Various thoughts on current events with an emphasis on politics, legal issues, books, movies and whatever is on my mind. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org; please put "blog comments" in the subject line.
Update: When pressed, he proclaimed some libertarian view of what one does in the privacy of one's home (even though the case involved sale). His conservative friends know about this? Anyways, the point here would be not some likelihood of federal laws against dildos, but a narrow understanding by judges etc. about what is constitutionally protected.
Plus, not sure how far "people do in their own private time with themselves is their own business and it’s none of government’s business" actually would be taken. Marijuana smoking? No more bans on downloading obscene porn? Various federal personnel would be covered to like members of the military which even today has limits there. So, you know, don't believe ya.
A bit more on recent subjects.
This is all fun stuff and will no doubt lead to some very clever jokes on The Daily Show.
But there were also some very serious legal questions at stake. Namely,
what limits does the U.S. Constitution place on the legislative power
of state governments, and what role do federal judges play in enforcing
those limits? Related to that, what sort of unenumerated rights (if any)
are protected from state infringement by the 14th Amendment?
Reason takes the Cruz defending sex toys seriously, linking to an extended Mother Jones discussion as well. And, as I noted, the issue was covered in a range of litigation in the first decade of this century alone, in fact the federal appeals ruling that struck down the Texas statute at issue clashed with another earlier opinion (see the opinion itself).
It does seem rather dubious not to protect sex toys after Lawrence v. Texas protecting sexual intimacy overall, even if the opinion allows those who try to perhaps make a reasonable go at it. Justice Kennedy favors a certain balancing approach mixed with illegitimate motives and effects (e.g., the animus cited in Romer and Windsor) that helps. But, I think someone who actually tries to apply the opinions honestly should basically understand what is allowable here. Contraceptives are bought and sold, so sale cannot be the problem (and the law there didn't even require money to change hands). Trying to apply things narrowly ala Washington v. Glucksberg (with five justices speaking separately, four of them merely concurring in judgment, O'Connor doing her "concurring but on my terms" move) doesn't wash. The narrow view of "liberty" as applied to "new" or "newer" application of rights simply never consistently had five votes of late.
OTOH, a conservative might not want to apply things here in a liberal fashion, or even a reasonable one that aims to evenhandedly advance the basic principles involved. This is the general concern of Cruz and the sort of judges he is likely to pick. You can say he merely was doing his job in the Texas case, but he's a conservative -- his broad view of proper state regulation of morality was by all lights also his own. His old college roommate taking potshots at his own masturbation practices notwithstanding. Morals laws tend to be applied in a selective and hypocritical fashion. Note too how he supports the offensive law out of North Carolina and so on.
So, though it is humorous and on some level ridicule is appropriate to underline how ridiculous it should be, the tidbit of news is noteworthy to help explain the candidate's overall ideology.
I also noted reading Beating Hearts: Abortion and Animal Rights. The authors draw the line at sentience -- an entity has rights based on that. The rights can be earned so that even if the person is later unconscious or such that they remain -- thus, a temporarily brain dead person found in an icy river should be treated as a person with rights as well. OTOH, the rights of others, such as a woman carrying a sentient fetus, can provide a "compelling state interest" even there. Plus, pragmatics should factor in; thus, e.g., at least now, animal rights should not mean raising animals for food should be illegal. Limited laws such as against foie gras are not covered here. In fact, limited laws that take for granted raising animals for food is acceptable within in limits are looked upon as counterproductive.
The book as I noted reasons things out a lot but ultimately some points seem to the authors basically obvious. This is one -- people basically accept that feeling pain matters and this includes for animals. The problem is they selectively apply that rule, taking for granted that humans also have a right to use animals for certain purposes even if it will hurt. We don't like to dwell on that (talking about how sausage is made is not an idiom for nothing) but it is an example of people aren't purely consistent. The best thing there is to try to make people consistent enough. Still, I simply find it hard to believe even the authors would accept using animal parts for life saving transplants for themselves or their children wrong.
The authors basically say they cannot argue against religious beliefs but many differentiate here on just that ground -- humans having souls or at least God saying it's okay. Plus, the book for some reason limits its arrows, focusing on sentience. But, at least one of the authors (Michael Dorf on his blog) noted there are other reasons to say not consume shellfish etc. (e.g., environmental though risk to sentient animals also a reason). Respect for nature or life in general can be used to protect bees, e.g., but perhaps the problem there is that limited usage of animals might be allowed too. Likewise, a broader concern for life can also factor in with regard to abortion. This is so even if the life itself doesn't have interests.
So, at times, I felt the book didn't quite address the issues enough. One more thing to toss out there that also arose in Sherry Colb's (a co-author) earlier book on questions people have for vegans is a focus on vertebrae. Her book spoke a bit on honey and her comment here talks about that issue. But, this book has basically nothing, except for a brief endnote that uses a scientific name (bivalves?) to note how vegans extend "nonfood" past sentient beings (for safety purposes apparently). The usual cows, pigs, chicken and so forth (and their milk/eggs) are focused upon with fish tossed in without much emphasis (personally, I don't like fish that much, so it wasn't hard not to skip).
I realize those things are most important, but if you are "vegan," you don't eat or use animal products. Honey, lobster, shellfish etc. covers significant ground there. Warrants a bit more, I think. Again, I see in that older link cited that insects are discussed (bees fitting in there). And, this again brings to the table that veganism is not merely about sentience. There are other reasons that go along that for not eating seafood aside from the likelihood that the dishes will not be vegan for other reasons (e.g., usage of butter). This is particularly the case regarding usage of bees given the beauty of their lives generally and the benefits they have for a range of things. As noted in the comments, raising of plants might still affect them as they might kill small rodents etc. But, net, veganism is best there in many cases.
Anyway, it warrants coverage, especially since people will ask. A final thing since one of my blog reads covered regulation of cage-free eggs. Again, the authors are very wary of such reforms seeing it as an animal welfare technique that furthers the principle that animals can be killed for our benefits if done in a nice enough way. Plus, the reforms still leave in place harmful behaviors and can encourage people to consume animals, let's say, since now their consciences are salved. They are not sure given the evidence available, but their guts at least don't find such laws productive. Both also rejected Temple Grandin's efforts to make slaughter less stressful for animals when I brought it up on their blog in the past.
Find this misguided -- reforms happen in installments. Also, the laws here do accept a certain duty to animals. And, many backers will accept they are compromises. We are still harming animals to some degree. The chance such laws will lead people to the next step -- that the very act of raising food is not warranted given it is not necessary -- is as likely to me than it merely salving consciences. Plus, it still makes the animals' lives somewhat easier. Grandin herself has spoken of her respect for their interests given her own autism and we cannot really speak about how horrible slaughter is for the cow without being happy about making it somewhat less horrible for them. As long as the system will be in place for the foreseeable future, I think various reforms are worth the candle.
The authors argue that the efforts provided toward mild reforms that might in some cases largely be cosmetic especially given underenforcement [TG's work to me isn't so trivial] can be a waste of limited time and resources. Promoting a vegan diet, e.g., can be more worthwhile. I think both can be done myself and the efforts can help the larger cause. For instance, improving the means of executing people on some level might seem trivial, but is the effort not worth it? If nothing else, does it not help show the problems, at times on a visceral level, with the death penalty? Using their logic, however, I wonder if they would think it worth it especially if the people involved grant the death penalty might be okay in some fashion.
Anyway, at various points, the book didn't quite do it for me. The overall journey was worth it and I appreciate overall the ethos of the authors. Still, they have a somewhat limited view on animal rights that troubles me a bit, especially the if I can say it this way the all eggs in one basket sentience focus. That might be a philosophical choice since as noted they do have other reasons for their actions here but still it's a bit weird. Plus, maybe there was a space restraint factor, the book under two hundred pages without the notes. At times, I thought a bit more was needed.