Archive for November, 2011

Robert Reich: The REAL Public Nuisance

November 30, 2011
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WA State Senator Dan Swecker’s Weak Talking Points on Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage in Washington State

November 29, 2011

Dan Swecker

Washington State Senator Dan Swecker contributed a guest opinion in today’s Seattle Times concerning efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in this state. Swecker, a Republican from Thurston County (south of Seattle), has been opposing equal rights for GLBT persons since 1995 and is still peddling arguments whose shelf life has long since expired. His talking points on the current legalization effort are as stale as last week’s bread.

He claims the legislature has more pressing issues to consider. This is a transparent political tactic that will persuade no one. My bet is that he has made this claim every time GLBT rights have been considered by the legislature since 1995.

He worries that “altering the definition of marriage will lead to the silencing of those who believe in traditional marriage.” Since 2000, ten countries have legalized same-sex marriage, and there are no reports of such silencing from any of them. GLBT persons are not interested in undermining straight marriages.

He worries about children’s upbringing but is apparently unaware that lesbians couples were given the highest rating for child-rearing in a ten-year longitudinal study reported in the journal Pediatrics in June 2010. These couples’ 17-year-old children were rated “significantly higher” in social and academic competence and “significantly lower” in problem behavior than their counterparts in a standard normative sample of American youth. By Senator Swecker’s logic, straight couples should now be disqualified from marrying.

Senator Swecker’s alarm tactics about censorship and child-rearing won’t wash with the mostly intelligent and informed public who read the Seattle Times.

It’s Time

November 26, 2011

Maggie Gallagher’s Plea for Tolerance

November 26, 2011

Here is the text of Maggie Gallagher’s advice for opponents of gay marriage who come under fire at holiday dinners. (Note: Maggie Gallagher is co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage.)

Most of us who believe marriage is the union of husband and wife have no interest in shaming those who don’t disagree with us. We understand that good people can disagree, even on extremely important moral issues.  But, like it or not, the gay marriage movement has cultivated a rather low threshold for moral indignation. “If you don’t think two men in a union are a marriage, you are a bigot, like people who wanted to hold back African-Americans,” too many elite voices claim. Well, that sentiment sometimes translates into some pretty uncomfortable holiday dinner conversations. So here is how to talk turkey about gay marriage:

Step one: State your position briefly. Try this: Marriage is the union of husband and wife for a reason: These are the only unions that can make new life and give those children a mom and a dad, if they have children. While other unions may have wonderful qualities, they’re not marriages, and we shouldn’t be forced by government to pretend that they are. If you still get fireworks—charges of bigotry, discrimination, hatred, or insensitivity—have this response handy:

Step two: Refute briefly the charge of bigotry. It’s not bigoted or hateful or discriminatory to treat different things differently. It’s just common sense. Well, if the fireworks continue and you want to move on to a nice family dinner without surrendering your ground, move on to step three:

Step three: A call to tolerance. I think we need to be tolerant of each others’ sincere moral differences on these hot-button issues, especially inside families. The millions of Americans like me who do not support gay marriage are not all haters or bigots, and it’s really not kind or tolerant to suggest otherwise, especially among family members. Repeat step three as often as necessary, or until they bring in the pie, which usually stops the worst of the fights…

Having listened to Maggie Gallagher in debates and interviews over the last few years, I’m always struck by how consistent her message is. Unlike so many presidential candidates, she’s no “flip-flopper.” Her talking points are always the same, and no challenge, however robust, ever seems to deflect her from her course. Marriage is between a man and a woman, she reiterates, and its purpose is procreation. Never mind the inconvenient truth that many people marry for reasons other than procreation and that many couples are infertile.

Nevertheless, Maggie has heard the challenges and is now subtly inflecting her basic position statement to head them off. But notice how clumsily she does so in this video:

Marriage is the union of husband and wife for a reason: These are the only unions that can make new life and give those children a mom and a dad, if they have children.

If they have children…? She has tacked on the last phrase as a nod to the inconvenient truth mentioned above. But the result is a murky and confusing concept—namely, that the purpose of marriage is the birthing and nurturance of children, that only a union dedicated to this purpose is a marriage, and … that some “married” couples may not have children. What are we to make of this hash?

I don’t believe Maggie herself knows. She has realized the basic position is nonsense and that she cannot defend it from a reasonable challenge. In fact, I’ve never heard her or anyone else do so.

Her defensiveness about being called a bigot is not new. It has been a leitmotif of all her public statements. Her worry is that she and others who oppose same-sex marriage will turn out to have been on the wrong side of history. They will have been put there by the same forces that have ensured the successes of other human rights movements in the past couple of centuries—empathy with the oppressed, massive shifts in public opinion, and the willingness of ordinary people to speak out against inequality and injustice. The last of these is what Maggie calls, “a low threshold of moral indignation.” I call it moral courage.

She and her organization, NOM, would like to stop the shaming and inculpate the shamers. It won’t work, and they know it because they’ve seen the writing on the wall. Public opinion about same-sex marriage has already shifted to the point that trends are clear: NOM is on the wrong side of the argument, it cannot sustain a reasoned debate on the issue, and it can only plead for … tolerance.

Understanding the Euro Crisis

November 14, 2011

Economist Paul Krugman makes sense of events unfolding in the Eurozone.

Update 12/2/11 (“Killing the Euro,” New York Times) here.

Moral Clarity and Personhood

November 13, 2011

In this morning’s Baltimore Sun, Leonard Pitts assesses the recent defeat of Mississippi’s “Personhood” amendment ballot initiative:

Moral clarity is inherently more compelling than moral irresolution, the starkness of black and white preferable to the foggy opacity of the grays. Unfortunately for them, it is precisely in the grays where those who support a woman’s right to choose are required to make their stand. Nobody “likes” abortion. Nobody, not even the most ardent defender of choice, disputes the sacredness of human life.

But we balance that against the conviction that there is something totalitarian in the idea that the state can force a woman to bear a child that she, for whatever reason—incest, rape, illness, deformity or grinding poverty —does not wish to bear.

Most of us will never have to make that call, for which most of us should be thankful. And many of us believe the best thing we can do is leave it at that, leave the decision in the hands of the women it impacts and wish them Godspeed.

But some would arrogate that decision unto the state under the guise of moral clarity. The Mississippi vote, then, is instructive. It finds the nation’s most conservative state essentially conceding that moral clarity is sometimes as false as it is seductive — and that there are some calls the state cannot and should not make.

There’s a term for that belief: pro-choice.

The Contagion of Denial. The Power of Lies.

November 13, 2011

This Joey Bishop clip is not just about denial but its effects on people who are drawn into it.

It’s so hard to say, “You’re lying!” Pretty soon, we don’t believe it was a lie at all.

And speaking of lies, here’s a brazen whopper from one of Mitt Romney’s recent campaign ads.

Does Mississippi Really Care About Fetuses, New-borns, and Children?

November 13, 2011

Here are some shocking statistics from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation about the health status of nursing mothers, fetuses, newborns, and children in the state of Mississippi.

The state is ranked…

  • 50th in infant mortality rates (2005-2007).
  • 51st in its teen birth rate (2008).
  • 51st for preterm births (2008).
  • 51st for births of low birthweight (2008).
  • 46th in the percent of children (0-17) who had both a medical and dental preventive care visit in the past 12 months (2007).
  • 51st in child deaths (1-14) per 100,000 children (2007).
  • 50th in rate of teen deaths (15-19) per 100,000 teenagers (2007).

The good news is that Mississippi ranked 8th in percent of children age 19-35 months who are immunized (2010).

Doctor Science has this to say about the thinking behind Mississippi’s recent (and failed) “personhood” ballot initiative, which would have amended the state’s constitution to confer personhood on a fertilized egg:

The most charitable interpretation I can come up with is that Mississippians feel hopeless to save the lives of many children they actually have, so they’re distracting themselves by trying to define, and then save, invisible children.

Signs of Progress, Reasons for Hope

November 11, 2011

President Obama Puts Pipeline Project on Hold.

Yesterday, November 10, President Obama instructed the State Department to conduct a thorough review of the Keystone Pipeline project, which has been fiercely opposed by environmental groups and climate change activists. The pipeline, running from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Gulf of Mexico, would pose a serious hazard to the nation’s largest aquifer and bind our nation’s energy policy ever more tightly to the fossil fuels industry. The President has assured all stakeholders that the review will be conducted by independent experts not beholden to the oil companies. Read the story here.

Mississippi’s “Personhood” Amendment Fails.

In Tuesday’s election, Mississippi voters gave thumbs down to a ballot initiative that would have granted “personhood” to fertilized eggs. More than 55 percent of voters rejected the initiative. Supporters had hoped the measure, if successful, would prompt a lawsuit challenging the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Opponents said the measure would effectively outlaw birth control and force victims of rape and incest to carry pregnancies to term. Read the story here.

Will the Muslim World Replace GMT With “Mecca Time?”

November 8, 2011

Mecca’s new clock tower is now the second-tallest building in the world and six times taller than Big Ben. Since its completion, many Muslims have been arguing that Greenwich Mean Time—the world’s standard for 125 years—should now be replaced by Mecca Time. Read the full story here.