Friday, November 23, 2012

Ruth Institute - Arguments From Stupidity

Whining about elements in the Republican party who seek to soften the perception that all GOP candidates are anti-gay, at least insofar as regards same-sex marriage, the blog over at Ruth Institute enumerates several "salient" arguments against allowing same-sex marriage that they believe are being "suppressed" within the GOP. The idea is that, if only these arguments were given full voice, people "might pause and choose to think deeply, rather than feel, before going to the polls."

I'll address them one by one:

- "That the state has no business incorporating the notion of “love” into the basis for defining the right to civil marriage."

This is a bit of a straw man: Ruth is not-so-subtly claiming that the often used phrase "loving and committed" couples somehow encompasses the whole of the LGBT community's justification for SSM advocacy. Neither now, nor in the past, has the state ever asked whether two consenting, qualified adults "love" each other enough to obtain a civil marriage. The state's concern has always been related to the closeness of a blood relationship of the two people, their age, gender (if applicable), current marital status, and so forth. State regulations vary - some states allow certain types of cousins to marry and others do not, and of course some states no longer care whether the applicants share a gender or not - but at no point are the applicants for a marriage license asked to certify any particular degree of "love" as part of the process of applying for the license.

- "That the state’s only valid interest in sanctioning marriage is to hold biological parents responsible for the new citizens they sire or bear. Only the heterosexual union produces citizens of the state, and therefore the state has no valid interest in any other union, period."

Again we are presented with the myopic notion that biological reproduction is the sole concern of the state. It is not, and to my knowledge never has been. As I've previously pointed out, the state takes no pains to assess the reproductive capacity of any applicants for a marriage license. Adoption and IVF are just two ways in which the state enables people to become parents, exclusive of biological reproduction. Indeed, a single virgin male or female could qualify to adopt any number of children. Two virgins could marry, remain chaste, and be parents to any number of children whether adopted or produced via IVF.

In terms of the marriage license itself and the willingness of the state to allow two people all the benefits of having been married, no state cares about consummation unless a divorce is sought within various timespans, and even then the issue at hand is the disposition of such jointly-held assets as may exist at the time the divorce is sought.

Two last points on this: Ruth says that "only the heterosexual union produces citizens of the state." The IVF method of conception by itself means this untrue. Further, if "the state has no valid interest in any other type of union," then why don't any states require either reproduction or certification of reproductive capacity as part of the necessary qualifications for obtaining a license to marry?

- "That government-sanctioned same-sex marriage actually increases and solidifies state authority and undermines freedom by eroding the bonds of traditional families and the strong buffer these bonds provide all members of society against government intrusion into our personal relationships. Most alarming is that the imposition of genderless marriage opens a clear path for allowing the state to pick the parents for all children."

Alarmist, anyone? Good grief, where to begin...

Let's go in reverse order through this next "salient" argument. I'm not sure what the writers mean by "allowing the state to pick the parents for all children." Are they saying that the fact of same-sex marriage would then confer on the state the authority to take children away from their existing circumstances in order to place them with parents who the state feels are somehow better? Would the fact of same-sex marriage suddenly mean that children could be withdrawn, apparently by force, from one family and moved to another? What the hell is Ruth talking about here?

Next is this claim that the state conferring the exact same benefits of marriage on additional people who happen to share the same gender would "increase and solidify state authority and undermine freedom by eroding the bonds of traditional families and the strong buffer these bonds provide all members of society against government intrusion into our personal relationships."

I'm going to break this one down step by step. Let's see if we can follow the logic here:

- This is the Ruth Institute here, so I think it is safe to assume these traditional families are opposite-gender married ones, with children and cousins and whatnot. All these family members have these special bonds.
- And these bonds are really strong, yet somehow fragile and subject to erosion.
- Traditional families are currently getting all the state benefits of marriage, including tax benefits, health benefits, social security benefits, visitation rights, inheritance rights, etc.
- If the state grants access to these benefits to same-sex couples, simply by removing the opposite-gender requirement for the marriage license, those aforementioned bonds in the traditional families would be eroded because removing the opposite-gender requirement would constitute an "intrusion" into someone's personal relationships.

In summary: traditional families have these special bonds which would be weakened/eroded by allowing same-sex couples access to all the benefits of marriage to which these traditional families have always had access? Did I miss something?

I've reread it a few times now, and I can't see that I missed anything, or took anything out of context. Sure sure, I'm biased toward equality for any consenting adults who want to get married, since it isn't any of my fucking business what two consenting adults do with or to each other in the privacy of their own homes. If they want to have kids, by whatever means, great. If they don't, great. Again, it isn't any of my business any more than it is anyone else's business what I do with my free time with whatever consenting adults I can find. The state evidently doesn't give shit, and they certainly have never cared enough to make such an inquiry part of the marriage licensure process.

Now, on to their conclusion:

- "Few are aware of these arguments because the left’s machine doesn’t want you to hear and digest them. The proponents of same-sex marriage all share two great fears: First, that people might pause and choose to think deeply, rather than feel, before going to the polls. And second, that people might begin to speak freely with each other, unconstrained by the inhibiting strictures political correctness places upon normal discourse in daily life."

As a proponent of same-sex marriage, I can tell Ruth that they are exactly wrong, in every particular, on both these alleged "fears."

Firstly, I prefer that people think about and do research on ALL issues before voting on them. If you don't take the time to get educated on an issue, how do you propose to use your voting privilege responsibly and honestly? Emotions can play a role, and sometimes maybe they should, but don't conflate my advocacy for same-sex marriage with a desire somehow to prey on the emotions of those who would listen to my reasoning in the expectation or hope that their emotions would lead them to a different conclusion than their reason would.

Secondly, Ruth Institute, stop whining about being labeled a hate group. I personally welcome free and civil discourse on any subject. All people should be free to speak their minds as they see fit, but they shouldn't expect to have hateful speech and outright lies go unchallenged.

The idea that proponents of same-sex marriage play the "bigotry" card in lieu of actual arguments is preposterous. When we read blogs like this, and see debates like the one between Brian Brown and Dan Savage, and listen to Tony Perkins or Bryan Fischer or Peter LaBarbera spew vitriol, labeling as "unnatural" and "abominations" our friends and neighbors, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters... Such language will not go unchallenged, and it shouldn't. And if it is challenged civilly, and no apology of any kind is ever made, then the bigot label fits.

Because this whole debate comes down to a small handful of issues:

One group seeks the label and benefits of marriage, because the label and benefits are currently afforded to every single possible variation of couple EXCEPT for same-sex couples. Every single argument against same-sex marriage is nonsensical, because every single argument is itself refuted by opposite-sex marriages all over the country. As such, this is a fight about equality under the law.

Another group seeks to deny them this label and these benefits, using arguments which attempt to obfuscate the simple fact that their cherry picked religious beliefs motivate them to dedicate their lives to the imposition of said religious beliefs on the society at large.

You claimed proponents of same-sex marriage are afraid of open dialogue? Well, here's MY conclusion: opponents of same-sex marriage are primarily motivated by religious beliefs taken from a book whose other marriage-related proscriptions and prescriptions are largely ignored by those same opponents. Therefore, their credibility is basically nil from the outset. As a consequence, these opponents must argue their case for inequality on other grounds, attempting to use reason alone to persuade. Since the foundation of their "arguments" is critically flawed, their arguments are also critically flawed, and this is why they are failing and will fail in the future.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fox News: "No Agenda"

Via Politico from an interview with Fox News Channel head Roger Ailes:

“It’s day to day for us,” Ailes tells [Politico]. “We don’t — I know no one believes it — we have no agenda. If he runs into a burning building tomorrow and saves four kids, he’s gonna be the biggest goddamn hero Fox News ever saw. But if he leaves four guys behind on the battlefield but can’t explain it, then he’s gonna have a problem with Fox News.”

“I don’t mind praising the guy and I don’t mind questioning the guy,” says Ailes. “It’s day to day.”

"Day to day," eh, Roger?

"No agenda," eh, Roger?

C'mon, man! You're not even trying anymore!

Fox News has "no agenda" in the same way that:

A: Porn has no "naked people"
B: Playboy has no "photoshopped pictures"
C: Gas stations have no "fuel"
D: Water has no "hydrogen"
E: All of the above.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Felonius Bunk: A Brief Rant About BP

This week, it was announced that BP is pleading guilty to having committed 11 felonies in connection with the Horizon Deep Water oil spill in 2010. This criminal negligence resulted in the deaths of 11 rig workers.

The punishment exacted? A fine of $4.5 billion, to be paid in installments over a six-year period. According to their 2011 annual report to shareholders, BP Oil has annual revenues of approximately $400 billion.

That 'punishment' works out to 1.15% or so of ONE YEAR's worth of total revenue, or roughly one QUARTER's worth of profit.

Let's put it this in some context, remembering Mitt Romney's famous quip that "corporations are people, my friend." [Certainly the Citizens United Decision agreed with that notion insofar as it sanctioned corporate "free speech" in the form of essentially unlimited political donations to election campaigns.]

Let's say you earn $40,000 per year to keep the numbers simple. That SEC fine is the equivalent of you having to pay $75/year ($450 over a six-year period)... for pleading guilty to acts of felony negligence that resulted in 11 people dying. Anyone else see a problem with this?

If I run a stop sign, the fine is $250. If I get a speeding ticket, the fine can be as high as $500, AND I can have my driver's license suspended or restricted. If I'm caught with ANY amount of pot, the fines/costs start in the hundreds and easily get into the thousands of dollars - and that's just at the misdemeanor level. Remember, those fines aren't assessed over a six-year period, either. For ordinary people, they are imposed and payable immediately.

See what I'm getting at here? If we're going to treat corporations like people for the purposes of political speech, let's REALLY treat them as people for the purposes of political speech: if a company is found guilty of committing a felony, it should be permanently banned from influencing elections in any way, just like we bar individuals who have committed a felony from voting.

Punishments are supposed to act as deterrents. Maybe if corporations found themselves frozen out of the political process, we might see a slight uptick in corporate responsibility as a result.

BP would be a great company to use by way of setting an example.

One last thought: since such a rule would require Congressional action, while they're at it maybe they can allocate $1 billion of that BP fine to fund the veterans jobs bill which was recently blocked by all 40 Republican senators. Just a thought.