Friday, March 17, 2006

Gay Marriage News

Same-Sex Unions and Polygamy: Developments
According to a report at, an article from the March 20, 2006, edition of Newsweek magazine discusses the attempt to use the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas to extend the court's recognition of the right of consenting adults to engage in private activities without government interference from the setting aside of a Texas law prohibiting sodomy to the practice of polygamy. (Of course, once polygamy is permitted, it should follow that polyandry would likewise be allowed by law.) The argument is associated with a lawsuit filed in Utah by a couple (man and woman, also husband and wife) who were denied a marriage license when an additional wife was sought. The suit was denied by the federal court, but is now being reviewed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals -- where the Lawrence v. Texas decision is expected to be cited on behalf of the couple.

It's going to happen, folks. It may not be here; it may not be today, or tomorrow -- but it is going to happen. As our society increasingly cuts itself loose from the anchor of Christian morality and ethics, there is no reason why the state should not permit such "marriages," either on the part of same-sex unions, or those of the "poly" variety. We are moving toward an appreciation of marriage that approximates that of the (pagan) Roman Empire, where marriage served to clearly indicate lines of inheritance, and to otherwise maintain public decency and order. Even today, if you look closely at the marriage statutes on the books in most (if not all) states, the language almost suggests a sense of "corporate mergers" -- that is, entity A and entity B desire to merge their assets and liabilities and establish a joint entity C. State marriage laws examine the "merger" to make certain that both entities have an actual legal existence, and are not precluded from entering into such a merger. As well, the state laws also address the possibility that the merger is not permanent, and so sets forth the way in which the assets and liabilities of the joint entity are to be distributed in the event the merger is dissolved, as well as providing for the management and maintenance of any "subsidiary entities" that may have arisen as a result of the merger. (That is, children of the marriage.) The bottom line, from the state's perspective, is to ensure that the disagreements don't disrupt the public order; and to make sure that the chance of any participants becoming dependent upon the resources of the state (especially financial) is minimized or, ideally, prevented. Such language is not limited to the union of one man and one woman. Same-sex and "poly" unions can just as easliy be integrated into statutory language.

The practice of polygamy in certain areas of the western United States, and, in particular, in southern Utah and northern Arizona, is an open secret. There are two legitimate reasons for the states to intervene: the practice in these (and other) areas of marrying underage girls to older (sometimes, much older) men -- usually without their consent (although typically with the consent of their fathers); and the tendency of these families to request and receive economic assistance from the state (welfare) because the mothers are typically "stay at home" moms, and the single husband is unable to earn enough to provide for all of his wives and offspring. Well, this can be easily addressed in the law: prohibit the marriage of minors, regardless of consent, if the marriage will be a plural one; and exclude such families from welfare eligibility. In such cases, it will become the responsibility of the community (which usually has a religious basis) to provide for the needs of its own.

Of course. when Christian morality is brought into play, the rules change; but, as this morality is increasingly unwelcome in the governmental process, we can only hope to hold on to what we have -- and that won't be enough...

Gay Mormon Faces Excommunication
The Associated Press has reported that a Utah man who obtained a legal "marriage" to his same-sex partner in Canada faces excommunication for violating the teachings and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Buckley Jeppson, of Washington, D.C., who married Mike Kessler in Toronto on August 27, 2004, was told that a "disciplinary council" of the LDS Church will decide what action should be taken. The article adds, "It is believed that if Jeppson is excommunicated, it would be the first time a Mormon in a legal, same-sex marriage was punished by the church."

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Jeppson is, indeed, excommunicated; and what will happen next if this is the action taken. Is there a lawsuit against the LDS disciplinary council in the future?

Economic Warfare

U.S. Debt Ceiling Increased
The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to increase the debt "ceiling" by some $800 billion dollars, setting the new ceiling level at 9trillion dollars. (The old limit had been $8.2 trillion.) The move was necessary to prevent a U.S. default on U.S. Treasury notes, particularly those held by foreign investors. The vote was 52-48. The vote came just hours before votes scheduled to appropriate funds for the war in Iraq and continued recovery costs from last summer's hurricanes, especially Katrina. According to the report by ABC-News, the increase in the debt level allows the increased expenditures without making it necessary to raise taxes. The increase in the debt ceiling equals about $30,000 for each man, woman, and child living in the United States.

Comments:Let me see if I have this right. I'm spending more money than I'm earning; and I want -- no, need -- to spend more. Rather than cut back on any discretionary expenses, or finding a way to oncrease my income, I call all my credit card companies and ask them to increase my credit limits. Not only do they all agree to let me spend even more (as I am approaching the point where I've maxed out my existing credit limits) -- they are relieved to do so, because it means I won't default (today, anyway) on my debt. Huh??? No doubt about it, Rocky -- there's something about this I don't comprehend...

Economic Warfare, Iraq, and Iran
An interesting theory is floating around about the reasons for the war in Iraq which have nothing to do with the al-Qaeda form of terrorism, or weapons of mass destruction. According to this theory, the war in Iraq is, in part, a preemptive strike against Iran, which may be thinking of attempting something Saddam Hussein tried in the 1990's in Iraq: namely, establishing an exchange ("bourse") for oil that would be tied to euros, rather than the U.S. dollar. The bottom line on this argument is that the transfer for the dollar to the euro would constitute an attack on the dollar, leading to an economic panic as the dollar is displaced as the "benchmark" for the world economy.

There are several articles that offer more details: one by William Clark, entitled, "The Real Reasons Why Iran is the Next Target"; "The Approaching War with Iran"; and an interesting consideration of the parallels between the Roman Empire and the American "empire" as each, the only "superpower" of its time, extended its influence in the Middle East, "Empire," by Cyril Capdevielle. Here's an excerpt from one that sums it all up quite clearly, entitled "The Proposed Iranian Oil Bourse," by Krassimir Petrov:
A nation-state taxes its own citizens, while an empire taxes other nation-states. The history of empires, from Greek and Roman, to Ottoman and British, teaches that the economic foundation of every single empire is the taxation of other nations. The imperial ability to tax has always rested on a better and stronger economy, and as a consequence, a better and stronger military. One part of the subject taxes went to improve the living standards of the empire; the other part went to strengthen the military dominance necessary to enforce the collection of those taxes.

Historically, taxing the subject state has been in various forms—usually gold and silver, where those were considered money, but also slaves, soldiers, crops, cattle, or other agricultural and natural resources, whatever economic goods the empire demanded and the subject-state could deliver. Historically, imperial taxation has always been direct: the subject state handed over the economic goods directly to the empire.

For the first time in history, in the twentieth century, America was able to tax the world indirectly, through inflation. It did not enforce the direct payment of taxes like all of its predecessor empires did, but distributed instead its own fiat currency, the U.S. Dollar, to other nations in exchange for goods with the intended consequence of inflating and devaluing those dollars and paying back later each dollar with less economic goods—the difference capturing the U.S. imperial tax. Here is how this happened.

Early in the 20th century, the U.S. economy began to dominate the world economy. The U.S. dollar was tied to gold, so that the value of the dollar neither increased, nor decreased, but remained the same amount of gold. The Great Depression, with its preceding inflation from 1921 to 1929 and its subsequent ballooning government deficits, had substantially increased the amount of currency in circulation, and thus rendered the backing of U.S. dollars by gold impossible. This led Roosevelt to decouple the dollar from gold in 1932. Up to this point, the U.S. may have well dominated the world economy, but from an economic point of view, it was not an empire. The fixed value of the dollar did not allow the Americans to extract economic benefits from other countries by supplying them with dollars convertible to gold.

Economically, the American Empire was born with Bretton Woods in 1945. The U.S. dollar was not fully convertible to gold, but was made convertible to gold only to foreign governments. This established the dollar as the reserve currency of the world. It was possible, because during WWII, the United States had supplied its allies with provisions, demanding gold as payment, thus accumulating significant portion of the world’s gold. An Empire would not have been possible if, following the Bretton Woods arrangement, the dollar supply was kept limited and within the availability of gold, so as to fully exchange back dollars for gold. However, the guns-and-butter policy of the 1960’s was an imperial one: the dollar supply was relentlessly increased to finance Vietnam and LBJ’s Great Society. Most of those dollars were handed over to foreigners in exchange for economic goods, without the prospect of buying them back at the same value. The increase in dollar holdings of foreigners via persistent U.S. trade deficits was tantamount to a tax—the classical inflation tax that a country imposes on its own citizens, this time around an inflation tax that U.S. imposed on rest of the world.

When in 1970-1971 foreigners demanded payment for their dollars in gold, The U.S. Government defaulted on its payment on August 15, 1971. While the popular spin told the story of “severing the link between the dollar and gold”, in reality the denial to pay back in gold was an act of bankruptcy by the U.S. Government. Essentially, the U.S. declared itself an Empire. It had extracted an enormous amount of economic goods from the rest of the world, with no intention or ability to return those goods, and the world was powerless to respond— the world was taxed and it could not do anything about it.

From that point on, to sustain the American Empire and to continue to tax the rest of the world, the United States had to force the world to continue to accept ever-depreciating dollars in exchange for economic goods and to have the world hold more and more of those depreciating dollars. It had to give the world an economic reason to hold them, and that reason was oil.

In 1971, as it became clearer and clearer that the U.S Government would not be able to buy back its dollars in gold, it made in 1972-73 an iron-clad arrangement with Saudi Arabia to support the power of the House of Saud in exchange for accepting only U.S. dollars for its oil. The rest of OPEC was to follow suit and also accept only dollars. Because the world had to buy oil from the Arab oil countries, it had the reason to hold dollars as payment for oil. Because the world needed ever increasing quantities of oil at ever increasing oil prices, the world’s demand for dollars could only increase. Even though dollars could no longer be exchanged for gold, they were now exchangeable for oil.

The economic essence of this arrangement was that the dollar was now backed by oil. As long as that was the case, the world had to accumulate increasing amounts of dollars, because they needed those dollars to buy oil. As long as the dollar was the only acceptable payment for oil, its dominance in the world was assured, and the American Empire could continue to tax the rest of the world. If, for any reason, the dollar lost its oil backing, the American Empire would cease to exist. Thus, Imperial survival dictated that oil be sold only for dollars. It also dictated that oil reserves were spread around various sovereign states that weren’t strong enough, politically or militarily, to demand payment for oil in something else. If someone demanded a different payment, he had to be convinced, either by political pressure or military means, to change his mind.

Food for thought...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Rain in the Desert

It's raining.

Maybe that's not news where you are, but here in Phoenix, where it's been 143 days since we last had a measurable rainfall, it's big news. The last time we (officially) had water fall from the sky was October 18, 2005 -- and that was just a trace. The forecast for today is about 0.75 inch -- and that hasn't happened here since August 2, 2005, when we got 0.59 of an inch of rain. Better still, it is snowing in the mountains to the north of us, where, last week, a survey of the sites used to measure snowpack -- which is where our water really comes from -- found no snow at all at 57 of the 61 sites.

OK, so, it's a desert -- and a principal (if not the ) defining characteristic of a desert is the lack of water. That's no surprise. Yet even the driest of deserts get some rainfall. It's almost like adding insult to injury when a desert experiences a drought -- but that's what's happening here right now. The rain that's falling today will knock some of the crud out of the air, and cut the dust (and make the windshields of cars parked outside really muddy); and it will perk up some of the vegetation -- there's going to be an explosion of weeds real soon! -- but it doesn't add any water to the reservoirs that we rely on for our needs. And, while some south-faciong mountain slopes might get as much as 30 inches of snow, the overall forecast is for 5 to 8 inches above 6,000 feet -- maybe a foot in some places. Since that's only about 10% of the "normal" snowpack, this is not a "drought-breaker" by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully, the moisture that is falling will ease the dry conditions that threaten to make this summer a form of "hell" for firefighters in the forests -- but quite often the result of a rainfall and snowfall of the type that is happening right now is to encourage an explosive undergrowth that, when the dry summer arrives, will die, and make it even easier for wildfires to start and to spread. Not much of a silver lining to these dark clouds right now...

Why dwell on this? (Which is to say, why blog about this?) Perhaps it is because the rain brings on a pensive side; and the sound of rain hitting the roof makes us think about water, and the drought here in the desert.

I found myself thinking earlier today about the way that any population is affected by the resources needed to sustain life, and how the limits to just one factor affect the "carrying capacity" -- the ability of a region to support a given population -- for the geographical area in question. Here in the desert, the carrying capacity is directly linked to the water supply -- or lack thereof. The system of reservoirs, canals, and wells tapping groundwater supplies has enhanced the carrying capacity by allowing the use of stored water -- or, in the case of the Central Arizona Project, to bring water from the Colorado River to the central counties of Maricopa and Pima (home to the Phoenix metor area cluster of cities, and to Tucson, the "other" big city in the state of Arizona) to supplement local water supplies.

Once upon a time, there was a civilization that lived in the Phoenix area, known now as the "Hohokam" -- we have no idea how they called themselves. They vanished without a trace about 500 years ago. Theirs was, for a time, an apparently successful civilization here in the desert. Indeed, a number of the canals that deliver water here today are built along the routes used by the irrigators of the Hohokam people; and other traces of their irrigation system remain to this day. But of the people, nothing.

We tend to think that, because our technology is better, we are somehow immune from the pressures that ultimately forced the Hohokam civilization here to collapse. It may even make us think we are better, smarter, than they were. But drought was, apparently, the cause of their downfall -- and could be ours, as well... And drought, of course, is solely in the hands of God.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Remember, You Heard It Here First!

At his blog, Untied, Tucker Carlson wrote today,
Twenty years from now, polygamy will be legal in the United States. How do I know this? Because there's no longer a good argument against it. Gay marriage has made polygamy inevitable.

Here's what I wrote in a message entitled, Marriage: Is "Poly" the Next Step?, posted here on June 30, 2005:
While the proponents of same-sex marriages deny that they favor any developments beyond extension of the right to marry to same-sex couples, the "wall" that will be torn down by their efforts will no longer be effectively in place to address any other definitions that may be advanced for marriage. All of the arguments being advanced today to "change society's morality" to gain acceptance of same-sex marriages -- fairness; equality; acceptance of minority (that is, non-mainstream) points of view and practices, and so on -- can be made in favor of the "polys"; polygamy (one husband, many wives), and polyandry (one woman, many husbands). Indeed, here in the "wild, wild west," we have a group with significant money, power, and influence, whose central tenets at one time required its adherents to practice polygamy as the best way to salvation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (known to many as the "Mormons") only rescinded this as a principle of belief when required to do so by the federal government as a condition for admitting the territory of Utah as a state. Why would they not return to this practice if the mood of the nation is to change the "traditional" understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman to allow same-sex marriages? After all, the proponents of polygamy have Biblical precedent on their side (at least, in the Old Testament), where many of the patriarchs had multiple wives. The practitioners of the Islamic faith also are permitted as many as four wives. Why should either of these groups refrain from entering the fray, and extend the definition of marriage to allow their religious beliefs to be practiced? Granted, part of the problem is that the practice has often been abused, with men marrying girls under the usual state-established age of consent -- girls young enough to be their daughters. But the abuse doesn't abrogate the right; and there's no reason why, with proper documentation, women of legal age to marry should be denied entry into a polygamous marriage if they choose to do so of their own will.

Nor should the legalization be limited to polygamy. After all, that would be unfair to that part of the female population who would prefer instead to have several husbands providing for their care, comfort, and pleasure. Again, as long as everyone is at or above the age of consent, and enters knowingly into such a union, registered with the state, why should anyone object? And, while there isn't (so far as I know) a "poly" for more complex relationships, there's no need to limit the establishment of some sort of "multiple marriages," where, say, three men and two women, or three men and four women (or "a" men and "b" women) desire to be joined in marriage and be recognized as each other's spouses. With everyone at the age of consent, and all open and above-board, why not? After all, we can't use Christian morality as an argument against any of the "polys"; that argument is out-of-bounds in the dialogue today. And, after all, just because only a few people, comparatively speaking, will actually want to enter into these forms of union doesn't make them wrong. Even though they are only a small minority, hey, minorities have rights, too -- remember? (See above.)

Still, it's a mixed blessing. It's nice to be vindicated by comments in the secular press. But how sad to be "right" about this particular issue...