Archive for the ‘Reason magazine’ Category

Ferrets are illegal in some states that have legalized gay marriage.


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Lena Dunham has taken to twitter to insist that gosh darn it she got on a plane and flew to New York to vote for Obama, because the Bureau of Elections was too incompetent to mail her an absentee ballot to wherever she actually resides.

A NYC blog insists she didn’t actually vote.

Maybe she’s been reading Katherine Mangu-Ward in reason magazine on how voting doesn’t matter?

LENA DUNHAM (in a video supporting President Obama’s re-election): Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy. It should be with a guy with beautiful … somebody who really cares about and understands women.
A guy who cares about whether you get health insurance, and specifically whether you get birth control. The consequences are huge. You want to do it with a guy who brought the troops out of Iraq. You don’t want a guy who says, “Oh hey, I’m at the library studying,” when he’s really out not signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
Or who thinks that gay people should never have beautiful, complicated weddings of the kind we see on Bravo or TLC all the time. It’s a fun game to say, “Who are you voting for?” and they say “I don’t want to tell you,” and you say, “No, who are you voting for,” and they go, “Guess!”
Think about how you want to spend those four years. In college age time, that’s 150 years. Also, it’s super uncool to be out and about and someone says, “Did you vote,” and “No, I didn’t vote, I wasn’t ready.”
My first time voting was amazing. It was this line in the sand. Before I was a girl. Now I was a woman. I went to the polling station and pulled back the curtain. I voted for Barack Obama.
The actual story of the cherries jubilee celebrating the loss of Lena Dunham’s virginity is somewhat less romantic.
She waited what is, in these times, considered to be an indecent interval (her sophomore year in college). The guy wasn’t particularly beautiful, or adept with women. The encounter turned out to be semi-public (someone else walked in, and then she wrote about it) and somewhat disappointing. The guy wanted a return engagement and was denied even a second go-round.  And Ms. Dunham later relived the encounter in a semi-fictitious version (on film).
But despite the less than cool guy involved (“Later that year, Audrey saw him in the student post office picking up a package with a pair of used Merrills to replace his really used Tevas, and we laughed about it like mean girls.”), the story otherwise eerily parallels Dunham’s political history.
Dunham was born on May 13, 1986. That means she was 18 and change when John Kerry faced off against George W. Bush in November 2004. If voting is so important, why didn’t she vote when she first had the chance?…According to New York City’s voter file, a Lena Dunham registered in Manhattan voted in the 2008 general election but not the 2004 general election or any local elections between the two..”
So, despite Ms. Dunham’s assertion that “it’s super uncool to be out and about and someone says, “Did you vote,” and “No, I didn’t vote, I wasn’t ready,” as in her real life, Ms. Dunham waited what is, in these times, considered to be an indecent interval before popping her electoral cherry.
Further, in a Gatemouth exclusive, I can now report that according to New York City’s voter file, a Lena Dunham registered to vote in Brooklyn did not vote in the 2012 general election or in any local elections since she moved from her prior address in Tribeca.
In other words, Ms. Dunham lost her electoral cherry in an encounter that turned out to be semi-public (she informed the entire American public of its occurrence) and was apparently somewhat disappointed by it, in that the guy wanted a return engagement and was denied even a second go-round (she even blue-balled him, despite proclaiming on her show that she didn’t believe in that). Finally, Ms. Dunham later relived the encounter in a semi-fictitious version (on a videotape posted on YouTube).
On her sitcom, “Girls” Ms. Dunham’s character Hannah Horvath declares “I think I may be the voice of my generation
I think Ms. Dunham herself may have earned that title.
In 2008, Ms. Dunham’s generation, hyped with the thrill of the chase (not the thrill of the chaste), eagerly lost its political virginity to Barack Obama.
But faced with the reality that what a political relationshipactually entailed often lacked the excitement of the fantasy that Hannah masturbated to eight times a day, in 2010, young peoplestayed away from the polls in droves, delivering Congress and plenty of state legislatures and governorships to the GOP in a reapportionment year.
The result, even after young voters returned to Obama for a second try in the political sack, was a guarantee that the administration would blow its wad pretty quickly and then pretty much go limp thereafter.
Ms. Dunham apparently found even this disappointing suitor a better bet than “legitimate rape” (though, if one watches “Girls,” “legitimate rape fantasy” is apparently a different matter), but being a generational leader, Ms. Dunham came out ahead of the 2014 trajectory and beat her fellow millennialcrats to the punch by failing to vote in 2012.
Funny thing is that the right is obsessed by Dunham, to the point of hateful ugliness (“This is the first show in the history of cable television where male viewers actively root for the heroine to keep her clothes on.”).
Talk about clueless.
When it comes to voting behavior, Ms. Dunham is almost exactly the role model the right wing should want her liberal generation to follow.
Talk big about your social concerns and stay away from the ballot box.  

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Gays really do start most fashions!

What’s the Big Idea?
Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. That is how René Descartes famously differentiated humans from other creatures. And yet, that statement might eventually be in need of an update or at least a strong qualifier, as computers are advancing rapidly from animal-like intelligence to one day perhaps equalling and surpassing human intelligence. 
Alan Turing was the first to foresee this possibility in 1950, when he published the seminal essay on artificial intelligence, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” which proposed a typewritten test to answer the question “Can machines think?”
According to Jaron Lanier, the right way to understand the famous “Turing Test” is to understand that it “began in the mind of somebody who was very close to suicide.”
In other words, Alan Turing, who was born 100 years ago today, is the very embodiment of the philosophical issue we face as we integrate technology into every aspect of our lives, and the distinction between man and machine grows ever slipperier. This rapid change to the human condition has been the source of great anxiety, as we start to call into question the very essence of what it is to be human. That is why Lanier says Turing’s test amounted to “a flight from life, but also a defense of life.” 
Watch the video here:
What’s the Significance?
Lanier uses intentionally strong language, arguing that Turing was “murdered” by his government. Turing, after all, was forced to undergo treatments that were designed to change his biology. We can only speculate about the exact psychological state Turing was in when he committed suicide, which he did shortly after he designed his famous ‘test,’ which Lanier describes as both a “flight from life and a defense of life.”
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Hona
read more at Big Think:
or at Reason:

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The lovely and talented Katherine Mangu-Ward writes on the Turing centennial in Reason magazine:

On June 23, Alan Turing would have been 100 years old. The World War II code breaker and founder of computer science didn’t make it to his own centennial, despite his devotion to physical fitness. He committed suicide by poisoned apple in 1954 after being convicted for “acts of gross indecency between two adult men” and chemically castrated as part of a deal to avoid prison.
We are now in the midst of Alan Turing Year, a privately organized worldwide celebration featuring talks, parties, books, and papers. Everywhere, praise of Turing is tempered with anger over the harsh punishment he suffered at the hands of the British state, cutting short a fruitful life. 
Turing’s utility as the brains of an important part of the wartime British cryptanalysis operation run out of Bletchley Park kept him on the government’s payroll and out of the hands of the law during the war. He provided the big ideas that helped build the code-cracking Bombe mechanism and keep it up to date, thus rendering German naval messages legible to Allied forces. 
Anthony Cave Brown’s 1987 book “C”: The Secret Life of Sir Stewart Menzies, Spymaster to Winston Churchill describes the attitude toward Turing’s known homosexuality in those years: “Since he caused no offence to his colleagues at Bletchley, and since he was perhaps the only man in Menzies’s service who might have been called ‘indispensable,’ his services were retained…Early in 1944 a suspicion arose that he might have been the man responsible for molesting schoolboys at the main public library in Luton, a large industrial town not far from Bletchley. While no proceedings arose, it was decided that the need for good order and discipline required his removal—but not before he had done his finest work.”
If it hadn’t been for his tangible work at Bletchley’s Hut 8, Turing might have been disposed of much sooner. His stunning accomplishments in theoretical realms—the concept of the algorithm, a vision of a computing machine that could follow rules to manipulate symbolic information fed to it on a strip of tape, and a new understanding of the biological processes that cause organisms to develop their shapes—would have been unlikely to win the same leniency. 
In March, Britain’s Socialist Worker reviewed a Manchester Museum exhibit focused on Turing’s biological research, concluding that his conviction was “barbarism,” ending “a career that would have led to further brilliant insights into the workings of the natural world.” The same month, columnist Michael Hanlon at the conservative Daily Mail newspaper fumed: “Turing, a logical man after all, probably felt that having done as much as anyone to see off the Kriegsmarine and save his country from decades of fascist servitude (a new exhibition about his life has just opened at Bletchley Park), his country might be a teeny-weeny bit grateful and let the matter of consensual sexual relations with another adult man pass unnoticed.” It’s not often those two publications can agree.
more at Reason.com

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Obama’s Gay Marriage Equivocation

The marriage whose name the president dare not speak

“I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,” Barack Obama told a gay newspaper while seeking his first term as an Illinois state senator in 1996, “and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” When Obama ran for re-election in 1998, he took the National Political Awareness Test, which among other things asked, “Do you believe that the Illinois government should recognize same-sex marriages?” His response: “Undecided.” 
It took Obama only two years to learn the political value of reticence regarding touchy social issues—a concept that evidently still eludes Vice President Joe Biden, whose unguarded comments about gay marriage on Sunday called unwelcome attention to his boss’s studied ambiguity on the subject. Yet a close look at Obama’s statements over the years suggests his spokesman is telling the truth when hesays Biden’s position is essentially the same as the president’s.
“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said on Meet the Press. “And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.”
Obama does—or at least, he is aware that many voters do, which is why he has been careful to avoid an explicit endorsement of “gay marriage” as such, to the dismay of some supporters. Instead he says homosexual and heterosexual couples should be treated equally under the law.
“The government has to treat all citizens equally,” Obama said during a 2007 presidential debate. “I am a strong supporter not of a weak version of civil unions, but of a strong version, in which the rights that are conferred at the federal level to persons who are part of the same-sex union are compatible. When it comes to federal rights, the over 1,100 rights that right now are not being given to same-sex couples, I think that’s unacceptable.”
That position helps explain Obama’s 2011 decision to stop defending the constitutionality of the statute that bars the federal government from recognizing state-licensed same-sex marriages. Announcing that decision in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration had concluded that legal classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to “heightened scrutiny” under the equal protection guarantee implicit in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
Although one might surmise that Obama would apply a similar analysis to state bans on same-sex marriage under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, he has not said so explicitly. But he has opposed such bans—including not only measures aimed at abolishing existing gay marriage rights (such as California’s Proposition 8) but also measures aimed at foreclosing such rights (such as North Carolina’s Amendment 1).
At the same time, Obama has said (while serving in the U.S. Senate), “Personally, I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.” Instead he has advocated “civil unions” that give gay couples “all the rights” of straight couples—except the right to call their relationship a marriage.
Here is how he explained the distinction in that 2007 debate: “We should try to disentangle what has historically been the issue of the word marriage, which has religious connotations to some people, from the civil rights that are given to couples.” The people Obama had in mind include not only older swing voters but also crucial parts of his base: Seven out of 10 black voters supported Proposition 8 in 2008, as did most Latinos. Meanwhile, Obama does not want to alienate young voters, who overwhelmingly support gay marriage.  
So much for the crass political calculations underlying Obama’s straddle. Believe it or not, there is also a principle here: The “sacred institution” that Mitt Romney, Obama’s presumptive Republican opponent, is so keen to preserve existed long before governments started doling out marriage licenses and should not depend on the state for its continued legitimacy. 
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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Reason.com covering gay issues a lot this month:

Romney’s Gay Marriage Challenge

What does he mean by “domestic partnership”?

Last Thursday, the day after President Obama finally endorsed gay marriage, his campaign released a video that faults his presumptive Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, for not doing likewise. “President Obama is moving us forward,” the ad says. “Mitt Romney would take us back.”
In a sense, Obama is the one going back, returning to a position he took as a political novice in 1996. But the same changes in public opinion that made it thinkable for him to stop equivocating on gay marriage present a challenge to Romney as he repositions himself for the general election.
Sixteen years ago, when Obama supported “legalizing same-sex marriages” as a candidate for the Illinois Senate, a Gallup poll found that only 27 percent of Americans agreed with him. According to a Gallup poll conducted this month, that number has risen to 50 percent.
A new CBS News poll indicates that support for legal recognition of gay couples (not necessarily “marriage”) is even higher. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said “gay couples should be allowed to marry,” while another 24 percent said they should be “allowed to form civil unions.” Only 33 percent favored “no legal recognition.” Surveys during the last few years have yielded similar results.
In short, “no legal recognition” for gay couples clearly has become a minority position, which poses a problem for Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has opposed same-sex marriage since the beginning of his political career, and he favors a constitutional amendment that “defines marriage as a relationship between a man and woman.”
The Obama campaign’s video implies that Romney—unlike Obama’s Republican predecessor, George W. Bush—also opposes civil unions, but that is not true. Since running for governor in 2002, Romney has said he supports “domestic partnerships” for same-sex couples that include “the potential for health benefits and rights of survivorship.” What else they might include is not entirely clear, and this is the tricky part for a candidate trying to keep social conservatives happy without alienating swing voters by seeming intolerant or insensitive to the problems gay couples face because of their unequal legal treatment.
Romney’s idea of domestic partnerships clearly does not go as far as the civil unions that Obama favored until last week (which he said would provide “all the rights” of marriage). “I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender,” Romney said after Obama’s announcement, “and I don’t favor civil unions if they’re identical to marriage other than by name.”
But contrary to the Obama campaign’s video, Romney does support shared health plans as well as joint adoption. “If two people of the same gender want to live together, want to have a loving relationship and even want to adopt a child,” he said on Fox News last week, “in my view that’s something that people have the right to do.”
Already this is dangerous territory as far as social conservatives are concerned, which explains why Romney’s campaign later insisted he was only explaining what Massachusetts and many other states allow. “He thinks a traditional family is far better for children,” a spokeswoman told CNN, but “he acknowledges it’s a state issue” and “did nothing to change it” as governor of Massachusetts.
As that whipsawing statement suggests, federalism will get Romney only so far, especially since he has chosen to nationalize the issue by calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. If the ban does not apply to civil unions, it will not stop states from allowing legal arrangements “identical to marriage” but for the name, which Romney says he opposes. But if the federal government tries to prevent those, states won’t really be free to “make decisions with regard to domestic partnership benefits,” the approach he says he favors.
Romney is not the only Republican with conflicting impulses on gay marriage. In the CBS News survey, 70 percent of Republicans supported a constitutional ban, while 63 percent said the issue should be left to the states.
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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More reason.com coverage on gay marriage:

Gay Marriage, Like All Marriage, Not Worth Celebrating

Beware of governments granting the “right” to enter onerous lifelong contracts.

Back in the days when there was an identifiable counter-cultural movement in the United States, feminists, gay activists, and much of the left identified the institution of marriage as the foundation of conservative American culture and therefore something to oppose, not seek. But now, with more and more gays gaining official permission to marry, the left is celebrating a right that it used to compare with the right to be imprisoned. 
Those who consider themselves to be the descendants of the counter-cultural left are hailing President Barack Obama’s sudden embrace of gay marriage as a great victory not just for equality and civil rights but also for freedom. Yet historically, those who invented and promoted legal marriage did so with the explicit purpose of restraining the liberty of all of us. Were Emma Goldman, Allen Ginsberg, and the drag queens who threw bricks at the cops at the Stonewall Inn alive today, they might well say that Americans have all become “the Man.”
Free people getting married. The idea that the state should promote, sanction, and regulate monogamous relationships gained currency in the 16th century as a reaction to Europe’s first sexual revolution. Public, group, and what we now call homosexual sex were commonplace, prostitution was rampant and generally unpunished, pornographic books and pamphlets were widely popular, and laws against adultery and divorce went unenforced. Martin Luther and other leaders of the Protestant Reformation seized upon marriage as a means though which to curb unchristian freedoms and bring about social order. 
Luther recognized that “he who refuses to marry must fall into immorality,” identified marriage as “the remedy against sin,” and demanded that all of humanity seek the cure “in order that fornication and adultery may be avoided as well as pollutions and promiscuous lusts.” 
Until then, the Church alone had recognized and overseen marriages, but Luther and the reformers wanted a more powerful and “worldly” enforcer of God’s laws. Marriage, they said, belonged under the purview of “temporal government,” which “restrains the un-Christian and wicked so that—no thanks to them—they are obliged to keep still and to maintain an outward peace.” Moved by these injunctions, governments across Protestant Europe seized control over marriage and instituted rules to enforce it. 
On this side of the Atlantic, shortly after the ratification of the Constitution, the newly-formed states, acting in their own professed self-interest, enacted laws that made it more difficult to end marriages. Typical was the view of Georgia state legislators, who in 1802 responded to their inability to stop the “dissolution of contracts founded on the most binding and sacred obligations” by drafting a law regulating divorce. According to the lawmakers, the “dissolution [of a marriage] ought not to be dependent on private will, but should require legislative interference; inasmuch as the republic is deeply interested in the private business of its citizens.” 
Other state governments followed that lead. By the end of the 19th century it was nearly impossible in all the states to dissolve a marriage unless one upheld what one historian has called “ideal spousal behavior” and one’s spouse was adulterous, sexually dysfunctional, or chronically absent. No longer could an unhappy wife or husband simply walk away from a marriage.
American lawmakers in the 19th century widely concurred with the legal scholar Joel Prentiss Bishop, considered to be the “foremost law writer of the age” and the author of the then preeminent legal treatise on marriage, who considered “too absurd to require a word of refutation . . . the idea that any government could, consistently with the general well-being, permit this institution to become merely a thing of bargain between men and women, and not regulate it.” This question gained new urgency during the Civil War, when slaves, who had no legal right to marriage, were suddenly prospective citizens. A Union officer charged with educating the freedmen testified to Congress that 
one great defect in the management of the negroes down there was, as I judged, the ignoring of the family relationship . . . My judgement is that one of the first things to be done with these people, to qualify them for citizenship, for self-protection and self-support, is to impress upon them the family obligations.
The Union government required that all newly freed slaves under its care in refugee camps “who have been living or desire to live together . . . be married in the proper manner.” 
After the war, administrators of the Freedmen’s Bureau, who were charged with making the ex-slaves conform to American norms, were ordered to coerce their charges into marriage so as to bring them into civilization: 
The past marriages of freedmen, although often formally solemnized, have not been so authenticated that misconduct can be legally punished, or inheritance rightly determined. It is most urgently and plainly needful that this out growth of a by gone system should now cease. A general re-marriage (for the sake of the record) of all persons married without license, or living together without marriage should be insisted upon by employers and urged by all who have any connection with, or knowledge of such persons. They should know that, if after ample facilities have been for some time afforded, they have not conformed to this necessity of social life, they will be prosecuted and punished.
The Bureau issued “Marriage Rules” to “aid the freedmen in properly appreciating and religiously observing the sacred obligations of the marriage state.” The rules not only granted the right to marry to ex-slaves but also established high barriers to obtain a legal divorce.
Dissolving a marriage became slightly less onerous in the 20th century, thanks largely to the aforementioned counter-cultural left, but the institution’s state-sanctioned moral apparatus continued to keep most of us from pursuing our individual desires. As of the most recent count [pdf], 48 percent of married couples are willing to pay lawyers bundles of cash to disentangle from relationships they no longer see as serving their interests. Even today, we pay dearly for that option, not just in legal fees but also from the stigma of having “failed” at what all good Americans are expected to do.
So let us say to our gay brothers and sisters fighting for the “freedom to marry,” who once led the fight for freedom from marriage: be careful what you wish for—you’ll probably get it.
Thaddeus Russell is the author of A Renegade History of the United States (Free Press).

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