Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Gr8 Divide

Here in Texas, we have never met a dead horse we did not want to beat. Why do you think we invented the PiƱata? That being said, please indulge me with another stand on my Prop 8 soap box.

For those of you who are too short on memory or too long on laziness to look it up, Proposition 8 is the California ballot initiative that would write into the constitution that marriage is between "a man and a woman". Despite the fact that everyone is either a man or a woman (except for perhaps Janet Reno) this simple statement is still considered discriminatory by Proposition 8 opponents. Having beaten the discrimination horse already (although I am still keeping my eye on it) I would like to move on to another reason I support Proposition 8 and traditional marriage: impending constitutional apocalypse.

The great thing about our constitution is that it acts like a legal trump card. You can pass all the crazy, cock-a-mamy laws you want, but the constitution always wins. It is like a Rosie O'Donnell in a room full of Twinkies. Those little cream filled cakes don't stand a chance. However, with the subsequent support for homosexual marriage and, more specifically, homosexual rights, a constitutional clash is beginning to unfold. Watch out Rosie O'Donell, here comes Roseanne Barr.

Choosing a favorite constitutional amendment is no easier than choosing between my new born children. However, if I had to choose, it would be Samantha, uhh, I mean, the 1st Amendment. Why the first Amendment, you ask? Well, because it provides these great little things called freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The very same first amendment that lets you speak truth to power lets me make fun of mullets (Motto: Manhattan up the front, Nashville down the back).

However, there is this other great amendment called the 14th amendment which provides equal protection of the laws. This means laws could not be applied discriminately; regardless of race, religion, sex or vegetable preference. Heaven knows we would take down you cauliflower lovers if we could!

All of us accept the 14th amendment as valid (or at least we have since the government forced it down Alabama's throat in the 60's) and who could really find fault with it? Being of a minority religion myself, I am glad that I can where my "Joseph Smith is My Homeboy" shirt without fear of retribution. However, the gay rights movement is now pitting the 1st Amendment against the 14th. Freedom of Speech and, more specifically, freedom of Religion are now battling it out in a cage match to the death. After all, if a religion refuses to allow gay marriage among its parishioners, who wins? The right to worship how you please or the right to not be discriminated against? If legal precedent around the country is any indication, the 14th Amendment now has the 1st Amendment in a choke hold, and the gay rights movement is starting to hit it with a chair.

Don't believe me? Consider the following:

"In New York City, Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a school under Orthodox Jewish auspices, banned same-sex couples from its married dormitory. New York does not recognize same-sex marriage, but in 2001, the state's highest court ruled Yeshiva violated New York City's ban on sexual orientation discrimination. Yeshiva now allows all couples in the dorm."

"A Christian gynecologist at North Coast Women's Care Medical Group in Vista, Calif., refused to give his patient in vitro fertilization treatment because she is in a lesbian relationship, and he claimed that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. (The doctor referred the patient to his partner, who agreed to do the treatment.) The woman sued under the state's civil rights act. The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in May 2008, and legal experts believe that the woman's right to medical treatment will trump the doctor's religious beliefs. One justice suggested that the doctors take up a different line of business."

"A same-sex couple in California applied to Adoption Profiles, an Internet service in Arizona that matches adoptive parents with newborns. The couple's application was denied based on the religious beliefs of the company's owners. The couple sued in federal district court in San Francisco. The two sides settled after the adoption company said it will no longer do business in California."

"A same sex couple in Albuquerque asked a photographer, Elaine Huguenin, to shoot their commitment ceremony. The photographer declined, saying her Christian beliefs prevented her from sanctioning same-sex unions. The couple sued, and the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found the photographer guilty of discrimination. It ordered her to pay the lesbian couple's legal fees ($6,600)."

"Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of New Jersey, a Methodist organization, refused to rent its boardwalk pavilion to a lesbian couple for their civil union ceremony. The couple filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The division ruled that the boardwalk property was open for public use, therefore the Methodist group could not discriminate against gay couples using it. In the interim, the state's Department of Environmental Protection revoked a portion of the association's tax benefits. The case is ongoing. "

Now, in case you are wondering what propaganda machine of the Far Right I pulled these examples from, you will be happy to know it is from a little place called National Public Radio (When Gay Rights and Religious Liberties Clash by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR.org, June 13, 2008)

In my religion, the sanctity of traditional marriage is not just some fringe doctrine. It is an integral part of the very purpose of our existence. The LDS church could no sooner perform a gay marriage than it could open up a virgin-sacrificing coffee shop (Motto: Come for the Latte, stay for the pagan sacrifice.)

I do not expect to see gay couples knocking on the temple door the day after Prop 8 is defeated. However, the slippery slope acceptance of gay marriage puts us on is very slippery and very slopey. How long before LDS marriages are challenged in court? If a photographer can be sued for not taking pictures of a gay wedding, how can a pastor not be sued for refusing to conduct one? If the state sees gay marriage as equally valid and worthy under the law than how can a church refuse to officiate one without violating the 14th Amendment?

The challenge against the church this will cause will not occur over night, but slowly. First, people will go after the church's 501c3 status (Accountant speak for Non-Profit) and thus remove many of the tax protections afforded the church. You will start to see law suits filed to prevent LDS youth groups and congregations from using public lands (you know, kind of like what is happening to the Boy Scouts.)

How long before speaking out against homosexuality is considered a hate crime? Will we be arrested for preaching and believing our own religion? In June 2004, a Swedish pastor was arrested and sentenced to 30 days in jail for giving a sermon that said, among other things: "All homosexuals are not pedophiles or perverts. They nevertheless open the door to forbidden areas and allow sin to take hold of the life of the mind." I think we can all agree, that is one hate filled jerk.

Now before you go too far, let me say that even I agree there is a tinge of tin-foil hat delusion to my ranting . But then again, isn't there always?

Nevertheless, it is difficult for me to see how the failure of Proposition 8 does anything to support the free exercise of religion in the state of California or any where else in this country. When Mormon Bishops start getting hauled off to jail, don't say I didn't tell you so! After all, by then that might be considered hate speech.

Now I will get off my soap box. The air up there makes me woozy. Next time, I am bringing a Sherpa.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It’s ON Like DiscriminatiON!

Many years ago, a wise man once said that "a good catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years." Of course, due to inflation, a good catch word can now obscure analysis for 100 years. There is perhaps no greater drain on the public dialogue than the unanimous acceptance of a good buzz word and all its implications. Words like diversity, living wage and empowerment are universally accepted as The Good and never challenged in the public sphere, despite their many obvious shortcomings.

For no other word is this more painstakingly true than discrimination. This one word carries with it so much burden and onus that we each flee from its accusatory finger like Britney Spears from an over-eager Social Worker. Governments, institutions and corporations go to tiring lengths to prove that they are untainted by the discrimination boogey man.

Yet, what does discrimination even mean? Legally, it is supposed to mean an unfair application of the law, but as it is used now, discrimination basically means "an idea I disagree with." Not getting enough money from work? That's discrimination. Can't afford a house in the neighborhood of your choice? That's discrimination. School officials admitting unqualified minority candidates over more qualified white ones? Well, apparently that is not discrimination.

Now, in the name of a word which has no meaning, we mean to obliterate a word that does. Unlike "discrimination" this word has had meaning through every age and every society of mankind. It has had meaning in every nation and every culture. This word, put simply, is marriage.

For the past decade, across this country, gay-rights organization have sought to use the power of the courts to obliterate the meaning of marriage in favor of an overly broad definition of discrimination. There is only one problem: marriage, as defined between a man and a woman, is not discriminatory. It is a law and a definition that applies equally to all persons. I am no more able to marry a gay man than a gay man is. Equally so, a gay man has just as much right to marry a woman as I do (and did). Traditional marriage between a man and a woman is no more discriminatory than handing out free donuts, even if what you really wanted was a pretzel. It is what it is, take it or leave it.

If we are to hold gay marriage up on the same pedestal as traditional marriage, than gay marriage must prove that it holds equal value. Alas, this is where the gay-rights movements has perpetually come up wanting. In working so hard to show there is nothing wrong with gay marriage, they have yet to show that there is anything right with it. Traditional marriage has been and will always be the building block of society and the facts bear this out clearly. Individuals who are married live longer, have more money, are less likely to commit crime and are more likely to live fulfilling lives. Similarly, the greatest indicator in the success of a child is whether or not his parents are married. No government program, no school, no religion can have as a great an impact on a child and, in turn, society as a mother and father.

Adulterous relationships certainly exist, yet as a society, we do not endorse them. Why? Because of the harm and damage that the relationships inflict on a family, specifically children. While gay marriages certainly do not harm children, conversely, they cannot show how they benefit them. For this reason they are no more deserving of state recognition than that of a man and his mistress. Still don't believe me? Answer this question: what value does gay marriage add to society that just being room-mates doesn't? Why, then, should they be given the same recognition and privilege reserved for the single most successful social program in history: traditional marriage?

This political season, most of us will not be able to participate in the most important election of this new millennia. Not because of some imaginary republican voter-suppression machine, but because most of us do not live in California. (What, I can't vote just because I don't live in California? That's discrimination.) On this November's ballot, California voters will be asked to support Proposition 8 which writes into the constitution that which we have always known: marriage is between a man and a woman. This simple proposition would overturn the California Supreme Court decision which trumped the will of the people and provided equal recognition to an unequal union.

Having been raised in the Bay Area, I have always said that California would be the greatest place to live on earth if it weren't for all the Californians. Now is your chance, California, to prove me wrong. Now is your chance to redeem yourself for all the past ills you have foisted upon the rest of the world, namely, Police Academy 1 through 8. On the other hand, Catwoman we will always hold against you.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thats Debatable: My Thoughts on the Debate

Is offering universal health care, lower taxes on 95% of Americans, increases in early childhood education, more affordable college tuition and $500 checks from oil companies the "call to service" and "sacrifice" Senator Obama is asking for from the American people? At least after 9-11, President Bush asked us to spend our own money. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can get from your country.

Everybody said the town hall format of the debate was supposed to help McCain, but I don't see how. Watching him wander around while Senator Obama was speaking reminded me of a patient in an Alzheimer's ward. At any moment I expected him to look up at the camera and ask how he got there.

To quote McCain "We've got to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't … like us very much." He is right, that money is much better spent bailing out failed banks here at home. Banks who wouldn't recognize a risky loan if it woke up next to them in bed and demanded a snuggle. Sorry Dubai, we have got our own greedy crooks to pay off!

Every time Senator Obama said "deregulate" only one thought went through my mind: Deregulators…Mount Up!

This will go down in history as the debate with the most utterances of the word "fannie" in history. I counted seven, which is six more than any other debate. In fact, the word fannie has not been said in a presidential debate since 1908 when William Taft famously called William J Bryan "a fannie-white lilly boy."

Obama never ceases to amaze. "When George Bush came into office, our debt -- national debt was around $5 trillion. It's now over $10 trillion. We've almost doubled it." He did all that math, ladies and gentlemen, without a calculator. Who is this man from Nazareth?

John McCain said "my friends" 22 times during the debate. Sorry, John, no matter how many times you say it, it does not make it true.

During the debate, both candidates received questions from people by the names of Oliver, Fiorra and Ingrid. Immediately after the debate, these people stepped out of the auditorium and into the Charles Dickens novel where they belong.

The same man, Senator Obama, who wants to provide universal everything and more government issued checks to the people also wants to "take on entitlements". It looks to me that the only things we won't be entitled to under an Obama administration are monkey butlers and a government-provided nightly turndown service.

When asked about how to fix Medicare, McCain stated: "My friends, what we have to do with Medicare is have a commission, have the smartest people in America come together, come up with recommendations." So McCain's solution is to have other people come up with solutions? He is not even President yet and he is already passing the buck.

Concerning energy, Obama stated "And that's why we've got to make some investments and I've called for investments in solar, wind, geothermal." Yes, if there is anything we need, it is more Earth, Wind and Fire.

Quoth Senator Obama concerning the war in Iraq "It's also put an enormous strain on our budget. We've spent, so far, close to $700 billion and if we continue on the path that we're on, as Sen. McCain is suggesting, it's going to go well over $1 trillion." So, let me get this straight. Spending $700 billion to liberate Iraqi women and children is too much. But spending $700 billion to bail out Wall Street fat cats is money well spent?

Much like his counterpart Senator Biden, Obama's policy for intervening in another country bears little difference to that of George Bush. "So when genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us. And so I do believe that we have to consider it as part of our interests, our national interests, in intervening where possible." So tell me, Monsieur Obama, how does that not apply to Iraq? Do you think Saddam Hussein's ethnic cleansing of the Kurds involved a shower and a bar of soap?

Concerning Pakistan, McCain stated that he was not going to "telegraph" his punches. Silly old McCain. These days we don't telegraph punches. We text them.

Obama states very clearly that we are going to "have to put some additional troops in Afghanistan." Wait a minute. I thought troop surges don't work?

I think we can all agree with Senator Obama, that what Iran needs is a stern talking to. "I believe that we should have direct talks -- not just with our friends, but also with our enemies -- to deliver a tough, direct message to Iran that, if you don't change your behavior, then there will be dire consequences." If Iran still does not co-operate, may I suggest putting them in time out?

My final thought: America, at 300 million strong, is without question the greatest nation on earth. So how in the world did we get stuck with these two?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Saying it Ain't So Joe!

“Can I call you Joe?” With those five words, the debate was already won. Sara Palin’s greeting to Joe Biden, caught on camera, instantly set the tone for how the debate would unfold. She would dictate, Biden would respond. It is a shame all of his responses were not as straight forward and honest as his response to that first brilliant question. Unfortunately for next 90 minutes, America was treated to a veritable buffet of Washington double speak from a man who has had thirty years of practice. Sometimes, it almost seemed like Joe Biden was debating Joe Biden.

Constitutionally the Same. Civilly Different. In Biden’s own words, he stated that “in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple,” but than went on to say “Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage.” So, from a constitutional stand point, he sees no difference between same sex couples and heterosexual couples, but from a civil side, he does not want to redefine marriage. Explain to me the difference between civil and constitutional? In relation to redefining marriage, I can see little difference. How can you state that constitutionally same sex couples are deserving of every right as heterosexual couples but on a civil level say that they are not deserving of the same rights? Doesn’t the constitutional side drive the civil side? Isn’t that the whole point of the constitution?

No How, Just When. When both parties were asked about their administrations exit plan from Iraq, Biden was quick to pounce on Governor Palin for offering no plan, and he than proceeded to offer no plan himself. He said “With all due respect, I didn't hear a plan. Barack Obama offered a clear plan. Shift responsibility to Iraqis over the next 16 months. Draw down our combat troops.” With all due respect, that is not a plan; that is an arbitrary timeline. Shifting responsibility to the Iraqis is something that is already happening and has been happening since the day we set foot on the sands of Iraq. In fact it was the whole point of the invasion. That is like saying your strategy to win the game is to score more touchdowns. Well duh. But how are you going to do it?

Concerning the timeline, the question I would like to ask is simple: why 16 months? Why not 15? Why not 18? It is a number plucked from a hat because it sounds good. It provides no measurable goals or objectives, but it does tell Al Queda and the other insurgents exactly how long they need to keep fighting before we will quit. If bringing our troops home is so important to Senator Biden, I am curious to know, what is his exit plan for Korea? For Germany? How about Japan? When will those troops come home? The fact that no such plan is talked about, let alone considered, is all the proof you need that, for Joe Biden, bringing the troops home from Iraq is more about winning in politics, than winning in war.

Tea Time with Tyrants. Governor Palin pointed out that Barack Obama’s decision to sit down, without preconditions, with tyrants such as Iran’s Ahmadinejad was “beyond bad judgment.” Biden replied with this whopper “This is simply not true about Barack Obama. He did not say sit down with Ahmadinejad.” Joe Biden must have forgotten about this little thing his pal Al Gore invented called “The Internet”. It doesn’t take more than 30 seconds to you-tube the moment in the primary debates where, on July 23, Barack Obama said clearly and unequivocally that he would sit down with tyrants without preconditions. And Joe Biden should know, he was there. I will save you the thirty seconds it takes to find it, just go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1dSPrb5w_k

He than went on to talk about the five secretaries of state and various world allies who are encouraging us to “Sit down. Talk. Talk. Talk.” He even blasted John McCain for having an administration that would be, in his own words, unwilling to “sit down and talk with the adversary.” So, according to Joe Biden, Barack Obama will not sit down with Ahmadinejad, but maybe he should? Is anybody else confused? If a “tea-time with tyrants” style of foreign policy is wrong, why did he spend the next few minutes advocating for it?

This reminds me of the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and George are perceived to be a gay couple. They kept insisting they were not gay, but each time they did so they had to make the caveat “but not that there is anything wrong with that”. Well according to Joe Biden, Barack Obama would never sit with tyrants, but not that there is anything wrong with that.

Resoluteless Resolution Like most every other Democratic Senator, Joe Biden has spent the last five years trying to talk his way out of his vote to go to war in Iraq. With five years practice, you would think he would be better at it. During the debate he said, “I gave the president the power. I voted for the power because he said he needed it not to go to war but to keep the United States, the UN in line, to keep sanctions on Iraq and not let them be lifted.” Since when is voting for a resolution to go to war, not a resolution to go to war?

Hay Biden! Bush Called. He Wants his Doctrine Back. When asked about when the United States is justified to “go in” (i.e. invade) another country, Joe Biden said “when a country engages in genocide, when a country is engaging in harboring terrorists and will do nothing about it, at that point that country in my view and Barack's view forfeits their right to say you have no right to intervene at all.” Explain to me how that does not apply to Iraq?

How many times do you have to drop mustard gas on your own people before it counts as genocide? How many thousands of children have to die of starvation before it counts as genocide? How many rape rooms and torture chambers have to be built before it counts as genocide? How many families of suicide bombers have to be paid off before you can be considered supporting terrorists? By Senator Biden’s own definition, we were more than justified to go into Iraq. Senator Biden’s current opposition to the war in Iraq tips his hand about how he really feels about intervention. “Say NO to war, unless a Democrat is President.”

Based on an evening filled with double speak and contradiction, don’t be surprised if the next time he is asked what name he can be called, he responds “you can call me anything you like ,as long as it is Senator Biden.”