Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies, 11.5

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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128 Comments

  1. To my American friends,

    Thank you for electing Barack Obama as your next president. The world has had a vested intrest in the election turning out in his favour, and we’re ready to heal our splintered relationship after 8 years of uniliateralism.

    But beware:
    Although it truly was a historic moment in America, demonstrating that racism of the older generation was at least in part defeated by the younger generation which has learned from the a)mistakes of their parents b)gross inaction from the all-talk, no-bite 60’s generation, you need to not polish all your laurels just yet.

    The book of bigotry in America was not closed last night. At best, a singular chapter on racism in America has been completed, only to open to the next ugly chapter. Voters in Arkansas, Arizona, California, and Florida have demonstrated the hatred and bigotry of the new nigger in America: the homosexual. Antiquated religious dogma, backed by millions of dollars to spread blatent lied designed to appeal to people’s lower-natures (fear, anger, and more fear) have truly stained what should otherwise be a great day for America. On the one hand, the United States has lived up to its creed, and the other hand delivers a stranglehold on basic human rights for another group of people.

    I have no doubt that this irrational fear and hatred of homosexuality will one day pass, and that silly, antiquated notions of marriage and parenthood will fall by the wayside to join it’s fallen (or falling) brethren: racism, religious persecution, genocide, and lynching. In the end, these kinds of bigotry always loose. But bigotry was not defeated last night. Not by a long shot.

    Still, it was a fantastic victory in the right direction. Hopefully, the example set by Obama and his supporters will spread, and the bigotry and hatred demostrated by those states will one day reverse the decisions made last night, and this can be done by increasing the secular push in the government. North Carolina demonstrated to religious zealots like Elizabeth Dole can’t get away with acting like being “godless” is a smear. So the rest of the country: keep secularizing your government, and the ‘promised land’ of Martin Luther King Jr. will be just around the next corner.

    Cheers.

  2. I too would like to offer my congratulations to America on your new president. I’m sorry you’re behind on the gay rights issues, the UK took a long time figuring it out too but we’re closer to ‘equal’ than we’ve ever been. As Canadian said, though, baby steps. America can’t be THAT bigoted, you have a black president! Keep fighting.

  3. I was thoroughly pleased with the outcome of the election, as I think were most people on my University campus last night when the results were announced. I’m a Canadian as well, but we have many American students at UVic, and I’m glad to see they were so thrilled with the Obama’s victory.

    But on another note, it bugs me to find that women in science is still an issue. I know it is from personal experience, as do many of the other women here I’m sure :) How many times have we been “told” that we CAN NOT have a family and a career at the same time? How many times have we been “told” that we have to put our “normal” lives on hold while we pursue our interests? It really irritates me.

    I’ve always considered myself as a warrior of sorts. People tell me I can have one or the other: a degree in physics or a family. I keep flipping the bird in their face… Michael and I have decided we will start a family when we feel we are ready, not when everybody else thinks we should. And despite what everyone thinks, if we decide to do it while I’m still in school, so be it. It will be hard, but it will happen regardless, and I will -not- fail. :)

  4. It is but a first step right?

    1) Secure the vote. If the dems don’t do it now, it is a lost cause. There is no way the race was that close. THere were as many anomalies reported as in 2004. Its just that the turnout overwhelmed them.

    2) Cut defense budget by half and put it into education.

    Secure the vote, plant and defend the education initiative and hopefully we need never see a repeat of the last 8 years.

  5. I certainly hope that President Elect Obama is a man of his word. I have given him my vote. I did this reluctanly because he his first and foremost a politician. I have not been given much reason to trust politicians, so he will find it hard to earn that trust. This is the first time I have ever used my vote to ensure anothers failure to become President. The thought of a McCain Palin Presidency was simply too much for me to consider. Only time will tell if we have made the right decision.

    On a lighte note, thank you for the scientific proof on girls, I have promplty sent this information on to my sister.

  6. You guys are lucky, my fellow Alaskans and I still have to deal with Palin as governor.

    @Some Canadian Skeptic:
    Thanks for that, reading it made my day (so far). Being gay in a conservative state is really difficult, that’s a given, but it’s kind of shocking to think that even a ‘progressive’ state like California can pass legislation like Prop 8. I don’t know what to think.

    Humorous side note: last week, my local State House representative asked me (jokingly) if I was a faggot. Good times.

  7. @jabell2r:
    I disagree slightly. It was easy to vote for him because first and foremost he is a critical thinker.

    I base this on the pre-candidate Obama podcasts that I had listened to over time, that unfortunately are no longer being updated.

  8. Although I’m very disappointed in the ballot measures about same sex marriage in CA, AZ, and FL, I am STILL very pleased with my home state. In Connecticut, a measure to call a Constitutional Convention (and, implicitly, to rewrite the state’s constitution, ban gay marriage and overturn the Supreme Court’s decision from last month) failed HARD when put to the vote. 59%-41% with 96% reporting.

    While this doesn’t really mean that the state has voted FOR gay marriage, it does mean that they are simply not willing to fight against it, which is about as good as it seems to get when voters get their say.

  9. Yay! I would ask Sarah Palin to take Joe the Plumber with her when she goes back to Alaska but Ooxman might object.

    With all the lies and fear-mongering that McCain’s campaign was spewing out in the last few months they deserved to lose and lose hard. 7 million votes difference between the two candidates… suck on that, George Bush!

    Still bummed about Prop 8, but even if it does pass, the good guys/gals will eventually win.

  10. @wytworm:
    Admittedly that is what made my decision in the end. I come to this election facing the possibility of layoffs at work. I want to believe he understands the severity of the situation we face. But I confess I have my doubts. This may seem selfish to some but, I will share the enthusiasm of the rest of the country when he has proved worthy of the vote I have given.

  11. On the downside for the Democrats, who will they blame now when they fail? With rare exception, the Executive and the Legislative branches have been split between the major parties for decades. This has given each party a convenient excuse for failure. The Republicans crashed when they had Bush as President and Republican control of both houses of Congress. They no longer had the Democrats to blame for their failures. Now the Democrats will control Congress and Obama will be President. Let’s see what they do with it.

    Will there be any move to strengthen civil liberties? Will Joe “Drug War” Biden renounce civil forfeiture? Will they reduce defense spending and illegitimate military activity? Will they institute a sensible immigration policy?

    If they don’t do any of this, how will they be held responsible? How much do they have to fail before reasonable people reject them? Or, a bit more positively, what do they need to achieve to continue to receive your support?

    I am a Hedge

  12. What bugged me about the whole “hologram” thing is that Wolf was acting as if there were an actual hologram in front of him. There wasn’t. He was talking to an empty spot on the set. There was no hologram. It was just a bunch of motion-control cameras and a video compositing system. Still pretty cool but it’s not a frickin hologram.

  13. My personal favorite: “What’s God doing in your life?”
    Translation: “I’m getting ready to judge you.”

    Oh, y’all are talking ’bout other things?

    I am horrified and disappointed in my fellow Californians. This state is supposed to be progressive and a champion for civil rights.

    I know that this fight isn’t over… but right now I am just so hurt by these bigoted voters.

    /sigh

  14. I really think that the battle for gay rights is already won…just not in the present.

    The attitudes will change with the simple process of older generations dying off and younger generations replacing them. The evidence that the generation that is just now reaching adulthood just has no problem with same-sex romantic relationships is overwhelming.

    So the bigots can have their proposition now, and while it is disappointing that the needed change cannot come as fast as we would like, the end result will still be the same. We win. They lose.

  15. I think that yesterday’s election really how far the US have gone in just a generation.
    It is impressive an heart-warming.

    The passing of proposition 8 in so many states was disappointing; but I am convinced that, in one generation or less, these shameful amendments will be repealed and that the US might get their first homosexual president.

    It will probably take longer for atheism to rise to a similar level of acceptance but, that too, will happen sooner rather than later…

    I am happy and optimistic today and, even if I am not American myself, I have lived long enough here to feel proud for you.

    By electing Obama, the US are taking a big step toward regaining its position as leader of the free world. A position not given to it by its military power, but by its ability to uphold the ideals of democracy… And that’s pretty cool.

  16. @Some_Canadian_Skeptic:
    I let my breath out when I saw the headline in the Washington Post this morning. It’s a good beginning, but it is just that – a beginning. We have a long way to go and I doubt that it will be smooth.

    The Republican Party will do what they can to be obstructionist. Some Democrats will undoubtedly put their own interest over the country’s. Joe Lieberman may finally finish his journey to the Dark Side – or someone may just push him, to get it over with. :-D

    I am old enough to remember outright racism. Some of that has been submerged, but it is still lurking and waiting for a chance to return. I’ve seen its evil counterpart in the attacks against the gay and minority populations in the US.

    I can only hope that with this election, we can put the nightmare of the last eight years behind us (and the world) and get back to supporting and spreading true human rights, the rule of law (both domestic and international) and ending the divisiveness of religion-based policy.

  17. Woah…just read the Christian cliches (hilarious) and in the comments, a couple of people said that atheism being called a religion is like bald being called a hair color. I could have sworn that I came up with that analogy for some jesus lover either here or at pharyngula in the comments….did I create a meme, or am I just a hundredth monkey?

  18. I was surprised to see how close the popular vote really was 52-48. This was a resounding victory for Obama only in the electoral college.

    For all the gushy rhetoric, the country is NOT united, but still heavily divided. I’m very sad to say that race is the line in the sand that many people refused to cross last night. (just look at how Obama did in each county, not on the state-level, in the South). Americans need to stop polishing (or resting upon) their laurels: Yes, this was a tremendous symbolic victory. But true victory needs more than symbolism, it needs action.

    Supporters of Obama need to put some bite in that bark: end the war, secularize the state, work to enshrine gay-rights in the constitution, and finally empower that class of people that has long flown under the American (and Canadian) rader: the working poor (not just the simply poor, who need a whole other set up help, but the people who work, yet are still unable to climb out of the pit of poverty because of a capitalist system which rewards not work, but investment).

    I’m saying this not to prevent people from enjoying this (people should celebrate! This is a VERY good thing!), but to caution. To paraphrase Gramsci, the optimism of the will must be in concert with the pessism of intelligence.

  19. I am happy to witness an African-American becoming President in my lifetime. I always wanted to be able to tell my children that I witnessed a major event in U.S. history other than 9/11 … But I have to ask …

    Are there any skeptics on this blog who are not raging liberals? People who have not bought entirely into one party, as if they must be 100% right? Seriously … Do you really think Obama is going save us (or even has the power to) from a nose-diving economy? Have you read your history books? Your economics? Do you know how similar this situation is to Jimmy Carter, down to the policies proposed? Do you have any skepticism at all about this? … Or is the level of analysis reduced to “Well, he’s not Bush.”

    And what about this culture war about use of the word “marriage”? You know, just two days ago, Obama made clear that he does not support The Defense of Marriage Act and does support legal rights for all domestic partners (my position also), but he clearly personally defines “marriage” as between one man and one woman. Yet, he likes to have his cake and eat it too – saying he did not support Prop 8 either. So watch the ball with Obama everbody, because Clinton promised to be the gay-friendly President, and then he back don’t-ask-don’t tell. But hey, why be skeptical, right? … Just call anyone who doesn’t agree with your social/cultural agenda a “bigot.” It’s the American way.

  20. @Some Canadian Skeptic: You’re welcome, and we mark your cautions well. Have they called prop 8 in CA yet? Last I heard, they were still counting ballots, and it’s pretty close. Prop 4 was passing when I looked last night, but this morning it was failing by a wide margin. If prop 8 does pass, I feel strongly that it will wind up in the courts again. It is, by its very nature, an unconstitutional measure. My only fear is that the current SCOTUS might uphold it if it gets that far.

    Last night was definitely exciting and breathtaking to watch. We’re on the west coast, so my wife and I were eating dinner while the east coast counts were starting to trickle in. I told my wife that it would be nice, for a change, to have a president win both the electoral and popular elections with a nice comfortable margin. After Obama crossed the 200 electoral vote threshhold, it was pretty clear he was going to win, and I decided to run to the grocery store to get some ice cream to celebrate. When I got back, the west coast polls had just closed, which cinched it. I hear that impromptu parties were breaking out in major cities all over the country. Thousands of people were whooping it up right in front of the White House.

    The most amazing thing, to me, is that several states where the Republican party has had a strong foothold for many years, have flipped the other way, and not necessarily by small margins. I feel like my country is waking up from a long nap and stretching its limbs.

  21. @Some Canadian Skeptic:

    For all the gushy rhetoric, the country is NOT united, but still heavily divided.

    Or it could be that the major parties are not heavily divided, so it’s mostly a toss-up for most voters. Obama is a young, energetic, and attractive guy, while McCain is an old curmudgeon. I doubt most people made their choices on detailed policy analysis.

    …but the people who work, yet are still unable to climb out of the pit of poverty because of a capitalist system which rewards not work, but investment)

    I think this is a myth. In the US, there is very little excuse for being poor. (In fact, it’s quite laughable to see what qualifies as ‘poor’ around here.) People make bad decisions, and this is what prevents them from succeeding. If it is true that the system rewards “not work, but investment”, that is also no excuse. Nothing is preventing the poor from investing, except their own bad decision not to.

    I am a Hedge

  22. @TheSkepticalMale: You have a good point that this is similar to the Jimmy Carter days. The difference here is that Obama is a Constitutional scholar and that we are all hoping that he can assemble a team of the ‘best and the brightest’ to find a way out of the mess we are currently experiencing. Perhaps his fresh view of our problems might be valuable. I certainly hope he puts right the Constitutional mess Bush/Cheney made with their “unitary executive” theory (IMHO, a fancy way of saying “dictator”).

    One must also consider the alternative presented: a continuation of the past eight years or a break from them. What could voters do? Vote for Nader? ;-) Voting for Obama was as much a gamble as it was evidence-based (at least for me). That’s how life is at times. Each person weighs alternatives and makes a decision. Educated guess? Whatever you want to call it.

    I used to be a Republican and gradually changed my mind during the decade of the 1980’s as I saw what the party was actually doing to the country. The takeover of the party by the Christain Right was the final straw for me in that regard. Mixing the state and religion is never a good idea.

    None of us can say with accuracy what the future holds for the Obama Presidency. We can only hope that it will be better than the past Administration. We can try to affect his decisions with our letters, e-mails, etc. This is the first Administration in my lifetime that I think may actually listen.

  23. @TheSkepticalMale: Good points.

    I don’t think that everyone here is a raging liberal… but I do tend to think that when one looks at things with a skeptical mindset one tends to lean away from the typical “conservative’ mindset and that leads to liberalism, libertarianism, and such.

    Just my humble opinion.

    As a raging non-partisan liberal.
    Dating a Sort-of-Libertarian

  24. @TheSkepticalMale: I don’t think Obama is the chosen one, if that’s what you’re getting at. I am a liberal (raging? I don’t know), but not a registered democrat, and I don’t generally vote on party lines. I like Obama for his general stance on many issues, but I disagree with him on a few specifics, so I will certainly be watching very closely. My greatest hope is that he will be a force of unification for this country; that both liberals and conservatives will be able to get behind him. Note I say “hope.”

    When it comes to marriage, as far as I’m concerned, he’s welcome to personally define it any way he likes. So long as he doesn’t intend to legislate on his personal preferences, which he has gone on record saying that he will not do.

    I am concerned about reports that he is in support of federal funding for faith-based initiatives. We’ll have to wait and see where that goes.

  25. Like @jabell2r I am cautiously optimistic. My fear is that now most of America will go back to not paying any attention to politics and the newly elected will get a free pass to fall into same the trap of greed and self-interest that their predecessors fell into.

  26. @TheSkepticalMale:

    Are there any skeptics on this blog who are not raging liberals?

    Oooh, oooh, pick me, pick me. **frantically waving arm above head**

    That’s assuming you mean “liberal” in the modern sense, not the classical sense. Because I am the latter – even ragingly so.

    I am a Hedge

  27. @TheSkepticalMale:

    I can only assume your call for “raging liberals” was, at least in part, directed at me.

    First: Bill Clinton was bullied into “don’t-ask, don’t-tell” by the repubulican congress and military establishment when he tried to make some headway to remove the silly law that homosexuals couldn’t serve. He didn’t “back” it at all, nor did he design it: it was a compromise (a lame one, mind you) meant to placate the religious and military bullies.

    Secondly, Jimmy Carter was a southern, white, baptist son of the soil….his campaign was very of its time, and such a campaign could not succeed today (look at John Edward). He had the benefit of running after the Nixon administration….which angered people not because of policy, but because of, well, Nixon-level corruption. While its true that Obama is benefiting greatly from the “not-Bush” mentality, Carter offered nothing even remotely resembling the scale of change that Obama is preaching (and I’ll agree, campaign promises are largely meaningless, but the situations are quite different).

    Thirdly, as for his stance on gay marriage….I thought that is exactly what I was getting at. Look at how badly gay-rights fared yesterday, and that people should not polish their laurels acting like bigotry was defeated with the election of a man whose skin color carried with it a degree of national guilt. Black America won a symbolic victory in the electoral college. Gay rights suffered many crushing defeats, and anyone with a degree of respect for human-rights needs to pressure him to set the national agenda which would prevent such archaic oppression to carry on. The job isn’t done, and no one was suggesting that.

    Fourthly, your claim that “Just call anyone who doesn’t agree with your social/cultural agenda a “bigot.” “ is incredibly ignorant and arrogant. No one acted like that, and certainly not just because they don’t “agree with [our] social agenda”.

    Fifthly, the people who backed the various gay-rights-squashing amendments did so for extremely bigoted reasons. Let’s call a spade a spade here. As Pierre Trudeau said, “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation”, and these supporters used some of the most dispicible tactics (fear-mongering, and outright lying to name a couple) to pass their BIGOTED agenda. This is not a benign difference on culture/social values: it is naked oppression driven by homophobic zealotry (usually backed by the various churches)

  28. I’m a sort-of Libertarian?

    Well, I guess I have some of those tendencies, but enough of a grasp on history to not go ga-ga over the “Unfettered Free Market” ideal. So, fair enough, I suppose.

    SkepticMale: While I am pleased that it was Obama and not McCain (a feeling reinforced by his selection of Palin as his running mate), I am not overly enthusiastic about either the intention or abaility to turn rhetoric into actual policy, so, no, not everyone here is a “raging liberal.”

    As for the term bigot, when someone argues that another should have their rights limited based on what is really a completely arbitrary thing, that meets the definition of bigotry pretty spot-on. And the whole “seperate but equal” reasoning behind “not marriage but domestic partnerships” logically tracks pretty closely to the “seperate but equal” reasoning behind the policies that Brown vs. The Board of Education took down.

    So, the term is not used without reason.

  29. @Im a Hedge:
    Nothing is preventing the poor from investing, except their own bad decision not to.

    Well, what not having money to invest in the first place. Sadly, tens of millions of American have to make the decision of whether to eat, or heat. Investment is not an option for these people, and I think its despicable that you blame them for being lazy and/or ignorant.

    If you think that “poor” doesn’t exist in America, I really suggest you look a little harder. There is poverty that compares with the worst of SE Asia, South America, Latin America and even parts of Africa.

  30. Are there any skeptics on this blog who are not raging liberals? People who have not bought entirely into one party, as if they must be 100% right?

    I’m a member of the Green Party, but I vote for Democrats in almost every election. I do not buy entirely into one party as if they were, or could ever be, anywhere near 100% right. But I am, indeed, a raging liberal.

  31. @Some Canadian Skeptic:

    Well, [about] what not having money to invest in the first place. Sadly, tens of millions of American have to make the decision of whether to eat, or heat.

    Nonsense. If they have to make this decision, it is because they have already made a long string of poor decisions. US Federal minimum wage is $6.55/hr. A full-time job is 2000 hrs/year, resulting in $13,100/year. While it may not provide the lifestyle we would wish for, there is no excuse for someone with that much income needing to decide between “eat or heat”. There’s also little excuse for someone in that position not having more than one job, bringing in substantially more than that much per year. I lived on less than that as a full-time student with three part-time jobs. I payed rent and I bought food. I had enough left over to buy a couple CDs now and then (money that I could have invested, if I was concerned about my financial future).

    Do you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t buy alcohol, I didn’t buy cigarettes, I didn’t eat out or get pizza delivered. I worked, I got paid, I paid my bills, I ate a lot of rice, I wore sweaters in the winter. You may despise me for it if you like, but that doesn’t change the facts. For most people in the US there is no excuse. Perpetual poverty is a lifestyle choice for all but a small minority (who have severe physical or mental disabilities that seriously limit their options).

    I am a Hedge

  32. @TheSkepticalMale:

    “Are there any skeptics on this blog who are not raging liberals?”

    (Raises hand)

    I did vote for Obama and I am very happy he won. That said, I do not think he is a messiah and do disagree with him on any number of issues.

    My personal view on where the Democrats are most likely to go off the rails is in their already burgeoning flirtation with protectionism. It is easy to like the idea of keeping jobs here in U.S. instead of exporting them. Unfortunately, history shows that protectionist countries accomplish little aside from pummeling their own economies.

    Inevitably, this philosophy leads to propping up industries that are not performing and that leads to throwing a ton of good money after bad.

    I hope that Obama keeps his promise to listen to multiple points of view in the way that he governs instead of just charging ahead with his own plans. The latter pretty much never works out as planned and is ultimately what got Carter and Clinton into trouble. They both assumed everyone else would fall into line and that didn’t happen.

    The biggest problem with Bush is that he is indefatigable once he is set in motion, evidence that things are not working out be damned. He just doesn’t change course…ever. If Obama does the same, he will also get poor results. A liberal who does not reassess his course in the face of evidence is no more smart or enlightened than a conservative who fails to do so.

    I also do admit to a certain emotional appeal for Obama. I like the guy. I want him to succeed. That’s not especially skeptical of me, but I certainly don’t claim perfect skepticism. I do try to do the best I can.

    “Do you have any skepticism at all about this?”

    Frankly, a lot of people here don’t seem to display a lot of skepticism about their own political views, as has been amply shown in other threads. It has kept me from entering discussions in the past, and I have no intention of participating in a similar level of discourse if it erupts in this thread either.

    I like to think I re-examine my views from time to time, but it is very difficult to do.

    “Just call anyone who doesn’t agree with your social/cultural agenda a “bigot.””

    I am very much in favor of not demonizing everyone who has a different political viewpoint. It is a reliable indicator of someone with a poorly-thought-out political ideology.

    That said, I do believe in using a term when it is warranted. From the advertisements for yes on Proposition 8, it is quite clear that the movement was fueled by bigotry against homosexuals.

  33. I am very liberal. I don’t think it is right to deny marriage between consenting adults. I think that is driven by hatred and bigotry and nothing else. The opponets use code words and phrases but what they are saying is basically “I hate gays, they are scary and I hate them, I want them all locked up.” As far as Obama being able to solve all of the problems well I don’t think anyone believes that but his election is still a good thing. I think he will be a good president. I think he will be better than McCain would have been. I hope that he is able to do a lot of good. I am happy to see a president that looks like my kids half white and half black. My beef with Libertarians and with Atheists is that they can both be so idealistic that they would rather burn down the house than fix the leaking faucet because the leaking faucet makes the house imperfect.

  34. @Im a Hedge:

    Nonsense. If they have to make this decision, it is because they have already made a long string of poor decisions

    I think you’re forgetting that most people who are in poverty, are born there. A person who is born into poverty has a 2% liklihood of rising out of that status (I don’t have a source handy, but if you like, give me a few days and I can dig into my old records).

    Als0, $13,000/year is poverty. It may not be africa-poverty, but it’s still FAR too little to invest. While you were a student, I suspect that you didn’t have a family to support as well.

    Quit blaming the poor as being lazy, unproductive leechers on society. The facts of poverty are out there and to deny the systemic reasons for American (and Canadian) poverty, you have to be willfully ignorant, and stick your fingers in your ears.

    Some, indeed mant of the working poor in our two countries are poor for many reasons, and I think it’s grossly irresponsible to simply brush it off as “they’re lazy and stupid” and “look at me, I did fine”.

  35. @Im a Hedge: Something is wrong with your math I think.

    Here is a model:

    6.55 an hour, 40 hours a week for 52 weeks is 13624 (before any taxes)

    Cost of living…lets make it general

    40 bucks a week for food is 160 a month
    Transport (lets use the CHEAPEST method of a monthly bus pass… and since I am doing this, for my area) 65 a month
    Heat: (again using my place with its lack of a heater and a lack of AC: 40 a month (keep in mind I live in CA where the extremes are not that bad.. some people HAVE to run the heater etc)
    Phone/net: (again, what I pay) 35
    General household: (this is stuff like misc other household expenses, trash, water, laundry, prescriptions etc… lets make it a nice not too high number) 150 a month
    Rent: here it gets picky, but lets say you live in a teeny tiny rat infested place in downtown you are going to pay at least 700 a month

    Total monthly costs: 1150

    1150 times 12 is 13800

    Again… 6.55 an hour, 40 hours a week for 52 weeks is 13624 (BEFORE ANY TAXES!!!!)

    That is 176 bucks “extra” a year (or 15 bucks a month) that can disapere rather quickly if say you have any sort of credit card debt, you want any sor t of medical insurance, you get sick and have to miss a few days of work…..)

    Just saying.

  36. @Some Canadian Skeptic: Use of the term “bigot”? … Oh, how about this:

    “The book of bigotry in America was not closed last night. At best, a singular chapter on racism in America has been completed, only to open to the next ugly chapter. Voters in Arkansas, Arizona, California, and Florida have demonstrated the hatred and bigotry of the new nigger in America: the homosexual. Antiquated religious dogma, backed by millions of dollars to spread blatent lied designed to appeal to people’s lower-natures (fear, anger, and more fear) have truly stained what should otherwise be a great day for America. ” …

    So what about the people of California who support giving domestic partners the same legal rights of married couples (which a majority of Californians did by statute) who just didn’t happen to accept your definition of “marriage” by voting for Prop 8? It sure seems like you are calling those “voters” bigots to me. Am I missing something? Or am I just “ignorant” and “arrogant”?

  37. @TheSkepticalMale: I don’t know about Canada but I am calling the people who voted yes on 8 bigots. From what I saw of that proposition it was driven by bigotry. Bigotry, hatred, etc. All I heard were the old code words and phrases. They didn’t stand up and say “I fucking hate gays and want them all dead.” They weren’t that out about it but I heard bigotry and haterd and fear in everything they said.

  38. @ Hedge: I can show you some pretty severe third-world type poverty within 10 minutes drive of my house in a middle class town in West Virginia. And I know what third-world poverty looks like from my time in the Caribbean.

    From your comments about ‘decisions,’ I take it that you believe that making a few poor decisions in your foolish youth should condemn you to a lifetime of poverty? I know many young people that didn’t even have to make a bad choice to end up there. They were born into poor families and couldn’t find a way out.

    For example, $13,100/year in the DC Metro area would leave you living in an apartment with a dozen room mates (if you are lucky enough to have enough friends with paychecks for rent) or in a culvert.

    There is also a lot of endemic unemployment in the poor, too. There are only so many jobs that they can be hired to do. The playing field is almost vertical for these people. How can someone find their way out of poverty when their life experience tells them that there is no such path?

    It seems to me that you have bought into the conservative belief that all poor people want to be that way or are too lazy to work their way out.

  39. I’m also skeptical about the coming administration’s ability to change the economy.

    I don’t share the public’s opinion that the economy was the most important issue in deciding between the candidates… for me, there was absolutely no choice to begin with: there is no way I would ever vote for a republican president. Ever. Period. End of story. No exceptions. Stop asking. Go home.

    So, yup: I am absolutely a raging liberal. (I’m also a registered Green.)

    The ends don’t justify the means for me. Even if, as a friend of mine once said, “the ends are the only thing that can justify the means.” The ends are obviously important. But even if–for example–child labor is scientifically proven to eventually help an entire country achieve financial improvements, it’s not worth it. Not in my book. Find another way.

    But that’s a personal rant. Get back to your regularly scheduled debating. ; )

  40. @Some Canadian Skeptic:

    I think you’re forgetting that most people who are in poverty, are born there. A person who is born into poverty has a 2% liklihood of rising out of that status (I don’t have a source handy, but if you like, give me a few days and I can dig into my old records).

    I’m happy to accept your numbers without reference for this discussion. There are a couple possible reasons for this low level of rising from poverty. One reason would be something genetic that predisposes people towards poverty. Another reason is learned behaviors that predispose people towards poverty. Without any real data, I tend to disregard the first option as much less likely than the second. This would mean that the causes for poverty are under the control of the individuals in question. The fact that they start at a disadvantage, due to accident of birth, is unfortunate, but it does not absolve them of the responsibility of bettering their own situation if that is what they desire. I don’t think they are helped by being told “it’s not under your control, there’s nothing you can do about it”. It is under their control, and there is something they can do about it.

    Also, $13,000/year is poverty. It may not be africa-poverty, but it’s still FAR too little to invest. While you were a student, I suspect that you didn’t have a family to support as well.

    It might be considered poverty around here, which I think says some very good things about our society. I did not have a family to support, but I was a full-time student. If I did have a family to support, I would have studied less and worked more. Please note that having a family is a choice.

    Quit blaming the poor as being lazy, unproductive leechers on society.

    Your words, not mine. I said it’s a lifestyle choice. I completely support the right of people to choose this lifestyle. I also support their right to choose to change it. The primary means to do this would be to work harder.

    …and I think it’s grossly irresponsible to simply brush it off as “they’re lazy and stupid” and “look at me, I did fine”.

    Again, your words, not mine. The only reason I used personal examples is to show that I’m not simply talking theory. I know for a fact that it is possible to live at that income level without freezing or starving.

    I am a Hedge

  41. @Kaylia_Marie:

    Something is wrong with your math I think.

    Could be. I was certainly more vague than your example. I used 2000 hours, which I think is commonly taken as “full-time”. (40 hours/week with two weeks vacation).

    To be sure we’re still on the same topic, I initially responded to Some Canadian Skeptics comment about “the people who work, yet are still unable to climb out of the pit of poverty because of a capitalist system which rewards not work, but investment)”. I think what your example has shown, perhaps better than my personal anecdote, is that even at the floor level of income, the ‘working poor’ are able to feed, clothe, and house themselves with relative ease. If they get additional income, which is a simple as getting another job, then they can begin to “climb out of the pit of poverty”. If they restrict their spending further, perhaps getting a less-expensive apartment (this cost varies greatly geographically. I don’t pay $700, and my home is not even rat-infested), they can also begin to climb. If they get a job paying a bit more than minimum wage, they also climb. I don’t have the figures right now, but I don’t think may people stay at minimum wage for long.

    Again… 6.55 an hour, 40 hours a week for 52 weeks is 13624 (BEFORE ANY TAXES!!!!)

    Perhaps we have a point of agreement here. People are over-taxed.

    By the way, bravo for the effort on the budget.

    I am a Hedge

  42. @TheSkepticalMale:

    Are most of the people who voted yes on Prop 8 horrific ogres? No.

    Do most people who voted yes on Prop 8 specifically wish ill on homosexuals? Probably not.

    Are people who want to reserve the word “marriage” for heterosexuals but otherwise mean them no ill fortune revealing a prejudice? Yes they are. They are saying that loving homosexual relationships do not rise to the level where they can use our special heterosexual term to describe it.

    I have no doubt that these are decent people who do not think they are attacking gays…but they are attacking gays. I’m not going to use the same tone to talk about them as I would the assholes who made TV ads comparing gays to pedophiles. But they are engaging in bigotry by the definition of the word.

    On a larger scale, we all have prejudices. We are all bigots. It’s just a matter of degree. Decent people have an ugly side, and we shouldn’t engage in the ridiculous moral equivalence which finds the ugly sides of decent people the same as the vileness of truly toxic people.

    But we must also not accept the idea that because someone is basically a decent person he or she should be shielded from criticism of his or her darker natures.

  43. @Im a Hedge:
    “the ‘working poor’ are able to feed, clothe, and house themselves with relative ease.”

    I must not have made my point after all. That was/is not “relative ease” that is a teeny tiny box with no allowances for medical insurance, taxes, getting sick, or emergencies.

    “If they get additional income, which is a simple as getting another job”

    Where in the world is it simple to get “another” job? Not anywhere I have ever heard of.

    “If they restrict their spending further, perhaps getting a less-expensive apartment (this cost varies greatly geographically. I don’t pay $700, and my home is not even rat-infested), they can also begin to climb.”

    Please tell me how (given the budget I listed one would be able to spend less besides rent… which can be pretty difficult. A quick google search led me to this page: http://www.discoverabroad.com/US/LivingAbroad/Housing/ApartmentMore.htm (scroll down) where you can see my 700 average was pretty fair.

    I also don’t have data about how long people stay at minimum wage… but I have a feeling that a lot of people do tend to stay there or at just above for long periods of time.

    I am not saying people shouldn’t take personal responsibility for their income and lifestyle and that yes we all need to be careful with out money… just that poverty is a trap, it is a hard HARD thing to pull out of and that when one flippantly shrugs one’s shoulders and says “For most people in the US there is no excuse. Perpetual poverty is a lifestyle choice for all but a small minority” I think that you are oversimplifying a very complex problem.

    I need to look up how to do block quotes, I apologize

  44. @TheCzech: I need to go back and see if I agree with everything you have ever said in other threads or if it is just this thread…

    Spot on with the “Are people who want to reserve the word “marriage” for heterosexuals but otherwise mean them no ill fortune revealing a prejudice? Yes they are. They are saying that loving homosexual relationships do not rise to the level where they can use our special heterosexual term to describe it.”

    /claps with gusto

  45. @QuestionAuthority:

    From your comments about ‘decisions,’ I take it that you believe that making a few poor decisions in your foolish youth should condemn you to a lifetime of poverty?

    I don’t think it should (well, depending on how foolish). I think most people are capable of improving their situation if they choose to do so. I don’t think it is, or necessarily should be, painless for them to do it. I think it is harmful to essentially tell young people who have grown up in poverty that there is nothing they can do about it. It is incorrect to claim that capitalism is somehow responsible for this supposed inability of them to improve their lives. Capitalism is probably the best system for allowing such economic mobility on a sustainable basis. To claim that their cause is hopeless risks becoming self-fulfilling prophecy.

    It seems to me that you have bought into the conservative belief that all poor people want to be that way or are too lazy to work their way out.

    We’re talking about responsible adults. We are talking about people who are capable of doing productive work. What are the possible reasons why a responsible adult capable of performing productive work would be living in poverty in what is arguably the most affluent society in history?

    I am a Hedge

  46. @Im a Hedge:

    I can’t think of a way to articulate it to make it easier for you to understand. Further I am confident based on your other posts in this thread that you do get it, you just don’t want it. Everyone else’s responses describe the flaw in your premise nicely.

    Aww, c’mon Rebecca. How else am I going to find out where (and why) I’m wrong?

    The reason one is tempted to not allow political threads is that they are commonly used for trolling and result in flame wars instead of legitimate respectful debate. Read upwards through the thread to find the obvious examples.

  47. @Im a Hedge:

    What are the possible reasons why a responsible adult capable of performing productive work would be living in poverty in what is arguably the most affluent society in history?

    I think this has been said… and then said again and again.

    At this point I am with wytworm and must move on before my head explodes like Sam’s :P

  48. @wytworm:

    I can’t think of a way to articulate it to make it easier for you to understand. Further I am confident based on your other posts in this thread that you do get it, you just don’t want it.

    Now, now. When forced to choose between incompetence and maliciousness, one should assume incompetence first. You should be gracious enough to grant that I am simply too dense to understand the brilliant arguments that have been presented, and I just need it explained more slowly, in smaller words.

    I am a Hedge

  49. @Kaylia_Marie:

    I think this has been said… and then said again and again.

    I suppose I have to accept the responsibility here. I think I am not managing to be clear enough on where the disagreement is, and why I bother. I’m not attempting to disregard any of the points that have been made. I just do not agree that these problems mean that people are not ultimately responsible for changing their own situation. You may be dealt a bad hand, but that does not excuse you from making the best of it. I also disagree that it is necessarily the fault of capitalism that these problems exist in the first place. This is a sentiment that comes up from time to time, often simply tossed in to the conversation as an afterthought; as something that should simply be taken for granted. I challenge this assumption.

    I think when people who are willing and able to perform productive work are unable to succeed, through no fault of their own, something is wrong in the system. I do not find it satisfactory to stop at that point, and just blame “The System”. What, specifically, is wrong with the system? Before we conclude that something is wrong with the system, we should be sure that the supposed problem exists. Is it true that people who are willing and able to do productive work are failing, though no fault of their own? I think that is a key point we have come to in this discussion. I do not think it is unacceptable to ask the question. I do not think it is helpful to act as though even to ask the question is some sort of crime.

    If we look at human existence historically, we find that we live at a time of almost unbelievable wealth. For most humans that have existed, life has been a horrible and tedious ordeal. Today, in the US, our wealth has become so great that a family with a car, a television, a microwave, a two-bedroom apartment, indoor plumbing, safe-clean-pleantiful food, ‘free’ education, guaranteed emergency medical care, an on-call police force, etc, etc, can be considered poor. This poor family gets all of this by virtue of a single family member working 40 hours a week (this is what I mean by ‘relative ease’). It’s absolutely amazing. It’s unfortunate that this level of economic success is not more appreciated. It’s even more unfortunate that the economic system that underlies this wealth is disparaged for not being more successful.

    If it is true that a capitalist economy is largely responsible for our current standard of living, then it is dangerous to allow it to be attacked as an evil thing. So, I sometimes respond when I see this happening.

    If it is false that a capitalist economy is largely responsible for our current standard of living, then I want to find out what is, and start supporting that.

    It my seem like a flame war at times, but I would ask that you review my comments and ask yourself if a generous reading of them supports my contention that I am engaged in honest debate and seeking the truth. I’ve made a conscientious effort to respond to everyone’s points, and I think the harshest thing I’ve said was “Nonsense”, which I find acceptable in a discussion such as this, (but I’ll apologize if you like, SCS).

    If you’ve been reading my comments in various threads for a while, you know that I’m primarily a goofball. But I don’t think we need to avoid the serious discussions. As I’ve said before, I choose Skepchick because there’s a chance of learning something here. That doesn’t happen by making fart jokes. Unless you’re trying to learn how to make better fart jokes.

    I am a Hedge

  50. Wasn’t this whole thing started with talk of investing?

    Can’t we agree that some people have the (surplus) income to invest and others simply do not?

    Yes, we are all ultimately responsible for trying to better our situation… the fact is though that try as we might, some people have a harder time than others… and for some people it is extremely difficult if nigh on impossible.

    Is it true that people who are willing and able to do productive work are failing, though no fault of their own?

    Yes. I think it is. I might be wrong or mistaken or the question might be too broad…but on the whole, yes. This isn’t to say that all people who are failing (ie poor) are at no fault… indeed that would be a gross mistake as well. But I do think there is a proportion of our society that is indeed doing all they can with what they have and still struggling to heat and eat.

    Maybe I am a bleeding heart as well as a raging liberal.

    This poor family gets all of this by virtue of a single family member working 40 hours a week

    I am not sure if that is practical… see my example above. In fact.. I think this portion of your paragraph is mighty simplistic again in dealing with a very complex problem.

    I have no idea wha is or is not largly or minimally responsible for the current issues. I leave that to more educated people…. Again, I was just saying that this issue is complex, minimum wage is a pittance, and that the whole thing sucks.

    Make that a frustrated bleeding heart raging liberal who is thankful to not be trapped in the cycle of poverty.

    Who now must get back to work and the quickly cooling food type product quietly congealing on my desk.

  51. Well, as to the prop 8 thing, we had something similar in MI that passed 2 years ago (I voted against it) but at least we can now smoke pot and do stem cell research on unused embryonic stem cells from fertility clinics.

  52. @Kaylia_Marie and @TheCzech:

    “Bigotry,” by definition, means “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.”

    There is no objective definition of marriage. Yet most of you speak with the same level of confidence that you exhibit in scientifically verifiable phenomenon, such as evolution … As a cultural/religious institution, marriage is defined by history; and as a social institution, it is defined by one’s own personal beliefs. On the former, there is no history whatsoever to support the notion that a homosexual couple should have a fundamental constitutional right to use the word “marriage”; and on the latter, nobody is stopping a homosexual couple from marrying in their own churches and communities or entering into domestic partnership arrangements … I’m not interested in devoting tax money or what little political attention exists in the electorate to trying to force one group to accept my own social/cultural/religious beliefs or to fix “the ugly side of decent people” (in your opinion) – it’s a bad investment either way … You folks keep characterizing Prop 8 as “taking away a right,” as if the constitutional right always existed as a result of a 5-month old 4-to-3 court decision, even though there is absolutely nothing in the California constitution about the right to marry, discrimination based on sexual orientation, or the “protection” under the law offered by using a label and nothing more … What’s worse is that government action like that of the California Supreme Court alienates those who would support dismantling The Defense of Marriage Act, which is the real source of significant discrimination of domestic partners, by expanding the battle from equal substantive legal rights to social/cultural/religious definitions. (A majority of Calfiornians believe there should be equal rights for domestic partners.)

    As for who is or is not a “bigot,” my opinion is: When reasonable minds will differ on a definition not amenable to support by objective evidence (i.e., “marriage”) and there are no substantive legal rights involved other than use of that word (i.e., California already treated domestic partners the same as married couples by statute), it is bigotry, by definition, to attempt to use the force of government to cram your own opinion of that definition down the throats of others – whether the cramming process takes place through the progressive dogma within the decision of the California Supreme Court or through religious dogma behind the supporters of Prop 8.

  53. @QuestionAuthority: I appreciate your comments, and I sincerely hope you are right about Obama … In the grand scheme of things, I feel much more comfortable with a man who is articulate and intelligent as Obama than I did with Bush (who was an embarrassment from day 1 – I lived in Texas under his gubernatorial rule) … The fact that I am skeptical doesn’t mean that I don’t have hope – in fact, reasonable expectations of the powers of the President over the economy and the legislative process means that the skeptic is probably going to be less hard on him than those who seem to think he’s the second coming of Christ … Nonetheless, I think we need to temper this Obamagasm with a reminder to the President-Elect that we listened to the promises, we remember history, and we will be watching carefully during these difficult times to come.

  54. @TheSkepticalMale: Wait a sec…

    If someone says “gay people should not be allowed to get married because my religion says it is wrong” isn’t that by your very definition being bigoted?

    It doesn’t matter what the actual subject matter is… a whole slew of people want to do something (in this case; get married). Laws keep some of them from doing so… based on an antiquated definition of a word and a moral justification that stems from a religious viewpoint. Is that wrong? Not always (replace “get married’ with “have sex with children”) But in this case it IS wrong.

    Why the difference?

    Why do we have laws? Laws are there to protect society… sometimes from ourselves. We make laws to protect people from discrimination… and at one point in our history we made laws to discriminate as well.. but thankfully times have changed and there are no longer laws against interracial marriage or black people voting or women holding property etc.

    We have evolved. Our language needs to as well.

    Definitions of words change over time… to fit the needs of society.

    What harm would be done by allowing the word “marriage” to pertain to two consenting adults instead of pertaining to two straight consenting adults? The only “harm” would come from the religious aspects… and I don’t think I need to point out the obvious fallacy with that.

    What benefits would come about from changing the definition of marriage to be more inclusive? I can think of many, one of the first being that a group of people would not be treated differently under law based solely on sexual orientation.

    As far as the end bit… we all know “separate but equal” doesn’t really work… well “different but equal” doesn’t really work either.

    To quote Czech:

    They are saying that loving homosexual relationships do not rise to the level where they can use our special heterosexual term to describe it.

    Labels and words have power and sway and importance. That is why we use them.

    Until (unless?) there is no stigma attached to a getting a civil union or having a domestic partnership… getting either of those things is NOT the same as getting married.

  55. @Kaylia_Marie: At the outset, Kaylia, I really do appreciate your civil, non-dismissive participation in this debate, regardless of the political nature of it. :) So here is my response …

    If someone says “gay people should not be allowed to get married because my religion says it is wrong” isn’t that by your very definition being bigoted?

    Yes … just as bigoted as using the force of law (via California court decision) to tell the people of California that “Gay people should be allowed to use the word ‘marriage’ because religion is dumb or because my religion/sense of culture/personal views are more progressive than yours.” … Neither view can be supported by evidence, and reasonable minds will differ. And in this context, there is nothing at stake in terms of equal protection under the law other than use of a word.

    Why do we have laws? Laws are there to protect society… We have evolved. Our language needs to as well … Until (unless?) there is no stigma attached to a getting a civil union or having a domestic partnership… getting either of those things is NOT the same as getting married.

    Is it the purpose of our laws and the government to police the use of language? To remove stigmas? Well, since women have the same substantive rights as men under the law (as domestic partners already had the same rights of married couples via California statute), I suppose the California Supreme Court should now rule that a woman has a constitutional right to call herself a “man” on government documents – after all, language is everything, being a woman still carries a stigma, and separate is never equal. Reductio ad absurd um? Perhaps. But it’s no more absurd than comparing the denial of equal rights to vote, to own property, to have access to an education (for women and African-Americans) to that of simply using the word “marriage” on a certificate, which is all that is practically at stake.

    And be careful with that slipperly slope. I would argue that the segment of the population that suffers the most discrimination in western society – practically speaking (with respect to getting jobs, etc.) – are the unattractive, the overweight, etc. What would you propose we do to attack that stigma in this Brave New World of “legalizing” cultural norms?

    What harm would be done by allowing the word “marriage” to pertain to two consenting adults instead of pertaining to two straight consenting adults? The only “harm” would come from the religious aspects… and I don’t think I need to point out the obvious fallacy with that.

    Well, if marriage has nothing to do with prospects of procreation – an “antiquated” idea that needs to be purged – what is the harm of allowing two members of the same family from being married? … And what is the harm of allowing more than two consenting adults to marry? … Seriously, let’s just go hog-wild with those constitutional rights fighting stigmas!

    Seriously though, the harm is this: The movement for equal rights (which I support) could actually put its resources to work and realize that a majority of the electorate would back the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act – the real source of discrimination in terms of substantive legal rights – instead of alienating the majority of the electorate by waging semantic culture wars by interpreting/amending constitutional law.

  56. Skepticmale: I think that you make a point worth considering when you say that energy might be better directed towards defeating the federal “Defense of Mariage Act” than state-by-state laws.

    However, in stating that

    Yes … just as bigoted as using the force of law (via California court decision) to tell the people of California that “Gay people should be allowed to use the word ‘marriage’ because religion is dumb or because my religion/sense of culture/personal views are more progressive than yours.”

    you are stating that the rights of one group to simply not be offended is as important as the rights of another group to have their fixed relationships viewed as equal under the law.

    And the notion that marriage and civil unions are equal, propogatd by the proponents of Proposition 8, is not really supported by observable reality. The very fact that there are different terms has led to different treatment and different terms of interaction with government agencies.

    So, while you make a very good point as regards the federal law, you also are guilty of a failure of critical thinking as regards civil unions vs. marriage that is equal to that of which you accuse your opponents in this argument.

  57. I’ve only had time to skim this thread, but it appears to be the longest civil discussion of politics between disagreeing parties on the Internet. I’m going to see about getting us into an award book of some kind. Thanks, everyone!

  58. As far as I see, there is no compelling local, state or federal reason for preventing same-sex civil unions. None.

    I also see no compelling reason for anyone to intrude on their privacy to make that decision, any more than the state telling heterosexual couples who they should marry. Those that don’t like the idea of same-sex civil unions should simply leave the folks alone.

    For example, I don’t particularly like the fundies, but I don’t go around trying to pass bills against their beliefs and actions, as long as they don’t try to inflict them on me. Basically, it’s no one’s damned business except for the people involved. Funny how the conservatives claim that they are going to “get the government off of the people’s backs” – What they neglect to say is that they are merely moving government onto someone else’s back. Someone they think is too weak to prevent it.

    I have a sister-in-law in a long term same-sex relationship. I have immense respect for her and her partner. (Her partner is hysterically funny! She could give Ellen DeGeneres a run for her money!) If they want a civil union, I say let them.

    Our civilization and culture is not nearly as fragile as some would like us to believe. People used to emote that freeing the slaves, allowing mixed race marriages and granting African Americans the right to vote would each be the end of the US. Surprise, we’re still here. :-D

    Accepting same-sex marriage is not going to “end the world” or “cause cats and dogs to cohabit.” (I love that line for some reason. Maybe it’s because I have five dogs and three cats cohabiting at home!) I hope to live to see same-sex unions to be as unremarkable as heterosexual unions.

  59. @Rebecca: Should I up the ante? How about marriage between consenting adults becomes a completely civil matter instead of a governmental one? There’s a big slab of raging non-liberal for you.

    Dogs and cats, living together – mass hysteria!

  60. @wytworm:

    I am being straightforward. I do not know how to make it plainer. No maliciousness.

    I know I’ve already lost by reason of latin, but I don’t want to leave this misunderstanding hanging out there. I didn’t mean to imply maliciousness by you, wytworm. I took your comment to imply maliciousness on my part. That is, you seemed to be saying that I was being intentionally thick, simply to continue arguing. I was asking you to kindly reconsider this conclusion. If I ever decide I just want to fight, I’ll start posting at pharyngula.

    I am a Hedge

  61. @TheSkepticalMale:

    We’re probably reaching the end of productive back and forth here, so I will make my final contribution.

    You think language and words are “semantics”. Well, in law, words are all there are. When you have two separate words enshrined in law, it is exactly the same as separate drinking fountains. The water can be exactly the same, but the separation still sends a clear message: some people aren’t good enough to drink from the majority fountain. I recognize that you think this is unimportant. I couldn’t disagree more.

    You also seem pretty invested in this idea that this rams values down the throats of religious people. It does not. They can think whatever they like, and I have no interest in persuasion, let alone coercion. I doubt many homosexuals do either. I suspect they just want to live their lives without having every aspect of them politicized as a sop to the fragile sensibilities of various religious communities. They want the law to recognize their relationships as equal.

    What the religious do not have the right to do is enshrine their own religious views into law in this secular society which has separation of church and state a fundamental law of the land.

    Look at your own words, “…to tell the people of California that “Gay people should be allowed to use the word ‘marriage’…” We are now trodding on the rights of religious people because they can’t tell other people to follow their religious dictates? I don’t even know how to respond to that.

    As long as the state is the one handing out marriages, they are subject to state definition. Religions can have their own definitions, but they have no force of law, nor should they. If religious people value the word “marriage” so much, why aren’t they lobbying to get the government out of the marriage business entirely so they can reclaim the term?

    If it were really about something other than controlling other people, that is what they would do, but that wouldn’t accomplish the (usually) unstated goal of getting religious law written into civil law so that everyone has to dance to their tune.

    @Jen:

    That is actually my ideal policy. Get the government out of the marriage business. If everything is a “domestic partnership” under the law it gets all the sex and family issues out of the public sphere and into the private sphere where they belong. The law can then just concentrate on the legal and tax issues which are its purview.

    Seriously, if two or more platonic friends or even siblings want to live in the same house under a domestic partnership, why is that not reasonable? A lot of the rights currently enshrined in civil marriage would benefit these arrangements, and stripped of the “marriage” title, this needn’t have anything to do with sex, morality or religion. It could be the purely legal arrangement it should be.

    However, this is pretty much politically impossible for the time being.

  62. Marriage. As a word, as a concept, as a practice and act, it’s so fraught.

    The emotional baggage that is implicated by the word marriage is mountainous. Hell, it’s not baggage, it’s freight. Commercial freight.

    I’ve witnessed intelligent academics, skeptical thinkers all, deeply invested in critical thinking turn into puddles of endorphin-crazed mindlessness and woo-worship at the mere approach to the alter of marriage. It’s worse than sexlust. Marriage is one of the deepest sacred cows of civilization. I wish it would go away.

    Marriage is so much more than a word. It seems to me that with some few exceptions almost everyone who believes in or supports the concept and act of marriage, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or any pregnant anthropogenic mixup-in-the-middle is victim to the power of the symbolism and the irrationality of the ritual, and hence the drive or will to letting go all semblance of critical thought and skeptical reason when diving into the mere, or should that be mire, of marriage.

    And I think the degree to which this thread has grown helps express the rather insane amount of power the symbology and ritual of marriage carries with it.

    Marriage is a multi-billion dollar business. Marriage is politics. Marriage is a mighty, mighty symbol. Marriage is in-groups and out-groups. As a last resort marriage may sometimes be about union between two “souls”, metaphorically/romantically speaking.

    Marriage turns young women into robots of conquest, avarice, and hallucinatory fantastism. Marriage turns young men into robots of liesure, labour, and lazy lust.

    Marriage is an immensely powerful tool of social control, as witness the amount of energy expressed just in this thread over the merest defintions of the word and the power of law that either is or is not associated with it.

    I think humans really need to get over “marriage” and just go for the proposed vanilla civil union. Leave go all the balloons, all the baggage, all the corporate profit, all the endlessly tiresome pigeonholing and social stratification.

    But it’s not going to happen anytime soon. As far as I can determine, marriage, under any name and as a “ruling class” constructed, condoned, enforced, and manipulated phenomenon of social control has deeper roots and a more ancient history than religion.

  63. Jen: That has long been my own view regarding the state’s role in marriage – it really has none. There are certain aspects of the family that have definite legal consequences (who is legally responsible for children? Who has a legal right or responsibility for a given adult and what rights/responsibilities? How does inheritance work int he absence of a will?), and all of these could be dealt with in a civil contract, leaving marriage to community groups and individuals, but keeping the state out of it.

  64. Oh, and I am a Hedge – While I have to disagree with you completely on the point of whether or not the poor are able to invest (and I think that you may be working under a bit of a false dichotomy here – while I absolutely agree that they have responsibility for themselves, it is also true that there are forces beyond their control in play here – so it’s not entirely them, and the degree to which it is them and not outside matters will vary by time and place), I really appreciate the way you handled yourself in the discussion. The fact that you have remained both civil and helpful reflects well on you, sir or madame.

  65. @TheCzech:
    @Jen:
    @anthroslug:

    Again with the agreement.

    Civil unions for all…

    This is ideal and I think a decent way to keep the government out of our personal lives and still involved with legal/contracts etc.

    (If you have a civil union with someone… are you then “unionized”?)

    I know a few couples (both straight and gay) who chose to do the civil union thing because they believe that marriage as a concept is outdated and too overly fraught with religious ideas.

    @SicPreFix:

    Marriage turns young women into robots of conquest, avarice, and hallucinatory fantastism. Marriage turns young men into robots of leisure, labor, and lazy lust.

    Wow. I don’t agree with you on this at all. Marriage, like anything is a system, a tool, a social contract… and it can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on who is running it.

  66. @anthroslug:My assumptions are from the text of the actual statute (Cal Fam Code §297.5), which is quite broad: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=fam&group=00001-01000&file=297-297.5. But if, as you say, domestic partners are in fact treated differently with respect to the rights and obligations set forth in California law, then we are in agreement.

    @TheCzech:

    You think language and words are “semantics”. Well, in law, words are all there are. When you have two separate words enshrined in law, it is exactly the same as separate drinking fountains. The water can be exactly the same, but the separation still sends a clear message: some people aren’t good enough to drink from the majority fountain. I recognize that you think this is unimportant. I couldn’t disagree more.

    The law is not just about words – there are also matters of degree. De minimis non curat lex. And the Constitution does not offer the guarantee that everybody feel “equal.” Far from it. We are all in some class that can be defined as a minority. And there are a lot of instances of “separate but equal” in our society for which the force of law cannot be brought to bear. Watch CNN for an hour. You’ll see it.

    The water fountain analogy is particularly interesting, because although the famous photo really did change hearts and minds (which is really the most important thing that has to be done), there are no civil rights cases bringing the hand of government to bear based upon the constitutional right to use the same water fountain. To compare the sole right to use “marriage” on a certificate to the institutional segregation and egregious effects discussed in Sweatt v. Painter, Brown v. Board of Ed., etc. (i.e., suffice to say the schools were not actually equal) is, and I say this in the most respectful way, simply absurd. Homosexuals do not have a history of being called 3/5ths a human being under the Constitution. Homosexuals did not need an act of Congress (the Voting Rights Act) just to take the most basic of democratic action. But you say all of this compares to using the word “marriage” on a piece of paper, all substantive rights aside? I respectfully disagree.

    But the sad thing is that choosing to wage this battle at this time, alienating a majority of the electorate, undermines efforts that could result in much more significant change. The civil rights movement for African-Americans did not take place overnight. The United States, like the vast majority of the rest of the world, is not ready to call a same-sex union a “marriage” right now, but I think it is ready to stop the federal government from letting the states grant equal substantive rights to same-sex couples.

    If religious people value the word “marriage” so much, why aren’t they lobbying to get the government out of the marriage business entirely so they can reclaim the term?

    We do agree 100% on this point (in the sense that the question was rhetorical).

    @QuestionAuthority: At the risk of adding yet another semantic chapter to the debate, I agree with you regarding civil unions (e.g., Vermont).

    @Jen: Exactly! That was my starting point … hmm, like a week ago. A simple example: Why should a single person making the same income (presumably under $250,000) pay more federal income tax (and in many cases, state income tax) than a person who happens to be married? In both cases, each person gets his or her own exemptions and exemptions for dependent children. Why should government be in the business of telling people “Hey, we think you should get married!”? Prop 8 drives me up the wall because it simply propogates (for lack of a better term) an unfair system.

  67. “Marriage turns young women into robots of conquest, avarice, and hallucinatory fantastism. Marriage turns young men into robots of leisure, labor, and lazy lust.”

    I don’t think it’s inevitable, but it certainly can have this effect.

  68. Hey, I think I found something everyone agrees on!

    @TheSkepticalMale: The unfortunate downside to only focusing on the larger war of state-sanctioned marriage in general is that, in the meantime, gay people are being targeted and disenfranchised by those who think they have sole claim to define marriage on religious grounds. Those are the people who were really behind the passing of Prop 8, not anarchic visionaries such as you and me. And that, frankly, pisses me off.

    I also say this as a woman who chooses not to get married because I don’t believe in marriage as it’s institutionalized in our culture – I have a live-in partner, with whom I have a child, and so I deal personally on a day-to-day basis with all the cultural and legal injustices you and others just outlined. But I would still rather see a baby step in the downfall of Prop 8 for the time being, because I would rather give the middle finger to the religious interests blathering on about what god did and didn’t intend. I still think it’s a step forward towards the larger goal. Maybe that’s just me and my temper, though. I’m told I have one of those :)

    It does seem that all of us involved in this discussion are committed to the fight, though – we just want to pursue different battle tactics.

    But if you’re going to carry off our Stacey, wait until next TAM. Then we can celebrate IRL style.

  69. @QuestionAuthority: Couldn’t you say the same thing about…

    Poverty,
    Old age
    Sex
    Playing World of Warcraft

    Sometimes, yes, marriage can be a not-good thing. But not always.

    And I would argue that if everyone was unionized or partnered up domestically or whatnot, this could still happen. As in… perhaps it doesn’t matter what we call it… every relationship has the capacity for being “bad” and the capacity for being “good”

  70. Not to reopen a closed discussion… but a few people have hinted at or downright said that civil unions are basically the same thing as marriage and thus we should all just (maybe) get unionized and go forward from there.

    I would ask that you check out
    this and let me know what you think.

  71. @Kaylia_Marie: Kaylia, of course I wanted to comment on it :P

    With reference to domestic partnerships, California Family Code §297.5 does not attempt to confer many rights of marriage to DPs, but rather all of the rights of marriage.

    With reference to taxes, because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), same-sex couples would not be entitled to any federal benefits, whether you call it “marriage” or not.

    With reference to benefits and the 1997 study, there was also a 2004 follow-up study conducted which noted that the net difference in federal benefits lost to same-sex couples (as a result of not being “married” under federal law) is estimated to be $5,548 per year.

    With reference to “but can’t a lawyer …” (and in the interests of full disclosure, I am certified by the SBA as a specialist in estates and trust law), (1) I could direct you to do-it-yourself document software that would cover most estate planning situations for those with modest estates, but they would shun me if I did that :) ; (2) most married couples do not rely on their status of being “married” with respect to estate planning (i.e., they still do wills, living trusts, health care directives, and powers of attorney), and (3) the statement that more wills are challenged than not is simply wrong – most wills are probated without any issues arising at all … One more thing – under our system of law, your natural heirs generally (i.e., children, parents, etc.) do not have a legal right to inherit from you; rather you have a legal right (as one of many property rights) to leave your assets to whomever you choose, and unless you lack capacity or there is undue influence (difficult to establish), the court (even a conservative one) will honor your wishes – whether you were gay or not.

    With regard to the last comment about the Equal Protection Clause in the U.S. Constitution, five years after the Loving decision was handed down (1967) – the multi-racial marriage ruling that is often cited by homosexual couples, the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to apply the same provision of the U.S. Constitution to same-sex couples in Baker v. Nelson (1972). DOMA has complicated the issue, but the critical thing to remember is that if DOMA were to be repealed, the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution would probably require both the federal government and the states to recognize marriages granted in other states. At that point, the term “marriage” might have some real legal significance.

    I don’t often recommend wiki articles, but this one is a quite thorough discussion of the issue:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage

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