The Palin Soap Opera Continues

It would have been a horror story if Sarah Palin had been elected vice president, but for now we can sit back and enjoy the ongoing soap opera aspects. There are two new stories today, including one of pre-marital sex. Levi Johnston was interviewed for The Tyra Show.  The full interview, for those who really care to learn more about his sex life with Bristol Palin, will air on Monday.

Like any good soap opera, we have a whole crew of supporting characters. Today’s other major development was that Diana Palin, Todd Palin’s half sister, was arrested after breaking into a Wasilla home for the second time this week to steal money.

Somewhat related post for television fans:

What Not To Wear: Special Vice Presidential Candidate Edition

Joe Klein: Why Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense

Joe Klein gives the arguments for legalization of marijuana:

As Webb pointed out in a cover story in Parade magazine, the U.S. is, by far, the most “criminal” country in the world, with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners. We spend $68 billion per year on corrections, and one-third of those being corrected are serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. We spend about $150 billion on policing and courts, and 47.5% of all arrests are marijuana-related. That is an awful lot of money, most of it nonfederal, that could be spent on better schools or infrastructure — or simply returned to the public. (See the top 10 ballot measures.)

At the same time, there is an enormous potential windfall in the taxation of marijuana. It is estimated that pot is the largest cash crop in California, with annual revenues approaching $14 billion. A 10% pot tax would yield $1.4 billion in California alone. And that’s probably a fraction of the revenues that would be available — and of the economic impact, with thousands of new jobs in agriculture, packaging, marketing and advertising. A veritable marijuana economic-stimulus package! (Read: “Is Pot Good For You?”)

So why not do it? There are serious moral arguments, both secular and religious. There are those who believe — with some good reason — that the accretion of legalized vices is debilitating, that we are a less virtuous society since gambling spilled out from Las Vegas to “riverboats” and state lotteries across the country. There is a medical argument, though not a very convincing one: alcohol is more dangerous in a variety of ways, including the tendency of some drunks to get violent. One could argue that the abuse of McDonald’s has a greater potential health-care cost than the abuse of marijuana. (Although it’s true that with legalization, those two might not be unrelated.) Obviously, marijuana can be abused. But the costs of criminalization have proved to be enormous, perhaps unsustainable. Would legalization be any worse?

Dow Up, Ends Week Over 8000

The Dow has now gone up for four consecutive weeks, ending back over 8000. Did we hit bottom and is it now on the way up, or is this just a temporary upward swing?

Looking at the weakness in the economy with businesses continuing to go under, my fear is that the market will start dropping again. I am hoping that the market has already taken anticipated bad news, which could include G.M. declaring bankruptcy, into its current prices. On the other hand, any unanticipated bad news might also start the market tumbling again.

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Activist Judges Back Gay Marriage

Here’s some trivia to have on hand should you hear conservatives attack Democratic activist judges for court rulings supporting same-sex marriage. Following today’s Supreme Court decision in Iowa (previous post), Andrew Sullivan points out that several of the “activist judges” in states where the court ruled for marriage equality were appointed by Republicans.  This includes Mark Cady who wrote the Iowa opinion.

Massachusetts (Goodridge, 2003) Margaret Marshall, appointed by Chief Justice Gov. Weld (R) in 1996, elevated to Chief by Gov. Cellucci (R);

in 1999 California (In re Marriage Cases, 2008) Ronald George, Chief Justice appointed by Gov. Wilson (R) in 1991, elevated to Chief by Gov. Wilson (R);

in 1996 Connecticut (Kerrigan, 2008) Richard Palmer, Associate Justice appointed by Gov. Weicker (Ind.); in 1993 — Note that Weicker was a Republican during his time in the House and Senate. He won the governorship as an independent.

And today, in Iowa (Varnum, 2009) Mark Cady, Associate Justice, appointed by Gov. Branstad (R) in 1998.

Via Sullivan’s trackbacks I also note that Good As You reports out that “The chief justice of the court, Marsha Ternus, was also a Brandstad appointee.”

Advances for Marriage Equality In Iowa and Vermont

This has been quite a day with regards to reducing discrimination against homosexuals. The big news comes not from one of the more liberal states on the coasts but from the heartland. The Iowa Supreme Court ruling was also a victory for separation of church and state and the concept that religious organizations cannot use the power of the state to impose their beliefs upon others:

The Iowa Supreme Court this morning upheld a Polk County judge’s 2007 ruling that marriage should not be limited to one man and one woman.

The ruling, viewed nationally and at home as a victory for the gay rights movement and a setback for social conservatives, means Iowa’s 5,800 gay couples can legally marry in Iowa beginning April 24.

There are no residency rules for marriage in Iowa, so the rule would apply to any couple who wanted to travel to Iowa.

Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady, who wrote the unanimous decision, at one point invoked the court’s first-ever decision, in 1839, which struck down slavery laws 17 years before the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of a slave owner to treat a person as property.

Iowa’s gay marriage ban “is unconstitutional, because the county has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage,” Cady wrote in the 69-page opinion that seemed to dismiss the concept of civil unions as an option for gay couples.

“A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution,” Cady wrote.

The ruling, however, also addressed what it called the “religious undercurrent propelling the same-sex marriage debate,” and said judges must remain outside the fray.

Some Iowa religions are strongly opposed to same-sex marriages, the justices noted, while some support the notion.

“Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring that government avoids them,” the opinion says.

The ruling explicitly does not affect “the freedom of a religious organization to define marriage it solemnizes as unions between a man and a woman,” the justices stressed.

Yesterday the Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry. One Republican has changed his mind on this issue based upon support for individual liberty:

Rep. Rick Hube, R-Londonderry, said he favored limited government and maximizing the ability for people to choose their own lifestyles. He said he had voted against Vermont’s first-in-the-nation civil union law in 2000 but had changed his thinking.

“This to me is not about religion, civil rights or the institution of marriage,” Hube said. “This to me is about being true to a set of principles. People should have the opportunity to make choices and have control over their own lives.”

Needless to say there is opposition to these actions from social conservatives. In the past I had argued that social issues, along with one’s view on Iraq, had replaced economic issues as the major factors separating left from right. Economic issues have become more prominent since the financial crash last fall, although in this case I think most voters are primarily looking for competence as opposed to any particular ideology. Decisions such as these, especially in Iowa, might lead to social issues becoming more significant if this remains a concern going into the 2012 primaries.