Saturday, May 12, 2012

Making a Federal Case of It

Dahlia Lithwick and Sonja West strongly argue that the right to marry is a fundamental constitutional right, one that should be recognized and protected nationwide rather than by individual states.  They show that courts have long recognized marriage as a fundamental right.  They also show why leaving the decision to recognize a legal marriage should not be left to the states. 
What’s messy is what we have now—an oddball collection of marriage laws, civil unions, and same-sex bans that stop and start at state lines.  This is simply unworkable in a country where we all have the right to travel (another one of those “fundamental rights”) and there’s no way to ask people to check their marriages at the border.  Add to the mix that nobody has any idea whether the Defense of Marriage Act can overrule the Full Faith and Credit Clause by telling states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages that they can ignore unions from states that do. We have interstate child custody disputes that are Solomonic in scope. And our schizophrenic tax codes treat the same couple as married on one form and not married on the next. Social security, Medicaid, health care directives, estate planning, and immigration all hinge on marital status, which in turn hinges on the whim of the voters. The courts are just now wading into that morass and we won’t lie, it’s ugly out there. 
Lithwick and West know the law along with the practical mechanics, so to speak, of enforcing civil rights in a federal system.  They make a strong case for a national standard.  All that makes for a bold conclusion, using language that reaches deeply into America's constitutional and federal heritage.
It’s time to fight this battle where it belongs, which is on the federal stage.  It’s time to embrace the language of constitutional justice. It’s time to say what is at stake here—true equality, full citizenship for everyone, basic human dignity and, yes, a fundamental right.  The state-by-state rhetoric gives too much credence to the argument that the states have an option to discriminate, sometimes, so long as enough of their citizens cast a vote.  They don’t.  The Constitution forbids it.
When it comes to fundamental rights, the individual states cannot be trusted.  Nor can majorities.  As Lithwick and West note, it’s ugly out there.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Still Poisonous After All These Years

Vietnam's minister of sports, culture and tourism has written to the International Olympic Committee taking exception to the committee's acceptance of Dow Chemical as an Olympic sponsor.  The minister notes that Dow has a long history of denying responsibility for the effects of its product, Agent Orange, in Vietnam.

...[D]espite of [sic]international opinions, Dow Chemical expressed their indifference and refused compensation for victims of the Agent Orange produced by the company, as well as their responsibility to clean up contaminated areas. Spending zero effort to recover their mistakes in the past, Dow continues to destroy the current living environment. In 2010, US Environmental Protection Agency listed Dow as the second worst polluter in the world.
 Keep that in mind when you hear all of the blather about the Olympics as an event that transcends politics and national boundaries.  That may be so but when it comes to corporate boundaries and profits, there is no transcendence.

Of course, the ultimate responsibility lies with the United States which brought Agent Orange to Vietnam.  As a nation we have been remiss in mitigating the consequences of that decision.  At least we are making some small effort these days.  More than can be said for Dow.

Kudos to the Agent Orange Action Group, The Vietnam Association for Victimsof Agent Orange/Dioxin and Veterans For Peace Chapter 160 for continuing the fight. 


Monday, May 07, 2012

Word Games

Military leaders and psychiatrists are debating whether to change post traumatic stress from a disorder to an injury. Their hope is that fewer soldiers will feel stigmatized by acknowledging post traumatic stress from combat and will seek treatment. Less stigma, more treatment is good but it begs the larger question: why are these service members exposed to this trauma?

The final graf of the linked article says it best:
If the Army really wanted to protect soldiers, it would limit the number of tours that troops are permitted to do in Afghanistan, Bessel van der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University said. Medical studies have suggested that a soldier’s resilience is depleted with each battlefield tour. “As long as you have repeated deployments, you will have devastating effects on people,” he said.

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Clusterfuck Nation

US spends $80 million to figure out than an exposed position for a consulate in Afghanistan is not a good deal.

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