Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Selection 2004: The Real Reason to Vote

There has been all sorts of talk about whether Kerry (or possibly Edwards, and formerly Dean) is “electable”, and about the importance of getting Bush out of office.  But I think these comments forget something.

Getting Bush out of office is not the goal here.

Or rather, it’s only part of the goal.  Bush isn’t a monolith, a king, a micro-manager.  He isn’t behind all the decisions and all the politicking.  His administration is.

In other words, if we get rid of Bush, we also get rid of Karl Rove.  We get rid of Donald Rumsfeld.  We get rid of John Ashcroft.  We get rid of Dick Cheney.  (We also get rid of Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Christine Todd-Whitman, and other lesser darknesses.  It’s less clear that there’s any vast benefit there, but I’m happy to throw out those bath toys when we drain the dirty bathwater.)

So remember when it comes to voting: you aren’t just voting for the lesser of two individual evils, you are voting to oust an entire corrupt and distasteful suite of evils.

Gay Marriage: The Final Nail

The CNN story on Bush’s formal call for an anti-same sex civil marriage amendment to the United States is here.

If that doesn’t hammer a stake through the heart of the “Compassionate Conservative” vampire, nothing will.

As with everything Bush does this year, the act is politically motivated, of course.  Constitutional amendments don’t get passed overnight.  They take months.  This ensures that a divisive, middle America-squicking issue is in front of the voters all year long, but the actual voting fallout of it won’t occur until after this November.

This is designed, as much as anything, to force Kerry (or possibly Edwards) to take up a contrary stance.  This may well backfire on Bush and company.  Initially, it has a polarizing effect and may push some people into the Conservative camp.  But it is well established that the more gay people someone knows, the less severe their reactions toward gays tend to be, and by extension, the more someone knows about a subject, the better they can make a choice.  And thus, the more this issue is out in the public eye, the more people will be forced to confront their internal biases.  People who are already heavily against it will stay that way, but others are vastly more likely to shift their opinions to be in favor of same-sex civil marriages as they learn and think more about the issue.

So to quote our fine President: “Bring it on.”

Gay Marriage: Do It for the Kids

One of the classic and recurring arguments for limiting marriage to only a man and a woman is that marriage is expressly for the raising of children.  And thus because one male and one female parent (the original parents, we should specify) are the ideal, marriage must be limited to such a pair in order to give children the best chance possible.

I’m fine with that.

(Indeed, I would say that the best of all parenting option is the child’s original father and mother, assuming they love the child and work for the child’s best interests and all those other things that are part of the “ideal” but may not happen in all cases.  But in those myriad cases where it doesn’t happen in the “ideal” way, alternatives such as parenting by a single parent, or by one original and one step-parent, or by a same-sex couple where one is an original parent, or even by some random couple from an overseas country who genuinely wants the child may be quite an excellent parenting situation.  But I digress…)

As I said, I’m fine with focusing marriage on the child-rearing matter.  So long as it is applied fully and fairly across the board. So here’s a (modest) proposal:
  • The institution of marriage shall be limited to one man and one woman, expressly for the purpose of raising children.
  • Any marriage which is childless for two years shall automatically be dissolved, with the separation of joint assets defined per each state’s legislature.
  • “Childless” shall mean the absence of a child in the household between conception and the age of majority.  The child’s permanent residence must be that of the couple more than half of each year.
  • Marriage with the intention or expectation of remaining childless shall constitute fraud.
In other word, by getting “married”, the couple commits to the duty of raising children.  Couples must present proof of pregnancy or the presence of a child in the home more than half the time within two years of their ceremony to remain married.  Couples who do not currently have children under the age of majority in the home have two years to again become pregnant or otherwise acquire a child.  (Acquiring a child may include step-parenting, adoption, being a foster parent, or raising grandchildren whom your children cannot raise themselves, and possibly other methods.)

Among other things, this means infertile couples may not be married (or at least may not stay married once they know this status, and infertile individuals may not become married in the future), couples may not marry with the intention of remaining childless, and after the kids turn 21, the marriage duties are concluded and the marriage must be dissolved.  Nobody gets a “pass” because they are physically incapable of having kids (including due to injury, illness, or age), and no one gets a free ride because they raised kids in the past; if you aren’t doing it now, you don’t get the benefits.

I’m sure that proposal would go over real well.

Updated on December 14, 2010

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Selection 2004: Ho Hum

What dismays me the most about the shift from Dean to Kerry (or possibly Edwards) as the heir apparent for the Democratic nomination — and by extension, the general paring down of candidates, although that was inevitable — is that I’m not sure I can get worked up over Kerry (or possibly Edwards).

Dean, I had a feeling for.  Or at least via the media, I had the feeling I was supposed to have a feeling for him.  I inferred a personality, a stance on a variety of issues, and thus someone whom I could actually care about.

With Kerry (or possibly Edwards), I have no such feeling, nor the feeling of the need to have a feeling.  It’s no longer “Is this the best guy?  Do I agree with what he says?  Does he fire me up?”  Instead, it has become “Okay, this is the Democrat guy (or possibly Edwards).  Guess he’s the one I’ll vote for.  Sure hope he can beat Bush.”

In other words, “Yeah, whatever.

I know I’ll vote, and I know I won’t vote for Bush.  So now I just yawn until March 2, when we’ll know if it’s actually going to be Kerry (or possibly Edwards will pull enough states to prolong things).  And then I’ll stretch and scratch myself and twiddle my thumbs until July (or whenever the official Candidate Crowning Ceremony occurs).  And then I’ll nap until late October.

So far as I’m concerned, the only thing left to do is count the votes.  Although I’m sure there will be ample local and state politics to perk the interest before then.  Or at least the feeling of interest.

Updated on December 13, 2010

Friday, February 13, 2004

Nipples, Nipples, Every… er, Nowhere

Now we’re going great guns with hearings about the baring of Ms. Jackson’s nipple piercing during the Super Bowl.

An interesting opinion piece on it appeared at the International Herald Tribune site.  (Update: the IHT site is gone and its archives are allegeldy incorprated into the New York Times site.  This op-ed may have been the one I read at the time.)

I can only see two possible outcomes of this:
  • The “wardrobe malfunction” explanation is accepted as the truth, and it is termed the accident that it (presumably) was.  Everyone apologizes, maybe CBS pays some token fines, greater future scrutiny of such choreography is promised, the whole thing blows over, and we return to the status quo.  Yeah, like that’s going to happen.
  • The FCC will institute new regulations prohibiting live televised feeds which don’t have a several second delay in them.  This is already standard in talk radio, where there’s like a three-second delay between speech and broadcast, enabling the station personnel to touch a “silencer” button to keep potty-mouthed callers from spewing curse words over the air waves.  Instituting something similar for television would allow appropriate personnel to push a “blur” or “blank” button and thus protect (ahem) us from future glimpses of naughty bits.
On the surface, sounds like a great idea.  Of course, “appropriate personnel” is just a euphemism for “censors”.  While we might have few qualms about a few seconds of blurred screen being presented to cover up a “wardrobe malfunction,” what else is going to be blurred, blacked out, or silenced?  Will stations with a conservative agenda push the “quiet” button when tough questions get asked of a sitting Republican politician?  Will cable companies in the Bible Belt black out CNN stories on gay marriage in Massachusetts?  Will liberal stations blur… well, I find it hard to think of them doing that, but for the sake of argument, would they blur things that liberals find objectionable?

I haven’t watched old Warner Brothers cartoons in years, but the last time I did, I was shocked by the violence.  Or rather, by the lack of violence, and how that lack of violence had been instituted.  Apparently the prints of the cartoons would get sent from station to station over the years, and on occasion, some station management would take it upon themselves to save their young viewers from the evil violence and would “edit” (censor) the cartoon.  That print would then be sent on in its edited (damaged) form to the next station, who might also edit it, and so on.

I saw one of the two “Duck Season!  Wabbit Season!” cartoons recently (“Rabbit Fire” and “Duck!  Rabbit, Duck!” are the titles, but most people simply recognize the prhrase).  (Yes, there are two: one takes place in autumn and one in winter; same general schtick, though.  There's apparently a third in the “trilogy”.)  It had been “edited” so that the image froze just before each time Daffy got blasted with Elmer’s shotgun, and then the picture started again with the after effects on Daffy’s bill — but the sound continued unstopped.  So you got images of Elmer leveling the shotgun, then a static image accompanied by the sound of a gun being fired, and then Daffy’s bill full of holes.  Now that’s “dethpicable.”

Another trash job was on “Hare Trimmed”, where Bugs is trying to protect Granny from Yosemite Sam’s intent to marry her for her inheritance.  The chop job on this was even worse: a few seconds before any “violence”, they would just cut to the next scene.  But not just to the next scene but into the next scene.  So you would have Yosemite Sam going through a door where he’s supposed to fall through a hole in the floor and off a cliff (or some such), cutting immediately to Sam chasing Granny down a hallway, in the middle of the dialogue.  Very surreal, and impossible to follow.

So is this what we can expect to happen with a “delayed live feed” rule in place?  A Half-Time Show where the on-site operators freezes the image but lets the sound play through, a network which blurs the frozen image, a cable company which chops the offensive sounds, and then a V-Chip on your local set which blanks out the entire screen — all at once?

Updated on December 10, 2010

Friday, February 6, 2004

Gay Marriage: The Race to be Different

From The Advocate’s interview with Presidential candidate General Wesley Clark, dated February 3 (the link is just to an excerpt of the interview):
But in the past, when the country was struggling with whether or not to allow people of different races to marry each other, for example, there wasn’t a question of calling it something other that marriage.

The way Colin Powell said it is that it’s like the decision President Truman made [to desegregate the military] and the decision that he was asked to make [to allow gay people to serve openly].  He said that there is something fundamentally different with sexual orientation.  I’m not sure that’s correct.  I’ll start with the legal rights.  Let’s let convention take its course as it works through.
So, is Powell correct?  Is there something fundamentally different between the “blacks in the military” and the “gays in the military” questions?  After some thought, I’m willing to say that yes, there is.

(What I recall Powell saying, several years ago, was that he saw no comparison whatsoever between the two issues.  Not just different but completely different.  At the time, I thought this was the typical “the Civil Rights struggle is a black thing, the rest of you go away” response, not unlike how the Holocaust has come to about Jews and only about Jews.  Today, I think that it is more like the way that only someone “inside” the gay side of things has the ability to see through the “gay window”, and thus we see the underlying similarities strongly while those “outside” focus on the surface comparisons, or on what their own “windows” focus on; this encompasses my earlier opinion, but broadens it.)

The difference seen by those outside the gay community is external vs. internal.  For black soldiers, you could clearly point to some soldiers and say “They may serve” and to others and say “They may not.”  You could thus also target the concerns about troop morale and soldiers working together and such, mostly with a “Just get over it” response.  Underlying the concern with gays in the military is that you (generally) can’t point out the gay soldiers from a distance; you have to get to know them first, and thus your first impressions may get twisted later.

Which isn’t to say that a “fundamental difference” is a good enough reason to bar the soldiers serving together, or the gay ones from serving at all.  After all, you can’t (generally) tell at first glance that someone is Jewish, or left-handed, or any number of other traits which might only become evident later.  It’s really the “squick factor” that is the problem, magnified by the fact that it may not be apparent early on.

So now back to the comparison of mixed-race marriages to same-sex ones.  Is there a similar “fundamental difference” there?  There isn’t along the external vs. internal/visual axis mentioned above: there is nothing “hidden” on the same-sex front when two men or two women get married; anyone can see that they are a same-sex couple right away (usually).  If anything, it is more obvious than on the mixed-race side of the coin, where some state laws identified someone as “colored” with mere fractions of non-white heritage and even less melanin than Michael Jackson, and thus precluded them from some marriage options.

A fundamental difference has to be fundamental: it has to be blatantly obvious to everyone who looks at the matter.  There is certainly such a difference between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages, but that isn’t where this question lies.  Why interracial marriages are so obviously different from same-sex ones as to warrant different treatments remains unclear.

(And note that General Clark agreed.  If he’s not sure there’s a [valuable] fundamental difference between the black soldier question and the gay solider one, then he’s certain to be doubtful on the marriage issue.  And that’s a good thing.)

Updated on Decmeber 9, 2010

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Gay Marriage: Massachusetts Strikes Back

Today’s Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that “civil unions” won’t fulfill their same-sex marriage requirement from last November isn’t particularly surprising.  They said “marriage” and that’s what they meant.

I was encouraged by seeing this comment in the ruling, though:
Because the proposed law by its express terms forbids same-sex couples entry into civil marriage, it continues to relegate same-sex couples to a different status.  […]  The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.
I anticipate seeing increasing support for “civil unions” across the country (being used as a stop-gap), with an eventual Supreme Court case on “separate but equal” grounds which will do away with the term in favor of simple “marriage”.  First we need to get a hodgepodge of “civil union” statutes among the various states, followed by lawsuits and legislation forcing them to unify in meaning and value.  It will take years to get to and through that stage, but it is refreshing to see “separate is not equal” coming up so early in the discussion, and from the judicial side of things.

Selection 2004: Sidekick to Super Tuesday

I don’t see any real surprises out of the seven primaries and caucuses (cauci?) on February 3.
  • Correctly predicting Lieberman out after last night was no big deal.  As expected, Kucinich remains in the race despite poor showings, mostly because he has a unique message to get out which is lost if he drops out.  Probably the same thing with Sharpton.  Good for them.  (I expect both to drop in early March, though.)  [Sharpton dropped in March, Kucinish stayed in all the way to July.]
  • Dean’s showing was far poorer than I expected.  I still attribute this mostly to the severe ill will wished upon him by the press in the week prior to Iowa.  I suspect that his hope now is that the press decides to attack Kerry (again; they did at the end of last year somewhat, too, in the name of punching up Dean).  Of course, that will serve mostly to anoint Edwards or Clark, not bring Dean back to the top; when the press kicks you off the top of the hill, you don’t slip back just a single step.  If the attack dogs focus on Kerry, though, Dean will probably see more benefit from it than the others, though.
I don’t have anything against Kerry.  I’m sure he’ll be a fine candidate, if that’s how things settle out.  On the other hand, I’m not fired up about him in the least; I don’t see anything to say he has any particular chance to beat Bush.

Updated on February 18, 2004

Updated on December 7, 2010
And indeed, my thoughts on Kerry held true: bland, and the only reason to get behind him was to get behind someone, anyone but Bush.  At least the Democrats broke out of that deadly boring cycle with Obama.