Thursday, March 28, 2013

Any idea what the pro-Proposition 8 attorney is talking about?

How does this guy's argument promote banning gay marriage? For that matter, what IS his argument, anyway? 

MR. COOPER: Yes, Your Honor. The concern is that redefining marriage as a genderless institution will sever its abiding connection to its historic traditional procreative purposes, and it will refocus, refocus the purpose of marriage and the definition of marriage away from the raising of children and to the emotional needs and desires of adults, of adult couples. Suppose, in turn —
JUSTICE KAGAN: Well, suppose a State said, Mr. Cooper, suppose a State said that, Because we think that the focus of marriage really should be on procreation, we are not going to give marriage licenses anymore to any couple where both people are over the age of 55. Would that be constitutional?
MR. COOPER: No, Your Honor, it would not be constitutional.
JUSTICE KAGAN: Because that's the same State interest, I would think, you know. If you are over the age of 55, you don't help us serve the Government's interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?
MR. COOPER: Your Honor, even with respect to couples over the age of 55, it is very rare that both couples — both parties to the couple are, and the traditional — (Laughter.)
JUSTICE KAGAN: No, really, because if the couple — I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.
MR. COOPER: Your Honor, society's — society's interest in responsible procreation isn't just with respect to the procreative capacities of the couple itself. The marital norm, which imposes the obligations of fidelity and monogamy, Your Honor, advances the interests in responsible procreation by making it more likely that neither party, including the fertile party to that —
JUSTICE KAGAN: Actually, I'm not even —
JUSTICE SCALIA: I suppose we could have a questionnaire at the marriage desk when people come in to get the marriage — you know, Are you fertile or are you not fertile?
JUSTICE SCALIA: I suspect this Court would hold that to be an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, don't you think?
JUSTICE KAGAN: Well, I just asked about age. I didn't ask about anything else. That's not — we ask about people's age all the time.
MR. COOPER: Your Honor, and even asking about age, you would have to ask if both parties are infertile. Again —
JUSTICE SCALIA: Strom Thurmond was — was not the chairman of the Senate committee when Justice Kagan was confirmed.
MR. COOPER: Very few men — very few men outlive their own fertility.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Does God hate flags?

Across the street from Westboro Baptist Church

Great story on Huffington Post on the latest and most colorful protest against the infamous hate church in Wichita.

How Doctors Die

Physicians don't go through the torture of long, extended periods of incapacity before death. Some refuse the very treatments they themselves discovered. Interesting discussion on Martin Bayne's blog.  For more on Martin, "The Voice of Aging Boomers" and a first-hand champion of good assisted living, see this article in today's New York Times.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cracked 6000!

As of today, my blog has 6,006 views. Thanks, readers!

Friday, March 08, 2013

Old School

What Rand Paul did yesterday was not about right or left, nor about Barack Obama. It was about the rule of law and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. I'm a left-leaning Democrat and I salute him for his act and his convictions. This was an important issue, and the tactic worked: after 13 hours, the Attorney General said the words: The President does not have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.

Meanwhile, the Republicans perpetrated another unmanned drone filibuster against yet another appellate court nominee. The contrast is instructive.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Slavery without race; abolitionism without race?

After an interesting Shabbat discussion at Eliezer, Ben Karp Facebook-messaged me a query from Ken Perkins:

Rob, Ken asks:
"Question: What is the relationship between abolitionist movements in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and its colonies, and the extent to which slavery had been "racialized" in many of those places? If slavery had been more "equal opportunity" (e.g., significant numbers of Black or Native American slave owners with large plantations of White slaves in the Deep South), how would this have changed the dynamic of abolitionism?"

My response:

Big question. There are at least a couple of books embedded there. A few observations in the direction of formulating a hypothesis:
First, while I don't believe there was a full-fledged ideology of race at the time, the African origins of New World slaves probably camouflaged the extent of the institution to a degree: they tended not to be considered. That changes over the course of the 1760s-90s, as Africans become extremely visible in England (Albert Gronniosaw, Phillis Wheatley, Cuguano, Equiano). Ironically, the result is that black slaves become kind of fetishized, depersonalized (e.g. the Wedgwood "Man and a Brother" kneeling slave image), fully associating slavery with blacks and in effect "racializing" abolition. (This is what makes modern slavery so invisible, btw--we don't see it when it's happening to Ukranians or Thais.)
I think that blacks enslaving whites in the Lower South is too great a counterfactual to process meaningfully. But there is a more accessible example: the enslavement of Europeans and Americans by the Barbary pirates. They made an outcry, threatened to convert to Islam, etc., and were always a "policy issue" for their native governments, but I don't think they ever became a "movement" in the way that African abolition did.
One can also look at the non-racial defense of slavery by figures such as the Florida planter Zephaniah Kingsley, who felt that the American racializing of slavery was absurd and counterproductive, and who ultimately moved with his black wife and mixed-race children to the West Indies to escape American prejudice (and its threat, as he saw it, to the safety of the slave regime).
The racialization of slavery, then, led to a shorthand racialization of abolition on the one hand. On the other, it ensured that free blacks would always be tarred with the stigma of slavery until slavery itself came to an end. In most slave societies, the manumitted class identifies fiercely with the master class, to distinguish themselves from their slave roots. In America, this was impossible because of the racial binary. Thus in two directions--anti-slavery and anti-black--the racialization of slavery pointed powerfully to slavery's demise.
We have a modern test case to determine whether this is generally so or not. Will it be possible to mount a global movement against slavery when slavery has no "racial" component, as in the present post-Cold War world? Or will slavery return to its classical status of a ubiquitous condition that anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time can fall into?