March 27, 2013

The Homophobia Cases in the Supreme Court

I listened to some of the oral arguments yesterday in the Supreme Court concerning California's Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriages.  At this point in our social history, of course, the debate is absurd. For example, during his argument the flummoxed lawyer defending Proposition 8 was attempting to reason his way through Justice Elena Kagan's question about gay couples older than 55 who might want to marry.  If the goal of the discriminatory law is to implement the state's legitimate interest in controlling the "procreative" situation (this is one of the Last Stand Arguments used by the homophobes), that is, to allow only marriages between one man and one woman in furtherance of "family stability," then why not allow those beyond child-bearing years to marry regardless of sexual orientation?

The Prop 8's lawyer's answer appeared to suggest that a person 55 years old can in fact bear children (regardless of age, regardless of sex, apparently), although Justice Kagan, taking pity, gently disabused him of this notion.  When one is defending an irrational prejudice, this is the sort of blind alley you wind up wandering down.  You are met at every turn with the utterly stupid implications of what you are advocating.

The best questions were from Justice  Kennedy, who could not see why the ban on same-sex marriages was legally distinguishable from the unconstitutional ban on interracial marriages, which the Supreme Court has already disposed of.

Personally, I think the answer to all of these questions is pretty obvious, but hidden in plain sight: get rid of all legal implications and complications of the marital state.  Allow anyone or anything to marry any other person or thing, in any number, that he, she or it chooses to marry.  If churches want to bless the sacrament of marriage with their rituals, let them.  If a guy on your bowling team wants to perform the marriage ceremony for you and your girlfriend on the basis of some incantation he downloaded from the Internet, that should fly.  If you want to marry your dog, or turtle (to handle Rick Santorum's gotcha reductio ad absurdum), then you should be allowed to marry your dog, your turtle, or to enter into polygamy with both of them.  As long as you're sincere.  I insist on sincerity.

As part of the same liberalization, all laws should be restated and restructured to get rid of all references to the marital state.  The condition of being married should have no effect on taxation or other legal rights (no filing of "joint returns," no "marital deductions" on estate tax forms, no "survivor's rights" to Social Security, none of this bullshit).  If an adult wants to visit you in the hospital, and it's okay with the patient (either through volition or Advanced Directive in the event of incompetence), then the hospital ought to let the person visit.  Divorce law, including alimony, property rights and the rest of the traps and snares should be eliminated altogether.  Instead of divorce we will have "breaking up," with both parties (male, female, reptile) then left to their own devices.

I am all for marriage equality.  It's a bad idea to enshrine prejudice with legal proscription, as was done in California with Proposition 8.  California passed, in essence, a Jim Crow law in the (Mormon) guise of "protecting the family."  It was a huge step backward, but it will not last.  Either the Supreme Court will overturn it (if the white conservative bigots, the African-American Justice Me-Too, and the closet case on the High Court can be overcome), or the people in California will throw it out with a subsequent initiative.

But granting access of gays to marriage (which they deserve, as things stand) leaves in place another prejudice: that against single people or people in relationships not "sanctified" by marriage.  We don't see that discrimination so easily because it is the ocean and we are the fish.  Like the other prejudices that have given way to modernity in other categories of discrimination, the preference for the absurd institution of marriage will take time to overcome.  But it too will pass away in the goodness and fullness of time.

March 26, 2013

The Keyboard Kommando Brigade

A tip o' the hat to Kathleen Geier for a recent essay in the The National Memo.  The tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion has spawned a number of good retrospectives on the war, an uncomfortable fact for many in the "centrist" community of pundits who pawned their liberal credentials and bought themselves a set of spurs and a pair of shiny six-shooters so they could be real cowboys, too.  Without the bizarre support of such "contrarians" as Christopher Hitchens, Andrew Sullivan, Peter Beinart, Tom Friedman, George Packer of The New Yorker, and numerous other supposedly liberal writers and opinion-shapers, it would have been much more difficult for George W. Bush to sell the war.

I think it was the late Hitchens who gave us the term "Islamo-fascist" to describe the radical element of Islamic terrorism, particularly in Iraq.  It's difficult to discern any meaning at all in this nomenclature.  Mussolini, credited with the original neologism, was describing a  "tissue" of government and corporate control over a society, taking the word from the Latin "fascia," the term we use for tissue in English.  Since it doesn't make any sense in the Muslim world to describe a religious totalitarianism in this way, we can be fairly certain that this drunken English scribe was simply trying to inflame opinion (and aggrandize his own brave "contrarianism") by conjuring up images of Hitler's dreaded Wehrmact.  What an utter load of bullshit that was.

Ms. Geier writes:

"Finally, there’s the most powerful, if most deeply buried justification of all: Iraq provided an opportunity for dweebish, pasty, desk-bound dudes to indulge in macho daydreams. Throughout history, men have asserted masculine dominance through imperial adventures. While few liberal female pundits were pro-war, many centrist and liberal men were unable to resist the war’s siren call.
The most infamous example of  such macho knucklehead punditry is Thomas Friedman’s 2003 appearance on The Charlie Rose Show. The war, he said then, was “unquestionably worth doing” so we could tell the Iraqis to “suck on this.” Commentary so inane and puerile would sound outrageous coming out of the mouth of Friedman’s fictional look-alike Ron Burgundy; that an actual, Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times columnist said it simply boggles the mind."

I had occasion over the weekend to talk through this phenomenon with an old friend of mine.  He shared his father's perspective, that of a World War II veteran, that Americans tended toward the "prima donna" in their modern reactions to adversity.   Another World War II veteran and friend of mine, The Incomparable Sage of Boynton Beach (now 96), opined (as I've mentioned before) that the proper reaction to 9/11 would have been to "do nothing," insofar as international invasions and adventurism were concerned.  Essentially, the 9/11 attacks were the result of a criminal enterprise carried out on a "war-like" scale by non-state actors who were allowed through Administration negligence to enter the United States, plan their terrorist act, and train themselves to fly American jets at American flight schools while residing here on expired visas.

The dweebish and pasty Keyboard Kommando group seized on the dramatic scale of the damage done in New York City to inflate this caper into the modern equivalent of Pearl Harbor or Hitler's invasion of Poland.  This is patently ridiculous.  As I've written many times, the tragedy of 9/11 fell upon those who were killed and the loved ones of those who were killed.  These were the true losses.  Beyond these immediate tragedies, we're talking about a couple of buildings, four jet airplanes, and a wing of the massive Pentagon.  9/11 had no significance for the United States strategically or economically, let alone "existentially."

It's weird, in this context, to note that the invasion of Afghanistan always gets a pass when the over-reactions of the dweebish and pasty cowboys are discussed.  Essentially, the displacement of national anger onto Afghanistan was only marginally more sensible than the wholesale madness of the Iraq invasion.  Afghanistan was the "ass-covering" war of the Bush & Cheney Knucklehead Show.  These two overrated incompetents were so busy concocting an excuse to topple Saddam that they ignored clear warnings from the intelligence community that a terrorist attack was imminent.  To distract us from their massive incompetence, they found a way to justify an invasion of a country where the attacks were "planned" or perhaps "financed" or maybe just "talked about," although we were subjected to countless re-runs of captured footage of terrorists-in-training using the Dreaded Jungle Gym Complex of Afghanistan.  Something, because it's hard to figure out otherwise when you're dealing with actual terrorists exclusively from Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon and Syria Saudi Arabia, the core elements of which met in Hamburg, Germany.

By the way, because of the movie "Zero Dark Thirty," it's only now becoming generally obvious that the evidence pointing to Osama bin Laden's key role in the 9/11 plot was elicited from The Gurgling Confessor, Khallid Sheikh Mohammed, during his 183 sessions on the waterboard.  The report of the 9/11 Commission is riddled with footnotes attributing statements to KSM as the government's chief informant concerning bin Laden.  Because of President Obama's Bush-era style of Assassinate Now, Conduct the Trial Later, we killed bin Laden (when it was obvious he could have been captured and tried), so the full story will never be known.  That, of course, was the whole idea.