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The Hunger Games

Hello all, it’s been awhile since I posted but I read an article in the Washington Post this morning that requires a response. The article by Eli Laslow is here. This article was fine in its writing and theme. I will say, for something getting as much praise on twitter as it has, it lacks much critical analysis. Its seeming objectivity veils the deeper questions that the article raises.

I have no real opinion on the bus service that provides lunches. I do wonder why the churches in Appalachia have failed to take up this important mission. The irony in the bus driver’s name of Bible is not lost, and makes the story that much more poignant. The real issue that I have with the story though is the tale of the Laughren family of six that are hungry and bored. Laslow presents them as victims to be pitied. I have a problem with that.

First, the five children are left home alone with no adult supervision and caring for an infant. While there is nothing wrong with this and it has been done for centuries, it is indicative of a bad situation.

Second, this family gets $593 in assistance. They spent $520 in two weeks and have no food in the house. There are six people, but this should be more than enough for the family for the month. The reason it’s not is made evident in the article. Pre-made sandwiches, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Doritos, and corn chips. This is what the money is being spent on. There is no examination of this in the article. No critical analysis of why these children have no food or why they are “bored.” There is no solutions offered. No mention of the fact that a box of pasta and a jar of sauce costs three dollars and will provide the entire family with a meal and vegetables. Usually in a situation like this there are lack of options. The lack of quality grocery stores is a problem in many parts of this country including Baltimore City. However, the article stated that there was a grocery store less than a mile from where these folks lived. This is not a problem that Laughren family have.

A better solution than a bus providing bologna sandwiches to these people would be teaching them how to manage the money that is provided to them. A condition of receiving assistance should be classes on financial management. Teach them how to make it work. If they do not want to learn, then that is on them and they are no longer given support. Maybe by spending a little more money on these classes the bus and food costs later will not need to be spent.

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Going to the Chapel

This past week it seemed all that anyone on social media was talking about was gay marriage. This is because of the two Supreme Court cases that were heard last week. Everybody was changing their avatar to an equal sign and what not. I’m going to speak to that a bit later in my post but first I want to tell a story.

My wife is Jewish. This week we celebrated Passover with family and tonight we got our Ketubah from the frame shop. A Ketubah is the literal marriage contract that Jews sign when they get married. It is a contract. For centuries and millennia this is the ways that the Jews have performed their marriage ceremony. By signing a contract. Once you do that, you are married there is no more ceremony needed. However, there are additional vows that can be taken and performed. My wife, the good Jewess that she is wanted all of these things at our wedding. She wanted the Ketubah. She wanted the Huppah, a canopy under which the ceremony is performed. She wanted to spin around seven times like Joshua did to Jericho. She wanted to break the glass. She wanted to do all of this in a synagogue. She would have preferred to do it in her synagogue, but I not being Jewish meant that they would not marry us there. So we go and see another rabbi to see if that rabbi will marry us. It was the most uncomfortable meeting of my life.

During this meeting with this rabbi, I felt like I was a worthless piece of scum. That is the way the rabbi made me feel for not being Jewish and having the audacity to think that I could get married in this synagogue without converting to Judaism. To this rabbi it was the most unthinkable thing possible.  Personally, I believe in God but not in religion. I do not think any person can comprehend the awesomeness of God and I certainly do not believe that man was created in God’s image. That is some hubris. Now I am not an idiot so I did not say these things during the meeting. I did not have too. Me not being a Jew was enough to be denigrated. The simple fact that I would not convert(as if I could) was enough to be quickly shown the door. If this rabbi would treat us like this and basically laugh in our faces for wanting to be married in a synagogue, then no rabbi would marry us in a synagogue.

In the end we were married Jewish, by a cantor, in a country club, under a huppah that I made and my boys put together. We have also ran into that rabbi and have had much better interactions, and I am sure it was nothing personal. It was strictly business. The religion would not allow such a union. Technically, there are some people who would still not consider us married.

This is what gets me about this current “marriage” equality debate. What is marriage? Is it the thing issued by the government? Does it have to be “before God?” Do the religious folks believe that atheists can get married?

The real problem is that states issue marriage “licenses.” They issue them just like fishing, hunting, or driver’s license’s. Does the reader know how one get’s a marriage license in Maryland? One of the parties goes to the circuit court and tells them the social security numbers. That’s it. The bride and groom do not even both have to be there. I am actually really shocked that there is not a huge amount of fraud and people collecting benefits from their “spouses.”

You can go to the courthouse and get married. In some states there is no requirement for a ceremony or to go to the courthouse at all. How sacred is that? Marriage simply has three meanings. It has a legal meaning that gives you tax benefits, social security benefits, testate benefits, and other advantages. It has a religious meaning as a sacrament. Finally it has a relationship meaning that is particular to each couple.

Going back to the topic de jure, what does all of this mean for “marriage equality?” Well first of all, Justice Kennedy is not going to see your Facebook page so changing the avatar is a bit obnoxious. Let us be honest, Justice Kennedy is the only person that matters. He will decide the two Supreme Court cases. The amazing part of all of this is that ten years ago to the day of the arguments in the  Prop 8 case were the arguments in Lawrence v. Texas. That case prohibited governments from criminalizing consentual sexual activity between adults. If Justice Kennedy wants force gay marriage on the country he can. If he wants to keep it in California, he can. If he wants to not allow it in California, he can. I have no real feel for the constitutional issues surrounding the Prop 8 case. Marriage is a fundamental right according to the Supreme Court. Restrictions on marriage are subject to strict scrutiny. The court in Maryland previously got around this by saying “gay” marriage is not a fundamental right. That case Conaway v. Deane is a actually really absurd. If marriage is a fundamental right, there is no reason to exclude gays from that right. You can argue procreation, but infertile couples are not prohibited from marriage. You can argue religion, but atheists are not prohibited from marrying. There is no rational reason to exclude them other than that is the way that is has always been done. That’s not an argument. Can Californians vote to outlaw this right? Do initiatives need rational basis? Then there a whole host of standing issues.

The Defense of Marriage Act case seems more cut and dry. The federal government is not allowed to change a state’s definition of marriage. It has never done so and the Constitution’s full faith and credit clause and the tenth amendment do not allow it to do so now. The more interesting question is actually foreign marriages. Is a gay marriage in Canada valid under US law, maybe for immigration purposes? Why or why not?

The real solution is eliminate civil marriages all together. Eliminate the issuance of marriage “licenses.” The state has just as much right to issue a marriage license as it does to issue a baptismal certificate. None. In fact by issuing marriage licenses and not recognizing marriage between same sex partners the state can be infringing on certain religions that are more than willing to perform those marriages. Get the government involvement out of marriage and the religious issues disappear. However, in the mean time, let any loving couple who wants a state issued license have one. Maybe just make it a bit harder for everyone to get one, if the state insists on issuing them.

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L’dor Vador

From generation to generation. As I write here this Thursday night, my wife is yet to come home from work. I just finished my Podcast talking about how the older generation needs to let go and pass on their knowledge, power, and influence to the next.

I do not really know what generation I am. I was born in 1979. If that makes me generation X, generation y, or a millenial I have no idea. I know I was in 1st grade when the Challenger blew up, in 4th grade when the Berlin Wall fell, and in my second year of law school on 9/11. Those are the 3 true where were you moments of my life.

I graduated law school ten years ago. I have been married for four. Life goes on. The question becomes, when does the older generation cede power to a new force? When does the helmet come off of Vader? Presently, there are massive institutional changes happening both on a world and local level. There is a new Bishop of Rome. There will be new middle linebackers and free safeties at M & T Bank Stadium come September 5. A more libertarian Republican party is emerging. There are problems with all of these things.

Is the new Pope a great change or more of the same? There has been much questioning of the church. Many wish it to go in a direction that is unlikely. They want a recognition of female priests, abortion, gay marriage and many other things they are proper. These people are delusional. The fact that the church will reform to some degree is great. Such great change as desired is not feasible. The change in a two thousand year old institution is slow. Slow and steady wins the race. We should all know this by now. Change takes time. It is not instant. The fact that Francis is from South America and chose a new name is progress. Let us see what happens with the rest of the problems.

The Ravens are reigning world champions. They did not win the trophy by being stupid. They did not win the trophy by being sentimental. They won it by being smarter. They know what they are doing and deserve the benefit of the doubt and fans have no right to complain for at least five years if things are going poorly. Remember that banner that will be raised. It was magical. This is the price to pay for it. Five straight years of playoff appearances. Five straight years of wins in the playoffs. No complaints. I may very well name my first born Reed. That does not mean that the Ravens should overpay for him. Right player, right price. Come and talk to me on September 6. I will be in Vegas but I will know if we have won the night before and whether to despair. Until then, and even for five more years, no complaining. It is time for a new generation. Number 52 passed it on during the playoff run. It is time for fans to accept it.

The Republican Party is also undergoing a transformation. Justin Amash is speaking out against silly go along to get along policies. Rand Paul is taking his father’s torch and sprinting with it. There is excitement that has been lacking since Reagan. Excitement is the key. The Party needs to focus on the youth and the next generation. Pass it on. This nation has been at war for a dozen years. My nephew is in first grade and a genius. He has not lived in a country not at war. He has not lived in a country not spying on its citizens. He has not lived in a country not indefinitely detaining people. This is shameful. Why do Americans  not feel shame? We need a party that points out the folly of unlimited war and unlimited spending. It may be happening. The old guard is pushing back. It is fighting against the “wackobirds.” They have power and do not want to lose it. No entity that has power wants to lose it. The question is not what is best for those in power, but what is best for the majority. I say let it go man. Let it go. There are those that have ideas and those that have desire who can make it better for all of us. Personally, I have drank too much Dewar’s to properly enunciate my opinions, but a Republican party that lacks the ick factor would be welcome. As I become more acquainted with some of the more, shall we say, fringe elements of the Libertarian Party, I become more disconcerted. They are very fringe. There is a lack of pragmatism. There is a lack of reality. There is a process that must be followed. Sure the government should not be involved in marriage, but they are and we must figure out how to deal with it. We need to figure out how to deal with the situation on the ground, not how we want it to be. How can we make government less invasive in our lives? How can we reduce the laws and regulations in existence? This should be the priority. It is up to the new generation to figure out the solution. It is time for the old timers to hang it up. This goes for McCain and the New Age Outlaws. L’dor Vador.


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New Radio show tomorrow night

I will be hosting another Blog Talk Radio show tomorrow night. I will be talking about how one generation passes to the next. We will discuss wrestling, the Ravens, the Pope, and Republican politics. I am sure I will be posting follow-up here. Listen live tomorrow at 11 here

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Ok now what

So I did my second podcast tonight. It went much better than the first and I will continue to get better at it. One point I didn’t explore enough is how many people really know what happened on the Senate floor yesterday? Will that filibuster and the surrounding hoopla on Twitter translate to the masses? And if not why not? I now think it may. For two reasons, the Baltimore Sun and the Daily Show. These traditional liberal media outlets praising Senator Paul will greatly help. The fact of the matter is that this is not a partisan issue. Most issues aren’t. We have problems and they need solutions. My answer is that government is not the solution to all of the problems. As a society we need to acknowledge that life is dangerous and no one is going to make it out alive. We need to stop trying for perfect security be it from terrorists (who if they had the capability would have done much more damage in the US by now), from sugary 20 oz. drinks, from guns, or from marijuana.

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Stand with Rand

As I write this blog Senator Rand Paul is in the seventh hour of a filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan for director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Paul is not really attempting to defeat the nomination. Because of the composition of the senate the nomination will be approved once the vote is held, once Paul sits down and cedes the floor. Until he sits down, there will be no vote. However, this is not about the CIA director. This about the use of drones. Both in America and around the world.

The Attorney General of the United States testified before a senate committee that the US government could use drones to assassinate Americans on American soil. This follows the assassination of two Americans in Yemen. One of those Americans was sixteen years old. He did not have a trial. There was no indictment of a grand jury. There was no attorney. There was no cross examination of witnesses. There was no due process of law. Now the question is could this happen in America. Could this happen to you or me?

Rand Paul wants an answer to this. He has not gotten it yet. He has continued to ask it. He got some support from fellow Republicans and one Democrat. He has the support of the ACLU. He has the support of the Libertarian Party. He will talk presumably until he gets an answer.

The question is what will that answer be. Based on Attorney General Holder’s statement, there are clearly times when drones (or other military force) can be used on American citizens. Clearly, this raises the specter of 9/11. Would a drone have shot down a plane filled with innocent Americans to prevent it from crashing into the Capitol? The answer to that probably is yes, and rightly so. But that’s not what was said. The question was could American citizens be killed while sitting in a cafe. That was not answered.

There is a lot to be said of the hypocrisy of both Republicans and Democrats on civil liberties. Democrats are very vociferous when a Republican war monger is in the White House. When a Democrat is dropping bombs and missiles in Yemen and Pakistan, they line up behind him. Republicans are worse because they do nothing when their precious defense spending may be endangered. Thankfully Senator Paul has spoken for American citizens. Rights are not taken in a fell swoop. They are degraded gradually, slowly, as a river erodes rocks or the tide erodes a beach. First they bomb Pakistanis and you say nothing because you are not Pakistani. Then they bomb Americans living in Yemen and you say nothing because you don’t live in Yemen. What happens when they start bombing Americans here? This past week a teen was arrested because he had the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song as his ring tone. A man was jailed for criticizing a judge. Here in Maryland, a boy was suspended for molding his Pop Tart into a gun. When is it going to stop? When will we as citizens wake up? We all have our lives and soccer matches and parent teacher conferences and bourbon to drink and work and play, but, but one day we will wake up and the drones will be flying over head, the cameras will be watching us, and we will wonder how we got here.

I don’t know if Orwell or Huxley were right. I think as a society we are too cynical to ever succumb to such issues. But ultimately we have to know that the degradation of rights are happening. We need to take some risk. We need to sacrifice security for liberty. We need a reevaluation of the role of government in our lives. I hope that when we wake up twenty years from now we will not have always been at war with EastAsia.

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