Archive for June, 2011

June 30, 2011

Pride and Prejudice: Reflecting on New York’s Marriage Law (Part 3)

by Vince

I want to focus on three pragmatic issue points regarding same-sex marriage. They may span the general topic of same-sex marriage or something specific to New York.

  1. “Same-sex marriage is doing a big no no: it is redefining traditional marriage”. This message has cropped up across the anti-same sex marriage spectrum, from Pat Robertson on the 700 club to intellectuals at the NRO. You can’t redefine traditional (American, not Biblical) marriage because it has never been done before in any civilization or nation. To some, America is doomed because we have opened the Pandora box and begun to accepted (and even show love, not bigotry (why do some Christians worship on Sundays their lord of love but flamethrow the other days of the week?) for) same-sex marriage couples and their relationships.

Steven Taylor explains just a smidgen of the falsehood in the claim that marriage has never been redefined before. His piece is worth a full read but I will give you a paragraph or so:

“…the very fact that there were laws forbidding interracial marriage demonstrates the degree to which marriage has been a creature of legislation.  And, as I noted the other day, the involvement of government in marriage is essentially escapable.  So, at least from a legal point of view, marriage hasbeen redefined in living memory.”

Taylor delves into the story of Jacob of the Torah who had an interesting “marriage”. Indeed marriage has evolved since the days of marriages arranged by fathers, bride prices, bigamy, and sanctioned adultery.

2. “Same-sex marriage was legislated by liberal thugs, liberal tyrants, and (insert any other foaming at the mouth ad hominem, non-reality based stereotype)”. These sad canards crop up at the NRO, even to the point of comparing the New York state legislative process to fascist North Korea.
Faith in Public Life has continually brought the cut throat discussions in politics back to where they should be: to a humanized form. Ad hominem stereotypes distort and distract conversations to the point that we are no longer are talking about humans equal to us (and made in the image of God: imago deo) but “the gays”. FIPL provided a few news ads and commentary that helps with the now everpresent topic of same-sex marriage post-New York.

3. “Gays are going to sue religious organizations for discrimination”. This was an issue for the four Republican legislators in New York. Would there be enough protection for churches and organizations that may have objections to serving same-sex weddings or events so that they are not liable for discrimination? In a brief paragraph, yes, those protections are in place:

One of the most striking things about the week-long battle was how much of it hinged on the canard that worked so well for anti-marriage activists in California: If gay marriage is passed, religious organizations will be forced to marry same-sex couples, and businesses that object to homosexuality will be sued for refusing to provide their services at gay weddings. Under current law, religious leaders already can’t be compelled to sanctify a same-sex union, making this bill’s provision a politically motivated redundancy. Whether passing a same-sex marriage law without a religious exemption for businesses makes a difference is a more murky question. City and state nondiscrimination laws might have required businesses to provide their services at gay weddings—a protection the law passed yesterday supersedes. But it’s hard to imagine too many people in the wedding industry turning down money, and which gay couple would want to hire a homophobic organization anyway?

June 30, 2011

Pride and Prejudice: Reflecting on New York’s Marriage Law (Part 2)

by Vince

Let’s first take a look at Presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s lamentation over New York (this is almost the most foaming at the mouth pro-family you can get today):

I have long opposed the redefinition and nullification of marriage, the central building block for society. Indeed, as a U.S. senator I co-sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment. As a citizen, I actively campaigned against the judges in Iowa who ordered gay marriage there.  I also was one of the first to step out and encourage the leadership of the House of Representatives to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court when the president refused to do so. Unlike others in this race, I believe it is the role of the president to weigh in when states try to redefine the meaning of marriage. Marriage is defined in the federal law as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife; any state that redefines marriage is wreaking havoc not only with the definitions of the federal law and the majority of states, but, even more importantly, with the single most important and time-tested institution of every successful society.

My emphasis is made on the last sentence. There is a general lamenation that traditional marriage is fleeting. To some, passing legislation to allow people of different sexual orientations dissolves traditional marriage. But wait, same-sex marriage has been legal in some states for some time now. Why has the family been doing better, not worse, since then? David Frum gives a personal take:

I was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. Fourteen years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I forcefully debated the issue at length online (at a time when online debate was a brand new thing).

Yet I find myself strangely untroubled by New York state’s vote to authorize same-sex marriage — a vote that probably signals that most of “blue” states will follow within the next 10 years.

I don’t think I’m alone in my reaction either. Most conservatives have reacted with calm — if not outright approval — to New York’s dramatic decision.

Why?

The short answer is that the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.

Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.

If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.

Instead — while American family stability has continued to deteriorate — it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.

By the numbers, in fact, the 2000s were the least bad decade for American family stability since the fabled 1950s. And when you take a closer look at the American family, the facts have become even tougher for the anti-gay marriage position.

Mataconis sums up Frum’s point:

Indeed. We’ve lived with same-sex marriage, and more generally increasing acceptance of homosexuality, for long enough now to know that the gloom-and-doom preachers were wrong and that the world isn’t going to end just because two women, or two men, go down to City Hall and get a marriage license.

Kathryn Jean Lopez brings up a quote from George Weigel. She ends her post with no comment regarding his quote:

Marriage, as both religious and secular thinkers have acknowledged for millennia, is a social institution that is older than the state and that precedes the state. The task of a just state is to recognize and support this older, prior social institution; it is not to attempt its redefinition. To do the latter involves indulging the totalitarian temptation that lurks within all modern states: the temptation to remanufacture reality. The American civil-rights movement was a call to recognize moral reality; the call for gay marriage is a call to reinvent reality to fit an agenda of personal willfulness. The gay-marriage movement is thus not the heir of the civil-rights movement; it is the heir of Bull Connor and others who tried to impose their false idea of moral reality on others by coercive state power.

A humane society will find ample room in the law for accommodating a variety of human relationships in matters of custodial care, hospital visiting rights, and inheritance. But there is nothing humane about the long march toward the dictatorship of relativism, nor will there be anything humane about the destination of that march, should it be reached. The viciousness visited upon Archbishop Dolan and other defenders of marriage rightly understood during the weeks before the vote in Albany is yet another testimony to the totalitarian impulse that lurks beneath the gay marriage movement.

Because a same-sex marriage is not reality for some heterosexuals does not mean it is not reality for others. You gotta love the comparison of Bull Conor and the use of fire hoses (powerful enough to peel bark off of trees) on African Americans in preventing them to vote to marriage equality (legislatively achieved through many measures, not in totalitarian fashion by a dictator). As Sullivan notes, we live in a republic, not a church. I am left wondering what aspects of life are on the sacrosanct list never to be touched, altered, or changed for the sake of doing something about an ever growing group of humans

(Photo: A young boy waves a flag during the 2011 NYC LGBT Pride March on the streets of Manhattan on June 26, 2011 in New York City. Thousands of revelers had reason to celebrate since New York state legislators approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage which Governor Cuomo signed in to law on Friday June 24. By Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

June 30, 2011

Summer Music: Torches by Foster The People

by Vince

If you are in need of a summer album to listen to in the car or elsewhere, check out Foster The People’s album Torches. Most people know of their lead single “Pumped Up Kicks“, but the other 9 tracks on their debut album will not disappoint. They are just as catchy, funky, and dance-able.

Also, you can listen to an interview they did with XPN as well as some live studio tracks from Torches here.

June 30, 2011

Pictures of the Day

by Vince

Pictured: A man dressed as a seagull walks beside people while they rest on a bench in the Circus Field during the Glastonbury Festival, on June 25, 2011. (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

These are pretty interesting and cool pictures. Check ’em out!

June 29, 2011

Chris Christie’s Gubernatorial Smackdown

by Vince

I just love this guys comments.

June 29, 2011

Splitscreen: A Love Story

by Vince


This video reminds me of when I was dating/engaged to MJ and we were hours apart.  Maybe you can relate in some way.

June 28, 2011

Quote of the Day

by cpmy3rs

“A corporation is a legal person created by state statute that can be used as a fall guy, a servant, a good friend or a decoy…. A person you control… yet cannot be held accountable for its actions. Imagine the possibilities!”

Wyoming Corporate Services, a company which helped over 2,000 other companies incorporate themselves in a small brick house in Cheyenne Wyoming.

June 27, 2011

$20 Billion on Air Conditioning for our two wars

by Vince

Doug Mataconis describes this large amount of money:

To power an air conditioner at a remote outpost in land-locked Afghanistan, a gallon of fuel has to be shipped into Karachi, Pakistan, then driven 800 miles over 18 days to Afghanistan on roads that are sometimes little more than “improved goat trails,” Anderson says. “And you’ve got risks that are associated with moving the fuel almost every mile of the way.”

Anderson calculates more than 1,000 troops have died in fuel convoys, which remain prime targets for attack. Free-standing tents equipped with air conditioners in 125 degree heat require a lot of fuel. Anderson says by making those structures more efficient, the military could save lives and dollars.

June 27, 2011

Pride and Prejudice: Reflecting on New York’s Marriage Law (Part 1)

by Vince

The passing on Friday of the New York state law allowing same-sex couples to marry (which kicks in in 30 days) was monumental. The population of the Empire State alone (19 some million people) outnumbers the five other relatively small Northeastern states (and Iowa /D.C.).

This law, and many other important events, are going to be almost magnified in importance as we approach the 2012 election. Each candidate, including the incumbent, will be asked what they think about the new law in New York, if it should or shouldn’t come down to the state legislatures deciding on such matters, and if this could possibly be a national law in the coming decade.

One of the major issues that stood out in crafting the same-sex marriage law in New York was religious protections for churches, organizations, and the like. The Right has let out some steam on this issue, comparing New York to North Korea and insisting that anti-same sex marriage is not anti-homosexuality but really pro-marriage. What has been surprising and refreshing is to see many members of the Right and Republican Party rebuke their own side and agree with passing this law. This floor speech is worth watching for it captures some of the roots of the small government / libertarian in most Republicans as well as religious protection:

Even Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has some nuanced respect for the New York law.

David True calls those paying attention to see that this law is not solely about saving same-sex couples from an encroaching government with its “moralistic” laws but ” it is about claiming the legal right (with the help of government) to make a huge commitment, indeed, one of the most profound and traditional commitments one can make.” True describes marriage as “an unfolding story”, one that can have “us appreciate what has come before” as well as recognize the “cultural revolution” upon us as part of the timeline.

Marriage in this view can even be compared to God. Both marriage and God are infinite spheres (the former of love and commitment, the latter of the same as well as a divine expanse of justice, judgement, and redemption). Neither can be fully grasped with words here on earth. If anything, words at times can hold these two back and muddle their true essences. In the end, participating with both provide more than words ever could.

(Pictured: The First Presbyterian Church of NYC on 5th Ave & 12th St., which was on the Pride Parade route. The congregants passed out water and hung a huge welcome banner, complete with triangles.

June 24, 2011

Picturing this School Scenario

by Vince

Imagine what a typical school district would look like with these budget cuts:

—140-plus staff members were furloughed.

—Dozens of staff members are being shuffled around the district to fill holes, which means many students will be meeting new faces.

—Nearly all special education and English Language Learner aides were furloughed, save for those required by law because of a student’s needs. ELL aides help students whose primary language is something other than English.

—The 3-year-old character education program was eliminated. The program’s creator earned national acclaim for her model of mentoring troubled students.

—Elementary guidance counselors, some secondary guidance counselors and an at-risk coordinator who helped students with issues at home were furloughed.

—The athletic teams remain intact, but the athletic budget was cut by $100,000. It is not yet clear how the department will make up for the lost revenue.

—The district’s security team was eliminated. The team helped monitor school activities and provide a buffer between students and police to reduce arrests and keep students safer. It was created two years ago.

—Students won’t have the use of library aides.

—At the elementary level, students won’t have music, physical education or art teachers. Their classroom teacher will be in charge of providing those subjects. The interim Superintendent says that elementary teachers all have certification to cover those areas.

—Students won’t have reading and math coaches around to add more individualized instruction.

—At the secondary level, the performing arts program that offered theater performances was eliminated.

—The high school pool, in dire need of repair, has been closed.

—Class sizes will increase, particularly at the secondary level. Some classes could be above 30-35 students, according to the district.

Now add to the equation that this is regarding the York City school district, a district much in need of smaller classes, classroom aides, extra curricular classes, and English language learning aides. Could these cuts, coupled with a 5% tax increase (that overrode the normal 3% max), happen in a suburban school without a national level uprising?

June 24, 2011

Ripping Obama to Shreds

by Vince

Victor Davis Hanson does a great job of it:

Barack Obama’s cries from the heart as a senator about the possibility of a Bush intervention in Iran being a de facto violation of the War Powers Act have been widely circulated — juxtaposed to his sophistic gymnastics about bombs over Libya not really being much more than “kinetic action” and thus exempt from the Act. Then we have another doublet with Hillary Clinton, who said this month:

. . . the bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Qadhafi’s side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them?

Yet said in May 2003 in the context of Iraq:

I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you’re not patriotic. We should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration.

The point is not that the Obama administration is two-faced, hypocritical, and shameless. Most administrations are; they act quite differently once they are in the White House and governance requires adult responsibility quite different from the cheap rhetoric of the campaign trail.

Rather, the significance in Obama’s case is twofold: Obama suffers the wages of hypocrisy far more keenly because he set himself up as a new-style politician, promising to buck the “establishment” with his hope-and-change agenda, only to govern in the worst style of a Chicago brass-knuckles machine-made pol, humiliating those who actually believed the planet-cooling/seas-receding nonsense of 2008.

Second, Obama has utterly embarrassed the entire liberal attack on the Bush’s administration’s efforts in Iraq and against terrorism. The venom between 2003 and 2008 was both cruel and nasty, and yet it was always presented as principled rather than partisan, not a grasp for power but the product of deeper respect for the American civic traditions. Now we see that entire era as a complete fraud — on matters of dissent, skepticism of the War Powers Act, Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, preventive detention, wiretaps, intercepts, Iraq, and predator targeted assassination. The hysterical commentary was never based on the merits of those acts, but simply because George Bush, a political opponent, embraced them. How do we know this? Through hypocritical couplets like those above — and the almost complete silence of the antiwar Left. Where now is Cindy Sheehan, the award-winning Michael Moore, the New York Times discounted ads to Moveon.org, the impassioned floor speeches from a Senator Reid or Kerry?

That is the real legacy of the Obama administration: In a way the most extreme right-wing nut could not, Obama has humiliated, embarrassed, and rendered bankrupt seven years of prior dissent, showing it up for what it was all along.

No words or comments on my end could follow up that assault.

June 24, 2011

New Coldplay: ‘Major Minus’ and ‘Moving to Mars’

by Vince

These are from the upcoming Every Teardrop is a Waterfall EP. Enjoy:

H/T: All About the Music

June 24, 2011

Push Ups in Albany

by Vince

As the New York state legislature wait for the outcome of the same-sex marriage bill, state senators are having push up contests (with improper elbow form).

June 24, 2011

Picture of the Day

by Vince

Pictured: Cape Alava is the westernmost point in the lower 48 states, and the site of a Makah settlement for more than 6000 years.

June 24, 2011

Political Cartoon of the Day

by Vince

This one gave me a chuckle.

June 23, 2011

Marco Rubio and Hubristic American Exceptionalism

by Vince

A perfect example from an up and coming U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, in his first floor speech for the Senate. Daniel Larison rips his hubris to shreds but I will parse some of his lines:

But since her earliest days, America has inspired people from all over the world. Inspired them with the hope that one day their own countries would be one like this one.

And so he begins his smug parade of looking down on the rest of the world.

I know that now some say that times are so tough here at home that we can no longer afford to worry about what happens abroad. That maybe America needs to mind its own business.

Well, whether we like it or not, there is virtually no aspect of our daily lives that is not directly impacted by what happens in the world around us. We can choose to ignore global problems, but global problems will not ignore us.

(…)

Almost half a century later, America is still the only watchman on the wall of world freedom. And there is still no one to take our place.

What will the world look like if America declines?

Well, today people all over the world are forced to accept the familiar lie that the price of security is our liberty. If America declines, who will serve as living proof that liberty, security and prosperity can all exist together?

Today, radical Islam abuses and oppresses women. It has no tolerance for other faiths, and it seeks to impose its will on the whole world. If America declines, who will stand up to them and defeat them?

Today, children are used as soldiers and trafficked as slaves. Dissidents are routinely imprisoned without trial. They’re subjected to torture and forced into confessions and labor. If America declines, what nation on the earth will take these causes as their own?

And if America declines, who will do all these things and ask for nothing in return? Motivated solely by the desire to make the world a better place?

The answer is no one will. There is still no nation or institution on this planet that is willing or able to do what America has done.

Is this a call to an ongoing interventionalist streak in the world? Can we afford interventionalist wars? Can we fight these threats on our own soil? Where is the line? Larison puts this part of Rubio’s speech into perspective:

Whenever Rubio refers to American decline, we need to remember that what he means by this is that the U.S. will not attack other countries, intervene in their internal conflicts, or attempt to dictate the pace and content of political developments abroad as much as the U.S. does right now. In other words, what Rubio calls decline is what many of us would call a return to normal, or at least a reduction in the number and frequency of foreign conflicts and entanglements. What Rubio calls American decline is what many other nations around the world would refer to as being left alone.

In fact, the decline Rubio describes won’t prevent the U.S. from being that “living proof” of the co-existence of liberty, security, and prosperity. It is quite conceivable that both American liberty and security would be enhanced when our government concentrates its “defense” policies on nothing but the defense of the U.S. and those allies that America will have for limited periods of time. There are many states that already combat jihadist militants on their own soil at great cost, and because most of them are fighting largely in self-defense they are going to continue doing so no matter what the U.S. does or does not do. Something that believers in Rubio’s particular version of American exceptionalism seem to take for granted is that the rest of the world is largely hopeless without constant, direct American involvement in their affairs. If that was ever true, it isn’t any longer.

Finally, you gotta love this line from the tail end of Rubio’s speech:

You see, these nations, these new emerging nations, these new shining cities, we hope they will join us, but they can never replace us. Because their light is but a reflection of our own.

Larison claims that “it is flattering to us to believe that other successful nations have become successful only by basking in the reflected glory of American light.” Indeed.

June 23, 2011

Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq Infographic

by Vince

Click here for the enlarged version (I had to size it down and you can’t read all of the fine details).

H/T: Whitehouse

June 23, 2011

Urban Gold Miner

by Vince

TDW:

43-year-old “urban gold miner” Raffi Stepanian of Queens — a freelance diamond setter by trade — says he brings in over $500 a week sifting through the streets of Manhattan’s Diamond District in search of gold, diamonds, and other precious materials.

“The streets of 47th Street are literally paved with gold,” Stepanian says. “Material falls off clothes, on the bottom of shoes, it drops off jewelry, and it falls in the dirt and sticks to the gum on the street.”

Impressive, indeed.

June 23, 2011

Quote of the Day II

by Vince


“I didn’t create a single job,” said the former Governor of New Mexico.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Johnson said in a statement. “We are proud of this distinction. We had a 11.6 percent job growth that occurred during our two terms in office. But the headlines that accompanied that report – referring to governors, including me, as ‘job creators’ – were just wrong.”

“The fact is, I can unequivocally say that I did not create a single job while I was governor,” Johnson added. Instead, “we kept government in check, the budget balanced, and the path to growth clear of unnecessary regulatory obstacles.”

(…)

“My priority was to get government out of the way, keep it out of the way, and allow hard-working New Mexicans, entrepreneurs and businesses to fulfill their potential,” he said. “That’s how government can encourage job growth, and that’s what government needs to do today.”

Gary Johnson in quite candid and humble terms.

June 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

by Vince

“Tax hikes are off the table,” he said. “First of all, raising taxes is going to destroy jobs….second, a tax hike cannot pass the US House of Representatives — it’s not just a bad idea, it doesn’t have the votes and it can’t happen. And third, the American people don’t want us to raise taxes. They know we have a spending problem. –Speaker of the House John Boehner.