Friday, September 28, 2007

Separation of church and state? Never heard of it!

John McCain doesn't understand the Constitution:
A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?
I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.

And no, that wasn't a poorly-though statement. He kept repeating it throughout the interview (before it was asked by the interviewer, if this article is written in the order in which it was conducted):
I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the President of the United States is, 'Will this person carry on in the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?'

I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles.... personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith. But that doesn't mean that I'm sure that someone who is Muslim would not make a good president. I don't say that we would rule out under any circumstances someone of a different faith. I just would--I just feel that that's an important part of our qualifications to lead.

Yeah, 'cause look where it's gotten us so far.

I mean, consider some other presidents whose Christian faith was important to them. Say, President Bush:
One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."

Or President McKinley:
The truth is, I didn't want the Philippines, and when they came to us, as a gift from the gods, I did not know what to do with them. When the Spanish war broke out, Dewey was in Hong Kong, and I ordered him to go to Manila, and he had to; because, if defeated, he had no place to refit on that side of the globe, and if the Dons (the Spanish) were victorious they would likely cross the Pacific and ravage Oregon and California coasts. And so he had to destroy the Spanish fleet, and he did it! But that was as far as I thought then. When next I realised that the Philippines had dropped into our lap, I confess I did not know what to do with them. I sought counsel from all sides -- Democrats as well as Republicans -- but got little help. I thought first we would take only Manila; then Luzon; then the other islands, perhaps, also. I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed to almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And one night it came to me this way -- I don't know how it was but it came: (1) That we could not give them back to Spain. That would be cowardly and dishonourable; (2) That we could not turn them over to France or Germany -- our commercial rivals in the Orient -- that would be bad business and discreditable; (3) That we could not leave them to themselves -- they were unfit for self-government -- and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain's was; and (4) That there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos; and uplift and civilise and Christianise them, and, by God's grace, do the very best we could by them, as our fellowmen for whom Christ also died. And then I went to bed, and went to sleep, and slept soundly, and the next morning I sent for the chief engineer of the War Department (our map maker) and told him to put the Philippines on the map of the United States; and there they are, and there they will stay while I am president!

Yeah, believing that an invisible sky-fairy impregnated a girl with himself in order to kill himself only not is the most important qualification for the leader of the world's super-power.

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: "Prove it!" Edition

I have an old 'crow to pick with you' about my hero Rajah Brooke; and my spirit is stirred within me this morning by seeing that the press are keeping up the attack on him for the Borneo business. I say at once that I think he was utterly right and righteous. If I had been in his place I would have done the same. If it is to do again, I trust he will have courage to do it again. But, thank God, just because it is done it will not have to be done again. The truest benevolence is occasional severity. It is expedient that one man die for the people. One tribe exterminated, if need be, to save a whole continent. 'Sacrifice of human life?' Prove that it is human life. It is beast-life. These Dyaks have put on the image of the beast, and they must take the consequence. 'Value of life?' Oh, Ludlow, read history; look at the world, and see whether God values mere physical existence. Look at the millions who fall in war; the mere fact that savage races, though they breed like rabbits, never increase in number; and then, beware lest you reproach your Maker. Christ died for them? Yes, and He died for the whole creation as well--the whole world, Ludlow--for the sheep you eat, the million animalcules which the whale swallows at every gape. They shall all be hereafter delivered into the glorious liberty of the children of God; but, as yet, just consider the mere fact of beasts of prey, the countless destruction which has been going on for ages and ages, long before Adam's fall, and then consider. Physical death is no evil. It may be a blessing to the survivors. Else, why pestilence, famine, Cromwell and Perrot in Ireland, Charlemagne hanging 4000 Saxons over the Weser Bridge; did not God bless those horrible righteous judgments? Do you believe in the Old Testament? Surely then, say, what does that destruction of the Canaanites mean? If it was right, Rajah Brooke was right. If he be wrong, then Moses, Joshua, David, were wrong. No! I say. Because Christ's kingdom is a kingdom of peace; because the meek alone shall inherit the earth, therefore, you Malays and Dyaks of Sarawak, you are also enemies to peace. 'Your feet swift to shed blood, the poison of asps under your lips;' you who have been warned, reasoned with; who have seen, in the case of the surrounding nations, the strength and happiness which peace gives, and will not repent, but remain still murderers and beasts of prey. You are the enemies of Christ, the Prince of peace; you are beasts, all the more dangerous, because you have a semi-human cunning. I will, like David, 'hate you with a perfect hatred, even as though you were my enemies.' I will blast you out with grape and rockets, 'I will beast you as small as the dust before the wind.' You, 'the strange children that dissemble with me, shall fail,' and be exterminated, and be afraid out of your infernal river-forts, as the old Canaanites were out of their hill-castles. I say, honour to a man, who, amid all the floods of sentimental coward cant, which by some sudden revulsion may, and I fear will, become coward cruelty, dares act manfully on the broad sense of right, as Rajah Brooke is doing. Oh, Ludlow, recollect how before the '89, men were maundering about universal peace and philanthropy, too loving to hate God's enemies, too indulgent to punish sin.

—Charles Kingsley to J. M. Ludlow, December 1849, in Charles Kingsley: His Letters and Memoirs of His Life, volume 1, pp. 222-223. Referenced in Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism pp. 76-77

Today's zombie racist

Michael Medved.

Homophobes surrender!

I am floored. A "pro-family" group in Canada has given up on the gay marriage fight:
The head of a national pro-family organization says it's time to ditch the fight against gay marriage and push instead for tax breaks and other incentives to make marriage and child rearing more attractive options.

Dave Quist, executive director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, said yesterday he has become less concerned about same-sex marriage since census figures released earlier this month demonstrated how rare gay marriage is.

The census, which counted same-sex marriages for the first time, reported 7,465 such unions, accounting for about 0.1 per cent of the 6.1 million married couples in Canada.

Quist said the "incredibly low" number of same-sex marriages, combined with a lack of "political will" to restore the traditional definition of marriage, has persuaded him to move on. A possible federal election in the coming months will not change the picture, he predicted.

Translation: the sky really isn't falling now that gays can marry in Canada, and the sanctity of marriage really hasn't been ruined.

Although I do wonder if he'll change his mind once he realizes that his numbers are vastly mistaken.

But this means that it can be done: we can make them give up! O happy day!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Yeah, they're right up there with the KKK and the CCC

So apparently the NAACP is a hate group:
I also agree that there are hate groups all around the country. There are skinheads, KKK, the NAACP. The NAACP is a hate group as well.


More good news

The Matthew Shepard Act, which would update the federal hate crimes laws to include acts of violence against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, passed the Senate:
Senators voted Thursday morning to give the federal government more jurisdiction to prosecute hate crimes and included protections for gay, lesbian and transgender victims, attaching the measure to an annual defense policy bill.

Sixty Senators -- just enough to override a Republican filibuster -- voted to attach the Matthew Shepard Act, named for the gay Wyoming college student murdered in 1998, as an amendment to the 2008 Department of Defense authorization bill. The measure was sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore.


Thirty-nine Republicans opposed the bill. Sen. John McCain was the only absent senator.

Republicans who supported the amendment were: Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Susan Collins of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, George Voinovich of Ohio and John Warner of Virginia.

The House has passed a similar bill, so differences between the two still need to be reconciled. And Bush has threatened to veto it (I suppose to prove what a compassionate conservative he is), but still. Great news.

Strike two, Verizon

In addition to their flagrant incompetence, Verizon has also apparently been censoring their text messages:
According to the New York Times, Verizon Wireless has rejected Naral Pro-Choice America efforts to use Verizon's mobile text-message program to communicate to its membership.

Such text messaging is an important new tool for advocacy organizations seeking to educate and alert their members.

Verizon decision to block this new form of political speech interferes with its users' right to get information that they choose to receive.

Well, actually, they reversed course the moment Times published their story:
Saying it had the right to block "controversial or unsavory" text messages, Verizon Wireless last week rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s mobile network available for a text-message program.

But the company reversed course this morning, saying it had made a mistake.

"The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident," Jeffrey Nelson, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

"It was an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy," Mr. Nelson said. "That policy, developed before text messaging protections such as spam filters adequately protected customers from unwanted messages, was designed to ward against communications such as anonymous hate messaging and adult materials sent to children."


In reversing course today, Verizon did not disclaim the power to block messages it deemed inappropriate.

Protect people from hate messages and pornography? Really. 'Cause earlier they said they wanted to protect people from controversy:
In initially turning down the program, Verizon, one of the nation's two largest wireless carriers, had told Naral that it does not accept programs from any group "that seeks to promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users." Naral provided copies of its communications with Verizon to The New York Times.


On Wednesday, Mr. Nelson, the Verizon spokesman, said the initial decision had turned on the subject matter of the messages and not on Naral's position on abortion. "Our internal policy is in fact neutral on the position," Mr. Nelson said. "It is the topic itself" — abortion — "that has been on our list."

Uh-huh, sure. "We reject material on a controversial subject"? I've heard that before.

I knew it

Remember that straight Wisconsin professor who was challenging his state's gay marriage ban? Well, most of the charges have predictably been dismissed:
Wednesday a judge dismissed much of the professor's challenge because it was ruled McConkey is not an injured party. That's because McConkey is not a homosexual; however, he does have a daughter who is gay.

A procedural challenge to the way the amendment was presented to voters last November will continue.

But now McConkey's daughter may take up the challenge. McConkey's daughter and her partner are named as co-plaintiffs in his lawsuit. McConkey says at first he wanted to take up the case because he felt responsible as her father.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007


There exists a judge in the United States that understands her job!
Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."


"For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law — with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised," she wrote.

By asking her to dismiss Mayfield's lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. attorney general's office was "asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so."

Elden Rosenthal, an attorney for Mayfield, issued a statement on his behalf praising the judge, saying she "has upheld both the tradition of judicial independence, and our nation's most cherished principle of the right to be secure in one's own home."

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the agency was reviewing the decision, and he declined to comment further.

[Edit] Ed Brayton has more on the ruling.

But it's all Saddam's fault for complying with our demands

And yet more confirmation that Bush had decided to invade Iraq come hell or high water, despite everything he said to the contrary:
Though Aznar asked Bush to "have a little patience" and urged, "It is very important to have a [UN] resolution," Bush pushed for war throughout the meeting, telling the Spanish Prime Minister, "We will be in Baghdad by the end of March."


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Isn't it nice that racism was completely eliminated in the '60s?

A few days ago, John Gibson of Fox basically intimated that people protesting the treatment of the Jena Six were the real racists in this story:
So, this is -- what they're worried about is a mirage of 1950s-style American segregation, racism from the South. They wanna fight the white devil. I -- you know, there's no -- you can't go fight the black devil. Black devils stalking their streets every night gunning down their own people -- can't go fight that. That would be snitchin'.

See? The problem isn't institutional racism that allows Louisiana schools to remain segregated, and the threat of lynching to those black students who dared to challenge said racism--the problem is black people are all gun-toting murdering thugs! And anyone who goes after the first problem, not the latter, is racist against white people.

But of course, Mr. Gibson staunchly denies the simple fact that racism is still a problem in America:
But I have been trying to point out the last couple of days that people have been loaded on buses to go to Jena to protest the racial injustice there -- you know -- and be told that slavery still exists and that segregation still exists across the country; that there are -- being told there are schools where principals allow white students to segregate themselves from black and won't let the black students sit under their tree. Tell -- they tell them that. I bet they can't find one other example of it. But they're being loaded on buses from cities where black people are being killed every day, at an astonishing rate, by black people, and no one's saying a word.

Again--racism doesn't exist, unless it's used to attack those white people who have to suffer the existence of black people in their cities, because (as we all know) black people are all gangsters.

And he played a clip from a news report of the Jena Six protests, interspersing it with his own brand of informative commentary:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not an isolated incident. Things like this happen all over the United States --

GIBSON: Where?!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- whether they go reported or unreported --

GIBSON: Where?!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- or publicized or not.

GIBSON: Where do they go?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, it's our job to make everyone accountable for what's going on.

GIBSON: Where?!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #2: Racism is not confined just in Louisiana, and we have to confront it everywhere, but racists feel --

GIBSON: Where?!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #2: -- ashamed at being racist. That's not acceptable here.

GIBSON: Where?! Where is this going on? I'll tell you where it's going --

Such brilliant insight. He doesn't know of anywhere where racism exist, therefore racism doesn't exist!

Oh, wait.
No sooner did tens of thousands of African-American demonstrators depart the racially tense town of Jena, La., last week after protesting perceived injustices than white supremacists flooded in behind them.

First a neo-Nazi Web site posted the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the six black teenagers and their families at the center of the Jena 6 case and urged followers to find them and "drag them out of the house," prompting an investigation by the FBI.

Then the leader of a white supremacist group in Mississippi published interviews that he conducted with the mayor of Jena and the white teenager who was attacked and beaten, allegedly by the six black youths. In those interviews, the mayor, Murphy McMillin, praised efforts by pro-white groups to organize counterdemonstrations; the teenager, Justin Barker, urged white readers to "realize what is going on, speak up and speak their mind."

Over the weekend, white extremist Web sites and blogs across the Internet filled with invective about the Jena 6 case, which has drawn scrutiny from civil rights leaders, three leading Democratic presidential candidates and hundreds of African-American Internet bloggers. They are concerned about allegations that blacks have been treated more harshly than whites in the criminal justice system of the town of 3,000, which is 85 percent white.

David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, last week announced his support for Jena's white residents, who voted overwhelmingly for him when he ran unsuccessfully for Louisiana governor in 1991.

But of course, if John Gibson doesn't know about that, we can't really think that it exists, now can we?

And as an amusing aside, from that second article:
McMillin has insisted that his town is being unfairly portrayed as racist—an assertion the mayor repeated in an interview with Richard Barrett, the leader of the Nationalist Movement, a white supremacist group based in Learned, Miss., who asked McMillin to "set aside some place for those opposing the colored folks."

"I am not endorsing any demonstrations, but I do appreciate what you are trying to do," Barrett quoted McMillin as saying. "Your moral support means a lot."

Yep. He's not racist, but he really appreciates white supremacists.

Shouldn't we have done this, say, four years ago?

We agree that there must be a clearly defined and measurable mission for our continued military involvement in Iraq. This mission must be further and continually defined so that the military and the country are aware of the end goal of our mission in Iraq and what progress toward that goal is being achieved.

So they admit that they still don't have a clue what they're doing there.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Gays don't exist in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East. It's only the West that's Fabulous.

As a follow-up to my last post, or perhaps more appropriately a follow-up to this post, President Ahmadinejad would have us believe that there are no gays in Iran.
President Ahmadinejad's contention during a speech at Columbia University that there are no homosexuals in Iran drew a swift rebuke from human rights organizations, with one activist challenging the president to explain how he, a gay Iranian, exists.

In response to a question on the treatment of gays in Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad said: "We don't have homosexuals like in your country. We don't have that in our country. We don't have this phenomenon I don't know who's told you we have it."

The response drew derisive laughter and booing from the assembly of 600 faculty members and students.

Said many gay Iranians (who had to flee because of, y'know, the persecution and all): "Then what am I?"
The executive director of the Toronto-based Iranian Queer Organization, Arsham Parsi, who said he fled to Turkey from Iran in 2005 to escape arrest, had a question for the president today.

"Who am I," he said. "Who am I? If we don't have any queers in Iran."

[Edit] Ezra Klein has a video of Ahmadinejad being laughed at and booed.

At least Pelley didn't talk about Bush's masculine odor

I don't know what to make of this exchange--is Pelley just revealing his man-crush on Bush? Or is he trying to corner Ahmadinejad into saying that he can't think of any admirable trait of Bush's, which is clearly unfathomable to anyone in the U.S. who loves their Fearless Leader? Or maybe he's hoping to be able to lump liberals and Iran together as knee-jerk "Bush-haters". Or maybe he's just crazy. At any rate, Ahmadinejad's response was perfect:
AHMADINEJAD: As an American citizen, tell me what trait do you admire?

PELLEY: Well, Mr. Bush is, without question, a very religious man, for example, as you are. I wonder if there's anything that you've seen in President Bush that you admire.


AHMADEINEJAD: What religion, please tell me, tells you as a follower of that religion to occupy another country and kill its people? Please tell me. Does Christianity tell its followers to do that? Judaism, for that matter? Islam, for that matter? What prophet tells you to send 160,000 troops to another country, kill men, women, and children? You just can't wear your religion on your sleeve or just go to church. You should be truthfully religious. Religion tells us all that you should respect the property, the life of different people. Respect human rights. Love your fellow man. And once you hear that a person has been killed, you should be saddened. You shouldn't sit in a room, a dark room, and hatch plots. And because of your plots, many thousands of people are killed. Having said that, we respect the American people. And because of our respect for the American people, we respectfully talk with President Bush. We have a respectful tone. But having said that, I don't think that that is a good definition of religion. Religion is love for your fellow man, brotherhood, telling the truth.

Some other interesting points from the interview:
  • Ahmadinejad flatly denies that Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb:
    PELLEY: For the sake of clarity, because there is so much concern in the world about this next question, please give me the most direct answer you can. Is it your goal to build a nuclear bomb?


    AHMADINEJAD: It is a firm "no."

  • Irony is dead:
    PELLEY: I asked President Bush what he would say to you if he were sitting in this chair. And he told me, quote, speaking to you, that you've made terrible choices for your people. You've isolated your nation. You've taken a nation of proud and honorable people and made your country the pariah of the world. These are President Bush's words to you.

  • Per my previous thought, I imagine that someone is going to use this quote to say that liberals are on Iran's side with the terrorists:
    AHMADEINEJAD: I think Mr. Bush, if he wants his party to win the next election, there are cheaper ways and ways to go about this. I can very well give him a few ideas so that the people vote for him. He should respect the American people. They should not bug the telephone conversations of their citizens. They should not kill the sons and daughters of the American nation. They should not squander the taxpayers' money and give them to weapons companies. And also help the people, the victims of Katrina. People will vote for them if they do these things. But if they insist on what they are saying right now, this will not help them.


The only people we're fighting are al-Qaeda, and anyone who looks at us cock-eyed.

Uh, wow. Completely destitute of good ideas, the Pentagon has decided that the best way to distinguish insurgents in Iraq from civilians is to leave things lying in the streets, and shoot anyone who picks them up.
A Pentagon group has encouraged some U.S. military snipers in Iraq to target suspected insurgents by scattering pieces of "bait," such as detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition, and then killing Iraqis who pick up the items, according to military court documents.


"Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy," Capt. Matthew P. Didier, the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment, said in a sworn statement. "Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces."

Never mind that anyone could pick this up; never mind that in a war-torn area, civilians might pick it up to defend themselves against all the other insane fuckers with guns; never mind that this is basically entrapment; if someone picks up something lying on the street, it's okay to kill them!
"In a country that is awash in armaments and magazines and implements of war, if every time somebody picked up something that was potentially useful as a weapon, you might as well ask every Iraqi to walk around with a target on his back," [president of the National Institute of Military Justice Eugene] Fidell said.

Which, of course, might be the whole point.

There's also the fact that this program is ripe for abuse: soldiers could simply plant the "bait" after the fact to make wholesale slaughter of civilians legally justified. In fact, that's how it came to light:
The classified program was described in investigative documents related to recently filed murder charges against three snipers who are accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they killed.

So in addition to "driving while black", we now have "living while brown"?

Via BarbinMD.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: Atlas Shrugged Edition

Q: When you consider the cultural genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of blacks, and the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War Two, how can you have such a positive view of America?

A: ...
Now, I don't care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you're a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn't know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights--they didn't have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal "cultures"--they didn't have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using. It's wrong to attack a country that respects (or even tries to respect) individual rights. If you do, you're an aggressor and are morally wrong. But if a "country" does not protect rights--if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief--why should you respect the "rights" that they don't have or respect? The same is true for dictatorship. The citizens in it have individual rights, but the country has no rights and so anyone has the right to invade it, because rights are not recognized in that country; and no individual or country can have its cake and eat it too--that is, you can't claim one should respect the "rights" of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights. But let's suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages--which they certainly were not. What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their "right" to keep part of the earth untouched--to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it's great that some of them did. The racist Indians today--those who condemn America--do not respect individual rights.

--Ayn Rand, Q & A after a speech at West Point Military Academy, March 6, 1974. Ayn Rand Answers pp. 102-04. Thanks to d at LG&M for alerting me to this.

I wonder how quickly her attitude would have changed if someone had thrown her out of her house because she wouldn't use it as well as they would. And it's not like anyone would have to respect her rights, since she didn't respect the rights of Native Americans.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Next we'll buy the entire planet of Mars from the Native Martians for one lousy bead.

"The moon belongs to America, and anxiously awaits the arrival of our astro-men."
--The Simpsons, "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson"

My brother alerted me to this: on the Diane Rehm show today, she had on General Wesley Clark and Peter Rodman, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and currently Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Near the very end, starting a little after 49 minutes into the audio they have up, there was the following exchange between Ms. Rehm and (I think) General Clark:
Rehm: And finally... General, in a Washington Post op-ed this past Sunday you wrote, "The next war is always looming." Explain what you mean.

Clark: I think when you're in the military you have an obligation to not only learn the lessons from the past but to think about the future. And so, as we think about the future in the United States armed forces, we're looking of course at the lessons learned from Iraq ground troops. We're looking at the possible requirements to go against Iran, air and naval power, and we're looking at the need to protect our domination of space.


Clark: Space. The ultimate high ground. It belongs to us.

Uh, yeah. Looks like manifest destiny isn't dead yet--it's just changed targets.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Although we agree that such actions are discriminatory, we don't think it counts when it comes to fags

The Supreme Court of Appeals of Maryland upheld the state's ban against gay marriage today, in a 4-3 decision. I downloaded a copy of the decision from the ACLU's website and read it earlier today.

Keeping in mind that I'm not a lawyer, and have never even played one on the telly, I'm going to take a look at it. When I started reading it, I thought that the person who filed a motion to intervene "because 'the homosexual lifestyle [was] against [her] religion,' [and] allowing same-sex marriage would, in essence, burden unconstitutionally her First Amendment right to practice her religion" (described on page 6) was the craziest person involved. After reading the opinion, I'm not so sure.

As I summarized it to my parents earlier, the main decision is mostly a lot of hand-waving to distract people from the fact that they're blatantly discriminating against same-sex couples (or saying that it doesn't matter that they are). For instance, on page 3, footnote 6, they write
Through the efforts of Appellees' counsel, we are directed to 339 Maryland laws that provide for benefits, conditioned on marital status, which grant rights and responsibilities to married couples, to the effective exclusion of same-sex couples. They include, but are not limited to, the areas of taxation, business regulation, secured commercial transactions, spousal privilege and other procedural matters, education, estates and trusts, family law, decision-making regarding spousal health care, insurance, labor and employment, child care and child rearing, pensions, and the responsibilities attendant to spousal funeral arrangements. This is but a partial list of the benefits provided in Maryland to married couples and denied to same-sex couples prohibited from marriage.

So same-sex couples are being denied an impressive list of benefits, but they're not being discriminated against.

Or, they're being discriminated against, but that doesn't matter (pp 11-12):
we believe that Article 46 was not intended by the General Assembly and the Maryland voters who enacted and ratified, respectively, the Maryland ERA in 1972 to reach classifications based on sexual orientation, we conclude that Family Law § 2-201 does not draw an impermissible sex-based distinction.

The law is meant to discriminate against gays, not women, so it's okay!

Well, that's not entirely fair. The plaintiffs argued that the statute unfairly discriminated against people on the basis of sex: person A can marry person B if A were a man, but not if A were a woman. Or vice-versa. The judges, relying on the same logic that was overturned 40 years ago in Loving v. Virginia, disagreed. First of course they had to look at some of what people said about it, because
[i]f the text [of a constitutional provision] is ambiguous, the Court should first endeavor to ascertain its meaning from other parts of the instrument.

I'm not sure what's so unambiguous of "Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex", but apparently they were having trouble with it.

Anyways, just like Virginia argued that the 14th amendment wasn't meant to overturn anti-miscegenation laws, so the judges here argued that the ERA wasn't meant to overturn this law. They quoted Senator Birch Evans Bayh of Illinois on the federal ERA (p. 20) as saying
[t]he equal rights amendment would not prohibit a State from saying that the institution of marriage would be prohibited to men partners. It would not prohibit a State from saying the institution of marriage would be prohibited to women partners. All it says is that if a State legislature makes a judgment that it is wrong for a man to marry a man, then it must say it is wrong for a woman to marry a woman--or if a State says it is wrong for a woman to marry a woman, then it must say that it is wrong for a man to marry a man.

Which is nothing at all like Lyman Trumbull saying
But, says the Senator from Indiana, we have laws in Indiana prohibiting black people from marrying whites, and you are going to disregard these laws? Are our laws enacted for the purpose of preventing amalgamation to be disregarded, and is a man to be punished because he undertakes to enforce them? I beg the Senator from Indiana to read the bill. One of its objects is to secure the same civil rights and subject to the same punishments persons of all races and colors. How does this interfere with the law of Indiana preventing marriages between whites and blacks? Are not both races treated alike by the law of Indiana? Does not the law make it just as much a crime for a white man to marry a black woman as for a black woman to marry a white man, and vice versa? I presume there is no discrimination in this respect, and therefore your law forbidding marriages between whites and blacks operates alike on both races. This bill does not interfere with it. If the negro is denied the right to marry a white person, the white person is equally, denied the right to marry the negro. I see no discrimination against either in this respect that does not apply to both. Make the penalty the same on all classes of people for the same offense, and then no one can complain.

Further, I don't see how Bayh's logic doesn't also apply to this scenario: if the legislature makes a judgment that it is wrong for a man to marry a man, then it must say it is wrong for a woman to marry a man. Only makes sense.

Anyways. The judges constantly argued that the Maryland Equal Rights Amendment was meant to prevent discrimination against men and women as classes, not as individuals, and that the ban on gay marriage was therefore permissible because it treated both sexes equally. For instance, on p. 27:
Viewing the reasoning of Giffin in its context, it is clear that the Court's statement that "sex is not, and cannot be, a factor" related to distinctions drawn between men and women as classes.

Which makes very little sense when they quote Giffin in the next sentence as saying
[T]he equality between sexes demanded by the Maryland [ERA] focuses on 'rights' of individuals 'under the law,' which encompass all forms of privileges, immunities, benefits and responsibilities of citizens.

Giffin appears to in fact be about the rights of individuals, not classes. Yet on page 29 they conclude
Based on our precedents interpreting Article 46, we conclude that the Legislature's and electorate's ultimate goal in putting in place the Maryland ERA was to put men and women on equal ground, and to subject to closer scrutiny any governmental action which singled out for disparate treatment men or women as discrete classes.

And this law doesn't violate that, they say, because it treats both sexes equally (p. 34):
The limitations on marriage effected by Family Law § 2-201 do not separate men and women into discrete classes for the purpose of granting to one class of persons benefits at the expense of the other class. Nor does the statute, facially or in its applic ation, place men and women on an uneven playing field. Rather, the statute prohibits equally both men and women from the same conduct.

They even approvingly quote cases from other jurisdictions to this effect (pp. 35-36):
See, e.g., In re Kandu, 315 B. R. 123 (Bankr. W.D. Wash. 2004) (upholding the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and stating, "[t]here is no evidence, from the voluminous legislative history or otherwise, that DOMA's purpose is to discriminate against men or women as a class. Accordingly, the marriage definition contained in DOMA does not classify according to gender . . . ."); Hernandez v. Robles, 855 N.E.2d 1, 6 (2006) ("By limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples, [the State] is not engaging in sex discrimination. The limitation does not put men and women in different classes, and give one class a benefit not given to the other. Women and Men are treated alike--they are permitted to marry people of the opposite sex, but not people of their own sex.") ... .

And again (p. 36):
The Supreme Court of Vermont, in Baker v. Vermont, 744 A.2d 864 (Vt. 1999), despite holding unconstitutional the exclusion of same-sex couples from the various benefits and protections that accompany marriage, rejected the argument that a statute limiting marriages to those between a man and woman constitutes sex-based discrimination. As the Vermont court stated, "[t]he difficulty here is that the marriage laws are facially neutral; they do not single out men or women as a class for disparate treatment, but rather prohibit men and women equally from marrying a person of the same sex." Baker, 744 A.2d at 881 n.13. Because there is no "discrete class subject to differential treatment," according to the court's analysis, the prohibition on same-sex marriage did not draw a sex-based classification.

Of course, this notion of "equal discrimination" was dismissed in Loving:
[Virginia] argues that the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause, as illuminated by the statements of the Framers, is only that state penal laws containing an interracial element as part of the definition of the offense must apply equally to whites and Negroes in the sense that members of each race are punished to the same degree. Thus, the State contends that, because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage, these statutes, despite their reliance on racial classifications, do not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race. The second argument advanced by the State assumes the validity of its equal application theory. The argument is that, if the Equal Protection Clause does not outlaw miscegenation statutes because of their reliance on racial classifications, the question of constitutionality would thus become whether there was any rational basis for a State to treat interracial marriages differently from other marriages. On this question, the State argues, the scientific evidence is substantially in doubt and, consequently, this Court should defer to the wisdom of the state legislature in adopting its policy of discouraging interracial marriages.

Because we reject the notion that the mere "equal application" of a statute containing racial classifications is enough to remove the classifications from the Fourteenth Amendment's proscription of all invidious racial discriminations, we do not accept the State's contention that these statutes should be upheld if there is any possible basis for concluding that they serve a rational purpose.

And the notion of having to treat "classes" equally was also dismissed decades ago in a miscegenation suit, Perez v. Sharp. There the California Supreme Court ruled:
It has been said that a statute such as section 60 does not discriminate against any racial group, since it applies alike to all persons whether Caucasian, Negro, or members of any other race. (In re Estate of Paquet, 101 Ore. 393, 399 [200 P. 911].) The decisive question, however, is not whether different races, each considered as a group, are equally treated. The right to marry is the right of individuals, not of racial groups. The equal protection clause of the United States Constitution does not refer to rights of the Negro race, the Caucasian race, or any other race, but to the rights of individuals.

The appellees even noted this (p. 37):
Appellees counter the "equal application theory" by stating that the proper inquiry in this case is not whether Family Law § 2-201 singles out one sex or the other as a discrete class for disparate treatment. Rather, because constitutional rights are individual rights, the same-sex couples posit that this Court should examine how the legislative enactment affects individually each person seeking to marry.

The court dismissed the precedent set in Loving by nitpicking the details instead of the clearly-applicable principles involved. The opinion states (pp. 39-40):
The Supreme Court was able to see beyond the superficial neutrality of the legislative enactment, however, and determined that "[t]he fact that Virginia
prohibits only interracial marriages invo lving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy." Loving, 388 U.S. at 11, 87 S. Ct. at 1823, 18 L. Ed . 2d 1010. Thus, the Court in Loving determined that, although the statute applied on its face equally to all races, the underlying purpose was to sustain White Supremacy and to subordinate African-Americans and other non-Caucasians as a class.

Which has nothing to do with the issue at hand. The Supreme Court decided that a mere "equal application" didn't mesh with the 14th amendment, and that therefore the anti-miscegenation statute at hand must accomplish some state objective. They then concluded, as quoted above, that the state appeared to have white supremacy as its goal, and that certainly was not a legitimate objective. They did not decide that the "equal application" theory was inexcusable because of the racism involved, but in addition to it. So the court misinterpreted Loving and therefore decided that
Absent some showing that Family Law § 2-201 was "designed to subordinate either men to women or women to men as a class," ... the analogy to Loving [is] inapposite.

They approvingly quote someone else who misinterprets Loving to say
Virginia's antimiscegenation statute, prohibiting interracial marriages, was invalidated solely on the grounds of its patent racial discrimination.

Not true. Obviously racism was a large part of that case, and the court would have been remiss if they didn't point that out, but they found that the racial classification of the anti-miscegenation statute untenable even without that:
There can be no question but that Virginia's miscegenation statutes rest solely upon distinctions drawn according to race. The statutes proscribe generally accepted conduct if engaged in by members of different races.

They also appealed to the Due Process clause, and noted that rights are held by individuals:
These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.


The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

All of which the court seems willing to ignore.

It should be noted that if the Maryland court were correct, then anti-miscegenation laws would be perfectly acceptable if they were facially neutral, preventing all races from marrying other races. And why not? Maryland's anti-miscegenation law did just that, in fact!
All marriages between a white person and a negro, or between a white person and a person of negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, or between a white person and a member of the Malay race or between a negro and a member of the Malay race, or between a person of negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race, are forever prohibited, and shall be void; and any person violating the provisions of this Section shall be deemed guilty of an infamous crime, and be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary not less than eighteen months nor more than ten years... .

So blacks, whites, and Malays were all forbidden from marrying each other. That would surely be constitutional, wouldn't it?


So that's mostly the first section of the opinion, which decided that preventing people from marrying on the basis of their gender didn't count as gender discrimination. And they conclude (p. 42) by approvingly quoting another case, which said:
[There] is no analogous sexual classification involved in the instant case because appellants are not being denied entry into the marriage relationship because of their sex; rather, they are being denied entry into the marriage relationship because of the recognized definition of that relationship as one that may be entered into only by two persons who are members of the opposite sex.

So denying people marriage based on their sex is not, in fact, denying people marriage based on their sex. Say, here's a thought exercise for you: redefine "apartment" to mean "a room or a group of related rooms, among similar sets in one building, designed for use as a dwelling by white people." Then preventing black people from renting one isn't denying them their rights because of their race, but because they don't fit the definition of people who are allowed to rent apartments! It's amazing how discrimination doesn't count when you define it as inherent to the process.

After concluding that discriminating on the basis of sex isn't discrimination, they also had to look at discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The third part of their opinion is spent arguing that sexual orientation is not a suspect class and does not deserve to be one, therefore discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation--while legitimate discrimination--still doesn't count. At least, it doesn't heighten the scrutiny level beyond rational basis (p. 49):
We find that sexual orientation is neither a suspect nor quasi-suspect class, and Family Law § 2-201 therefore is subject to rational basis review.

They list the factors that determine whether a group counts as a suspect class, saying (pp. 50-51) that they
include: (1) whether the group of people disadvantaged by a statute display a readily recognizable, "obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics . . ." that define the group as a "discrete and insular minorit[y];" (2) whether the impacted group is "saddled with such disabilities, or subjected to such a history of purposeful unequal treatment, or relegated to such a position of political powerlessness as to command extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process;" and (3) whether the class of people singled out is "subjected to unique disabilities on the basis of stereotyped characteristics not truly indicative of their abilities [to contribute meaningfully to society]."

I'll note something that bugged me when reading this that I don't think affects the ruling. They insert "readily recognizable" into the list of characteristics the group must have, instead of including that in their quote. In the footnote that they include about the immutable characteristics they quote
[S]ince sex, like race and national origin, is an immutable characteristic determined solely by the accident of birth, the imposition of special disabilities upon the members of a particular sex because of their sex would seem to violate 'the basic concept of our system that legal burdens should bear some relationship to individual responsibility . . . .'

Again, nothing about being "readily recognizable". And later, p. 67, they do it again:
[W]e are unable to take judicial notice that gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons display readily-recognizable, immutable characteristics that define the group such that they may be deemed a suspect class... .

Is being "readily recognizable" really a criterion for the immutable characteristic? This makes me think that they inserted that by themselves to distinguish sexual orientation from race and sex, both of which are readily noticeable.

Anyways. The court admits that gays have, historically, been discriminated against (p. 55):
Homosexual persons have been the object of societal prejudice by private actors as well as by the judicial and legislative b ranches o f fed eral a nd state governments. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons likewise have been subject to unique disabilities not truly indicative of their abilities to contribute meaningfully to society.

And later (p. 59)
It is clear that homosexual persons, at least in terms of contemporary history, have been a disfavored group in both public and private spheres of our society.

They even provide a perfect example (p. 56):
In the 1950s, the Senate Investigations Subcommittee of the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Department found that "homosexuals and other sex perverts" were unsuitable for employment by the federal government primarily because "[t]hose who engage[d] in overt acts of perversion lack[ed] the emotional stability of normal persons. In addition there [was, according to the Subcommittee,] an abundance of evidence to sustain the conclusion that indulgence in acts of sex[ual] perversion weaken[ed] the moral fiber of an individual to a degree that he [was] not suitable for a position of responsibility."

Despite this, they decide that sexual orientation doesn't fit the bill of a suspect class. Why? Because gays have not been "relegated to ... a position of political powerlessness" (p. 60):
In spite of the unequal treatment suffered possibly by Appellees and certainly a substantial portion of other citizens similarly situated, we are not persuaded that gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons are so politically powerless that they are entitled to "extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process." To the contrary, it appears that, at least in Maryland, advocacy to eliminate discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons based on their sexual orientation has met with growing successes in the legislative and executive branches of government.

Given that, I'd like to know what group would qualify as a "suspect group." Race and sex both have scored immense victories legislatively and judicially; it's clear that they're not "politically powerless." Should we say that because the NAACP exists that it's okay to discriminate on the basis of race?

They even note the irony of using the fact that gays have scored victories elsewhere as an excuse to deny them a victory here (p. 66 fn):
The irony is not lost on us that the increasing political and other successes of the expression of gay power works against Appellees in this part of our analysis of the level of scrutiny to be given the statute under review.

I wonder how that went. "Hey, guys? How can we use all their valid arguments as proof that they don't need us to declare in their favor?"

They also decide that sexual orientation doesn't count as immutable (p. 70):
In the absence of some generally accepted scientific conclusion identifying homosexuality as an immutable characteristic, and in light of the other indicia used by this Court and the Supreme Court in defining a suspect class, we decline on the record in the present case to recognize sexual orientation as an immutable trait and therefore a suspect or quasi-suspect classification.

This despite after quoting another court as saying that it is immutable (p. 67):
The Ninth Circuit indeed held there that "[s]exual orientation and sexual identity are immutable; [and that] they are so fundamental to one's identity that a person should not be required to abandon them."

They manage this feat of mental yoga by saying that the literature is still challenged and not accepted without question. Which can also be said about the heliocentric model of the universe. But more than that, they do another disgusting little switch in what they're discussing (pp. 68-69 fn):
No party addresses in its brief the immutability of sexual orientation and the implications of an answer to that query in determining the correct level of constitutional review to be applied to Family Law § 2-201. The issue of the immutability of sexual orientation, however, is the subject of a multitude of recent studies and nationwide debate. See J. Michael Bailey & Richard C. Pillard, A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation, 48 ARCHIVES GEN'L PSYCHIATRY 1089, 1093 (1991) (studying the similarities in sexual orientation between twin, non-twin, and adopted siblings, and concluding that identical twins are more likely than other types of siblings to have a similar homosexual orientation); Dean H. Hamer, Stella Hu, Victoria L. Magnuson, Nan Hu & Angela M.L. Pattatucci, A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation, 261 SCIENCE 321 (1993) (finding evidence that there is a connection between male sexual orientation and a particular gene found on the X chromosome and sugg esting that male sexual orientation may be linked to maternal relatives ); Simon LeVay, A Difference in Hypothalamic Structure Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men, 253 SCIENCE 1034-37 (1991) (finding that the interstitial nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus (INAH) 3, one of four cell groups found within the anterior hypothalamus region of the brain, is twice as large in heterosexual men as compared to homosexual men, and concluding that, at least in men, a heterosexual brain is structurally dimorphic from a homosexual brain). These reports, considered three of the most important in the field, however, are not without challenge. Their imperfections and limitations are well-documented. See generally Janet E. Halley, Sexual Orientation and the Politics of Biology: A Critique of the Argument from Immutability, 46 STAN L. REV. 503, 529-46 (1994) (reviewing the limitations and flaws within the leading studies on the link between biology and sexual orientation); Ingrid Wickelgren, Discovery of the "Gay Gene" Questioned, 284 SCIENCE 571 (1999); Eliot Marshall, NIH's "Gay Gene" Study Questioned, 268 SCIENCE 1841 (19 95). Other studies have found contrary indicia and have concluded that culture and environment, at least in part, play a factor in the development of an individual's sexual orientation. See, e.g., Dean H. Hamer, et al., Genetics and Male Sexual Orientation, 285 SCIENCE 803a (1999) ("Sexual orientation is a complex trait that is probably shaped by many different factors, including multiple genes, biological, environmental, and sociocultural influences."); J. Michael Bailey, Michael P. Dunne, Nicholas G. Martin, Genetic and Environmental Influences on Sexual Orientation and its Correlates in an Australian Twin Sample, 78(3) J. OF PERSONALITY & SOC. PSYCHOL. 524 (2000). Even the authors, most notably Simon LeVay, have indicated that the biological studies do not establish that biology is the primary indicator of sexual orientation. LeVay, supra, at 1036 ("The discovery that a nucleus differs in size between heterosexual and homosexual men illustrates that sexual orientation in humans is amenable to study at the biological level, and this discovery opens the door to studies of neurotransmitters or receptors that might be involved in regulating this aspect of personality. Further interpretation of the results of this study must be considered speculative. In particular, the results do not allow one to decide if the size of INAH 3 in an individual is the cause or the consequence of that individual's sexual orientation, or if the size of INAH 3 and sexual orientation co-vary under the influence of some third, unidentified variable."). We by no means are able to form any sort of merits-driven conclusion based on the forgoing studies. We note only that there does not appear to be a consensus yet among "experts" as to the origin of an individual's sexual orientation.

Bold mine. Note the switch: they started out talking about whether sexual orientation is immutable, and conclude that the there's not a consensus about the origins of sexual orientation. Even if we accept all that was said there, having environmental or even sociocultural factors still doesn't mean that sexual orientation is changeable. The most recent study on that seems to indicate that people who try to change their orientation manage, for the most part, only to become abstinent rather than to change their orientation much.

Anyways. Next they decide that there's no fundamental right at stake by framing the situation as narrowly as possible. The header of section four declares in bold (p. 70) that
The Right to Same-Sex Marriage is Not so Deeply Rooted in the History and Tradition of this State or the Nation as a Whole Such That it Should be Deemed Fundamental.

See? It's not that gays want the right to marry, which everyone agrees is a fundamental right ("It is undisputed that the right to marry, in its most general sense, is a fundamental liberty interest that goes to the core of what the U.S. Supreme Court has called the right to 'personal autonomy.'", p. 72). No, they want a special right, the "right to same-sex marriage." Hell, why not go for broke and deny that Gita Deane has a fundamental "right to marry another woman by the name of Lisa Polyak"?

On page 74, after citing several other cases that describe the fundamental nature of the right to marry, they say
Determination of whether there is a fundamental right to enter into a same-sex marriage, however, does not end with a brief invocation of the cases outlining the importance of marriage generally and the other liberty interests that make up the funda mental rights panorama of personal autonomy. Before determining the fundamental nature of an asserted liberty interest, the right at stake should be defined precisely.

In other words, because they'd win the case if we accepted that they had a right to marry, we have to come up with a bullshit "right" that they're demanding so we can deny it to them.

But why do they make this distinction? You get three guesses.

...Yep, that's right. The old "marriage is about children" bullshit (p. 77):
All of the cases infer that the right to marry enjoys its fundamental status due to the male-female nature of the relationship and/or the attendant link to fostering procreation of our species.

As long as we ignore that gay couples have children, this might make sense. However, the plaintiffs in this case (eight couples and a single man whose partner died) are raising a total of ten children. You'd think that would be the end of that crap, but nope. The judges seem determined to escape reality, saying (p. 81 fn)
The ability to bear or beget children is inherently a characteristic requiring at some level the participation of a man and a woman (at least until science demonstrates otherwise).

And the children that gay couples do have? Well, fuck 'em. If they had any sense they'd've been born to a straight couple.

They also say that same-sex marriage can't be a fundamental right because it never has been before. No, really. They say (p. 91) that because Lawrence v. Texas didn't declare a right to same-sex marriage, they don't have to, either. Well, no shit Lawrence didn't declare same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional; if it had, we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. They also make an appeal to tradition (p. 92): "Even a quick glance at the laws of Maryland indicate that this State has long regarded marriage as a union between a man and a woman." And even a quick glance at the laws of Maryland indicate that your State long regarded marriage as a union between two people of the same race. Hell, Maryland had one of the first miscegenation statute on the books, all the way back in 1664! Way predates your 1973 law against same-sex marriage, don't it?

Well, having decided that:
  1. Discrimination on the basis of sex isn't discrimination on the basis of sex
  2. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation doesn't count
  3. Gay people don't have a fundamental right to marry like normal people do
the court declared that they were going to apply rational basis scrutiny. What does that mean? Well, essentially, it means that the judges were going to rule against the gay couples. Here's what the plaintiffs would have had to do to get the judges to rule in their favor (p. 97):
This burden requires Appellees to "'negative every conceivable basis which might support [the statute],' whether or not the basis has a foundation on the record."

Yeah. They would have had to come up with every possible rationale for this statute and show that all of them were in no way aided by the statute in question.

The appellants, meanwhile, came up with these as the interests that the law supposedly serves (p. 98):
Appellants offer in support of Family Law § 2-201 two primary governmental interests: (1) the State has a legitimate interest in maintaining and promoting its police powers over the traditional institution of marriage and its binary, opposite-sex nature; and (2) the State has a legitimate interest in encouraging marriage between two members of the opposite sex, a union that is uniquely capable of producing offspring within the marital unit.

The court notes (p. 106 fn) that the first rationale is a circular rationale, so they examine the second one. Of course, to do so they have to ignore the ten children being raised by same-sex couples, but we've already found that this isn't a big deal for them. And there are no surprises for us (p. 99):
The question remains whether there exists a sufficient link between an interest in fostering a stable environment for procreation and the means at hand used to further that goal, i.e., an implicit restriction on those who wish to avail themselves of State-sanctioned marriage. We conclude that there does exist a sufficient link.

And a little bit later (pp. 99-100) they write:
This "inextricable link" between marriage and procreation reasonably could support the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman only, because it is that relationship that is capable of producing biological offspring of both members (advances in reproductive technologies notwithstanding).

Bold mine. "So, sure, advances in reproductive technologies mean that everything we just said isn't true, but we're going to ignore that so we can keep these fags in their place."

The plaintiffs make numerous sensible arguments (pp. 100-01):
Appellees urge in response, quite convincingly, that Family Law § 2-201 is not related rationally to the governmental objective of fostering optimal relationships for procreation because it is at once over-inclusive and under-inclusive. Appellees argue that it is over-inclusive because children may be born into same-sex relationships through alternative methods of conception, including surrogacy, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and adoption. The statute is also under-inclusive, according to Appellees, because not all opposite-sex couples choose to bear children, or are able to do so because of infertility or otherwise. Lastly, Appellees posit that the marriage statute is not linked sufficiently to the interests in procreation because allowing same-sex couples to marry will not impact interests in procreation in that "[o]pposite-sex couples will continue to bring children into their families through 'traditional' procreation regardless of whether same-sex couples are permitted to marry."

So first they note that it isn't true that the marriage of same-sex couples is linked with children: many gay couples have children, and many straight couples don't. And then they note that even if you don't buy that, preventing same-sex couples from marrying has no relation to promoting marital procreation by opposite-sex couples. There is no rational link. But that's not enough for this court--oh no.

Well, at least part of the court. I'd like to note that one of the judges apparently recognized something I concluded a while ago--even if we accept that traditionally gays were justifiably prevented from marrying because they couldn't reproduce, that doesn't mean anything with modern reproductive technologies (p. 101 fn):
Judge Battaglia's dissent, in response to the State's assertion that it has an interest in marriage "as an institution of transcendent importance to social welfare," posits that, "until the recent advances in assisted reproductive technology, there was a close[,] albeit imperfect fit[,] between opposite-sex marriage and the inherent biological fact that reproduction of our species could result only from the sexual union of a man and a woman. . . . The correspondence between opposite-sex marriage and biological necessity has never been more tenuous than it is today."

But how does the rest of the court weasel out of this one? After all, they acknowledge "There is some merit to these arguments" (p. 103). Well, basically, they cite a bunch of statistics that support the contention that the nuclear family is not the only living situation, and perhaps not even the dominant one, in America. They conclude (pp. 104-05)
[R]easonable doubt exists that the traditional model of what constitutes a family does not constitute the majority of households any longer.

But instead of addressing the claims--that the goal of raising children in a married household is not achieved by preventing same-sex couples from marrying--they turn it into a quibbling over percentages (p. 105):
A legislative enactment reviewed under a rational basis standard of constitutional review need not be drawn with mathematical exactitude, and may contain imperfections that result in some degree of inequality. Piscatelli v. Bd. of Liquor License Comm'rs, 378 Md. 623, 644-45, 837 A.2d 931, 944 (2003) ("[A] state does not violate the Equal Protection Clause merely because the classifications made by its laws are imperfect. If the classification has some 'reasonable basis,' it does not offend the Constitution simply because the classification 'is not made with mathematical nicety or because in practice it results in some inequality.'") (citations omitted); Whiting-Turner, 304 Md. at 352, 499 A.2d at 185 ("[A] classification [subject to rational basis review] having some reasonable basis need not be made with mathematical nicety and may result in some inequality").

No, but you could overturn it because the law in question has no relation to the stated goal! But no, that would be too intelligent for them. And to drive home the point that they're simply ignoring everything the plaintiffs have to say about other people raising children, the opinion goes on to say (pp. 105-06):
In such a situation, so long as the Legislature has not acted wholly unreasonably in granting recognition to the only relationship capable of bearing children traditionally within the marital unit, we may not "substitute [our] social and economic beliefs for the judgment of legislative bodies . . . ."

What? No "advances in reproductive technologies notwithstanding" inserted after the word "traditionally"? I'm shocked!

Guh. That's a lengthy discussion of the ruling. Now that I've spent the last several hours reading that trash, I'm going to get very drunk.

It's all falling into place

Amazing! Just three days after Alan Keyes announced that he'd be running for president in 2008--news which, by the way, had several of us in hysterics; I myself let out peals of fiendish laughter when I heard the news--with the aim of "rais[ing] the standard ... of our allegiance to God and His authority", it appears that his plan is succeeding! Noted Mormon heathen Mitt Romney has announced his support for inscribing homophobia into our Constitution:
Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is launching a radio ad touting the strength of his opposition to gay marriage.

Romney, who has come under criticism from conservatives for his past support of some gay rights issues, says he is the only major GOP candidate backing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

"Major GOP candidate" being a list that apparently excludes Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback, both of whom also support said amendment.
"Not all Republican candidates agree, but defending marriage is the right thing to do," Romney says in the 60-second spot to begin airing Wednesday.


The ad, coming as Iowa is embroiled in court fight over its gay marriage ban, points to Romney's role in battling a Massachusetts court ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriages there.

"As Republicans we must oppose discrimination and defend traditional marriage: one man, one woman," Romney says in the spot.

Right. We must oppose discrimination by enshrining it into the supreme law of the land. That's unaccountably brilliant coming from the kind of man who thinks we have to bomb Iraqis to get them to like us and that we have to wage war to gain peace.

But Romney's brilliance does not end there, no! If he writes his religious beliefs into the Constitution, then he will no longer have to choose between upholding the Constitution and upholding the Bible!

"Ouch! They're defending themselves somehow!"

We all know that bees have stingers to defend themselves, yes? The thing is, against some animals, such as a few hornets, those stingers don't work--their carapaces are too hard. So how do the bees defend themselves against that? Well, some of them swarm the hornets, engulfing them in a ball of bees, raising the temperature inside the sphere of insects to temperatures that are lethal to the hornet. Scientists call this "thermo-balling."

But scientists figured this couldn't work against one enemy of theirs, the Oriental hornet, because it can withstand temperatures of 122 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas the temperature inside the thermo-ball only reaches 111 degrees. But the bees still swarm and manage to kill them. What gives?

Apparently they're smothering them to death.
Alexandros Papachristoforou of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and colleagues made videos of honeybees killing hornets.

They noticed that the bees press on the insects' abdomens, so they set up an experiment to see if perhaps the bees were suffocating the hornets.

Insects breathe through openings in their exoskeletons called spiracles. These are covered by structures known as tergites when air is released.

Using tiny tweezers, the scientists propped the tergites open with teensy pieces of plastic.

"It took much longer for honeybees to kill hornets equipped with plastic blocks than those without," the researchers wrote.

"To kill the high-temperature tolerant hornet, Cyprian honeybees have developed an alternative strategy to thermo-balling. They appear to have identified the hornet's 'Achilles' heel,'" the researchers concluded.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Oh. You read yours in translation.

Huh. I've heard of people claiming that the King James Version of the Bible is the best, or only authentic version, but until today I'd never actually come across a real example of that:
Josiah provides a convenient summary of the doctrines that lie at the core of the YCLA [Young Christian Leaders' Alliance] constitution:
1. God's Words are pure; KJV is the most accurate version.

Because that's what Jesus spoke, right?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: Domestication Edition

Without going into details, I can state only the result of my observations and admeasurements, which were often repeated in presence of intelligent and competent witnesses.

The average size of the head of the Indian is less than that of the head of the white man, by the proportion of from an eighth to a tenth, certainly from a tenth to a twelfth part of its entire bulk. The chief deficiency in the Indian head lies in the superior and lateral parts of the forehead, where are situated the organs of Comparison, Causality, Wit, Ideality, and Benevolence. The defect in Causality, Wit, and Ideality is most striking. In the organs of Combativeness, Destructiveness, Secretiveness, Caution, and Firmness, the function of which constitute the dominant elements of the Indian character, the developement [sic] is bold. The proportion of brain behind the ear is considerably larger in the Indian than in the white man. The organ of Adhesiveness in the former is small.

This analysis, brief and imperfect as it is, unfolds to us much of the philosophy of the Indian character, and enables us, in a particular manner, to understand the cause of the peculiar inaptitude of that race of men for civil life. For, when the wolf, the buffalo, and the panther shall have been completely domesticated, like the dog, the cow, and the household cat, then, and not before, may we expect to see the full-blooded Indian civilized like the white man.

--Charles Caldwell, quoted in George Combe, A System of Phrenology, p. 431.

Yes, when the wolf is domesticated like the dog, then we'll see a civilized Indian!

"Small price"

GOP House Leader John Boehner recently made light of the casualties in Iraq, describing the deaths of American troops (3700 and counting) as a "small price" to pay to get rid of al Qaeda (which of course wasn't in Iraq to begin with).

Interestingly, he includes the typical "think of our children" nonsense, saying
it's not only going to be a small price for the near future, but think about the future for our kids and their kids.

Yes, I'm sure the kids who will never know their parents will be ever so glad about the invasion.

Anywho. Majority Whip James Clyburn had a response, saying in part
I was appalled to hear Minority Leader Boehner's statement yesterday that the loss of American blood is a 'small price' to pay in Iraq. The loss of American blood is never a small price.

All well and good, and it's nice to see somebody attacking Boehner for his callousness. But in all this talk about how big a deal each American death is, we completely overlook all the Iraqi deaths that have been caused by this abominable exercise in imperialism. According to the most recent poll, over one million Iraqi citizens have died in this war:
These findings come from a poll released today by O.R.B., the British polling agency that have been tracking public opinion in Iraq since 2005. In conjunction with their Iraqi fieldwork agency a representative sample of 1,461 adults aged 18+ answered the following question:-

Q How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (ie as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)? Please note that I mean those who were actually living under your roof.

None 78%
One 16%
Two 5%
Three 1%
Four or more 0.002%

Given that from the 2005 census there are a total of 4,050,597 households this data suggests a total of 1,220,580 deaths since the invasion in 2003.

But of course, "we" aren't paying that price, so it doesn't really count.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What was that saying again? "Those who don't learn from history set our country's policy"?

"This war will be a cakewalk."
"They won't even fight back."
"They'll be glad we freed them from their oppressive government!"
"They'll greet us as liberators!"

Iraq, 2003?

Nope. Mexico, 1846:
The general assumption in the cabinet that Mexico would not fight the United States, or at worst could easily be defeated, was reflected in public opinion throughout the country. Although a few prominent individuals, including Senator Benton, warned that Mexico would fight valiantly to protect its lands, the general assumption was that a weak and degraded Mexico could offer no real resistance to the United States forces. It was even assumed at the beginning of the war that a Mexican population oppressed by the military, the clergy, and a corrupt government would welcome the invading armies. Throughout the conflict some argued that the United States was carrying freedom to the Mexicans, and that a true regeneration of the Mexicans was to take place. But it soon became apparent that most Americans believed that the Mexicans lacked the innate ability to benefit from the opportunity to be given them by liberating American armies.


The inhabitants of Mexico were expected to welcome the Saxons with open arms. A New York poet in May 1846 conjured up an image of Mexicans joyously shouting "The Saxons are coming, our freedom is nigh."


Why do 'they' 'hate' 'us'?

Well... why not ask them?
When you pose a question about two disparate cultures and their intertwined relationship, common sense leads you to involve both parties. Yet, for the past six years, I have watched the D.C. circles fail to do just that. Each anniversary, I witness Americans asking Americans, discussing among other Americans, the topic of something none of them are – Arabs. Six years after the devastating attacks, Americans are still asking that ubiquitous question: "Why do they hate us?"

Efforts to answer this question have been prolific. Conventions, speeches, research, opinion polls, books, articles, the list goes on. But in the end they lack the necessary depth and rigor, failing to listen to Arab voices and enhance understanding of the Arab world.

Six years after the attacks, there is more prejudice, more fear, and, regrettably, more distance to overcome in order to adequately understand one another.

Now, there are many things wrong with this infamous question, "Why do they hate us?" First, it leads one to assume that Arabs, in general, hate America – a mendacious statement containing a respectable amount of prejudice.

Second, the word "us" suggests a misleading conflation of American policies and citizens. In other words, the phrasing implies that the alleged hatred from Arabs is directed toward the American people and not toward specific US institutions or policies. Although terrorists like Osama bin Laden have claimed that any American citizen is a target, the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims oppose this attitude.

US policies, more than anything, are the source of animosity toward America. In fact, Arabs, for the most part, recognize the difference between America's citizens and its policies, citing their grievances with the superpower not in regard to the "American way of life," but to the Iraq war, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and America's double standards in promoting democracy.

Finally, by identifying Arabs as "they," the misleading notion that the Arab world is a monolithic, homogenous unit enjoying a single worldview is brought about. The question's rationale poses Arab liberals and political Islamists, as well as "radical" and "moderate" Islamists, as Arabs sharing the same attitudes and feelings – not only a deceptive view of any eclectic society, but an ignorant one as well.


Part of this failure stems from the flawed question most often used by Americans in regards to the Arab world: "Why do they hate us?" Yet, if Americans insist on posing this question, I pose another. "Why don't 'you' ask 'them'?" Arab involvement, plain and simple, is key.

Well, guess what? Somebody did! A multi-national Gallup poll tried to get at the root of just that and found--contrary to the beliefs of those bigots who believe that any Muslim who's friendly is just pretending--that politics, not religious fanaticism, really irked them.
At the heart of the Cold War analogy is the belief that religious fanaticism fuels extremism and therefore replacing Muslims' worldview with Western liberalism is the path to victory against terrorism. To begin to understand the danger of this diagnosis, we must first understand the factors that do and do not drive sympathy for violence.

As a starting point, Muslims do not hold a monopoly on extremist views. While 6% of Americans think attacks in which civilians are targets are "completely justified," in both Lebanon and Iran, this figure is 2%, and in Saudi Arabia, it's 4%. In Europe, Muslims in Paris and London were no more likely than were their counterparts in the general public to believe attacks on civilians are ever justified and at least as likely to reject violence, even for a "noble cause."

After analyzing survey data representing more than 90% of the global Muslim population, Gallup found that despite widespread anti-American sentiment, only a small minority saw the 9/11 attacks as morally justified. Even more significant, there was no correlation between level of religiosity and extremism among respondents. Among the 7% of the population that fits in the politically radicalized category -- those who saw the 9/11 attacks as completely justifiable and have an unfavorable view of the United States -- 94% said religion is an important part of their daily lives, compared with 90% among those in the moderate majority. And no significant difference exists between radicals and moderates in mosque attendance.

Gallup probed respondents further and actually asked both those who condoned and condemned extremist acts why they said what they did. The responses fly in the face of conventional wisdom. For example, in Indonesia, the largest Muslim majority country in the world, many of those who condemned terrorism cited humanitarian or religious justifications to support their response. For example, one woman said, "Killing one life is as sinful as killing the whole world," paraphrasing verse 5:32 in the Quran.

On the other hand, not a single respondent in Indonesia who condoned the attacks of 9/11 cited the Quran for justification. Instead, this group's responses were markedly secular and worldly. For example, one Indonesian respondent said, "The U.S. government is too controlling toward other countries, seems like colonizing."

The real difference between those who condone terrorist acts and all others is about politics, not piety. For example, the politically radicalized often cite "occupation and U.S. domination" as their greatest fear for their country and only a small minority of them agree the United States would allow people in the region to fashion their own political future or that it is serious about supporting democracy in the region. Also, among this group's top responses was the view that to better relations with the Muslim world, the West should respect Islam and stop imposing its beliefs and policies. In contrast, moderates most often mentioned economic problems as their greatest fear for their country, and along with respecting Islam, they see economic support and investments as a way for the West to better relations. Moderates are also more likely than the politically radicalized to say the United States is serious about promoting democracy.

While the politically radicalized are as likely as the moderate majority to say better relations with the West is of personal concern to them, they are much less likely to believe the West reciprocates this concern and therefore much less likely to believe improved relations will ever come. In short, perceptions of being under siege characterize those who sympathize with extremism.

The Cold War analogy of the war on terror also assumes that Muslim grievances are rooted in a rejection of modernity and Western values, not specific policies. Statistical evidence indicates otherwise.

For instance, while the United States and Great Britain are generally viewed unfavorably, respondents' opinions of France and Germany are relatively positive, even when compared with respondents' opinions of other Muslim nations, suggesting negative sentiment is drawn along political, not cultural or religious lines.

Moreover, despite intense political anger at some Western powers, Muslims do not reject Western values wholesale. Citizens of countries from Saudi Arabia to Morocco, from Indonesia to Pakistan, express admiration for Western technology and democratic values such as freedom of the press and government accountability. The politically radicalized are actually more likely than the moderate majority to say greater democracy will help Muslims progress.

As the kids say these days, read the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Irony is lost on these people

Some homophobic morons want to impeach the judge that overturned Iowa's gay marriage ban:
Bill Salier, a 2002 candidate for U.S. Senate, says Polk County Judge Robert Hanson violated the state constitution by legalizing gay marriage. Salier is a founder of the group Everyday America.

In a statement, the organization says Iowans must stop officials from overstepping the constitution to change society as they see fit.

Um... let's see. Since the gay marriage ban was found unconstitutional, it must have been the people who enacted that statute in the first place who overstepped the constitution, not the judge. And clearly they were trying to change society as they saw fit by trying to legislate the gay away. So realistically, Salier is saying that Iowans should stop him from trying to pass homophobic legislation. I can get behind that!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Now that's hyperbole!

A group in Oregon trying to get some of its gay rights laws repealed has been accused of illegal activity in their efforts to rouse support:
The complaint, filed last week by ballot watchdog Ellen Lowe, alleges that Concerned Oregonians is violating the law by soliciting campaign donations while unlawfully promising donors that they are eligible for a "dollar for dollar" political tax credit.

The Secretary of State's office has said that it plans to investigate the complaint.

In response, the twits at Concerned Oregonians compared this accusation of misdeed to a terrorist attack:
Oregon anti-gay activist David Crowe has called an elections complaint against his group "Oregon's Own 9-11" and "an attack within our borders."

Crowe made the remarks in an email to supporters Tuesday in which he fired back at a longtime activist for "clean elections" in Oregon who last week asked Oregon's Secretary of State to investigate Crowe's group "Concerned Oregonians" and another organization for the way they were soliciting funds for a voter initiative to repeal two state LGBT civil rights laws.

"This comparison is incredibly disrespectful not only to the mourning of our nation but to the families of those who died and to those who fought so hard to saves lives at Ground Zero," said John Hummel, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon, the state's largest LGBT rights group.

"For David Crowe to compare his own self-inflicted legal troubles to the events of 9/11 is beyond comprehension, purely reprehensible and downright bizarre."

In an e-mail with the subject line "Defaming To Destroy: Oregon's Own 9-11," Crowe complains of a "September Day of Infamy" occasioned by the elections complaint.

How pompous, how self-absorbed, how egotistical, do you have to be to compare criticism of yourself to a terrorist attack on the state?