Cory Booker Gets It Right

The Newark mayor the subject of same-sex marriage, specifically in New Jersey, but generally applicable everywhere.

When courts decide for same-sex marriage, those who oppose it say it should be the choice of legislatures. When legislatures decide for it, those who oppose it say it should be the choice of the voters. I have no doubt whatsoever that if the voters decided for it, those who oppose it would be in the courts trying to stop it. The folks who oppose same-sex marriage don’t really want anyone to say it’s okay. They just want it not to exist.

156 thoughts on “Cory Booker Gets It Right

  1. I’m a huge supporter of the right of all people to marry the person they love, and I really like the way Mayor Booker talks about it. But I’m not sure he picked the best examples of things that should be put to a vote. While I actually favor the millionaire’s tax, I could see someone making a specious argument that letting non-millionaires vote on a millionaire’s tax is also about the majority oppressing the minority.

    Personally, I would refute that by talking about marginal utility. Any other ideas on how one would argue against that?

    And I would be completely unoffended if this gets plonked as a derail, because it suddenly occurs to me that it might well have that effect.

  2. Incidentally, actually watching the video will be instrumental in commenting in this particular thread. If I get the sense you didn’t actually watch the video, I’m going to tell you to do that before commenting further. This should help keep the thread from wandering off into general discursions regarding same sex marriage.

    Likewise, arguments that start with the foundation that same-sex marriage is still somehow not actually taking place here in the US will be cited for lack of adherence to reality and depending on obnoxiousness malleted. Same sex marriage here in the US isn’t theoretical, even if it’s not evenly distributed.

    Mike T: Not a derail, although I do want people to stay on topic and not wander off into the thickets about the utility of a millionaire’s tax.

  3. The interesting thing that I found about his speech was in how he COULD have been talking about absolutely any fundamental right of Americans. I am glad that there is more dialogue out there now about categorizing this issue for what it is: a simple issue of basic human rights in America.For any detractors about this issue, simply remove gay/lesbian/transgender from the sentence and substitute Jewish,Mexican,under 25, Christian, single unwed mother, Irish,,,,,,,,,,, It goes on forever. We as a nation have brought ourselves to the brink of being able to look at the world and truly see all of its people in all of their many forms as fundamentally equal, it is good to see at least some of our political leaders putting this issue in perspective.
    Dave

  4. Amen. Civil rights should never be subject to a majoritarian vote than could make a minority into a second-class citizen. Now, that said, can anyone give me a list of our current civil rights? You see, the struggle since the fourteenth amendment has been on what process do we use to decide as a state or nation what rights should be on the list of civil rights and protected by the fourteenth amendment? And what things don’t make the cut? Who decides that something is a “civil right” and protected and what is not and unprotected? Right now we have marriage laws on the books that grant favorable advantages to married people. Why aren’t unmarried folk shouting that their civil rights are being violated by laws granting special advantages to married folk? Is being married a civil right? And being unmarried not a civil right? I have no quarrel with Mayor Booker’s comments. I just think we face the quandry we are in on same-sex marriage bing a civil right or not, because our system has never really successfully addressed what process we use as a nation to decide what exactly is a civil right and protected and what doesn’t make the cut. So I am open to two things from commentators down thread: One, how are we deciding what is and is not a civil right, now, in the real world. How do we decide what’s on the list? Two, is there a better way to make the decision? Should we be looking to create a uniform, national policy or law on how we decide what is a civil right and what is not a civil right? We all believe in protecting our civil rights. I am just not sure that we all agree on how we decide what makes the cut and is on the list of our civil rights.

  5. When courts decide for gun rights, those who oppose it say it should be the choice of legislatures. When legislatures decide for it, those who oppose it say it should be the choice of the voters. I have no doubt whatsoever that if the voters decided for it, those who oppose it would be in the courts trying to stop it. The folks who oppose gun rights don’t really want anyone to say it’s okay. They just want it not to exist.

    My point: that’s the bitter politics of ideological opposition.

    And I’ll quote Professor Reynolds when I say I want to live in an America where happily-married gay couples have closets full of assault weapons.

  6. Thank you John,

    This is the most articulate statement about issues like “gay marriage” I have heard so far. It echoes my feelings completely. I’m old enough to have lived through and acted in the civil rights movement. I find it appalling that we have created a new class of citizens. The 14th amendment makes no bones about this:
    “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Section 1, second sentence).

    I just don’t see how anyone could write it or say it more clearly. Laws simply cannot treat any group of citizens any differently from any other group.

  7. Fundamentally, what Mayor Cory Booker says about Gay Marriage is also applicable to what “MikeT” brought up in his comment… I do not know how many of you watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, but the other day he made this eloquent point about income inequality: “Poor people have s***ty lobbyists.”

    The point here is simple and is applicable to any issue (or fundamental right) where a disaffected minority does not have the wherewithal to “fight” or “argue” for its rights. I mean, look what it took, in years, bloodshed and struggle for the African-American community to achieve civil-rights or for women to get the right-to-vote.

    Can you call the majority of people who don’t earn as much as the rich, a minority? Sure you can, especially if they don’t have the same ability to “fight” for their slice of their pie!!

    As for “same-sex marriage”, it’s not even an argument! This group loses the “fight”, before the “fight” even begins. Sure, there is NYC and LA and you see different treatment and approach to the issue there, but in the vast swaths of middle-America, the issue has been settled already. You want to put this issue to a vote? No contest!

  8. John, thank you for posting this. That was some frank and awesome words. I do like the fact that he made it into a problem for everyone and not just a problem for Governor Christie (as insinuated by the reporter).

  9. Rick York @ 6:29pm
    Very clear. And as you type, “Laws simply cannot treat any group of citizens any differently from any other group.” But you know, our laws do that all the time. I am a CPA. My whole life the tax laws have treated people with more income unequally to people with less income. We have a progressive tax system with higher tax brackets for wealthier citizens. On its face the progressive tax laws violate equal protection. Make a million, the Feds want a much higher percentage cut from you that the citizen making a paltry $30,000 a year. Now don’t take offense, I like the concept of the progressive tax system grounded in the theory of the lesser utility of the next marginal dollar earned. But still, a progressive tax system on its face volates the equal protection clause.

  10. He is so very correct in the attitudes of the christian taliban. They want an american christian theocracy. Afterall, look how well theocracies work in the middle east.

  11. Oh certainly not, JS. I just used taxes as a counterexample of where the equal protection of the laws seems not to apply. I really wish folk here would address the two questions I pose at the end of my comment made at 6:20 pm. How do we? How should we decide? — what exactly makes the cut for our list of protected civil rights?

  12. I applaud Newark’s mayor not for having that stance, but for not mincing words when asked about it. There was no sugar coating to make folks happy, jut the blunt truth. Good on him

  13. gun rights is a right based on fear. fear of government. And when the Tea Party shows exactly what that looks and sounds like, that fear is clear.

    Gay marriage is based on love. The only fear around gay marriage comes from bigots fearing god willl turn them all into pillars of salt if Soddom re-occurs or flooding the entire world of sinners.

    Love wins

  14. Wow. Never even heard of this guy before but I think that he speaks to most everything that I think that I stand for as an American. Let’s solve the problems dealing with economic and security and infrastructure and not those things that involve matters of the heart. Let those who are invested personal things solve them themselves and not the masses. Not surprising that I haven’t heard from him all the way over here near the left coast, but still… Good stuff.

  15. A lack of government restrictions around marriage results in gay people getting married. And that results in what? No objective measurable negative consequences.

    A lack of government reetrictions around gun ownership results in measurable, objective, negative consequences. people die.

    comparing gay rights with gun rights only works for people who care more aboit guns than human beings. Cares about fear more than love.

  16. I would vote for him on the Republican ticket…oh wait, he’s not a Republican, what a shocker.

    @Gary Willis.

    Having a debate on what is or is not a civil right isn’t the issue here that I can see. The issue is that some have a right that others do not. Take my sister Sally. She wants to get married to Chris and Chris happens to be from England. If Chris is a man, fiance visa, marriage, several years spent in happy wedlock and Chris is a United States citizen with all that entails and has rights to sue for divorce and custody of any children. If Chris is a woman, Sally could in theory dump her and get her deported no matter how long they might have been married depending on which state they live in. Chris deserves the same treatment no matter the nature of the equipment Chris carries in Chris’s pants.

  17. @Greg, I’m sorry that it’s counter-intuitive, but less restrictions on gun rights lead to fewer negative consequences in terms of homicides, accidental deaths etc. And please, don’t ask for a “link”; my conclusion is based upon a serious study of the statistical analyses over a long period of time (it’s what got me interested in pursuing a stats graduate degree).

  18. I’m Canadian so marriage equality has not been an issue here for almost ten years. It always astounds me that this is still an issue. I was particularly happy to hear Cory Booker say that he thought this should have been taken care of long ago. It is taking way too long for this to get settled.

  19. Regardless of the content of the speech, I’d love to see more politicians speak like that – clearly, passionately, bluntly, and actually asking the question which they were asked. (I hate non-answers).

    Regarding the content of the speech, aside from the classification of women as a minority (why, roughly half the people I see on a day-to-day basis are women!), mad applause from up here in Canada is my reaction.

  20. The idea of public referendum versus legislature vote if an awful lot like the Tenth Amendment, in my eyes. If certain parties don’t like what the federal government is doing, they say the laws should be left up to the states. When those certain parties are in federal power, the opposing parties try to make the same argument. It’s like a giant loophole in the Constitution.

    Sorry, that may have been a bit of a sidetrack. My other comment was that Mayor Booker has my vote for President, and if I ever have the (mis)fortune to move to New Jersey, any other higher public office as well.

  21. The issue of voting on civil rights is at the heart of the Prop 8 debate in California. The lower court has already decided that it is not constitutional under the 14th Amendment for such fundamental rights to be put to a vote. I live in Colorado where I am already denied the right to marry according to the state constitution. The governor recently called for legislation granting civil union rights, which the state legislators from one party (guess which) say should be also put to a popular vote. Why? Because they are sure that it will be voted down by the voting public. Now, personally, I am opposed to civil unions. Why? Because separate but equal isn’t equal. See Brown v. Board of Education, if you aren’t sure about that one.

    I just want to marry my partner of 30 years.

  22. Em @ 8:00 pm: I think the point he was trying to make was that women were historically once seen as a minority – if not in number, then certainly in status. And I agree, it would be wonderful if all politicians could be this honest and straightforward.

  23. A poll earlier this month of registered voters in NJ found 52% in favor of same-sex marriage, versus 42% against. So while I strongly and completely agree with the mayor that civil rights shouldn’t be put up for a vote, there’s a good chance such a vote in New Jersey would end up with the result he likes.

    hercules67 @ 6:39 pm: As noted before on this blog, and illustrated by this chart from the Pew Research Center, the long-term trend is toward greater acceptance for same-sex marriage, with higher acceptance in the younger generations. I don’t think anything is settled yet.

  24. Rick @ 7:49
    My two questions are not about which civil rights are on the approved list and enforceable by police and courts. My two questions are about the process of determining when a civil right even exists that can be deemed on the cannonical list of civil rights and thus enforceable by police and courts? How do we decide now what is and is not a civil right? How should we decide, if how we do it now doesn’t seem to work too well? I lean to our needing a debate on the process, as it took a whole century from the end of the civil war until deep into the 20th century to establish the civil rights of black americans. Process? What’s our process? Do we like it? Does it work? Do we need to change it? And if so, how should we change it?

  25. CLP @ 8:26
    So, same-sex marriage as a civil right in this nation is not settled yet. But it will be soon enough when some critical mass of the population finds it acceptable as a civil right? Is that your take on the matter? I’ve been asking what our process is to decide as a nation what rises to the level of being a cannoncial civil right deserving of enforcement by police and courts. You suggest this happens when enough us think something to be worthy of such recognition? Do we vote? Do we take polls? Pass new laws? Legislate the new right from the court bench? What process do we really use? Enough angry people marching in the streets? Booker says we should not vote to decide, as an evil majority might deny a civil right to an oppressed minority. He thinks that already is happening for same-sex marriage. Process? What’s our process?

  26. @Greg: I’m sorry, but my support of gay marriage rights is not based on love. That support, and the support for gun rights (\yes, I’m tying it up, John) is based the idea that our rights are truly inalienable to us: that we have them by sentient beings and no one “gives” them to us. We have the natural right pursue our own goals, love who we will, think what we will and (highly important) protect ourselves. It is up to others to make a case for depriving us of these rights beyond a reasonable doubt.

    And gun rights is not “based on fear”; revocation of gun rights is based on unwarranted fears. For example: gun-control in the U.S. began in places like the south where white regional governments wanted to ban blacks from owning guns so they could stop them from protecting themselves from rampaging KKK members. Yes, they feared a “black man with a gun” resisting their racist government so they proposed gun control.

    And fear of government is not a bad thing. I’d fear (and seek protection from) any government who felt the right to break into my home, arrest me and prosecute me on a felony charge (and maybe execute me) all because I (if I were gay) chose to have consensual sex with another man. That’s happened here in the past and still happens in places like Iran.

  27. mythago 8:34
    Based on your link, can I conclude that you suggest that our process is for enough angry people to march in the streets to convince the US Supreme Court to move a candidate civil right over into the category that requires strict scrutiny by the courts. Because we can find a rationale basis for all kinds of laws treating people differently. The fourteenth amendment appears to only really work well for those to which the court applies the strict scrutiny test. Was your link a reply to my process question of how we decide civil rights, now, in our real world? If so, are we content with this being the current process? As it doesn’t seem to me to work too well. The time lags seem massive between oppressed groups agitating about the denial of their civil rights and our US Supreme Court finally granting their cause strict scrutiny.

  28. Gary, you asked how the process works. I provided a link to a very basic description of how it works – that is, how “we” decide how and whether the 14th Amendment applies. I would recommend you read it carefully, rather than skimming, and get a basic understanding instead of demanding everybody else do your homework for you. Fucking strict scrutiny, how does it work?

  29. “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation”. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, December 21, 1967. He was Minister of Justice at the time and was Canada’s Prime Minister off and on between 68 and 84.This comment was made in the context of decriminalizing homosexual acts.

    It took us a while to get from this to equal marriage rights but we did get there.

  30. Gary, didn’t we have this discussion back in June? Anyway, we have a process by which courts decide, after careful deliberation and reasoned arguments from all sides, what is and is not constitutional. The courts are ultimately controlled by the democracy: judges are either elected or appointed by elected officials, and the laws (constitution or statute) that judges use are passed through a democratic process. However, it’s good to insulate individual decisions about laws from the passions of the public. For example, I wouldn’t want Americans right now to vote whether to give Muslims their First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion.

  31. CLP: good memory.

    Anyone who wants to understand why various court cases about SSM turned out the way they did can simply read the cases, or summaries if them. I believe Prop 8 Trial Tracker has links.

  32. Scorpius: I’m sorry, but my support of gay marriage rights is not based on love.

    Well, sure. For you, it’s based on fear… fear of government telling you what to do, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has read your posts on this blog for any length of time.

    Your fear is if you give the government the power to tell you what to do about X, then they’ll tell you what to do about Y. You don’t care about X, (gay marriage), pesonally, so much as you’re afraid the power to regulate X will slippery slope into Y, and then the black helicopters will come and haul you off in the middle of the night.

    Which is the same fear that drives you to guns. Fear of government. Fear of big bad criminals. Fear. And you fight for gay marriage the same reason you fight for gun rights, to push back against the power of government you fear.

    But that same *kind* of fear could be turned around. The fear that gay marriage will somehow (mostly via magical thinking) will “destroy the concept of marriage” can be turned the other way and drive these people to push their bigotry into people. Cause *fear* doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be based in facts. It doesn’t have to be based in reality. It doesn’t have to be based on having any real understanding of the other people, specifically those people being feared.

    Fear is inherently selfish. It is a drive for the individual to survive some *perceived* threat. THat threat does not have to be *real* for the fear to be real. It just has to be percieved as real. ANd bigots *perceive* gay marriage as a threat, so they fear it, and that’s as far as you can ever get in a conversation with them. They can see a single gay couple getting married and will slippery slope it into the end of the world armmegeddon. And it’s got nothing to do with reality because it’s all based in fear.

    Fear is all about survival of self, and to hell with anyone else.

    And that *fear* is no different than any other fear, like the fear of government that drives someone to want to stock up on machine guns, grenade launchers, and RPG’s, as a survival against the *percieved* threat against government, and they will slippery slope even the slightest regulation into ZOMG! They’re going to hunt us all down! Which is complete bullshit, but definitely sells NRA memberships.

    Love, on the other hand, means you have to *know* the other person, you cant relate to them based on your own made up fantasies and fears. You can’t paint them as the cause of the apocalypse because once you know them, you know the idea that two men being married bringing about the end of the world is just stupid made up nonsense.

    And I mean real love, knowing and accepting yourself and another. Not infatuation. Not lust. Not hormones. Not some fling. Not sex. Not some teenage angst. But true love.

    Fear is selfish. Love isn’t.

    Fear isn’t based in reality. The only way you can really love someone is if you really know them.

    Fear can turn against you at a whim. It can be used as a weapon. It can be whipped up into a frenzy and used to demonize anyone. All propaganda is based on fear. And behind most fear is some lie, or at the very least some *truth* that the person does not want to accept.

    Love is grounded in truth, in knowing yourself and knowing the person on the other side (the person the propaganda tells you to fear). It can’t be used as a weapon adn it cant be used to demonize anyone.

    I know gay people and I love them. Not like some acquaintance I pass in the hallway, but really know them, their day to day grind, their troubles, and their dreams, their hopes. And I love them the way love is really knowing someone and completely accepting them.

    And *that* is why I support gay marriage. Not because I fear the govenrment like you do, but because I know and love people who are gay.

  33. Greg: The only way you can really love someone is if you really know them.

    Before you try to psychoanalyze someone shouldn’t you actually meet them and “know” them first? But wow, what you just wrote reads like a complex rationalization.

    But I ain’t paying you for trying to describe me with psycho-babble.

  34. I really, really, really wish that more politicians were like this guy. No BS, no pandering, and a clear understanding of how America is actually supposed to work.

    How do we get more like him, everywhere?

  35. I am sad that he didn’t feel free to ever use the words “gay”, “same sex”, or “marriage equality.” But the sentiments are there, so I appreciate that.
    ?
    I’ve never understood why that my chosen beloved has an inny instead of an outy isn’t anything other than sexism. Don’t we already have laws against that? Total BS.

  36. And Greg, it’s really dangerous way to think that you’ll extend “rights” to people because you “love” them. My philosophy is much better: whether I love you, hate you or are disinterested in you I recognize that you have rights that cannot be violated save through due process.

    My question is: what if you don’t “love” someone or don’t “love” a particular right, then you don’t support their rights?

    But the mix of Star War philosophy and John Lennon sentiments was amusing.

  37. psychobabble? “fear of government is not a bad thing”. Those were your words. Those are the exact kind of words you speak every time these sorts of discussions come up. You make passing acquaintances with concepts like “inalienable rights” but you inevitably land in fear.

  38. I talk about “love” and you reply with “disinterest”. Thats funny.

    Love is what you need to have empathy. Disinterest is the exact opposite..

  39. I’m with Mr. Booker on this one. Same-sex marriage shouldn’t even be up for discussion. DOMA should be stricken down. The thing that I find most offensive about the xtian right wanting to bury their head in the sand and pretend that gays don’t exist is that, on a Monday morning, if someone asks me if I had a nice weekend, I can say “Yes, I had a lovely romantic dinner with my husband.” without fear of getting fired. If, however, I say “Yes, I had a lovely romantic dinner with my wife”, someone who finds a truthful answer “offensive” can complain to HR. At best, I get a reprimand, at worst, I get fired. And heterosexual couples can display pictures of themselves with their loved ones, while gay couples cannot, again for fear of “offending” somebody in their workplace. Why is it 2012 and we still can’t find it in our collective hearts to grant same-sex couples the right to marry?

  40. Cory Booker FTW. He is tremendous and I love him. It’s the best argument for a unilateral vs. gradual approach to gay rights that I’ve heard for a while. And if you haven’t seen “Brick City” (which is on Netflix) you truly should. I’ve got a list of Bookerism a mile long–he’s lyrical, smart, and incredibly dedicated. It’s a great combination.

  41. I am married in California. Unfortunately, I live in South Carolina. This effectively means that I am not married at all.

    In spite of living in South Carolina, we are working on having a baby. Since my wife will be carrying our baby, I won’t legally be his/her parent at all. We’ll do everything we legally can, but when it comes right down to it, he or she will not be my child.

    It’s really important to remember just how much this hurts families. For example, if my wife loses her insurance, so does my child and I can’t put either one on my insurance. If something happens to my wife, my custody of my own child will be in jeopardy. We’ll be working with a lawyer to put whatever we can in place, but no instrument we draw up will replace the security of being actually married when you don’t even have to worry about custody because it’s your child so where the hell else would they go?

    This was a neat statement. I wish more politicians would be willing to be this crystal clear in their support.

  42. “The folks who oppose same-sex marriage don’t really want anyone to say it’s okay. They just want it not to exist.”

    It’s true that they want same-sex marriage to not exist; but it’s more true to say that they want *homosexuality* to not exist. If you read fiction written by these conservative anti-gay types (Orson Scott Card is an example), gay people *simply do not exist* in their works.

  43. Mythago @ 8:44 pm
    Skimming the link? I well rememer my university class whose 800 page textbook was Civil Liberties Under the U.S. Constitution. We read all the actual court opinions of the great cases throughout our history including the majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions. Great semester. Part of my caution in placing the US Supreme Court on too high a pedestal for praise results from those readings.
    CLP @ 9:14 pm
    Yeah, I think you are right. Last June. We plowed this ground. I raised the process questions in this thread because Mayor Booker’s comments seemed to me to assume the existence of the same-sex marriage civil right as cannonical and enforceable by police and courts. Doesn’t look that way to me, yet.

  44. First I agree with what he said, well most of what he said pertaining to same sex marriage anyway. We won’t get into the part where he seems to think governmnet is going to tax rich people and make more rich people. yikes!!

    I don’t think the government has the right to tell two people, no matter gender if they can or can’t get married. He talks about how the second class citizens, we assume he means gay couples, will not have the rights to their significant others estates. Spouses of traditional marriage have exemptions that a unmarried couple will not, and that is wrong. Especially if they don’t have the right to employ that same type of union. To say the governor is in the wrong for wanting to turn this to voters is not necessarily true. Basically it means he and the other legislators are too spineless to vote on it themselves. He wants to pass the buck so he can be blame less if it doesn’t pass or does. There are laws in place now that prevent same sex marriages and estate law pertaining to spousal rights, so even if you don’t put it directly to a up or down vote it has to voted on by the people before laws are changed. Not directly by the people , as it were, but the people that make up your legislatures are voted on by those people. The US is not a democracy, it’s a constitutional republic, and as others have pointed out there is a process and any new law has to be put through that process. Perhaps our system is not perfect but it’s pretty good. So how you get the law changed without it being voted on by government and ultimately by the people, I don’t know. I think the biggest problem in getting this corrected, as with many other issues is that while the people passionate about this issue on both sides are pretty evenly split. The real problem is the vast majority could give a crap, they just want to know what the Kardisians or the kids on Jersey shore are up to.

    I notice several people commented on his no BS straight shooter willing to answer the hard question attitude, but I don’t think for a minute that wasn’t a scripted episode. He prepared exactly what he was going to say, had the Jackie Robinson quote all ready and had to look down to read it. I am not saying he does not believe what he says, just that he is just another politician making sure he gets that sound bite out there. My guess he made sure that questions was asked. I could be wrong I am pretty sure I have been before. I am getting pretty cynical in my old age.

  45. There are times when being from Massachusetts puts me at risk of being a smugly pleased bastard. Like whenever this topic comes up.

    So to prevent that embarrassing behavior, I simply remind myself that Mitt Romney used to be our governor. Voila! Instant humility.

  46. Gary Willis @ 11:34 pm: Mayor Booker’s comments seemed to me to assume the existence of the same-sex marriage civil right as cannonical and enforceable by police and courts. Doesn’t look that way to me, yet.

    I don’t know what you mean by “enforceable by courts”, because courts have, in several cases, held that laws against same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. (See Mythago’s advice @ 9:35 pm.) Given that it’s the courts that decide the parameters of the constitution, I don’t see how a constitutionally-protected right could not be enforceable by courts.

    I realize I linked to the wrong thread in my above comment. I meant to link to this one (a few days older), which basically featured the same discussion as we seem to be having now.

  47. @Constance — I noticed that too (he never says “gay” or “same-sex” in five minutes of pretty eloquent ranting). I wonder if it’s a caution against having something on video that people might use against him. Regardless, the passion is there and it’s great to see elected officials even willing to show that in public. I’ll take it any day over another bland regurgitated cautionary statement that does use the words “gay” and “same-sex.”

  48. @Bearpaw:

    Before our host de-derails the discussion with the Mallet of Loving Correction, at least when he was your Governor Mitt Romney’s position on marriage equality was, for him, unusually consistent and unambiguous. (Though, now, I’m sure he’d like the primary-voting GOP base to forget his brief flirtation with the idea of same-sex marriage being banned but “civil unions” allowed. Not a half loaf I’d swallow, FWIW, but better than being told to piss off and starve.)

  49. I heard this guy speak at an MLK Day event two years ago and I am with Chang for days – If I ever get close to this guy hes in for a hugging he will not forget!

    I wish we had more politicians that were this bright, this articulate and this witty and this sensible.

  50. It occurred to me that, through the wonders of modern technology we could all hear Mayor Booker speak on MLK day 2011. I’m old (just ask google who’s new motto is “Be evil”) these things don’t always appear obvious to me!

    WARNING! This link is just the audio player so you probably want to open it in a separate tab and the speech is an hour but man this guy is something special.
    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/www_publicradio/tools/media_player/popup.php?name=minnesota/news/programs/2011/01/17/midday/midday_hour_2_20110117_64

  51. That was awesome. I am amazed that he came up with such a well thought out and coherent answer to that question on the fly. I think this guy may possibly be an absolute legend.

  52. @ Craig Ranapia: Romney opposed marriage equality *and* civil unions, though he was grudgingly willing to accept civil unions if that was the only way to avoid equality. You know, kinda like how certain people shouldn’t get *any* education that doesn’t directly involve growing and harvesting cotton, but if we *have to* educate them, obviously they should have separate schools. Which woul be totes equal, we swear.

    There were religious arguments for that, too, I understand.

  53. I want to marry him and I’m not even gay. I may have to move to New jersey so I can vote for him. Failing that, if he ever wants to relocate to Britain, we could use a decent Prime Minister.

  54. Constance: I am sad that he didn’t feel free to ever use the words “gay”, “same sex”, or “marriage equality.” But the sentiments are there, so I appreciate that.

    I get what you’re saying, but it seems that for Booker this immediately elevates into higher concepts like “equality” rather than the specific issue of gay marriage. And to me, I’d rather have gay marriage get elevated into a universal concept like equality, rather than having it be treated as separate and distinct from any other issue.

    Racism, sexism, fear of different religions, are all separate issues that require different kinds of specific approaches in the trenches. But on another level, they all boil down to some asshole deciding that “all are created equal” was somehow vague on the “all” part. Or, possibly, that some specific instance needs to be dealt with differently. Japanese internment during WW2. It was a special case, ya know? That whole “equal” thing just can’t apply to those people. Muslims in America after 9/11. Special case, right? Sure, we’re all about equality and America is all about religious freedom, but come on, this is different.

    We can extend equality as a universal concept only as far as we can empathize. Beyond that, we are willing to treat anything as a special case that can have different rules.

    I think Booker empathizes and sees gay marriage as a universal concept of equality and the fact that he did NOT mention “gay marriage” specifically was because he doesn’t relate to it as a special case that needs special arguing.

    I’ve never understood why that my chosen beloved has an inny instead of an outy isn’t anything other than sexism. Don’t we already have laws against that? Total BS.

    Well, some courts are agreeing with you and saying committments in their constitution about equality must extend to marriage equality and so cut out the BS. But yeah, lots of BS.

  55. I say gay marriage – and straight marriage – should not be anything the state is in charge of. If you’re religious, leave it as a sacrament. Or make it a personal sacrament.

    Sure the state can enforce contracts (even implied). But these can be between corporations, men and women, or whatever.

    Social Security insurance should be treated the same as other insurance.

  56. @Bearpaw – and to top it off, Romney’s lovely parting gift to the Bay State was basically forcing that second vote in the legislature that would have put same-sex marriage. Fortunately the actual vote wasn’t until the next year, when we had a new governor (Deval Patrick) and new leadership in the legislature (Therese Murray). And then Gale Canderas and Angelo Puppolo and a couple of others changed their votes, and equal marriage was safe.

    I nearly cried that day out of sheer relief. Thank God Romney failed in his mean-spirited attempt to kick the citizens of the Commonwealth in the teeth on his way out.

  57. You know Greg, I have to say that Scorpius’ attitude still seems a good deal more permissive than yours. Fear of govt., I would readily agree, often plays a large role in the libertarian mindset (though I might argue that mistrust/suspicion/skepticism would be more apt a term). Leaving aside whether or not that fear is justified, the point stands that such a philosophy will still allow you to base your lifestyle choices on love/empathy so long as they don’t harm someone else. All that’s asked is for you to return the favor, and allow others to live as they see fit. And if I want to stockpile guns and ammo for whatever reason (incidentally, I’ve never even fired a gun), so be it. Kinda nicely boiled down by the Wiccan creed, ‘Harm none and do as you will’, y’know?

  58. I was really impressed with Mayor Booker choosing not to make it a partisan political issue. Towards the end the reporter asked him what he thought it said about the governor and Mayor Booker pointed out that the last governor and legislature had not acted on this either. His focus on first class citizenship for all Americans is brilliant and persuasive.

  59. Mayor Booker sounds great. He made very valid points. Being a political leader involves….leading. Governor Christie, when faced with a controversial issue, punted it (in my opinion) so he could keep his options open for his future in Republican politics.
    Governor Christie is being disingenuous when he wants the voters to have their say via referendum. The state legislators are all elected by the residents of New Jersey. It seems to me that if those legislators are voting to approve extending the right to marry to ALL citizens of New Jersey, then those legislators already took into account how their constituents would feel about the issue.

  60. This is my general note that “the government should not be in the marriage business” is a derail-y statement in threads like this, because as a practical matter, it is in the marriage business, and saying that it shouldn’t be is a red flag for “this topic makes me uncomfortable and I want to shift the discussion into areas I want to talk about.” Try not to do that, folks.

  61. Well said, Mayor Booker. Best lines:

    “Dear God, we should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote…. No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and sentiments of the majority.”

    He’s channeling J. S. Mill here, of course:

    “Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively over the the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since…it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs also protection against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compels all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own….”

    As Mayor Booker says, it’s precisely to protect the rights of minorities that we created “a more perfect union.”

  62. I liked Booker’s focus on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, rather than on the particular issues of sexuality or marriage, because legally, it’s the former rather than the latter that are going to make the difference.

    I’m still trying to figure out how DOMA is still standing without having had its legs kicked out from under it by the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, folks like LindaO are still having to deal with the unresolved issues there. But at least as long as there are a few politicians willing to take public stances like Booker’s, there will at least be more places to live in this country where gay Americans’ rights are protected.

    Thanks for the link, John.

  63. @Gary Willis, I well remember my college class in Statistics, with nightmarishly long books full of dense mathematics and problems to be worked. That doesn’t mean I still remember how to work a chi square.

    That said, anyone who is wondering “why do people think Equal Protection applies to same-sex marriage?” or “how the heck is this a civil right?”, I would, again, invite a look at Judge Walker’s ruling on Proposition 8 and the history and rulings in California on same-sex marriage (which Prop 8 was designed to shut down).

    And Booker does indeed get it right. I assume most if not all of us would be horrified at a group that tried to get a measure on the ballot to rescind Loving v. Virginia. Why is it then OK to say that The People should have a straight-up popular vote on same-sex marriage?

    By the way, John: what the NOM types say when a popular vote comes out in favor of SSM is that the voters were misled or deceived somehow. You know, by the homosexual mind-control satellites.

  64. Amitava, you were almost on to something, but fumbled it badly at “whatever reason”. Because if your creed is “harm none”, then what is your reason for “stockpiling guns and ammo”, items whose express purpose is to harm? Yes, yes, I know, hunting. But really? Who “stockpiles” hunting rifles?

  65. Amitave@9:33: You know Greg, I have to say that Scorpius’ attitude still seems a good deal more permissive than yours.

    Do not confuse “permissive” with “selfish indifference”. Those are two different tools. When applied to certain problems, they may result in the same solution. But other times, they will produce completely different results.

    if we take the selfish indifference that is the libertarian mindset and apply it to the problem of gay marriage, we don’t get just the permissive attitude to allow gay marriage. We get the “Government (which we fear) should not be in the business of marriage at all.”. And we already had that fear of government notion demonstrated here on this thread.

    From a technical standpoint, you could argue that “no government in marriage” as a concept is more “permissive” than having government get involved in marriage. From other points of view, one could argue its just the outcome of a fear-of-government based philosophy taken to its natural end, and a stupid end at that.

    Fear of govt., … the point stands that such a philosophy will still allow you to base your lifestyle choices on love/empathy so long as they don’t harm someone else. All that’s asked is for you to return the favor

    No. “selfish indifference” doesn’t “return the favor” at all. You took the generally empathic (all things are connected) worldview that is wicca, and you assumed that everyone else views the world that same way, including a selfishly indifferent libertarian.

    That’s a complete failure to exercise empathy. Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing the world through THEIR view. You just put yourself in someone else’s shoes and then saw their world through your view, assuming they view it the same way *you* do. That’s something different from empathy entirely. It’s sometimes called “projecting”. You projected your worldview onto someone else who holds and is expressing a completely different worldview.

    selfish indifference libertarians don’t ask you to return the favor. That’s the point. They fear the government and want to get rid of it. i.e. their ideal solution to gay marriage is to get government completely out of the business of marriage entirely and make it all nothing more than private contracts between individuals. At that point, there is no “favor” to return at all. Marriage is reduced to nothing more than whatever you and I agree to. If a couple divorces from marriage, stuff like child custody and visitation rights is dealt with based on what the people as a whole via the government has figured out is fair. If it’s a private contract, there is no “fair”, there is no favor to return, it is whatever I can get you to agree to before you marry me.

    And certainly, selfish indifference can lead to a more “permissive” approach to things. For example, if we look at air pollution from the point of view of empathy, then if I dump a bajillion tons of poison into the air, and that kills people, if I apply empathy, I could switch places with the people I would kill, realize its not a good idea, and decide, through empathy, that Ishouldn’t dump those toxins into the air. Empathy causes me to weigh the cost/benefits based on the costs to *everyone* and the benefits to *everyone*.

    On the other hand, if I’m selfishly indifferent, all I care about is my own personal costs and benefits. Polluting doesn’t cost me anything. And it benefits me a lot because I don’t have to spend gobs of money processing those toxins into something that wont kill people. So, as someone selfishly indifferent, I decide to pollute. And if you and your government try to regulate me, I will argue that you are *restricting* my freedom. Complete deregulation would be the most *permissive* approach.

    So, be careful what you wish for when you prioritize “permissive” as more important than anything else. It is a “permissive” utopia that libertarians imagine will come true if they can just shrink government to a size small enough to drown it in a bathtub. It is also the selfishly indifferent who will try to argue that there is “no such thing as society”. They say that because they have no access to empathy. And the opposite of empathy is indifference.

  66. Doc Rocketscience: I had thought it might be understood that ‘harm none’ implies don’t *initiate* violence/aggression. Even ahimsa, for all its pacifistic roots, makes allowance for self-defense.

    Greg: “From a technical standpoint, you could argue that “no government in marriage” as a concept is more “permissive” than having government get involved in marriage…If it’s a private contract, there is no “fair”, there is no favor to return, it is whatever I can get you to agree to before you marry me.”
    Quite so, and I find this to be an entirely consistent (assuming of course that its sincere) argument. I’d argue the scenario you’re describing is not necessarily a bad thing, although at this point I’d suggest we leave that discussion to another thread, in deference to our gracious host’s request above.

    I take exception to the idea that libertarianism is inherently un-empathetic; rather it’s a system that *allows* people to be un-empathetic and selfish if they so insist, and posits a sharp distinction between hurting someone vs. allowing someone to get hurt (something that I’ve noted you’re well aware of, and might disagree with).
    And as much as I’d like to discuss voluntariness vs communalism, or anarchist/minarchist/objectivist/whateverist answers to social externalities, I raised this issue in reaction to what I perceived to be your hostility (dare I say *fear*?) towards firearms ownership. Owning guns (or rather, in my case, supporting other people’s rights to own guns) doesn’t strike me as antithetical to having empathy. In fact, I might argue (as a non-gun owner who is actually moderately uncomfortable around guns), that my support for gun rights is partly based on empathy (or at least sympathy) towards those who live in different environments and come from different backgrounds than myself.

  67. @Frankly: I wish we had more politicians that were this bright, this articulate and this witty and this sensible.

    This country has plenty of people this bright, articulate, witty and sensible. What we don’t have enough of are bright, articulate, witty, sensible people who are electable, because people like that have this annoying tendency to say to the electorate things they don’t want to hear. Selling sensible ideas to the American people is an all-too-rare skill.

  68. So, “harm none… but hedge your bets”?

    I know there’s more subtlety to it. I think you might be missing the subtleties. “Don’t be a dick” is a fine personal philosophy, but I’m not sure it is robust enough to form the basis of a civil society.

    “empathy (or at least sympathy) towards those who live in different environments and come from different backgrounds than myself.”

    And if those “environments” and “backgrounds” lead them to promote, or even allow, circumstances which they know are harmful to others, what then? Does empathy demand you yourself simply allow such things to continue?

  69. @Mythago:
    By the way, John: what the NOM types say when a popular vote comes out in favor of SSM is that the voters were misled or deceived somehow. You know, by the homosexual mind-control satellites.

    Of course. Just as judges like Vaughn Walker – a man whose record on the bench is hardly jurisprudential Marxism – suddenly turned into one of those radical “judicial activists” you hear so much about. What was that pinko tool Ronald Reagan thinking? :)

  70. Doc Rocketscience: Are you still talking about gun ownership, or more general principles? Cause I’m not sure I follow your second statement. But I’ll once again point out to you there’s a difference between harming someone and allowing harm to befall them. The libertarian argument is that govt. can legitimately censure the first; it can’t punish you for refusing to help someone (with certain exceptions, eg if you’re their caretaker, if it was your actions that led to them being jeapordized, things like that).
    If, however, you’re referring to firearms, then let me state that a) there are plenty of legitimate reasons for someone to want to own a gun(s) in this country, and b) if a society is to be free, it can’t regulate private actions and behavior between consenting adults on the basis of what they “could” lead to, or what their “potential” effects “might” be.

  71. Amitava: I take exception to the idea that libertarianism is inherently un-empathetic

    Well, its the difference between the Wiccan notion of “if it harm none, do what ye will” versus the libertarian version that reads more like “As long as it doesn’t get in my way, I won’t stop you”.

    To “harm none” requires looking at the effect your action has on *everyone*. That requires empathy. Libertarians may make overtures to other people, or may make passing comments about “inalienable rights”, but how do libertarians generally respond to idea like regulating a Public Commons like the atmosphere? They oppose it. It is something that gets in their way, so they oppose it. Ask a libertarian to pay an increase in taxes, and they will automatically oppose it. Sure, they’ll tell you they support the idea of taxes in theory to pay for basic government things like police and roads, but in practice, they can be counted on to oppose anything that impacts them negatively.

    I raised this issue in reaction to what I perceived to be your hostility (dare I say *fear*?) towards firearms ownership.

    Well, that was fun sliding down that slippery slope, don’t ya think? So, for you to be empathizing with me, you’d have to be seeing things through my point of view. Except no where have you ever seen me say anything along the lines of I hate guns, I don’t like guns, I am unfamiliar with guns, I fear guns, or I am hostile towards guns.

    You made that up. You projected that fear onto me from yourself. Can you get that isn’t empathy?

    So, the thing is, I don’t have any objective data about anyone but myself to support the following wager, but still, I would be willing to wager the standard amount that I am a better shot than most people on this thread.

    I’m not afraid of guns. I don’t hate guns. I’m not hostile to guns. I do however think there are reasonable limits to what the second ammendment allows. The first ammendment doesnt let you scream fire in a crowded not-on-fire theater. And I don’t think any random bloke off the street ought to be able to walk into a store, lay down a suitcase full of cash, and walk out with a 40mm Bofors antiaircraft gun. The vast majority of americans would agree with that. But to limit that requires gun control laws, and the NRA gets more subscriptions if it can slippery slope reasonable efforts for gun control into “My god, this is the same thing the Nazis did in germany!” or as Scorpius had to point out, My god! This is no different than a racist regime trying to oppress blacks!

    That’s not empathy. That’s fear.

  72. Or, to address the relevant point: owning guns in and of itself doesn’t hurt anyone.

    Quite – and one of the more concern-trollish arguments against marriage equality (or pretty much any level of support for same-parents and their families) is what I call Helen Lovejoy-ism. “Will somebody please think about the children!”

    M’kay. So, my parents (black father, white mother) should never have been allowed to marry because racism is not a terribly nice thing to experience at any age? It isn’t, but my parents weren’t the ones being racist bung-holes.

  73. Please note, Greg, I specifically said “what I *perceived* to be your hostility to firearms”, not “your hostility to firearms”. And I added “fear” just to be ornery.
    I get the sense, from what you say, that you have a greater gripe with the way libertarianism is practiced (ie inconsistently) than with the philosophy itself. Which is fine, I find most peoples’ platitudes, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum, are often fair-weather and conditional. And again you refer to environmental regulation. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I personally don’t find the idea so appalling; there’s nothing theoretical about the fact that things like pollution do indeed harm other people; ergo, it legitimately falls within the govt.’s purview to regulate it.

  74. Wow, a discussion about guns that is completely irrelevant to the topic of the thread! Who would have guessed!

    I declare the discussion about guns a derail and encourage those interested in continuing that discussion to take it into e-mail. Otherwise, time to wrap it up here.

  75. I hope this doesn’t stick me in the moderation queue, but I found some other YouTube videos of Mayor Booker speaking on this issue, and I thought people who like the video Scalzi posted might enjoy them as well:
    http://youtu.be/QeT7yJ7SrE4
    http://youtu.be/0VoL7gydXUM

    What I really like about the first video is that his argument is based both on love (a la Greg) and on freedom (a la Scorpius), showing these approaches to not be mutually exclusive It’s also interesting that he has decided to not preform marriage ceremonies (which, presumably, he’s allowed to do as mayor) until he can perform them for same-sex couples.

  76. BTW, did no one else notice how Booker spent more than a minute of his response to an “off topic” question staying right on message, pushing policy issues? The “dear god” line doesn’t happen until 1:18 of the video. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the candor and passion and power of everything in the video from then on. But I don’t really see him as something specifically special or unusual. He’s a mayor of a relatively small liberal city, in a small liberal, state.

  77. Newark is the largest city in the 11th most populous state in the US. The governor of which is the current GOP golden boy, it should be noted. So I question these assertions of yours, Doc.

  78. Amitiva: Or, to address the relevant point: owning guns in and of itself doesn’t hurt anyone.

    http://theconversation.edu.au/getting-technical-toyota-pickups-anti-aircraft-weapons-and-the-libyan-revolution-3643

    Since the wording says: “a well regulated Militia”, could we just have some regulations without the farking drama? Could we have a regulation that loaded belt fed heavy machine guns in the back of toyota pickups (a common weapon of the Libya MILITIA fighting its government) at least requires some paperwork? Can we regulate without the NRA shitting its pants?

    I mean, I’m all for marriage equality, but jesus christ, the government still has you fill out a marriage license when you do it. Just say the phrase “gun licenses” to the NRA and see what happens to the blood vessels in their neck. It’s like saying “Frau Blücher” on young frankenstein.

    If the NRA were the Marriage Rights Association, they’d see the requirement that people get licenses before the ceremony and then register the event after the ceremony, and they’d scream about how first they came for the marriage licenses and I said nothing because I wasn’t married, and then they came for marriage witnesses and I said nothing because I wasn’t a marriage witness, and then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me. Or they’d bring up how the Nazis used to require people get marriage licenses just before Germany invaded poland, so look out….

  79. Amitava, I’m speaking generally. Because that definition of empathy leads to asking, without irony, “Why aren’t you tolerant of my intolerance?”

    Permissiveness is not necessarily a social ideal.

    I almost wrote “permissivity”, but permissivity isn’t really a word, although it sounds like permittivity, which makes me wonder about the permeability of free space society.

  80. christopherjohnbrennan @ January 28, 2012 at 9:34 am:
    I was really impressed with Mayor Booker choosing not to make it a partisan political issue.

    I’d like to think Booker looked across the state line, and remembered that margin for the Marriage Equality bill in the New York State senate was four Republicans – all of whom are now very much on the usual suspect’s shit-list. Doing the right thing, and looking at difficult issues with clarity and courage, shouldn’t depend on your party.

  81. dammmit

    yes, I spent way too much time looking up a good picture of a technical and then I couldn’t remmber the name of the woman from young frankenstein which got me poking around the webs for that and then I was watching a couple of “how it should have ended” episodes, end then I finally hit “post”.

    I have a hard time focusing sometimes….

    sorry.

    But the HISHE preview for terminator is hilarious.

  82. Whoops, screwed up the size comparisons. Bad Doc. 275k always seems small to this Los Angeleno.

    However, both of the Senators and 6 of the 13 Representatives from New Jersey are Democrats. Also, Newark itself is heavily Democratic, represented solely bye Democratic Congressmen and State legislators, and swung 91% toward President Obama in 2008. Booker himself is a Democrat. So, I maintain that his stance on marriage equality, and his willing to speak to that stance, isn’t nearly as radical as it might be.

  83. “6 of the 13 Representatives from New Jersey are Democrats.”

    So, less than half?

    Although at this point I’m just poking at you and will stop. Your point re: Booker and his affiliations is not incorrect.

  84. Hey, I fixed it! :P

    But, thinking more on it: personally, I think the make-up of a state’s Senate delegation says more about the state’s political make-up than it’s Congressional delegation. Yes, the Reps speak to smaller groups. But, given the wrangling that goes into setting up Congressional Districts*, if the split isn’t close to 50-50 then one of those parties in that state is just incompetent, not necessarily unpopular.

    Of course, you could look at who a state elects as its governor. But to my observations, states seem to like to elect minority party governors. California certainly does.

    * Here in Colorado we just finished a redistricting fight. ZOMG! And look whats going on in Texas. On second thought, don’t. Nothing good ever comes of looking at Texas. >.>

  85. @Doc RocketScience :

    I still think you’re making some rather dubious assumptions that somehow having a D- after your name is going to make you some out, loud and proud marriage equality proponent. I don’t really know the lie of the land in New Jersey, but as I noted four Republican state senators in New York voted for the Marriage Equality Bill, one Democrat voted against (and another three flipped pretty late in the game). In California, Prop 8 was struck down by a judge who was initially nominated to the bench by Ronald Reagan and whose record is generally recognized as a judicial conservative. And in that case the plaintiffs were represented by Ted fraking Olson – if he’s not a man of the right, who the hell is?

    I’d also note the great state of Maine is represented in Congress by two Republican senators, two Democratic Representatives (none of whom are considered on the flaming ideological fringes of their respective parties); has a Republican governor, and GOP majorities in both houses of the state legislature. What that proves about the political temperature of Stephen King’s backyard isn’t entirely clear.

  86. Well, I don’t think it’s all that dubious. When your constituency contains a metric butt-load of D’s and D-leaning-I’s, then the political risk of taking a stand in favor of marriage equality drops significantly. Not to zero, sure, but still.

  87. @Greg, you’ve really gone off on the assumptions of what I believe and over-generalized on what Libertarians believe (here’s a note: they’re not monolithic in their beliefs; they’re quite diverse). So here’s what I said

    “whether I love you, hate you or are disinterested in you I recognize that you have rights that cannot be violated save through due process”

    That’s all I said. I never said I (or other libertarians) have an attitude of “selfish indifference” (a very small minority do BTW; but then a very small minority of leftists want to violently overthrow the U.S. and kill any rich person). That’s a principle that says I support the rights to free speech, prayer and self-defense (among others) of even those I despise (if they’re not criminals).

    BTW, considering that libertarians/conservatives give a much larger amount of their personal wealth (in absolute terms as well as percentage) than lefties/liberals I’d say your “selfish indifference” generalization rings furhter false. We tend to care about people in the real sense and take individual responsibility to help them. The left/liberals seem to favor a system of government-regulated “charity” where everyone can “give at the office” and not be individually involved in helping people. Heck, I remember the consternation by some prominent libs (in the mainstream media) about the fact that liberal giants gave so much to charity; charity is the government’s business they said and people shouldn’t be diverting money into private, individual charities.

  88. I deeply hate Chris Christie, even if sometimes I think he does well (last summer’s “Get the hell off the beach!” was a great moment of his). He’s trying to do a couple of things here: move the goal posts, because he’s a gay-hating shithead; and turn out the gay-hating shithead Republicans who wouldn’t bother to vote in a state that will go blue unless Obama is caught eating babies in October.

    Hatred of gays is always a good way to turn out Republican voters, because while not all Republicans are gay-hating shitheads (not sure it’s even most), nearly all gay-hating shitheads are Republicans.

    And you know what will happen if a referendum comes out in favor of marriage equality, as it could in Maine? Yeah, they’ll go to court to fight it, but if they had their druthers, they’d prefer a standard of “you can have marriage equality unless we can find 10 righteous men in New Jersey who oppose it” or some equally ridiculous standard.

    Please note, I use the phrase ‘gay-hating shithead’ because I prefer it to the coded term ‘social conservative’. Whenever you see the latter term, substitute the former and see if it changes the meaning. It rarely does.

    Booker is spectacular here. He hits all the points. It’s clearly not scripted; he’s just thought about this a lot. People who speak publicly on a regular basis practice what to say about their beliefs. I do, and I’m not a public speaker (nor likely to become one since I lost half my tongue).

    Fletcher Jan 27 11:21pm: If you read fiction written by these conservative anti-gay types (Orson Scott Card is an example), gay people *simply do not exist* in their works

    Unfortunately, that’s far from true. There are gay people in OSC’s stories; they are just always punished or destroyed. In Songmaster, the last thing by Offal-Sucking Creep I ever read, there’s a gay guy who commits suicide by stuffing his sheets into his mouth until he chokes to death. OSC’s hatred of gay people is deep and violent.

    Maybe he now completely omits gays from his writing. I wouldn’t know, of course, but it would be an improvement on his part. I urge everyone to avoid reading his books, or at least avoid buying them (harm reduction: borrow them from the library).

    Mike Jan 27 11:34pm: He prepared exactly what he was going to say, had the Jackie Robinson quote all ready and had to look down to read it.

    Didn’t look that way to me. Looked to me like he was going to talk about Jackie Robinson joining the Dodgers, then couldn’t remember what team it was (he knew it was in New York, and the Dodgers moved somewhere out west, so his confusion is understandable), and talked about Major League Baseball instead. There’s a clear hesitation there. If this was scripted it was very well done.

    malinfox Jan 28 1:24am: I noticed that too (he never says “gay” or “same-sex” in five minutes of pretty eloquent ranting).

    That’s because the term that favors the equal-rights side is ‘marriage equality’. If you call it “gay marriage” or “same-sex marriage” you diminish the point, which is equal treatment under the law. He did it exactly right.

  89. Doc Rocketscience: “Permissiveness is not necessarily a social ideal.”
    Why not? So long as the aforementioned intolerance isn’t hurting anyone, I still don’t see how we can legitimately take it upon ourselves to impose upon it in any way. Virtue can’t be mandated (actually I guess it can. I just don’t think it should be. I don’t think it could even be called virtue, then).
    I’ll support your point about northeast NJ’s political demographics, however, having lived there for two years (including the one in which Christie beat Corzine. Wouldn’t have predicted it living in Paterson).

  90. Oh, and opposing marriage equality does make you anti-gay, because there are no reasons to oppose it that are not anti-gay. Similarly, there are no reasons to oppose mixed-race marriages that are not racist; therefore anyone who opposes mixed-race marriage is a racist.

    Don’t let people get away with hedging on this. “I’m not anti-gay, but I oppose same-sex marriage” is always a lie (or, I guess, possibly a self-delusion). Call them out on it.

  91. Xopher:
    nearly all… are Republicans

    I’d certainly say “most”, but the demographics of California suggest it’s not “nearly all”.

    If this was scripted it was very well done.

    I don’t know, at 1:55 he really looks like he’s reading something. I think that his remarks on the subject are “scripted” in the sense that he has some notes prepared that he brings to press events, knowing that there’s no way the black, Democratic mayor of Newark isn’t going to get asked his views on Gov. Christie’s referendum proposal. i mean, the guy clearly likes to stay on message, so it wouldn’t at all surprise me if he wants to be sure to make the same speech every time.

    Or, he’s a terrible public speaker who’s Communication teachers are banging their heads against their desks as we speak.

  92. Amitava, at the risk of sounding glib, you’re not a parent, are you?

    If that intolerance existed in isolation, then, sure, we could ignore it and say “live and let live”. But it doesn’t exist in isolation. And, if we punish vice, in what way are we not mandating virtue?

  93. Amitava@9:33Scorpius’ attitude still seems a good deal more permissive than yours.

    Amitava@4:03: Doc Rocketscience: “Permissiveness is not necessarily a social ideal.” Why not? So long as the aforementioned intolerance isn’t hurting anyone

    Did you completely flip there?

  94. Doc Rocketscience: Ah yes, Craig’s whole “Think of the Children” spiel at 2:15. (Sorry, I know I’m being an asshole, but I just couldn’t resist). In all seriousness, though, I’m not sure I see how child welfare, which is what I assume you’re driving at, ties into what we’re discussing (bullying? abuse?)
    In any event, I’m not sure vice is something that *should* be punished beyond “don’t let people hurt other people”. Otherwise who’s to define virtue vs vice? You? Me? The Southern Baptist Convention? PETA?

  95. Greg: I don’t think so. The whole point I’ve been arguing is pretty much permissiveness=good. Or did I miss something?

  96. ah, no. What I’m driving at is how parenting teaches one, rather quickly but also repeatedly, that just because a behavior “isn’t hurting anybody” is not in and of itself, a reason it should be allowed to continue. Permissive parents raise poorly adjusted children. Which is not to say that people, in general, should be treated as children. Rather, I mean that all of us sometimes have to deal with how others raise their children.

    who’s to define virtue vs vice?

    Well, that’s a conclusion a society has to come to together, based on a set of shared values, of course. To imply that I think that the responsibility should be handed off to a single group with a singular perspective is a cheap rhetorical trick.

  97. Doc: Beg pardon, I really wasn’t trying to be snarky. As for what society ought to censure, I believe the best parameter for what’s proscribable is “does this hurt anyone”. Beyond that and you’re getting to the part where ‘govt. knows best'; and as you say, people ought not to be treated like children.
    As to your larger point, I do indeed think that folks of various political persuasions often confuse “what people should do”, “what people should be allowed to do”, and “what people should have to do”. There is of course oftentimes overlap; lots of times there’s not. And in my mind libertarianism is the philosophy which maintains the clearest distinctions between these three arenas.

  98. I wanted to add two observations about the comment thread:
    Firstly, I am impressed that so many of the comments are supporting the original statement. I suspect that’s due to the filtering effect of this being John’s blog, but I hope it’s really a sign of the times.
    Secondly, @Greg: Your post at 10:11 pm yesterday was just brilliant. As well as watching the video, reading and understanding that post should also be essential to posting here.

  99. The girl I ran with in high school asked me to her wedding.
    I went.
    I quite liked her spouse, so cute and sweet.

    A guest was so _TOTES_ cute and SO /interesting/ — I was very disappointed when I learned
    that she was a lesbian who thought of me as nice.
    She kissed me on the cheek, and patted my shoulder.

    That wedding was the second time I cared about sexual orientation.

  100. Courts are supposed to interpret laws, so ultimately this has to boil down to laws. Here I’m counting state and federal constitutions and ballot initiatives as laws.

    When I read the 14th ammendment, I find myself scratching my head with wonder at all of the stuff that the 14th ammendment supposedly enables.

    One can argue whether the 14th ammendment already covers gay marriage but that funfamentally boils down to which collection of “the people” gets to decide.

    I could probably agree with the notion that the state should not be in the marriage business, but there are already plenty of laws that specify rights for spouses. So unless we reword them all at once we are stuck with having the state in the marriage business.

  101. I could probably agree with the notion that the state should not be in the marriage business, but there are already plenty of laws that specify rights for spouses.

    Hmph. I always thought that marriage was INHERENTLY a legal institution, designed to handle matters of property and inheritance. Saying that the state shouldn’t be in the marriage business is like saying you want government out of Medicare.

    If you’re in it for the love, have a commitment ceremony and don’t bother with the marriage.

  102. Marriage equality should be a right nationwide. It is appalling in this century that we even have to discuss it. Why are we still so freaking backwards? I would support a constitutional amendment granting marriage equality. It will not happen until the conservative theocracy that actually runs this country dies off and younger, more tolerant legislators are in control of the government.

  103. Amitava: 9:33: Scorpius’ attitude still seems a good deal more permissive than yours. Fear of govt.,

    Amitava@5:13: The whole point I’ve been arguing is pretty much permissiveness=good.

    Amitava@5:09: Otherwise who’s to define virtue vs vice? You? Me? The Southern Baptist Convention? PETA?

    Ah, this pretty much explains everything. This is fear of government. And this is quite often a view held by people who don’t have much in the way of empathy skills. They look at other human beings and see aliens. My God! How could we possibly let *them* decide what virtue and vice is?!?! They could decide *anything* is bad and *anything* is good! We must find a solution that takes the power of defining virtue adn vice out of the hands of the people!

    And this is where Libertarians get really funny. libertarians decide something like “permissiveness” is virtue. But then they pretend like it wasn’t a rule they invented and instead they relate to it as if it were some mechanical law of the universe they simply uncovered. Then they push their rule trying to convince everyone else that its the “right” rule, at the same time, they think people can’t be trusted to make the rules.

    Just so you know, “permissiveness==good” fails some fundamental tests. It may be *part* of a system of justice, but it is not sufficient by itself. For example, any “tragedy of the commons” is a tragedy because of permissiveness. Libertarians will say “privitization” will solve it, but privitization isn’t permissive compared to a public commons anyone can use, and not all public commons can be privitized. for example the atmosphere becomes a tragedy of the commons with regard to air pollution. In that kind of scenario, restrictions such as government regulation are the only way to potentially prevent tragedy.

    But the point is, the basis of your philosophy is fear of other people, so you have tried to find what feels like a non-people (mechanical) rule to determine what *should* be punished and what should not. And the rule you’ve decided removes people from the equation is essentially the Golden Rule or “don’t hurt other people”. But the thing you miss is that its still just a subjective rule. The only difference is you want to make YOUR rule the hard and fast rule of what other people can make government do. All of which is perfectly expressed in these two sentences:

    “I’m not sure vice is something that *should* be punished beyond “don’t let people hurt other people”. Otherwise who’s to define virtue vs vice?”

    To a non-libertarian, this could be rewritten as: “I say my rule of “don’t hurt other people” should be definition of virtue, otherwise someone else might define virtue as god knows what.”

    This is clearly sourced by a fear of people, an alienation towards other people, a lack of understanding of other people, a feeling of isolation or disconnectedness from other people, which might also be called a lack of empathy.

    And it is exactly this same fear of people that will take gay marriage and say “the government shouldn’t be in the business of marriage at all. If we let the government get into the business of marriage, who KNOWS what crazy arbitrary senseless rules they’ll come up with”. Fall back to some mechanical sounding rule to remove other people from the equation of defining what “virtue” means.

  104. When I read the 14th ammendment, I find myself scratching my head with wonder at all of the stuff that the 14th ammendment supposedly enables.

    Do you also scratch your head in wonder at the notion that the First Amendment does not protect death threats? (Hey, it’s speech, innit?)

    This is why I get testy in these discussions: because it’s trivial to look up *why* there is an argument about the 14th Amendment and whether or not it applies to marriage. There have already been links in this thread to summaries that explain the Equal Protection Clause, and the cases that explain precisely why it applies to “gay marriage”, as you put it.

    It’s one thing to say that you’ve looked at those things and you believe the arguments are incorrect because [x]. It’s quite another thing to say, in essence, “I don’t understand this because I don’t want to bother.”

  105. Greg: Wow, so my libertarian tendencies are founded upon “a fear of people, an alienation towards other people, a lack of understanding of other people, a feeling of isolation or disconnectedness from other people”. I never knew I was such a sociopath. I guess you reject the notion that a libertarian could do things like, I dunno, volunteer or give to charity? Or have friends? (That last might not be entirely inaccurate with many, living out of our parents’ basements as we do :) )
    I don’t see other people as aliens, I just resent the idea that anyone’s value system can be enforced upon another, or non-harmful behavior can be restriced just because, ya know, someone else finds it distasteful. That sounds awfully alot like how people opposed to marriage equality define their beliefs.
    I would never say “live and let live” is an immutable law of the universe, but it seems to me that its the optimal way to maximize everyone’s rights without violating anybody else’s. You wanna live by a different code, that’s fine, just don’t force me to do so.
    And I still don’t see why you view this as a harmful thing, aside from the fact that you can’t see how it’s based upon anything other than a lack of empathy (which I still don’t understand). And no, air pollution doesn’t cut it, since that’s something, so far as I know, that manifestly harms people.

  106. And incidentally, I don’t believe govt. should be in the marriage business, and I don’t mean that as a fig leaf to cover my own bigotry. It has less to do with a slippery slope fear of govt. than a hostility towards favoritism, but as Mr. Scalzi indicated above that this particular line of discussion should be left out of the thread, I’ll leave it at that.

  107. Amitava: You wanna live by a different code, that’s fine, just don’t force me to do so.

    That’s the problem. You think your rule doesn’t force anyone else to do anything they don’t want to do. But it does. People WANT the government to be in marriage, because unregulated marriage would be a disaster. People WANT the government to regulate Wall Street, because unregulated corporations would be a disaster. People WANT those kinds of things, but you think your rule is somehow different, that your subjective rule isn’t subjective. You think its mechanical, you think it isn’t sourced by humans. You think the problem is that *other people* are forcing you to do things, but that if we all followed your rule somehow it wouldn’t be forced. But it would. And you can’t grasp that your rule is no different than any other rule, because you can’t see how forcing your rule on someone else would look like from their point of view. It woudl be forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do.

    And that is why its dangerous, you think your subjective rule is some kind of magical special case. That it somehow isn’t a subjective rule like anyone else’s. That its a magical “meta” rule. A special case. And what I said in one of my first posts on this thread was this:

    Greg@9:14 Japanese internment during WW2. It was a special case, ya know? That whole “equal” thing just can’t apply to those people. Muslims in America after 9/11. Special case, right? Sure, we’re all about equality and America is all about religious freedom, but come on, this is different.

    You think this is a special case but it isn’t.

    People will say “Governemtn should not be in the business of marriage because government shouldn’t force people to do anything they don’t want to do” and can say it with a straight face only because they can’t see how their rule will occur from anyone else’s point of view: forcing people to do something they don’t want to do.

  108. Greg: Er, I’d really like to respond, but as per our host’s request I’m going to refrain from doing so. Feel free to shoot me an email at lesakapo@gmail.com if you care to, I always like to “know mine enemy”. Fair warning, though, I probably won’t respond until Thursday or thereafter, as I have a 16 hr test I’m preparing for (eesh).

  109. Greg: you’ve obviously made up your mind about how every neuron in a libertarian’s mind works and no evidence to the contrary is going to convince you that either you’re wrong or their might be another way of looking at things.

    In short, you definitely sound like a bigot and you aren’t worth talking to.

    Have a nice life. And, if it harm none, do as though will. And, I know you won’t reciprocate, but I’ll support your rights even though I really don’t care about you.

  110. Heh, cross-posting. I’ll check it out once my 2-day nightmare comes to a close (I told myself I wouldn’t even post here anymore, dammit!)

  111. Amitava: I’ll check my blog for replies in a couple days. Always interesting to discuss. I just put up a comment over there for me to ponder. And I get life gets busy, so no worries if you can’t find time. Either way, good luck on your test.

    Scorpius: If you’re a regularly practicing wiccan, I’ll eat my flat fricken hat.

  112. Greg: Last post, I swear (and I’d better mean it this time). Thanks for the follow-up, I’ll try and write sometime Thursday or Friday. And thanks for your well wishes!
    BTW, I don’t know anything about Scorpius, but here’s a mixed-race irreligious/agnostic gay teetotaling vegetarian mildly-neo-Confederate (as Mr. Scalzi might wearily recall) conservative-oriented libertarian/minarchist for you. Is that hat-ophagy inducing?

  113. Two points of information:

    1, The Wiccan Rede is “An it harm none, do as thou wilt.” It is akin to Crowley’s famous “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Both are frequently misinterpreted, the Rede as “As long as you don’t directly hurt anyone else, do whatever you want” and Crowley’s line as “do whatever the hell I want shall be the whole of the law.” In both cases, ‘thou wilt’ is misunderstood; it refers to the True Will, which combines conscience and participation in the Divine Will. For the Rede, there’s an additional misinterpretation, because ‘harm none’ is a much bigger thing than just not directly hurting anyone else; self-harm is also to be avoided, and indirect harm is as important as direct harm.

    2, Following the Wiccan Rede does not require being Wiccan. It is in no way reserved for active practitioners. In fact I would venture to say that the average Wiccan thinks that the more people who follow the Rede, the better.

  114. Xopher (and Amitava), the “I’ll eat my flat fricken hat” is a slightly mangled quote from Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Last Detail”. It’s an extremely depressing movie, but Jack is extremely watchable in it, and that line pretty well sums up his character. Explaining this is suddenly making me feel old, but oh well. One of my best friends is a lifer in the Navy and it’s a line we exchange whenever something crazy unbelievable happens.

    Also, I get a person doesn’t have to be an active practicing Wiccan to follow the rede, but Scorpius quoting wicca landed about as authentic as that scene in the movie A-Team where they took a Gandhi quote out of context to say Gandhi supported violence. I think I threw up a little when I saw that scene.

  115. I have met people who claimed to be both Wiccan and Libertarian. I confess I find this mysterious.

  116. In all fairness to Scorpius, I believe I was the one who brought up the “Rede” (wasn’t even aware of the word. Oh well, learn something new every day). And while I may not be follow Wicca, I like to think I still probably defy the stereotype (if there is one) of a conservatish libertarian in the ways I described.
    And I’m out, so good night!

  117. Shawn, you mean that when you first come to them, you have to fight? Or you have to stop when your opponent goes limp? [Comments about Newt Gingrich and "going limp" deleted here prior to hitting Post.]

  118. I came back just right /now/ to say that since religious and political types are
    talking here? I’ll need to specify that that was kinda meant as sarcasm and
    realized that I’d need to specify that the first rule of fight club is that fight club
    members have no knowledge of any such thing, and therefore do not speak
    of it.
    Xopher HalfTongue says: January 29, 2012 at 8:55 pm
    Heh, :-)
    Political conversations vary, but not enough to be interesting.
    Usually, people who talk of politics are rehashing the same old set of words
    about the same old sets of accusations and denials.
    Religious talk does not vary. SOS (Same Old words), different speaker.
    IME, no insanely religious person is capable of anything other than belief,
    and talking to them about why a thing is bad makes my brain whimper.

    Comments about Newt -snip-. I’d get bored, but I think that a fight of
    Newt versus Palin would be /so/ cool, especially if they were allowed to
    use sarcasm.
    And sharks….

    Katy Perry for presidential candidate.

  119. @ Doc RocketScience

    Well, that’s a conclusion a society has to come to together, based on a set of shared values, of course. To imply that I think that the responsibility should be handed off to a single group with a singular perspective is a cheap rhetorical trick.

    In what way is that different from saying it should be put to a popular vote, a referendum, for instance. The whole point of having civil rights liberties as the bedrock of the republic is to prevent a tyranny of the majority over the minority. To say that the People should be allowed to decide what people can and cannot do regardless of whether it infringes on the rights of others is no better than the gay-hating shitheads – I truly love that term (and it’s true love, not infatuation) – saying the voters should get to decide who can get married. I’m not a libertarian (though I’m a major fan of civil liberties), but I strongly disagree with your apparent implication that virtue should be legislated by popular whim.

    @ Greg & Scorpio

    Empathy is wonderful, but laws are most just when they are founded on reason, not emotion (and that includes fear). Everyone ought, IMHO, to strive for empathy, as it is a peerless tool for understanding others. But to count on universal empathy (or even empathy of the majority) to protect people from having their rights and lives trampled is a sure way to wind up with oppression at best and genocide at worst.

    @ Greg

    Xopher (and Amitava), the “I’ll eat my flat fricken hat” is a slightly mangled quote from Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Last Detail”.

    Damn good movie!

    It’s an extremely depressing movie, but Jack is extremely watchable in it, and that line pretty well sums up his character.

    But, really, when is Jack not?

    Katy Perry & Frank Zappa in 2016!
    (Yes, I know he’s dead, but the Veep might as well be a zombie for all the office involves.)

  120. Gulliver: Damn good movie!

    It was a bit slow here and there, and god awful depressing, but damn did it have some characters.

    But, really, when is Jack not?

    This may be blaspheme, but I didn’t care for “A Few Good Men” and Nicholson didn’t do it for me in that one. I have an alergic reaction to Tom Cruise, though, can’t stand anything he’s in, so that might have had something to do with it.

    Empathy is wonderful, but laws are most just when they are founded on reason

    Reason without heart gives you chinese legalism, a propensity to put obediance over justice.

    Empathy is seeing life from someoen else’s shoes, and from their point of view. If you extend empathy, it can be the emotional basis for “all are created equal”, which becomes the basis for most law. Without that, law can become dogma.

  121. @ Greg

    It was a bit slow here and there, and god awful depressing, but damn did it have some characters.

    I think I watched it on a raining Sunday afternoon, so its speed was just right.

    This may be blaspheme, but I didn’t care for “A Few Good Men” and Nicholson didn’t do it for me in that one.

    Hmm, I liked the movie, but more on account of the story and direction than acting. It wasn’t Nicholson’s strongest role. Beside, if you think that was blasphemous, my least favorite Jack Nicholson role was his Joker! I love Nicholson, but he was simply not my idea of the Joker. Though popular consensus seems to be that Gene Hackman was a good Lex Luther, so clearly the world and I have different standards for comic book villains.

    I have an alergic reaction to Tom Cruise, though, can’t stand anything he’s in, so that might have had something to do with it.

    Tom Cruise is hit or miss for me. I do, however, hold him as an object lesson that sanity and acting ability are unrelated.

    Reason without heart gives you chinese legalism, a propensity to put obediance over justice.

    We may simply have to disagree on that.

    If you extend empathy, it can be the emotional basis for “all are created equal”, which becomes the basis for most law.

    I agree that equality under the law is the basis for all just governance, but I neither believe empathy is a necessary basis for that nor that we are created beings (though I can no more prove or disprove that than those who believe we are can prove to the contrary). I strive for empathy towards others both because my own moral compass directs me to and because it helps me to understand them; helping others is fulfilling and understanding others fascinates me. But my respect for their civil rights and liberties (and, in general, their equal value to me as citizens of America, Earth and the universe) rests on what I believe is the firmer bedrock of logic.

    As much as I enjoyed your discussion with Scorpio and Amitava D, I’ll add that I think that the important thing is that each of us does support equal rights, liberties and protections under the law. If love (or even fear) is what compels some to do so, I wish them the best fortune in their relationships with others and society, for their hearts and minds are their affair, not mine. Every human being is a complex entity and I doubt anyone can fully understand the interwoven network between emotions and logic. Ultimately I find it best to hold others to account on their actions, not their thoughts or feelings, and so I judge my own life on my actions.

    Where we may differ is that I do not believe anyone’s liberties should be infringed save where exercise of those liberties would infringe the liberties of others. This is both the main and only absolute point of agreement I have with the wide spectrum of libertarian philosophy.

    I know way too little about Wicca to say if that’s in line with the Rede. But, going from what Xopher said, I get the impression that the Rede includes Devine aspects similar to the concept of a directive to not sin against one’s self which seems to exist in just about every spiritual and religious tradition of which I’ve ever heard. That’s a fine directive. I simply don’t think it’s my place or yours to tell others which values qualify as sinful and which do not, nor do I think it is their place to tell you or me, the exception being if and when they, you or I explicitly ask others to, by joining their faith or self-improvement group or what have you. To do otherwise, and particularly to do it by force of law, is, in my opinion, tantamount to treating others as children with the will of the majority or the fads of the day as the parent. And while I do not fear government (and actually quite like it and esteem it as an institution), I abhor mob rule.

    Cheers

  122. Gulliver: But my respect for their civil rights and liberties (and, in general, their equal value to me as citizens of America, Earth and the universe) rests on what I believe is the firmer bedrock of logic.

    Ever write computer programs? You can’t do logic or math on undefined variables. You get undefined results.

    You can use logic and math and reason to figure out all sorts of things about human relationships, but first you have to assign value to what it means to be human. More often than not, people do this assignment unconsciously and relate to whatever value they assign as “the truth” and never relate to it as something they invented out of their subjective mind.

    If you value power, your math and logic will arrive at certain conclusions.

    If you value equality, your logic will arrive at completely different conclusions.

    If you value reciprocity, your logic will arrive at another completely different conclusion.

    And my experience keeps showing me that what people value about other people is pretty much given by their psychology. Empathy will assign equal values to people. Without empathy, folks generally go into either power or reciprocity based values. If a person relates to the world mostly through fear, they tend to value power. If they relate to the world through logic, they will tend to have a value system based on reciprocity.

    Since you’ve dismissed empathy as being important, and since I can’t recall you speaking to either fear or power, I assume that your underlying value system is one of reciprocity. From there, logic will bring you to certain conclusions, which include, among other things, a fairly good and workable set of rules upon which to base human society. But it is important to understand that your value is your value, it is your subjective premise upon which the rest of your logic and argument is based.

    And the reason it is important, is because understanding that it is your personal value system will let you see other people’s personal subjective value systems. When someone relates to the world through power/fear, they will arrive at completely different results than you do, because they start with completely different values for human relationships.

    I think if you dig down through your bedrock of logic, that you will find that it has an even deeper foundation that is the subjective value you place you humanity as a whole and as individuals.

  123. @ Greg

    You can use logic and math and reason to figure out all sorts of things about human relationships, but first you have to assign value to what it means to be human.

    Naturally. Values are axiomatic. One must choose values before one can extrapolate logical derivations. I took that as a given. If I gave you the impression otherwise, my apologies for not stating explicitly what, because it is a logical necessity, I simply assumed was understood.

    More often than not, people do this assignment unconsciously and relate to whatever value they assign as “the truth” and never relate to it as something they invented out of their subjective mind.

    People vary. This is probably the more common mode, though I have no studies to back it up. It is not mine.

    Since you’ve dismissed empathy as being important,

    It is far from unimportant. I just don’t regard it as necessary for an egalitarian society, though it is useful for one.

    and since I can’t recall you speaking to either fear or power, I assume that your underlying value system is one of reciprocity.

    If reduced to a word, reciprocity is as good a word as any, though it is only one piece.

    But it is important to understand that your value is your value, it is your subjective premise upon which the rest of your logic and argument is based.

    Definitely., though I have more than one value, all moral values are subjective. I am far from being a moral objectivist. The universe has no discernible inherent vale set. Each of us must choose. That’s why I am an existentialist.

    Rest assured that I have a very clear macro (literally, I wrote it down years ago) for choosing values, and the complex interplay between my emotions, my deontology, and my desire for and method of imbuing my life with purpose meaningful to me.

    Are you a fellow programmer? It seems like many of the more interesting discussions I get into are with other programmers.

  124. Greg: “Since you’ve dismissed empathy as being important,”

    Gulliver: “It is far from unimportant. I just don’t regard it as necessary for an egalitarian society”

    To clarify, I was trying to say that you don’t see empathy as important to arrive at the conclusion of an egaltarian society because you arrived there via the value of “reciprocity” instead.

    Gullver: “Definitely., though I have more than one value”

    But it seems that “reciprocity” (or some term like it) is the value you hold highest, and through that, you arrive at your respect for other people’s civil rights and liberties.

    If someone had fear/power as their highest value, they might oppose their government trampling other peoples rights, but out of fear that the government might get too much power.

    But the flavor of the outcome can be different. Recriprocity might support gay marriage in exchange for continuing straight marriage. Fear/power might decide the best thing is to strip government of all power around the idea of marriage.

    Gulliver: “Each of us must choose. That’s why I am an existentialist.”

    I believe I arrived at a similar position though through different values. I sort of see zen and taoism as existentialist in nature but arriving there through the value of empathy. They seem to appreciate that life has no objective meaning and one can look at satori as a realization of choice, but the eastern ways generally don’t tend to get into the existential angst that the west seems to do quite a bit.

    Gulliver: “Are you a fellow programmer? ”

    of a sort

  125. @ Greg

    But it seems that “reciprocity” (or some term like it) is the value you hold highest, and through that, you arrive at your respect for other people’s civil rights and liberties.

    I wouldn’t say I hold it highest. I would say it is the most useful keystone for that particular moral objective. Understand that empathy plays a part to, but that even in the absence of empathy I support equal rights.

    Let me illustrate with an example. Occasionally I see someone displaying the flag, or its likeness, of the Confederate States of America. I hate that traitor flag. It stands for an institution that fought a bloody war to keep some four million human beings and fellow Americans as property. The only empathy I have for people who fly it is pity that they are either complete ignoramuses or unrepentant bigots or both. Yet I support their right to display that symbol, for I believe that the First Amendment is even more important because censorship sets one group of people’s voice above others and so achieves the very thing for which that flag stood.

    Recriprocity might support gay marriage in exchange for continuing straight marriage.

    This is why boiling it down to a single word, while succinct, can cause confusion. I don’t support gay marriage in exchange for continuing support of straight marriage. On the contrary, I have no idea if me and my partner will ever even get married; perhaps a humanist ceremony. Anyway, even if I never intended to marry, I would support straight and LGBT and even the right of three or more people to marry. And although I have empathy for any two or more people who love one another, that is not why. It is because to tell others who they may or may not marry would be to limit their right of free association. Participating in that restriction would make me aparty to one group’s values superseding another’s in the personal lives, absent of any harm to others. So yes, it’s reciprocity, but not a simple issue-by-issue quid pro quo. It is a general belief that if I want freedom, I must return it in equal measure; and if I want a just, and thus stable and prosperous society, all must be free. The thought of being a master over slaves makes me nauseous, both because others are people and because it would diminish me and everyone else – slave or master, first or second class citizen – to turn people into tools deprived of the right to self-determination.

    I sort of see zen and taoism as existentialist in nature but arriving there through the value of empathy.

    While I’m not a Taoist per se, I can appreciate that more than you might realize. I’ve practiced kendo most of my life, and the code of bushido was much influenced by zen Buddhism. It has had as great an effect on how I live my life as the realization that we must choose meaning if our lives are to mean anything (the common thread of existentialism).

  126. Sorry about the huge italicized chuck. While I am a programmer, the above HTML formatting error would seem to indicate I have yet to master the art of debugging :P

  127. Gulliver: The only empathy I have for people who fly it is pity

    Hm, empathy has several definitions. I think we’re using different ones. I’m using the one that says “understand someone’s point of view by putting yourself in their place and seeing the world through their view”. I don’t have to agree with them. I can totaly disagree with them. The big part, I think, is the ‘putting yourself in their shoes and seeing their worldview’. That to me is the core of empathy. It’s a different transaction than “reciprocity”. Most of the time, I think the two will arrive at the same place, but the boundaries may be different, especially at corner cases.

    So yes, it’s reciprocity, but not a simple issue-by-issue quid pro quo.

    Yeah. Still reciprocity. The golden rule is reciprocity. It’s a first premise coming from Reciprocity. It doesn’t have to be proven to that person, because it is part of their nature and they don’t question it. They relate to the world through reciprocity on a visceral level, and the Golden Rule is just the words that spring forth to describe it.

    “all are equal” is a first premise of empathy. It’s just how they relate to the world on a visceral level, put into words.

    I think one of the things about ‘choice’ in existentialism that always bothered me was I got the feeling that existentialists decided that since they “logically” arrived at the position that the world has no meaning but what they add, that they were suddenly devoid of adding any meaning other than what they “chose”.

    A zen monk asks “what is satori”. The master says “eat when you are hungry. sleep when you are tired.” The monk says “even a baby knows that”. The master says “Even a wise man has trouble actually doing it”.

    We don’t choose to be hungry or sleepy or afraid or angry. It just happens. We can still be responsible for what we *do* about it, but sometimes that means apologizing after we calm down. That, plus the whole “existential angst” thing may have been interesting in college, but zen and taoism seem to be based in or sourced from an inner peace.

    I think they (existentialism and zen/taosim) are both different paths up the same mountain. And I think people chose the path based on their visceral relation to the world, and I’ve been getting the impression over the last few years that how we viscerally relate to the world isn’t anything we can chose.

    And I think *that* lets me see someone relating to the world through fear with a kind of understanding, that it isn’t something they can choose, and its not something people question very often, it’s just “true” to them. That doesn’t make the bigots with the confederate flag “right” or anything. I keep looking for a word for empathy that doesn’t mean “feel what the other person feels and agree with their position”. But every word I come up with doesn’t have the same visceral level connection to “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and worldview”.

    ahhh.. language. finger pointing to the moon, and all that.

  128. @ Greg

    I’m using the one that says “understand someone’s point of view by putting yourself in their place and seeing the world through their view”. I don’t have to agree with them. I can totaly disagree with them.

    Point taken.

    “all are equal” is a first premise of empathy. It’s just how they relate to the world on a visceral level, put into words.

    Equal in what way(s)? How does see through the eyes, and the understanding that can bring of another make both equal?

    I think one of the things about ‘choice’ in existentialism that always bothered me was I got the feeling that existentialists decided that since they “logically” arrived at the position that the world has no meaning but what they add, that they were suddenly devoid of adding any meaning other than what they “chose”.

    Well, meaning is subjective. It’s (*ahem*) meaningless without an observer to whom it means anything. Likewise, my choices can’t imbue your life with meaning; you must choose for you. The choice doesn’t change the rest of the universe, it changes the chooser. Or, “Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

    We don’t choose to be hungry or sleepy or afraid or angry. It just happens. We can still be responsible for what we *do* about it, but sometimes that means apologizing after we calm down. That, plus the whole “existential angst” thing may have been interesting in college, but zen and taoism seem to be based in or sourced from an inner peace.

    I guess I don’t see the incompatibility.

    And I think people chose the path based on their visceral relation to the world, and I’ve been getting the impression over the last few years that how we viscerally relate to the world isn’t anything we can chose.

    We choose, but freedom is not absolute. I can modify my base mentality within the confines of that which the human mind-brain is capable, but where I begin will inform my choices. Freewill, such as it appears to exist, is a dance with the world, not a solo performance. No one lives in a vacuum.

    I keep looking for a word for empathy that doesn’t mean “feel what the other person feels and agree with their position”. But every word I come up with doesn’t have the same visceral level connection to “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and worldview”.

    That’s alright. I empathize :)

    “She said that you have been, in her words, carrying on ‘cranky’. I looked up the word cranky, it said ‘grouchy’. I looked up grouchy, it said ‘crotchety’. No wonder you have such an eccentric culture. None of your words have their own meanings, you have to look up one word to understand another. It never ends.” ~ Delenn [from Babylon 5: And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place]

    There is also the limitation that empathy and psychology are largely speculative enterprises, quite useful as long as one remembers to remain skeptical of what they think they know they know about what’s going on in other people’s minds. It’s easy to oversimplify the most complex machine in the known universe.

  129. “Equal in what way(s)? How does see through the eyes, and the understanding that can bring of another make both equal?”

    If you can imagine looking at someone and feeling on a gut level “I am he, he is me”, that’s probably closer to the visceral reaction. It’s a feeling first, and the words come after.

    Zen koans, and the inexplicability of them, are sitting in the corner watching TV and laughing at me.

    There is also the limitation that empathy and psychology are largely speculative enterprises

    hm, psychology would be getting into the logic and explanation of it, not the experience of it. It’s more like seeing someone and getting this moment of realization of how much you would be like them if you had been born in their house and raised in their country. But that gets way too much into the explanation rather than the thing itself.

    Explaning this is about as natural as explaining the idea of happiness to an alien from outerspace. That doesn’t make happiness any less real.

  130. @ Greg

    If you can imagine looking at someone and feeling on a gut level “I am he, he is me”, that’s probably closer to the visceral reaction. It’s a feeling first, and the words come after.

    Well, words are an imperfect reflection of thoughts.

    Explaning this is about as natural as explaining the idea of happiness to an alien from outerspace. That doesn’t make happiness any less real.

    Fair enough.

    @ Doc RocketScience

    It’s different in a lot of ways. I suspect you know that, but figured you could score a hit by telling me I said something I clearly did not.

    No, but I accept that I apparently misunderstood your meaning. If I had wanted to say I was certain of what I took to be your implication, I would not have framed my response as a question seeking clarification. I’m not sure what I’ve done to earn your assumption of my motives as sinister. But I debate in good faith and so I apologize for whatever I did to offend you. Thank you for replying, at any rate.

  131. @ Doc RocketScience

    Looking back at my intial reply to you, I see I neglected to end this sentence in a question mark:

    In what way is that different from saying it should be put to a popular vote, a referendum, for instance.

    If that led to the subsequent confusion, sorry. I meant it as an interrogative, not a declarative statement.

  132. @Gulliver:
    I may have read too much into it, I admit. (It was late and The Grey is an incredibly grim movie.) Still, even with a question mark, taken as a whole your post poses it as more of a rhetorical question. At best, a slippery slope. There’s a lot of daylight between “shared values” and “the tyranny of the majority”. Especially when one considers that one of those shared values is a belief equality should trump the tyranny of the majority. No, not everyone shares that value, but very few universal values exist in any society. This one is about as close to universal as you’ll see in American society.

    Also, remember that my comment was in response to the suggestion that these choices should be given to a single group with a distinct value system, “The majority” on a single issue would be the same thing as any of the groups amitava named.

  133. @ Doc Rocketscience

    I may have read too much into it, I admit. (It was late and The Grey is an incredibly grim movie.)

    No worries. I was pulling an all-nighter to get a project done for my nonlinear dynamics class. Going back over what I wrote in the interstices I was cringing at all the typos. Sleep deprivation is the silent assassin of cogent expression. I caught a nap late this afternoon, but tonight I sleep!

    There’s a lot of daylight between “shared values” and “the tyranny of the majority”.

    Fair enough. I think I see your point. And, to a point, I agree. But for me, those shared values, such as equal protection under the law, equal rights and liberties, and so forth, must face the litmus test of whether they’re preventing one individual or group from trampling on the rights of another, or merely constraining people’s lifestyle choices.

    For example, in Medieval Europe, the vast majority of the populace believed sodomy was a sin. That was a shared value that they codified in laws that, IMO, were oppressive. In contemporary America, many groups of people across the political spectrum believe that smoking pot is wrong, again an example of a widely shared value codified in law that I believe, nonetheless, is oppressive, even though I don’t smoke at all.

    So if by shared values you mean those that protect one citizen from being trampled by another, either directly or through unequal protection under the law, then we’re on the same page. If, on the other hand, you mean that it is just to enforce by law any value shared by enough of a people, I respectfully disagree. When a person or people believe that their value(s) are righteous, they sometimes (not always) do not see it as oppression to force others to adhere to it. When that force is supported by majority rule, it is, I believe, a tyranny of the majority.

    I didn’t intend my question rhetorically, though the lack of a question mark made it look so in hindsight.

  134. A little bit more recently than a dozen decades ago version 1.0 of
    my new years resolution was that I’d have to apologize for being
    to much of a dick if I did so between my second cup of coffee and
    5:00 PM on Monday, and so I stopped talking on Mondays. ;p
    Currently, I must apologize if I think that I’m to much of a dick to
    anyone who I think didn’t deserve to be sworn at.

    In my previous post I was, IMO, to much of a dick for much of
    what I said.
    I’m sorry that I was, and I apologize.


    Eventually, that new years resolution will go to something like
    “Don’t be a dick.”
    I do not eagerly await that upgrade.

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