Friday, June 24, 2011

Adam and Steve to Get Married in New York

Tonight, the New York State Senate passed the marriage equality bill.  With that achieved, all that remains is for Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill into law.  This is a big victory for same-sex couples, because (1) marriage equality was achieved by a majority vote in the legislature, and (2) New York is one of the more populous states in the country with a larger gay population that can benefit from the law.  A high school classmate of mine who is gay and has been in a longtime relationship with another man expressed on Facebook a short while ago how happy he was that the possibility of marriage for him and his partner had become real.

I believe 30 years from now, when marriage equality will likely have been achieved nationwide, a lot of people will probably wonder why some opponents of same-sex marriage were so hysterical over the prospect of two people of the same gender being able to tie the knot.  Our civilization will not have been destroyed because Adam was able to marry Steve instead of Eve.

However, we also need to acknowledge that the picture will not be a completely rosy one.  Gay marriage will inevitably lead to gay divorce.  In some instances, child custody issues will arise, either because of adoption or because one of the partners in the marriage had a biological child from a previous heterosexual marriage or relationship.   As with some heterosexual marriages, some same-sex marriages will be fraudulent.  For example, gays who are American citizens will be able to bring in immigrant spouses so that the latter can obtain permanent residency and citizenship in the United States.  It shouldn't come as a surprise that some of these marriages will be merely marriages of convenience to enable an immigrant to acquire American citizenship.  That being said, these are no more reasons for barring same-sex marriage than they are for banning heterosexual marriage.  It is simply a recognition that equality before the law is meant to provide equality of opportunity without guaranteeing perfect outcomes.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Failure to Launch

"Momentum Builds In Iowa."  That was the title of an e-mail I received this past May 20, 2011, from Newt Gingrich's campaign manager Rob Johnson.

Johnson went on to declare:

"One thing is clear: Americans are ready to put our country back on the right track. Newt visited seventeen cities across Iowa this week. At each and every stop people packed into overflowing halls to hear what we can do to put the right policies in place so we can get the right results for our country."

"We’re ready. We launched our campaign just over a week ago, and we are already seeing an outpouring of support. Volunteers have signed up in all 50 states. Next week Newt will campaign in both New Hampshire and South Carolina."

Fast forward three weeks later to today, June 10, 2011.

From Politico:

"[C]ampaign manager Rob Johnson, strategists Sam Dawson and Dave Carney, spokesman Rick Tyler and consultants Katon Dawson in South Carolina and Craig Schoenfeld in Iowa quit to protest what one called a “different vision” for the campaign."

“To be successful in Iowa, you need to be here, [and] taking a look at the way the schedule was, he’s not scheduled to be here in June at all, and he’s got very few appearances in July,” said Schoenfeld. “You want to make sure that you give yourself a chance to be successful.”

So, what went wrong?

"One official said the last straw came when Gingrich went ahead last week with a long-planned cruise in the Greek isles with his wife."

I couldn't help but get a chuckle about the "trip to the Greek Islands" thing.  It's right up there with "santorum."

About a month or so ago, several Republican leaning people I interacted with, when discussing possible GOP candidates, mentioned Gingrich as a good candidate, with one of them even saying what a "bright" guy Gingrich is. 

I'm sorry, but I'm just not seeing that.  What I see when I look at Newt Gingrich is a narcissistic, hypocritical and undisciplined man with pretensions of being an intellectual.  I suspect that a lot of evangelical Christian voters are also not impressed with Gingrich and see him for the shallow opportunist that he is.

To the other person I had an exchange with, I replied that Gingrich was merely pretending to run for president just so that people would pay attention to him.  Newt's presidential campaign will probably limp along for a few more weeks before he admits the inevitable and bows out.  Over a decade ago, Long Island Republican Congressman Peter King called Newt "political roadkill."  I don't see that anything has changed for Newt since then.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Can I Talk To Dead People on My Cell Phone?

The other day I was looking at the events calendar in the Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald and saw an announcement that a local psychic medium named Robert E. Hansen would be conducting a session of his Love Never Dies program at the Plainview Jewish Center on Monday, June 13 for $35 per person.

My first thought, me being the skeptical guy that I am, was to wonder, "Has the Plainview Jewish Center conducted some kind of test to determine if this Robert Hansen can actually do what he claims to do, that is, to be able to communicate with the spirits of dead people?"  After all, if you are hosting and charging admission for such an event, if the person is not the real deal, aren't you essentially facilitating an act of fraud on gullible people?

I'm not going to get into the subject of whether or not I believe that part of us survives the death of our physical body here.  However, I find it interesting that nobody ever seems to be able to communicate directly with their own deceased relatives and friends, and yet somehow complete strangers can supposedly accomplish such a feat on our behalf because they have a special gift the rest of us lack.

How does that work anyway?  Do the souls of the departed swarm around the privileged few who can hear them, whispering their names into the medium's ear, with only the first letter being clear?  "I'm hearing 'Dave?'  'Dan?', or is that 'Donald?'"  Or is it more like tuning into a radio station with constant static in the background, preventing the words from being heard clearly?  On his website, Hansen compares it to "lying on the bottom of a 6' deep swimming pool and someone was trying to yell down to you."

Back to the testing part, one possible way of going about it would be if a number of people who were terminally ill (but still functional) were to bury boxes with a messages in secret locations, tell their family members that they buried something for them somewhere, but that they would have to visit a medium after they died to find out the where the boxes were buried.  If the medium was legitimate, he would tell them the secret location of the box.  If the medium could provide the location of the box, then it would be solid evidence that the dead can communicate with the living, and that the particular medium who provided the location was in fact the real deal. 

It would probably not be easy to coordinate such an experiment with a sufficient number of terminally ill people to form a large enough group in a fixed geographical area so that the family members of the different deceased participants could consult the same mediums.   If one medium succeeded in providing accurate locations for multiple boxes, while other mediums could not locate any, it could provide a benchmark for determining which mediums were true and which ones were bullshit artists.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Pet Peeve of the Day - June 6, 2011

Wow, it's been over two years since I did one of these.

As a daily commuter on the Long Island Rail Road to and from work in Manhattan, I see a lot of things that annoy me. 

One of my greatest sources of irritation are people who I have dubbed "Aisle Seat Assholes."  If you ride the rails like I do, you might know the kind of people I am describing.  They are the ones who as soon as they enter the train, plop themselves down onto the nearest aisle seat, even if the middle and/or window seat next to them is empty.  But they are not just assholes for their choice of seat.  It's what they do no next that really puts them in the asshole category.

Many of them, immediately after their posteriors have settled onto the seats, whip out their laptop computers, portable dvd players or other mobile devices and plug in their ear buds to drown out the world while people are still boarding the train.  And then when you tap them on their shoulder or otherwise get their attention so you can get to the empty two seats to the right of them, they give you this look of annoyance like "How dare you bother me!"

What makes it worse is that if there are a dozen people trying to board the train through one door and the first person tries to get a seat in the first row which already is occupied by an Aisle Seat Asshole (hereinafter "ASA"), everyone has to wait while the ASA gets up, steps out into the aisle, lets the passenger by to occupy the middle or window seat, and then sit down again.  Mutiply that four or five times, and sometimes you can find yourself being blocked from getting to a seat for a minute or more.

Maybe it's a quirk of my personality, but to me it seems to make more sense if the first people to enter a train car were to move to the middle of the car and occupy the window seat and the last people get the seats closer to the doors.  That way, everyone would get a seat virtually immediately, even if it is not necessarily the exact seat they wanted to get. 

I suppose it is too much to expect the bulk of the riders on the Long Island Rail Road to think that way.

What A Weiner!

As anyone who has been following the story probably knows by now, Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has fessed up and admitted that he sent pictures of his bulging underpants and such to women who were not his wife.  After initially denying sending the pictures, while strangely not denying they might be pictures of him, the liberal firebrand from Brooklyn has tarnished his credibility and possibly destroyed his career in politics.

Disappointingly, several commenters (see the excerpts below) in the Crooks & Liars article I linked to appear to be more upset with right-wing operative Andrew Breitbart, the man who released the photo and claimed to have others, than with Representative Weiner. 

I believe these anonymous women (if you believe they are women) were paid handsomely for their involvement in this BREIBART set-up, otherwise ask yourself, why take it to Breibart and not the attorney General.

I believe Briebart deliberately, with malice and fore-thought, entrapped Weiner.

Breitbart is a dirt bag. Doesn't that fucktard have anything better to do with his time? I'm more embarrassed for him than Weiner.

Liberals can gripe about Breitbart all they want, but no matter how you cut and slice it, Weiner put himself in the situation he is in and the responsibility lies 100% with him.

To put things in perspective though, what Weiner did was hardly the worst thing a politician has ever done.  Just about all of us have said and done things that would be tremendously embarrasing if it became a matter of public record.  We're only human, and so are our elected officials.  That being said, when you run for and get elected to public office, you should know that the public will hold you to a higher standard of behavior.

When you make yourself a lightning rod, as Representative Weiner did by being a brash, outspoken Democratic politician, you have to be aware that there is a well funded right wing apparatus dedicated to examining your life under a microscope and sifting through your activities with a fine toothed comb.   President Clinton should have been a cautionary example in this regard.   Knowing full well that conservatives were looking for anything they could find to take him down, Clinton foolishly fooled around with Monica Lewinsky, leading his impeachment.  And like Weiner, Clinton initially denied what he had been accused of, only to have to come clean when damning evidence surfaced.  Then again, maybe these guys just can't help themselves.  Perhaps their egos delude them into thinking that they won't get caught, or if they do get caught, that they can somehow weasel their way out of it.

While Weiner is from New York, he is not my representative, as his district covers Brooklyn and Queens.  I did have an exchange with him years ago during a meet the candidates event in Queens when he first ran for the office he holds today and I was sharing an apartment in Queens with my wife before we married.  At the time, I was quite active in the immigration restrictionist movement (and I hope to one day write a post about how I came to be involved in the movement and why I ultimately left it) and I remember asking Weiner if he would support legislation to deny citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants.  He snapped at me and made some remark about how did my parents get here or something to that effect. 

I have since moved on with my life and gotten over that exchange.  As my political views shifted from conservative to liberal over the years, I did admire Weiner's gutsiness and appreciated his vocal support for womens' reproductive rights.  That being said, I am not going to reflexively defend him for engaging in behavior that I would condemn had it been done by a conservative politician.

As to whether he should resign, I think it depends on whether he did anything illegal.  If not, then it is up to his constituents to decide come Election Day in 2012.  After all, if Republican Senator David "Diaper" Vitter of Louisiana can be re-elected by the people of his state, then who am I to complain if the people of Brooklyn and Queens want to give Anthony another chance?  Whether his wife will remains to be seen.