Another repost from ’04. Once again, because we’re nearing an election, and once again certain Topics will and have become part and parcel of the political debate, I thought it time to put this back up.

Did you know that the last week of October is national Protection From Pornography Week? Yes, indeed, signed into law by our illustrious president, Mr. Bush back in 2003. I for one had no idea I needed to be protected from it. How reassuring to know that we are being defended from dangers both real and imagined by the ever watchful gaze of our very own homegrown clerics.

We’ve spent tax dollars on this. Here is the link to the official White House proclamation.

Seems innocuous enough, even homey. All that stuff about the destructive effects of porn on children, who can argue?

Has it occurred to anyone throughout the last two decades (beginning, in my opinion, with Ed Meese—anyone remember him?) of the war on pornography that—like alcohol and tobacco–pornography is simply not for children? It seems a ludicrously simple idea to me—it was never intended for them. We manage to have reasonable laws about things not intended for children. We don’t let them drive cars (except at amusement parks, in specially constructed rides), we don’t let them drink booze, we don’t allow the sale of tobacco to minors. They can’t vote, either, because we presume to decide on their level of intelligence and ability to make political statements. That one may be arguable, but…

We don’t allow children to sign contracts. We don’t let them in to see “R” rated movies without a parent or guardian. Technically, children aren’t allowed to have credit cards, but sometimes that one slips through the cracks.

Point being, we manage these other prohibitions quite handily. Occasionally something goes wrong, but we have a system for dealing with it that doesn’t require a national week signed into effect by the president. I mean, we don’t have a National Protection From Contracts Week detailing how contracts have debilitating effects on families and children (especially children, oh, those poor innocents who cannot defend themselves from the deprivations of over-zealous loan officers and contract litigators!).

The other side of this is, however, perhaps a little more contentious. We don’t allow children to participate in all this stuff, but we make an assumption that adults may, can, and that there is, for the most part, nothing wrong with it!

So why do we need this Protection From Porn Week?

Well, it’s not aimed at children. With all that child sexual exploitation is an evil thing and no sensible adult would allow that it’s not, the target here is not to protect children. It’s not even to protect. The target is Sex.

Since the Sixties there has been a war going on in this country about the public function of Sex in our society. I won’t here detail that war—we sell products with it, but we can’t actually sell the thing itself (except in certain places under strict licensing etc.); we all like to be sexy, even when we don’t admit it, but we don’t necessarily want to follow through on the implications, i.e. have sex commensurate with the degree of sexiness we like to pretend to; sex is one of the most wanted things we have, yet there is a perverse urge to deny it to others when we deem it inappropriate (or even when it is appropriate, just public). The war has taken on all the canny subterfuge and annoying intangibility of the worst aspects of the Cold War, which I think is an ironic if apt comparison. After all, the Cold War was as much about ideas as about actions.

Attorney General John Ashcroft spent $80,000 on a curtain to hide the tits of Justice so television viewers wouldn’t be offended.

Who really was? We’ve been looking at public nudity like that for two centuries. Except for a few extreme crackpots, I don’t know of anyone who ever seriously complained—because we have all made the distinction between nudity and sexuality in these instances. I mean, no one seriously gets turned on by the nakedness of Justice. Do they?

Now, with another far right, religio-obsessed appointment to a position which requires a far more Libertarian attitude than one comparable to Sir Charles Lamb or Carrie Nation, we get closer and closer to the core program of the faction this administration represents.

Just what is it about these people that they cannot stand other human beings having orgasms which do not lead automatically to child-birth?

As a statement of principle, let me be up front. I think sex between mutually consenting individuals is a wonderful thing. Under any circumstances. Sex itself is one of the best things we can offer each other. Sex is beautiful, sex is great, sex is a thing to be sought and had and indulged. I have always thought restrictions on it between mutually consenting people were silly if not obscene.

Having said that, look at what I said. “Mutually consenting individuals”. There’s a lot of substance floating beneath the iceberg tip of that phrase. What it implies is profound.

No one should thoughtlessly indulge sex.

No one should have sex under inequitable circumstances.

No one should violate another’s individuality in order to have sex.

In order to mutually consent to something, we presume a kind of level playing field. You have to know why you’re there, know yourself, know what you’re getting into, and know what you think you’re getting out of it. You have to UNDERSTAND what’s happening.

Which is what makes all forms of sexual coercion ugly and condemnable. Which is why “No means No” has to be adhered to utterly. Which is why, for all you frat boys, jocks, and hapless wannabe Don Juans (of either gender), getting someone drunk or stoned in order to screw them is a crime.

It’s also an act of cowardice.

Equitable conditions is a little less concrete, but in the instance of children it’s absolutely clear, and you can use that as a starting point. There is no way a child is the equal of an adult in any practical sense. Adults having sex with children can never be anything but abuse because of the fundamental disconnect in status and knowledge and experience. There is no possibility of “mutual consent” in this case, because the basis on which such consent is given is absent.

That shouldn’t be too hard to understand. Other bases of inequity are slipperier but no less real. Financial inequity is a biggie. When the boss threatens job loss if sex is not forthcoming, this is an inequitable circumstance. Of course, this is a power game, and sex should be devoid of power games in order for it to be right. (Unless power is part of the Game, in which both participants are agreed in advance, but that’s not coercion.) Unfortunately, in this society, it goes beyond such simple—and prosecutable—examples as that. Despite our ardent political illusions to the contrary, we do have a class structure, and that alone tilts the scales into inequitable exchanges. Money always shifts the balance. Who you have sex with and why all too often has less to do with sex itself than with other factors. We make jokes, always have, about “marrying money” and “trophy wives”, but the basis of those jokes is not a laughing matter. Coercion goes both ways, depending on circumstances.

So you see, when I say Mutually Consenting Individuals, that is not a carte blanche. It never was, even though we treat it that way more often than not. Two people are over 21, they can vote, they should be able to do what they want with and to each other.

Is it ever that simple?

But aside from these considerations, if conditions of mutuality and consent are met, where does anyone get off suggesting it’s wrong to have sex?

And just to be clearer, I don’t mean sanctified sex-for-procreation. Nature has pulled a nasty trick on us, in my opinion, by linking sexual pleasure with procreation so strongly. It makes perfect sense in terms of Darwinian necessity, but the contents of our minds is not from that part of nature and is a separate thing from the urges of basic DNA.

It’s a cliche, of course, but still powerful, that in this society we have no problem with people going to the theater to watch a film in which people kill each other in many and varied and devious and painful ways, but if two people are naked and mutually indulging each other carnally, we try to get it banned. At least limit the audience. Heaven forbid we give our children the idea that sex is good and all right and that maybe violence is bad.

Which is a curious thing. We raise children to gradually (in theory) learn how to manage the controls of their lives in just about everything—we teach them (supposedly) about cars and traffic laws, about politics, about finances, all gradually over time, so that when they reach adulthood they have some grasp of what all this stuff is about. Except when it comes to sex. We try our best to pretend in front of them that it doesn’t exist, that it’s something they should not know anything about, and then expect them at 21 to all at once comprehend the complex and rich world of sexuality. That’s how it seems anyway.  (And if any proof of this proposition is required, just ask yourselves why this ludicrous Abstinence Only sex ed policy has not been torn to shreds by outraged parents who actually want their kids educated?  I think more parents than not are quite content to assume their children aren’t learning anything that would embarrass the parents to acknowledge.)
Now we have politicians getting in an uproar over gay marriage. They’ve been in an uproar over abortion since Roe V. Wade, and I do not believe that for most of them it has as much to do with fetuses as it has to do with sex. Notice, almost uniformly all prolife groups refuse to consider a broader, more comprehensive birth control education and availability program. Randal Terry, the former head of Operation Rescue, has stated that all forms of birth control, to his way of thinking, are abortion, murder, and immoral. No, it’s not the morality of abortion, it’s sex. Abortions represent women having sex without consequence (which is a fatuously wrongheaded way to look at it, so self-servingly puerile in its refusal to see any other possible explanation than their own). I would be less inclined to despise the Prolife Movement if they were out there encouraging people to use condoms, the Pill, or sterilization. That they condemn these things almost on par demonstrates that the issue is, really, sex.

And now we have a White House appointee with exactly these attitudes. (I don’t care if he’s a gynecologist––if I were a woman and his patient, I’d change doctors now––that obviously doesn’t make him sane on the issue.)

Let’s not kid ourselves. True, there are economic considerations to all these things, but the bottom line here is a public aversion, even hatred, of sex. It’s effective because even people who disagree with the programmatic side of this campaign find it too difficult to stand up and argue the opposite. They get squeamish. After all, it’s personal, it’s private. Of course it is, so why is the government involved at any level other than the FDA approving new contraception?

It’s a control issue. I’m being a bit Kafkaesque, now, a bit Orwellian, so fair warning that some of what follows is just me thinking out loud and very broadly.

Something to consider. Traditionally, those in power who work to oppress sex—who enact sodomy laws, or things like the Mann Act, or marital status laws, or laws regulating pornography, or who condemn people who indulge themselves in sex without guilt—the leaders who condemn immorality, who tell us that society will collapse to anarchy if we don’t control our sexual urges, who try to lock us in prisons of fear or guilt, who turn sex into property and then legislate it as such, those people have always indulged themselves, from popes to presidents. Those who are most aggressively anti-sex in public have usually lived private lives drenched in it.  (One need look at the Republican/social conservative roster of hypocrisy to see this.  Not that Democrats don’t cheat on their wives, the it’s more often a hapless thing, not tied to a vociferous Family Values political record.  Dole divorced his wife to marry his mistress.  Gingrich served his cancer-stricken wife divorce papers in the hospital so he could marry his mistress.  McCain divorced his wife to marry his mistress.  Foley campaigned against pornography and worked to stop Gay marriage and has been caught propositioning male pages.  It goes on and on.)
And they could, because they have the power to condemn those who they coerced. The ultimate inequity. The ultimate abuse.

Not all of them, mind you. I have no doubt that our current president is faithful to his wife. In our present media-invasive climate, if he weren’t we would all know soon enough. But those who benefit from his position, those who support him, those who sycophantically proclaim their loyalty, those who donate money and give favors. There is always a cadre, a circle, around such leaders who do get to have what they want.

What is distressing is that this is a button so easily pushed. We seem as a collective incapable of arguing back when our leaders tell us we need to oppress sex. Maybe if we stopped acting like sex is something we “get away with” every time we have it, stop acting like the children we claim to be trying to protect—in short, collectively pull our heads out of our posteriors and deny the politicians any right to tell us what is or is not appropriate private behavior, then we could begin to rationalize the discourse and subsequently the panic-driven legal paroxysms we seem to be going through.

Many—possibly most—people behave quite reasonably about sex. But their voices are not the ones dominating the public discourse. Instead, the discourse is driven by those who wish us to be ashamed of arousal, of touching, of orgasm, as if civilization will perish if we collectively admit to enjoying it.

Of course, if we did take this approach, then maybe we could also start addressing the real problems we have with it—the inequities in our relationships, the abuse that happens every day, the real disconnects we have between law and practice.

In order to protect children from it, we should first grow up ourselves, instead of acting like children who’ve been caught with our hands in the cookie jar.

Until then, we have present-day puritans dictating morality. And we let them, even when we know that what they’re doing is wrongheaded, because we don’t want to admit…

What? That we like sex? Or that maybe we don’t really know how to deal with it?

Start with what I suggest: Mutual Consent means a great deal more than just two people saying yes.

Protection starts with self-knowledge.

Or maybe we should just wait for the presidential “Protection From Arousal” week.

Ignorance Rampant

The following is a quote lifted from Charlie Stross’s blog and is pretty much In Full.

We. Are. Not. Going. To. Die. On. Wednesday.

The maximum energy the particles generated by the LHC (7TeV) get up to is many orders of magnitude below the maximum energy of cosmic rays that hit the Earth’s upper atmosphere from space every fricking day. None of them have created black holes and gobbled up the planet, or turned us all into strange matter. Nor have they done ditto to any cosmic bodies we can see, such as planets or stars. Therefore the world isn’t going end when they switch on the LHC on Wednesday. QED.

Joking is all very well, but please, can we not be spreading the FUD and scaring people needlessly? The current climate of superstitious dread with respect to the sciences is bad enough as it is …

As everyone knows we have a presidential election coming up. The two combatants are flinging accusations at one another as to why the other guy isn’t fit to lead. According to McCain, Obama is not only another tax-and-spend Liberal but one with no real experience. McCain is claiming to be an agent of change, despite a record that really doesn’t reflect that. To be fair, he’s been on board with a few bits of legislation that took on some of the more egregious problems in our country, but by and large he’s pretty much just another tax-and-spend Conservative, but one with a lot of experience.

I quoted Charlie’s post for a specific reason. You can search the blogosphere and find many of these sorts of posts, all done in the face of a minor upswelling of panic among those who don’t know any better claiming that the LHC would cause a major event precipitating the End of the World.

My question, simply, is this: why would anyone believe this?

This bears directly on the election. We have many organizations—like— that take on the rather onerous and often thankless job of vetting statements made by political candidates. Anyone can go look to see which statements are true, false, or exaggerations. There are other sites, like Project For the Old American Century, which have a tally of the abuses of the Bush Administration, with links to sources. The record is there for anyone to go look for themselves and see.

But people don’t. Well, some people do. But I suspect a lot of people rely on the ads and the occasional televised interview to develop their information about the candidates, which is a pretty useless way to do it.

I know a woman in her 40s who does not know that women in this country did not always have the right to vote. When I pointed it out that women didn’t get it till 1920, she was incredulous. She didn’t believe me. I pulled out some history books to show her. Her eyes glazed over.

Next time I spoke to her about it, she had defaulted back to believing that we were the only democracy to guarantee women’s rights from our inception.

The obstinacy of false beliefs baffles me unlike anything else. I recall some friends who supported Ronald Reagan in 1980, said laudatory things about him, but when I bring it up now they look at me as if I’d sprouted a second head. They have rewritten their own history to disclude this embarrassing bit and will not cop to it.

Charlie’s post about the idiocy of people’s fears is very political. Remember the Alar issue over apples? The panic that this substance was on all our apples and that it would kill us spread so fast that and regardless of efforts to provide the truth, there were orchards and packing plants that went out of business because of the resulting boycott of apples that would not have hurt anyone because the substance washed off easily.

People do not understand basic science. Beyond that, there is a lack of understanding of basic logic. Why? Well, for one, it has always been assumed that Common Sense was a natural attribute—and in some small way, a particularly natural attribute of Americans (!) —and needed no assistance from the educational system, when nothing could be further from the truth.

In the introduction to his study of the history of rational thought, Uncommon Knowledge, Alan Cromer states: “I believe that rational civilization, with its science, arts, and human rights, is humankind’s greatest hope for nobility. But like Jericho, it’s but an oasis in the midst of a vast desert of human confusion and irrationality.”

Nancy Reagan regularly consulted an astrologer and often took the predictions offered as grounds for forcing changes of itinerary for her husband while in office. Who knows what else might have been effected as a result?

People like easy answers and quick fixes. The present financial crisis we see engulfing Wall Street is not mysterious. It could be seen coming years ago. Loaning money to people who cannot pay it back obviously will lead to illiquidity of the lender if indulged at too great a level, and that is what has happened. To be fair, many borrowers were openly lied to, the mortgages in question misrepresented. The only thing that might have halted the bleeding would have been if the borrowers, en masse, had had the intellectual tools to see bull shit for what it is. Many did not. Many others did not possess the capacity to differentiate between Need and Want. Of course, that obfuscation is a desired quality in business—many industries make their living on the inability of people to make disciplined distinctions. They would hate it if basic economics were taught in grade school on.

But everyone is acting surprised—and panicked. We are in bail-out mode because big houses, like AIG, are about to go under, and the truth is such institutions, that have been allowed to have tentacles into many areas of the financial garden, are so intertwined with our basic economies that we see it as to our benefit to keep them afloat.

And we do not understand how we got here.

Why not? Do we not understand that all the pseudo-Libertarian talk about Free Markets is nonsense?

No, apparently not.

On the reverse side, people are being driven by panic. The Stock Market lost 500 points. Omigod, that’s a disaster!

500 points out eleven thousand. We have lost our sense of proportion. That is less than five percent of total volume. By contrast, the Crash of 1929 saw the Stock Market lose almost 40% of its value in two months.

Let me quote from the Oxford Companion to United States History:

The crash did not cause the Great Depression of the 1930s. To be sure, the losses sustained by investors and the greater diufficulty firms had in floating new issues depressed the economy. But the Federal Reserve stepped in quickly, lending freely to member banks and thereby confining the crash to the financial system. During the 1930s, congressional investigations uncovered a number of unsavory practices by the essentially private, unregulated stock exchanges. In response, Congress passed the Securities Act of 1933 and the Security and Exchange Act of 1934, inaugurating active federal regulation of the securities market.

Sound familiar? And why did we need regulation? Because stupidity combined with avarice results in collateral damage to those not involved with these matters. Officially, we had 24% unemployment during the Great Depression. It was probably, judging by how the numbers get fudged today, more like 30%. We have 6% now and we feel that we are in a major meltdown.

Granted, for those out of work or on the losing end of investments, the pain is real and not to be scoffed at, but for the rest of us, our overreactions do us little credit. Sound solutions cannot be agreed upon in an atmosphere of panic, and such an atmosphere is fomented by those who have traditionally sought to lead us by the nose for their own benefit.

The regulatory system put in place in the 30s was designed to prevent something like that from ever happening again, and it worked. Why then would we dismantle it?

Because we did. We let Reagan’s cronies undo much of the regulation that had previously protected the country as a whole. We’re paying the price now for Free Market advocates getting their wish. They have turned out to be just as irresponsible as in the 20s and 30s.

But we have been frightened by accusations that regulation somehow equates directly to Socialism, and we have been convinced that Socialism is evil. The arguments which have been used to keep us from being sane and rational about such issues are tissue paper obfuscations, easily seen through by anyone with half a brain, but we as a people buy into them every time. Either we possess profound ignorance or equally profound cupidity. Probably both.

What Reagan began, Bush has all but finished. He has mounted up a debt so high that we must look far down the road to see it reduced to manageable levels, and yet he is lauded as a Conservative by people who ought to know better by virtue of the fact that they are losing their savings and their children’s future to rising costs.

Why would they believe it? It is, simply, the same mentality that leads them to accept the Chicken Little warnings about the Large Hadron Collider without question. It is easy to go find the answers to these questions, but answers are not sought. Because it seems that as a people we are trained not to look or, worse, not to trust a rational explanation. It is easier to live in constant panic-mode and hope the next guy in office will fix it all, so we can go back to our thoughtless lives.

When I was a little kid I remember looking at the exhaust from a factory and asking my dad where all that smoke went. “It just dissipates into the atmosphere.”

“But won’t the atmosphere fill up some day?”

“No, the world is too big for that.”

I was four or five. I accepted the answer, because I trusted my dad. He was an adult, after all, and adults didn’t do stupid things like children did. Now I look on that and see that my innate curiosity and skepticism was at work even then. His answer never satisfied me, but there were other things to do, so I trusted him and let it slide.

Collectively, we tend to be that way. Occasionally we ask “What about that?” and some “adult” pats our head and tells us not to worry, everything will be fine.

I grew up expecting adults to be rational. People did stupid things in the past, but supposedly we had learned not to do those things. I was too young then to realize how stupidity clings to people.

Forgive me if I use words like Stupidity and Moron. I am 53, almost 54, and I have lost all willingness to cut people slack anymore. When I walk into a convention hall filled with dealers in books and movies and jewelry and the fake ephemera of fantasyland (I’m talking about a science fiction convention now) and I see someone purporting to take pictures of your “Aura” (as in Kirlian Aura) with a device that supposedly “spikes” the aura by electricity shunted through one’s body while seated in a chair resembling a bad device from a Frankenstein movie, I get annoyed. When I see people lining up to buy said photos, people who really, I think, ought to know better, I get angry. The charlatan makes a living, the public is gulled, and the one who points out the bull shit is reviled by all.

We have no patience, it seems, for reasoned discourse, for examination of issues, for anything that would prompt us to take responsibility for our own ignorance. I speak collectively now, for I do in fact know many people who do not see the world this way, but it seems they are always and everywhere too few.

If the LHC had been built in this country, I fear that some court injunction would have been placed to prevent it from being turned on by some group convinced that it would result in a hole right through the Earth. We are saved from such silliness because the device is in Europe, where the courts, at least, seem less willing to entertain the hysterias of ignorant people.

So it comes down to which set of lies we will believe. We always end up hoping for the best. So far, the only thing that has buffered us from any truly cataclysmic harm is the sheer size and wealth of this country. But unless we start doing a little rational thinking and start seeing things for what they are, that will not last long.

I beg your pardon for expressing such pessimism.

One of the Pink is Gone

Richard Wright is dead.

Pink Floyd was unbelievably influential on me as a musician, even though I have never been quite able to define why.  Perhaps that’s not important.

I always thought something had happened that set Wright back on his heels, because the work he did within the band kept growing thinner and thinner.  Compared with the gutsy soloes of Gilmour or with other keyboardists in weaker bands, after Dark Side of the Moon he simply failed to stand out to my ear, but the ability was clearly there.

In its own way, this is as significant as the dying of the Beatles.

Beware: McCain Could Win

My cynical side compels me to state that I think it not at all unlikely that McCain will win the election.  Why?  Because We The People are generally unwilling to embrace reality.  I suppose that’s one way of saying that Americans are stupid.  Sorry, can’t help it.

Here is a New York Times piece detailing Governor Palin’s shortfalls.  Partisanship aside, this is a model of a small-town mayor who believes in controlling “her town” with a iron fist.  Unfortunately, she’s not in charge of a small town, she’s in charge of a state and she somehow doesn’t “get” that this kind of behavior is unethical.  The media—at least in print—is doing its job, bringing this stuff to the general public.

Will the public respond rationally?  Depending on which set of polls you look at, no.  It’s not so much that anyone thinks this kind of person is somehow a good politician, although there are those who will read these charges, shrug and say “So?”  It is that the charges will not be believed or they will be misunderstood.  See, the New York Times is one of those Liberal rags.

But the allegations can be checked.  These things are not hidden.  Yet the perception will be that Palin is being unfairly put upon.

There are a number of good, sound reasons to reject the McCain-Palin ticket.  There are a number of good, sound reasons to vote for Obama-Biden.  None of those will, I think, be determining factors.  The Republican’s Karl Rove Machine is back, running full-tilt-boogie, to turn this campaign into one of personalities, avoiding issues.  American’s like tough, simple-minded grit, it seems, even when there is no substance to back it up.  This is a sports nation, after all, and the intellectual doesn’t play tackle in the national psyche.  It appeared for a time that Obama had a shot, that he had managed to keep the discourse on the issues, but that’s deteriorating in favor of the soundbite of personal combat.  The Republicans have seized on the Lipstick comment like a drowning man to a life raft and are running with it as if Obama actually intended to insult Palin.  (If he had intended to insult her, he could doubtless do so in terms so elevated that they wouldn’t know how to respond—cheap shots haven’t been his style thus far.)

But it’s not McCain or Palin who will be responsible for victory should they win.  It will be the bone-deep fearful dull-witedness of the American voter who responds like a rabbit in mating season to personal attacks.  Politics in America often devolve to cut fights and that’s the game McCain is playing now.  We remember those as kids, don’t we?  The one option you didn’t have was to just not play, because that automatically tagged you a wimp and a loser.  It takes brains and maturity to realize that the game itself is worthless.  I’m afraid I’m not sanguine about our collective brains and maturity.

Gay Marriage and the State of My State

This is another repost from 2004. As the election nears, this may be something we hear more about (again!), especially since McCain has selected a pit bull for morality as a running mate—which is really a clever move, reminiscent of Nixon’s selection of Spiro Agnew to be his attack dog. Utah of course will vote red based on this kind of stuff, as will other states. It bears a re-airing, and so…

You may have heard. Missouri has become the first state in the union to establish a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. More will follow, of course, but it’s something to be the first.

I live here. This is my state.

Shame on us.

This was not, however, unexpected. Did anyone actually believe Americans, especially in the middle of the country, are ready, en masse, to embrace such a substantial change in attitude toward an institution that extends back to the murkiness of prehistory?

Prehistory. Genesis notwithstanding, I make that claim based on the fact that we have no documentary evidence that at a given moment Marriage was invented. It’s something homo sapiens brought with it into the historical period, which is really only that part of time in which we have had writing. Writing that survived, to be more specific. For all we know there may be a cache of stone tablets or whatever yet undiscovered extending that time backward reliably by a century or millennia or more. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the historical era has lasted (reliably) for ten thousand years. We can quibble over certain dates, but we’ve got evidence suggesting that humans have lived in organized social groups for at least that long, which suggests that we’ve been doing so for a lot longer. Marriage has been with us just as has been agriculture and the domesticated dog. It came with the package.

By marriage I mean a formalized union establishing what we call a Family Unit. For purposes of this discussion, I’m only interested in the Formal part of that. It’s quite self-evident that humans come together in unions of various types quite spontaneously and without the need of an overriding authority to give us permission. All the surface (and most of the deep core) attributes of marriage are manifest in self-selected associations all the time. We have never needed marriage for sex, the Fifties notwithstanding, and since the Seventies we have evolved a line on the Census to cover people with not-formalized arrangements—POSSLQ: Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters.
The fact that we have had the concept of “common-law marriage” for a long, long time proves that such arrangements have also been around for long, long time. Communities recognizing this fact decide at some point that, whether the participants like it or not, the condition constitutes a marriage. This was eminently practical in the days of expanding frontiers, when more often than not the formalizing apparatus was nowhere to be found (because just as often it was intentionally left behind, a lesson most people didn’t quite pick up on).

(I recall a hysterically funny argument in high school—my first ever encounter with a hardcore fundamentalist—over the status of Adam and Eve. Who married them? No priests and it was not stated in Genesis that they were husband and wife, but rather companions. Not only weren’t they married, but obviously they practiced some form of birth control since the kiddies didn’t show up until after they were banished from Eden. Maybe that was the definition of paradise then—lot’s of sex, free food, and no kids. The reply was that God had married them and while in a state of grace, they did not have sex. The older I get, the more I think this is fractured thinking, especially when one recognizes how often fundamentalist groups, regardless of what other purpose they may have, subjugate the women and turn them into sex toys.)

Okay, so we have this Institution called Marriage. Long history. After so much time it has become something other than a solution to a problem. We’ve hardwired it, seemingly, into our culture. Every culture has it. It’s so basic that for the most part no one questions it as a cultural phenomenon, only it’s imposition as a requirement on the individual. I may reject the idea for myself, but I don’t really question it across social landscapes. Marriage is emotionally and financially useful—so much so that all attempts to rid ourselves of it don’t even get off the ground in any meaningful way. I mean, even people like me—who do not live in a formalized union with our significant other—come in time to consider ourselves “married”. (And pleasantly so. It is not, when it works, a Bad Thing. If it were, it would not be so tenaciously part of our cultural identity.)

So we defend it. We protest over the specifics—its implementation, its uses in hiding inequities between men and women, its cultural drawbacks across social lines when questions of economic and educational status arise—but we don’t question the basic idea. We realize, at some times more than others, that we conduct it wrong, that we abuse it, that it doesn’t work the way it should, but we’ve never really questioned it as a desirable practice.

Given which, it should come as no surprise to anyone that groups who are barred from it would wish to eliminate those barriers.

This is not, historically, a Gay issue. But you can see the same arguments cycled over and over again in every instance that a social norm was challenged.

Everyone should know what Miscegenation is. If you don’t, open a dictionary. Then start checking social histories.

Basically, miscegenation is a term applied to the practice of sexual intercourse with an out group. In America, it was against the law for white people to have sex with (not to mention marry) black people. (Yes, I know, a lot of mixed blood Africans found their way to the auction block in the Old South, fetching higher prices for their lighter skins. Racial laws were in place to prevent their existence, but there you have it—and why let a little illegal screwing stop us from making some money?) Go see the movie Showboat for a dramatic example. Not only was the fictional couple unable to travel south because he was white and she a mulatto and because they were married, both could end up in jail—not only that, but the movie studio wouldn’t even allow a black woman to play the part, substituting Ava Gardner for Lena Horne. In fact, laws forbidding interracial marriage were not overturned in the United States until 1967—just in case you thought these things existed only in the Dark Ages of our history.

The LAW was brought to bear to prevent marriage between two groups society had decided shouldn’t come together that way. For a more violent, but no less savage example, look at the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany. Same idea, carried to horrific extremes.

Examples of less formalized restrictions abound—look at Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Class is more often than not the basis of such restrictions. Often religion. Aristocrats have always been barred from various associations on both those bases. The whole awkward debacle of Prince Charles and Princess Di was born out of the religious problem—the woman Charles actually wanted was (gasp) Catholic! Can’t have that. (Diana was not only the right religion, but, ostensibly, a virgin—another holdover from a less enlightened time.)

In every instance over time we have grown out of it and rejected such proscriptions. After three or four generations in this country, what difference does it make if an Italian marries a Russian, or a Protestant marries a Jew? At least, where the law is concerned. What difference does it make if a white marries a black or an Asian? The law no longer concerns itself with enforcing such restrictions because we as a society have gotten to the point of recognizing the stupidity of such laws.

But here’s a new one. People of the same sex wish to marry.

I imagine that for a lot of people who don’t initially react with the distorted horror of some religious objection, the first response is:


In one of the most superficial readings, this is a legitimate question. The basic assumption we grow up with (whether we maintain it into adulthood or not) is that marriage is for the formation of a Family. And “family” means mommy, daddy, and children. It’s a Standard Model image that is very difficult to disregard when questions of social propriety or morality or just plain tradition arise. Basic biology—you need a male and a female to make more of either.

So, the question follows, what would be the point of two men or two women getting married to each other?

I said superficial. For this question to have any real meaning, one has to accept the most basic concept of the purpose of marriage.

But once you put it that way—The Purpose of Marriage–you open the box and let out the genie, because up to that point most people don’t actually regard marriage as having A Purpose. It’s one of those things that simply Is. We marry because we’ve always married. Because in its way, it is Natural. What need to discuss Purpose when considering something Natural? What is the purpose of a flower?

And at that point, if one has a scintilla of intellectual honesty, one realizes that marriage is not natural. Sexual partnering is. Living in a community is. Friendship is. But the formal condition of Marriage is an invention. Like rituals. Like all communal institutions. It’s an artifice imposed upon us, which we impose or embrace ourselves, but it is not Natural. It has Purpose. We do it for certain reasons. We don’t do it to find love—love, it is presumed, is already there before the proposal is made. (We certainly don’t do it to maintain love—it doesn’t work, obviously.)

All the emotional components of a bonded relationship happen between two people whether there is a formal arrangement or not. So what do we do marriage for? Stripped of its romanticized components–which happen outside, in spite of, but certainly independent of marriage—we find a social form that fulfills certain requirements of community.

Rousseau had it pretty right—it’s a contract.

No, really. You might be surprised how many people don’t—or won’t—see it that way, but under all the pretty clothes, big cakes, photographs, champagne, and hoopla, society in fact does see it that way. Fill out these forms, meet these criteria, and you too can enter into a contractual obligation that makes you into a fiscal unit obligated for each others’ debts, with all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges thereto appertaining. The interface between family and society has always rested on one basic question: Who’s going to pay for what?

This may sound cold, but when it works, this has proven to be a very efficient boon to the human condition. Just consider the one aspect of this debate that has everyone so concerned—children. Until the last century, reliable contraception has been, well, not. Hit or miss. Often people with money got better product or could afford to “take care of” the problem by other means. Children are the inevitable by-product of humans indulging in sex without benefit of contraception. (This is a no-brainer, and may be too obvious to even state, but I don’t make assumptions like that anymore: people are dense when it comes to certain topics.) Children require.

Children require Everything. They are, to put it as bluntly as possible, expensive.

So who will pay for them?

My theory is that the institution of marriage evolved over time to by law and custom divide the responsibilities for children in such a way that the community would not be adversely affected by their production. In other words, once you’re married, whatever you produce is your responsibility. You pay for it.

Now, of course, the community will help. The way it’s come down to us today, the community will help a lot. Schools, doctors, daycare, etc etc, in various forms and to different degrees, the community provides support for families. Always has. The inadequacies of that support are legitimate political questions, but underlying it is the assumption that there is a division of labor. You, the parents, will do XYZ, we the community will do ABC, and somewhere between those extremes we will have a working social structure.

But marriage is the legal framework.

Illegitimacy, although not the stigma it once was, still has drawbacks unless the parent that keeps the kids is very careful, very resourceful, and very There. The relationship between community and single parent is somewhat different. We’re working on it.
But because we’re working on it, because it’s becoming less stigmatizing, it is clear that marriage is no more than one possible arrangement of the social contract. It’s not the only thing that will work for us.

However, it’s so old, so well practiced, so ingrained, that it is in many ways the easiest way to handle all these matters. All the benefits accrue to the married couple without their even being aware of it.

It’s that lack of awareness that pushes issues like Gay marriage into the realm of morality as opposed to a logistical problem. Because people who don’t think about it believe marriage is somehow natural, who don’t understand that it is a contractual arrangement that simply helps keep the proverbial boat unrocked, they see this issue as something Unnatural and therefore a religious issue rather than a social issue. (Of course, we have conflated religious and social issues in such a way that it is often difficult to tease them apart.)

By now—after all the debating, the media coverage, the outraged speeches from both sides, and the judicial reactions across the country—it might occur to some people to ask: what rights? I mean, part of the problem of debating this issue is that we in fact live in such an open society, with so few restrictions on personal behavior (yes, I said so few, all you who think we live in an oppressive state take note) that the difference between a married couple and a couple simply cohabiting is hardly noticeable. Those differences only emerge in extreme circumstances.

Representative Henry Hyde (R-Ill), while chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary in 1996, requested that the General Accounting Office make up a list identifying “federal laws in which benefits, rights and privileges are contingent on marital status.” The GAO response ran to 75 pages. You can go look at it online, at

It turns out there are over a 1000 federal benefits. Add to those roughly 400 state benefits, and you can see that this is not a question of just a few “niceties” married people enjoy that make little difference. It makes a huge difference.

The laws break down into 14 groups:

Social security and related programs
Housing, food stamps
veterans benefits
federal civilian and military service benefits
employment benefits
immigration, naturalization, aliens
trade, commerce, intellectual property
financial disclosure and conflict of interest
crimes and family violence
loans, guarantees, payments in agriculture
federal natural resources and related laws
Among those, let’s list a few of the biggies:

judicial protections and evidentiary immunity
crime victims’ recovery benefits
joint filing of customs claims when traveling
veterans’ discounts on medical care, education, homes loans
joint filing of tax returns
inheritance of jointly-owned real and personal property through the right of survivorship
joint insurance policies for auto, home, and health
next of kin status in cases of illness or accident
joint parenting, joint adoption
wrongful death benefits
inheritance automatically in the absence of a will

Many of these benefits can be arranged by legal instrument, if one takes the time and trouble and spends the money on the paperwork. But many cannot be had, regardless. For instance, outside of marriage there’s no guarantee of joint responsibility to the partner and to third parties (children) in such areas as child support, debts to creditors, taxes, and so on.

A lot of this has to do with money. Please note.

Money money money. Money makes de vorld go round, de vorld go round, de vorld go round…at least in the bromide made famous by Joel Gray. Ahem.

We have a lot of myths about marriage these days. Ask anybody and they will tell you that the divorce rate is at fifty percent. It’s not. The peak was reached in 1980-81 and it was 22.6 divorces per 1000 married women over the age 15. As of 2000 it had declined to 18.9 (Personally, I don’t think divorce as such is a terrible thing. We make mistakes. The idea of living unto death with a mistake just isn’t, well, good. We complicate the issue with children, though, and that is a whole other issue—and again it mainly concerns money. It does. Really. Child support, alimony, custody battles. I suppose in that last other issues enter in, like philosophy, religion, mutual animosity. But the legal structure we’ve built around the question of child custody in divorce overwhelming addresses the money issue.)

Average age of first marriage today is around 27, which is the oldest in the history of the United States.

Cohabitation is way up. That’s why unmarried couples now get a line in the census. There are close to five million unmarried couples now. There was a time you could be arrested and sentenced to prison for that. State laws, mostly, a lot of which are still on the books, but the sheer numbers militate against any kind of law enforcement crack down on what today nearly 70 % of young people take as a right and consider a good idea, at least as a prelude to marriage.

Pregnancy rates have declined, and are still declining, even though as a percentage of population unmarried pregnancy has risen.

That last is important because it directly relates to one of the chief reasons in the past to get married. There are two things to be said about it. The first, and most obvious, is that marriage to start a family is now an elective. People choose to marry, to start families…or not. Because they can. Not only because effective contraception is available, but because the economic opportunities for women have exploded since 1960. Then, a woman would have to be rich or nuts or profoundly unlucky to be stuck raising a child on her own. The job market was closed tight, as a legacy of the post WWII employment adjustment (which kicked a competent, powerful female work force out of jobs for returning veterans to take, and then made every effort possible to instate a single-breadwinner family model according to a stereotype that HAD NEVER EXISTED BEFORE in large enough numbers to merit the attempt) and women simply could not find work that paid sufficiently to raise a family on their own.

The daughters of Rosie the Riveter changed this by the mid-70s. Or at least started to. We’re still fighting over it, and pay equity is still one of the biggest thorns in the social briar patch. But it is changing.

We’re not talking about a small amount of money here. If you are an employer with a payroll of a hundred workers, and you can, by whatever means, pay a significant portion of them less–say by a third–depending on the gender make-up of your staff (which should be roughly two-fifths female, I think), you’re looking at enormous savings. If the bases for that pay disparity disappears, your bottomline just got smaller. Multiply that across the fiscal landscape of society and we’re talking about a chunk of change.

We still, financially at least, prefer that model we erected in the 50s. Male breadwinner, stay-at-home mom. When women charged through the doors into the work force, the economy made adjustments. The buying power of a dollar decreased, the wages of that single breadwinner did not keep pace, requiring two incomes to maintain or do slightly better. The price of women entering the professions, of taking their place as part of the labor force, was the devaluing of the paycheck. Hey, remove the gender question, and just ask what happens when you dump a third to one half more workers into a labor pool and expect the economy to absorb them. You get inflation, you get a value squeeze, and you get a changed social contract.

Where it becomes obvious that there is a bias can be seen in the credit industry. Single women have more difficulty getting loans. When a divorce occurs, despite the contribution she may have made to the marriage—she may have paid the lion’s share of the bills, in fact—the credit benefit goes to the man, not her. She has to rebuild from scratch. Now, what actual monetary benefit comes of this lopsided mind set I’m not sure—but I am sure there is one. All these things conspire, subversively, to drive women to seek a new marriage. It just becomes easier. When you add the fact that if she has majority custody of children (and often even when she doesn’t) and the added burden of expense on that, plus the fact that she is likely earning less at her job (most of the child support will be going into daycare and school expenses, possibly medical expenses, and doubtless there is a shortfall) AND that she has a harder time getting the same kind of credit established as her male counterpart, well, it must seem simply practical to jump once more into the marriage pool—which, if that one goes bad as well, leaves her with exactly the same credit problems she had after the last one.

Why am I harping on all this in an editorial about gay marriage? Well, I’m glad you asked that.

Because if marriage becomes a civil institution legally shorn of all gender qualifications, then none of the aforementioned equity problems can long stand. If the credit industry is suddenly forced to choose between two divorcing males over who “inherits” the credit and who gets penalized; if they are suddenly forced to contend with how to determine who is the dominant breadwinner in a two-female relationship; if employers find that family leave, parental rights, and loss-time due to caretaker duties has no gender basis; if lending institutions find that they can no longer make assumptions about future marital arrangements when considering a loan to a single/divorced/alternately married individual, then the financial (read, book-cooking) bases for inequality disintegrate.

Why? Because by legalizing gay marriage (and, yes, all you terrified neocons who think the end of the world is nigh because of such things, all the other alternative arrangements, like polygamy, line marriages, communes, etc etc) you legally make marriage an institution between two individuals, with all rights accruing thereto, AND THAT’S IT. No other assumptions can be made.

Of course things will change. But things have already changed. And will continue to change.

A word to those who view this as a strictly moral issue. A great deal has been said about how homosexuality is undermining of “traditional values” and that legitimizing it will bring moral ruin. There are two ways to address this.

The first is to point out that the so-called “moral ruin” attaching to homosexuality is a matter of ostracization. The illegality of it in the past set up a circumstance in which gays found themselves entering clandestine lifestyles in order to find fulfillment—which, of course, since the practices involved could not be conducted in the open like “normal” (read “legal”) relationships, fulfillment became virtually unattainable. Certainly, since openness was impossible, guilt accrued to the act, not so much because the impulse was wrong, but because one had to break the law to do it. Most people, quite outside their sexual orientation, desire to be good citizens, and when forced by circumstance to violate the law or custom, a erosion of one’s sense of citizenship is likely. Look at Prohibition. We turned hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of previously law-abiding citizens into criminals by a change in the law, and one result was the solid establishment of a criminal subculture with which we live to this day. Since it has stopped being the actionable issue of days past, and gays live openly, the moral wrack and ruin has failed to transpire—unless you are one so rooted in apocalyptic neuroses that the very fact that gays live openly constitutes that wrack and ruin.

The second, of course, is to draw the venom of Scripture on which much of this moral condemnation is based. The key passage is Leviticus 18:22. When you read the rest of that chapter, you find it is a whole screed about proper sexual conduct. Taboos about incest can be found here as well. Expand your reading throughout Leviticus and you find all kinds of stuff which no one today, with the exception of a few fringe cults, would tolerate for a minute. Just for a sample, check out Leviticus chapter 12—this concerns the rituals of childbirth, with references to “uncleanness”. You will note that giving birth to a male child is less unclean than giving birth to a female. Leviticus 15 deals with “sexual impurities” and, of course, the woman gets the worst end of the rules. The first half concerns men with, essentially, the Clap. But the second half deals with a woman’s menstrual cycle.

But there are others. Leviticus 20 is the penalty chapter. Verse 9 through 17 lists a number of offenses all of which carry the death penalty. Cursing ones parents brings a death sentence. There is somewhere in all this a prescribed “price” for deflowering a man’s daughter. Fine, uplifting family values stuff.

Anyway, the passage I wish to deal with in this context concerns the applicability of Leviticus to our situation. We go back to Leviticus 18, verses 24 and 25, to wit: “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these practices, for it was by such things that the nations that I have expelled to make way for you made themselves unclean. The land became unclean; I exacted the penalty for its fault and the land had to vomit out its inhabitants.”

Now, this pertains, of course, to the Chosen People moving into Canaan, from which, presumably, the previous residents were expelled. Of course, Joshua had to do battle with some holdouts, but that’s a trifle.

Did the land “vomit out” its inhabitants? Apparently not. The entire region, however, was vacated by the Hittite during a massive catastrophe, the details about which we are still rather fuzzy, but seem to have had something to do with the Trojan War. See, it was around the same time. Troy fell and in the aftermath Something Big happened, remarked in many places around the Mediterranean. I would guess a massive economic collapse. The Trojan War, if Homer is to be believed even a little bit, lasted ten years and involved huge resources. Troy was a crossroads in a vast trading network. Its demise no doubt caused more than a little difficulty.

What does this have to do with Moses and the Tribes? The area into which they moved had been part of the Hittite sphere. A hinterland, really. In the political, economic, and military vacuum following the collapse of the Hittite Empire, the Hebrews moved in against demoralized, unsupported provincials, and kicked them out. Yahweh didn’t do it. Global politics did. Once the Hittite recovered, becoming the Babylonian Empire, they easily swept down, reconquered what had become Israel, and the second Hebrew Exile began.

Between these two events we have the stories of Joshua, Saul, David, and Solomon. And to a large extent, these people lived in a Hellenized world. Greek culture dominated everywhere except Egypt, which took a while to become Hellenized under the Ptolemies. This is important in relation to the story of David and Jonathan. It makes perfect sense in Greek terms, and it was perfectly homoerotic.

And David was the favored of Yahweh.

He also had a man killed so he could take his wife. He remained God’s favorite. He had several hundred wives. Still a favorite. Solomon, his son, had more wives, and lots of concubines, and was one of the principle characters in one of the more erotic love stories in history.

The inconsistency of Yahweh in these matters makes sense when you realize that all these laws, rather than coming down from Sinai, were manmade. No, I don’t expect fundamentalists to be swayed, but I do expect a little perspective from people less radicalized in their religious outlook. If homosexuality makes you uncomfortable, it’s YOUR problem—you may not refer to Scripture to legitimize your prejudice. Live with it. There is not one single passage in the Bible that says anything at all about gay marriage. There are three beautiful love stories that are clearly homosexual. Ruth and Naomi (the word “clave” is used to describe their relationship, which is exactly the same word used in describing husband-wife relationships); David and Jonathan; and Daniel and Ashpenaz (the Hebrew describing their relationship is chesed v’rachimin–chesed translates as “mercy” but v’rachimin, which is used in a plural form suggesting more than one of its usual meanings, which includes “physical love”).

But go ahead, peruse Leviticus, read all the rules and restrictions and requirements. The point I wish you to understand is—we don’t do that stuff anymore. Not for a long time have we considered these rules, most of them, useful, nor have we taken to heart the penalties for noncompliance. We live—and have lived for a long while now—in a post-Levitical world.

And civilization has not come to a halt. In fact, there has been considerable improvement.

So why pick and choose among laws we no longer pay any attention to when we find one that agrees with our prejudices and claim that we’re in violation of God’s law when we ignore it? (The answer is too obvious to state. I hope so, anyway.)

When we hear conservative opposition to same-sex marriage, there is always the claim that marriage is between a man and woman for the purpose of having children. While this is certainly the way a majority of marriages play out, it is ridiculous to assume that this is the only reason to be married. But it does in fact support the contention that marriage is, ultimately, an institution with strong, if not primarily, monetary concerns. The production of children has traditionally been a measure of potential wealth for the community. We have entered a period in which this is no longer the case, but it takes time for custom to catch up to reality. It is nevertheless an imposition of prejudice, seeking to dictate not only to gay couples but to straight couples what they OUGHT to be doing. Perhaps when gay marriage is recognized and legitimate, we heterosexuals might find other, more relevant reasons for marriage across the board.

The bigot will not be swayed. The bigot must be defeated. The bigot hates and then finds justification for hatred. The first thing to do in the fight against bigotry is to learn. If this exegesis has in any way aided that particular quest, well, good. But let me make this final observation: bigotry like this stands only in ignorance, and not simply book ignorance. I have found in my life that it becomes impossible to hate people different from me once I know them (barring, of course, the obvious—ax murderers, rapists, environmental despoilers…but even these people I don’t exactly hate, so much as fail to understand). It’s easy to buy into stereotypes until you have to deal with someone who is supposed to fit that stereotype, and discover that what you thought you knew just isn’t true.

But for now I live in Missouri, which has decided to enact its ignorance into law. I return once more to my theme, that a whole lot of money is being spent on this issue, by those who are more afraid of having to correct the inequities still extant in so-called “normal” relationships than any kind of apocalyptic fall-out from allowing same-sex marriage. They play upon the uninformed fears of those who still believe marriage is—at least as far as society is concerned—a matter of romance and “traditional” family values. Of course, marriage is that. But that doesn’t need defending. I doubt you could hurt it where it truly exists between two people who love and respect each other, enough to make a lifelong commitment.

No, the only thing you could damage is the legal standing to deny humanity to people you don’t care for. Whether they’re gay or straight.

Phyllis Schlafly for President

Since Palin’s from Alaska, I thought it appropriate to post this link from an Anchorage newspaper. This ought to get plenty of circulation in the next couple of months. Even if, as the article indicates, Palin’s questions regarding the censorship of library materials was “rhetorical” it nevertheless is informative that the question would even occur to her.

Compare the toned-down “rhetoric” of Palin’s approach to the more forthright and visceral approach of another grand lady of the Right, Phyllis Schafly, here prescribing a cure for campus mass murder.

So far, Palin’s main success at censorship seems to have been imposed on her future son-in-law, Levi Johnson, whose MySpace page was rendered “Private” after the convention. Among other things the young man asserted there was his disdain for marriage and his love of profanity. In all likelihood, he wasn’t about to marry Bristol, who apparently has benefited from the Abstinence Only education the Republicans have been pushing and, if Mrs. Palin is anything to go by, will continue to push in a McCain presidency.

My point here is very simple. The title of the post is for those remaining Hillary diehards who may still be considering a vote for McCain out of protest over Obama’s winning the Democratic nomination. Ask yourselves if, just to have a woman in the White House, you would vote for Phyllis Schlafly. Because that’s about what a vote for McCain would amount to, especially now. McCain is 72, cancer-prone. Even if he doesn’t die in office, there may be times when he is incapacitated, which would leave the estimable Mrs. Palin in charge.

Her comment about the difference between pit bulls and hockey moms is telling. I know, I know, it was humor. Wasn’t it? I know a lot of women who like being compared to a dog. It was the lipstick punchline that held the main clue, which is to say that Mrs. Palin, in default mode, thinks of women about the same way Phyllis Schlafly does. Those who find themselves in special situations where they can have careers is fine, for those women, but a concerted effort to alter the social landscape to accept the idea that women are more than a facade with a family is unacceptable.

Palin has already egregiously misrepresented her record. This won’t matter to her base, which lives and dies on the proper spin, but each and every instance ought to be held to the same scrutiny Obama has been and is about to receive.