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American Taliban August 4, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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The ruling by District Judge Vaughn Walker declaring California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, to be unconstitutional is welcome news. Judge Walker ruled there is no rational basis for prohibiting same-sex marriage and it violates both the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution. Here is the full opinion.

Of course this is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court where representatives of the American Taliban currently hold power. So there is no telling what the ultimate fate of Prop 8 will be. I suppose it depends on whether Justice Kennedy allows his  libertarian tendencies to shine.

But while we are on the subject of the American Taliban, it is worth making note of what is going on in the Nevada Senate race, where the extremist Republican candidate Sharron Angle (R) has introduced Biblical interpretation into the race. Jon Ralston reports on recent comments she made on a Christian radio talk-show.

“And these programs that you mentioned — that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward — are all entitlement programs built to make government our God. And that’s really what’s happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We’re supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government.”

This mindset will further reinforce to some that religion infuses everything Angle believes but also might explain her hostility to government programs, believing essentially they are produced by a false God. […]

“I need warriors to stand beside me. You know, this is a war of ideology, a war of thoughts and of faith. And we need people to really stand for faith and trust, not hope and change.”

This is about as clear a statement as one could want about what this lunatic thinks of U.S. democracy. U.S. law ought to be subordinated to Old Testament Christianity. As Steve Benen reveals:

The Las Vegas Sun recently reported that Angle, who said she’s running because God told her to, embraces a radical church-state philosophy that “parallels that of a religious political movement — Christian Reconstructionism — seeking to return American civil society to biblical law.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Christian Reconstructionism, it’s quite literally analogous to the Taliban and radical proponents of Sharia law — just as they want to replace secular law with laws based on their interpretation of the Quran, Reconstructionists want to replace secular law in the U.S. with their interpretation of the Christian Bible. In this vision, a radical take on Scripture would take the place of our Constitution.

These are the very same people who are screaming about threats from Muslims who are allegedly dedicated to imposing Sharia law on us all.

I’m having trouble parsing the differences between being ruled by Old Testament Christianity and being ruled by Sharia Law.

And if this is not sufficiently farcical for your taste, how about this from the Colorado Governor’s race:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are “converting Denver into a United Nations community.”

“This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed,” Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.

Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor’s efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes “that’s exactly the attitude they want you to have.”

“This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms,” Maes said.

He added: “These aren’t just warm, fuzzy ideas from the mayor. These are very specific strategies that are dictated to us by this United Nations program that mayors have signed on to.”

Bike paths are a diabolical United Nations plot! This person is running for Governor! As Kos writes

But beyond the horserace aspect, Maes gives us yet another window into the psyche of the teabagger, one in which being environmentally responsible is suspect, in which the United Nations is code word for communist. It’s a world in which “liberty” apparently means dealing with congestion-choked streets, noxious air quality, and unhealthy living.

We know this crowd hates brown people, non-Christians, single women, Hollywood, San Francisco, Massachusetts, gays, immigrants, New York, Chicago, anyone born in Hawaii, Muslims, urbanites, liberals, environmentalists, anyone who wears birkenstocks or drinks lattes, and any country outside of the United States.

I guess you can add cyclists to the list.

We are losing blood and treasure fighting a war against ignorance, bigotry and intolerance in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, our enemies seem to have infiltrated American politics.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com


Defense of Gay Marriage July 1, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Culture, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Political Philosophy.
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Philosopher Martha Nussbaum has a wonderful, comprehensive defense of gay marriage, concise and devastating to opponents of this fundamental right. Anyone who wants a thorough summary of all the arguments for and against should read this.

Again, the issue turns on equality. What the cases consistently hold is that when the state does offer a status that has both civil benefits and expressive dignity, it must offer it with an even hand. This position, which I’ve called “minimal,” is not so minimal when one looks into it. Laws against miscegenation were in force in sixteen states at the time of Loving.
In other words, marriage is a fundamental liberty right of individuals, and because it is that, it also involves an equality dimension: groups of people cannot be fenced out of that fundamental right without some overwhelming reason. It’s like voting: there isn’t a constitutional right to vote, as such: some jobs can be filled by appointment. But the minute voting is offered, it is unconstitutional to fence out a group of people from the exercise of the right.

And she goes on to argue that there is no overwhelming reason to forbid gay marriage.

The idea that same-sex unions will sully traditional marriage cannot be understood without moving to the terrain of disgust and contamination. The only distinction between unworthy heterosexuals and the class of gays and lesbians that can possibly explain the difference in people’s reaction is that the sex acts of the former do not disgust the majority, whereas the sex acts of the latter do. The thought must be that to associate traditional marriage with the sex acts of same-sex couples is to defile or contaminate it, in much the way that eating food served by a dalit, (formerly called “untouchable,”) used to be taken by many people in India to contaminate the high-caste body. Nothing short of a primitive idea of stigma and taint can explain the widespread feeling that same-sex marriage defiles or contaminates straight marriage, while the marriages of “immoral” and “sinful” heterosexuals do not do so.

The only surprising feature of the argument is her lukewarm endorsement of the slippery slope argument that if we permit gay marriage there will be no principled reason to reject  polygamy.

Whatever one thinks about the moral issues involved in polygamy, our constitutional tradition has upheld a law making polygamy criminal, so it is clear, at present, that polygamous unions do not have equal recognition. (The legal arguments against polygamy, however, are extremely weak. The primary state interest that is strong enough to justify legal restriction is an interest in the equality of the sexes, which would not tell against a regime of sex-equal polygamy.)

I disagree. In a marriage, structurally, each spouse has equal obligations and privileges. This is not the case with polygamy which is inherently unjust to the plural partners. The state has a compelling interest in preserving the equality and autonomy of individuals. So I see no reason why permitting gay marriage makes the case for polygamy stronger.

Is the Culture War Over? May 5, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Culture, Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, politics.
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I know it sounds a bit optimistic, but there is evidence that the culture wars are moderating.

In addition to the fact that there are 4 states that now permit gay marriage, a recent NYT/CBS poll showed support for marriage equality jumped 9 points in one month– from 33% support last month to 42% this month. Support for gay marriage has a plurality of supporters, with the opponents divided between 28% who oppose any legal recognition and 25% supporting civil unions.

Another poll from from Washington Post/ABC News reveals that in 2004 just 32% favored gay marriage. Now 49 percent support it versus 46 percent opposed, and more than half say gay marriages in another state should be recognized as legal in their own state.

What is really surprising about the Washington Post/ABC poll is that, although self-identified conservatives are least likely to favor gay marriage, they have gone from 10% support in 2004 to 30% today. The trend in public opinion has been moving in this direction for many years, but when support for gay marriage triples among conservatives in five years it is clear that conservatives are losing this battle.

Why the sudden uptick in support? The increasing visibility of gays has set aside myths about gay people. Prejudice is difficult to sustain when you discover that the people you hate are just ordinary people with aspirations similar to your own. But the fact that no one has ever been able to clearly state how allowing gay marriage would destroy the institution of marriage has been a factor as well. Thankfully, sometimes, bankrupt ideas  are exposed despite obfuscation and fear-mongering.

The lessening of culture war passions has another data point as well. The same Washington Post/ABC poll shows:

Respondents were near split on another issue that until recently was deemed untouchable in many parts of the country — marijuana legalization. Forty-six percent of all respondents said they supported legalizing “possession of small amounts for personal use,” with rates of support higher among men, among younger voters and among independents, a majority of whom supported legalization.

And the poll found increased support for immigration reform as well. 

In another new high, 61 percent now support giving illegal immigrants “the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements.” That’s up from 49 percent in 2007 to a substantial majority for the first time. In this case support is up more sharply among Republicans, a 17-point gain to 59 percent, than among Democrats, up 9 points to 68 percent. It’s up 14 points among independents.

But lest we get too complacent, the same poll shows opposition to gun control and support for tighter border enforcement is increasing.

Is their some general thesis about the culture wars to which this data points? I doubt that the culture wars are over, but they are shifting ground.  Today, to be a good conservative, one has to deny the existence of climate change, praise the “I’ll take mine and the hell with anyone else” attitude of Wall St. investors, and offer tax cuts as the solution to any problem.

In short, this indicates that, within conservative circles, social (including religious) conservatism is on the wane, and libertarian conservatism is on the rise. For the past 30 years, the visible face of conservatism was the religious right and its moral crusade, with the big business boosters and Randians in the background paying the bills. That dynamic seems to have changed.

The moral veneer of conservatism has been stripped away, revealing its dark underbelly—it has always been about greed and its ideology.

This shift is a good thing because it suggests that some of the pernicious assumptions about the moral integrity of conservatism have been exposed.


The Heartland “Hearts” Gays April 3, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Culture, Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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The Iowa State Supreme Court ruled today, by unanimous vote, that laws prohibiting gay marriage violate the equal protection and due process clauses of their state’s constitution.

Importantly, unlike in California, Iowans opposed to gay marriage will not be able to change the constitution through a ballot measure. Via Ed Kilgore:

“But Iowa’s unusual system requires that constitutional amendments have to be approved by two different legislatures (which meet for two years) before going to voters for approval. The 2009 session is nearly over, and no one believes a constitutional gay marriage ban can be acted upon until 2010. So that means 2012 is the earliest point at which Iowa voters could be considering a ban. And if nothing happens in next year’s state legislative session, a vote to overturn today’s decision couldn’t happen until 2014.”

This is especially noteworthy because its Iowa! Gay marriage can no longer be dismissed as the peculiar obsession of bi-coastal elites in Massachusetts and California. Even red America seems to be jumping on the “change” train.

I am not holding my breath, but maybe in the not too distant future we can put to rest the “red state” “blue state” opposition. I was reading recently (I am not sure where) that the average age of Fox News viewers is 65.

One thing we can count on is generational change.