Saturday, April 27, 2013

"Thank You, Planned Parenthood. God Bless You"

President Obama yesterday became the first President to address Planned Parenthood.

In his twelve minute speech ( the amount of time to abort seven babies at PP clinics), the President praised the organization for the "quality health care" and "important services" the organization provides women across  America. Using words like outstanding, remarkable, extraordinary, Obama praised his audience for tirelessly  striving for the core principle "that women should be able to make their own decisions about their health care."

President Obama specifically mentioned only three aspects of health care:  cancer screening, contraception, and abortion. Well, maybe only TWO. He did not specifically mention abortion. Four times, however, Obama alluded to our contemporary euphemism: the right to choose.

 (Even the mainstream media for a decade or more has adopted this sugary sweet synonym. Abortion rights advocates introduced it. Soon, abortion rights supporters in the Social Democratic Party picked it up. Then one evening, I did a double take when I heard Dan Rather begin a report on "another battle brewing over a woman's right to choose." If any viewers arrived  recently to this country, they wouldn't know what the hell Dan was talking about.)

The President  mixed in anecdotes about individuals helped by Planned Parenthood, and he noted how he thinks about "the millions of mothers and daughters, wives and sisters" who "walk through those doors every year."

Not much thought given to those unborn  potential mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters who never made it out alive, even as the "house of horrors" trial of Kermit Gosnell looms in the background.

Abortion rights advocates, as well as the mainstream media, have remained silent on the Gosnell trial. One brave abortion rights supporter wrote an article arguing that the Gosnell clinic is what illegal abortion looks like.

Unfortunately, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood suggested something different a few weeks back. Alisa LaPolt Snow testified against a bill under consideration by Florida lawmakers that would legally require emergency care for a baby born alive owing to botched abortion. According to Snow, even when a baby is struggling for life on clinic table, life or death decisions should remain with the woman and her health care provider (abortionist.)

Commenting on this testimony, George Will noted another service of Planned Parenthood that the President overlooked: consumer rights. As Will tersely put it,

Planned Parenthood, which receives more than $500 million in government subsidies, is branching out, expanding it mission beyond the provision of abortions to the defense of consumer rights: If you pay for an abortion, you are owed a dead baby.

The President closed by invoking God's blessing on the workers of planned parenthood.

I wonder what deity he could have meant. There's one that comes to mind.

In the ancient Middle East, a cult surrounded a local deity called Molech, who demanded child sacrifices. Hebrew writings warned against offering up infants to "pass through the fires of Molech."

Although few people recognize it,  Molech lives on today. 

THAT'S the deity he meant.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Populist Paranoia

In addition to the paranoia exhibited by the supposedly sophisticated and cosmopolitan mainstream media elites, the Boston Marathon bombings brought out the populist paranoia of the "average citizen." Terrorist bombings are almost ALWAYS terrorist bombings, but some citizens see sinister government agencies behind the terror. Although such paranoia about the F.B.I. used to be practically  monopolized by the radical left of the 1960s, it has infected recently many conservatives.

First up is the suggestion that the whole thing was staged:

Then there's the mother of the bombers: Mom always knows.

Then there's this guy::

Is this really the most dangerous time in American history since the Kennedy Administration? Is this history or histrionics?

Then there's the man on the grassy knoll rooftop overlooking the marathon finish line:

Finally, the Prince of Paranoia--radio talk show host Alex Jones. His website has suggested alternatively that the persons responsible for the bombing included all of the following:

Navy seals

A private security firm

A Saudi national since deported



U.S. powers

He must believe that if he multiplies his conspiracy theories, he increases his chances of getting one right.

But what if they ALL are crazy?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Progressive Paranoia

Now that the Boston Marathon bombers have been killed and captured, we can calmly reflect back on just how well the Progressive mainstream media contributed to our understanding through their inciteful insightful analysis.

First, of course, is the ever tingly Chris Matthews suggesting, then walking back, the charge that right wing extremists committed the bombing:

Michael Moore, again exhibiting his self loathing for his ethnic heritage, tweeted:

"If you are a bomb victim, all bloodied and in shock, better look as white as you can."

Michael Moore

Dina Temple-Raston of NPR (National Progressive Radio) blames the RIGHT but gets it WRONG:

David Sirota of Slate attempts a preemptive strike against reinforcement of ethnic and religious stereotypes:

"Let's hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American."

(I think it was Thomas Sowell who defined stereotypes as "behavior patterns we do not like to think about.")

Finally, David Axelrod urges caution on jumping to conclusions about who committed the bombing in Boston, only to  mention "Tax Day" as a possible indication of motive.

Let's end this with a song:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nullification Null and Void

The previous post noted the efforts of many tea party chapters to stop the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--aka Obamacare--by means of nullification: the alleged constitutional authority of a state to declare a  federal law unconstitutional.  This project of The Tea Party Movement enjoys the support of  libertarian scholars such as the Cato Institute's  Tom Woods and lesser known activist groups like The Madison Forum. Supporters of nullification find their constitutional justification not only in their particular conception of the origins and structure of our federal union, but also in the writings of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. There is one major problem:

James Madison opposed nullification.

Advocates of nullification point to Thomas Jefferson's Kentucky Resolutions and James Madison's Virginia Resolution. Jefferson and Madison wrote these documents in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which attempted to suppress opposition to the policies of the Adams administration. (see the background in the previous post.) The resolutions used the terms "null and void" and "unconstitutional" in their description of these noxious acts of the U.S. Congress. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions were passed by the state legislatures and presented to their respective state governors, urging them to forward these resolutions to other states governments for consideration.

The other states gave only a tepid response to the resolutions and expressed confusion about just what these resolutions claimed. Did Kentucky and Virginia claim the right to confirm or reject laws passed by the United  States Congress? Was this a prelude to secession and the disintegration of the federal union?

In order to clarify their messages, both state legislatures the following year passed additional resolutions. The Kentucky Resolution of 1799 proclaimed fidelity to the union in no uncertain terms. In addition, it clearly stated that the original resolution expressed the opinion of the legislators and that it recognized the legitimacy of all federal laws:

 "That this commonwealth does upon the most deliberate reconsideration declare, that the said alien and sedition laws, are in their opinion, palpable violations of the said constitution; and however cheerfully it may be disposed to surrender its opinion to a majority of its sister states in matters of ordinary or doubtful policy; yet, in momentous regulations like the present, which so vitally wound the best rights of the citizen, it would consider a silent acquiescence as highly criminal: That although this commonwealth as a party to the federal compact; will bow to the laws of the Union, yet it does at the same time declare, that it will not now, nor ever hereafter, cease to oppose in a constitutional manner, every attempt from what quarter soever offered, to violate that compact:

AND FINALLY, in order that no pretexts or arguments may be drawn from a supposed acquiescence on the part of this commonwealth in the constitutionality of those laws, and be thereby used as precedents for similar future violations of federal compact; this commonwealth does now enter against them, its SOLEMN PROTEST."

The Virginia state legislature likewise issued a report clarifying their resolution of the previous year.The much longer and more detailed Virginia Report of 1799  explained that the original resolutions of 1798 were an expression of opinion and contrasted it with legally binding acts of the judiciary:

"But a declaration that proceedings of the Federal Government are not warranted by the Constitution, is a novelty neither among the citizens, nor among the legislatures of the states; nor are the citizens or the legislature of Virginia, singular in the example of it.

Nor can the declarations of either, whether affirming or denying the constitutionality of measures of the Federal Government, or whether made before or after judicial decisions thereon, be deemed, in any point of view, an assumption of the office of the judge. The declarations, in such cases, are expressions of opinion, unaccompanied with any other effect than what they may produce on opinion, by exciting reflection. The expositions of the judiciary, on the other hand, are carried into immediate effect by force. The former may lead to a change in the legislative expression of the general will; possibly to a change in the opinion of the judiciary; the latter enforces the general will, whilst that will and that opinion continue unchanged."

In other words, the legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia expressed their opinion about the constitutionality of the Alien and Sedition Acts; the legislatures did not enact legally binding legislation that set aside federal laws.

James Madison reaffirmed this judgment several decades later.

In 1832, a South Carolina convention met and passed an Ordinance of Nullification  presuming to declare the Tariffs of 1832 and 1833 unconstitutional. (Again, see previous post). Like modern advocates of nullification, the supporters of South Carolina's nullification appealed to Jefferson's and Madison's Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of 1798. Unfortunately for them, James Madison still lived in retirement in Orange County, Virginia. Contemporaries occasionally solicited his opinion on the political issues confronting second generation American leaders. They did so on this occasion as well. And in a piece written for the North American Review and in several private letters, Madison opposed the doctrine of nullification and asserted that its advocates had completely misconstrued the original Virginia and Kentucky Resolution.

Madison reaffirmed that these resolutions carried no legislative or judicial force whatsoever and only expressed the opinion of the legislatures that passed them. Their purpose, he explained, was to rally public opinion against the Adams administration in order to seek a political remedy. And this they did, as Adams lost his bid for reelection. The Jefferson administration pardoned those American convicted under the force of those acts and let the acts expire.

 More important, Madison called nullification a "preposterous and anarchical pretension." He wrote that federal laws could not "be altered or annulled at the will of the states individually." To argue otherwise was to pretend that 1787 did not occur and throw the country back into the confusion of the 1780s under the old Articles of Confederation.  Madison accused the nullifiers of advocating a political heresy that "a majority government is of all other Governments the most oppressive" and that they "strike at the heart of republicanism."

We tea partiers need stop with the fancies about nullifying Obamacare and arresting officials from the Department of Health and Human Services. Instead, we need to follow Madison's example and continue to mobilize public opinion against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and organize  in order to implement a political solution to the problem.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Some Tea Partiers Sipping the Psilocybin

The Tea Party Movement,  a dynamic, force of conservative populism, has made and will continue to make a     significant and hopefully enduring impact on our politics.

In our zeal to promote constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets, some of us have allowed ourselves to harbor some hallucinations about the original intents of our Founding Fathers. Unlike our eighteenth century namesakes who tossed over 300 chests of tea into Boston Harbor to prevent the collection of taxes,  we have sat down for tea time and have been sipping the Psilocybin.

So what is our hallucination? It is the illusion that the Constitution makers envisioned a political system that allows the states to declare federal laws unconstitutional. The popular name for it: nullification.

The term first emerged in the fall of 1798. Congress had enacted the Alien Act and Sedition Act during the summer of 1798 in response to attacks from the press on the Adams administration and its attempts to preserve neutrality in the war between Britain and France. The acts granted authority to the federal government to expel foreigners deemed dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States and to prosecute anyone who published "false, scandalous, and  malicious" writings against the government.

In response to these acts, Thomas Jefferson secretly wrote what became known as the Kentucky Resolutions. He gave them to Wilson Cary Nicholas, urging him to forward them to any sympathetic member of the North Carolina state legislature for consideration. Instead, Nicholas gave them to John Breckinridge of Kentucky. A passage in one of the resolutions asserted the right of a state "to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits."

In concert with Jefferson,  James Madison wrote the Virginia Resolutions. Fellow Virginian John Taylor introduced them into the Virginia state legislature. Madison's resolutions asserted the rights of states to "interpose" when federal laws exceeded the bounds of the Constitution.

These resolutions failed to create much of a stir at the time.  They assumed a much greater importance, however, when in 1832  South Carolina provoked a showdown with the federal government after it enacted the Ordinance of Nullification. The brainchild of John Calhoun, the ordinance "nullified" the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832. Its defenders claimed to follow the precedents of the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions. In response, President Andrew Jackson condemned the action in a message to Congress, who later enacted a "force bill" empowering the President to use force if necessary if nay state attempt to obstruct the collection of duties owed the United States government.

Now some Tea Partiers have embraced the idea of nullification as a means to stop Obamacare-- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In the first place, this is a bad idea from a utilitarian point of view. We tea partiers have enough trouble getting our message out through the "firewall" of the mainstream media. We want a "national conversation" (to use a now trite and empty phrase) about constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets. Instead, the mainstream media claims we are the tools of Freedom Works or Wall Street. If that is not bad enough, we are racists as well.

To resurrect to the old discarded idea of nullification will only reaffirm the slanderous accusations of the mainstream media. They will connect the imaginary dots: nullification . . . John Calhoun . . .  states rights . . .  racism . . .  slavery . . .  secession . . .  civil war.

In the second place, this is a bad idea because it is unconstitutional. Interestingly, James Madison, the father of the Constitution and the author of the Virginia Resolutions, lived until 1836. He witnessed the nullification crisis of 1832. Contemporaries solicited his opinion on the controversy. He declared, in no uncertain terms, that the doctrine of nullification was unconstitutional and that its supporters completely misconstrued the meaning of his Virginia Resolutions in their efforts to defend the doctrine.

The next post will see how.

James Madison: My Favorite Founder

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Sunday Review: The Conservative Affirmation

In 1962, Clinton Rossiter published a revised edition of his Conservatism in America. Rossiter attempted to clarify his analysis of contemporary conservatism and to take into account the latest developments in the so-called “New Conservative” movement that had emerged in the post-war United States. By this time the movement flowed beyond the small group of intellectuals behind the National Review into where it really counted: the political world. L. Brent Bozell’s The Conscience of a Conservative became a best seller and made Barry Goldwater a favorite among those seeking an alternative to mainstream conservatism.

Largely in response to Rossiter’s book, Willmoore Kendall decided to enter the intellectual fray with his publication in 1963 of The Conservative Affirmation. Like Rossiter, Kendall was a university professor. Trained in classical political philosophy, he taught at Yale University, where he established a reputation for getting “a conversation into the shouting range faster than anyone.” His students included National Review founder William F. Buckley. To bring peace and serenity to the halls of Yale’s political science department, administrators bought out his tenure.

Kendall went to work for the National Review. Even there Kendall became known as eccentric in both his views and his behavior. He did not follow the religiously based views of natural moral law embraced by the many Catholic staff members at NR. And his colleagues recall the “Willmoore Kendall Memorial Couch” where he engaged in recreational activities with some NR secretaries between writing pieces for the magazine.

Although probably a response to Rossiter’s work, The Conservative Affirmation appears to be a collection of loosely related essays on conservatism, McCarthyism, free speech and the open society, and recently published books on politics. Kendall writes that his purpose in the book is too identify what he calls the Conservative Affirmation rather than defend it. In this purpose he claims this book differs from other similar works with which it will “rub Dewey-decimals shoulders.” In identifying the Conservative Affirmation, he looks not at any abstract theory crafted by conservative philosophers, but instead at the marketplace where conservatives are engaged.

He defines conservatives as those, who “at any given time and place . . . are defending an established order against those who try to undermine or transform it; and that, in the absence of urgent and express reasons to the contrary, the words “Conservatism” and “Conservatives” should not be used in any other meaning.”

Conservatism “shares with the American political tradition that the United States should be governed by ‘the deliberate sense of the community’ and thus has little to do with so-called conservatives such as John Calhoun and Irving Babbitt. “Its highest political loyalty, in fine, is to the institutions and way of life bequeathed to us by the Philadelphia Convention.”

Although I doubt she ever read Wilmoore Kendall, maybe this is what Sarah Palin meant when she once referred to herself as a "constitutional conservative."

On the question of change, Kendall differs little from other conservative writers. His conservatives “distinguished between change directed at the development and perfection of our heritage and that which it is, and change calculated to transform that heritage as that which is it is not.”

Kendall utilizes a battlefield analogy to illustrate his point. He writes that there obviously must be some line which divides the left from the right. Otherwise, to talk about political differences would be meaningless. At first, in the 19th century, only a few skirmishes took place along the line by those forces on the left. By the 1930s, however, the small groups behind these skirmishes coalesced into a coherent force attacking all along the line. It was only the, according to Kendall, that Conservatives recognized the import of the skirmishes that had been taking place and that a Liberal revolution was underway.

What have been some of these points on the front?

Kendall mentions immigration policy. Historically,  immigration policy rested upon existing shares of the population. This acted in favor of families because immigrants already in the United States funded the immigration of relatives. Liberal politicians, psychologists, sociologists, etc. waged an assault on traditional immigration policy. And we all know now that apparently new policy favoring non -traditional immigrants is not enough. Today liberals act as if we must have open borders.

Liberals incessantly press for reform of tax laws that they hope will prevent anyone from saving money to leave to children or grandchildren. (That would undermine the principle of equal opportunity for those generations that follow).

Liberals push for spending on education also in the name of equal opportunity. Why should anyone’s quality of education depend upon accidents of birth?

Liberals pushed public housing because they thought it unreasonable that “people be expected to save money out of their own income to buy themselves houses to live in.” Of course, now in addition to federal housing projects, the government pressures banks to load money for private housing purchases that the people cannot afford.

Liberals advocated spending policies without regard to a growing national debt. (We owe it to ourselves, don’t we? Now we owe much of it to China.)

Interestingly, these issues never seem to go away, even after 50 years since the publication of the book. Partly this is because issues are never resolved in the minds of liberals. They never run out of reforms. But partly the issues seems to never go away because of the conservative success at blocking what the liberal hope to achieve.

This observation that conservatives have more the most part successfully resisted the encroachments of liberalism serves an an introduction to his next chapter. Kendall explores the tension between the Congress and the President. He sees the Congress as the force of conservatism and the status quo. It is the executive who seems to pursue goals of “high principle” in line with enlightened intellectuals that dominate the universities and the media. It is the executive that wants free trade, open borders, accommodation with the communists, etc. It the Congress that has opposed them. Kendall argues that this tension results from a modern change in our conception of government that has taken place. The Constitution invests legislative power in a Congress to which voters, at least in theory, would send virtuous and talented representatives to deliberate about laws. This is the first majority. The President, in contrast, was a non-representative executive chosen indirectly by an electoral college. With the rise of political parties, the President now a representative executive chosen by voters through an electoral college which is now an archaic formality. Each four year presidential election cycle becomes the “feature attraction” of the political drive in theater. Observers eagerly anticipate the result so that they can discern if voters have accorded some “mandate” to the winning candidate. This is the second majority. Kendall remarks that the conservative intellectual movement has not caught on that it should get behind the Congress in support of its conservative tendencies.

The ultimate issue: Conservatism rests on the Great Tradition of Classical Antiquity: society “ is natural to man; its origin is to be sought in the nature of man, for whose perfection it is necessary. Justice, the principles of right and wrong, and the law are not artificial and man-made, but rather are discovered by man through the exercise of reason. Man, whose nature requires him to strive for his own perfection, has a duty to subordinate himself to justice, the principle of right and wrong, to the law.”

For this reason, Kendall argues that it is an error to assume the founders were followers of Locke, who argued that states rested on different foundations. Lock sees the states as the artificial creations of citizens engaged in a contract about protecting rights. Conservatives err when they accede to such claims. They end up supporting a bill of rights that Liberals used to subvert the existing social order. He says that today’s liberals are the successor of the conventionalists who opposed Plato and Aristotle years ago.

Finally, Kendall addresses a topic largely missing from Kirk and Rossiter. The threat of communism served as one of the cohesives of the post-war conservative movement, yet neither of them mention it. Kendall argues that whatever the controversy about McCarthy and his methods, the bottom line was that conservatives believed in suppressing any domestic movement that threatened our freedom and liberals did not. On the related question of free speech and the open society, Kendall asserts his openness to letting someone “have their say.” But he concludes that free speech or the open society as the compelling organizing principle of our society will only serve to subvert it. If all ideas are equal, then their can be no public truth on which a society can be founded.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Future of Marriage

If (or when?) same sex marriage is deemed a constitutional right, how will it affect marriage in general?

Its difficult to say.

From one perspective, its effect will be negligible.

While sometimes it is argued that marriage and family serves as the foundation for civilization, same sex marriage hardly will mean a crack in that foundation. Remember, homosexuals make up only  one to two percent of the population. Moreover, despite the rhetoric of advocates of same sex marriage and their fluffers in the mainstream media, most same sex couples will NOT be getting married. While these advocates repeatedly invoke the same sex "committed couple" that have been living together for decades without the benefits of legally recognized marriage, many--perhaps most--same sex relationships are so-called "open relationships." May same sex couples will NOT make those pledges of fidelity etc. under those conditions. (Some still do, of course, even when they know better.)

Consequently, with so few homosexuals in the general population and even fewer wanting the "commitment" of marriage, we really will see little of it. I imagine that even in states that have legalized same sex marriage already, few people actually even know any same sex married households.

From another perspective, the legalization of same sex marriage will erode the status of marriage within our culture by creating yet another domestic family arrangement. We already have plenty of those, thanks largely to heterosexuals. We have traditional married couples, divorced but remarried couples, divorced single head of households, never married single head of households, and heterosexual couples cohabiting  without the legal benefits of marriage.

With the decriminalization of homosexuality, we also now have homosexual couples cohabiting.  In some states these couples enjoy the benefits of domestic partnerships legislation. We probably soon will add same sex marriage to this smorgasbord of legally sanctioned relationships and  living arrangements.

More important, the legalization of same sex marriage will not mean the end of the so-called culture wars over marriage. For limiting marriage only to couples discriminates against bisexuals--those whose sexual disorientation drives them to both sexes.

We have witnessed this already in Europe. The Netherlands and Sweden legalized same sex marriage in 2001 and 2009 respectively. It was thought that this settled the "marriage question." Instead, it moved another type of domestic arrangement to the forefront: gender neutral polyamorous relationships.

Once the definition of marriage is uprooted from biology and reproduction and linked only to the emotional bonds between two ( or more) people, it really is impossible to define it in a way that gives it any meaning at all. That will not stop those who despise traditional social institutions  from moving this agenda forward. In their minds, there is always so much more to do.

That's why they call themselves progressives.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sexual Disorientation

In a post a few days back, I noted that laws restricting marriage exclusively to heterosexual couples are based upon biology, not bigotry. Four million years of human evolution has yielded two genders for the reproduction and rearing of offspring. Nature has provided  that men and women are drawn together to some degree subconsciously by subtle visual, auditory, and olfactory cues. For ions of time, men and women have been engaging in sexual intercourse, giving birth, rearing children, and forming extensive kinship networks based upon consanguinity.

Over the centuries different societies have devised different social conventions that sanction human pairing and infuse it with meanings particular to those cultures. They call it marriage. They are all but universally based upon pairings between men and women. Marriage was created by heterosexuals for heterosexuals.

Yet homosexuals, who make up about 2%-4% of the population, claim to experience innate attraction to persons of the same sex. Because this claim comes from those who describe their own private, subjective mental state, no one could or even should contest that claim. In addition, homosexuals claim to be "born that way" and that homosexuality results from the same natural biological and developmental processes as heterosexuality. (That is a very different claim that is by no means obviously true.) Consequently, they argue, homosexuality is just as natural as heterosexuality and should serve as the basis of discrimination in the issuing of marriage licenses.

If homosexuality is natural in that sense, this make homosexuality something of a biological anomaly. Scientists do not usually talk about purposes when describing natural processes such as biological evolution. Modern science abandoned a teleological  view of the universe long ago for a mechanistic one. The mechanisms of evolution, however, have made heterosexuality the biological norm. It is not heterosexuality that calls for explanation; it is homosexuality. So how is homosexuality to be explained?

The traditional explanation of homosexuality is not biological at all, but psychological and /or moral. Until 1973, the American Psychiatric Association included homosexuality among its list of sexual deviations in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. At that time it substituted Sexual Orientation Disturbance, which referred to people who were unhappy with , in conflict with, or wanting to change, their orientation. This did not mean the APA normalized homosexuality. The author of the change in nomenclature wrote that “by no longer listing it as a psychiatric disorder we are not saying that it is "normal" or as valuable as heterosexuality.” This change occurred, however, as a reaction to political pressure, not as a result of new research evidence or better reasoning about homosexuality. The American Psychological Association followed suit two years later. At the same time, many jurisdictions in the United States still criminalized certain sexual practices associated with homosexuality. As a society we never squared homosexuality as a mental disorder with homosexuality as a criminal activity. The same situation persists today with pedophilia. It is still considered a mental illness but is also criminalized. And some people wonder what this says about mental illness as a coherent concept anyway. Does the fact that many people act in weird ways mean they are mentally ill?

A more contemporary explanation relies on genetics. Genes determine physical characteristics of biological organisms. It is possible that a mutation triggers drives in homosexuals that deviate from those inherited by the vast majority of other members of homo sapiens. Perhaps homosexuals carry an allele that accounts for the deviation from nature's norm. If true, it suggests that homosexuality is natural in that it results from natural processes. But it is certainly a maladaptive trait. The possession of a homosexual allele or some other genetic factor does not affect directly the viability of the individuals who carry it.  But, like most mutations, it is does not appear to enhance the survival of the species as a whole. Homosexuals couples cannot reproduce themselves. If homosexuals found themselves separated geographically so that their gene pool became isolated, it would not lead to new species. It would lead to extinction. Some research suggests, however, the counter intuitive conclusion that homosexual factors in the genes actually increase the chances for reproductive success among heterosexuals. And this explains the persistence of homosexual genetic traits in the general population.

A somewhat different appeal is to behavioral genetics. Genes play a determinate role in the instinct bases species-specific behaviors exhibited by animals. Scientists have now embarked on studies of behavioral genetics in humans. They suggest that a variety of genes contribute to human behavior. This seems to be a much more difficult task, given that humans do not really exhibit instinctual behaviors like other animals. Humans distinguish themselves from other animals by the possession of free will. And this brings us back to the controversy over homosexuality as a matter of choice. Moreover, researchers have yet to find a "homosexual gene."

Some researchers believe that genes contribute to homosexuality indirectly. They suggest that some malfunction of the genes that govern intrauterine development result in homosexual orientation or at least susceptibility to the development of a homosexual orientation. This seems the  most probable.

Perhaps homosexuality results from some combination of biological processes, social conditioning, and choice. A recent pamphlet produced by the American Psychological Association suggests just that:

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles..."

Does this mean homosexual relationships are evil? No,

Does this mean homosexual relationships are less worthy? No.

But neither does it contribute much to the argument for homosexual marriage.

Approximately 2% to 4% of the population confuses the cues that should draw them to the opposite sex. They demand state recognition of  homosexual relationships under the banner of "justice" and  "marriage equality."

Centuries ago, Aristotle argued that to understand the justice of any social practice, one must understand its telos--its end or purpose. As I wrote at the top, men and women engage in sexual intercourse, give birth to children, rear them into adulthood, and form kinship networks based upon consanguinity.  Marriage is social convention based upon these biological realities. As a civil institution provides social and legal support to the ends or purposes of marriage--sanctioning of regulating the sexual dynamic between men and women, legitimizing children produced by sexual intercourse, establishing the rights to property acquired by the household. On this ground, it is difficult to see just how homosexual relationships are equal. Homosexual relations share with heterosexual relationships mutual affection and some level of commitment. That is, however, about the only characteristic in that they are equal. Homosexual couples do not engage in sexual intercourse, strictly speaking. They do not give birth to children and families. They do not form extended kinship networks based upon consanguinity.

Marriage is a social convention with social purposes that we as a society can change and  define anyway we want. We can change the definition of marriage to include couples of the same sex. We can  change the definition of marriage to include good old fashioned Biblical or Koranic polygamy. We can change the definition to include new fashioned gender neutral polyamorous relationships.

There just do not seem to be any compelling reasons why we should.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Some Philosophers on the Family

Although marriage as a civil institution is a social convention, historical it has rested on the biological reality of two genders.

I do not recall any philosopher of any note before our current generation that considered marriage anything else.

A few snippets:

Aristotle described marriage as “ a union of those who cannot exist without each other, namely, male and female, that the species may continue.” In a less obvious judgment, he contended that “mankind has a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves.”

Nearly 2,000 years later John Locke described marriage “as a voluntary compact between a man and a woman [that] consists chiefly in such a communion and right in each other’s bodies as is necessary to its chief end, procreation.” Immanuel Kant offered a similar view. “The natural union of the sexes, “ he wrote, “proceeds either according to the mere animal nature or according to law. The later is marriage, which is the union of two persons of different sexes for lifelong reciprocal possession of the sexual faculties.”

Procreation is not the exclusive purpose of marriage. Otherwise, the marriage would end once the first child is born. Offspring must be reared. John Locke observed that “the end of conjunction male and female [is] not barely procreation but the continuation of the species.” Marriage lasts long after procreation, “so long as is necessary to the nourishment and support of the young ones who are to be sustained by those who got them till they are able to shift and support for themselves.” Locke attributed the lengthy biological development of human offspring for establishing “a more firm and lasting bond in man than in other species of animals.” The lengthy period that passes before a child reaches adulthood encourages the maintenance of the marriage. Even modern observers not that  spouses in an unhappy marriage recognize this fact when the elect to keep the marriage together “for the sake of the children."

Intercourse and reproduction , of course, are not the only purposes of marriage. Marriage facilitates natural psychological functions as well. Human beings by nature are social animals. They gather together in a variety of social and political associations. Companionship in marriage is the most private and intimate of those associations. Locke wrote that "it draws with it mutual support as assistance and a communion of interests."

And in the modern era, marriage usually involves expressions of love. Love is often misused for acquisitive desires, the impulse to acquire and use the object of desire for one’s own satisfaction. When the object of desire is sexual, lust is the more appropriate word. Love should only be used of benevolent desires, the impulse to benefit or bring good to the person who is the object of desire. When these benevolent feelings intertwine with sexual desire, it is erotic love. The marital relationship is the setting for the expression of erotic love between a husband and wife. And because love is a benevolent desire, it sustains the commitment of the couple even as sexual desire diminishes and disappears with age.

Finally, marriage performs economic functions as well. When a couple marries, they become husband and wife and form a household. Husband means householder; wife means woman. (That is a hint, at least for those in the English speaking world, that natural, biologically based marriage is nature's norm.) One or both spouses work to contribute to the family’s material well-being. Before the modern era, children, too, worked in support of their family. Aristotle wrote that “The so-called art of getting wealth is according some identical with household management, accord to others the principle part of it.” The family can be described as a domestic economy. In fact, the term economics derives from its original use as a description of a household. Originally, polity referred to the state, and politics the governing of a political community. Economy referred to a family, and economics to the operations of a family or domestic economy.

In Aristotle’s view, the family serves as the foundation for more complex social organizations. According the Aristotle, the next stage in social development is the village, “the first association of a number of households for the satisfaction of something more than daily needs. It comes into being through the processes of nature in the fullest sense, as off-shoot of a household and set up by son and grandsons.” The final association to come into being is the state, “formed of several villages.” According to Aristotle, with the formation of the state, “self-sufficiency has been reached” and the state serves as “a means of securing the good life.” The state, like  the village and the family, are natural.

That is why some observers suggest that marriage is the foundation for civilization.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Biology, Not Bigotry

Marriage is social convention, but it rests on biological realities.

Over the course of four million years, biological evolution has selected two sexes for the reproduction and rearing of offspring to perpetuate the human species. Human reproductive organs possess an evolved compatibility. The male's external reproductive organs and the female's mostly internal reproductive organs when properly functioning enable intercourse and reproduction. Although instinct does not determine human behavior the same way that it does in other species, natural processes involving various visual, auditory, and olfactory cues influence human mating. Facial appearance, voice pitch, and the more subtle influences of pheromones such androstadienone and copulance draw the sexes together. Sexual desire itself as a visceral urge is expressed through human reproductive faculties. These biological phenomena assist in establishing human mating generally and finding genetically advantageous mates specifically.

Some interesting and informative videos can be found here.

 (yes, its capitalism, so you have to watch some commercials)

Men and women have been engaging in sexual intercourse, giving birth, rearing children, and forming extensive kinship networks based upon consanguinity for ions of time. And over the course of time, different societies have developed a variety of social norms or customs to regulate and infuse meaning into the forming of families. Those customs are what makes marriage a social convention. But marriage is a convention that rests upon marriage conceived as a union between a man and a woman.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

So What is Marriage Anyway?

Marriage is historically understood as a union between a man and woman. Efforts to describe just what kind of union reveals its multifaceted character. The most common models understandings include marriage as a social practice, a religious rite, a legal contract, and a civil institution.

First, marriage as a social practice is the most fundamental. As a social practice, marriage precedes political society and the modern state’s establishment of marriage as a legal institution. Marriage brings together a man and woman into a new relationship between them and into a new standing before the larger society. For most of human history and in traditional patriarchal societies today, fathers arrange the marriages of their children. Arranged marriages usually are endogamous in that they maintain existing kinship networks. Marriages between relatives sharing some degree of consanguinity reinforces tribal or clan identity. Of course, families arrange exogamous marriages outside the existing kinship ties as well in order to establish new ones. Enhancing the economic well-being or status of the families motivates many if not most arranged marriages. As a social practice, traditional marriage serves the related functions of regulating sexual behavior, establishing the legitimacy of offspring, and defining property arrangements. Romantic love or passion between spouse either do not constitute a crucial aspect of arranged marriages at all or is expected to emerge during the marriage. The rise of modern romantic marriage, however, fundamentally altered traditional practices. In the West and in other less traditional societies, modern marriage is understood as a matter of individual choice.

Second, because most societies contain one or more religious traditions, marriage is also considered a religious rite. The ceremony informs the event with religious meaning as the couple assumes a new standing before God. This usually means some religious official presides over the ceremony, confers divine blessings on the union, and provides some sort of theological understanding of marriage within that society‘s religious tradition. Marriage as a religious right endures even in today’s more secular age. In most nations, the state authorizes religious officials to conduct marriages.

Third, because marriage involves some agreement between parties, whether between family heads in an arranged marriage or between individuals in modern marriage, it is also described as a contract. In fact, most civil codes today define it as such. When a proposal for marriage is agreed upon, the couple exchanges promises regarding rights and duties. Marriage differs from other legal contracts, however,  in that the parties rarely write out the rights and duties as clauses in a  formal agreement.

Finally, marriage has become in modern societies a civil institution. The modern state has assumed regulatory powers over marriage through licensing. The state establishes licensing procedures and specifies who may enter into marriage contracts and what kinds of marriage contracts it will recognize. The state accords recognition based upon the interests of the state.

It is within marriage’s status as a civil institution where the battle over same-sex marriage takes place.

As a social practice, religious rite, and maybe even a legal contract, any two people of any  gender or relationship can marry. Same sex couples can make an informal contract involving  vows of love and fidelity and affirming rights and duties. Same sex couples can secure religious blessings with the tradition of their choice. And same sex couples can present themselves before their family and friends as a married couple.

The question is, must a state recognize and grant legal sanction to same sex marriages?

In making a case for same-sex marriage, homosexual rights advocates appeal to these multifaceted attributes of marriage. They note marriage’s status as a social, religious, contractual, and institutional character. They elaborate on the incredibly diverse marital practices both in the past and today. In essence, they argue that marriage is a mere social convention. As societies change, so do their conventions. This anthropological or philosophical observation often leads, either implicitly or explicitly, to the legal argument that restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples is a residual and outdated convention, usually based upon religion, that illegally singles out and  discriminates against homosexuals.

They ignore the fact that, while marriage is a social convention, it is based upon certain facts of nature. Laws confining marriage to heterosexuals are not based upon bigotry; they are based upon biology.

The next post will explore that question.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Irony of Proposition 8

An interesting irony of last week's hearing at the United States Supreme on the appeal of Proposition 8, an amendment to the California state constitution confirming the traditional restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples, is the historical background to how such amendments come about.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Americans grappled with the incredible changes to their lives brought about by the transportation and industrial revolutions. Different groups, many with conflicting agendas yet most  describing themselves loosely as progressives, attempted through the political process to address some of the problems that emerged with the new industrial order. They worked on both local, state, and federal levels to secure reforms and regulations.

Because the political parties seemed ineffective and the courts proved unresponsive,  many progressives sought changes in the political system itself to secure the changes they desired. In order to bypass the legislative bodies and the courts, progressives began advocating reforms of the political system that included the use of initiatives, referendums, and recall elections. Initiatives are opportunities for the citizens to enact laws directly after the required amount of signatures on petitions have been obtained.  Referendums take place when direct approval by voters is required of a law or ordinance enacted by some legislative bodies. Recalls provide voters the option to remove an elected official without waiting for the next election.

Initiatives, referendums, and recalls constitute forms of direct democracy through which progressives hoped to make the political system more responsive to the will of the people.

Ironically, California has grow famous for  the increasing use of the initiative for conservative causes. Well known initiatives in California included those restricting property taxes and eliminating affirmative action preferences in areas of public employment. Proposition 8 has become the most famous or for progressives--infamous-- of  California initiatives.

The double irony is that now the courts, once seen by twentieth century progressives as the unresponsive and obstructionist enemies of progress, have become the modern progressives' best friend.