Monday, June 30, 2008

Your Morning Opinion Dump

-It's baaaack! Everybody's favorite situational federalists in the Senate have decided that it's time to defile the Constitution with some super-fun gay-bashing! We have Roger Wicker, formerly Mississippi's king of pork, to blame. And it seems that Larry Craig and David Vitter have signed on as well, having decided that gay couples wanting the same rights as straight couples is a greater threat to marriage than, say, soliciting sex in a bathroom stall or frequenting a high-priced D.C. prostitute. The amendment's in no danger of getting 67 votes in a Democratic Senate, of course (it probably won't make it past Pat Leahy and the Judiciary Committee). It's just dumbdiddlyumptious.

For another laugh, read this unintentionally hilarious explanation of why the sky will fall if gays are allowed to marry. Bonus: he uses a sketchy example of a state-run church as proof of what will happen here.

- Next time anyone from the right bellyaches about "judicial activism," please show them the results of the latest round of Supreme Court cases. In two cases - the Heller case striking down the D.C. handgun ban and the Davis case striking down part of McCain-Feingold - the conservative wing of the Court took the judicially active path (i.e. contravened the will of the legislature). Conservatives are hailing both cases, especially the former - and apparently missing the irony.

So shut up about "activist judges," already. They're supposed to be activist. Isn't that what Marbury vs. Madison was about? The right of the Court to strike down unconstitutional laws? Perhaps a danger greater than an "activist" judge is a judge who makes decision based on his/her own political leanings... which is exactly what the right-wing nominee hawks want.

- More stupid African dictator tricks. This time, it's a petrostate dictator propped up by Exxon's tax dollars in a 500,000-person country you've never heard of. Bonus: Margaret Thatcher's son tried to overthrow him. Good times!

- And this might be the dumbest story ever (thanks be to The Agitator).


-Dave said...

I don't think (at least personally) that the issue with "activist judges" is those who act in a way that contravenes the Legislature to defend the Constitution. It's those that decide on what they think is best, and then read their standard into the Constitution. Hence, a lot of opposition to the 2nd Amendment ruling is about the effects of the ruling, not about whether it properly interpreted the Amendment.

There may be some reasonable debate about the meaning of all the commas in the second amendment. But I laughed aloud when a Democrat (I can't recall if it was the DC mayor or someone in Congress) expressed his incredulence at the idea that the Founding Fathers intended to limit the ability of governments to regulate civilian firearms 200 years ago (it's at the very least a plausible argument, unless you are absolutely certain that your interpretation of all those commas is exactly what they meant, because "shall not be infringed" is most certainly a limiting phrase)... while this same politician would certainly say that abortion is a constitutionally guaranteed right.

Is it just me, or is that a substantial disconnect?

Matthew B. Novak said...

I've always understood the distinction between activist and non-activist judges to be placed a little differently. It isn't just whether or not they defer to the legislature, but whether or not they dictate that the government must provide/allow for certain things. Thus, saying government must allow abortions and/or offer gay marriage is activist. But saying "You don't have a right to burn flags" is not activist. Of course, I'd say reading an absolute right to handguns is also activist, but it isn't activist just because it disagreed with the legislature.

On the gay marriage thing... I couldn't make it through that article because the author's writing was terrible. And though I certainly think he's overstating the causation between same-sex marriage/civil union and the deterioration of the family, it does at very least force me to wonder if there is some quantifiable correlation. I don't know how you'd seperate it from all sorts of other influences, but maybe there's something there? Thoughts?

Jeff said...

"It's those that decide on what they think is best, and then read their standard into the Constitution."

Dave, that could describe at least eight of the current justices, possibly all nine.

Matt - correlation perhaps, but the correlation rests on the existence of something - a state-owned church - that doesn't exist here. And correlation isn't important anyway - think of the Flying Spaghetti Monster site's correlation between pirates and global warming. So unless there's some sort of causative link, I'm not impressed - and I haven't heard a causative explanation that doesn't boil down to handwaving and "ewww, icky."

Matthew B. Novak said...

I can think of a very obvious causitive explanation, and I think that article kind of tried to express one: that advocacy for same-sex marriage merges with advocacy for non-traditional family structures, and therefore more non-traditional families are created.

Or you could go with the equally obvious "same-sex couples cannot (by definition, not by impediment) procreate" and therefore one of the purpose of marriage (offspring) is frustrated, thus breaking down the family concept.

I'm not defending these arguments, just saying that they're there to be made, and that they're certainly more substantial than "it's gross".

Jeff said...

Doesn't the opposition to so-called "non-traditional family structures" essentially boil down to "it's gross"? And who's causing who here? Is same-sex marriage causing openness toward other family structures? Or vice-versa... which seems far more likely?

And the "can't have kids" thing - guess we should prevent post-menopausal women from getting married too.

Matthew B. Novak said...

I don't want to get into the position of defending a position I don't agree with here, so let me just say up front that I support civil unions (and not just for same-sex couples, but for any two adults who want to get the rights available and are willing to make a life-long commitment).

That beign said, no, I think it's very different than "it's gross". There are certainly those people out there who make that argument, but there are also those who make the "it's immoral" argument (which is entirely distinct from the gross argument). Then there's the two arguments I point out before. You're probably right to say that it's more likely openness to alternative family structures that causes support for same-sex marriage than vice-versa. I think though that the issue in this argument is the way family structure affects society and what the ideal family structure is. Once again, that's certainly not a "gross" argument, because we're talking about how we want society to function.

Finally, on the ability to have children issue, there's a reasonable (and obvious) distinction to be made between people that can't have children by definition and people that can't have children by impediment.