Sunday, November 26, 2006

Won't be blogging much for a bit.

Headed back to college tomorrow from break. Got a few things I'd like to blog about but over all when I have the time I haven't felt like it. I've been wanting to get back to fiction and polishing up things left unfinished from summer break. So, seeing as I'm also coming into the final stretch of the semester, I think it's safe to say this blog is only going to continue to be mostly inactive until after exams. I might write an entry or two before then, but overall it won't be as common as it has been. And I'll probably be even slower than normal with replies.

Now watch me go and not do a single thing I just said. That's usually what happens when I announce things after all.

By the way... Orphans is great, but perhaps a little pricy for those who are not hardcore Waits fans. I love it a hell of a lot, but I'm a hardcore Waits fan. Not trying to discourage people. It's probably the best new album out right now after all. Just saying if you have to really think about digging into your wallet for that forty to fifty plus bucks, you might want to hold out till the metal ain't red. I'll get around to reviewing the beast at some point. I want to take take it all in (and with anything over fifty tracks... that takes time) before I gush all over how happy I am that my favorite artist has a new album out.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Can't wait for Waits!

There are a lot of things I'm happy about right now and a few things I'm bummed about. The major low should be obvious to anyone that's kept up with this blog. For now though I'm going to focus on my two highs and something that has me completely thrown off guard.

My highs are that I'm now on turkey break, which means I can catch up with the homework and see my girlfriend... And the upcoming release of Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards! Tom Waits is my all-time favorite artist. There are not enough adjectives in a vintage trailer for Tod Browning's Freaks to describe how wonderful he and his wife are. I'll probably review the new album when it comes out. So I'll leave it at that for now.

So what threw me off guard you ask? This over at Waldo's blog hit me last night.

also, what are your feelings about Scarlett Johansson's upcoming album of all Tom Waits covers? (not a joke)

So I looked it up...Andd yes...Itt seems to be real. Oddly though, I have yet to hear a blip from any of my normal Waits News channels.

In one hand you have this generation's Winona Rider (y'all may deny it but you know I'm right) who I've been watching since Ghost World and saying she would be a star, and in the other you have Tom "slicker than deer guts on a door knob" Waits. So what's not to like?

I'm optimistic. She's one of the fewHollywoodd beauties that can actually act (did a good job in Match Point) and if nothing else this shows that she has really good taste in music. However if she messes it up then I'm probably not going to be putting up with no The Perfect Score 2: The Graduate.

What would be really cool is if this story turns out to be true and that Tom Waits will duet with her. If that were the case (doubtful) then there would be no question that this will be fantastic in my mind.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Danny Schmidt with Keith and Jen Morris at the Gravity Lounge Tuesday.

So after you vote tomorrow (FIRST PRIORITY) you can either sit on the edge of your seat and stress as the numbers come in... or you can relax at The Gravity Lounge around 7pm with Keith and Jen followed by Danny Schmidt!

Danny has been in town for a while now, recording his new album at Paul Curreri's studio. I've been wrapped up with college and focusing my blogging powers against ballot question #1 (vote NO) so I'm afraid that's about the extent of my knowledge. Although considering recent antics on Keith's blog about Danny's upcoming album. I expect this will be an exceptionally funny show.

So check it out!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Republican Sea Change?

Vivian J. Paige has a good entry drawing from yesterday's Washington Post piece about Bob Marshall. It's pretty disturbing when you actually look at the man behind the Marshall-Newman amendment and his own personal agenda against gays. Spouting half-cocked scientific rhetoric one would expect form a early 20th century eugenisist, it's clear to see that Robert Marshall's agenda is to bring Virginia back to a time when women were subservient mothers. As he says:
"There is a natural order of things, a natural order where gay marriage is an impossibility," he said, books tucked under his arm and waving a hand for emphasis, like the disheveled college professor he often resembles. "For example, a woman's arm is constructed at a certain angle so that she can adequately cradle a baby. This is the way we're created. There are just certain things that nature intended."
He's dropped hints like this all along the way. He is a Social Conservative, something that in many respects (in politics) is the exact opposite of every thing that traditional Republican party ideals stand for. It used to be that Democrats pushed gun control and Tipper Gore that wanted to restrict free speech. Those that recall Ralph Nader's speeches in Charlottesville during his first run for president might also recall his desire to have Howard Stern taken off the air.

Now it is the Bob Marshall's that want to enter our homes and tell us who it is "natural" to have relations with. The Jim Cambloses that are after are second amendment rights. The Gorge Allens that are judging us by the content (and not the context) of our literature. Republicans like these and Virgil Goode (who according to his TV ads still supports ballot question #1 even after Deeds admitted it went too far) are pushing for bigger government, and they are not using the excuse of war time either. These are issues that are hitting at home. Homosexuals are not terrorists. (They would be dragged out into the street and shot under terrorist rule.) This is pure old fashion big government infringement on peoples' privet lives in the name of agendas that have no business in office.

If the republican party wants to keep the members that believe in its founding principals from joining the libertarian party or, *GASP!* even voting for democrats, they need to stop amendments to our Bill of Rights like this one and get rid of the charlatan republicans behind them.

* * *

This will be my last blog entry till after the elections. I'm swamped with home work as it is and simply can't give anymore time than I have. There was a lot more I wanted to cover, like what I think are the REAL threats to marriage in this country, but time is simply not on my side.

Here are links to past things I've written on this issue.

Addressing the Scandinavia Argument that Bob Marshall and VA4Marriage often uses
Parts 1, 2, and 3

Addressing other Marriage issues.

Homosexuality Vs. Pedophilia

Bigotry and Polygamy

Wedding Vows

(NOTE: I might update this with older links)

Please, vote "NO" to ballot question #1!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Debunking the Scandinavia Argument's Seductive Language

(See intro, and optionally this)

It is a common technique in essay writing to restate one's thesis statement to hammer in the point and provide a sense of grounding when addressing multiple arguments. It's traditionally taught in essay writing as the main purpose of the conclusion. However another technique has unfortunately come to occur when attempting to sway the reader to a view that would be difficult if even possible to achieve with facts. By gradually changing the words used in the restating, one can insinuate something that other than their introductory statement. Doing this over a lengthy paper, it can allow the essayist to conclude with a statement that they have not proven, usually without the reader catching it as false.

This technique has become popular in political debating, but usually is reserved for verbal mediums like talk radio. With a straight essay it can usually be caught if the argument is controversial enough to draw critics who will examine the language. However, if one only leaves the insinuation, there is little that can be challenged. If the false statement is never explicitly made, one cannot cite it, and though the casual reader may still fall influence, any critic will be dismissed as reading too deeply into it.

Let us look specifically at how Stanley Kurtz chooses his words in The End of Marriage in Scandinavia and see if they gradually say what at first he posed not to say.

He concludes his first paragraph with, "Will same-sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage? It already has." The logic here might seem questionable when one considers that only a few sentences prior he said, "Same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood." Though this bit of chronological confusion is quickly clarified in his following paragraph's opening with "More precisely, it has further undermined the institution."

Several paragraphs down, he restates, "This suggests that gay marriage is both an effect and a cause of the increasing separation between marriage and parenthood." Once again the word "cause" appears, but it is of the increasing of the separation and not the separation itself. Eight paragraphs down he changes his words again as, "Gay marriage is both an effect and a reinforcing cause of the separation of marriage and parenthood." Now it is a "reinforcing cause." This use of "reinforcing" helps protect gay-marriage form being called an outright cause, which he has yet to prove, but further plants that suggestive seed. Which culminates to the final restating in his conclusion:

Conservative advocates of gay marriage want to test it in a few states. The implication is that, should the experiment go bad, we can call it off. Yet the effects, even in a few American states, will be neither containable nor revocable. It took about 15 years after the change hit Sweden and Denmark for Norway's out-of-wedlock birthrate to begin to move from "European" to "Nordic" levels. It took another 15 years (and the advent of gay marriage) for Norway's out-of-wedlock birthrate to shoot past even Denmark's. By the time we see the effects of gay marriage in America, it will be too late to do anything about it. Yet we needn't wait that long. In effect, Scandinavia has run our experiment for us. The results are in.

The insinuation here is somewhat subtle and easily overlooked, but notice that he does not mention exactly which few American states are being proposed? Are all U.S. states suffering from the kind of decline in marriage that was, as he stated, already present in Scandinavia long before Gay Marriage was legalized? I find that hard to believe.

This obscure warning can easily leave the reader thinking that if gay marriage was legal in any state, regardless of that state's present marital status, it would gradually erode the institution of marriage. He simply cannot prove that fact, which is why he has evaded directly stating it, though to this day he is one of the leading opponents to gay marriage in America, and this essay is one of the most frequently cited in debates against gay marriage for that very reason.

One of the things worth considering, regardless of Kurtz actual conclusion and what he may or may not be insinuating and what he has said in other essays about the decline of marriage, the people that are using his essay as an arguing point to vote YES for the Marshall/Newman amendment (ballot question #1) are saying that "it will erode the institution of marriage in the United States." (See the 16th Q&A for the quote.) They are not saying it will increase an erosion already occurring, they are saying it will bring the whole thing down, which raises the question of how accurately they are even using this essay as an arguing point.

Debunking the Scandinavia Argument's Inductive Reasoning: Coexisting Vs. Codependent

(See intro.)

When first heard, the proposal that de facto gay marriage is the cause of high out-of-wedlock birthrates seems a little absurd. The two concepts strike an initial dissonance of biological logic. Still, from a sociological angle, Stanley Kurtz composes an argument for the two that does appear reasonable a first, but with thorough reading becomes blatantly off-key with his own facts. There prevails a feeling that either common sense is lacking in Kurtz's conclusion, which overlooks much of what he describes about the situation in Scandinavia or that he is intentionally evading these serious points that should be considered.

In the early nineties, gay marriage came to the Nordic countries, where the out-of-wedlock birthrate was already high. Ten years later, out-of-wedlock birth rates have risen significantly in the middle group of nations. Not coincidentally, nearly every country in that middle group has recently either legalized some form of gay marriage, or is seriously considering doing so. Only in the group with low out-of-wedlock birthrates has the gay marriage movement achieved relatively little success.

This suggests that gay marriage is both an effect and a cause of the increasing separation between marriage and parenthood. As rising out-of-wedlock birthrates disassociate heterosexual marriage from parenting, gay marriage becomes conceivable. If marriage is only about a relationship between two people, and is not intrinsically connected to parenthood, why shouldn't same-sex couples be allowed to marry?

Kurtz's essay has several sections like this that point out the chronological impossibility of gay marriage being the direct cause of marital breakdown. What is interesting about this example is that it states that the increasing separation between marriage and parenthood brought forth the legalization of gay marriage. When a conclusion evokes a kind of reverse catch-22 like this, it is usually wise to question the possibility of a third variable from which both issues stem from. Kurtz is taking two things that seem to coexist and concluding that they are codependent without considering other factors that he addresses elsewhere.

A 2002 study by the Max Planck Institute, for example, concluded that countries with the lowest rates of family dissolution and out-of-wedlock births are "strongly dominated by the Catholic confession." The same study found that in countries with high levels of family dissolution, religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, had little influence.

The resonance of this interesting fact is solidified by the following where he notes that:

Swedes themselves link the decline of marriage to secularism. And many studies confirm that, throughout the West, religiosity is associated with institutionally strong marriage, while heightened secularism is correlated with a weakening of marriage. Scholars have long suggested that the relatively thin Christianization of the Nordic countries explains a lot about why the decline of marriage in Scandinavia is a decade ahead of the rest of the West.

I would not go so far as to say that a country must have a "thin Christianization" in order to legalize gay marriage. One fact cannot be denied though: the largest opposition to gay marriage are organized, fundamentalist or otherwise strongly conservative religious groups (notably Christians, Catholics and Muslims). It is perfectly logical that areas with stronger separations of church and state would be more likely to legalize de facto gay marriage than those without. When you consider that much of Scandinavia seems not only to be secular but socially radical...

There are also cultural-ideological causes of Swedish family decline. Even more than in the United States, radical feminist and socialist ideas pervade the universities and the media. Many Scandinavian social scientists see marriage as a barrier to full equality between the sexes, and would not be sorry to see marriage replaced by unmarried cohabitation. A related cultural-ideological agent of marital decline is secularism. Sweden is probably the most secular country in the world. Secular social scientists (most of them quite radical) have largely replaced clerics as arbiters of public morality.

...the result becomes painfully obvious. The acceptance of gay marriage and the decline of marriage alone imply no intrinsic correlation or dependence. A pattern alone tells not its how's and why's, and the appearance of a pattern that is not confirmed through deductive reasoning tells nothing certain of what is actually being observed. It was greatly through the regional decline of their mutual opposition (the church) that out-of-wedlock birthrates and de facto gay marriage came to Scandinavia. Notably with the former, there are many other variables to be considered (such as how Sweden's welfare system encouraged the decline in marriage) but it is Scandinavia's radical secularism that aided both.

Addressing the Scandinavia Argument: Introduction

The End of Marriage in Scandinavia by Stanley Kurtz has been one of the key arguments used by Marshall/Newman amendment (ballot question #1) supporters such as Virginia 4 Marriage. Kurtz's essay is, at best, a strong rebuttal to some gay-rights advocates' claims that legalizing de facto gay marriage in Denmark strengthened marriage in the country, and at worst it is a grave disservice to a serious problem in Scandinavia.

Without further investigating the raw data of his sources and their accuracy, I will concede for this essay that there is indeed a serious problem in Scandinavia. According to Kurtz's findings, there is an alarming number of children born not only out-of-wedlock but raised by choice (as opposed to circumstance) by single parents. This alone would not be too extreme if extreme at all (many children our raised by a single parent and grow up to be healthy functioning people in America) other than to the most imposing of social conservatives, were it not for the data showing higher mortality rates in Scandinavian children under these circumstances.

Though the exact nature of these child mortalities and health problems (physical and mental) is limited in Kurtz's essay to little more than cold statistics, they are not what concern me on a local level as a born and raised citizen of Virginia. What concerns me is how this being applied to Virginia its people, which are a far cry from Scandinavia in our culture, popular outlooks and degree of liberalism and radicalism. The situations are very different and his conclusions for how these mortalities came to pass are questionable enough purely in the context of Scandinavia.

As I said: at best he proves gay marriage did not significantly strengthen marriage - or rather, it did not notably impact the already declining popularity of marriage in Denmark. He does not stop there though. He takes these findings several steps further to state that de facto gay marriage worsened the state of marriage in not only Denmark, but throughout Scandinavia where similar patterns of marital breakdown and single parenting have emerged and flourish exponentially. Though he is evasive, initially correcting himself to say that, it has further undermined the institution as the essay progresses he does come to insinuate full blame for the situations in these countries be laid upon their legalization of gay marriage. Disregarding many of the variables in Scandinavia that led to marital erosion that he documents in his own essay, he concludes by warning that legalizing gay marriage or even same-sex civil unions in the United States will result in not only a similar marital erosion to Scandinavia, but because of our economic differences, a much more severe situation. This narrow look at statistical findings without broader sociological consideration, suggests his conclusions are governed by his preconception's preference. In ignoring the grander picture he does disservice to the actual problems he describes being faced in Scandinavia, which need to be addressed if they are as he claims, as well as those in the United States. Omitting the kind of deductive reasoning that is essential to work such as this, he takes two separate issues (the breakdown of traditional marriage and the legalization of gay marriage) that seem to coexist and declares them interdependent without thoroughly exploring their coexistence.

His efforts to cover his own tracks force him to include significant data that goes contrary to his conclusions and conceal it in the manner of arrangement. He applies logical rules to one thing than ignores them with another. In the following pieces I will show these points using extensive excerpts from The End of Marriage in Scandinavia. To find flaw in his claims and the application of those claims to the state of Virginia, one needs only to read his essay thoroughly and critically.