Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Prop 8 and Marriage

This week’s Federal judicial reversal of Proposition 8 as unconstitutional has brought up some fascinating water cooler and after-hours conversations.

Single Judge reversing Popular Vote

We were talking yesterday about the Proposition 8 overturn with a group of colleagues, and one of the participants was a Russian immigrant, a naturalized US citizen. He made the comment that he had a hard time with the overturn because he doesn’t believe the democratic, popular vote of the people should be able to be overturned by a single judge’s judicial decision – nor a state law be overturned by a federal court’s decision. He feels that it’s a miscarriage of democracy and, of course given his country’s history, he believes such a process can lead to abuses of power and eventual corruption.

Of course, the opposing viewpoint is that when we’re considering constitutional law and matters of right and wrong, democratic vote is NOT the end-all be-all arbiter of such issues. If democracy decides that, say, women and blacks can’t vote it doesn’t make it morally right, legally correct or ultimately a sound law. (I realize that I’m grossly oversimplifying.)

As my excellent friend Eric says, we don’t actually live in a democracy, we live in a republic. The government is only indirectly influenced by the will of the people, and given that mob rule is not always measured and sane, this is not a bad thing. The initiative/referendum process is a relatively new development and actually cuts across all the careful checks and balances of the original republic.


Back to the question of morality, though. The definition of right and wrong, especially when it comes to gender, sex and marriage, is highly subjective and entirely unclear. I believe that what a person does in his or her own private home is their own business. I believe that if it harms no one, we should be able to do as we choose.

Not everyone is as liberal as I am. Those with strong religious or traditional marriage views have a different perspective on marriage rights & definitions. My answer, only partially tongue-in-cheek? You don’t believe gay marriage is right? Then don’t marry a gay person.

Bottom line: I don’t get to define your moral choices and you don’t get to define mine.

I grew up reading and watching science fiction. My favorite TV & movies including Star Trek, Logan’s Run and Stargate, and books included Robert Heinlein, Samuel Delany and Ursula K Leguin. They all depicted a sexually liberal, free, experimental culture that extrapolated “what-ifs” about love and marriage with wild abandon.

Same-sex marriage was small potatoes. They showed variants of relationships and marriage including polyamory, limited term, polyandry, polygamy, group, line, and more as a backdrop to a harder science background. Transgender and even gender variable characters examined marriage and family and gender roles from entirely new perspectives in those brave new worlds.

I don’t have a problem with any of these ideas among consenting adults. (The FLDS families, with underage wives and what in my opinion are abbreviated womens and adolescent boys rights along with what I think is religious brainwashing, are a different story.)

What you do in the privacy of your own home, even if it’s right next door, is your own business. (OK, I wouldn’t be too crazy about having a swinger club next door, but that really stretches “if it doesn’t harm anyone” – that kind of wild extended partying is not really being a good neighbor.) Enjoy, prosper, you’re welcome to it – and yes, my kids can play with your kids.

I’ve been heterosexual and (serially) monogamous most of my life, so these questions are somewhat academic for me. Should I ever choose to embark upon another relationship it would likely be along the same lines, although I’m not inclined toward marrying again. (Why?) I do have cherished friends who are married gays/lesbians and others who would like to be – and I wholeheartedly support their desires.

Shoot, they can have my no-longer-used marital rights. I don’t want ‘em anymore. :)

Posted on Saturday, August 7th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: family, Politics | Comments Off

Gratitude: the Big Picture

I am grateful that I live in a place and time free of drought, famine and disease, in a country whose standard of living ranks among the top 2% of the world.

I am grateful for indoor plumbing, electricity, spacious Western-style housing and all its conveniences, and my ability to drive or travel via boat, rail or air anywhere I need to go in hours.

I’m grateful for modern telecommunications. (I think.) I can call, text, picture-text or email anyone, anytime, anywhere. I can access the Internet anywhere via computer and handheld, and have Google and GPS at my fingertips.

I am grateful that I am a modern woman in a modern, free society. I can vote, drive, own property, dress as I prefer, work in any profession, marry and divorce as I choose (with the exception of a same-sex marriage) and have and raise children as I choose.

I am grateful that I live in a free country. I can speak as I choose, even if my words are unpopular. I can travel in and out of the country as I’d like, and live anywhere. I can choose to worship in any faith, or none at all, although, sadly, the latter choice is likely to disqualify me in the public eye from holding political office.

I am grateful for friends and family, and most especially for my amazing sons. I’m thankful for love, community, and hope. For work, medical care, and good health. And for the amazing future, full of possibilities, we have in front of us.

I am blessed.

Prompted by a post from Hot Chick Janiece, who is also counting her blessings today.

Posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 by Jeri
Under: inspiration, Politics | Comments Off

Hope and Health Care

The Internet is glutted today with posts reacting to the State of the Union address. (And to the underwhelming Apple iPad.)

This is not one of them. Why? Because, sadly, I don’t care. I should care. I should be part of the government of the people, by the people and for the people. I should be asking not what my country can do for me, but what I can do for my country.

Instead, I’m tired of it all. I’m tired of congressional corruption, of votes for sale to the biggest-ticket political action group. I’m tired of pork barrel spending, turning badly needed legislation into a travesty. I’m tired of my hopes and ideals being dashed to bits, while our elected officials lose sight of all meaning and embrace partisan pissing contests.

I have a son who is medically uninsurable on an individual basis. He’s also in an employment category not likely to provide him with corporate-sponsored benefits. Hello, health care crisis.

I have a dear friend whose spouse has been unemployed for a year, although he’s well qualified and searching daily. She’s disabled and they’re trying to raise a daughter. They have no insurance, he has no further unemployment benefits, and disability applications can take two years to process and be approved. How do they live? Hello, economic crisis.

There are millions of stories just like that across America, but rather than focusing on finding solutions, our government flops and flails around like a snagged silver salmon. “That’s socialist.” “That’s an invasion of privacy.” “That’s not fiscally responsible.”

Really? And leaving a large fraction of our population to live on the streets and die of untreated medical conditions is fiscally and morally responsible? My mistake, I thought we were a first world nation.

Actually, politically, I’m a huge fan of Robert Heinlein, the golden age SF author. He postulated a concept called “rational anarchy” in his book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – one of my favorites.

The novel defines the political philosophy as “a rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals.”

He continues, “In terms of morals there is no such thing as a ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts,” he says. “I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free, because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything that I do.”

This seems to be closely related to libertarianism, where the best government is the least government, at least in theory. As I’ve said before, the libertarian philosophy tends to support strong personal rights to life and liberty, free market capitalism, private property rights, minimal government regulation, minimal taxation, and rejection of the welfare state, all within the context of the rule of law. Bottom line – they’re fiscally conservative but socially liberal.

How do I reconcile my fairly staunchly libertarian beliefs with my sense of disgust with the government’s handling of the multiple crises facing America today?

First, personally, I’m generous. I think a lot of people just naturally are, the golden rule and all. Given a choice to help their neighbor or not help their neighbor, most choose the former.

Second, there’s a difference between welfare and empowerment. Would my son buy medical insurance if it were even possible, and reasonably priced? Of course! Would my friend take any job he could get to provide a roof over his family’s head and medical care for them? In a heartbeat. One of the saddest aspects of this recession is how hard it’s hit the working, educated professional.

I don’t think anyone is advocating the return of a welfare state. Instead, we need to fix the broken system so that those who work hard, who want to make a contribution, have an opportunity to do so.

Maybe I do care after all; I’ve just lost faith. I want our elected officials to remember this is not about partisan politics, not one bit; it’s about real people, like my friend. And my son. And the millions other like them who wake up needing a reason to keep hoping.

Posted on Thursday, January 28th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: Politics | 2 Comments »

Random Odd Things

I started writing a serious blog post on changes in lifestyle over the last twenty-five years – then said “meh”, hit save, and wrote about random odd things, instead.

  • How does talking about bra color raise awareness of breast cancer? Is it an attempt to outsmart cancer by figuring out which color it doesn’t like? (Thanks, Eric!)

  • How does a failed terrorist attack by a Nigerian, screened and boarding his plane in Amsterdam, demonstrate a systemic failure of the US TSA system?
  • Why are baristas in bikinis still a source of headline news and community outrage? I know, it must be the inhumane, winter cold working conditions for the exploited women.
  • How long before we won’t be able to buy groceries at all without bringing our own bags or other containers at some politically correct stores?
  • Washington state has been debating the parameters of allowing convicted felons to vote. The latest ruling supports voting from prison, based upon civil rights concerns. If I recall my long-ago civics class, didn’t a felony conviction once cost a citizen the privilege of voting?
  • Why do teen boys never manage to pack toothbrushes when they travel? And does this change with maturity?
  • Does this headline annoy the snot out of anyone else? “Day One For Obama’s Transgender Technologist” How about “Day One for Highly Qualified Test Pilot/Technologist”, instead?
  • Speaking of technology, do you care about the upcoming Mac tablet computer? Personally, I’m ambivalent – Apple does shiny well, but is about as closed source as a vendor can get.
  • Why do Joan Osborne’s blues make me happy, not sad?
  • What would it take to make Sarah Palin go away? And don’t you think we could raise the price of her silence, whatever the total?

Are there any other random things you think about in the oh-dark-thirty hours of the night? Share them, please!

Posted on Saturday, January 9th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: Politics, technology | 5 Comments »

Patriot Act and the Pendulum

Justice Department officials reported that the administration supports extending three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are due to expire at the end of the year. These items include the authority to access business records, monitor individual terrorists and conduct roving wiretaps. The administration is willing to consider additional privacy protections as long as they don’t weaken the effectiveness of the law.

I am gravely disappointed.

I am, politically, most accurately described as a libertarian, however, I’m definitely not a candidate for membership in the libertarian party. (Staunch stronghold of freeze-dried-whackaloons!) Philosophically, libertarians cover a wide spectrum, but tend to support strong personal rights to life and liberty, free market capitalism, private property rights, minimal government regulation, minimal taxation, and rejection of the welfare state, all within the context of the rule of law.

The Patriot Act, initially passed by a bipartisan majority just 45 days after the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center bombings, has been highly controversial.

The Cliff Notes version of the act is:

Title I: provides for enhanced domestic security services
Title II: expands availability and flexibility of surveillance procedures to law enforcement officials.
Title III: extends anti-money-laundering provisions to detect and prevent terrorism
Title IV: beefs up border security, the INS, and associated detention guidelines.
Title VI: provides aid to victims and families of victims of terrorism
Title VIII: redefines criminal law around terrorism, cyberterrorism and support activities
Title IX: establishes priorities for collection of foreign intelligence
Title X: adds miscellaneous provisions not covered under other sections

The primary arguments against the Patriot Act are that it:

  • Expands terrorism laws to include “domestic terrorism” which could subject political organizations to surveillance, wiretapping, harassment, and criminal action for political advocacy.

  • Expands the ability of law enforcement to conduct secret searches, gives them wide powers of phone and Internet surveillance, and access to highly personal medical, financial, mental health, and student records with minimal judicial oversight.
  • Allows FBI Agents to investigate American citizens for criminal matters without probable cause of crime if they say it is for “intelligence purposes.”
  • Permits non-citizens to be jailed based on mere suspicion and to be denied re-admission to the US for engaging in free speech. Suspects convicted of no crime may be detained indefinitely in six month increments without meaningful judicial review.

On September 11, I posted an update on Facebook, “I’m grateful for America’s freedom today.” Responses were mixed – some shared my gratitude, and some were dismayed at our eroding freedoms. My response?

You know, we may have lost some of our innocence and some of our perceived freedoms – I’ve written about my loathing for the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay before.

Still, I can post whatever I want here without getting thrown into jail. (Myanmar) I can protest for or against anything I want downtown without getting shot in cold blood. (China) I can wear whatever I like – and drive alone – and execute my own legal agreements. (Iran)

It may be far from perfect, and the pendulum has swung well toward paranoia since 9/11, but America is still my country and I’m still grateful.

Still, I’d have to agree, in principle, that our freedoms are eroding. We are losing our civil liberties and privacy. I’m neither a constitional law scholar nor a political analyst, and I can’t say where the line should be drawn. I do strongly feel that the Patriot Act is Orwellian and goes too far. I’d hoped for better from our current administration.

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: Politics, rant | 11 Comments »