Monday, August 5, 2013
August 5, 2013
It's been a couple of months without a posting, and that's too long. Not that the world has been devoid of storms, famine, privation and carefully engineered spontaneous revolutions, or the local and national political and social scenes lacking in their usual mishmash of tempests in teapots, wrought to the uttermost by the hungry media. No, there's been plenty of all that. So this is just a kind of check-in posting, a place holder.
Let's take a few news items in no particular order. The Supreme Court of the United States of America So Help Me God (in the words of my dear old law school contracts professor Cornelius Scanlon) handed down a pair of decisions affecting gay marriage. Two substantially different decisions, turning on different niceties of law, but both sending ultimately the same message, namely, that gay marriage is here to stay. In one, the court said that the federal Defense of Marriage Act could not treat a legally-recognized gay marriage differently for purposes of federal benefits which would otherwise inure to a heterosexual married couple in that same state. In the other, the court said that certain local parties not representing the government of the state of California itself did not have standing to challenge a federal district court's decision to strike down the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage on the grounds that it was federally unconstitutional. That one might seem a bit puzzling, since, once the dust has settled, it amounts to a low-level California federal judge having decided that the state can't amend its own constitution to ban something that several other states have amended their constitutions to ban (namely gay marriage) because the ban violates the constitution of the United States, even though the Supreme Court hasn't yet said that bans on gay marriage violate the U.S. constitution. Huh?
For my European (and maybe even American) readers these Supreme Court decisions may seem a bit arcane and unclear. In most countries on earth I assume the national government decides such basic and sweeping issues as whether or not gay marriage should be legal. People who view things here from outside the weird confines of the system under which we operate in the U.S. might find it puzzling that our country, which appears as a monolith from the point of view of its military and diplomatic presence elsewhere, is, when it comes to other basic things, really fifty separate countries, each with its own laws about marriage, capital punishment, driver's licenses, speed limits, taxation, and so on. A few things, like national defense, immigration, interstate commerce, commerce with the Indian tribes, and bankruptcy, remain forever within the exclusive purview of the federal government, but much of the rest is up to the individual states. (Then again, there is ample precedent outside the U.S. for local governments being at odds with stable national ones, as in some communist-run arrondissement of Paris, for example, but I imagine the scope of such local independence doesn't extend to things like marriage laws and whether or not someone may be subject to capital punishment).
Also on the gay rights front, it seems that the rights of bisexuals might be at risk, because of the fact that they're sometimes not taken seriously by either gay people or straight people. How can one be both? everyone wonders. It's like being a moderate Republican in this day and age--a virtual impossibility in most people's minds, and sure to win you no support from either party. They're like Phillip Nolan, the Man Without a Country, condemned to drift forever upon the seas under no flag.
When it comes to gay marriage and capital punishment, it is accurate to say that the U.S. is essentially two different countries, blue and red. The red country consists of pretty much all the states that had legal slavery before the Civil War, with a bunch of corn-growing and cowpoke-filled ones and Alaska thrown in for good measure. The red states are hostile to gay marriage, abortion, minority rights, and pretty much everything else that is good and just, and also tend to prefer that people own lots of guns and are executed for murder. The blue country more closely resembles what the United States would be like if it aspired to the social ideals of western Europe (minus any meaningful economic socialism, of course). So there you go.
Elsewhere in the news, this guy Anthony Weiner is running for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City but doesn't seem to be able to help himself out of his own weaknesses of the flesh. Plus he's preternaturally skinny and weird, with or without the fake moustache and his nom de plume Carlos Danger. This latter item always makes me think of the Firesign Theater's detective "Nick Danger, Third Eye." When is Weiner going to drop out of the race, one wonders? But while many are focused on his behavior my concern about him is other than that. What bothers me is that he mispronounces his own name WEEner rather than WINEr. I mean, is he a descendant of wine merchants or of people (or perhaps sausages) from Vienna?
Also there's the guy who pleaded guilty to kidnapping those girls in Cleveland and enslaving them and ruining their lives, who was just sentenced to life plus 1,000 years in jail. What a bunch of softies they are over in Ohio. Hell, with time off for good behavior the guy will probably be out walking the streets in only 300 years.
And then of course there's this peripatetic fellow Snowden, the new Man Without a Country, looking for asylum here and there, apparently holed up in Russia for the time being. For some reason every time I see his name I think of the allegedly bisexual photographer/playboy Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, who was, if I recall correctly, elevated to that peerage on account of being married to Queen Elizabeth's late sister Margaret. I glance at the headlines and invariably think, "Is that old Brit still around, and what's he gotten himself into now?"
It's a mad mad world, no place for the timid, or for those without a sense of humor. In the words of the Kinks, "Girls will be boys and boys will be girls, it's a mixed up muddled up shook up world, except for Lola. L-O-L-A, Lola."