February 13, 2004

Happy unimaginative, consumerist-oriented and entirely arbitrary, manipulative & shallow interpretation of romance day

I leave you all with a hallmark of cards certainly not from Hallmark: the Anti-Valentines are back.

Mr. Pollak lives in Teaneck, New Jersey. He is currently single.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 4:02 PM

Jesus wants us to stop being the most advanced nation on earth

Thanks, Christians:

It's official: The United States has fallen significantly behind in mining the promising field of stem cell research to treat disease.

A momentous milestone - a team of South Korean researchers has announced its successful harvesting of stem cells from a cloned human embryo - is a feat U.S. researchers have been striving to achieve since at least 2001.

The script, many U.S. scientists say, was essentially written by the Bush administration when it decided to restrict federal funding for research in the politically charged field.

U.S. researchers say the therapeutic cloning accomplished by the South Koreans - creating embryos not to make babies but to treat disease and prolong lives - mirrors research brought to a virtual standstill in this country by domestic politics.

The promise of such research, advocates say, is that it may eventually create therapies that won't lead to immune rejection problems in people.

While they hailed what they considered a landmark occasion, U.S. scientists lamented that a technology largely created in the richest nation on earth was getting more support abroad.

Look, the abortion debate is one that even I acknowledge will never end. But the idea that the United States - the nation which has been a beacon for foreign researchers for its technological prowess- is now falling behind because a vocal minority insists that blasocysts have souls is shameful.

Apparently when you have that much of the Lord inside you you need to throw out some of your brain to make room.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 3:56 PM

Inexcusable

Kos alerts us that Florida has concluded on a better method of conducting recounts: not conducting them.

That's right, the state that called the election for two different people has concluded that their voting system is now infallible. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to bury the corpse of irony; it's stinking up my living room.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 3:12 PM

February 12, 2004

Let's see...

Drudge puts up a blurb about Kerry and an intern. Has no physical evidence, no actual witnesses, and revolves the story conveniently around how hard it will be to get evidence of anything Drudge is alleging.

Here's the Google search for "Kerry and Intern" in the news. As of posting time, the leading pickups are four European papers and one Australian paper noting the accusation, Joe Conason's blog discussing pretty much what I'm saying here, and WorldNetDaily, truly a bastion of accuracy in media.

I'm writing this at 11:15 the night before Friday's papers come out and the morning talk shows begin, so we won't see the results until then. But if the respect this story got today is maintained through the weekend, I think I might actually have some restored faith in American media.

I'm on the record as saying this story's bullshit. I might be wrong, in which case I'll be far too pissed off with Kerry to deal with any "embarassment" that the pro-Bush trolls will insist I'd then be covered in. But I think with what we know so far- the lack of any evidence, the similarity to an exact same smear on Clinton, the lack of any other media support or information, the veracity of the source- this is a setup to make a "prove it" straw man against Bush's real AWOL charges.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:15 PM

Next week: bashing kittens with hammers

TBogg reports that Ann Coulter is attacking Max Cleland for the "distorted" way it's been reported that he... umm... lost three of his limbs in Vietnam.

Here's Cleland's story from the Department of Defense. Clearly, their contradiction to Coulter's interpretation proves the liberal American-hating that is the United States Military.

Or, that Ann's a psychotic bitch who needs medication. Either one.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:58 PM

Jesse nails it

Pandagon prints the obvious purpose of the Kerry rumor:

I've run into quite a few people in various comments sections of blogs comparing the Kerry "scandal" to the Bush National Guard story, apparently trying to play down the AWOL search by yelling that Kerry must also come forward with all of his papers, records, etc....or it's a cover-up!!!
And there you go. It's just that simple- Bush, called to answer questions related to physical evidence and multiple statements in regards to a potentially criminal cover-up, is now equal to John Kerry being called to answer an unfounded rumor proven with nothing by no one.

The power of ignorance is a mighty power, indeed. Hopefully, enough people will realize how stupid it would sound to compare a rumor about Kerry to facts about Bush, but it depends on how much time O'Reilly and Limbaugh will devote their shows to this in the next 24 hours.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 4:42 PM

You were all saying?

Anyone catch this little bit of retrospect? Wow.

Perhaps more striking is how often serious questions of misconduct have been flat-out ignored. John Allen Muhammad, convicted last November for his participation in the D.C. sniper shootings, served in the Louisiana National Guard from 1978-1985, where he faced two summary courts-martial. In 1983, he was charged with striking an officer, stealing a tape measure, and going AWOL. Sentenced to seven days in the brig, he received an honorable discharge in 1985.

The point of these examples isn't to liken Bush's conduct to anyone else's. Indeed, precisely because his records remain incomplete, any comparisons to other officers are dubious at best. Rather, the point is that Bush's honorable discharge is basically meaningless as a testament to his conduct in the Guard: It would have been possible for Bush to earn an honorable discharge whether or not he skipped out on his duties.

Over to you, Mr. President.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:37 PM

Oh lord

BREAKING NEWS FROM DRUDGEREPORT.COM - A multi-newspaper investigation has been discovered by the Drudge Report into accusations that John Kerry exposed his bare breast on national television while indecently touching a young boy who was covering up the body of his dead wife after shooting her limo driver. Said an inside source, "this has nothing to do with Bush's service record being front page news in any way whatsoever."

Developing...

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:52 PM

The Beyonce thing

I got a lot more letters about my "Beyonce playing Lois Lane is the stupidest thing I've ever heard" post than I expected. I was going to post a few, until I noticed a lot of them started noting the same things, and because of that I'll just freeform and try to address most of you. I really don't want to get into the personal reply area with this one, because I know how subjects like this turn into constant back-forth reply chains of countering each other's points and getting into that is gonna be unfeasable, at least on my end. But I didn't want you all to think I didn't listen to you, so here's my best.

To admit a touch of cultural sensitivity, I confess that part of my anger with this "oh let's just make so-and-so a black person" is because I find it a bit hypocritical in light of the Storm example- i.e. that no director would in their wildest dreams ever say "well let's make this character white now." Storm has been re-visualized in many incarnations of the X-men on screen. The principal rules though have always been visual- she's black, she's got flowing white hair. Lois Lane has had loads of the same, with the same constants- she's white, with black hair and a reference to that 30's-style Lana Turner look. I just don't see why a huge change for Storm is off the table when it never seems to be for white characters.

The biggest case you all made was in your examples of previous films, which in some cases make a good point and in some cases don't. The most common, at least from a comic perpective, was that Michael Clark Duncan played Kingpin in Daredevil. I'll get to that in a minute.

A few of you noted literary changes- most often that Morgan Freeman's character in The Shawshank Redemption was originally a white guy and that Quentin Tarantino literally converted the main character from an Elmore Leonard novel from a white man into Pam Grier for Jackie Brown. I think this is a big difference from Lois Lane being changed because 1. characters based on a novel are, by default, not based on any visual guidelines outside of the author's descriptions, which are clearly more open to interpretation than a comic's actual visual description of a character, and 2. most novels really aren't known anywhere near the scope that they are until after the movie comes out- in sense, the book almost reinterprets the movie popular movie character even though it was created first.

Now as for Duncan, we'll address the first difference between him and Beyonce Knowles- Duncan is, of course, an Academy Award-nominated Actor. He also isn't a pop star, and/or by that inference, a sex object. Michael Clark Duncan cast in Daredevil doesn't include the chance for a top-40 song in the credits. He pulled off a good Kingpin, but to be honest, you can't really interpret Daredevil in a way that relates Duncan's performance as the sole "re-interpretation" of the story. That entire movie was altered from the original source. For one thing, Daredevil was, despite the movie's interpretation... good.

I admit though that it's interesting how, myself included, more attention was given to Kingpin not being white than the fact that Elektra was suddenly not Greek. Less people minded because Elektra was played by an attractive actress in a questionably-watchable network TV series.

I think that's what's ultimately making the whole Beyonce thing irritating for me. One reader suggested "Beyonce will not play Lois Lane as a black woman. She will play her as a culturally neutral woman whose skin is slightly on the dark side." I don't think that's true. Beyonce will play Lois Lane as Beyonce Knowles.

That's why the producers want her there. Exploting the fact that accusations of bad casting can be cast off as a sign of racism, the directors/producers want to fill an MTV demographic by pretending that there isn't a wildly-successful pop star on screen. It's not going to work.

Another reader noted that I'm right about the outrage going the other way- minority roles given to white actors have been protested both in film and on Broadway. Ironically, the one everyone forgets and then brings up later is the strange unmentioned casting change from another comic book movie- the fact that Two-Face's acid scarring was so horrible that it actually turned Billy Dee Williams into Tommy Lee Jones. (Isn't it weird how similar the names are?)

I guess in the long run, my position is this: you guys are mostly right, and honestly there's nothing inherently wrong with a director picking whoever they think is suitable for a role. It's just that I don't think most of those decisions are so cut-and-dried as they're made out to be. It has to be acknowledged that the axe doesn't really swing both ways on the race issue, and that Knowles' case really leads to the fact that this one-directonal ability is much more about commercial gain than artistic.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:41 PM

So, that proves that I have honorably fulfilled my duties, and am a good and faithful wife.

THIS IS BRILLIANT.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:54 AM

February 11, 2004

You do realize how stupid you sound, right?

I'd like to address the ridiculous "counter-attack" to questions of Bush's military record in the form of questions about John Kerry's. There's been some trolling on some boards from people thinking they're clever by saying "well how can you prove Kerry fully served? Where's the documents? Ha ha ha!"

Do you people realize how stupid you sound?

Tragically, this actually needs to be explained, so I'll do so slowly: Kerry's record wasn't called into question, dumbass.

If a military official makes a statement that Kerry didn't show up for service duty, then yeah, I'd say Kerry needs to put forth some documents. (Kerry, of course, has already released his full service record long ago, as did every candidate in the 2000 election except for Bush.) But no one has actually accused Kerry, have they? Kerry hasn't written an autobiography where he claimed to be flying with the National Guard at a time when it's proven he wasn't, has he?

The difference between Bush's service record and Kerry's service record is that no one in the military has called Kerry's service into question. At least three seperate members of the armed forces- Lieutenant Colonel William Turnipseed, Lieutenant Colonel William Harris Jr., and Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian- have stated that Bush was not present on base or not accurately reported by previous sources as to his location and service.

In other words, and let's make this the most clear, the people who claim that Bush's service record is without discrepancy are accusing three members of the U.S. military of lying. Serious charge, guys... and your proof is?

The difference between Kerry and Bush is that there's actually a case against Bush. It's this little silly thing called "witnesses" and "evidence." Bush's lies are slowly being reported with documents and collaborating testimony... testimony and evidence that, you might have noticed, has not for one minute been proven to be false.

So exactly what clout does the Bush crowd have in demanding evidence? They haven't any for their own case, and as such their defense of Bush is the most baseless.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:32 PM

Arrogant hypocrisy

The White House can't pick and choose which argument to make with Bush's service record.

Officials could not explain why it was being sent to the Pentagon, but suggested it could be in response to requests from journalists or other outside groups under the Freedom of Information Act. Bush's permission is needed to release any but the most basic details, a Pentagon official said.

But McClellan bristled when asked whether Bush would release medical and disciplinary records of his service, as some critics have urged.

"I think what you are seeing is gutter politics. Some are simply trolling for trash for political gain," McClellan said.

(article via Oliver Willis)

The problem with this line of logic isn't even that I disagree with it (Clinton's sex life, anyone?) It's that while Bush's defenders are chastizing the drive to gather evidence against the President as "trolling for trash" with one hand, they're goading everyone on to gather more evidence with the other. Case in point from Oliver's comments:

I said it at Kevin's site and I will say it again, Bush doesn't have to prove a negative.

The people accusing him of being AWOL are the ones with the burden. They have to prove it or STFU. You don't reach a conclusion that something is true because the person you're accusing has failed to prove it isn't true.

It's the height of arrogance and hypocrisy to say that it's "our burden" to gather evidence when this argument seems to revolve around Republican faux-outrage that we're- gasp- trying to gather evidence. You can't say both "it's your job to show evidence" and "you're trolling for trash" at the same time. If you truly believe it's "our burden" to prove more of what's already been proven instead of Bush's job to back up his statements, then, to quote Bush's own defenders, STFU and give us the documents so we can prove it.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 4:17 PM
Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:16 AM

February 10, 2004

Wheeeee, wasting money is fun!

The South Dakota legislature passed a bill today that bans abortion in the state. I mean, completly. With no exceptions whatsoever.

"When we're considering an innocent life, the health of the mother is not a substantial enough justification to take the innocent life," said Republican Rep. Matt McCaulley, chief sponsor of the bill.
Congratulations, Mr. McCaulley, you are not a human being. For one thing, that's the most misogynistic, vile, malicious thing a sentient organism could possibly say, I mean Jesus holy FUCK, it's not worth aborting a baby if it's killing the mother, you psychopath?

And to top off the human waste that is McCaulley, there's the economic waste in the form of the several million dollars that the state budget will have to spend to immediately and fully lose any appeal to keep this law on the books, what with it being what non-legal experts refer to as "completly unconstitutional."

Where's the frivilous lawsuit prevention regulations when you actually need them? Not only should South Dakota have to pay the fees to all the civil rights groups salivating over an easy win like this one, they should require this McCaulley asshat to resign from the state legislature and be escorted out naked and tarred with only the laughs of the rational and his good buddy Jesus following him.

Jesus, by the way, was unavailable for comment, but issued a press statement which read "The health of the mother isn't substantial? Are you aware that line about special places reserved in Hell is true?"

Update: a reader in South Dakota has informed me that the bill does in fact allow exception for "the life of the mother." This is specific and not inclusive of "health of the mother." So if the baby's gonna kill the mother, it's okay. It's not if it's just, for example, going to leave her in a vegetative state or cause permanent physical non-fatal damage. That... umm... that doesn't really seem better, does it.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:34 PM

Well that explains everything then

Shorter Conservative pundits: the only reason liberals are making a big deal out of Bush's service record is revenge for all the stuff that was done to Clinton, which was, of course, perfectly justified.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:32 PM

Oh, I'm sure they're worried sick

Kevin Drum steps up the investigation into Bush's service record, and apparently most of the conservatives in his comments section are deeply, deeply concerned about Kevin personally for the oh-too-complicated mess he's clearly getting himself into. See, what's at risk the most here is Kevin damaging his credibility by engaging in this foolish endeavor.

Riiiiiiiight.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:32 PM

Hilarious

A bunch of conservative websites today decided that it's time to start doing whatever's necessary to get the veteran's vote away from John Kerry since, you know, they can't really say Bush did more in the war or anything.

So as was tried before they've put up a photo of John Kerry sitting near Jane Fonda at an anti-war rally:

Whoops, my bad. That's the Defense Secretary of the United States shaking hands with the despotic ruler of Iraq during a period when we were supplying him weapons of mass destruction. Let's try again.

There we go. John Kerry sitting three rows behind Jane Fonda, despicable for her actions on her trip to Hanoi, which hadn't occured yet at the time this photo was taken.

Oh yeah, that's much worse.

Update, January 3, 2012: This morning--yes, seven years after I wrote this post, the guy who took the photo apparently discovered it and ordered it taken down by my site host with a DMCA filing. Seriously.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:30 AM

February 9, 2004

Wow

So I'm sitting around in my underwear watching Letterman, and he announces that 40 years ago today, the Beatles performed for Ed Sullivan on the very stage he was standing on.

So at the end of the show, 40 years from the moment, he plays the clip of the Beatles. So 40 years ago exactly, everyone else was sitting there watching the Beatles.

In their underpants.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:45 PM

No no no no no oh hell no

What amazes me about movie producers is that they take comic books- a genre in which the fan interest and demand for respect to the original product is the greatest- and apparently feel as though these are the themes the most open to manipulating because, well, they feel like it.

So let's get right to it so I can go straight to being accused of ignorance or racism or something: they want to cast Beyonce Knowles as Lois Lane in the next Superman movie.

This is, without question, ridiculous. And although a major part of it, there's a lot more to this being stupid than Knowles' race. But since that's the most blatant, I'll start right there. Lois Lane isn't black.

I'm sorry. I have two years of weblog to account for any doubt that I'm not the most open-minded, politically-correct person out there. But it's bothersome because of this simple reason: the casting department doesn't care about this movie because something like this is a sign that they don't care about the very story they're working on.

Superman is a comic that is over 60 years old, containing a cast of characters which fit physical description nearly equal to that of real people. As a comic fan, the idea that Lois Lane isn't a tall, raven-haired white woman is as silly as suggesting that Clark Kent could be a green-eyed blonde.

I think it's more insulting to racial unity to act as if we should pretend we're not seeing this. As if everyone's at the Daily Planet and then suddenly Lois walks in and we're not supposed to think, be it on purpose or subconsciously, "hey, Lois Lane suddenly became a 19-year-old black woman! Whaddaya know?"

Clearly this doesn't refer to "interpretations" of a story- but the difference between this casting directive and The Wiz was that the latter was a deliberate invoking of a cultural theme on a story- one character didn't suddenly change race, the entire story did. With the characters in Superman, race isn't a factor of the character the way their story is, but when you do it to one individual character, you might as well put a blinking arrow on them.

This doesn't happen in historical drama. Denzel Washington doesn't get cast to play Winston Churchill. Ashton Kutcher isn't going to be playing Mao-Tse-Tung. Or if you think nonfiction's an unfair analysis, how about cultural legends? Would a producer make a black Robin Hood? A Mexican Merlin? Dustin Hoffman in an adaptation of Arabian Nights? Why should comic fans sit down and shut up when the visual image of their cultural and historical icons are announced as irrelevant? Hey, let's even stay with comic books- how about a white Storm for the next X-men movie? Think that's on the books?

There are times when other factors outweigh this. We don't really know what Jesus Christ looked like, and as such we've seen many (some controversial) interpretations of the character. We saw Ben Kingsley masterfully play an Indian man. Halle Berry can pull off Catwoman because she can bring a strong, powerful woman to the source of the character.

But that addresses the next major point- Beyonce Knowles sure as hell ain't Ben Kingsley and she sure as hell ain't Halle Berry... She was cute and funny in Goldmember but for a Superman role she brings absolutely nothing to the source of the character. The producer isn't looking at Knowles because "she's got the talent to pull Lois Lane off," he's looking at her because she's an attractive celebrity with a well-selling music album. He doesn't want Lois Lane in his movie, he wants Beyonce Knowles. That's insulting to Knowles, insulting to moviegoers, and insulting to countless other actresses who would kill to play the part of such a popular character who actually could get it for their acting talent.

It's not just race in the long run- there's a stereotype that no one will notice actors falling in love with women on screen thirty years younger than them, and I think that's just as silly. Richard Gere in a romance with Winona Ryder could only be topped by Sean Connery having on-screen sex with the girl from Whale Rider. But by far, race is the most ignored factor- Hollywood could suggest Morgan Freeman as the next James Bond, and more people would complain that he's too old.

Lord of the Rings proved that acting talent could augment height for the sake of a good character: if a fantastic actress came along who didn't meet the description of Lois Lane, I could support it. But Beyonce Knowles isn't being hired for being a good actress. She's being hired to sell a movie to the MTV crowd.

I went to film school, and I have family members in the drama field. I know how the process works- actors are screened and counted out based on age, height, the color of their eyes. I dream of racial unity in this country, and that's why I think things like this should be talked about. It's silly to pretend that it's racist to suggest that a actor doesn't fit a certain part because of their race any more than their age or other physical aspects. There are too many people out there who better fit the part to act as though no one will notice a difference.

Update: As I have been now made aware by several readers who didn't waste $150,000 on film school to not know this, Ben Kingsley is, in fact, Indian.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:19 PM

Technology shouldn't take this long to advance, Buddy.

Rarely you'll see me jumping for joy at the latest from giant media empires, but this is kinda awesome. Having only taken... oh, let's say six years or so to realize that everyone on the planet would find this useful, AOL just released the newest version of Instant Messenger that supports multiple simultaneous screen names.

So for the first time ever, you can actually have your work and personal Buddy Lists running in the same window. And to think AOL only needed hackers to make these tools for half a decade before they got the hint.

Update: Okay, the AIM homepage indicates that "popular themes" for your buddy list include happy faces, Zodiac signs, animals, and... Hillary Duff. Ummm.... okay.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 2:17 PM

Sigh

Dear news media: Christina Aguillera makes several million dollars a year. I sincerely doubt she cares what you think of the dress she wore to the Grammys last night.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 2:01 PM

Promises, promises

Via Calpundit, we're in an era of ridiculously broad claims from the Commander-in-Chief.

As Max Sawicky has kindly informed us, last year the White House told us that if we passed all their tax cuts the economy would create 1.8 million new jobs in 2003 and 3.7 million in 2004.

Well, even though the tax cut got passed 2003 didn't quite live up to expectations, and today the White House backed down yet again, projecting growth for 2004 of only 2.6 million jobs. That's pretty anemic. I guess tax cuts aren't quite the magic bullet they thought.

So a President who failed to create the jobs he promised in 2003 has promised to make more in 2004. And he's promised to have the troops out by June. And he promised to release his service record. And he promised that there were WMDs in Iraq. And he promised that we'd get Osama bin Laden.

Can someone explain to me how 44% of the country still thinks they can trust this man?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:57 PM

The love that dare not squeak its name

My sister sent me this article from last week's New York Times about a pair of penguins in the Central Park Zoo who have for six years done naturally what has been considered to be "unnatural:" had a gay relationship.

Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan, are completely devoted to each other. For nearly six years now, they have been inseparable. They exhibit what in penguin parlance is called "ecstatic behavior": that is, they entwine their necks, they vocalize to each other, they have sex. Silo and Roy are, to anthropomorphize a bit, gay penguins. When offered female companionship, they have adamantly refused it. And the females aren't interested in them, either.

At one time, the two seemed so desperate to incubate an egg together that they put a rock in their nest and sat on it, keeping it warm in the folds of their abdomens, said their chief keeper, Rob Gramzay. Finally, he gave them a fertile egg that needed care to hatch. Things went perfectly. Roy and Silo sat on it for the typical 34 days until a chick, Tango, was born. For the next two and a half months they raised Tango, keeping her warm and feeding her food from their beaks until she could go out into the world on her own. Mr. Gramzay is full of praise for them.

This growing body of science has been increasingly drawn into charged debates about homosexuality in American society, on subjects from gay marriage to sodomy laws, despite reluctance from experts in the field to extrapolate from animals to humans. Gay groups argue that if homosexual behavior occurs in animals, it is natural, and therefore the rights of homosexuals should be protected. On the other hand, some conservative religious groups have condemned the same practices in the past, calling them "animalistic."

But if homosexuality occurs among animals, does that necessarily mean that it is natural for humans, too? And that raises a familiar question: if homosexuality is not a choice, but a result of natural forces that cannot be controlled, can it be immoral?

This is a fascinating article, from the touching first few grafs about the love and care two gay penguins give their adopted child, to the amazing insight on how both sides of the gay rights debate are using animals to support their claims.

Personally, I think the argument that homosexuality is "normal" because it occurs in nature is a bad argument; it's so easily defeated by arguments against so many other "occurances in nature" that humans culturally disavow (ex. "dogs naturally lick their butts, that doesn't mean humans should, etc.)

What makes this case the most striking to me is the natural occurance of those two male penguins: it's not just a natural desire to fornicate. These are two gay penguins that, despite a sexual and emotional bond with the same sex, desire to form the family unit. It's not about the sex- these are two penguins that want to be given the same consideration as a normal penguin couple.

I can't get into the argument any further without the understandable desire to start giggling, but take my advice: if you don't have the time, at least read the first part of the article. The tale of Silo and Roy is too touching to pass up.

And please, no jokes about Silo and Roy and their amazing animal acts.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:03 AM

February 8, 2004

I... I can't even think of a title for this post. I'm in too far a state of shock.

Peggy Noonan. Has written an editorial. That is negative on George W. Bush.

It's the freakin' rapture, people.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:10 PM

Weekend Mailbag-related program activities

Okay, let's get right to them. Reader e-mails on the civil unions debate:

A.C. Missias:

you wrote: ""Marriage" isn't an institution- it's a freaking word. Just like "gay," the meaning of words change. You can't legislate that, no matter how scared of "the homosexual agenda" you are."

unfortunately, words can have a lot of weight. for example, businesses could still provide benefits to spouses which would not include partners in civil unions. or, to overcome that, activists would have to fight for new wording of every civil clause concerning the rights of marriage, from the financial to the discretionary. just calling them "married" grandfathers them into a host of pre-existing rights and recognitions. it's a big difference, which is why so many activists are unwilling to accept "separate but equal."

yes, you're right that the institution and the self-definition will defy legislation, but that doesn't mean that the distinction is moot. moral equivalence still doesn't give you any rights in a hospital room . . .

Rebecca Gordon:

There was a time when I would have agreed with you about civil unions being an effective answer to the debate about what marriage means, and more a semantic issue than anything else. However, my sister, who is going to marry her longtime girlfriend this May (in Massachusetts, actually), made an interesting point. She said that she wouldn't have a problem with civil unions, if not for an inherent dislike of the concept of institutions that are "separate but equal." She wasn't arguing that civil unions were the new segregation, but I agree with her that America doesn't have the best record with this concept. Historically we seem unable to grasp the "equal" part, and end up creating hierarchies. Perhaps the distinction, defined in law, really is a matter of semantics, but it shouldn't be the responsibility of gay couples to ignore the difference and call themselves a married couple--that still implies that they were given an inferior institution, but can pretend to be part of the more acceptable one. In addition, not being able to marry in the traditional sense could still create issues for a lot of people in the gay community, such as people who are both gay and religious. There are many people in the queer community who do not want access to traditional institutions like marriage--but there are many who do, or at least want to the option, and it needs to be there.

It is often easy to stand outside the issue, as a straight person, and say that the issue is purely semantic. But language, semantics, and arbitrary-seeming distinctions often end up being deeply felt emotional and political issues, with long-term implications. In order to create a truly inclusive culture, we need to recreate society to include everyone, rather than trying to create separate institutions to house those who want access to what everyone else has always had.

I think the message I misgave, as shown by these two e-mails, was my contention that "civil unions" might be good enough. I don't feel that way.

I agree with both the above people in that there should be no "seperate but equal" concept- my point of semantics was that the term "marriage" in and of itself, isn't anything that can be declared universal because it is so deeply rooted in religion. Churches cannot, and should not, be forced to accept views they disagree with, disagreeable as those opinions are. What needs to be done is not for the government to force "marriage" into the acceptance of gays, but remove "marriage" from government.

On paper, in actual legalise, "marriage" clearly shouldn't exist. It should be a term that is purely semantic. That is the only way that unity can exist in unions for straights and gays- by eliminating religion terminology from legal rhetoric. If/when that happens, churches can accept or deny whoever they want, but gays can call their unions "marriages" just as much as the straights will.

Here's a pair of e-mails about Kansas, and its (now failed) attempt to remove "evolution" as a term from schoolbooks. First, from Cris Jones:

We in Montana have just lost our footing to mock the great state of Kansas. The Darby school board just voted, 3-2, to allow for the teaching of "theories other than evolution."

Naturally, the measure was advocated and eventually pushed through by proponents of the "intelligent design" school of thought.

The great part is how these creationists have been so successful at presenting themselves as interested in the scientific method. "Oh, we're not telling you to teach evolution. We're just saying you should acknowledge that theories such as evolution can be challenged with alternate theories." Well, that sure sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

But as with all things, we have to consider the source. The people urging a healthy scientific skepticism toward evolution just coincidentally happen to believe that life must have emerged through the guidance of a conscious creator, and just happen to have a whole curriculum prepared to teach such a thing. How serendipitous!

Fortunately for us America-hating, baby-eating Satan worshippers, the Montana constitution explicitly states (Article X, section 7) that "No sectarian tenets shall be advocated in any public educational institution of the state" and the State Superintendent intends to live by that law.

So the story isn't over yet. But I figured you might want to know that it's underway.

And from Steve Schoenwandt:

I was going to write to you last week when you had the post about removing evolution from school textbooks. As you may know, the Kansas Board of Education was in the forefront of getting the teaching of evolution banned and/or getting "creationism" taught as a viable alternative theory. (Side note -- have you ever noticed that when they want "creationism" taught, it's always the Christian version of creationism. I have never seen these groups advocating that Native American or Hindu or any other creation story should also get equal treatment.) Anyway, I find this ironic because now there is a big push in Kansas to try to lure the biotech industry. But that's not why I wrote. It was the post I saw this morning about the guy who got a 17 year sentence for having sex with a 14-year-old boy. Contrast that with the following story. There is a lot of controversy here in Lawrence KS right now because of a sentence handed down in another rape case a couple weeks back. A thirteen year girl got drunk at a party last summer and was gang-raped by at least three men, who were found guilty of rape, but only got a sixty day sentence because the judge (who is a woman, by the way) decided that the girl was a willing participant. So, here in Kansas, you can't have sex with underage boys, but you CAN have sex with underage girls if you get them drunk first and they ask for it.
You know, we've argued Iraq a lot and yet reading stories like that are the closest moments I get to advocating carpet bombing third-world regions. But that's just the elitist liberal in me, I guess.

Finally, I've recieved way too many e-mails about some kind of mass-hallucination you've all been having with this website. I'm not sure what's going on with the national water supply, but if you're seeing little Kuribo's Shoes with Joe Lieberman inside them, I think you should contact a psychiatrist immediately.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:52 AM