Friday, January 29, 2010

Fear of Sex Leads to More Book Bannings

You'd think that by the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century, book bannings, especially for matters involving ... gasp ... sex ... would be ancient history (or at least history). But no. Parents of middle school students are still demanding that books be removed from school libraries and curricula because of references to sex or, even worse, descriptions of actual, real, honest-to-goodness female body parts.

First, we have the events in Menifee, California, reported in the Press-Enterprise:
After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across "oral sex" in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster's 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.

School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the "sexually graphic" entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus.
Think about that one for a moment. A dictionary had a definition for a sexual act that a parent found offensive, so the dictionaries were removed from the classrooms. Really? Come on. Who didn't look up "bad words" in the dictionary when they were a kid? Besides, wouldn't you prefer that kids get a clinical, correct definition for certain terms than the more likely (and probably wrong) definitions that they'll undoubtedly learn from classmates? But more troubling is the fact that, after a complaint by a single parent, the school removed the dictionaries. In wonder if that dictionary included definitions of words like penis or vagina. Speaking of which...

According to the Culpepper, Virginia Star Exponent, The Diary of a Young Girl (The Diary of Anne Frank) is being removed from the Culpepper school system's curriculum. Why? According to The Washington Post, it was removed because of the following passage:
There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can't imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!
So, because one parent complained about two sentences in one of the most important, most beloved books of the twentieth century, the school system pulled the book. To that one parent, the perceived harm of his or her child reading about a teenage girl, who knew she would probably die, wondering about her vagina, sex, and birth, is reason enough to prevent the rest of the children in the school system from reading a book about hate and love, heroism and hope in the face of the Holocaust.

I'm curious how the parents that complained about the dictionary or The Diary of Anne Frank would feel if their child had access to a book with the following:
He shall lie all night between my breasts.... His left hand under my head, and his right doth embrance me.... Thy young breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lillies.... Come, blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.... My beloved put his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. Thy stature is like a palm tree, and thy breasts are clusters of grapes. I will go up the palm tree, and grasp the boughs. I am a wall, and my breasts are as towers.
Um, no wait. Those descriptions of sex are probably OK. After all, they're from The Bible (Song of Solomon). I guess it's only non-Biblical sex that probably drives these parents to demand censorship.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Expressions of Anti-Semitism Becauase Israel Helps Haiti

Israel has sent doctors, a field hospital, and medical supplies to Haiti. Anti-Semites can't let good deeds like that go unpunished. Please take a few minutes and read this article from blogger Andrew Holland: Israel's Haiti relief elicits both praise and condemnation. That is what we're fighting against.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

IN Touch: A Threat to Our Rights

My thirteenth post on The Indianapolis Star's IN Touch blog is now online. As I've said previously, I'm going to keep re-posting those entries here (at least until someone from the Star asks me to stop). Go ahead and visit the post on the IN Touch site, anyway.
On Jan. 20, the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee considered SJR 13, which would amend the Indiana Constitution to define marriage and prohibit the General Assembly from legislating civil unions in the future.

Proponents of SJR 13 talked about the need to "protect" marriage and spoke about "threats" to traditional marriage. Yet neither the sponsor of SJR 13 nor any of its proponents identified those threats from which marriage must be protected. Not one of them even tried to explain how failure to amend the Constitution would have a negative impact on their marriages or families. Not one of them explained how failure to amend the Constitution would solve crises faced by Indiana, such as taxes, budget shortfalls, education, decaying infrastructure, crime and poverty. Yet they were all so concerned by this phantom threat that they want to amend not just the Constitution but the Bill of Rights.

Take a few minutes and read the Indiana Constitution (while most of us are familiar with the U.S. Constitution, how many can honestly say they are familiar with Indiana's Constitution?), in particular Article I (the Bill of Rights). Our constitution (especially the Bill of Rights) largely focuses on either the structure of government or the rights granted to Hoosiers. Do we really want to start amending our Bill of Rights with provisions that serve to restrict, rather than enhance, those rights? Do we really want to amend our constitution now in order to make it harder for future generations of Hoosiers to enact laws that extend rights?

The current issue is not whether same-sex marriage should be allowed in Indiana; it is already prohibited by state law. The question is whether we, as a people, are so threatened by the possibility of same-sex marriage that we are willing to amend our constitution to address that perceived yet unidentified threat, and whether we want our Bill of Rights to restrict rather than grant rights.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

How to Recapture Democracy from Corporate Money

Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Citizens United v. FEC that campaign financing laws that prohibited corporations from directly spending money on campaign advertisements violated the First Amendment free speech rights of those corporations. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled (or ignored) nearly one hundred years of jurisprudence and precedent (and isn’t that just the sort of “judicial activism” that so incenses the right?). The concern with this ruling is that corporations (especially large corporations) will be able to spend large amounts of money to influence elections notwithstanding that the expenditures of large amounts of money in that way is seen to have a corrupting influence on elections and also may have the effect of rendering an individual citizen’s voice even less relevant. By the way, I do recognize that the Supreme Court’s opinion also appears to let unions spend on political advertising in the same way; my comments here, though addressed to corporations, should also be thought of as applying to unions, too.

The perception (which could, I suppose, be wrong) is that this ruling benefits Republicans who are generally seen as being more closely aligned with “big business”. Just imagine what the next election will look like if the drug companies and insurance companies are able to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaign advertisements (and you thought all of the ads for Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra were obnoxious…). Or just think of the impact locally if a particular corporation was denied a zoning variance. What might the next mayoral or city or county council election look like. Another concern worth noting is the possibility that foreign-owned corporations could spend money to influence American elections. Just imagine if Hugo Chavez decided to have CITGO (now owned by Venezuela) or if China used any of the corporations that is has purchased to air campaign advertisements.

So what can be done to rectify the problem? First, straightforward revisions to campaign finance laws probably won’t work, especially while the right holds a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court. For that matter, while the Republicans hold their 41-59 majority in the United States Senate, it will be tough to get anything to pass there, either. But presuming that Democrats could get a Republican or two (Sen. McCain, for example, co-sponsor of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, and a strong supporter of campaign finance reform…), what sorts of laws might solve the problem without running afoul of free speech issues?

So, here are just a few thoughts that I brainstormed (but note that I haven’t read the Supreme Court’s opinion); I admit that I haven’t worked through all of the ramifications, but it was a fun exercise:

  • Congress (or a state that wanted to limit the actions of corporations in that state’s elections) could pass a law that provides that corporations (which, you’ll recall, must be incorporated or organized according to the law of a particular state; they’re not born like, say, humans) can only spend money on campaign advertisements if a majority of shareholders approve of the expenditure. That should have nothing to do with First Amendment issues, as the law deals with corporate governance instead. The law could even provide that only individual shareholders (not other corporations) would be entitled to cast votes in such a corporate vote. Or maybe the law could provide that only shareholders eligible to vote in the election in which the advertisement would air would be eligible to vote on whether the corporation should expend the funds to advertise in that election campaign. And imagine if the law required the prospective advertisement to be shown to shareholders not less than, say, 90 days before any vote could be taken. And maybe, to pass, the advertisement would need the affirmative approval of 60% of the shareholders (after all, it apparently takes 60% to pass any legislation in the Senate…).
  • A law could be passed that would require the CEO of the corporation (or even the entire board of directors) to be filmed and shown in the advertisement saying “I approved this ad” much as candidates have to do now in their own ads.
  • Ordinarily, the standard for defamation is much more difficult to meet when a “public figure” is the target of the allegedly defamatory statement. In many jurisdictions, to be found liable of defamation against a public figure, the speaker must be found to have acted with actual malice (rather than just being shown to have made a false statement). Perhaps we could pass a law that would lower that standard to be the same as applied to allegations of defamation against non-public figures when the alleged defamatory statement is made in the context of a campaign advertisement. While corporations may now have a constitutional right to free speech, they have no constitutional right to a different standard to be applied in determining whether speech is defamatory. At least with this approach, corporations would most likely tend to be careful of what they might say about a candidate that the corporation opposed.
  • I’m not sure if this would fly, but what about a law that taxed, at a much higher rate, the fees received by media outlets for campaign advertisements, but provide a safe harbor if the fees were received from a not-for-profit or candidate?
  • Or we could enact laws similar to those for non-profits that provide that a non-profit is allowed tax-exempt status only if it refrains from certain forms of political advocacy. We could provide a base corporate tax rate of 99% but provide that the rate would be reduced if the corporation refrained from certain forms of political advocacy.
  • We could require corporations who spend money on election advertisements to provide a copy of each advertisement to each and every shareholder of the company (imagine the cost of having to send DVDs of each advertisement to each of potentially millions of shareholders). Remember when AOL used to send all those CDs?
  • Here’s a nasty little idea: We could provide that in the event of a corporate bankruptcy, the debts of a corporation are not wiped out to the extent of spending on election advertising and that the shareholders would be responsible for those outstanding debts to the extent of that spending.
  • Or how about a law that provides that only corporations that pledge not to expend funds on campaign advertising are entitled to enter into contracts with the government.

Well, that’s all I’ve come up with so far. What do you think? Setting aside whether Senate Republicans would ever sign on to any of these sorts of proposals, would any of these ideas help restore balance to the electoral process?

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Testimony in Opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 13 (Proposed Amendment to the Indiana Constitution to Define Marriage and Prohibit Civil Unions)

On January 20, 2009, I testified before the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee was considering Senate Joint Resolution 13 (SJR 13) which would amend the Indiana Constitution to define marriage and to prohibit civil unions. Here is the full text of the proposed amendment which would, if adopted, be added to Indiana’s Bill of Rights:

Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.

I usually endeavor to keep separate my personal thoughts and opinions from those that I espouse on behalf of organizations with which I am affiliated (in particular the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council for which I currently serve as president). My testimony before the Judiciary Committee was on behalf of the JCRC and in my capacity as president of that organization. Nevertheless, given the importance of the issue (it is, after all, a proposed amendment to Indiana’s Constitution) and the fact that my testimony is not only public record but was also aired on the Senate’s live web feed (and will apparently be available on the Senate’s archived feed at some point in the future), I have decided to reprint my prepared testimony here. I want to take a moment and give due credit to Mark Sniderman, a friend and colleague on the JCRC Board, who testified against SJR 7 (the predecessor to SJR 13) back in 2008. My testimony was based, in part, on his prepared remarks; I deleted some and added some, but he deserves credit for preparing a well thought out and articulated presentation that I was able to use as a framework for my remarks.

I’m sure that my actual words were not identical to my prepared testimony. Furthermore, in order to meet the five minute time limit that I was asked to observe, I selectively edited my prepared testimony as I went; I’ve endeavored to indicate the provisions that I omitted in red. In addition, I contemporaneously added to my testimony to address some of the arguments (or lack thereof) that had been offered by proponents of SJR 13. I’ve also endeavored to provide at least an idea of what that portion of my testimony consisted of in green.

Finally, I want to note that the JRCR has not taken a position on same-sex marriage and I was not testifying in favor of same-sex marriage (though I personally support it). Rather, JCRC’s position, as I tried to articulate in my testimony, is that we oppose efforts to amend the Constitution to restrict, rather than enhance, rights.

Thank you Mr. Chair, Ranking Member, and Members of the Committee. My name is Michael Wallack. I am an attorney in private practice and I am privileged to rise on behalf of and in my capacity as the President of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, in opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 13. The JCRC is comprised of representatives from every synagogue and Jewish membership organization in greater Indianapolis.

Our Jewish community supports the rule of law to assure equal rights, and we oppose constitutional amendments that restrict, rather than enhance, the rights of Hoosiers. Thus, we accordingly oppose SJR 13.

I believe that it is important to understand that we did not arrive at our position without due consideration; in fact, our community engaged in a process of learning, debate, and discussion, that lasted for nearly a year before we adopted our position. Several supporters of SJR 13 (and its predecessor) participated in that process in an open forum that we hosted on the subject. But eventually our community did adopt a position in opposition to the effort to amend our State’s Constitution.

We unconditionally support the core values of religious liberty, the separation of church and state; the safeguarding and advancement of civil rights; and the principle of equal protection under the law.

Jewish tradition teaches that each individual life is sacred and of infinite value. We are commanded to assist the less fortunate; to speak for those who cannot be heard; to stand by those who are unjustly treated; to be animated by the spirit of tikkun olam — the repair and mending of the world.

We Jews have known discrimination merely for being, or appearing to be, different; from the politest snub to unspeakably worse. Discrimination against any group of people is an insult to Jewish values. We are committed to a society that is just, compassionate, and fully democratic. Moreover, we strongly value the notion of a pluralistic, democratic society that, while recognizing the will of the majority, protects the rights of the minority.

What, then, do we owe one another as citizens? At the very least, we cannot decide that some people should be forever barred from possessing the rights and benefits of others, if the voters, through their elected representatives, want benefits and rights to be shared. Federal and state laws now grant over 1,100 rights and benefits to married couples and their families but deny them to unmarried couples. However long they live together, however deep their commitment to one another, by law unmarried couples may not possess the right to joint ownership and transfer of property; the right to participate in pension and social security benefits, health insurance programs, health care decisions, and hospital visitation, among others.

These rights are bedrock. But the proposed amendment would forever deny them to unmarried couples because — and only because — some declare their love to be objectionable.

Current and future legislators, the people’s representatives, would be powerless to assist, however urgent the need, however appropriate the assistance. The Constitution itself would have to be amended, yet again.

Charity, compassion, benevolence, a commitment to equal respect and dignity help determine the quality of life in a country. But the animating principle of the United States is that the rights of the citizens cannot be dependent merely on charity or good will.

Our state, like every other, needs to become more just, not less. Enshrining discrimination into our State’s Constitution runs contrary to that goal.

The JCRC is also dedicated to the separation of church and state. We affirm the right of faith communities to prescribe their own standards for recognizing religious marriage, for it is religious ceremony, not civil law, that sanctifies marriage. Our Jewish community, like most faith communities, will not surrender to the government the power to determine what merits sanctification in our own tradition.

But SJR 13 would nullify a right that religious communities have held since the founding of this country. It would dictate to religious faiths what they can and cannot sanctify in their houses of worship. It would establish a precedent for the state to narrow the realm of religious liberty when it wishes – that is to say, whenever it is popular to do so. What if it become popular to prohibit those of differing faiths to marry, much as it was once popular to prevent those of different skin color to marry? Are those popular values that should be enshrined in a Constitution?

SJR 13 would embed the religious doctrine of some into our state Constitution, to the exclusion of others. It would undermine the principle of separation of church and state – the very principle that ensures religious liberty for people of all faiths and beliefs.

And, let there be no mistake, religious liberty is the principle to which we are committed. The JCRC deeply respects the sincere convictions of religious groups that believe that same-sex marriage is prohibited by passages found in their authoritative religious texts. We do not, however, believe that some religious groups have the right to use the government to impose their religious beliefs upon others. The Indiana Constitution includes numerous provisions that describe the relationship between the church and state, and Article I, Section 4 states it clearly:

No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship... .

Ind. Const., Article I, § 4 (Freedom of Religion). The Equal Privileges and Immunities clause trumpets the same principle:

The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.

Ind. Const., Article I, § 23. These constitutional provisions are bold and manifest: our legal rights shall not be dictated by religious beliefs; nor should civil laws restrict the free exercise of religion; and when our government provides benefits, it must do so to all on equal footing

We affirm the rule of law. For laws to work, they must be clear. Their working must be predictable. Their consequences must be measured. But the rhetoric surrounding this Amendment is feverish. Perhaps worse, it is cloudy and obscure. Not one legislator has offered a clear definition of “status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage”. The mere existence of so much contention over the meaning and effect of this Amendment is reason enough to stop. Let us all agree to this rule of civil society: before we amend our Constitution, we should understand, broadly and generally, the effects of our actions.

As a result of our commitment to our core values, the Indianapolis JCRC:

1) opposes any constitutional amendment that constricts rather than enhances rights; and we therefore oppose SJR 13; and

2) opposes any effort that would diminish the authority of clergy to practice their own religious requirements regarding marriage.

To those of you who will vote against this proposed amendment, I offer our gratitude.

To those who have no doubts about the merits of the amendment, I say to you: you have a duty to question the wisdom of amending the Constitution itself to impose the religious views of some who seek to restrict the civil rights of others. Laws can be passed, then repealed. Amendments to the Constitution can hardly ever be reversed, and never quickly.

To those who may have doubts and concerns about this amendment, I ask only this: be generous in spirit, defend the principle of religious liberty, and lead us where we know -- in our very best moments -- we ought to go.

[I noted that proponents of SJR 13 not only failed, but actually made no attempt at all, to explain what the “threat” to marriage was. I explained that none of the proponents had explained how their marriages or families would be harmed by same-sex marriage and I posited that they did not even attempt to explain this threat because they recognized that the perception of a threat was patently false.]

It is also worth noting that this Amendment will not create any new jobs in Indiana; it will not solve our State’s deficit; it will not be a cure to tax woes; it will not improve our schools or our roads; it will not reduce crime or find more homes for orphaned children. Given all of these issues, is an amendment to the Constitution solely for the purpose of restricting rights really the best thing for this General Assembly to focus upon?

I have come before you on behalf of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council. But I am not less an American for being a Jew. I ask you, I urge you: do not make government the agent of one religious doctrine. Many serve G-d. It is not for the State to decide that Protestant prevails over Catholic; that Christian prevails over Jew; that Jew prevails over Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or any other faith.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

None of the senators asked me any questions. It is worth noting that several senators, in particular Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) and Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Madison County), asked numerous questions, both of proponents and opponents of SJR 13; moreover, it is also worth noting, as Sen. Taylor did in explaining his vote, that the Republican senators asked very few (if any) questions during the entire hearing.

The Democratic senators each gave brief speeches to explain their votes against SJR 13. The Republican senators simply voted “yes”. In the end, SJR 13 was approved by the committee by a vote of 6-4. All four Democrats voted against SJR 13; six of the seven Republicans voted in favor (one was not in the chambers when the vote was taken).

Finally, as long as I’m on the subject, I want to take a few moments to address (briefly; I plan to come back and address some of these points in much more detail at another time) some of the arguments made by proponents of SJR 13:

  • James Bopp, Jr., claimed that courts have “seized control” of the issue of gay marriage. While courts have certainly been involved in the issue, to suggest that they’ve “seized control” (his phrase) is misleading, at best. If we are to accept his suggestion, then it must also be true that courts “seized control” of issues like segregation and civil rights (remember Brown v. Board of Education) or, more recently, gun control (Heller and the Chicago gun control cases).
  • Bopp also suggested that courts shouldn’t have a role in determining the legality of gay marriage because the “people will have spoken”. Of course that argument completely misses the point of the role of the courts in our system that recognizes a separation of powers. The people can do a lot of things through their legislators or referenda, but that doesn’t make those things right or legal. I suspect that a majority of people could be convinced to outlaw Islam or require schoolchildren to pray to Jesus; it would be up to the courts to recognize that doing so violates the Constitution. When people like Bopp make this argument, what they’re really saying is that we don’t want to give the courts the chance to tell us that legislation that we’ve proposed does not conform to the rights and privileges granted by the Constitution (or, more correctly stated, retained by the people). It is critical to remember that in our constitutional system, the will of the majority cannot trump the rights of the minority. That is precisely why we have a Bill of Rights in the first place.
  • Bopp also argued that the possibility of litigation over Indiana’s current prohibition on same-sex marriage is reason enough to amend the Constitution. By that logic, however, any statute passed by the General Assembly that was, in any way, controversial, should I suppose be in the form of an constitutional amendment because virtually all legislation draws litigation of one form or another. But that is not the purpose of a Constitution.
  • The best (funniest?) moment (at least to me) of Bopp’s testimony came in response to a question (from either Sen. Lanane or Sen. Taylor). Bopp said that the amendment was necessary to protect marriage from the General Assembly and the Courts; he said that was the role of the Constitution: to protect rights from the General Assembly and the Courts (oddly enough, Tim Tracy, speaking on behalf of the Indiana Family Institute, said almost the exact same thing in response to a question about the separation of powers). I don’t think that Bopp (or Tracy) quite recognized what he really said, though he was precisely right. The Constitution does protect the rights of Hoosiers. Defining marriage in a way that restricts rights is, in actuality, the exact inverse of the what the Bill of Rights does.
  • Curt Smith (speaking on behalf of the Indiana Family Institute) argued that the limited definition of marriage should be added to the Constitution because “marriage is a unique, social good”. But if marriage is, indeed, a social good, shouldn’t it be encouraged in various forms, including same-sex marriage? Why is one marriage a social good while another marriage is a “threat”? And how does that impact civil unions? Wouldn’t they be a social good, too?
  • A Hispanic pastor (I didn’t hear his name) argued that the Constitution should be amended because the “Bible is the infallible word of G-d”, because “G-d discriminates against right and wrong”, and that homosexuality was a behavior (a choice) that was wrong (thus discrimination against gays is acceptable, a position that none of the other proponents adopted…). He also said that referring to same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue was “offensive” and “disgusting”. I don’t think that I really need to respond to his arguments beyond saying that I found much of his testimony to be both offensive and disgusting. (Thankfully his testimony was offset by the testimony of Rev. Linda McRae of Central Christian Church who talked about what the Bible really says about marriage.)
  • Micah Clark (I think) claimed that “if marriage can mean anything, it ultimately means nothing.” I’m not really sure what this means; I suspect that it is his attempt to make the slippery slope argument (oooh, if we allow gays to marry, what will be next? Polygamy? Incest? Pedophilia? Bestiality?). Of course, these same arguments were used to support anti-miscegenation (laws against interracial marriage).
  • Glenn Tebbe, Executive Director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, argued that marriage should be protected in the Constitution (again, what is the threat?) because marriage is a “faithful lifelong partnership”. Of course, by that reasoning, divorce should probably be prohibited in the Constitution, too.
  • Finally, Eric Miller (of Advance America) claimed that protecting marriage (again, from what?) was “in the best interests of families and children”. Of course, he didn’t get around to explaining how “protecting” marriage was in the best interests of families and children. After all, wouldn’t a married same-sex couple be a “family”? Wouldn’t children be better off in a committed, loving, two-parent relationship than in a single-parent family, let alone in foster care or an orphanage?

Those are the sorts of arguments being advanced by the opponents of same-sex marriage and the proponents of the constitutional amendment. One other point worth making: Not a single one of the people who testified in favor of SJR 13 offered any reason whatsoever as to why civil unions were bad, let alone why the General Assembly should be prohibited from adopting civil union legislation in the future should that be the will of voters expressed at the polls.

Please call your senator (and representative, for that matter) and tell them to oppose SJR 13. You don’t have to support same-sex marriage; but please tell our legislators not to amend Indiana’s Constitutions to restrict, rather than enhance, the rights of Hoosiers.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage Will Ruin Society [humor]

Tomorrow, I have the opportunity to testify to the Indiana Senate in opposition to a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Indiana that would ban gay marriage as well as civil unions. Here is some of what I wish I could say:

  1. Being gay is not natural. Real Americans™ always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.
  2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
  3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.
  4. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can’t marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.
  5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britney Spears’ 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.
  6. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren’t full yet, and the world needs more children.
  7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
  8. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.
  9. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.
  10. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven’t adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.
Note that I'm not the author of the foregoing list and, unfortunately, I cannot find the notes that I made when I originally found and copied the list.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Who Is Ready to Help Haiti?

Out of curiosity, I did a quick scan around the Internet this morning to see which countries have offered or begun supplying aid and assistance to Haiti following yesterday's devastating earthquake. To be consistent in my unscientific search, I simply searched for the website of the ministry of foreign affairs of a number of countries and looked to see if there was a statement about Haiti. If not, I searched for "Haiti" (presuming that the site offered a search function). So, as of 1:00pm, the day following the earthquake, here are the nations that have offered aid or begun supplying assistance:
United States
United Kingdom
Israel (see Israeli search and rescue delegation departs to Haiti)
The United Nations also has a page devoted the Haiti and notes that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has called for international assitance.

The websites of the foreign ministries of the following nations do not mention the earthquake or any aid or support:
Dominical Republic
Saudi Arabia
After that, I got bored.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Perhaps nothing; perhaps some countries just don't update their websites that often (though most appear to...). And perhaps these countries have made formal statements that haven't been reflected on their websites. Who knows.

I don't find it particularly interesting that the US has offered aid. I do find it interesting that France, the former colonial power in Haiti, hasn't said anything yet. Also, somewhat surprising is the silence of both Venezuela and Cuba, both of whom always seem to be trying to position themselves as important actors in the region. You'd think that they'd be rushing to get aid to Haiti faster than the US, just to show that they could. Furthermore, note that neither Japan (which has extensive experience with earthquake recovery) or China (which suffered a devastating quake of its own last year) appears to have offered help.

On the the other hand, Israel has already dispatched aid even though it does not have bilateral relations with Haiti. In other words, those "evil" Israelis, living half a world away, have been able to dispatch aid before many of the "great powers" or regional actors. Maybe things that like this should at least be noted when the world tries to throw Israel under the proverbial bus. Ah, but alas, I suspect that most people will view this as some kind of cynical ploy by Israel rather than a sign of true concern. Of course, Israel also offered aid to Iran following in earthquake there (which was rejected) and did provide aid following earthquakes in China, India, and Turkey as well as aid following the Indiana Ocean tsunami. But evidence that Israel is truly concerned with the situation of Haitians (or Iranians or Chinese or any others who are victims of a natural disaster) wouldn't square so well with the narrative of the evil, apartheid, Nazi, organ-stealing Jews propounded by much of the world.

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