Sunday, November 30, 2008
I had this notion that it would be really nicely complimented by corn and onions. So I got a couple ears of fresh corn and some cippolini onions from the farmer's market. (Cippolinis are those ones that look wide and flat, like a regular onion squashed flat, and they have a nice sweet bite to them.) I cut the corn off the cob, chopped up the onions, sauteed them in butter, then added some pumpkin chunks when they got soft. I added only salt and a little pepper, as I wanted the taste of the fresh ingredients. I thought it was marvelous. My husband though it was a bit bland and didn't like the texture of the pumpkin. He loved the corn/onion mix though. So the next week, as I still had half the pumpkin chunks in the freezer, I thought I'd try the same concept as a soup. I'd made some good pumpkin soups before, usually cooking the chunks with chicken stock and a splash of cream, and putting it all in the blender. But I thought I'd try something a bit different. I was thinking a light sweet curry theme might be good, so I heated some coconut oil and added the pumpkin chunks and a splash of soy milk, until they were soft. I then used a masher to mash them up like mashed potatoes. (An immersion blender would have been better, but I don't have one.) I continued to add the soy milk until I got a nice soup consistency. I added salt, pepper, curry powder, and some cinnamon. I still liked the idea of sweet corn and onions as a compliment, so I sauteed those up just as I had the week before, and added them into the soup, leaving them unblended so the soup would have some bits to bite into. It was delicious. Pumpkin is definitely a reason to be happy about fall.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
About a month ago, we saw Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. While nothing profound, it was a fresh and entertaining film, capturing the feel of an all-night music-driven bar-crawl across New York City. Anyone who's been clubbing all night knows that the energy of the night has its ebbs and flows, moments when the stimulation breaks and the tiredness catches up with you, but then moments when the right tune or word re-energizes you again. This film did a great job of capturing that feel of an all-nighter, with the lulls capturing that dull feeling reminiscent of Lost in Translation, but then the next moment bringing a crazy energy like Go. Michael Cera and Kat Dennings bring authenticity to the title characters, making me truly remember (for the first time in over a couple decades) what it felt like to be in high school, when you cared what eveyone else thought even when you pretended not to, and when you first discover how powerful it can be to share your vulnerable self with someone else. Sure, Michael Cera is making a career of playing more or less the same soft-spoken earnest character as in Superbad and Juno, but it's a good character, and subtly deeper here. (Besides, I can think of other great actors who made a career playing more or less the same character. Richard Dreyfuss, for example.) There's a larger network of characters who have various links, some obvious and some hidden, and who cross paths in some unexpected ways, and there are some amusing subplots involving a lost drunk friend and the amazing travels of a piece of gum. But this film isn't quite as plot-driven as Go in that regard, it's more about characters and texture and music. And director Peter Sollett mixes these elements masterfully. Like a great playlist.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
UPDATE: The LA Times editorial board was on the same wavelength: "Maybe schools need to strengthen their civics lessons so that future voters will understand that supreme courts specifically are charged with ruling on constitutional questions -- and it is a sacred and historic role of the courts to protect minority rights as enshrined in state and federal constitutions. Indeed, if courts merely existed to ratify the will of majorities, they would add little to our society." And the spate of ensuing letters showed plenty of citizens needing those remedial civics lessons.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
- Is Prop 8 invalid because it is a revision, rather than amendment of the Constitution?
- Does Prop 8 violate the separation of powers doctrine (i.e., does it usurp the role of the Court in protecting minority interests in fundamental equal protection rights)?
- If Prop 8 stands, what is the effect on the marriages that have already occurred?
Interesting that the Court took the initiative to take on the third question, as I don't believe any of the petitions raised it. In the Marriage decision, Justice Kennard wrote a separate concurrence to elaborate on how that decision could be consistent with having previously struck down the "San Francisco marriages" of 2005 as unconstitutional (an opinion she disagreed with). But speaking of Justice Kennard, I'm not sure what to make of the fact that she alone dissented from accepting the petitions, and would have preferred a separate petition to deal with the issue of the pre-Prop 8 marriages. Does that mean that she would have completely dismissed the petitions, or does that merely mean that she thought it inappropriate for the Court to request a hearing on that issue without really having been asked? If the former, that doesn't bode well at all. I'm suspecting it's the latter.
In the one other tea leaf to be read, Justice Moreno alone would have granted the stay of enforcement.
One last bright note, the Court denied the request of the Campaign for California Families to intervene. CCF President Randy Thomasson is the guy who tried to put up an even harsher ballot initiative that would have tossed out domestic partnerships as well. Only the original Prop 8 proponents will be allowed to intervene.
Briefs are due in January, and oral arguments could be heard as early as next March under an expedited schedule.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
On the other side, there are five parties opposing these petitions. A few of them make respectable arguments on the core revision vs. amendment issue, pointing to the precedents they view as most analogous, and pressing the "voice of the people" argument, but ignoring rather than addressing the equal protection arguments. A fourth party, the Pacific Justice Institute, offers only weak arguments around the margins (like an argument that the Cities of LA and San Francisco lack standing to file a petition). A fifth party, one D.Q. Marriette Do-Nguyen, claims to be speaking on behalf of the Almighty Eternal Creator, as His Heiress. For the edification of the Supreme Court Justices, she reveals the message of the Almighty Eternal Creator, as revealed to her in a dream last week, concerning not only Prop 8 and abortion, but also the Iraq War, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Elliott Spitzer, and other gems of received wisdom. I kid you not. (As one friend commented, something about opposing same-sex marriage really brings the nutcases out of the woodwork.) The arguments of the Almighty notwithstanding, I'm hopeful that the Court will find the petitions as stirring and compelling as I do.
Monday, November 17, 2008
There's a good argument to be made that a change to the Constitution that actually repeals fundamental rights is substantive enough in scope to warrant the revision process, and the three appeals that I've read (I've heard there may now be a fourth) have made that argument. This would actually vindicate the intuition of many people that it's outrageous that the revoking of a fundamental right could be put to a ballot initiative for a bare majority. For those who care about constitutional forms of government, Prop 8 sets a frightening precedent (and it is indeed unprecedented). If that precedent is allowed to stand, then any unpopular minority group could have its constitutional rights revoked by a bare majority of the voters. Conceivably, we could put up an initiative that Mormon marriages would no longer be recognized by the state, or even more egregiously, California could legalize slavery again. Is it reasonable to think that California voters could enact such changes with just 51% of the voters on a ballot initiative? Undoubtedly, such measures would be struck down on appeals to the US Constitution, but one would hope that the California Constitution's guarantee of fundamental rights would stand on its own in this regard. Our constitutional government provides for "checks and balances" in separate branches of government, and one of the important duties of the Supreme Court is to safeguard the constitutional rights of minorities against what the founding fathers termed the "tyranny of the majority". A measure like Prop 8 defies that fundamental separation of powers. That's the gist of the arguments being made, and the Court may well find them compelling. Governor Schwarzenegger has advocated as much, and 44 California Senators and Assemblymembers have signed on to an amicus brief in favor of that position.
Of course any Supreme Court decision ultimately comes down to the seven Justices making the decision. The decision last spring recognizing a fundamental right to equal recognition of same-sex marriages was made by the minimum of four Justices, with three dissenting. For the original four concurring Justices, if they really believe what they wrote last May (their language was pretty clear and strong in terms of fundamental rights and protecting a minority group), then they would stand up for their opinion, and strike down Prop 8 as an insufficiently enacted constitutional revision. Those Justices were courageous in the face of what they probably knew would be substantial popular backlash (protecting minority rights, as the Court has noted, is often an unpopular job), and we can hope their courage does not falter. Unfortunately, ominous rumblings about their re-election prospects, and calls to remember Rose Bird, are being made by the Prop 8 backers (who have proven how ruthless they can be). Then we have the three dissenting Justices. The underlying issue for them will be whether they take the earlier decision as established precedent when evaluating this claim, or whether that precedent (that they didn’t agree with) is still open in their minds. Technically, this is a new and purely procedural issue (i.e., whether the initiative was inappropriately put forth as an amendment) that doesn't invite a revisiting of the earlier decision (whether there is a fundamental right to marry the person of one's choice), but in practice it may be hard to resist the opportunity to implicitly revisit the earlier decision in deciding this one. On the other hand, if I recall correctly, when the Prop 8 proponents requested a stay of the final Marriage decision pending the election, I believe that was unanimously denied by the Court, indicating that the dissenters are swayed by at least some arguments for proper procedure and not revisiting settled matters. Judging by the opinions filed in the Marriage decision (in addition to the decision, there was one concurrence and two separate dissents), I'd say the most likely outcome is that Prop 8 is invalidated by the same 4-3 decision as the original Marriage decision, since the four concurring justices spoke strongly about the role of the Court in protecting rights of minorities, while the three dissenters spoke strongly about the Court not overturning the will of the people expressed at the ballot box, and those same issues arise here.
The filings can all be read here (update: I just heard there are now six separate filings). Of those I've read, the NCRL brief does the most technical work in discussing the various precedents on the revision vs. amendment issue, but the brief by the Cities makes the most readable and very eloquent statement of the issue. If you read only one, read that one.
There are rumblings that the Court will take some action on Wednesday, making initial decisions whether to even hear the case (I think they will, since both sides are urging that), and whether to issue an immediate stay in the meantime (I suspect they won't). Stay tuned.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
In reflecting on the wake of Prop 8 and the great marriage debate it stirred up, I am impressed how significantly the line of scrimmage has shifted. Even same-sex marriage opponents generally claim that they support equal rights, just not "redefining marriage". For example, the Mormon church, in a statement this week, said "the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches." And in national polls, those who support same-sex marriage, combined with those who oppose it but support civil unions, comprise a growing majority. Politically, at the federal level, same-sex marriage opponents such as John McCain espouse a federalist ("leave it to the states") policy. A pragmatic approach to modifying DOMA would build on this consensus.
Concerning Part 2, rather than simply repeal it, it should be modified to recognize civil unions. The pragmatic compromise of civil unions currently exists in some form in at least four states (Vermont, California, New Jersey, and New Hampshire), and it would be consistent with the apparent consensus on providing equal legal treatment that these should be recognized as equivalent to marriage for the purposes of federal law. I think most Americans, regardless of their approval of gay marriage, would see the injustice of two life partners not having their earned Social Security benefits protect their partner in the event of one's death, or having a surviving partner have to pay a whopping "gift income" tax on half the value of a jointly held home. Thus Part 2 should be amended as follows:
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means a valid marriage or relationship substantially equivalent to marriage (e.g., a civil union) as recognized by law of the state of residence, and the word ‘spouse’ refers to a person who is a party to such marriage or substantially equivalent relationship.
Concerning Part 1, while some would proclaim same-sex marriage by federal fiat on all 50 states, I don't believe that is prudential at this time. I think it's better to give the controversial issue some breathing room by supporting the federalist position, that states should be allowed to determine their own policies. However, there is an important modification that should be made here. While states should be given latitude to set their own marriage policy for their residents, federal law should provide a guarantee of "safe passage" for visitors to the state. Nobody should ever again suffer the fate of Lisa Pond, who collapsed while vacationing in Florida and ultimately died in a hospital that actively prevented her partner from seeing her, directing her care, or obtaining her death certificate. I hope few Americans would see that as good public policy. Thus I propose the "Family Safe Passage Amendment" to DOMA Part 1. The distinction should be quite workable. Consider that each state has different license plates for automobiles, and different requirements for licensing cars. When I as a California resident drive my car into Arizona, I don't immediately have to take my car to get an Arizona state vehicle check and an Arizona license plate. That would be ridiculous if I'm only visiting. On a temporary basis, Arizona accepts a California-registered vehicle. However, after an appropriate period of time, if I'm still in Arizona, then I do have to register my car there, and bring it into conformity with local requirements. It should be the same for a marriage (or equivalent). If I have a California domestic partnership (a "marriage equivalent"), and I go into the emergency room while on a business trip in Virginia, my partner should be recognized appropriately at the hospital there, despite Virginia's own draconian marriage policies. Isn't that a change we can all believe in?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I haven't participated in any of the large protests going on since the election. I understand people feeling like they want to vent, and a few demontrations are probably a good thing to signify the passion behind this issue. But I don't think expressions of outrage are the most productive means of changing anyone's mind. We've made a huge amount of progress in the eight years since Prop 22, and I attribute that progress primarily to gay people from all walks of life being more open and visible. Not as angry sign-waving people or folks marching in a parade, but as co-workers, as parents of school children, as fellow churchmembers, as soldiers, and in all the ways that anybody encounters their fellow citizens in our society. Just living our lives in quiet but open and unapologetic dignity does more than anything else to open our fellow citizens' eyes to the injustices in our current government policies. Some of those policies need to be explained to people (e.g., unequal tax treatment and social security benefits), but they can be explained calmly. The observation of injustice speaks for itself far more loudly than demands for justice can be shouted.