet, our society accepts certain types of killing: Self-defense, killing enemy combatants, and the execution of certain criminals are all accepted by our society. They would seem to violate certain people's morality, but are justified laws because they benefit society. And there are laws which prohibit behaviors that nobody deems morally wrong. Take speeding, for example. Few people would argue that there is nothing wrong with driving recklessly. But is it morally wrong to drive faster than the speed limit, as long as it's done safely? No, of course not. Yet, it is against the law.

Hurray for Kraft? 

Kraft Foods has announced plans to change their marketing strategies in response to criticism about the healthlessness of their food. They have agreed to make three changes to their current plans:

  • They will start making the portions in their "single serving" packages smaller.

  • They will put nutrtional information on all packages sold world-wide, not just those sold in countries which require such.

  • They will stop all in-school advertising.

  • The third point is probably the most important for the increasing obesity of our children, but it highlights one change which they did not make: TV advertising to children. Watch any Saturday morning kids program. At each commercial break, there will be at least one Kraft Foods commercial, usually their macaroni and cheese or cookies.
    They're taking steps in the right direction. Let's hope they keep walking.

    Monday, June 30, 2003

    Bill Frist is a Nazi 

    Well, he is. More later.

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