Evidence Does Not Support Conservative Claims on Gay Marriage

Republicans tried to use gay marriage as a wedge issue but even the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal is no longer one hundred percent behind this. In late October they included an op-ed by Darren R. Spedale and William N. Eskridge, JR., co-authors of Gay Marriage: For Better or For Worse? What We’ve Learned From the Evidence. The evidence as published here, in one of the main publications of the right wing noise machine, does not back up the usual right wing claims:

Social conservatives suggest that legal recognition of same-sex couples has harmed society. Sen. Bill Frist has stated that “years of de facto same-sex marriage in Scandinavia has further weakened marriage”; similar claims have been made by Sens. John Cornyn, Rick Santorum, James Inhofe and Sam Brownback.

However, there is no evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry weakens the institution. If anything, the numbers indicate the opposite. A decade after Denmark, Norway and Sweden passed their respective partnership laws, heterosexual marriage rates had risen 10.7% in Denmark; 12.7% in Norway; and a whopping 28.8% in Sweden. In Denmark over the last few years, marriage rates are the highest they’ve been since the early 1970s. Divorce rates among heterosexual couples, on the other hand, have fallen. A decade after each country passed its partnership law, divorce rates had dropped 13.9% in Denmark; 6% in Norway; and 13.7% in Sweden. On average, divorce rates among heterosexuals remain lower now than in the years before same-sex partnerships were legalized.

In addition, out-of-wedlock birthrates in each of these countries contradict the suggestion by social conservatives that gay marriage will lead to great increases in out-of-wedlock births and therefore less family stability for children. In Denmark, the percentage of out-of-wedlock births was 46% in 1989; now it is 45%. In Norway, out-of-wedlock births jumped from 14% in 1980 to 45% right before partnerships were adopted in 1993; now they stand at 51%, a much lower rate of increase than in the decade before same-sex unions. The Swedish trend mirrors that of Norway, with much lower rates of increase post-partnership than pre-partnership. (more…)

Studio 60, Comedy, and Politics

Just because its posted at MSNBC, don’t expect a commentary on the new NBC show Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip to be entirely complimentary. While its no secret to readers here that I’m a big fan of Aaaron Sorkin and have been rooting for this show, it doesn’t mean that I cannot recognize its imperfections. The article complains that:

The problem isn’t that “Studio 60” is taking comedy too seriously. It’s that the show isn’t taking comedy seriously enough. Despite aiming for intelligence and meaning, the show simply shows no signs of knowing enough about comedy to be credible…

Mostly, Sorkin has reached for importance by dousing the scripts with overwrought discussion of public-policy issues. He has covered how the fictional “Studio 60” runs into racism, religious prejudice, and conservative excesses. He has, in only seven episodes, centered plots around the war in Afghanistan, the blacklist, homophobia, and drug laws. This show is as serious as a heart attack. It would arguably be impossible to create a show about comedy that was less fun than this.

The criticisms are largely true, but miss the point. Those looking for a show about a SNL-type show are inevitably going to be disappointed. It fails to capture how such a show is really written, and fails to show its humor. However, Studio 60 is no more about a comedy show than Sports Night was really about a sports show. Studio 60 is really just a way to continue The West Wing in a new venue. The ultimate tip off is having the White House Deputy Chief of Staff as producer of the show within the show. When looking at these characters, I’ve also been curious as to how Sorkin plans to develop Harriet Hayes. My suspicion is that she is going to turn into the show’s Arnold Vinick. Just as Vinick played the Republican which liberal Democrats could love on The West Wing, Harriet Hayes shows signs of becoming the old fashioned religious person that us secular liberals can learn to love. We saw signs of this Monday when her views on homosexuality led her to being attacked from both the left and the religious right, and as we see her willingness to participate in all those skits mocking the religious right.

Studio 60 is about Aaron Sorkin characters speaking Aaron Sorkin dialog about the issues which matter to Aaron Sorkin. It doesn’t matter whether these characters are in the White House or on the set of a television show. Those who want a funny show about making a television show should buy the DVD’s of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Studio 60 is a totally different type of show, but hopefully setting it in an SNL-like television show is enough to get enough people to give it a try and possibly get hooked.

John Tierney and Diversity of Viewpoints

I just keep missing those memos. First there was the one about the secular liberal candidates I should have supported, and now it turns out that I missed the one telling me that, as a liberal blogger, I was supposed to respond to anything John Tierney writs with derision. Tierney has his last column in The New York Times today, and I have never seen so much reaction to anything he has written as today.

The gist of his column is that voters supported gridlock and “gave Congress a Seinfeld mandate to do nothing.” He is overly harsh on the Democrats for saying they “offered no bold new ideas, and they were rewarded with victory. Voters would like them to mop up the messes made by Republicans, but that’s it. Find a way out of Iraq, and then avoid any more excellent adventures dreamed up by neoconservatives.” While not entirely true considering the support for Democratic ideas in polls, the fact does remain that Democrats did concentrate their campaign on being the non-Republicans as opposed to their own agenda. A split government does have its advantages in providing checks and balances and forcing government to limit actions to those which have a bipartisan consensus.

I could certainly find specifics to argue with here and in Tierney’s other columns. The American Prospect gives one such example. The Carpetbagger Report notes how tediously predictable it is when every problem comes down to blaming the government. Despite disagreeing with Tierney on some points, my feeling is closer to that of Cafe Hayek which finds Tierney leaving to be a gray day as opposed to considering it a bright day as at The News Blog. In the past I have found reason to quote Tierney when he criticized the war, Republican hypocrisy, the moral majority, and the drug war. While I understand where The Agitator is coming from, I am proud to say he is at least wrong with regards to this blog when looking at how the left viewed Tierney:

One of the more disappointing aspects of Tierney’s tenure is the left’s knee-jerk, red-blue reaction to his appointment, basically from day one. Judging solely by the way the lefty blogs reacted to the guy, you’d never know that he regularly criticized the Bush administration, that he attacked Rush Limbaugh’s hypocrisy on prescription painkiller abuse, and that there were in fact a number of issues where the left ought to have been interested in what he was reporting. Instead, he was immediately dismissed as “Saffire’s replacement,” a token conservative to be loathed and scorned with Brooks. Because that’s how it works. Everybody’s either on your side, or they’re the enemy.

The point of an op-ed page in a liberal newspaper is to have a variety of opinions presented. I join with The Agitator and others in hoping to see a diversity of viewpoints and would welcome another libertarian writer to replace Tierney.

Scary News Out of Iran

From a pragmatic perspective, one of my many objections to Bush’s Middle East policy has been how it has acted to strengthen Iran and al Qaeda while undermining Democracy movements worldwide. Two different news items today demonstrate that a policy which has acted to strengthen Iran was not the best idea.

The Telegraph reports that  Iran is trying to take control of bin Laden’s terror network by training senior al Qaeda operatives in Teheran to assume control when bin Laden is no longer around.

If the prospects of Iran controlling such a terror network aren’t scary enough, unexplained plutonium has been found in a nuclear waste facility in Teheran.

We already know about the progress North Korea has made towards nuclear weapons as a consequence of George Bush’s incompetence. How many will die in upcoming years due to his reckless and insane foreign policy moves?

Ford Not Challenging Dean For DNC Chair

Following recent speculation, CNN reports that Harold Ford has stated he does not plan to challenge Howard Dean for the position of DNC Chairman.

Victory For the Mommy Party

Are our only choices the Mommy Party or the Daddy Party? Daddy sure screwed up, but the nanny state is not the answer either. The New York Daily News sees the election as a victory for the Mommy Party with a scary prediction:

To start with the last, I think the mood of the country has shifted so sharply that Hillary Clinton has gone from being the front-runner for her party’s 2008 nomination to being virtually unstoppable. The odds of her being elected President are greater today than they were a mere week ago.

If we must have rule by the Mommy Party, could it at least be a cool, anti-authoritarian Mommy, such as Lorelai Gilmore who had this to say about America when placing a leash on her dog:

Oh, he’s perfectly fine with having his personal freedoms slowly stripped away, as long as he’s completely unaware that it’s happening. Just like a true American.

A Victory for Science in the War on Science

Here’s a story from a earlier in the month which I missed, but picked up thanks to Mike the Mad Biologist. The Washington Post reported that the inspectors general at two agencies are looking into the Bush administration’s suppression of science:

Inspectors general at two agencies have begun an investigation into whether the Bush administration has suppressed government scientists’ research on global warming, officials at NASA and the Commerce Department confirmed yesterday.

Prompted by a request this fall by 14 Democratic senators, the IGs are examining whether political appointees have prevented climate researchers at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from conveying their findings to the public.

The issue of global warming has emerged as one of the most contentious scientific debates within the administration. In the past year, several federal climate scientists, including James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, have accused the administration of muzzling them, a charge the White House has denied.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and author of the Sept. 29 letter to the two inspectors general, said yesterday in an interview that he was pleased about the investigation. “It’s extremely important, because the evidence is so obvious that they’ve tried to block the presentation of information on this in an unbiased fashion,” Lautenberg said.

With Congress now under Democratic control I hope to see even more action to end the Republican war on science.

Jim Wallis Imagines A Loss For the Secular Left

Damn, somebody forgot to send me the memo. I learned from Bill Scher at Huffington Post that, at least according to Jim Wallis, as a member of the secular left I had candidates I didn’t know about. According to Wallis, “In this election, both the Religious Right and the secular Left were defeated, and the voice of the moral center was heard.”

If someone had told me that the secular left had some official candidates, I might have sent a check. Actually, the only candidate I sent a check to this year was Jennifer Granholm. Sure she supported abortion rights and stem cell research and she argued that Republicans must “Stop using religion to divide” but she also said “Jesus is in all of our people, and in serving them we are serving him.” I guess that disqualifies her as a member of the secular left.

Bill Scher, who supports a coalition between the secular and religious left, debunks Wallis:

…the vast majority of new Dem congresspeople are not social conservatives. Media Matters reports: “this incoming crop of Democrats largely agrees on the most contentious social issues of the day: All but two of the 27 challengers support embryonic stem cell research and only five describe themselves as ‘pro-life’ on the issue of abortion.”

Furthermore, all the new Dem senators from “red” states support reproductive freedom, while bright red South Dakota voted down an abortion ban.

It’s foolishly divisive because we can’t isolate fringe fundamentalist religious leaders like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson unless we build a majority coalition of the religious and nonreligious on a set of common principles. Attacking the “secular Left” as having nothing to do with America’s “moral center” is not the way to do that.

Democrats won not by imitating the Republicans in using religion, but by speaking about the real issues. This time people cared more about Iraq and the corruption of the Republicans than about the “moral issues” which some falsely claim decided the 2004 election. While this was no loss for the secular left, the one prominent Democrat who did lose was the one who tried the hardest to play the religion card, Harold Ford.

Separation of Church and State is a fundamental principle upon which this nation was founded, and a fundamental liberal value today. Jim Wallis cannot simultaneously attack the secular left, including raising false claims that there was a defeat for the secular left, while also claiming to be promoting liberalism. Just as I support religious individuals who I share a common view of government with such as Jennifer Granholm and John Kerry, including the necessity of maintaining a strict separation of Church and State, Jim Wallis should realize the folly of attempting to divide the secular and religious left.