Thursday, November 27, 2008

What is Marriage?

On an earlier post, I asked what justified denying committed homosexual couples the legal benefits and privileges of the civil marriage contract.

Basically the answer I got was because Homosexual relationships are fundamentally different and that the traditional concept of marriage was exclusively heterosexual.

At the time, I tried to focus the discussion on the simply legal issue. Those opposed to Gay Marriage kept coming back to their view of the traditional definition of marriage.

So what is marriage?

There is no argument that no society has defined marriage to include an exclusively single sex couple.

But that being said, the "Traditional" definition of marriage that the opponents of gay marriage is not that old.

Plural marriages, where a single husband had multiple wives, were common in the old testament, and polygamy was practiced in this country, mostly by Mormons, as recently as the 19 century. Polygamy is still practiced in many countries, particularly in some Muslim nations.

But even marriages between two and only two people have changed dramatically over time. We are not that far away, in our society, from arranged marriages, where the daughter was given in marriage by her father without ever having met her husband. We are not that far in time from legal structures where women were barely more than chattel in a marriage.

The "Traditional" definition of marriage that Gay Marriage opponents refer to was a reflection of the times. The status of women has changed dramatically changed over time. The availability of divorce has changed over time. The availability of marriages as civil contracts that were not consecrated before a cleric in an religious setting is relatively new as well.

Marriage is not an institution that has a fixed and immutable history or definition.

And Society has changed. Millions of committed gay couples live together with all the emotional commitments of hetero couples. They share lives, raise kids, and grow old together. Society accepts gays as fully capable and responsible members of society in ways that it never has before.

So why should the definition of marriage not change to reflect that change in society in the same way that the definition has changed over time as the status of women has changes?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


They tell us we are at war.

A war on terror.

What exactly does that mean?? So far that supposed war has been used to justify an invasion of a nation that was not an imminent threat, either direct or indirect to this country. And we knew enough before the invasion to know that.

Its been used to justify the internment of prisoners that we refuse to recognize as prisoners of war, and claim the right to try them in military tribunals after subjecting them to treatment that would easily meet the definition of torture.

Its been used to justify the kidnapping of foreign nationals from other countries and sending them to secret prisons where they were subjected to torture, where we would not even acknowledge that we held them or where, where we could do anything we wanted to them completely outside of any legal framework.

Its been used to justify a Patriot Act that the FBI itself has admitted abusing and authorizing the NSA to listen in on phone calls to and from American Citizens without benefit of a warrant, a program that recent reports has been abused by the NSA for the private perverse pleasure of NSA analysts.

It was used to justify the arrest and detention without trial of American Citizens, though the Supreme Court finally did put a stop to that.

It was used as a pretext for manipulating the color coded alert warning system in the months before the 2004 elections to keep the American people afraid and help the President's election.

So what/who are we fighting? And why??

It started with the September 11 attacks by Al Qeada that killed 3000 people, mostly Americans, in 3 states.

Once we were certain it was Al Qeada, we demanded that Afghanistan surrender Al Qeada's leaders to us for trial. They refused. We took out the Afghani government for their complicity in the 9/11 attacks and destroyed the Al Qeada infrastructure in Afghanistan. We didn't get Bin Laden or the other leaders of Al Qeada, but we had them on the run.

So far so good.

Then it all went soo badly wrong.

We took a problem that was largely religious and societal at its root and tried to pretend there was a military solution.

There were people in our government who knew better, but that's not who Cheney and Rumsfeld listened to.

Al Qeada doesn't hate us because of our freedoms. In 8 years of saying some incredibly stupid things, that might be the stupidest. It was probably the most costly. That kind of idiotic thinking was used to justify all the things we did later.

Why does Al Qeada hate us? Mostly because we are over there. They may not approve of our morals or the way our women dress, but that's not why they are blowing themselves up. They look at our history in the Arab/Muslim world of supporting dictatorships of different stripes (from the secularist Shah of Iran to the Wahhabist royal family of Saudi Arabia. They could see that we didn't really give a shit about Arabs or Muslims, we just wanted a secure and reliable flow of oil.

When did Osama Bin Laden develop his hatred of the United States? When we supported the Shah?? No. When were helping the Afghani Mujaheddin repel the Soviet?? No. That happened in 1991 when we deposited an army of 500,000 infidels, including women, in Saudi Arabia, the heart of Islam. He didn't hate us because American women could wear bikinis on beaches in Florida, he hated us because American could drive around Saudi Arabia uncovered and without a male relative as escort.

He could probably have gotten over it if we had won the first Gulf War and then left. But we didn't. We kicked Saddam out of Kuwait and then stayed. The presence of a white Christian army occupying bases in the living breathing heart of Islam was seen as an affront.

He hated us, not because of what we could do in our own country, but because of what we were doing in his. And the other Arab and Muslim countries in the region.

John McCain repeatedly referred to the war on Terror as The Transcendent Issue of our Times.

It may be

But it doesn't have a military solution.

We cannot defeat terrorism with bombs and bullets. We can certainly kill lots of terrorists. In doing so we will also kill lots more civilians because the terrorists hide, often in plain sight, amongst civilians, some of whom don't even know who these people are.

But by occupying an Arab/Muslim nation (Iraq), and by killing Arabs and Muslims in at least 3 other nations (Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) we are only making Osama Bin Laden's job easier. He has a virtually endless supply of recruits and a largely limitless supply of money. He is most likely living in Pakistan, training his next generation of killers the the relative safety of the mountains of western Pakistan.

Are we going to defeat terrorism by threatening virtually every country in the neighborhood, by bombing terrorists and killing all the women and children around them, by occupying a Muslim/Arab nation and talking like we want to stay there for a century?

Probably not.

So what do we do?

As much as possible, we deny them justification for their actions. That means we get out of Iraq, sooner rather than later, that means we stay in the Middle East with as light a foot print as possible, That means that we transition our effort in Afghanistan from primarily military to primarily social, financial, and political. We can compete in the marketplace of ideas. Not by trying to convert them all to Christianity, but by helping them find the moderation and tolerance that is as easy to find in the Koran as the hatred and violence. By creating a market for their farmers to grow something other than poppies used to make Heroin. By building schools that teach useful subjects to compete with the Saudi funded Wahhabi Madrases teaching xenophobia and hatred. By working with the central government to reach out to the warlords who control much of Afghanistan and showing them the benefits of integration with the larger nation, benefits for the warlords themselves and for their people.

And we stop pretending that Radical Islam is a transcendent threat to the United States. They lack the power to destroy us, they lack the power to overthrow our government. We need to keep the threat in perspective and acknowledge that surrendering our freedoms and denying the rule of law to others in this fight we cannot win with guns in the end damages us far more than Al Qeada ever could.

We need to recover our place in the world. The shining nation on the hill. Truly a beacon of hope for people all over the world. A nation that doesn't torture and doesn't tolerate torture by others. A nation that doesn't hold prisoners in a limbo status for ever just because we say we can, but respects international law. Where international law is inadequate to the modern world, we don't ignore it, we work to update it.

There is no denying that the Osama Bin Ladens of the world would love to attack America directly again. And we have to take strong positive actions to ensure that doesn't happen again. But that effort is more law enforcement and intelligence than military. More collating and understanding the data we already have than torturing suspected terrorists for to get them to say anything whether its real or not.

There is a danger from Radical Islamists and we need to address the danger.

But its not a war

And the solution has very little to do with military power..

Something else I don't understand


They elected Sarah Palin as governor!! Now its true that she was running against the worst and most corrupt governor in Alaska's history, but still.

And they came very close to reelecting Ted Stevens to the Senate, after he was convicted of official corruption (accepting gifts from a contractor and failing to report those gifts as required by law).

What were they thinking???

You can't save the world, but you can save a small part


If you want to save just a little part of the world, this site might be what you are seeking.

KIVA is basically a microcredit bank soliciting for investors (us) on line.

You get to choose who you lend to and how much you lend.

Dorri (keeper of my heart) has already made a loan that has been repaid and is in the process of making another.

Its one way, a very simple and direct way, to save a small part of the planet.

Want to help?


Monday, November 10, 2008

What happens next

69 days till the end of an error.

Our President Elect is undoubtedly getting advice from any and every corner.

Here's mine.

The day he is sworn in he can issue executive orders and accomplish much. And I think he should.

He needs to address the global economic crisis.

But what he needs to take on, boldly and immediately is Climate Change.

Nothing that the President Elect does will be as important, long term, for this country and for the entire planet, as addressing Climate Change.

In 2000, President Bush ran, among other things, on a pledge to institute carbon caps as President to address the dangers of Global Warming. One of his many lies to the American People.

John McCain supported a Cap and Trade ssytem of controlling and then reducing CO2 emissions in this campaign.

We have waited too long, wasted too much time, and the consequences of inaction are too great. We can not, should not, wait until we have fixed the economy. There is no credible dispute about humankinds contribution to the pace and eventual size of the increase in global surface temperatures. The only dispute is about how hot it going to get and how fast its going to get there.

Its clear that the predictions of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change were, if anything, conservative. All the indicators seem to point to things moving faster than those predictions.

I just finished reading what may be the most important book I have read in a very long time, perhaps the most important book I have ever read. "Hot, Flat and Crowded" by Tom Friedman presents a clear and compelling prescription for radical action and for the huge economic opportunites that exist in creating the new industries that will emerge in alternative energies, conservation, more energy efficient transportation.

It requires bold and decisive leadership, the kind that a newly elected President with strong majorities in both houses can show.

I encourage anyone and everyone to read this book.

Starting with our new President.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So much I don't understand

In all the euphoria over the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States, some other stories were briefly overshadowed.

Several states passed one version or another of attempts to deny certain rights to people based on their sexual orientation.

I understand that many people believe that Homosexuality is a sin.

What I don't understand is why that religious based belief should be the law of the land. What is the justification for discrimination against people because of who they love??

I just don't understand.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And now the really hard work begin

I just finished watching the most amazing political event of my life. An event that I have wished for, hoped for, almost prayed for all of the last year.

We have elected one of the most incredible and inspirational men of our time to the Presidency at a time of true need. More than any election in my memory, easily more than any election since 1932, and maybe more than any election since the civil war, our country is facing a range of challenges that will test not only our President but all of us.

We are fighting two wars, one is winding down, the other is not going well.
Our economy is in crisis. The banking system is bent if not broken. Our manufacturing base is severely eroded by our fading competitiveness. Our government is sooo deeply in debt as to be constrained in ways we will almost certainly regret. We as a people are also deeply in debt, to our detriment individually and as a nation. Our prestige around the world has not been this low since before WWII. We have sacrificed must of our moral authority, and with it much of our ability to lead the rest of the world. Our profligate waste of energy leads us to give Hundreds of Billions of Dollar every year to nations that don't like us, to nations that supress their own people, to nations that will do us ill if they can. Our profligate consumption of fossil fuels is helping to change the worlds climate in ways we cannot always predict but we are almost all to our detriment.

So it is fitting and proper that we have elected a man that ran a campaign of hope and optimism and inclusion. A man who made a point of always honoring his opponents. A man who never allowed his campaign to dip into personal attacks. Whose negative ads were criticisms of his opponents positions, not of his honor nor patriotism nor integrity. A man whose very candidacy exemplifies the truth of the greatness of America.

I have been voting for President since 1972. Never have I been as in thrall, almost in awe of my chosen candidate.

Now the test begins.

I trust and rely in President Elect Barack Obama to pull us together to meet the challenges ahead.

Its a great day to be an American.