Monthly Archives: March 2013
I suppose it is unavoidable now because the Supreme Court is set to hear two cases this week that may ultimately pivot history and decide the fate of gay marriage in our nation. Tuesday and Wednesday the highest court in the land will hear arguments for the famous–or infamous, depending on your point of view–California Proposition 8 defining marriage between a man and a woman, and the Defense of Marriage Act stating that a homosexual union in one state need not be recognized by another.
I have avoided writing about gay marriage for as long as possible simply because of the ferocious passion on each side of the debate. I have no problem taking a stand in the face of vehement opposition, that is actually why I started writing. The problem is that both proponents of and opponents to gay marriage believe they are on a righteous quest, and, like jihadists do, they will settle for nothing less than complete and utter annihilation of their enemies. It is impossible to have a civil discussion about gay marriage with either side—disagreeing means you are insane. But with the hearings this week so many friends and readers have asked what if think of gay marriage, so I guess it is time to attempt a civil discussion.
So what do I think about gay marriage? It doesn’t matter. The lines of right and wrong intersect with gay marriage. To some, homosexuality is wrong, and a sin, and therefore gay marriage must never be considered. To others it is wrong to privileges or rights away from real people because of sexual orientation. This is exactly why the Constitution does not legislate right or wrong; they are fluid concepts relative to the perspective of the citizen. Slavery used to be viewed as right, as did burning witches, stoning adulterers, and abandoning babies with birth defects.
The argument against gay marriage is desperate at best. Most people who oppose gay marriage do so holding the belief that homosexuality is a sin. This argument lacks integrity because sins are decided by God, not the government. Is being married a sin? Most people would say no. So if marriage is not a sin, than two gay people being married is not a sin. It is being gay, not getting married that is a sin. Marriage does not make homosexuality any more of a sin than it otherwise is. So opposing gay marriage on those grounds is frivolous.
Many others say gay marriage poses a threat to traditional values, to which I ask, what are traditional values? If traditional values are a mother, father, kids, dog, minivan and church on Sunday than 2013 is a much bigger threat to traditional values than gay marriage. Divorce is not just common, it is practically expected. Single parent households are normal, and the statistics on children raised in these single parent homes are frightening. Most couples live together without being married, even if they are married later on. I find it very ironic that open marriages, swinging, and one night stands apparently pose less of a threat to traditional values than people who actually want to get married. Is a lasting, loving marriage between two men or two women really more destructive to the institution of marriage than Kim Kardashian? It seems gay people are the only ones fighting for marriage.
But Gay marriage is much more than just religious morality versus human rights. Marriage itself is recognized by the government not for religious reasons, but for civil reasons. A married couple expectedly will raise a family–a function any government has a vested interest in because of is necessity for a nation to survive–therefore, a married couple is given special tax consideration. They are allowed to file jointly, and their income bracket is raised. Because it is biologically impossible for two people of the same sex to conceive a child it is a valid question to ask whether or not gay marriage ought to be recognized by the government on basis of equality. Oddly ironic to argue against gay marriage using equality, I know, but it is clearly inequality to grant the same civil consideration to homosexual couples given that they cannot grow the population. This would be similar to granting every citizen the same consideration members of the military receive despite the fact they do not defend our country.
A predictable rebuttal to this would be that gay couples can always adopt, and, any special tax consideration given to adopting heterosexual couples would also need to be given to homosexual couples, but adopting does not grow the population. In regards to adoption I have heard many people say children raised by a gay couple face developmental hindrances, and so this should not be allowed. The science is still out on the subject; it is not yet clear if or what hindrances children might consistently face. Then again, would it be any worse than a single parent household? If marriage were simply just a name on a paper then the gay marriage issue may be as simple as a state’s vote–the way the 10th Amendment tells us to decide these issues.
Either way, the question is not what is right or wrong, but what is legal, and what is Constitutional. That is what the Supreme Court will consider this week. Proposition 8 was overturned (meaning marriage could not be defined as being between a man and a woman) by a federal judge on the basis of discrimination. Whether or not it is ruled discriminatory may well hinge on the arguments already made. Does or does not the 10th Amendment provides the freedom for citizens to decide such matters?
The Defense of Marriage Act case will be equally as gripping. Currently states are required to give ‘full faith and credit’ to the legal documents of other states, meaning that if you have a driver’s license in California you can drive to Miami and it will still be valid for spring break. The DOMA essentially states that this does not apply to a same-sex marriage, meaning a gay couple married in Massachusetts can move to Tennessee and the state does not have to recognize that marriage. The question up for debate is whether or not this violates the Constitution, or if a state has the authority to make this choice? One might immediately think “how could it not violate the Constitution to not give full faith and credit to a marriage certificate?”
The clause is written very vaguely, leaving for a lot of room for interpretation. “Public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings” does not really pin anything down. Currently a permit or license for a firearm or concealed weapon is issued in state A, and not valid in state B unless state B specifically lists it as being so. Permits to practice law, medicine, real estate, and insurance are currently not recognized across state lines. If these do not violate the full faith and credit clause why would a marriage certificate? Perhaps a better question is whether or not a state can refuse to acknowledge a heterosexual marriage? If a state can only choose to refuse same-sex marriages than this is clearly a discriminatory practice.
So where will the Supreme Court rule? Given their record I doubt they will overturn a ballot initiative like Proposition 8, especially considering the Constitution, in the 10th Amendment leaves to the decision of the states of the people any issue not delegated or prohibited by the constitution. I expect the Supreme Court will leave it up to each state to decide whether or not to legalize gay marriage. The more interesting question will be whether or not other states must recognize this decision in the DOMA ruling. Might the Supreme Court rule DOMA unconstitutional, thereby forcing one state to recognize another states’ marriage–whether gay or straight? If so, will they rule on how a same-sex marriage is to be treated by the IRS? Will they rule that states have the right to determine their own welfare, as they do with other licenses not recognized nationwide? Perhaps this week will be a perfect example of why Patriotslog feels the Supreme Court is the most powerful body in government.
I hope that in reading this you have realized that gay marriage is not a right or wrong issue. It is not a morality versus human rights issue. Most importantly I hope you understand that what I, or any one person, thinks of gay marriage does not matter. It is not a question of whether or not it is good for society, moral for our culture, or needed for human rights. Individually these may be our greatest concerns, they may be our driving force to oppose or support it, but whether or not it can reasonably be granted or denied on solid legal and constitutional grounds is what will determine the outcome. The Supreme Court is standing at histories’ crossroads. Either way, the controversy is not going away after they make their decision.
25 March 2013
Political parties suck. They are private institutions that have collectively gained control over our government. The sole goal of political parties is to obtain and maintain power. When Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) became Speaker of the House she stated that her most important job was not to be the third in line to succeed the President in a national crisis; not to lead the largest body of directly elected representatives in our nation; not to safeguard the rights of the people; and not to work for her constituents that elected her. No, her most important job was to get more Democrats elected. Similarly, of all the important tasks one could emphasize for a Senate minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that his number one priority was to make Barack Obama a one term President. A Senator’s top priority was not even in the Senate, it was in the White House. Clearly these leaders of their parties were working against the will and good of the people.
It is not that being liberal, libertarian, or conservative is a problem; the problem is that these parties serve themselves, not the United States. Perhaps the most dangerous symptom of this the fact that party loyalists quite literally become convinced that the other party is evil–not just bad, but knowingly, deceitfully, intentionally evil. (If you don’t believe that go to one of the wingnut radical blogs like redstate or dailykos, or even Rachel Maddow or CNS news and read the comments) If you literally believe someone or something is evil it becomes not just easy, but necessary to oppose them, even if you are breaking a law to do so. This, I really fear, is going to become regular occurrence if we allow the party beasts to continue to feed themselves. Elected officials swear to uphold and defend the Constitution; however, because we have created an incentive system that rewards radicalism, more often than not politicians are more concerned with upholding and defending their political party. And why shouldn’t they be? We have allowed losing the next election to become the worst punishment a politician can face.
Breaking a law to oppose another party, or to uphold one’s own ideology is deplorable for a citizen, but detestable for a politician. The problem is the citizen is punished by our legal system, but who is to punish the politician? This week Gov. Hickenlooper of Colorado signed into law a set of gun control measures, including a magazine capacity limit. Weld County Sheriff, John Cooke, went out of his way to let everyone he could reach know that he will not be enforcing this law, and he knows many other Sheriffs that also will not. Sheriff Cooke even made an appearance on Fox Propaganda to tell us this.
I have opposed gun control because research shows it does nothing to reduce crime, but a sheriff deliberately ignoring a law, even if to oppose gun control, does more to eliminate freedom than any gun control measure. If Sheriff Cooke wants to make laws he can run for the legislature. Unfortunately, Sheriff Cooke is not alone in his refusal to accept the laws. He is only following in the footsteps of one Barack Obama.
The constitution clearly points out that it is the duty of the Executive Branch to enforce the laws made by the Legislative Branch. Congress passed an immigration bill, and since his inauguration, President Obama has decided to use it as toilet paper. Not only has he deliberately decided not to enforce immigration laws, he sent the justice department to the Supreme Court to argue against an Arizona immigration law that mirrored the Federal law; a law Arizona felt they had to pass because President Obama refused to enforce the existing one. On top of that he implemented the Dream Act without a Congressional approval.
I am very much in favor of immigration reform, and a path to citizenship or something close to it, but the law is the law. If President Obama wanted to make laws, he should have stayed in the Senate. A President must uphold the office. Part of this means having enough integrity to enforce a law Congress has passed even if the president disagrees with it–no matter the law, no matter the President. Instead, President Obama refuses to send his administration before the Supreme Court to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. I understand that he supports gay marriage, and I respect that, but nowhere in the Constitution does it allow a President to choose which laws hold merit because of his personal beliefs.
John Roberts said it best. Though I have been an opponent of Obamacare from the beginning I have to agree with Chief Justice Roberts. It is up to Congress to make the laws; the Supreme Court does not determine which laws are good laws, only which laws violate the Constitution. It is not up to Governors whether or not to follow Obamacare. Every elected official must have this same amount of respect for democracy in order to ensure democracy is living a century from now. People angry about judicial activism ought to be equally as angry about Executive activism. If a President wants to change a law, do as Lincoln did; push, pull, pry, preach, beg, and put together a public campaign to pass a law or amendment. But a President is an executive, not a legislator.
It is not a Sheriff, Governor, or President’s job to determine laws. In a Democracy we govern ourselves. We have a Congress that makes laws, and if we disapprove, we vote for new members. If a law is unjust or unconstitutional, we (or even the President, Governor, or Sheriff) can try that law in the courts. This is the system devised to ensure the rights of life, liberty, and property to all citizens of the United States. A law does not become invalid simply it does not fit with the current desires of a figure head. The last time one figure head determined the law for all Americans to follow declared independence and fought a revolution. We vote for representatives and executives, not monarchs. No matter how you feel about a law, seeing an elected official refuse to follow that law should make you cringe. If this becomes a pattern, our democracy will erode from under our feet.
21 March 2013
It has been 2 weeks since the sequester sequestered (does making up words, like Congress, make me sound smart too?) and, despite what President Obama and the military promised, the world has not ended; but there is still time for that to happen. It is not that forcing the Pentagon to cut $40+ billion of their budget will ruin the world, but a nuclear and violent North Korea might.
Despite our only major national interest in a war between Communist North Korea and Democratic South Korea being the steady supply of Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets, we may be days away from our third war of the 21st century. The United States still holds a Cold War mentality in our treaty with South Korea. I mean that literally; the same treaty that pulled us into the Korean War is still in place today. I am not making light of a potential war, or being callous to the plight of South Korea, but the third world defenseless nation of post WWII is now a thriving modern nation with a vibrant economy, and very much developed enough to defend itself. There is no reason we need to be their first line of defense.
It seems apparent that North Korea has successfully tested nuclear weapons, and now they have promised to use them against their neighbors, and the U.S. After declaring the 1953 armistice invalid, North Korea is reportedly sitting in their tanks waiting for the word from leader Kim Jong-un to mount an attack against South Korea. Because of our alliance with South Korea, Americans will be some of the first to die, should this actually happen, making it a national security issue, and forcing us to respond by declaring another war we cannot pay for. War is never a trivial matter, particularly when it involves an ally, but why should we care more about the loss of life through war in the Koreas any more than other parts of the world? Why would people dying in South Korea require any more action than the people who died in Libya, or Egypt, or the Sudan, Congo, or the people who are dying in Syria?
Durring a budget crisis these decisions need a second look. If the military is worried that they will not be able to fully train our troops before sending them into battle, does it make sense to be spending so much money maintaining bases in nations where we no longer serve our national security? The Commander in Chief is willing to pull troops out of Iraq, but maintains areas of opperation in South Korea? It makes about as much sense as a technology giant pulling investment on the nearly-out-of-date-but-still-relevant CD, but continuing funding for floppy disks. The logic does not compute.
South Korea is not alone. If China were to attack Japan–despite having the world’s fifth or sixth largest military (depending on how you measure it)–Americans would be some of the first to die, pulling us into a war with China. There is also no national security justification for massive bases in Germany, Italy, Australia or many other nations. We are no longer in a nuclear arms race, why maintain these forward areas of operation? We do not need to police the world, and be dragged into another war. I once had a conservative friend tell me “but this is what America has always done. We stand up for what is right.” This is another Cold War mentality. A mentality sold to us when we were told communism is evil (and it very well may be, that is not my point). Because we stood against communism se stood for what was right. But that mentality also forgets the America before the Cold War. After all, America completely isolated ourselves militarily until WWI, which we only joined after American civilians were killed aboard passenger ships attacked by Germans. We remained nuetral in WWII until the Pearl Harbor attack, and even resisted helping the Jews in their struggle for survival. No, America has not always been the global police force, this is a recent development.
Unfortunately, the military and our government were not wise enough to make sensable cuts; now they are forced to deal with the blind, across the board sequester cuts. Perhaps if these bases had been closed or cut, as they should have been, we would not have a Department of Homeland Security with a classified budget, and charge over an entire top secret intelligence world that spends ever increasing amounts of money so american citizens can be spied on. Maybe if the troops at all of these overseas bases were brought home we would have enough boots on the ground here to monitor the borders, or protect the people–you know, like the Constitution suggests (sad that I feel like I have to use that word). Instead, we have the Department of Homeland Security buying a 100 year cache of ammunition (much of which is illegal for international warfare) or an entire fleet of armored military vehicles.
However, as the last decade has made painfully clear, there is no common sense left in Washington D.C. So now we have a military which asserts they cannot meet their battle demands in
If you logged on to Facebook, or for that matter, any social media yesterday, you probably saw the headline. 75 Year old Japanese man died after being turned away fro m 25 emergency rooms a total of 36 times in 2 hours. The hospitals involved claim they had no bed for him, and a shortage of doctors to treat any more patients. Unbelievable, I agree, and I know what you are thinking: “good thing that would never happen in America.” Unfortunately, it was not long ago that would never have happened in Japan either. 10 years ago if you would have suggested to experts this would happen, most would have laughed. So, could this happen here? We may just be a few years away from it becoming possible.
The America of today is eerily similar to the Japan of a decade ago. Though the mostly-government healthcare system has worked for a generation in Japan, it is now taking on water faster than the ageing population can bail it out. Japan has a rapidly aging population, and a falling birth rate; just like we do. The Japanese national debt is limiting their ability to sustain the ageing population, and the medical system is the clearest symptom of the problem. As a population ages it typically pays less taxes; retired people made up the bulk of Mitt Romney’s infamous 47%. But unless there are people to replace those retiring, either by immigration or birth, the government has less money to support the extra healthcare costs that also come with an aging population. Trying to do more with less has never been a quality the government can hang its hat on.
I wrote months ago why I believed Obamacare would not work; well, here it is in practice. Obamacare will push tens of millions of people onto Medicaid, those who cannot afford the rising cost of insurance and those unfortunate enough to be demoted to part time hours, many elderly, and of course, those whose employers choose to pay the fine that is roughly 1/3 of what the cost would be if they were forced to provide insurance. The result of this will be placing the cost of healthcare for millions squarely on the shoulders of the government.
As we see in Japan, people who do not directly pay for their own healthcare have little incentive to stay out of the healthcare system. If the government is going to foot the bill, why not go to the doctor every time you sneeze? This seems to be the rationale in Japan, where clinics and hospitals are very over crowded, and patients often wait hours just to see the doctor for 30 to 90 seconds. I experienced this same pattern while living in Australia. This means that Japan is facing a doctor shortage due to the influx of patients; ergo, their overcrowding. Doctors often have to see 100 or more patients per day. This leads to patients depending more and more on medication and less and less on actual healthcare from their physician.
The United States has been facing a doctor shortage for a few years now, and it is only expected to get worse. Our national debt is climbing at alarming rates. Our population is ageing. Our healthcare system is becoming more and more subsidized. Our hospitals are already overcrowded. These are many of the same challenges Japan faced at the turn of the century. Not to mention their economic slowdown from a collapse of their manufacturing.
Might the path the United States is following lead to a 75 year old man dying because no emergency room could take him? The answer is, probably not. Immigration, one of our largest means by which we replace our work force, has long been almost non-existent in Japan. Also, the cost of healthcare has never come close to the cost in the United States. Furthermore, the Japanese healthcare system is much more centralized than Obamacare is—at least for now. Even still, the similarities are alarming. Many, myself included, feel many of the inefficiencies in Obamacare were designed to lead to a universal healthcare system. The older our population becomes the more we will need healthcare. If our doctor shortage continues, and we become a more universal healthcare system it is plausible that an ambulance in America may drive around for 2 hours begging 25 different hospitals to admit their patient.
6 March 2013