Wacky Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage

Paul ClementJonathan Chait reported something today that was so unbelievable that I had to look into it. Conservatives were at the Supreme Court the week before last trying to both get California’s Prop 8 (gay marriage) overturned and force the White House to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. As Chait rightly points out, its fine for a conservative to just be against gay marriage because he is, “But if you’re a lawyer defending a gay-marriage ban in court, you need an actual legal reason for your position.” And boy oh boy did the conservatives come up with an actual legal reason!

The conservatives are arguing that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry because they don’t have accidental pregnancies. Chait says, “Gay couples don’t get drunk and wake up pregnant.” Therefore: no marriage for you!

I had a hard time believing this. Was it April first? No. Was there some giveaway in the text—a nod and a wink? No. So I clicked over to the LA Times, Gay Marriage Opponents Take Unusual Tack With Supreme Court. Chait was telling the truth. The article reports that the lawyers are arguing, “Unintended children produced by opposite-sex relationships and raised out-of-wedlock would pose a burden on society.”

There are ways to make the argument sound less ridiculous. But it always comes down to this: we need marriage to make couples behave properly. There will always be responsible couples, of course. We don’t need marriage for them. In fact, if it weren’t for the irresponsible couples, we wouldn’t even have marriage. Thus, there is no point in expanding the definition of marriage because it isn’t necessary.

There are some obvious problems here. What if a absolutist anti-choice lesbian get pregnant via rape? That would be unintended. Her non-married mate could just leave, not wanting the responsibility. I realize that this is not going to happen all that much, but doesn’t the society have an interest in seeing that the child is raised by two parents?

Another issue, of course, is equal protection. (I realize that conservatives only think that equal protection applies to George W. Bush, but still.) Why should responsible heterosexual couples get (for example) tax benefits when responsible homosexual couples do not?

It is all quite silly. But note: the big lawyer behind this is none other than Paul “If the state can force you to buy healthcare why can’t it force you to buy broccoli” Clement. That was no more silly and he managed to get four of the justices to agree. Who knows how he’ll do with this case.

Tom Tancredo’s Reefer Madness

Reefer MadnessLet me lay the whole story on you because (1) it hasn’t been the well reported and (2) I’m a hip cat who wants to lay it on rather than just write it down. In the lead up to Colorado’s shocking vote to make cannabis legal—Just to get high, if you can believe it!—Tom Tancredo promised that if the proposition passed that he would blow a fat one. This promise was made to Adam Hartle, a documentary film maker who caught the exchange on video.

Well, Colorado passed the law to make cannabis legal—Just to get high, if you can believe it! If this were a normal story, it would end here. Tancredo would back out saying something like, “Well, it’s still against federal law.” But it isn’t and he didn’t. Instead, he announced that he was going forward with his promise. He and Hartle were gonna blow a fat on and let the empty ice cream containers fall where they may.

But it is not to be. On Saturday, Tancredo announced that he will not be subjecting himself to reefer madness. That’s fine. As I indicated, that’s what I originally expected. What bugs me is how he’s backing out. According to him, “My wife is absolutely… She’s pissed.” What’s more, his grandchildren are “very upset with grandpa.” Give me a fucking break! So now cannabis use is legal in Colorado—Just to get high, if you can believe it!—but the Tancredo family want the world to know that they think it is the wrong thing to do.

Tancredo has long been on record in support of cannabis legalization. So are we really expected to believe that he can’t explain to his wife and grandkids that the use of this drug is neither physically nor morally dangerous? Tom Tancredo has spent his career doing mostly harm. Here was a chance for him to do real good: to say to the nation that its ideas about drugs are based mostly on government propaganda and bad B-movies. Instead, he is doing the opposite. Can you dig it?

Non-Crazy Conservatism

Daniel LarisonDaniel Larison wrote a short article last week, Bobby Jindal and the “Party of Growth.” As I read it, I found that I was very much in agreement. But how could that be? It was published in The American Conservative.

It was not that the ideas were solid. I often agree with sensible conservatives. Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review Online is often very good. But I don’t think he’s much fun. He’s a National Review guy, and though he may be no older than I am, he seems so.

This isn’t to say there aren’t conservatives who strike me as more part of my generation. Tucker Carlson, for example, has a style I appreciate. The problem is that he’s an idiot. And that is very true of the Republican “young guns” generally.

But check out Larison on Jindal’s big speech:

Jindal opens with a complaint that Republicans have become too focused on “zeroes” and “number-crunching” and government book-keeping, which he believes puts Republicans at a disadvantage in any debate with their opponents. Then in the next breath, he expresses his irritation that bad or irrelevant ideas such as term limits and the balanced budget amendment are not taken seriously. Because these ideas are not taken seriously, Jindal proposes instead that the GOP focus all of its attention on promoting growth and opportunity…

The closest that Jindal comes to specific suggestions for becoming the “party of growth” is to say that Republicans must “promote the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the self-employed woman who is one sale away from hiring her first employee.” In other words, the party must become even more preoccupied with celebrating entrepreneurs along the lines of the second day of last year’s convention.

I love that italicized “even more.” That’s really what made me think this was a new kind of conservative. Larison goes on to explain how Jindal and most Republicans misunderstand the idea of “American Exceptionalism.”

As a result of Larison’s brief article, I did a little research on The American Conservative. All right! I looked on Wikipedia! It said:

It reflects traditional American conservatism that has argued vigorously against American interventionism, against a debt-based fiscal policy used to finance adventurism abroad and government growth at home, and against the intrusions on Americans’ private lives by state security apparatus. In general, TAC represents an anti-war and Old Right voice against the dominance of what it sees as a neoconservative strain on the Right.

And that made me think even more highly of them. Most people who claim such interests call themselves libertarians, even though they are not up to the challenges of individualist anarchism. (Really: who is?) But these people put on no such airs. They’re just conservative, in the way that the word used to be defined. And that probably means they want a small government, but they aren’t against the very idea of government. What’s more, they are clearly against the government’s most pernicious powers—just the opposite of the modern Republican Party.

I’m sure I would disagree with a lot of the gang at The American Conservative. But we could definitely work together. And the stronger their voice gets the better it will be for the country.

Afterword

When I talk to people with very different political beliefs, I normally find that we agree on results, just not means. The problem I have with the modern Republican Party is that they claim to agree with me on results, but I just don’t see that. They seem to want to make the rich richer at the expense of the poor. Their insistence that we reward “risk taking” undermines their argument. It implies that we should just accept the fact of inequality because some people win the lottery and others don’t. We know that really is the way the world works, but it shouldn’t be what we aspire to. Out of the mouths of Republicans, it is just an apologia for the way things are.

What David Mamet Knows That Just Ain’t So

David MametDavid Mamet is not a great writer. But he has a good sense of story and character, as well as very unusual dialog. Thus it is strange that he is a conservative. But not a very thoughtful one. And this is probably why Newsweek decided to run a cover story written by him, Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm. Tina Brown seems to want to signal that just because they’re no longer publishing a print version of Newsweek, that doesn’t mean they are going to do anything so rash as to raise their incredibly low editorial standards.

I’ve written for a lot of little publishers. Some of them are great. But most of them edit only so far as it can ruin your work. And most don’t fact check. But all big time publishers fact check, right? I used to think so. As we learned during the Niall Ferguson fiasco, “We, like other news organisations today, rely on our writers to submit factually accurate material.” (I believe that all reputable publications do fact check.)

Yesterday, Matt Gertz at Media Matters reported on, 3 Major Flaws In Newsweek’s Red-Baiting Gun Rant. One of these is truly astounding:

Anyone applying to purchase a handgun has, since 1968, filled out a form certifying he is not a fugitive from justice, a convicted criminal, or mentally deficient. These forms, tens and tens of millions of them, rest, conceivably, somewhere in the vast repository. How are they checked? Are they checked? By what agency, with what monies? The country is broke. Do we actually want another agency staffed by bureaucrats for whom there is no funding?

What the fuck?! Even aside from the astounding lack of understanding of background checks, one line really stands out, “The country is broke.” The country is not broke. But again (and again and again), we have a conservative who knows—Just knows!—that which just ain’t so. And note the logic here. It is stupid not to check these cards! But it would be an outrage if these cards were checked! Anyway, we can’t afford it!

But the rest of it reminds me of this SNL skit about how ignorant undecided voters are:

“Who is the president right now? Is he or she running? Because if so, experience is maybe something we should consider.” It is remarkable that a major news magazine would publish speculation about something that the writer could easily look up. Like Matt Gertz did (on a blog), “The FBI explains that, for more than a decade, there have no longer been forms resting ‘somewhere in the vast repository,’ but rather prospective purchasers are subject to FBI background checks to ensure they are not ineligible to own a weapon.”

I guess when you’re a Republican, there are just some things you can’t know. And unlike in the undecided voters in the video, conservatives like Mamet will not be helped by answering very specific questions. Our biggest problem in American politics is not the ignorant undecided voter, it is the willfully ignorant and myth-loving conservative voter who knows—Just knows!—that which just ain’t so.

Immigration Reform Fracturing

Marco RubioAs I reported yesterday, Don’t Get Excited About Immigration Reform. Greg Sargent reports this morning, Confusion Envelops Senate Immigration Plan. Basically, the eight senators can’t quite agree about what exactly they mean by the Southwestern border commission. The Democrats claim that this will just be an advisory commission and that it won’t have veto power about whether the federal government can move forward with the rest of the plan.

But Marco Rubio says he wouldn’t support a plan that doesn’t require the approval of the border commission. Rubio is in a difficult position. He wants to appeal to Latinos[1] but he doesn’t want to offend the Tea Party angry-crazy coalition that just loves him. You might think he is just another senator, but right now, he is the Republican Party’s best chance at the White House in 2016. The other Republicans will not go along if he doesn’t.

The whole “secure the boarder” clause in the Senate “framework” is a typical delay tactic. We see this tactic used a lot in gun law reform. Senator X would love to support a ban on high capacity magazines, but there is $100 in the bill for gun safety awareness and Senator X really can’t accept more than $50. (If the bill is changed to have only $50 for gun safety awareness, Senator X will find something else in the bill that “unfortunately” stops him from supporting it.) In this particular case, the Republican senators have come up with a brilliant idea: they pass immigration reform without doing any actual immigration reform.

It will be interesting to watch this go forward. Regardless, I remain unconvinced that anything real will happen. This is yet more of the Republicans pretending to reach out to (in this case) Latinos while signaling to the angry-crazy coalition that they have nothing to fear.


[1] You might think that Rubio doesn’t need to appeal to Latinos. After all, he’s one of them! But have you ever looked at him? He’s less Latino than I am. He’s a very white Cuban. And Cuban-Americans have a very strange place in the Latino ecosystem. Whenever I hear them talk, they seem primarily motivated by all the wealth their families lost when Castro took over Cuban. In Florida, they lean strongly Republican. So they aren’t at all typical of Latinos generally in their voting.

Stay on Target!

Exactly which demographic is Target attempting to target with this ad?

The provocative soundtrack alone is confusing: does the singer want to see what the girl or the piñata “has got”?

I could only watch in wonder as the pretty young woman, blindfolded and wielding a wand, brings out her best sexy Jedi-in-the-basement moves as she attempts to make contact with the hangy-thing. What will spill out when and if she ever breaks it open? Condoms? Jello shots? Feminine hygiene products? None of the above! In an M. Night Shyamalan twist, it’s fruit snacks for children. The look of sheer joy and surprise on the the girl’s face is bound to get her a lot more work. That was some fine acting.

The commercial is saved from complete surreal stupidity when the breathy voice explains that fruit snacks aren’t just for children; they’re for anyone above the choking hazard age. And they’re colorful against a white background. Brilliant. Now I really want a piñata. I don’t think I’ll go to Target though. That place is nuts.