Sunday, June 28, 2015

Yes bassist Chris Squire has died at age 67.

Chris Squire founded Yes with singer Jon Anderson in the late '60s. He died of leukemia today.

Squire was the only member to appear on all 21 Yes albums, from 1969 to 2014.

Wikipedia says:

He was widely regarded as the dominant bass guitarist among the early seventies British progressive rock bands, influencing peers and later generations of bassists with his incisive sound and elaborately contoured, melodic bass lines.
Here's a live performance of "Roundabout," from their classic 1971 album Fragile.

You can more clearly see Squire's instrumental prowess in this 2003 performance of "Heart of the Sunrise," from the same album:

A fan comments on the band's Facebook page:
Sick to my stomach. I ordered a signed copy of the "Fish out of Water" CD [Squire's only solo album] and when it was held up due to a postal strike in the UK he personally called me on my cell phone to apologize. That's the man Chris Squire was.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A weird sentence from Chief Justice Roberts's dissent in the same-sex marriage case:

People denied a voice are less likely to accept the ruling of a court on an issue that does not seem to be the sort of thing courts usually decide.
My mom (Ann Althouse) responds:
But this does seem to be the sort of thing courts usually decide. And I think people will accept it quite readily. In fact, I think the overall reaction will be one of relief that we don't have to keep chewing over this issue. Let people get back to their personal relationships that were always going on anyway. The country wasn't collapsing because gay people love each other and seek the legal aspects of permanence.
What I'd like to know is: how did Roberts decide that this is not the kind of issue "courts usually decide"? That itself is a decision. What's the standard for saying the Supreme Court shouldn't decide an issue? Is it just based on whether the Justices have a bad feeling about the whole thing? And aren't issues of minority rights exactly the kinds of issues that are often very important for the Supreme Court to decide?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Now that the Supreme Court has recognized same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, does it follow that there must be a right to polygamy?

Of course, some people are quick to make that argument today — like Fredrik deBoer, who writes in Politico:

Now that we’ve defined that love and devotion and family isn’t driven by gender alone, why should it be limited to just two individuals? The most natural advance next for marriage lies in legalized polygamy . . . .

In Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissenting opinion, he remarks, “It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage.” As is often the case with critics of polygamy, he neglects to mention why this is a fate to be feared. . . .

[P]rogressives who reject the case for legal polygamy often don’t really appear to have their hearts in it. They seem uncomfortable voicing their objections, clearly unused to being in the position of rejecting the appeals of those who would codify non-traditional relationships in law. They are, without exception, accepting of the right of consenting adults to engage in whatever sexual and romantic relationships they choose, but oppose the formal, legal recognition of those relationships. They’re trapped, I suspect, in prior opposition that they voiced from a standpoint of political pragmatism in order to advance the cause of gay marriage.

In doing so, they do real harm to real people. Marriage is not just a formal codification of informal relationships. It’s also a defensive system designed to protect the interests of people whose material, economic and emotional security depends on the marriage in question. If my liberal friends recognize the legitimacy of free people who choose to form romantic partnerships with multiple partners, how can they deny them the right to the legal protections marriage affords?

Polyamory is a fact. People are living in group relationships today. The question is not whether they will continue on in those relationships. The question is whether we will grant to them the same basic recognition we grant to other adults: that love makes marriage, and that the right to marry is exactly that, a right. . . .

Conventional arguments against polygamy fall apart with even a little examination. Appeals to traditional marriage, and the notion that child rearing is the only legitimate justification of legal marriage, have now, I hope, been exposed and discarded by all progressive people. What’s left is a series of jerry-rigged arguments that reflect no coherent moral vision of what marriage is for, and which frequently function as criticisms of traditional marriage as well.
Well, I'm sorry, deBoer, but you're missing something. Oh, I admit your argument has a certain appeal on the surface: how can we say a policy that excluded people from the institution of marriage based on their gender or sexual orientation was unconstitutional discrimination, without saying the same thing of a policy that excludes people based on their number? If it doesn't matter whether you're male or female, straight or gay, then how can it matter whether you're 2, 3, 5, 10, or 50 people?

But polygamy is significantly different — even assuming for the sake of argument that we have no concerns about coercion or power disparities within any given polygamous relationship. As my mom, Ann Althouse, explained 9 years ago:
Legal marriage isn't just about love, it's an economic arrangement. Having the state authorize your union is not the same thing as having your friends and neighbors approve of you and your religious leaders bless you. It affects taxes and employee benefits -- huge amounts of money. A gay person with a pension and a health insurance plan is incapable of extending those benefits to his (or her) partner. He (or she) can't file a joint tax return. That's not fair. A polygamous marriage, however, puts a group of persons in a position to claim more economic benefits than the traditional heterosexual couple. That doesn't appeal to our sense of fairness.

The law doesn't assess how much two people love each other. Two persons of opposite sexes can marry for all sorts of reasons. If there were a device that could look into their souls and measure their love, we wouldn't accept the outrageous invasion of privacy it would take for the government to use it. Excluding gay couples from marrying does generate the complaint that society does not sufficiently respect homosexual love, and by harping on this point, proponents of gay marriage activate their opponents who think that's a good thing.

But it's not all about love and who respects what. It's also about economics. And in that dimension, it's easy to distinguish polygamy.
UPDATE: My mom sees a problem with her own argument from 9 years ago, in light of the majority's reasoning in Obergefell.

ADDED: Judge Richard Posner points out another important distinction:
[P]olygamy imposes real costs, by reducing the number of marriageable women. Suppose a society contains 100 men and 100 women, but the five wealthiest men have a total of 50 wives. That leaves 95 men to compete for only 50 marriageable women.
MORE: Jonathan Rauch observes:
[T]he case for gay marriage is the case against polygamy, and the public will be smart enough to understand the difference.

Gay marriage is about extending the opportunity to marry to people who lack it; polygamy, in practice, is about exactly the opposite: withdrawing marriage opportunity from people who now have it. Gay marriage succeeded because no one could identify any plausible channels through which it might damage heterosexual marriage; with polygamy, the worries are many, the history clear, and the channels well understood.
UPDATE: My mom responds to those quotes by Posner and Rauch:
I've got a problem with that! Talk about a male perspective! What about the women who want to choose to share one man? They should be denied to preserve a pool of marriageable women for all the extra males that would otherwise have scarce pickings? Are women some kind of natural resource to be conserved for the benefit of males?

As the old saying goes: Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. If women think they are better off as multiple wives to one high-quality male, why should they be cut off from that way of life so that some less-desired male will have better odds of getting a woman for himself? Is this everybody-gets-just-one theory of marriage some kind of welfare program for undesirable males?

I can see that society fears its renegade young male and would like to tame them through marriage, leveraging the power of their sexuality lest they expend that energy in acts of violence and dissolution. I can see the idea of using women for this purpose and rejecting polygamy because it takes women out of commission in that service. . . . But if you use that as your overt argument, you're going to run up against ideas about women's autonomy and freedom. We're not society's tools.
UPDATE: Jonathan Rauch expands on his argument against polygamy.

Obama sings "Amazing Grace"

I already knew President Obama was a good singer from when he sang a line of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" in 2012, but I was still impressed by his performance in a much lower register during his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who died in the mass shooting in Charleston, SC. While keeping his rendition of "Amazing Grace" simple, solemn, and weighty enough for the circumstances, he did more than singing the familiar melody — he added blue notes and other tasteful embellishments.

The Supreme Court just recognized the constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

I'm disappointed that the decision was only 5-4, with a majority opinion by Justice Kennedy, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

Still, today is a great day in American history.

The majority concludes:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
My mom, Prof. Ann Althouse, writes:
There's a distinct absence of doctrinal particularity about the levels of scrutiny. There's no discussion of the government interest to be served and how closely connected it is to the policy that's supposed to serve that interest. The focus is on the gravity of the burden imposed. . . .

It's notable that the due process analysis predominated and drove the equal protection analysis. I think the inequality is easier to explain and understand, but there are reasons to prefer to frame things in terms of fundamental liberty. Equality is, perhaps, a cooler matter than liberty. There's more passion in liberty and more to disagree about. There's no end to demands for liberty, and which liberties get to be fundamental? That question sets us up for the dissenting opinions, and for those, I'll do separate posts.

Much of Justice Kennedy's opinion is workmanlike and dull, piecing together precedents in an earnest effort to show us that the right found today was really always already there and nothing to do with feelings and political preferences. But there were some glimmers of passion. My favorite example:

"Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there."
Alex Knepper writes (on Facebook):
When I was first realizing I was gay, I was scared: I figured it would preclude me from full participation in society, and for that reason I fiercely resisted admitting my orientation to myself. It's still unbelievable that in just ten years since that time, the nation has moved from -- at best -- tolerance, but often outright hostility -- to widespread acceptance. This ruling will mean millions of people will be relieved of a part of the struggle and self-loathing that so often accompanies self-discovery and coming out, and will instead live with the awareness that same-sex relationships are viewed with legitimacy by their nation. Of course, no law can erase all of the difficulties that accompany being gay -- but gays and lesbians can rest easy knowing that now, at least, the government has done its part to secure our equal treatment under the law.

Friday, June 12, 2015

How Zimbabwe is ending its currency

"For anything up to 175 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars the bank will offer $5 in return. After that $1 will be paid for every 35 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars. Bills printed before 2009 are slightly more valuable and can be exchanged at a rate of $1 to 250 trillion Zimbabwe dollars."

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Former President George W. Bush makes over $1 million for a homeless shelter . . .

. . . by charging a $100,000 speaking fee.

“We paid his regular fee,” Lynne Sipiora told Politico. She’s the executive director of the Samaritan Inn, a homeless shelter in McKinney, Texas. “Which is $100,000.” . . .

Sipiora, the executive director of the Samaritan Inn, called Bush’s fee of $100,000 a “bargain.”

“We looked at many entertainers and political figures, and they were much higher,” she said. “Hillary Clinton was, like, $250,000.

“We’re a homeless shelter, so it was a hefty fee for us, but we ended up netting over $1 million,” said Sipiora, who identified herself as one of the few Democrats in her area. “It was not a very political conversation. I’m sure he’s answered the same questions a million times. But he was very popular and charming and pleasant.” She said Bush sent her a prompt thank you note in which he mentioned her father by name.

What are non-Muslims really doing when they refrain from drawing Muhammad?

Jeet Heer writes in TNR:

Art Spiegelman’s comic strip commentary on the Charlie Hebdo controversy, “Notes from a First Amendment Fundamentalist,” delves deeply into these issues. In the cartoon, Spiegelman (limning himself in his stylized rodent form, developed for his graphic novel Maus) is holding two magazine covers (images within an image). One, titled "No Problem," features a standard smiley face and says, “Have a nice day.” The other, titled "Problem!," features the same smiley face wearing a turban and identified as “Mohammad.” As the contrasting images show, it takes just a few squiggles and a label to turn a smiley face into a blasphemous provocation. The offense isn’t so much in the image as in the intent. To say you are drawing the Prophet is the scandal, more than what is drawn. A drawing of Muhammad is an idea or an assertion more than it is a physical thing. . . .

Adherence to a rule that Muhammad should not be depicted is a very curious thing. Abiding by the prohibition can’t be an act of belief, since these publications aren’t run by Muslims who believe the prohibition is crucial to their faith (and in any case these publications have a secular mission and identity). Nor can the prohibition be just about displaying sensitivity to Muslim sensibilities since there is no consensus among Muslims that the prohibition should be adhered to or is binding among non-believers. In fact, certain strands of Islam, notably those in Iran, have a rich history of depicting the Prophet. A thorough prohibition on depicting Muhammad would, if followed by all, mean the banning of a rich vein of Islamic art.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Worst. Condolences. Ever.

Pat Robertson, to a woman whose 3-year-old child had just died:

As far as God’s concerned, He knows the end from the beginning and He sees a little baby and that little baby could grow up to be Adolf Hitler, he could grow up to be Joseph Stalin, he could grow up to be some serial killer, or he could grow up to die of a hideous disease. God sees all of that, and for that life to be terminated while he’s a baby, he’s going to be with God forever in Heaven so it isn’t a bad thing.
(But if he would've been the next Hitler or a serial killer, why would he go to Heaven?)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

On Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's political comedy

". . . tendency to affirm its audience’s pre-conceived notions about morality and politics in order to win their views and wallets . . ."

". . . convinces those in the center that they’re on the vanguard, which severely delimits their view of the range of political possibilities . . ."

This, coming from . . . the New Republic.

Monday, June 1, 2015

"[A] stunning example of feminism devouring itself"

Natasha Vargas-Cooper writes, in the feminist blog Jezebel, about the case of Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis: "As feminist student activists fight to expand their circle of vulnerability in collegiate life, Title IX has gone from a law designed to protect college students from sexual misconduct and discrimination to a means by which professors are put on trial for their tweets. . . ."

One solution to the problem of too many Republican candidates and not enough Democratic candidates

Put some of the Republicans in the Democratic debates!