Archive for August, 2005

What. The. Fuck.

Has the world gone completely fucking insane while I wasn’t looking? Memo to self: ask parents to consider cremation.

Anne adds: Fuck the what? That’s…I don’t even know what that is. I’m speechless.

I ended up writing this for a post on a discussion forum, but I felt it articulates the basic issue with gay marriage and the rights therein.

There are 2 facets of marriage in American society. One is the legal union recognized by the government. This union can be obtained by a man and a woman at a courthouse (or county registrar or whatever). A justice of the peace presides. You pay a fee, and that’s basically it. There’s no religious component. The justice will use whatever words you choose for the ceremony, and include the legal phrase “by the power vested in me by the State of California, blah blah blah”.

Now, many people choose to get married in a church, in some kind of religious ceremony. A clergyman who performs this ceremony must be approved by the State in order to have the legal power to marry people (which usually just means that he’s clergy of a recognized religion). Without that governmental authority, the ceremony is purely symbolic and has no legally binding power (i.e. the church may consider them married but the State does not).

When you get married, the clergyman performing the ceremony must submit a signed marriage license to the State of California within 10 days or the marriage is not legally binding. In the case of a non-authorized clergy, the couple must be united by a justice of the peace or other recognized authority within 10 days.

The word “marriage” is originally a Christian term, I believe. It is used in government documentation for the sake of convenience. It might be less confusing to use a term like “legal union” in government contexts, in order to separate the two ceremonies in people’s minds.

Gays are entitled to a legal union, recognized by the government (although are not currently granted that right). The Constitution’s equal protection guarantee should make this an open-and-shut issue.

Gays are not, however, entitled to a “marriage”, where that term refers to a status recognized by a church (any church). The simple reason is that the church’s recognition of a married couple is entirely separate from the government’s recognition of same. It would not be just or appropriate to force a religion to change its own doctrine.

The biggest mistake gay activists are making with this issue is not drawing the distinction between religious “marriage” and government “legal union”. If they could drive a wedge into that, they would have a much more solid basis for pursuing their Constitutionally-protected right to be recognized by the state as a married couple.

Cameron, Charlie the cockatoo’s foster dad, has two other permanent members of his household, Herbie and Bloo. Herbie is a female Derbyan parakeet, and Bloo is a male blue-cinnamon variant Ringneck parakeet. Herbie and Bloo are true parakeets; the birds most people think of as parakeets are actually budgies. Parakeets are much larger birds, as you can see in the pictures below.

Herbie was hatched on Christmas Day, 2004. You can see a bit of the blue feathers starting to come in around the edge of her beak. Eventually her face will be a more distinctive blue. In Derbyans, the females are distinguished by their all-black beaks, while the males have bright orange beaks. Otherwise the two sexes are almost identical in coloration.

Bloo was hatched in April, 2004. Ringnecks come in a truly enormous variety of color combinations, and Bloo is a blue-cinnamon color variant. The pale ring around his neck will eventually turn black as he matures. These birds have distinctive pale irises, which gives their gaze a somewhat zombie-ish quality. Bloo is also a strange bird, who rarely makes noise and seems more content to just stare at you (or stick his beak in your ear).

Bloo was about to be sent to the breeder when Cameron called looking for a Ringneck. He was originally looking for a regular blue Ringneck, but the seller had a special one that “didn’t deserve to go to the breeder”, and cost a bit more because of his nice color. So Cameron bought him, and now he has a nice home where he doesn’t have to spend his days doing nothing but raising babies.

And one more of Herbie outside:

All pictures were taken with a Sony Cybershot DSC-S40 digital camera.

This is Charlie, a Corella Cockatoo, also known as a “Bare-Eyed Cockatoo” because of the bare skin around the eyes. This is normal for this species, as are the bags under his eyes that make him look perpetually insomniac.

Charlie is a rescued bird. My friend Cameron is currently caring for him — we bought him from a woman who did not know how to properly care for him and was not able to spend time with him (people who view birds as decoration rather than pets need to be slapped around a little).

Charlie’s diet had been very bad, consisting (we think) of seed inappropriate for his species, and people food like crackers. He was both malnourished and overweight, but Cam has him on a seed/pellet diet now, and his favorite fresh snack is bananas. The slight blue coloration has returned to his skin around his eyes, and he is starting to become more used to humans touching him (although still bites).

Yesterday I went to Cam’s house to help trim Charlie’s toenails, which were very overgrown and causing him some aggravation to the extent that he chewed on them. Two of the nails bled when cut, even though I cut very little off the tips. I applied some styptic swabs to stop the bleeding and alleviate any pain. The bird took it like a trooper, although he was rather pissed when we were done, and it took 20 minutes to get him out from under a piece of low furniture and back in his cage.

With time, the quick will recede as the nails wear down. He is due for a trip to the vet next week, and Cam will keep an eye on his feet to make sure his nails don’t get infected. He may also need a beak trim, and we will let the vet perform that if needed.

Otherwise he appears to be healthy, and he has a good personality. Currently he makes a nervous noise with his beak that I call “clicking”, that sounds like a small rattlesnake. With time he will be more comfortable around people.

All pictures were taken with a Sony Cybershot DSC-S40 digital camera.

This post on Michael Barone’s new blog points out a potential risk (or opportunity depending on which side of the political spectrum you live on) that I’ve been pondering for a few months now. I think it helps explain some of the seemingly pointless Democratic obstruction we’ve seen in the Senate since the election. Writing about yesterday’s special Congressional election in Ohio’s 2nd district, Barone comments:

In this week’s election, Democrats apparently were able to motivate their Bush-hating core to go to the polls. Republicans, who demonstrated such prowess at turning out their voters in November 2004, did not do nearly as well in motivating their base. Turnout will be much higher in November 2006. But this result will give heart to the Democrats who argue that all they need to do is to turn out Bush-haters. And it should give pause to Republicans and raise the question as to whether the Republican base—much larger in this district than the Democratic base—will turn out in record numbers in November 2006 as it did in November 2004. The conservatives at are speculating that Democrats will be misled in pursuing a turn-out-the-base strategy that proved a loser in 2004. Maybe so; indeed, I’m still inclined to agree. But if I were Karl Rove or Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman, I would be thinking hard about how to motivate the Republican base.

Because of its 50% + 1, first-past-the-post electoral system, the United States has room for only two major political parties. The Republicans and Democrats are both coalitions, containing many groups with divergent interests that would probably form separate parties under a parliamentary system. The social conservative faction of the Republican party has limited interests in common with the fiscal conservatives, or the libertarians. The Kos Kidz view of the world isn’t exactly a close match with blue-collar union Democrats. Examples could be multiplied.

The party coalitions are held together by lynchpins of common interests. These days it seems like the Democratic coalition is held together largely by hatred of George W. Bush. The Republican coalition is held together largely by national security concerns.

The 2004 election demonstrated that when both coalitions turn out their current members in large numbers, the Republicans win. This poses an obvious problem for the Democrats, with two possible solutions. They either have to attract new members into their coalition, which would involve changing their platform to make it more attractive to marginal potential Democrats, or they have to figure out a way to change the turnout equation in their favor. Since the election, the Democratic policy response has typically alternated between more-of-the-same-but-louder and the-party-of-no. Neither of these are likely to pull new members into their coalition. (If anything, their coalition seems to be weakening, c.f. the recent split in one of their core constituencies, organized labor. But I digress.)

I think the Democrats have settled on the second approach — change the turnout equation. Turnout is driven by motivation, and all the Democrats have to do to keep their base motivated is toss them red meat every now and then. The Republicans, on the other hand, have a problem. Precisely because they control the White House and the Congress, they have to actually govern. That means coming up with real-world policies, in detail, and working to get them passed. This generally involves taking actions that serve the interests of part of the coalition while leaving others out. And in some cases an action that pleases one coalition group will actively displease another. (A Supreme Court justice who pleases the social conservatives on issues like abortion, gay marriage and church-state relations is likely to displease the libertarian wing for exactly the same reasons. Yet a nomination must be made.) The dust-up over Terri Schiavo is a good illustration of the problem.

The frictions of governing tend, over time, to drive wedges between the various elements of the governing coalition. Time also tends to weaken the national security lynchpin holding the various Republican coalition groups together. Americans, particularly on the right, have strong isolationist tendencies. We want to be able to ignore the rest of the world. 9/11 forced us to pay attention, but 9/11 is moving farther and farther away, and other concerns loom larger with time.

What this suggests is that the Democrats may do well with an essentially defensive strategy. If they can maintain the integrity and motivation of their coalition longer than the GOP can maintain the integrity and motivations of theirs, victory may follow. It’s an intellectually vacuous approach, but it may pay off.