Sunday, December 21, 2008

"It's the only gum with the breath-freshening power of ham"

Burger King has come out with a cologne. Now I can attract hungry, feral cats anywhere I go. (Maybe I should insert a "pussy" double entendre here? Naw, let's not.)
The way to a man's heart may be through his stomach, but the way to a woman's heart — according to Burger King — may be through a new meat-scented body spray.

While fast-food chains aren't exactly best known for selling signature fragrances, on Sunday The Home of the Whopper rolled out a men's body spray called Flame by BK. The 5-ml bottles are available for sale in Ricky's stores in New York City and on a dedicated Web site,

If you're salivating for a chance to marinate yourself in flame-broiled flavor, relax: The experience can be yours for just $3.99 — a small price to pay for some seriously mouthwatering mojo.

And if you're thinking "Hey, Burger King isn't exactly sexy", well then, you couldn't be more wrong:

You can see him beckoning you hither at their website.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: This Probably Doesn't Deserve My "Language" Tag Edition

It was common for racists to take anything they could conceivably associate with race and claim that this tenuous connection was certain. Race, for instance, defined not only skin color and other physical features, but also culture, civilization, thoughts, morality (or lack thereof), religion, etc. And for any of these, they also had to demonstrate (at least to their own satisfaction) that that of whites was superior to that of blacks.

So it was with language:
Another important influence came to the blacks through their contact with the English language. The peculiar richness of this speech, the call it institutes upon the mind for contextual thoughts makes it to the savage perhaps the most educative of tongues. It cannot be compassed by any lowly people without a decidedly developing effect. The negro has mastered this language in a very remarkable manner, and without deliberate instruction by any form of schooling, and by so doing has given better proof of his natural capacity than by any other of his accomplishments in this to him very new world. . . .

The struggle of the African with the difficulties of our incompleted [sic], open-structured English speech is one of the most interesting features of his history. His inherited habits of mind framed on a very limited language, where the terms were well tied together and where the thought found in the words a bridge of easy passage, gave him much trouble when he came to employ our speech where the words are like widely separated stepping-stones which require nimble wits in those who use them. It would require a separate essay to deal with this interesting subject, so I can only note a few of the most instructive examples of the devices to which the negroes have resorted in their difficult task. . . . Our verb with its imperfect denotation of time and number gives them at first much trouble; to help themselves they have adopted some new but imperfectly defined tenses; "gwine done," "gone done," "done gone," seem to me to be natural efforts to give clearness to our indices of action, which we are able to supply from our grasp of the context,--a mental habit to which the lower races with difficulty attain. . . .

--From Nathaniel Shaler, "The Nature of the Negro," Arena, Vol. III (December, 1890). Reprinted in I. A. Newby, The Development of Segregationist Thought, pp. 58-59. Ellipses are Newby's.

I also recall reading something about how black languages were inferior because they didn't have many words in them--not enough to properly translate the Bible into. I can't recall who said it, but I think it might have been Charles Carroll.

Intelligence failure = voting for Bush

Once again we find that Bush's assertions that he invaded Iraq on the best intelligence available at the time are shameless, odious lies.
During an interview with the Committee, John Gibson, who served as Director of Speechwriting for Foreign Policy at the National Security Council (NSC), stated that he tried to insert the uranium claim into this speech at the request of Michael Gerson, chief White House speechwriter, and Robert Joseph, the Senior Director for Proliferation Strategy, Counterproliferation, and Homeland Defense at the NSC. According to Mr. Gibson, the CIA rejected the uranium claim because it was "not sufficiently reliable to include it in the speech." Mr. Gibson stated that the CIA "didn't give that blessing," the "CIA was not willing to clear that language," and "[a]t the end of the day, they did not clear it."


According to Ms. Miscik, the CIA's reasons for rejecting the uranium claim "had been conveyed to the NSC counterparts" before the call, and Dr. Rice was "getting on the phone call with that information." Ms. Miscik told Dr. Rice personally that the CIA was "recommending that it be taken out." She also said "[i]t turned out to be a relatively short phone call" because "we both knew what the issues were and therefore were able to get to a very easy resolution of it."


Once again the Bush administration reveals it has something else in common with the Muslim extremists it supposedly hates

Remember that U.N. resolution that the Vatican refused to be a part of? The one that called on nations to decriminalize homosexuality?

Well, apparently the U.S. is of the same opinion as the Vatican:
Alone among major Western nations, the United States has refused to sign a declaration presented Thursday at the United Nations calling for worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality.


According to some of the declaration's backers, U.S. officials expressed concern in private talks that some parts of the declaration might be problematic in committing the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction.

The hell? How is our twisted notion of federalism an issue? Because several states don't have measures banning discrimination against sexual orientation (nor does the federal government, for that matter), that somehow means that we need to accept other countries throwing gays in jail or slaughtering them? I can't even fathom how this makes sense.
Carolyn Vadino, a spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the U.N., stressed that the U.S. — despite its unwillingness to sign — condemned any human-rights violations related to sexual orientation.

Except that it apparently doesn't. It seems just fine with letting countries sentence people to death or imprison them based on their sexual orientation. Or is that just not a human-rights violation? It's not like gays have rights or are human or anything.

"Woo! Hooray for science!"

The Obama administration might get it:
In a sign that President-elect Barack Obama intends to elevate science to greater prominence, John P. Holdren, a Harvard physicist widely recognized for his leadership on energy policy and climate change, will be appointed White House science adviser this weekend, the Globe confirmed yesterday.


The news, coming in the same week as Nobel laureate physicist Steven Chu's appointment as secretary of energy, was heartening for the scientific community.

Many scientists have objected to the Bush administration's policies, from restrictions on embryonic stem cell research to the pace of action on climate change.

"I think they'll be restoring the role of science in the federal establishment," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Cambridge-based advocacy organization. "We've got a bunch of people across the [new] administration who get it."

In 2004, Holdren joined other prominent scientists to sign a letter accusing the Bush administration of undermining and censoring scientists.

"When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions," the letter said.

Holdren, who was an adviser to the Obama campaign and a member of a scientific advisory committee to President Bill Clinton, is a specialist on energy, climate change, and nuclear proliferation.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Recognizing reality is un-American

I'm pretty sure that's what Dobbs is trying to say:
No matter what the fearmongers tell you, however, we are not -- and I've said it, and I've said it, and I've said it -- we're not going to fall into recession into this -- in this country. We are going to probably go through one of the most painful recessions in our country's modern history, but we are not going to fall in depression, and you and I and all independent thinkers have got to keep our heads up, our eyes clear, avoid the nonsense and the herds, and deal with reality as it comes at us. That's what made this country great. It's what will maintain its greatness, and that is you and I sticking to our nation's founding ideals, and making certain that we are "can do" in our outlook, and not just going along with the crowd and the nonsense.

Ah, yes, the ostrich theory of economics. As long as we blind ourselves to any problems, we can't fail!
Well, you know, we're all concerned. We're all worried. Anyone paying attention is concerned and worried, but are you scared? Are you afraid? No. That's un-American.

Is it now? Somebody ought to tell the Republicans that so they can stop with their fear-mongering.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: Social Stigma Edition

I couldn't come up with any better title. Anywho, a few days ago Greg Laden blogged about a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences entitled "How social status shapes race". The abstract mentions,
We show that racial perceptions are fluid; how individuals perceive their own race and how they are perceived by others depends in part on their social position. Using longitudinal data from a representative sample of Americans, we find that individuals who are unemployed, incarcerated, or impoverished are more likely to be seen and identify as black and less likely to be seen and identify as white, regardless of how they were classified or identified previously. This is consistent with the view that race is not a fixed individual attribute, but rather a changeable marker of status.

Though it's a new paper, this certainly isn't news--at least, the idea that "how they are perceived by others depends in part on their social position" isn't new. We've known that since before the Civil War. In fact, it was the basis of court decisions trying to decide people's race. From an 1835 South Carolina case, State v. Cantey:
We cannot say what admixture of negro blood will make a colored person, and by a jury one may be found a colored person while another of the same degree may be declared a white man. In general, it is very desirable that rules of law should be certain and precise; but it is not always practicable, nor is it practicable in this instance, nor do I know that it is desirable. The status of the individual is not to be determined solely by the distinct and visible mixture of negro blood, but by reputation, by his reception into society, and his having commonly exercised the privileges of a white man. But his admission to these privileges, regulated by the public opinion of the community in which he lives, will very much depend on his own character and conduct; and it may be well and proper that a man of worth, honesty, industry, and respectability, should have the rank of a white man, while a vagabond of the same degree of blood should be confined to the inferior caste. It will be a stimulus to the good conduct of these persons, and security for their fidelity as citizens.

Emphasis mine.

A 1914 case, Tucker v. Blease, quoted the above section and gave it this introduction:
The law recognizes that there is a social element, arising from racial instinct, to be taken into consideration between those with and those without negro blood. The statutes and provisions of the Constitution hereinbefore quoted show that the law not only recognizes a classification, but makes it mandatory, and provides a penalty for failure to observe the laws in this respect, in the instances therein mentioned. The decisions prior to the abolition of slavery show that the classification between white and colored persons did not depend upon the extent of the mixed blood.

Again, emphasis mine.

So a person's legal race, which was supposedly defined in terms of blood and ancestry, was recognized to actually be based (in part at least) on social status. Two people with the same amount of black "blood" could be legally assigned to different races based on whether they exhibited particular good traits or were considered to be in good social standing, his "reception into society."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Separate but equal isn't equal? Who would've thought it!

New Jersey's Civil Union Review Commission has released their final report, entitled "Consequences of New Jersey's Civil Union Law." The result?
In its final report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, the state's Civil Union Review Commission concluded that the state's two-year-old civil union law doesn't do enough to give gay couples the same protections as heterosexual married couples.

"This commission finds that the separate categorization established by the Civil Union Act invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children," the report says. The findings of the commission's 13 members were unanimous.

The commission found that the rights afforded to those in civil unions were not always well understood, and that allowing gay couples to marry would alleviate the problem. For example, there have been instances when people in civil unions have been prevented from visiting their partners in hospitals and making medical decisions on their behalf, the commission found.

It's not like we couldn't have seen that coming. Still, opponents of gay marriage were outraged.
Gay marriage opponents criticized the report, saying the commission was made up of members who favored gay marriage and calling its recommendations predetermined.

"If you look at the membership of that committee, they're all advocates. It's an advocacy group," Pat Brannigan, the executive director of the anti-gay-marriage New Jersey Catholic Conference, said Tuesday. "It doesn't mean that that is the conclusion that society and people in general will come to."

People advocating for gay marriage after finding that civil unions don't work? People advocating for equal treatment of all their citizens? What a nefarious, conspiratorial plot! I'm sure they concocted all the evidence that civil unions aren't equal to marriage, and since only 10 of the people testifying before or writing letters to the committee were opposed to gay marriage, clearly the committee must have stifled all the opposing views that Brannigan assures us are there! Is there no evil to which proponents of equality won't stoop?

Oh wait... no. The committee
specifically solicited the testimony of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the League of American Families and PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays). Of these groups, only the New Jersey Catholic Conference provided testimony in response to the invitation.

The report is available here (click on the graphic at the top--I overlooked it at first).

Skipping to the happy ending, the unanimous recommendations are these:
(1) The Legislature and Governor amend the law to allow same-sex couples to marry;

(2) The law be enacted expeditiously because any delay in marriage equality will harm all the people of New Jersey; and

(3) The Domestic Partnership Act should not be repealed, because it provides important protections to committed partners age 62 and older.

The opening section gives an illustration of some of the troubles involved with civil unions: one woman had trouble getting medical information on her partner while she was in the emergency room, because the doctor "did not understand, and hadn't heard of civil unions before". But, one might argue, wouldn't that go away with time? Surely people will come to understand civil unions and that they are "equal" to marriage. Probably not. The report points out that Vermont, which has had a civil union for eight years now, still has the same problem as New Jersey with people not treating civil unions as equal to marriage. So, they conclude, it's unlikely that this will lessen with time. As they quote later, "Time cannot and does not mend the inequality inherent in the two separate institutions."

But even if it would become truly equal (at least legally) with time, that still wouldn't be good enough. Echoing what we've been saying all along and agreeing with my pithy title, they say:
Even if, given enough time, civil unions are understood to provide rights and responsibilities equivalent to those provided in marriage, they send a message to the public: same-sex couples are not equal to opposite-sex married couples in the eyes of the law, that they are "not good enough" to warrant true equality.

This is the same message that racial segregation laws wrongfully sent. Separate treatment was wrong then and it is just as wrong now.

Bravo! This isn't hypothetical, either. The commission cites "mental health experts" who have demonstrated "the significant psychological damage caused by not recognizing marriage for same-sex couples." Treating certain people as inferior and not good as the rest of the population has damaging consequences. That was true 54 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education, and it's true today. As one portion of testimony put it,
The socially sanctioned right of gay marriage which is qualitatively different than civil unions, the right to choose one's spouse, has a positive impact on self-esteem, sense of being validated in the eyes of the community, and on the internalization of ideas of commitment and responsibility to others, something that is sorely needed in our society currently.

In addition to psychological damage caused by being treated separately, there are tangible inequalities involved here (which of course only exacerbates the psychological damage from being discriminated against). For instance, even though 20 months have passed since this, insurers haven't gotten any better about offering insurance to people in civil unions. In fact, it may have gotten worse:
Since its first report, the Commission has gathered evidence that employers' invocation of ERISA has not lessened with the passage of time. If anything, the worsening economy seems to be encouraging employers to cut corners wherever they can, with equality for LGBT employees and their same-sex partners being among the casualties.

ERISA, the federal Employee Retirement Insurance Security Act, says that self-insured "companies which create their own insurance plans but may hire outside agencies to administer them are governed by federal law rather than state law." That means many of these companies invoke DOMA to deny benefits and insurance to people in civil unions. So one could logically ask, would allowing gay marriage in New Jersey change this? The committee says yes:
The Commission concludes that a marriage law would provide that remedy, despite the existence of a federal prohibition on the recognition of same-sex relationships.

As the Commission reported in its interim report, the marriage law in Massachusetts has led many employers in that state to ignore the ERISA loophole and provide equal benefits to same-sex wives or husbands. The Massachusetts experience dispels any notion that so long as federal law does not recognize same-sex relationships, it would make no difference whether a particular state uses the term "marriage" or "civil union" to describe a same-sex couple's relationship. In fact, the word "marriage" can and does make a difference to employers, even within the constraints of federal law.

The report cites one person's testimony:
Adding civil union partners is virtually impossible to do at this time in this climate at the bargaining table. However, we already have benefits for married couples in our agreements. The key here, as is often in contracts, as you all know, is the language. Simply calling the joining of two people 'marriage' rather than 'civil unions' means we don't have to negotiate or rewrite the contract language....

The fact is that just changing the language 'civil union' to 'marriage' changes the situation, because everyone agrees that married people and their spouses are entitled to health insurance and pensions. It's already in our agreements.

Wanting something called "marriage" rather than "civil union" is not just nitpicking on our part. People understand marriage--it has huge cultural and social significance. This is not the case with civil unions. The Supreme Court for Connecticut recognized this:
Although marriage and civil unions do embody the same legal rights under our law, they are by no means 'equal.' As we have explained, the former is an institution of transcendent historical, cultural and social significance, whereas the
latter most surely is not.

And of course, since most people don't really understand the concept of civil unions, they aren't going to treat them the same even though the law says they should, as was demonstrated by the woman who couldn't get information on her partner while she was in the ER. Nor was this an isolated incident:
In another case, a witness from Plainfield testified that when he was admitted to a New Jersey hospital for emergency surgery in April 2007, his civil union partner was not allowed to see him, and was removed by hospital security.

The report concludes this section,
This testimony demonstrates that the civil union law has resulted in economic, medical and psychological harm for a number of same-sex couples and their children. This Commission believes that as long as New Jersey maintains two separate systems to recognize the unions of same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples and their children will face a challenge in receiving equal treatment. Under a dual system, these and future families will suffer economic, medical and psychological harm.

The Commission finds that even if all employers in New Jersey were suddenly to provide benefits to employees in civil unions equal to the benefits provided to married employees - an unlikely proposition in itself - such compliance would not cure much of the inequality perpetuated by the civil union law.

Further, even if some employers were to continue to invoke the federal ERISA loophole under a prospective marriage statute - notwithstanding the evidence from Massachusetts that fewer employers would invoke that loophole - a marriage statute would cure much of the harm perpetuated by the existing civil union law as reflected in the collected testimony.

The report also includes a section on the financial impact allowing gay marriage might have in New Jersey. While I don't disagree, and it might sway some people who otherwise would be unmoved (especially with today's economy), it feels degrading to have an issue of civil rights, equal treatment, and justice for all boil down to "it's profitable." Still, the legislature set this as one of their tasks, so I can't hold it against the committee. Actually, they pointed out something that I hadn't considered. I've heard some people argue against gay marriage because giving benefits to gay couples will raise expenses for the state, so it'll cost more, and that would result in higher taxes. But the report points out that just letting gays marry would probably be cheaper than setting up civil unions:
[M]arriage may lead to reduced costs in some instances. Joseph A. Komosinski, the State Registrar of Vital Statistics, testified that money would be saved because there would be no need to print alternative forms, and there would be one standard procedure for the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Dr. Gabel-Brett noted:
In these financial times, ... why or how can we waste state money, taxpayers' money, making forms, making changes, making a separate structure that has to be administered, for no other purpose than to set people apart?....

Every time you change a state program, whatever it might be, some benefit, some program, some eligibility requirement, you are going to have to change it in two parallel structures. You are going to have to spend more time sending out notices, changing websites, changing computer forms. So it is not going to end."

Finally, the report gets to a section examining the opposition to gay marriage. In response to the old "marriage must be between a man and a woman", they raise this point:
The Commission believes that it is precisely because marriage has a meaning in society beyond the legal concept of marriage that it should be offered to same-sex couples. The Commission has heard time and again how permitting same-sex couples to marry would make a qualitative difference in their lives and the lives of their families and has heard no testimony that allowing these couples to marry would harm opposite-sex couples who are married.


Via Pam's House Blend.

Uh, wow

Matt Yglesias highlights a single paragraph of an editorial in the Wall Street Journal:
What Democrats have done, in essence, is to insert an unelected judiciary into the wartime chain of command. As Mr. Kelly notes, this is producing a "lack of accountability" and "the lack of transparency into the inner workings of the FISA process." If some faceless FISA judge denies a surveillance request from Mr. Kelly and New Yorkers die as a result, that judge will answer to no one. Under current FISA rules, we won't even know who that judge is.

I'm not sure I can even count the number of levels on which this is wrong or bone-headed. It's saying that unelected judges are bad in wartime, apparently unaware that the military itself is not elected. The people setting these wiretaps are unelected and faceless, and now so are their victims, since they don't even have to say who they're spying on. None of that seems to bother them.

And the idea that having judicial oversight--any judicial oversight, no matter how watered down now--means a "lack of accountability" is just... it's mind-boggling. Apparently letting unknown and unaccountable people spy on anyone they want for no reason whatsoever leads to more accountability and transparency than having a judge oversee requests to spy on people. How the hell could this possibly make any sense to anyone?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Iowa case

I had thought about live-blogging the oral arguments before the Iowa Supreme Court today, but that didn't pan out--I had some errands to do around that time. Fortunately, KatRose at Pam's House Blend did it herself. And for anyone interested, there's video of the proceedings here.

This article kinda suggests that some of the justices (they don't really indicate how many) were hostile to the idea of same-sex marriage, because, they queried, wouldn't it lead to polygamy?
An attorney for six same-sex Iowa couples insisted that allowing gay marriage would not open the door to polygamous marriages, despite challenges from several Iowa Supreme Court justices.

Dennis Johnson, a Des Moines lawyer, said marriage would remain an institution of two people even if the high court allowed gay couples to wed. The assertion came in response to questions from several justices that gay marriage would open the door to other types of marriage.

"How do you stop?" asked Justice Mark Cady. "How do you stop more than two people from getting married?"

Johnson said a marriage "has always been well defined within the concept of two people," and that polygamy would change its historic meaning. Same-sex couples, by contrast, should have the right to marry because they meet all other requirements to wed, he said.

"This right is a time-honored right and tradition in this society," Johnson said. "What you see is that people have always had a fundamental right to marry. The court has made it clear. With more than two people, you would change the meaning of marriage."

Oh, swell. Looks like he botched it; that'll just lend strength to the people saying the exact same thing about same-sex marriage. And no, marriage has not "always been well defined within the concept of two people", you twit! Polygamy was the norm in most cultures on earth!

In my view, there's a fairly simple distinction (at least legally) between same-sex marriage and polygamy. Banning same-sex marriage means that gays can't get married at all, forever. This is not the case with banning polygamy--it's absurd to say that you're barred from the fundamental right to marry someone when the bar is that you're already married. It's the difference between a store giving out coupons that stipulate one per person per visit, and that store barring blacks from buying there at all.

Not to say that I'm really opposed to polygamy, mind. Frankly, I think the whole slippery-slope argument is absurd. If there's a reason to ban polygamy, then that should stand whether or not gays can get married. If there's no such reason, then why should it matter if gay marriage leads to polygamy?

Anywho. The state seemed mostly to be arguing a couple things: (1) that this shouldn't be decided by the courts--that is, they should defer to the legislature. Why, I can't understand (well, the legal rationale for that, I can't understand). The legislature isn't allowed to pass laws that contravene the constitution, no matter whether or not marriage laws are generally their jurisdiction or whether people really, really, hate gay marriage. (2) They were claiming that marriage is about procreation (snicker) and if gays can get married, then soon people won't believe that marriage is about procreation, and then they won't get married at all!
"We're saying that, after a generation, maybe two, people will see or could come to believe that if it's not necessary to have its biological father, or its biological mother, then what's the need for getting married?" Kuhle said.


Kuhle said that state support of same-sex marriage would teach future generations that marriage is no longer about procreation, one of its historic tenets.

How that works, I don't know. Most people don't enter into a marriage thinking "this is all about procreation" anyways. We let infertile couples and opposite-sex couples who have no intention of having children marry. And yet people still get married. Letting gays get married will just lead to more people marrying.

And if you're worried that parents should be married, for the kids' sakes, then let gay people get married! Gay people have children--the couples involved in this case have children! How can you say that you want them to be raised in a household with a married couple when you're fighting against that very thing!?

And what about foster homes or adoptive parents? Eh? Are they going to prevent people from marrying because they're not the biological mother and/or father? This is all absurd!

And (3), they were arguing that the trial court erred by not allowing the state to field some expert witnesses. They may have a point here. Or, on the other hand, the judge may have been doing them a favor, not listening to some of their expert witnesses. In fact, according to KatRose's transcript, the witnesses were "3 religion experts, an economist and one historian". Why any of their specialties should be needed, I've no idea... well, maybe the historian.

Also, according to her transcript, the attorney for the state at one point said (paraphrasing): "How can a woman teach a boy to be a man? How can a man teach a girl to be a woman?"

So we should take away the sons of single mothers, and the daughters of single husbands? Bah.

I should hope the court could see through all this vapid nonsense, but so few courts have before. Here's hoping.