Tell Me Something I DON’T Know . . .

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

A recent Knight-Ridder investigation concluded:

The administration’s case on ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda relied on intelligence that was weaker than that on Iraq’s illegal weapons programs.

The article linked above discusses some of the "evidence" that has been paraded about (here and elsewhere) purporting to show the alleged connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

Yes, this too, like the (lack of) WMDs, will be an election issue.

Physician, Heal Thyself!

Ken AshfordScience & Technology, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Dr. Paul Cameron is the founder of the Family Research Institute, and is cited often and reverently by the anti-gay (and anti-gay marriage) crowd. Recently, he opined on what was at stake in the present controversy. His belief is that in a few generations, homosexuality will become the dominant form of sexual behavior. Some selected quotes, based on his "research":

"If you isolate sexuality as something solely for one’s own personal amusement, and all you want is the most satisfying orgasm you can get – and that is what homosexuality seems to be – then homosexuality seems too powerful to resist."

"The evidence is that men do a better job on men and women on women, if all you are looking for is orgasm."

"People in homosexuality are incredibly evangelical. It’s pure sexuality. It’s almost like pure heroin. It’s such a rush."

"Martial sex tends toward the boring end. Generally, it doesn’t deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does"

I think the good "doctor" has some . . . uh . . . issues of his own that he might want to deal with. Not that there’s anything wrong with homosexuality, but there’s something wrong with not being able to admit it, while dictating to others the impropriety of it.

Tenuous Connection . . .

Ken AshfordGodstuff, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Dennis Prager at TownHall.com has an interesting perspective:

America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war — a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.

One enemy is religious extremism. The other is secular extremism.

One enemy is led from abroad. The other is directed from home.

Actually, one enemy wants to blow you up and destroy your home. The other wants to make you look faaaab-u-lous and redecorate your home on national television.

Seriously, if Dennis Prager was doing satire, I’d laugh my ass off. But he’s not. He’s just plain scary.

Flight 11 Recording

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

As far as I know, this is the first (and only) recorded excerpt available to the public which reflects communications between one of the flights on 9/11 and someone on the ground. Recently posted at the Memory Hole, the tape is Betty Ong (flight attendant on Flight 11) calling the American Airline Reservation Desk.

In an abundance of caution, I think I should warn that the tape may not be suitable for everyone. It’s not gory or anything like that, but unsettling; for me, hearing the tape brought back that day in a profound way.

Groupthink 101

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Science & TechnologyLeave a Comment

Okay. You’re President. You have some big decisions to make, and you want the best information possible. So you gather up all the information, hear all sides of the arguments, get all the viewpoints and perspectives, and then . . . you make your decision. Right?

Not if you’re GWB . . .

President Bush yesterday dismissed two members of his handpicked Council on Bioethics — a scientist and a moral philosopher who had been among the more outspoken advocates for research on human embryo cells.

In their places he appointed three new members, including a doctor who has called for more religion in public life, a political scientist who has spoken out precisely against the research that the dismissed members supported, and another who has written about the immorality of abortion and the "threats of biotechnology."

* * *

Bush created the council by executive order in 2001 to "advise the President on bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology." He recently renewed its commission for another two years.

I mean, what’s the point of forming an advisory panel if you are only going to fill it with people who will just conform to your pre-determined outcome? (And yes, I do see the similarities between this and the run-up to the Iraqi War). Read more about this story here. Read a previous post regarding GWB misuse of science here.

Gary Bauer Prefers Unbridled (get it?) Gay Promiscuity

Ken AshfordConstitution, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Gary Bauer, in explaining his opposition to gay marriages, gives this as one of the reasons why states should ban it:

More importantly, however, the government has an obligation to promote public policy that is best for the general welfare and to discriminate against behaviors that adversely impact society and public health. Tobacco use is heavily regulated by the state and smoking is strongly discouraged. A major study conducted by Oxford University demonstrated that homosexual conduct is three times more deadly than smoking. Homosexual behavior is fraught with adverse health affects. Again, this is not opinion, but documented medical fact.

Now, I don’t know what study he is referring to, but presumably, Gary is talking about sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDs — which (I guess) is far worse in the gay community than in the straight one.

Gee, if what you say is true, Gary, one would think that states should be encouraging marriage and monogamy among gays.

Maybe They Should Drop 3,000 Balloons, Too?

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

The Hill reports on the GOP plans for their national convention in NYC. Among the many gaudy ideas (e.g., rotating stages that come up from underground) is this sickening one —

"Or, and this is a real possibility, we could see President Bush giving his acceptance speech at Ground Zero," he added. "It’s clearly a venue they’re considering."

Via Calpundit

NOTE: The "he" is a "GOP insider", so take that for what you will.

Now, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the GOP convention is going to try to tug at America’s heartstrings (and fear-strings) by referencing the events of 9/11 and playing them to the hilt. But this exploitation of 9/11 for political purposes is beyond the pale. It is disgusting and should be universally condemned.

Would You Care to Elaborate, Mr. President?

Ken AshfordBush & Co., CrimeLeave a Comment

Last month, President Bush spoke with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner at a summit meeting in Monterrey, Mexico. Kirchner told Bush that all but one of the Argentine delegates to the summit meeting were imprisoned during the military dictatorship.

Bush responded, "I was a prisoner too, but for bad reasons."

Aside from being a dumb thing to say (was Bush implying that his Argentine visitors had been imprisoned for good reasons?), I just wanted to know what Bush was referring to. My Spanish is rusty-to-nonexistent — was Bush referring to his drunk driving ("en estado de ebriedad"?).

In any event, I can’t believe we let this guy talk to foreign leaders.

Thought Experiment

Ken AshfordConstitution, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

On a particular listserv I follow, the following wonderful questions were posed:

(1) Is it fair to say that all single adults have a fundamental right to marry?
(2) If so, do biologically transgendered folks (those that have mixed genders — not those that opt to surgically or hormonally change their gender) have a right to marry?
(3) If so, which gender can they marry under a legal regime allowing marriage only between persons of opposite genders?
(4) Would they be legally required to choose a gender and undergo (if medically possible) surgery or hormonal therapy to change their gender in order to marry?

Because the listserv is "private", I will not identify the author — I will say only that he is president of an international human rights organization. His concern — obviously — is not about the right of "transgendered folks" to marry, nor is he attempting to make an analogy. But I think the answers to his questions help frame the debate on the FMA, and might cause some to reconsider what "marriage" supposedly is, and how we as a society define it.

The New Culture War

Ken AshfordGodstuff, Random MusingsLeave a Comment

Let’s take stock, shall we?

Uproar about breasts on TV, films which are (arguably) anti-Semitic, Howard Stern being fired because his boss has a new "decency" policy, and debate about whether or not straight people should have to sit still while gays sanctify their lifelong devotion to one another.

Not too long ago, I made a comment to the effect that the religious right is marginalized. I’m beginning to wonder if I was being too optimistic. We ARE suddenly in some sort of weird culture war, and I’m still confused as to how we got here. Is this a blip on the screen, or will this continue to mushroom?

Supremes Get It Right

Ken AshfordConstitution, Godstuff, Supreme CourtLeave a Comment

Court rejects tax-funded religious scholarships

The Supreme Court, in a new rendering on separation of church and state, voted Wednesday to let states withhold scholarships from students studying theology. The court’s 7-2 ruling held that the state of Washington was within its rights to deny a taxpayer-funded scholarship to a college student who was studying to be a minister. That holding applies even when money is available to students studying anything else.

Even Rehnquist saw the folly in this little merge of church and state.

Privileges and Benefits of Marriage

Ken AshfordConstitution, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

It has been suggested by some that what gays want is the "psychic benefit of being able to say they are married." How wrong.

Here is a short list of benefits and privileges that come with marriage, from the government and from businesses. [Note that if gay marriages are legally recognized, businesses will not be able to discriminate against them as well]:

  • Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.
  • Receiving veterans’ and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.
  • Receiving public assistance benefits.
  • Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse’s employer.
  • Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.
  • Receiving wages, workers’ compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.
  • Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse’s close relatives dies.
  • Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.
  • Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.
  • Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).
  • Receiving crime victims’ recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.
  • Obtaining domestic violence protection orders.
  • Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.
  • Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.
  • Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states).
  • Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can’t force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.
  • Inheriting a share of your spouse’s estate.
  • Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.
  • Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.
  • Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse — that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse’s behalf.
  • Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.
  • Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.
  • Living in neighborhoods zoned for "families only."
  • Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.
  • Receiving family rates for health, homeowners’, auto, and other types of insurance.
  • Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.
  • Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.
  • Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.
  • Making burial or other final arrangements.
  • Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.
  • Applying for joint foster care rights.

Hat tip to Atrios — who also provides a link to 1999 GAO report listing 1,049 benefits and privileges of marriage.

President Confused

Ken AshfordConstitution, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

As reported here and elsewhere, Bush is finally going to announce his support for the Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

McClellan, briefing reporters at the White House, said the president wants to end "growing confusion" that has arisen from court decisions in Massachusetts, and San Francisco’s permitting more than 3,000 same sex unions. "The president believes it is important to have clarity," McClellan said.

What’s the "confusion"? Who has it? It seems quite simple to me — some states are (apparently) allowing gay marriage; others are not. Just like some states allow 16 year olds to get married and others do not. This is nothing to get brain-addled about.

So let’s not pretend it’s about "clarity". It’s about Bush’s conservative social agenda — another plank in the politics of divisiveness.

Update: Now I’M confused. Having read the President’s remarks on this issue, I am struck by his repeated use of the word "protect". As in "Our government should respect every person, and protect the institution of marriage". [NOTE: he obviously means "respect every straight person . . ."]

By my count, he used the word "protect" seven times. Which leads me to ask . . . protect the institution of marriage from what? Is this another conjured-up "gathering threat"? Are we (again) chasing non-existent ghouls — only, this time, on the domestic social front?