Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times Has Ignorant Editorial on Gay Marriage in California

The L.A. Times has a (sorry, fellas) moronic editorial this morning which begins with this false premise:

IT COULD have been different. If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had signed a bill in 2005 legalizing same-sex marriage instead of vetoing it, the California Supreme Court would have been spared the task of deciding, as it probably will this year, whether a voter-approved ban violates the state Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

When Arnold vetoed the bill, I supported him. Here’s what I said at the time:

I am sympathetic to the concept of same-sex marriage, but I think Schwarzenegger has it just right. This bill clearly conflicts with Proposition 22 (which I voted against), and cannot legally become law without submission to the voters — something the bill does not contemplate. For more, see Dafydd ab Hugh’s earlier post.

Today’s editorial says:

But Schwarzenegger said he had to respect Proposition 22, approved in 2000, which states: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Whether committed same-sex couples will be relieved of second-class status now depends on the state Supreme Court. And as Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer’s ruling notes, the state Constitution trumps any ballot question and entitles same-sex couples to what he called “the last step in the equation: the right to marriage itself.”

But the editorial fails to recognize that, regardless of whether the state Constitution trumps ballot questions, it’s beyond any doubt that ballot initiatives trump legislative acts. (The legal authority for this proposition is provided in the Dafydd ab Hugh post linked above.) In other words, Arnold was exactly right: the legislature can’t repeal ballot initiatives without the voters’ approval, and signing the bill would have been an illegal act that would have led directly to a successful court challenge — or, at a minimum, a consideration of the very state equal protection arguments that the editors claim could have been avoided by signing the bill.

I guess it might be a bit much to expect the editors to understand this. But if they can’t be bothered to understand it, then they shouldn’t write about it.

I know, I know. It never stopped them before.

Errors in L.A. Times Article About Litvinenko Killer Polonium-210

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 1:09 pm

In a comment thread at Cathy Seipp’s blog, a commenter named “doug” says:

The LAT has an oddly chatty piece on Polonium 210 which is remarkable in the sheer number of errors made. It looks like an amalgam of half baked internet stories that didn’t get run by a fact checker. It would be acceptable in some small rag somewhere but the Times should be better than that.

Polonium-210 is, of course, the radioactive isotope that killed ex-K.G.B. agent Alexander V. Litvinenko. You can read the article doug is talking about at this link. I’m no science expert — and I don’t know doug’s background — but he seems to have a point. For example, the article says:

Of polonium’s 25 isotopes, polonium-210 is the most stable. After 138 days, half of it decays into a nonradioactive isotope of lead.

That is the correct half-life for Polonium-210 — but it doesn’t make it the most stable isotope of Polonium. As Bradley J. Fikes (who tipped me to this) notes, Polonium-209 has a half-life of about 103 years — far longer than 138 days. There is at least one other isotope with a longer half-life. Fikes asks the obvious question: “How did this pass through the LA Times’ legendary four levels of editors?”

But that’s not all. The article also says:

It takes 10 half-lives — about three years — for all of it to be converted into lead.

To which doug replies:

“All of it” is not a phrase used to describe radioactive decay. Ten half lives just means that .1% of the original remains. Eleven half lives would be .05%. Twenty half lives would correspond to .0001%, and so on.

Once again, I think the man has a point.

“doug” points to a number of other alleged factual inaccuracies in the article, in this comment and this one. I’m unqualified to judge the accuracy of most of doug’s assertions, but if you have a science background, toddle on over and take a look.

I count six alleged errors, including the two mentioned above.

The Times may be headed for one of those comical corrections that goes on and on and on . . .

UPDATE: I added this sentence to the above for clarity: “That is the correct half-life for Polonium-210 — but it doesn’t make it the most stable isotope of Polonium.” Without that sentence, some people were misreading the post.

UPDATE x2: I changed “There are other isotopes with longer half-lives.” to “There is at least one other isotope with a longer half-life.” The reason is that I am not specifically aware of more than one.

Michelle Malkin Is Headed to Iraq

Filed under: General,War — Patterico @ 10:44 am

Michelle Malkin will be heading to Iraq after all, contrary to the sloppy assumptions many bloggers and commenters made that she wouldn’t. I warned some of these bloggers and commenters that they should not make such assumptions. They didn’t listen.

We’ll see whether these folks are ready to confess the fact that they jumped to overly hasty conclusions. They should — promptly. I assure you that they won’t be able to escape ridicule by pretending as though they never said any such thing. The Internet makes such denials very difficult to pull off.

For those not blinded by Malkin-hatred, I suggest tossing her a few bucks to defray expenses. I certainly plan to do so, and I wish her and Bryan Preston good luck. Stay safe.

Bill from INDC Blogs from Fallujah

Filed under: General,War — Patterico @ 7:42 am

If you’re not reading Bill from INDC nowadays, you should be. He’s blogging from Iraq. The latest entry begins:

I just got back from a first mounted patrol/IED hunt in and around Fallujah. It was interesting, long and uneventful in the violent sense, though another patrol was hit by two IED’s as we headed back to base. No serious injuries, some rattled nerves and superficial damage to Humvees, thankfully.

Sitting here in my trailer, I just heard a loud explosion go off. Sounded like massive firecracker with an unusually powerful echo. I assume this was an IED, but having never heard and identified a mortar yet, I confess that I can’t say for sure. It was a disconcerting sound, whatever it was.

Go to his main page, keep scrolling, and consider a donation.

Also, keep reading Badgers Forward and the excellent but less frequently updated Acute Politics, for another set of articulate takes on the military point of view.

I also have another interesting find from the other point of view, but I want to study it further before blogging about it. More later.

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