“Just be yourself, but with my opinions instead” – subtext of all human communication


Le stupidité de l’escalier

L’esprit de l’escalier” means “the wit of the staircase”.  It’s a French term that refers to that incredibly funny, apropos and witty comeback that occurs to you hours after it would have been useful and timely.  Literally, the comeback that you think of as you’re walking down the staircase away from the posh dinner party where your integrity was publicly called into question, but your response in the heat of the moment was “Yeah, your MOM failed to declare taxable income on gambling earnings in the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years!”

But I don’t know if there’s an equivalent word or phrase for the opposite situation: the realization that a throwaway comment you made was considered incredibly witty by the listening audience, because of multiple meanings that you weren’t aware of at the time you were uttering it.  In the best case scenario, you find that people are laughing far more heartily than you would expect, and as you replay what you said in your own head you suddenly “get” your own joke.  If that happens, you can smile a knowing, smug smile at the people who are laughing: yes, aren’t we all smart!  I was making an oblique reference to Pynchon’s novel and the conflict between the Right Hegelians and the Young Hegelians !  Such cultural awareness I display!

In the worst case scenario, you immediately follow up your comment with another that makes it clear you actually didn’t understand the implied or secondary double meanings, which immediately downgrades your status in the party from “witty Oscar Wilde-ish character who will definitely be invited to my book salon” to “idiot savant”.

But there’s no phrase or term equivalent to “l’esprit de l’escalier” for that situation, as far as I know.

There should be.  Because this happens to me ALL THE TIME.

Civil unions: not an option

“Instead of trying to get married, same-sex couples should just get a civil union, they work exactly the same!” – argument I have heard repeatedly in discussions over the MN Marriage Amendment.

Well, no, they don’t. Not by a long shot.  And sometimes this argument comes from people who are enjoying the very rights that they are fighting to prevent same-sex couples from getting. The best that can be said about this opinion is that it’s “unaware” of the significant advantages that marriage has over a civil union. At worst, it’s a lie about which some people prefer that you never ask questions, since it falls apart rather quickly.  In reality, the only thing that is “like” marriage in the U.S. is… marriage.

A civil union is, at its heart, a legal agreement between two people. It does provide some benefits that (at a significant cost and a lot of time to draw up) can get a couple who is unable to get married slightly closer to the position a married couple gets automatically for their $40 marriage license fee. The very fact that one section of the population should have to pay thousands of dollars in fees and spend hundreds of hours to get some of the rights that others get for $40 is unfair from the get-go, but to make matters worse this approach misses a massive swath of rights, especially at the Federal level. And there is no recourse the get those rights, civil union or not.

As a perfect example, see this link from CNN on the money that same-sex couples end up paying as additional taxes, because of differences in the ways they have to file Federal taxes: you can’t sign a “civil union” contract with a partner that would force the Federal government to tax you at the same rates as married couples. In specific situations, this can mean massively larger tax bills.

In fairness, what this article fails to point out is that some same-sex couple would actually end up (eventually) paying more taxes as a married couple, thanks to the so-called “marriage penalty“. That applies in cases where the two partners are earning similar taxable incomes.  But different-sex couples still choose to get married (in massive numbers, some repeatedly) in spite of the tax “marriage penalty”: this shows how important an institution marriage is and how important (and valuable) the other benefits are, that it certainly doesn’t seem to be convincing a lot of people to stay single.   In any case, the “marriage penalty” has been a non-issue for most couples for several years now; it may return in 2013, depending on what Congress does about extending the penalty elimination implemented in 2001 that was set to expire at the end of 2011.

So for this reason as well as hundreds of others, a civil union is not a valid alternative, and cannot be.  Pension rights, hospital visitation rights, treatment in court cases, implicit legal agreements, treatment by companies for death and disability claims, health directives… the list goes on and on and on.  At the end of the day, there is a group of people in this country who want equal treatment under the law, and the equal application of rights: our first reaction as citizens who enjoy those rights already should NOT be “well, maybe someday, if they fight for years to get something like civil unions approved in all states against major opposition, they might get some percentage of those rights, eventually.”  And our first reaction should also never be “I’m OK with this group getting the same rights I have, as long as they change the name so that it is distinguishable from this other group of people who might be offended by you getting the same rights they do.”  Your first reaction, if you truly believe in the principles of equality, should be “equal rights for everyone NOW.”

MN Marriage Amendment: hypocrisy


Minnesota State Capitol building in Saint Paul...

Thank you, Gov. Dayton. It COULD be this easy if the Legislature chose to drop the “Bradlee Dean Amendment”, and we would save the state of Minnesota millions of dollars and lots of vitriol.

Odds of that happening are pretty small, though.

The actions of the Legislature need to reflect the reality of the culture and population they affect. It is ironic that Ms. Koch now has to experience, through her poor choices, the kind of under-the-microscope analysis and judgement of her personal life that the Legislature is imposing on other Minnesotans via the Marriage Amendment. There are people here in MN who would be ecstatically happy with the chance to experience the union of love, fidelity and rights that she has seen fit to treat with disrespect in her own life.

I am sure that there are many couples here in MN who would treat the institution of marriage with far more reverence than Ms. Koch has: I know many of them. It is painful to realize that thanks to her actions, the Legislature is trying to deny them the chance.

This is an opportunity for the Legislature to do the right thing, get on the right side of history, and seize the opportunity to increase equality in our state instead of trying to decrease it.

New leading economic indicator

How much for a Philosophy Major?

Here’s an interesting economic number to look at: forecast the average salary for the first ten years of employment for a major. Then forecast the average amount of debt the person graduating with that major will be burdened with upon graduation. Then figure out, using standard loan repayment rates, how long it will take the average person to pay off the average debt with an average salary in that field. Salary average should consider unemployment rates for those first ten years.

That number should be on a label affixed to every college brochure ever sent out, with a separate label for every major that college offers. And the unit of measure shouldn’t be time, it should be the number of ramen-only dinners you’ll have to eat before your school loans are paid off.

It doesn’t always “get better” for everyone

Go watch this video.

Fucking hell, we can be horrible to each other. We can be beautiful to each other, we can do amazing things, but we can be so willfully ignorant and cruel and so damn stupid. And what’s crazy is how much the people in these videos have grown, and changed, and made their lives better… and how many of the people who bullied them probably haven’t.

I can be an optimist and pretend that the bullies “got better” too: they grew up, matured, realized how poorly they had behaved, changed their ways, learned to accept those who were different. But I can’t bring myself to be that big of an optimist, because I see grownups acting this way every day, and I know they didn’t appear out of nowhere: they went to high school too.

Just remember, “it” doesn’t just get better by itself. You and I make it better. Sometimes that means that the people who bully you and call you names DON’T get better, though: they will still be there, still be full of hatred and bigotry and stupid, unfocused, irrational rage. They will still try to do everything they can to make you feel small, to take away your right to live the way you want, to make you unhappy.

But you will grow and get stronger instead, and you will have friends and relationships and love and you will find your focus and you will set your goals and you will live your life. You will fight for your rights, and you will GET THEM.

And leave the bullies, the small-minded bigots, the hypocrites behind. Because you know what? Fuck them.

Newt lashing out at the Constitution

Newt Gingrich speaking to voters at Des Moines...

Damn you, Constitution!

I’m so tired of these people wailing about “activist judges” when the judicial branch is doing its job of interpreting the law. And of course it comes as NO surprise that the case he’s complaining about is one of separation of Church and State: they never complain about “activist judges” when the ruling is one they personally agree with.

Gingrich knows better, he knows that the case was ruled correctly, he’s been in government too long to not understand that.  He also knows that in a representative democracy, sometimes law rulings don’t favor the opinion of the majority of people in the U.S., especially when the ruling serves to protect the rights of a minority.  That’s EXACTLY how this democracy is supposed to work… but he also knows that railing against this type of ruling is a quick hunk of red meat to people who think that religion is “under attack” in this country, and will give him a sorely needed quick boost in the polls now that his numbers in Iowa are collapsing.

His comments in this matter are no more responsible or truthful than Rick Perry’s accusation that Obama is conducting a “war against religion”, and should be vilified to the same degree.  Maybe Capitol police should arrest Newt for his unconstitutional recommendations, and bring him before Congress so he can explain them. That would make just about the same sense, and be just as justified as his irresponsible comments.  To actually say that judges can and should be arrested to “explain their views” before Congress is reprehensible: what, exactly, would he say Congress should be able to do after that?  Throw the judge in jail?  Overturn their ruling?  Change the law on the fly to make the ruling inapplicable, so that people could be declared guilty for an act that wasn’t illegal at the time they committed it?

If you don’t like the Constitution, propose an Amendment.  If you don’t like separation of powers, go ahead and try to change our form of democracy.  If you don’t like checks and balances, then get rid of the branches you don’t like, see how well that works for you.  But don’t pretend that what is happening here is anything but a natural, BENEFICIAL result of our Constitution and form of government.

The NDAA: bad news for civil liberties, and a negative mark for the Obama administration

It’s interesting that the Obama-supported bill that could most be interpreted as anti-Constitutional (and therefore anti-American, you secret commie Kenyan Muslim, you) is the one that has the majority of support of Republicans and most Tea Partiers (other than Paul Rand), and only 50/50 support in his own party.  In MN, Republicans Chip Cravaack, John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Democrats Collin Peterson and Tim Walz voted for, Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum.  Michele Bachmann was nowhere to be seen, mentally or physically.
I wish Obama had the support and the spine in this matter to go through with his veto threat, but it’s not going to happen.  In any case, his threat appears to have been based not on the principles of  protecting constitutional rights, but on not wanting additional restrictions on Executive powers to perform the activities the bill references.  And now, with the war in Iraq supposedly winding down, the global War on Terror and the extended powers the government is granting itself to fight this interminable, poorly-defined conflict, continue to grow.
Not a good day for civil liberties, or for Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution, which dictates that nobody can be punished for treason without significant due process requirements being met.

Not a proud day.  I’m with the ACLU and Human Rights Watch on this one.  I had actually let me ACLU membership lapse, but it’s going back up today.