6 Replies to “In short”

  1. Holy Crap! that’s terrifying isn’t it…

    In a circuitous way it reminded me of the profile by Andrew Brown, in the Guardian, of the evolutionary theorist David Sloan Wilson

    In the interview he suggests, or at least strongly implies, that the sense of the sacred evolved to help organise society (or, read: ‘allow one sect to dominate’ in the case at hand)

    In other news, did you see this?
    “Was Darwin wrong?” http://www.ironcircus.com/blog/000267.html


  2. a) nice to hear about the gig. I wish I could have seen it.

    b) I like “Last Man Alive” better as a name than “Man Alive”, in case you wanted my opinion.

    c) about that Moscow Times article: Call me old-fashioned, but I like journalists to actually know something about the country they wish to berate. Granted, when I see an article describing its subject as “ignorant barbarians” I can’t expect it to be unbiased, but I would like spin to be at least based in facts.

    A quick Google search found the full text of the Constitution Restoration Act, which I think is what the article’s talking about, except that it’s far removed from what the article claims it would be. It contains precisely one mention of god, to bar appeals on cases that are “by reason of …. acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.” In the context of the enormous cultural schism afflicting America, this is an attempt at allowing individuals to express their faith without then being disqualified from acting as judges or lawmakers. It’s not an instantiation of biblical law, so much as a clarification of one of the issues caused by America’s constitutional separation of Church and State, which some people would use as a way to force atheism on all of America.

    The religious conservatives, while numerous, insane and frightening, are still a minority in the USA, and there are more people determined not to let them create a theocracy. I was wondering why I hadn’t heard some huge outcry about this law when it was proposed, but now I understand – it’s just not important enough. It’s still a horribly flawed piece of legislation, but for more mundane reasons, like the limitations it puts on the use of legal precedents, and the very dodgy background to its appeal to federalism (which is a thinly veiled attempt to reintroduce Jim Crow-era laws allowing one state to not recognise marriages performed in another, as a way of hurting the gay marriage campaign).

    The authors seem to have decided that because a particularly nasty set of people support this law, it must portend the end of civilisation in the USA, but it’s really about something much smaller than that. And as a final retort, if it were that important, it would have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing. Most Americans—even some of the very religious ones—are proud of the separation of Church and State and see it as a pre-requisite for sane government.

  3. Eldan:
    Cheers – it is a marginally better name but keeps some kind of continuity. We were very happy, all in all, my voice has improved a lot and somewho we managed to pack the (admittedly small) place out, so it was a captive audience. Re: the article, I am heartened by your reassurances. That said, I don’t understand the quoted segment you’ve produced – maybe it’s the ellipses- so I am uncertain what the reference to god actually is doing. I’ll do some first hand digging when – if – I ever find the time.

    TQS (what does the Q stand for?) That Nat-Geo cover is priceless! Mayhaps I will link up too. Havent read the Sloan Wilson interview but will do, as he’s an interesting guy (oh the hey-days of reading evolutionary psych articles every free moment!). Got a snotty, hellish head cold at the moment so wouldn’t digest it in any useful way.

    Roxanne – sorry for spreading the fear, perhaps Eldans intervention will alleviate the creeping terror!

  4. Oh dear. Reading my comment after a night’s sleep it sounds far more angry than I had intended it to. I hope it was clear that the anger is directed at the journalist, because it’s irresponsible to spread that kind of thing to an audience who can’t be expected to know enough context to debunk it.

    It was an unfortunate ellipsis, which I should have filled in. It’s worth reading the whole law, not least because it’s rather short, but the part I skipped should have been paraphrased as “the person or agency which passed judgement having given an”. It’s not exactly unambiguous what that means, but I think a bit more context should help explain at least how I reached my interpretation. There are two important issues that America’s social conservatives are trying to use as rallying points, entirely fallaciously:

    1) “activist judges”. The argument is that judges should be prevented from interpreting the law, even where two laws contradict each other, or one is in conflict with the Constitution. It strikes me as essential that judges do interpret the law, and particularly help to clean up the mess when a fallible Congress and Senate contradict themselves. But the reason this is now unpopular among the Christian right is that in the past year or so this has resulted in several state supreme courts ruling that it is unconstitutional not to grant and recognise same-sex marriages.

    2) Church and State. The Bill of Rights makes it quite clear that the separation of Church and State is as much about individual freedom of religion as it is about protection govt from capture by theocrats. In spite of that, there is a small fringe who would like to use it as a way of pushing religion and religious people out of any influence whatsoever and enforicing state atheism (and I must admit I am not comfortable with having a President who starts cabinet meetings with a prayer). This leads the religious right (who thrive on paranoia and on exaggerating how marginal they are) to believe that they must fight the separation of Church and State in order to be allowed to practice their own religion.

    The way I see the law in question, it’s an attempt at striking back at these forces. The god part seems pointless to me, because I don’t think there is a single precedent it would change (I’ve bounced this off a few people who know more about such things than I), but the other effect of this law would be significant: it relates to the independence of one state from another. It’s important because before the black Civil Rights movement had had much success, some states banned inter-racial marriages, and there was an issue then about whether, say, Alabama would have to recognise a marriage consecrated in Massachusetts, when Alabama law wouldn’t have allowed the marriage to happen. Much the same is happening now, with some West coast and New England states granting various forms of legal union to gay couples, while the majority of states still don’t want to.

    I had a look around for who publicly supports this law, and the arguments I saw all related to states’ rights, so I think that part is the one that people are rallying around. As such it’s not inherently evil, but deep suspicion of the motives behind anyone who harps on about states’ rights is justified, and in this case it really does seem to be states’ rights to institutionalise homophobia.

    And now on to other matters… where was the gig?

    And some links:
    Scalia’s view on the death penalty (also referred to by the Moscow Times article). It’s a long piece, and I’ve only skimmed it, but my reading is that he does take quite a traditional hell-fire Christian view himself, but also makes a strong argument that his personal opinion is not the basis for his legal decisions, which do have to be based on the law as it was passed by elected representatives.

    An excerpt from the NG article about evolution the cover of which TQS linked to. (incidentally, thanks for that link TQS – it made my day)

    and finally, note the name of this flower.

  5. The gig was at The Old Blue Last, which is a little diddy pub near Old Street, about the same size as the Choke (plus an upstairs, but that wasn’t in use). It’s DPs club night, it runs there once a month, and they have bands on alongside DJs (this time it was DP and some other residents, plus members of the band Simian). I didn’t stay for after the live music, but from the inter-set music I have to give props to the selection – plenty of good new wave, punk, post-punk, british invasion, cheesy rock, and tracks more recent and ancient (actually, I can only remember about 2 songs, but I was punped up on adrenaline and no food for most of the night, so what can I tell ya). Seemed to go well and it was pretty packed, so hopefully it will continue indefinitely.

    Thanks for the clarification on the article, and also on the info you sent me. Sounds like another in a long line of measures associated with this govt I would oppose, rather than a smoking terror gun. But the Moscow Times angle was so much more exciting!!!

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