As a service to those understandably aghast at a recent Ohio state court decision that Ohio’s recent constitutional amendment against gay marriage means unmarried persons cannot be considered victims under Ohio’s domestic violence statute, here’s some resources and context.

First, for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a good short Associated Press item: "Judge: Ohio Gay Marriage Ban Affects Law".  Also, one can find further discussion on the blogs Feministing and Matthew Yglesias.

Second, for those of you who wish to go straight to the source, the judge’s decision is available here.

State of Ohio v. Frederick Burk, Court of Common Pleas, Cuyahoga County, Case CR462510

Third, for those of you who don’t want to peruse the whole decision, I think the following excerpt accurately depicts the judge’s tremendous unhappiness with the decision he felt it necessary to render:

{¶23} This Court is fully aware that judicial restraint compels it to avoid deciding constitutional issues “unless absolutely necessary.” … Consistent with that principle, the Court has sought to find a way that the definition of “family or household member” set forth in R. C. §2919.25 [i.e., Ohio’s domestic violence statute], and refined through a quarter-century of case law, could be reconciled with the equally explicit language of Art. XV, §11, of the Ohio Constitution [i.e., Ohio’s recent constitutional amendment regarding the definition of marriage].  It is, therefore, with the greatest reluctance that this Court must find that the two simply cannot be rendered compatible without distorting the plain meaning and clear intent of one or the other.

Fourth, for those of you who believe this case marks a new low in despicable criminal defenses and one that could only have been conceived by a "lower-than-low lawyer" (to use Jessica’s favored phrasing at Feministing), the following bit of context should be noted.  According to ¶25 of the judge’s decision, the Ohio state prosecutors explicitly argued that the instigator of the defense strategy to invoke Ohio’s new constitutional amendment defining marriage was a law student who desired to discredit this amendment.  Of course, y’all are free to consider this law student and the defense lawyers who took the suggestion as "lower-than-low" for their willingness to use a battered woman as a prop to score political points.  I only add this context to make the point that the defense team’s besetting sin likely wasn’t any stereotypical obsession with winning cases, no matter the means or the cost. 

Fifth, for those of you worried that it will now be impossible to prosecute repeat acts of domestic violence falling below the standard of aggravated assault as felonies, worry not.   It is quite likely that the law will be changed—not the amendment that has so strictly defined marriage, alas—but rather the domestic violence statute.   See this Associated Press article: "Changes Expected for Domestic Violence Law, Not Gay Marriage Ban".

Sixth and finally, for those wondering about the extent of domestic violence in the US, my quick perusal of the research literature leads me to conclude that the most extensive attempt to conduct a survey to estimate the extent of domestic violence remains the 1995-1996 National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS).   For example, the 2003 Centers for Disease Control report Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States depends critically on this 1995-1996 data, stating "this report reflects the most appropriate, reliable data currently available about the costs associated with I[ntimate] P[artner] V[iolence]" (bottom of page 15). The main points of the NVAWS in regard to prevalance according to this Centers for Disease Control Study are:

  • " Of the female NVAWS respondents, 7.7% had been raped by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetimes; 0.2% reported intimate partner rape in the past 12 months."
  • " The NVAWS found that 22.1% of women had been physically assaulted by an intimate partner at some time in their lives, and 1.3% reported such an event in the 12 months preceding the survey. … Women who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner in the previous 12 months experienced an average of 3.4 separate assaults."

[Personal note: I wrote a couple weeks ago that I wasn’t blogging much of late due to a battle with laziness.   I’m happy to say that battle’s been largely won.   Alas, the battle with being so digusted by current events—more specifically, the battle to formulate a response better than "You gotta be f$#%ing kidding me!"—has not yet been won.   I was simply compelled to post on this issue since I loathe men who hit women.]


Though I’ve found myself agreeing with him less and less of late, I still hold a special place in my heart for that big, whisky-drinking lug Christopher Hitchens.   For example, I’m still quite fond of his Letters to a Young Contrarian which helped me through the existential angst of my early days at MIT. (The book is full-text viewable and searchable here on, just in case you’re not a fan like me who’d happily plunk down his hard-earned dough for the hardcover.)  Thus, it’s a happy occassion that I—as one big, whisky drinking lug to another—can welcome him to the ranks of those reluctantly suspicious about the skewing of anomalies in the last election.   

As Mr. Hitchens so eloquently yet bluntly defines our dilemma in this month’s Vanity Fair:

Machines are fallible and so are humans, and shit happens, to be sure, and no doubt many Ohio voters were able to record their choices promptly and without grotesque anomalies. But what strikes my eye is this: in practically every case where lines were too long or machines too few the foul-up was in a Democratic county or precinct, and in practically every case where machines produced impossible or improbable outcomes it was the challenger who suffered and the actual or potential Democratic voters who were shortchanged, discouraged, or held up to ridicule as chronic undervoters or as sudden converts to fringe-party losers.  [All italics are Hitchens’s. ]

[Hat tip: Gary Farber and Mark Kleiman]

If this has whet your appetite and you’re seeking more analysis in this reluctantly suspicious vein, especially more technically minded analysis, let me humbly suggest this post of mine on the exit poll discrepancies and the sources linked therein.

People who know me know that I don’t really know how to relax.   This isn’t to say that I’m constantly working.  Rather, it’s to say that most activities I undertake for the purposes of procrastination aren’t conducive to relaxation.   

For example, of late I’ve been taking breaks from my theoretical physics PhD work by partaking in some of the many seminars offered by MIT’s top notch Political Science / Security Studies Program.   There one can hear such relaxing things as Professor Steven Van Evera constantly telling anyone within earshot that

Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II have all failed to move lock down loose nuclear and biological materials and scientists in Russia and elsewhere.  The US spends only $1 billion per year on the project (through the Cooperative Threat Reduction Initiative, or CTR)  and won’t have it finished until 2018.  Bin Laden is probably on a faster schedule than that.  The CTR lacks a strong, visible leader who can make things happen in Washington and Moscow. [Van Evera often inserts the example of someone like James Baker.   That is, someone with a reputation for being a top confidant to the President and whose appointment would be understood as a not-so-subtle hint that the President has authorized that all cooperation be amply rewarded and all opposition be thoroughly punished.]  This policy error is the worst failure of government in modern times!  Duck and cover! [Van Evera’s emphasis].   

As such, I’ve been meaning for awhile to go on a rant about how incredibly irresponsible and incompetent it is for the US and Russia not to be locking down the massive Soviet-era stockpiles of WMDs.  I even took the time to find an appropriate editorial cartoon to serve as a visual aid for this rant.


(Click image for a popup window with full size JPEG.)

Cute, ain’t it?

But tonight I just can’t get worked up about all that.  Sure, numerous experts have put even odds on a terrorist nuclear attack in a major US city within the decade, an attack that will instantly kill a few hundred thousand people and inevitably cause a few trillion dollars in economic damages.   But geez, these same experts put even odds on the Cold War ending in the Destruction of All Civilization as We Know It, and so this is actually progress. And besides, all work and no play makes Bill a dull boy, right?  🙂

So, on that note, let me share with you some of what I’ve actually found for fun and relaxation in the past few weeks.

First, in music:   People who know me also know that I love mildly insane female piano-playing singer-songwriters.   So to all you readers who are unacquainted with either Nellie McKay (and really folks, you have no excuse, she has a freakin’ contract with Sony Records… she ain’t obscure) or Amanda Palmer (who, alas, still is a tad obscure), I can’t suggest strongly enough that you rectify your oversight. 

Second, in poorly written but spectacularly choreographed martial arts film:  I just saw Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, a 2003 Thai action movie that’s now in a rolling limited release across the US, seemingly thanks in part to The RZA from Wu-Tang Clan (see the trailers and promos on the movie site).    All I can say is wow.   I mean, wow.   No, really… wow.   And, of course, props to The RZA.  Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothin’ to mess with.)

Well, back to contemplating the fundamental physical limits to computation and how much my predilection toward major metropolitan areas augments my probability of being prematurely vaporized.  🙂

Nighty night.