I figured we'd see a court case soon enough where one state refuses to acknowledge a marriage or even a civil union sanctioned by another state, but I figured one of those states would probably be Massachusetts or Vermont. Turns out, it's right in the breadbasket of the world, my earliest stomping grounds.
A 22-year-old Nebraska man who legally married a 14-year-old girl with her parents' consent after he'd impregnated her when she was 13 has been criminally charged with having sex with his, uh, "wife." Seems he made the mistake of committing first-degree sexual assault in Nebraska, where the minimum age for marriage is 17, but with her parents' permission, took her across the state line to Kansas, where there's no minimum age for marriage in the law if parents consent. Case law in Kansas has set the minimum age for marriage at 14 for boys and in yet another sick twist at 12 for girls. Twelve.
The Nebraska attorney general, Jon Bruning, put it pretty succinctly in explaining why he brought the charges: "The idea ... is repugnant to me," Bruning said. "These people made the decision to send their ... 14-year-old daughter to Kansas to marry a pedophile."
...not that there's anything wrong with that in Kansas, apparently.
This is the same state where, this past April, 70 percent of the people voted to write anti-gay bigotry into their constitution, banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions. (Seventy percent of Nebraskans voted to do the same thing back in 2000; a federal judge struck that amendment down, against Attorney General Bruning's efforts to uphold it.)
You see, it's very important in these kinds of don't-look-at-our-divorce-rate states that marriage be "defended" to protect the children. Including, and perhaps especially, when you're raping them.
Joining the tradition that I think began on Americablog, I give you my first installment of Friday Orchid Blogging. This also happens to be the first orchid I've ever attempted to keep alive. Wish me luck.
You can also see the urban jungle of Manhattan outside my window. Yeah, it's a regular Fort Apache up here near the Bronx...
It was amusing to watch John Roberts, the CBS senior White House correspondent, announcing that Bush would be nominating John Roberts, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge, to the Supreme Court. You could tell he was amused himself that he shared a name with someone he was reporting on.
What's less amusing is the actual nomination. Speculation has it that That Man in the White House got talked into thinking this might be his one real chance to appoint a true conservative to the court, since Rehnquist is making noises like he's hanging on until he can't get out of bed, so a second Bush nomination might not come until after the mid-term elections, and they already know those might not be so friendly. Ya think?
I was prepared to give this guy a chance, and I still am, largely. But from what I've read, he's basically a favorite of the Religious [sic] Right [sic] because, in more than one instance, he contended that Roe v. Wade was "wrongly decided and should be overruled." Beyond that, he has a slim track record, especially as a judge, because he's only been one for two years. He also contended that American troops tortured in Iraq had no recourse to damages from the Republic of Iraq. For all I know, under principles of international law, he may be right. He also used to be a lobbyist for the peanut farming industry (which cost taxpayers an estimated half a billion a year), and he singled out the Violence Against Women act as an example of unnecessary law under our federalist system. He also contributed to George W. Bush's campaign, for what that's worth. (Though that's hardly a surprise.)
I have to say, though, that it is interesting to have a potential new Supreme Court justice. I'm less interested in the battles and bickering that will lead to his consent or rejection by the Senate and more by the fact that his track record is so bare and he's so young. It's interesting to be at this stage of what could become a name I hear about off and on, and whose decisions impact me and my country, for several decades to come. That's the journalism major coming through in me (BA-Honors, University of Oklahoma, 1987, thank you very much). As a partisan, I'm pretty sure this guy is a bad egg. But we'll see.
If you count Pearl Harbor as "Day One" of U.S. involvement in World War II, and V-J day (Aug. 15, 1945) as the end, we were at war for 1,348 days in that war.
And if you want to count September 11, 2001, as Day One of our war on terrorism followed by a bunch of well-meaning orange alerts, routing the Taliban from Afghanistan (sure, we'll buy that), routing from Saddam from Iraq (huh?), being greeted as liberators in the latter (oh, wait, that hasn't happened...), Abu Guantanamo, etc., etc. then we've been at this war now for 1,407 days.
Of course, more Americans died on September 11 (2,986) than died at Pearl Harbor (2,471). Not that that has anything to do with Iraq, and not to get too analytical about it, but if America goes to war, .5455 days seems to be the duration at war for each death that provided the impetus for us going to war in the first place. In which case, we're due, based on the WWII stats, to end major combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan around February 25 next year.
And, as we all know, You Know Who declared major combat operations in Iraq "over" on May 1, 2003. Everything since has just been U.S. soldiers in the wrong place at the wrong time, I guess.
St. Paul wasn't without his faults. To his credit, he confessed to many (and exposed many more) faithfully in his letters to the early church. So we know we can take his writing for the inspired teaching it usually was or in a few instances overlook his obvious biases and prejudices. For example, in his letter to the Galatians, he states pretty clearly and eloquently that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Elsewhere, he comes across as a misogynist, racist, self-hating Jew. Context, as our literalist brethren refuse to acknowledge except in some very convenient circumstances, is everything.
This verse from Paul's letter to the church in Galatia has been turned on its head for centuries. Whether to justify anti-Semitism, slavery, or misogyny, nobody wants to take Paul at face value here. In other instances, even Paul doesn't want to hew to his own line, such as when he says that women should be silent in church in apparent contradiction to the understanding that, in Christ, the distinctions between male and female no longer exist. Some people jump through hoops to reconcile Paul's misogyny with his egalitarianism. To be honest, these usually aren't people who worship Christ, but instead have chosen to worship the Bible, which is another form of idolatry and which is as old as the world, or its written history, at least. This is a gross over-generalization, of course, so to be fair, it's probably best to treat Christians in the same way Christ told us to: "By their fruits [that is, by the end result of their faith and works] ye shall know them." Even on those forgiving terms, most misogynists don't come off looking so good, however.
All of this came to mind today when I read that the Church of England, through its House of Bishops, has finally decided to allow women to serve as bishops in that corner of the church. The vote came in at 41 to 6 in favor, so this was hardly a "controversial" issue, as it's been portrayed in the media. However, there are already threats of schism from some bishops and other spokespersons for the "Jesus only had Jewish men as apostles, so only men can be bishops" wing of the church despite the obvious time-and-place limitations of Christ's first followers, not to mention the Hebraic requirement which was dropped pretty early on.
At the same time, the New York Times reports that the military is having problems recruiting chaplains from mainline denominations. "Many members of their clergy are now women," the Times says of these mainline denominations, "who are less likely to seek positions as military chaplains or who entered the ministry as a second career and are too old to qualify." In contrast, conservative, evangelical traditions are becoming over-represented among the military chaplaincy not unlike the way they're becoming over-represented in government at the federal, state, local and school board levels. From this vantage point, "evangelism" looks an awful lot like "co-option."
"In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth."
William Dunkerley wrote those words for a hymn in 1908, as a paraphrase of Paul's message to the Galatians. Perhaps it's time for a new hymn to remind us that, in God's eyes, everyone's service is service to Him and everyone's vocation is a calling to Christ.
I apparently owe That Man in the White House an apology or at least an acknowledgement. According to the New York Times on Saturday: "Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had been invited to the White House to talk about the vacancy on July 11. Also invited to the meeting, Mr. Specter said, are Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic minority leader, and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee."
Which belies my expectations of his consensus building, posted below. Which is a good thing. The interesting discussion now revolves around Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and how many times his name will be misspelled in the press, so that it ends with a Z. Of course, Bush could be leaning completely in another direction and this is just so much noise and distraction. But Gonzales as a nominee brings with it many pros and cons for Bush:
|He's a close friend of Bush, and that might feel like a nice, personal, long-lasting influence on the country, in a way that nominating a stranger might not.||He'd have to find someone else to be (and be confirmed as) attorney general.|
|Whatever Gonzales's views on abortion, same-sex marriage, etc., as a friend of Bush he'd very likely make for a business-friendly justice. Karl Rove seems to like cozying up to the religious right and social conservatives, but Bush himself seems to act like these people are mostly the cousins to his pro-business (especially small business) brothers.||If Bush thumbs his nose at the social conservatives, they're hardly likely to turn around and vote for Hillary Clinton as president. I would even doubt that they'd sit on their hands during the next election if anything, they might be even more mobilized since they wouldn't be campaigning for Bush, anyway.|
|Democrats don't much like Gonzales, thanks mostly to the "torture memos" he wrote that said the Geneva Conventions were "quaint" and outdated.||So if he's disliked by both the left and the far right, Bush would very likely succeed in positioning Gonzales as the "moderate" choice.|
|Even if they don't like him, the Senate did just recently confirm him as attorney general. So his background check is wholly up-to-date, and many of the questions have already been asked...||...except for his views on abortion, same-sex marriage and gay rights, and, in general, all the issues that people are getting ready to fight over.|
So, on balance, Gonzales would be an interesting choice. And unlike a lot of people, I don't mind an unknown quantity on the court. It allows the person to change his or her views with time and maturity and, above all, it allows cases to be decided on the merits of their arguments and not in advance.
Reagan-appointee Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement from the Supreme Court bench this morning, surprising more than a few people who expected the first retiree of the current court to be Chief Justice William Rehnquist. An hour or so after her announcement, That Man in the White House had some very nice things to say about O'Connor and some early warning shots to fire at Senate Democrats regarding the upcoming hearings for her as-yet-to-be-named successor.
Even though it isn't for the position of chief justice, this new appointment for an associate justice will likely have a far greater impact on the court than replacing Rehnquist will have. O'Connor has been the "swing vote" on so many decisions for the court; in fact, I believe she has the highest percentage of voting with the majority of any current justice. (Would have to check on that.) The right hates her because she formulated the current basis for evaluating prohibitions on abortion, which is whether such prohibitions create an undue burden on a woman to obtain an abortion prior to viability for the fetus outside the womb. Though she has herself expressed a personal opposition to abortion, she also was the swing vote in striking down Nebraska's prohibitions on late-term abortions. (And she voted with the majority in Lawrence v. Texas, but issued a narrower, concurring opinion. On the other hand, she also was with the majority on the now discounted Bower decision years earlier.)
No wonder That Man was so effusive in his praise of O'Connor. She was the personification of "moderate," which for this administration immediately means "traitor," but she's given him his one hope for the polls. He can hardly muster support from the public on Iraq anymore, and he's foundered badly with Social Security, but Karl Rove knows how to win big in the culture wars, and this seat on the Supreme Court is all about the culture wars.
Meanwhile, the Democrats, People for the American Way, MoveOn.org, etc., are already gearing up to oppose whoever Bush nominates, regardless of who it is. And the other side is already spending millions of dollars to support whoever That Man nominates, and he hasn't even named someone yet. Yet as I was saying to a friend at work, what I find fascinating is that neither side can imagine That Man actually conferring with both Frist and Reid (or, heaven forbid, the whole committee) to find a nominee they can all agree on. I mean, it's not even in the realm of possibility to picture, is it? And yet, that's what the Founders intended. How about that form of originalism, Antonin, huh?
I had to laugh at one thing, however. I found out last week that one of my neighbors is the Smartest Man on Radio, Brian Lehrer of WNYC. We met at a an annual neighborhood garden party. He mentioned to someone that he was going to be on vacation this week, and sure enough, they've had a substitute host for his show 10am to noon, Monday through Friday, on 93.9FM, AM820, or wnyc.org each morning this week. Among the running jokes in New York is that whenever Brian Lehrer goes on vacation, the big news happens. And here Sandra Day O'Connor announces her retirement today during his time slot, no less and to add insult to injury, according to his show's blog, he was apparently in Washington, D.C., with plans to have lunch today at the Supreme Court.