Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Numbers and lies

Usually when I talk about statistics and lies, it’s about the rightwing using statistics to “prove” something that’s not actually true, or their trying to deceive people by quoting them selectively. Sometimes, I have to talk about phoney statistics they make up as a propaganda tool. Today, it’s a little different: It’s an attack ON statistics because they don’t like the fact that real numbers don’t support their propaganda claims.

The above Tweet is from statistics guru Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, who is widely regarded (by calm, rational people, anyway…) as pretty much the best number-cruncher in the business. He posted the Tweet after a prolonged, relentless attack on him—often offensively personal—by the rightwing’s nattering nabobs of negativism, who are upset that his polling average continues to show that President Obama is likely to win re-election.

The right has been declaring that their candidate has “mittmentum”, that he’s surging up toward an inevitable landslide victory. The problem with that is polling data simply doesn’t support that claim, which means they have another problem: Math—the numbers simply don’t add up.

Take the total number of states considered “safe” for President Obama, and the president starts with 247 Electoral College votes out of the 270 he needs to win—that’s 23 short of victory. The Republican challenger, in stark contrast, has only 180 “safe” Electoral votes, meaning he’d need 90 more. There are 108 “swing state” Electoral votes up for grabs.

Silver’s current data indicates that President Obama is comfortably ahead in the likely Electoral College vote total, and it, like his statistical chance of winning, have both been trending steadily upward.

This is in stark contrast to the rightwing Meme—in fact, reality is the exact opposite of what the Republican propaganda claims. And THAT is why they have gone all out to attack Nate Silver, science and mathematics.

It’s not surprising, really: The Republicans are a party that denies climate change, evolution (much of science, actually) and its ticket is led by a man with a secret “plan” for fixing the economy that is mathematically impossible. No wonder they attack statistics!

Nate is transparent in his methods and models. If the rightwing disputes them, they are free to hire an expert to build a better model and do better mathematical science, but making up numbers or attacking science, mathematics and statistics doesn’t win the rightwing the argument: It just makes them look like ignorant, petulant brats (again).

This behaviour does one other thing: It makes the rightwing look like losers, in every sense of the word.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Something unusual

I don’t often share ads on my blog, and when I do it’s to comment on something within it or about it. This time is no different.

The ad above is for Westpac New Zealand, one of New Zealand’s big banks (it’s owned by Westpac Australia). The ad is part of a campaign to get people to start talking about money and their financial needs: “Why can we ask the big questions in life, but not the ones about our money?”

All of which is pretty standard fare for a bank ad—except for 0:27 to 0:34 which depicts a same-gender marriage. This is extraordinary because it’s the first time I’m aware of that an ad for New Zealand has depicted the realities of LGBT life, and not used us as props, stereotypes or as punchlines to jokes.

The heads of radical right religious political activists will explode when they see the ad, and not just because it dares to have a matter-of-fact portrayal of GLBT lives as they really are, but also for what it symbolises: The marriage equality debate is over in New Zealand. No company would take a risk depicting something that most people found “distasteful” or that they opposed; this depiction shows that big business in New Zealand has already moved on from this issue, even if the political process is lagging a bit behind.

I hope that we’ll see more such realistic portrayals in New Zealand ads in the future. This is a good start.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Important voters

A recent Gallup report has revealed that LGBT voters support President Obama over the Republican challenger by nearly 3 to 1, and are far more Democratic, and far less Republican, than are non-LGBT voters. This makes them an important part of the Democratic coalition.

LGBT voters support President Obama by 71% to 22%; for non-LGBT voters, it’s a dead-heat: Support for President Obama is 46% and 47% support the Republican. This matches past elections, in which LGBT voters supported the Democratic candidate at similar levels.

LGBT voters who do support the Republican candidate match the typical demographic of non-LGBT supporters: “LGBT Americans who support Romney tend to be older, white, more religious, and more likely to be married.” Party preference, however, doesn’t mirror the general vote as closely.

44% of LGBT voters identify as Democrats, 43% as Independents and a mere 13% as Republicans. The numbers for the non-LGBT voters are: 32% are Democrats, 39% are Independents and 30% are Republican.

So, while non-LGBT voters tend to indentify as slightly Independent, they’re pretty evenly matched across the three broad divisions. LGBT voters, on the other hand, clearly skew Democratic, as Gallup put it, with Democratic-identified voters outnumbering Republican-identified voters by more than 3 to 1. However, Independent LGBT voters outnumber Republicans by the same margin.

LGBT voters are also twice as likely to identify as Liberal than non-LGBT voters are, and are about half as likely to identify as Conservative. The percentage of Moderate LGBT voters is similar to non-LGBT voters.

What all of this means is that the Democratic presidential nominee starts with a strong advantage among LGBT voters. But the data also suggests that the right Republican, one who is truly moderate, not a captive of the radical right and openly inclusive of the LGBT communities could, at least in theory, erase that advantage. Such a Republican would also attract votes from the 39% of non-LGBT voters who identify as Independent, but would no doubt lose votes among hard right conservatives. It’s all theory, though, since such a Republican doesn’t currently exist.

The reason all this matters is that in a very close election, LGBT voters can provide the margin of victory. With so many states’ races polling in virtual ties, and with marriage equality referenda in some states polling only slightly pro-LGBT, this could be an important factor.

It’s important to note, however, that the results show that LGBT voters are slightly less likely to be registered to vote and slightly less likely to actually vote than non-LGBT voters. This means that it’s equally possible for our adversaries among far-right religious extremists to claim to be the factor that influences the results, should their side win. Historically, religious extremists, especially fundamentalist Protestants, have a high rate of voter turnout, though this year may be lower due to their historic antipathy toward Mormons.

The upcoming elections will be close, in some places more than others, and in such places minorities might possibly provide the margin of victory. However, it’s true only if they actually vote.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Debunking NOM's Bigotry/Biology Ad

In this video, Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) debunks the latest lie-filled ad from the anti-gay hate group, the National Organization for Man/Lady-Only Marriage. Anti-gay groups around the US (and in New Zealand and Australia…) use these same nonsense claims, smears, defamation and lies. Because of this, the video could be useful for justice advocates in many places, not just the US.

I’m sick of the radical right getting away with their bigotry, and having their lies accepted as “just another viewpoint”. But it’s not just a “viewpoint”—it’s bald hatred, and flat out wrong. Their lies, smears and defamation must be exposed for what they are. Still, I know most people will never see this video, and also that far too many will hear NOM’s lies and think they’re true. We need more people speaking the truth and standing up to the bigots.

We’re on the right side of history and—eventually—freedom and justice will prevail. We all need to make that happen a little sooner.

Republicans’ greatest hits

This video compilation from radio host David Pakman has many of the best (by which I mean worst…) comments about rape made by Republicans, including the ones that have been most in the news over the past few weeks. It also features the chart I posted yesterday. The video is incredibly damning—not only are the Republicans' views disgusting, they’re all flat out wrong whenever they say something meant to be a fact or statistic or whatever.

There’s so much more I could say about these extremists, and how Mitt and Paul are every bit as awful and dangerous, but I think yesterday’s post sums it my feelings. They all must be defeated.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Worth quoting: Doug Wright

Doug Wright, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright, posted this to Facebook:
I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they're voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say," My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood." It's like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You're still complicit. You're still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don't get to walk away clean, because you say you "disagree" with your candidate on these issues.
I couldn’t possibly agree more.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Birds of a feather?

This ad from the Democratic Party is titled, “Mitt Romney: Extremely Conservative and Endorsing Richard Mourdock”. It shows how one day Mitt endorsed a man he had to have known was a far-right extremist, and the very next day Mourdock said—essentially—that rape is a gift from god (because his god intended that “life” to happen).

Mitt will not denounce Mourdock, in part because the American Taliban that controls the Republican Party won’t permit it, but also because he more than likely agrees with him.

In my previous post, I laid out Mitt’s extreme anti-woman agenda. His running mate is even worse. These people simply can’t be trusted.

Republican war on women

This ad is from the “American Bridge 21st Century”, a liberal SuperPAC that says it is “committed to holding Republicans accountable for their words and actions and helping you ascertain when Republican candidates are pretending to be something they’re not.” They’re the people who within two minutes had an ad attacking Romney over his ludicrous “binders full of women” debate line.

This particular ad highlights the far, far right extremism of the Republican candidate for US Senate from Indiana, Richard Mourdock, who said in a debate that pregnancy resulting from rape is "something God intended."

Mourdock’s extremism has been well-known for a very long time, and it’s part of the reason that Indiana teabaggers rallied behind him to dump incumbent Republican US Senator Richard Lugar (who was merely very conservative, not a “severe conservative”) as the Republican Party nominee. The ad for Mourdock is the only ad that Romney made for a US Senate Candidate. The very next day, Mourdock made his extremist statement.

Romney’s people must have known about Mourdock’s extremism, but they decided to cast their lot with him anyway. Is this simply more of Romney’s pandering to the religious radicals in the Republican Party, or is it indicative of Romney’s true ideology? And, how can we possibly know when Romney’s held every position possible on every issue?

We know that Romney opposes abortion in most circumstances. He’s pledged to sign a bill declaring that human life begins at the moment of conception, which would outlaw hormonal birth control methods—the most popular form of contraception. That idea is so insane that even the voters of Mississippi rejected it—and that’s a state with a grade of “F” from the pro-choice National Abortion Rights Action League.

Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, has always opposed all abortion exceptions, arguing that it should be illegal in all circumstances, including rape and when the life of the mother is in danger. Toward that end, Ryan partnered with Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin to try to redefine rape, something Ryan has been running away from as fast as he can. He really is a lot like Romney in that regard, actually.

Romney has pledged to only appoint US Supreme Court justices who will promise to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that established a constitutional right to an abortion. He’s also promised that he’d do everything he can in every other way to flout the law and the ruling.

The Congressional Republican Party has used most of its time since the 2010 elections trying to outlaw abortion (or nearly outlaw it through harsh restrictions), and to fight against access to birth control. So, the Republican Party clearly has utter contempt for women. In that light, Romney’s support for the far, far right extremist Mourdock isn’t at all surprising.

The “Republican Party Rape Advisory Chart” [click to embiggen] accompanying this post is from Daily Kos member Brainwrap (who made it available to anyone who wants to post it), and it provides a handy way for American women to evaluate the status of their rape in the minds of Republican politicians. Because if Republicans win next month, women may find the chart very needed.

NB: This post has been revised since originally published.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NZ easy for business

According to the new report form the World Bank, New Zealand is a great place to do business, and for several reasons. To ask the obvious question, what on earth has the rightwing been bleating on about?

The report, Doing Business 2013: Smarter Regulations for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises looks at 185 economies and says:
“Starting a business is easiest in New Zealand, where it takes 1 procedure, 1 day, less than 1% of income per capita and no paid-in minimum capital.”
This is quite an important thing, since new business can mean new jobs and new economic growth, both faster than from established businesses.

As it happens, New Zealand also ranked third easiest nation in the world in which to do business; Singapore was first, Hong Kong was second. Among countries I write about on this blog, the USA was fourth, the UK was seventh, Australia was tenth and Canada was 17th.

The good news doesn’t end there:
“New Zealand provides the strongest minority investor protections as measured by Doing Business, ranking highest in this area for the eighth year in a row.”
In the same rankings, Canada was fourth equal (with Malaysia), the USA sixth equal (with Columbia, Ireland and Israel), and the UK was tenth. Australia didn’t make the top ten.

Most interestingly, the report also ranks New Zealand sixth in the world for ease of obtaining construction permits, a fact that will come as a surprise to many New Zealanders after listening to conservatives constantly moaning about what a barrier to business the Resource Management Act is, or how bad councils supposedly are at managing the process. Turns out—not so bad, after all. Also, none of the countries I write about made the top ten easiest.

The first three points—ease of starting a business, ease of doing business overall and investor protection—were mentioned in the New Zealand Herald story on the report, but the last one wasn’t, and for good reason: Bias.

The Herald is a conservative newspaper and has long championed rightwing economic views, particularly about how the Resource Management Act (RMA) is supposedly restraining business. It has also long had an obvious vendetta against Auckland government, for which the Herald’s constant theme is that local government is wasteful, overly bureaucratic, inefficient, incompetent and costs too much. This ideology meant that they couldn’t possibly report that, contrary to their constant droning, New Zealand is better at managing construction permits than any of our biggest trading partners.

The current conservative National/Act government is even worse: They constantly run down New Zealand, claim that the rest of the world is much more business-friendly, and declare we need to change what we do to “become” business-friendly. But if we’re already at the top of so many world tables—often at the very top—then what on earth are these supposed “reforms” actually for?

It’s pretty obvious that the current government isn’t advocating real reform: It’s advocating ideology, and working to make New Zealand better for corporate elites, most foreign-owned, at the expense of ordinary New Zealanders, who will pay the price.

The World Bank is definitely not even a remotely lefty organisation. I think their report shows that sometimes it takes strangers to see how good things really are here, especially in comparison to other countries. And it also shows that sometimes we need a conservative viewpoint to show us how wrong our own conservatives really are.

Mitt’s secret promise?

Did Romney's advisers make secret promises to gain Log Cabin Republicans' endorsement? Not wasting any time, the religious radical right has already started demanding that Romney clearly and unequivocally deny that he'll support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is he should was elected. We could have a couple days merriment out of this.

On the one hand, Romney could again bow to the religious radicals, as he's done so many times already, and deny support for ENDA and restate his opposition. If he does that, the Log Cabin Repubs will have lost the one tenuous thing they hung their endorsement on—will they then retract their endorsement, or will they sit and take the public rejection of the ONE thing they thought they could get?

If Romney caves to the demands of the religious radicals (and especially if the Log Cabins then retract their endorsement), it would absolutely help Romney with the religious radicals. However, Romney clearly opposing ENDA would also reinforce his image as being part of, or a captive of, the radical right extremists, which would be a very bad idea only days from the elections: The independents Romney would need to convince in order to win are leery of the radical right and their politics of hatred and division.

But if Romney supports ENDA or refuses to state opposition (or even remains silent), the religious radicals—most of whom don’t like Mormons, anyway—will be apoplectic. It will also reinforce his image as a flip-flopper. At best, he might win some moderates to his side, but can he afford to lose the hard right? Is it even possible for him to make up for the lost religious radical votes?

I can’t see any good or winning options for Romney. I think he’ll clearly state opposition to ENDA to placate the radical right, as he always does, and the Log Cabins will say nothing (apart from expressing their “disappointment”). In addition to everything else I said, this will also give us further evidence of how Mitt cannot be trusted—by anyone.

Better make some popcorn!

Monday, October 22, 2012

George McGovern

The death of former US Senator George S. McGovern at age 90 makes me think of the 1972 US presidential election, as it’s done for many others. However, unlike many other people I know personally, I wasn’t on his side back then. That eventually changed.

The US presidential election of 1972 isn’t the first that I can remember, but it is the first I participated in by wearing political campaign buttons. I was 13. In those days, buttons were given away for free, and I wore a lot—all of them for Republicans. I distinctly remember the buttons with way too much text: “President Nixon. Now more than ever.” It was accompanied by a button with the punchier, “Nixon Now” (a slogan, I later learned, that was used in Nixon’s losing 1960 campaign). I wore both buttons.

I remember watching McGovern campaign and disliking him intensely. Coming from a Republican family, and living in a mostly Republican area, I quite frankly had no reason to give McGovern a fair go—I simply didn’t know any differently. So, when McGovern lost in a huge landslide, I was pleased. Less than two years later, of course, we watched Nixon resign in disgrace.

Many of McGovern’s obituaries have noted that in the decades after that defeat, he remained true to his ideals even when the Democratic Party wanted him to just go away, and to pretend that 1972 never happened. It’s a typical Democratic response: Something goes wrong and they run a mile in the opposite direction.

McGovern’s 1972 campaign was a disaster. The debacle over picking then-Missouri US Senator Thomas Eagleton, only to drop him when it was revealed he’d had electric shock therapy as treatment for depression, made McGovern look fickle and unable to properly vet his running mate. Picking the "little-known" Sargent Shriver (who in my area was known only as “part of the Kennedy family”) as the replacement running mate—after five Democrats turned him down—didn’t help.

But McGovern represented something special: What it meant to be a liberal Democrat. As AP reporter Walter R. Mears, who covered McGovern in 1972 and in the Senate, wrote today, “McGovern was a partisan without the poison that increasingly infected American politics.” He was of that era in which it was still possible for Democrats and Republicans to not only work together—barely imaginable nowadays—but also to actually compromise, something that’s now impossible.

McGovern was what we used to call a statesman—idealistic, willing to put partisan needs aside even while trying to remain true to an ideology. He was not a slash-and-burn politician, as most modern ones are, particularly on the right. That’s why I say McGovern was statesman, and why we can’t use that word for modern politicians.

I think that, in a nutshell, is why I came to respect McGovern and to identify with his politics. He wasn’t perfect, and he was a pretty lousy politician—if by that you mean the manipulative, scheming, self-serving stuffed shirts we now have in Congress. Clearly not such a bad thing to not be one of them.

The death of George McGovern is a loss. But the tragedy is that we have so few like him anymore.

The photo of McGovern accompanying this post was taken in 1972 and is from the Library of Congress. It has no known usage restrictions.


Update: Also check out the blog posts on McGovern from my friends Jason and Roger, who also share personal recollections.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mitt Bits

There have been some fun items in the news recently, calling out Mitt as the liar and the “say-anything-to-anyone-to-get-elected” guy he is. We all know that he lied in the presidential debate about the “women in binders”, that he had nothing whatsoever to do with promoting diversity. Naturally, that led to a lot of fun as the Internet mocked Mitt relentlessly (and justifiably). But just today I saw some more things about Mitt that caught my eye.

Mitt’s non-bipartisanship

The New York Times has documented how Mitt’s claim of bipartisanship while governor of Massachusetts as greatly exaggerated:
“On closer examination, the record as governor he alluded to looks considerably less burnished than Mr. Romney suggested. Bipartisanship was in short supply; Statehouse Democrats complained he variously ignored, insulted or opposed them, with intermittent charm offensives. He vetoed scores of legislative initiatives and excised budget line items a remarkable 844 times… Lawmakers reciprocated by quickly overriding the vast bulk of them.”
So, Mitt didn’t act the way he claimed? I’m shocked.

Utah says no

The Salt Lake City Tribune has endorsed the re-election of President Obama. “Nowhere has Mitt Romney’s pursuit of the presidency been more warmly welcomed or closely followed than here in Utah,” the editorial begins, then noting the very conservative, Mormon nature of the state. But it was his running of the Olympics in particular that led them to expect more of Mitt. What they saw was what the paper called the Republicans’ “shape-shifting nominee”:
“From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: ‘Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?’"

“The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.”
The editorial goes on to condemn Mitt’s lack of specifics about any of his supposed plans and the fact that the Mitt that people could respect is gone. They conclude:
“In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.

“Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.”
I completely agree with the editorial, something that should be read in full.

Mitt the homophobe

I’ve often said that because Mitt Romney has held and advocated every possible position on every possible issue, I’m not really sure what he thinks about anything. It is now evident, however, that he really is anti-gay (which means that when he claimed he’d be more pro-gay in the US Senate than Ted Kennedy, he was lying).

I came to this conclusion not merely because he wants to amend the US Constitution to forever ban marriage equality in all 50 US States, including those where it is now law, but because of his recent paternalistic, condescending and extremely offensive positions that reveal his true feelings about gay people.

One of Mitt’s chief campaign advisers, the truly vile Bay Buchanan, told reporters that Mitt “very much supports traditional marriage, but he's also a very strong advocate for the Tenth Amendment. It's a state issue." That sounded to many people like Mitt was softening his newly re-rediscovered far-right extremism. Of course, the American Taliban made sure that impression couldn’t endure.

Bay “clarified” her remarks (politician-speak for “I totally fucked-up and now I have to pretend this is what I meant all along”) by saying that of course Mitt still wants to amend the US Constitution to forever ban marriage equality in all 50 states, but he “also believes, consistent with the 10th Amendment, that it should be left to states to decide whether to grant same-sex couples certain benefits, such as hospital visitation rights and the ability to adopt children. I referred to the Tenth Amendment only when speaking about these kinds of benefits—not marriage." No, but that sort of obfuscation par for the course for her.

“Certain benefits”? Only an arrogant, elitist homophobe would think that the only rights that GLBT people should have are “certain benefits”, and if states choose not to allow any rights at all, well, good golly, that’s okay, too. Only a sick, inhuman monster would think it’s okay for states to refuse to guarantee that a gay person won’t be banned from the hospital bedside of their ill or dying partner. Only a rich, entitled elitist would think that it was okay to force same-gender couples to spend thousands of dollars for a weak approximation of the protections that marriage grants in one fell swoop—and that’s especially disgusting when he also thinks it would be perfectly okay for states to refuse to recognise all those legal papers and documents.

The deep offensiveness of Mitt’s position is obvious to anyone if instead of “gay” you insert any other minority in the US, like, say, oh, I don’t know, Mormons, for example. For Mitt to think that enshrining bigotry in the US Constitution is okay, and then to actually welcome states to permit cruelty to citizens—who, of course, in Mitt-land wouldn’t even be protected enough to be considered second-class citizens—for Mitt to think that this gross, theocratic-based attack on fundamental human rights can ever be excused reveals him to be a sick, hate-filled and even evil man.

If Mitt wins, all of America loses, but LGBT Americans will lose even more. The Republicans must be stopped.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mitt’s ‘Romnesia’

President Obama spoke at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, today and diagnosed Mitt Romney’s problem with recalling what his positions actually are: Mitt has “Romnesia”. The president said:
"But now that we’re 18 days out from the election, Mr. ‘Severely Conservative’ wants you to think he was ‘severely kidding’ about everything he’s said over the last year. He told folks he was ‘the ideal candidate’ for the Tea Party, now suddenly he’s saying, ‘what, who, me?’ He’s forgetting what his own positions are, and he’s betting that you will too.

"I mean he’s changing up so much—backtracking and sidestepping. We’ve gotta name this condition that he’s going through. I think it’s called ‘Romnesia.’ That’s what it’s called. I think that’s what he’s going through.”
My favourite part came near the end, when President Obama said:
“And if you come down with a case of Romnesia, and you can’t seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you’ve made over the six years you’ve been running for President, here’s the good news: Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions.”
I have to admit, I prefer the lampoooing and mocking of Romney over merely calling him a liar. After all, how do me know Mitt doesn’t have Romnesia?

A full transcript of the president's remarks is at The Daily Kos.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Too much love

Remember how a week ago I talked about the new study from Pew that found that 20% of Americans have no religious affiliation? I said in part:
“…in my opinion, the rise of the unaffiliated has everything to do with the theocratic political agenda of America’s religious rightwing.”
Naturally, the far right religious extremists in the US had to try and spin this bad news about them somehow. Enter the anti-gay hate group, the “Family” Research Council who preached:
“As more churches move away from biblical authority, their attendance suffers. Just ask the Episcopal Church, whose pews are virtually empty after the decision to endorse homosexuality. It's time to push back on the spin that's feeding our weak brethren who say that compromising truth in pursuit of love is the way to reach the lost. Intuitively, people want to anchor their lives to something meaningful—something that demands the sacrifice and discipline of ‘taking up your cross.’ When a denomination abandons the truth and waters everything down to love, it reduces the church to another hour of Dr. Phil—which is something Americans can get without ever leaving home.”
So, in other words, people are leaving organised religion because there’s too much love and not enough churches with an anti-gay agenda. The “F”RC is typical of far right “Christians” in that it believes and preaches that the only real Christians are those who believe as they do—a far right, overtly political fundamentalism that mainstream Americans clearly reject, even if they remain in churches.

Too much love, huh? Our friends at the “F”RC would do well to remember that hate is NOT a family value. With advocates like them, no wonder organised religion is slowly dying in the US.

The stakes are very high

This is another Obama campaign video, and it’s the one that I take the most personally. It’s called “Obama Pride: LGBT Americans for Obama”, and the YouTube description says:
“Jane Lynch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Billie Jean King, George Takei, Wanda Sykes, Zachary Quinto, and Chaz Bono share why they're supporting President Obama and why Mitt Romney isn't the choice for them.”
They make some really good points, especially that having a president who is an advocate for LGBT people can make a world of difference to young GLBT people. That’s certainly true, and President Obama has an incredibly strong record to run on.

Contrast that with the other guys: They want to amend the US Constitution to forever ban marriage equality in all 50 states. They have no problem with splitting up families by deporting the same-gender partner of a US citizen. Their party platform supports all that, and a whole host of other things listed in what can only honestly be called a virulently anti-gay agenda. If the Republicans are elected, I have no doubt whatsoever that the US will go backwards—on all issues I care about, but particularly on LGBT issues.

Let’s get real: There’s no way in hell that a video like this would ever be made for the Republican candidates, nor would they ever allow an independent video to be made because the American Taliban that controls the Republican Party would forbid it. While I have no idea what Mitt really thinks about GLBT people or our rights (or anything else, for that matter), I’m convinced that Ryan is anti-gay, and their party, with no doubt whatsoever, is absolutely anti-gay.

So, if the Republicans are elected, it’ll no longer be “It Gets Better”—it’ll be “It Might Quite Possibly Get Better Someday”, because they will turn the clock back decades—or a century.

The stakes are too high to sit this election out. The stakes are far too high to let the Republicans win.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Don’t be fooled

The Obama-Biden Truth Team has produced two good videos pointing out how much Mitt Romney changes his positions to fool people into supporting him—or, to put it less nicely, how much Mitt lies.

The ad above, "Don’t Be Fooled”, compares and contrasts actual diametrically opposite statements that Mitt has made about his positions on various issues. Romney’s positions are completely different based, obviously, on the audience he’s giving them to. Mitt will say anything to get elected, and he expects voters to accept his lies as truth. But, as the woman says ad the end of the vide, “Don’t be fooled!”

The ad below is called “The Real Mitt Romney: Remember What He’s Said Before” and covers some of the same territory, but shows Mitt making his outrageous and contradictory statements. I think that this ad is more effective because it shows Mitt, his own words and makes the lies he tells obvious. Referring to the upcoming “townhall debate”, the video asks, “Will the real Mitt Romney show up? Or will it be the say-anything deal closer?” I’m betting on the second, because all he cares about is being elected, and no one can believe anything that man says.

The problem with these ads is that most people will never see them. Most people don’t read fact-checkers, either, so they don’t know when Mitt is lying about President Obama’s record, much less when Mitt lies about his own record. And this is why Mitt is still in this race and not irrelevant, as he should be.

Still, if by posting these videos social media users can help even a handful of people learn the truth about Mitt and his lies, then I’d say it’s worth it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Truth in humour

I thought this video was funny, and of course I often think Bill Maher is funny. I also have to admit that the fact that the rightwing in the US starts twitching at the very mention of his name makes me even a little more disposed to like him. Nevertheless, I thought this video was particularly good, especially when he takes on a leading anti-gay group and the lack of consequence for being outrageously wrong.

One of the biggest problems I have with Romney his running mate Paul Ryan—apart from the fact that they’re wrong about pretty much everything—is that they’re so often deliberately wrong: They lie, in other words. I’ve never seen a major party candidate lie as much or as frequently as Romney has always done, and as Ryan is doing, too. This isn’t just disgusting—it’s dangerous.

Still, wrapping the criticism in sarcasm and humour, as Bill Maher does, at least makes it possible to have a laugh at the chutzpah of these brazenly and deliberately wrong extremists—until the reality and seriousness return, of course.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weekend Diversion: Real-life ‘Simpsons’ opening

It’s impossible for most people to see all of the viral videos that make the rounds, and this is an example. This video is a version of the opening for The Simpsons using real people, and it was posted back in June, but I only saw it yesterday when posted to Google+ as a “What’s hot on Google+” sort of thing (no one I know, in other words).

But I think it’s pretty cool, so here it is.

Blog stuff

Awhile back, in response to reader requests, I turned off the buggy word verification for comments to posts. I did so after I was satisfied that Blogger’s spam filters were robust enough to catch spam. To be extra safe, I changed the settings so that comments on older posts would be moderated.

That’s when things got really annoying.

It turned out that that spam filter still worked really well—not a single spam comment got through. However, I also started getting emails telling me to moderate a comment that was, in fact, spam. Toward the end of this past week, the number of emails suddenly skyrocketed (again…), increasing to four times the level of earlier in the same week.

Things didn’t stop there.

I noticed that a post from earlier this week zoomed up to the top of the “most popular” list, and pretty much all of that traffic was coming from spam attacks. After some 1150 hits, I turned off comments on that post in an attempt to deflect the spam comments. In the time it took me to do that, about another 100 hits came in.

The reason I care about that is that it messes with the ability of people to find things on my blog through legitimate searches: A spike in a particular post can sometimes raise an algorithmic flag for search engines, lowering the legitimate ranking for posts.

This is actually similar to the reason for fighting spam comments. Such “comments” always have links in an effort to increase the likelihood that their spam site will end up in searches; any blogger who permits those links could be blacklisted as a site that exists only as a place for listing such links.

It would be nice if Blogger allowed blog owners to remove links in comments as Wordpress does, but without that ability, the only other option is to block the comment—even when it actually is relevant to the topic of the post, which most spam comments are not (in fact, they’re usually totally irrelevant to the post).

So, as an experiment, I’m turning off email notifications, among other changes. This means that comments to older posts may take even longer to appear because to know about them being in the queue will require me to actually look for them. Still, comments to old posts are really rare, so I doubt this will affect anyone.

If this doesn’t fix the email problem, I have other things to try, and the last resort is to turn word verification back on. I’m a long way from having to do that, though.

I doubt that any of this will fix the problem of spammers hitting one post hundreds of times, though. Turning off comments to such posts seems to slow the hit rate, at least, but doesn’t stop it. However, if I can’t fix this particular problem, I may end up removing “Most Popular Posts” listing since it’s not real—posts listed as being most popular are usually not being read by real people, but hit by spammers. I think that’s a shame, because I liked the idea of such a listing. Oh, well.

Mitt Romney’s tax dodge

Rolling Stone has published an expose of the ways Mitt Romney evaded US federal income tax. Some of them are legal, some merely a bit shady and at least one blatantly illegal. NOW we know why Mitt refuses to release his tax returns: He knows his tax cheating will be on display for everyone to see.

I’ve long said that the reason Mitt arrogantly refuses to be as open and honest as his own father was, is because it would be politically embarrassing for him; it’s not a good look to be found to have paid a tiny fraction of the rate that mainstream Americans pay. Now, however, it seems to be pretty clear he’s trying to cover up far more, including his probable illegal attempts to avoid paying income tax.

The rich Americans caught in the illegal scheme avoided prison time because they were give an amnesty and allowed to pay the taxes the law required them to pay. But does anyone seriously think that if a mainstream American was in a similar situation he or she could have avoided prison, much less kept it all secret as Mitt appears to have done?

Personally, the revelation of Mitt’s probable illegal behaviour doesn’t surprise me in the least. He has an obvious “born to rule” arrogance in which he clearly thinks that the laws that ordinary people have to obey simply don’t apply to him. He doesn’t understand or relate to mainstream America, so he has to try and hoodwink them into voting for him by using lies, distortions and deception, and by saying anything to anyone to try and convince them he really does believe what he’s saying.

Mitt is an absolute fraud in the moral, ethical and intellectual sense. It turns out, he may be one in the legal sense, too.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Talk: “American Taliban”

American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right by Markos Moulitsas

I bought the Kindle version of this book on November 17, 2010, not long after it was released (which was September 1, 2010). It did not take me nearly two years to get through it. In fact, it was months before I even started reading it (there were several ahead of it in my reading queue). Once I did start it, however, I flew through it because it’s a very easy read.

The book is basically a documentation of the way in which the USA’s religious right is in most respects indistinguishable from the Islamic extremists of the Taliban:
“The American Taliban—whether in their militaristic zeal, their brute faith in masculinity, their disdain for women’s rights, their outright hatred of gays, their aversion to science and modernity, or their staunch anti-intellectualism—share a litany of mores, values and tactics with Islamic extremists.”
Moulitsas sets out countless examples of why this is true. Any progressive, or reasonably aware centrist, will recognise the examples and what they show. Some of the examples are kind of funny—in a shake your head way—and some are downright terrifying. The determination of the American Taliban to suppress dissent is one of the most terrifying of their traits:
“…we understate the danger posed by their demands for uniformity of thought—their thought—at our own peril.”
I completely agree. And Moulitsas drives home the point when he says in the final page that whether the American Taliban succeeds or not will depend, in essence, on whether good people do something to stand up to them, and “to resist the imposition of a bloodthirsty, repressive, dogmatic worldview.”

What this is talking about is basically what the character of Doremus Jessup was getting at in the excerpt of Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here that I quoted in my post about that book.

This isn’t the sort of book that will convince conservatives, even secular ones, because the American Taliban dominates and largely controls political conservatism in the US. However, it will be useful for anyone who is aware of the threat and wants some specific examples to use when expressing opposition to the American Taliban.

The only real drawback is that the book is now two years old. Published before the 2010 US Congressional elections, it has nothing about the results of that awful election. However, I don’t think that really matters. Besides, plenty of information about the two years since the book was published is available on Moulitsas’ Daily Kos site, along with countless other progressive political sites.

This book is part contemporary history, part political analysis—and part warning. It’s well worth a read.

What I read: American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right by Markos Moulitsas. I read the Kindle edition, but the paperback is 256 pages. Amazon is out of stock at the moment, but check out the book’s page on Amazon to see when it might be available.

And now, an effective PSA

Here’s another of this year’s effective political ads, though this one is a non-partisan public service announcement. The PSA was created for I VOTE, which describes itself as “a new non-profit that produces, acquires, and disseminates issue-based viral campaigns to motivate the youth to vote.”

The PSA stars Tonatiuh Elizarraraz, an actor currently studying at the University of Southern California. The director of the video, Dave Crabtree, said:
“This spot was shot guerrilla style, just a skeleton crew, our actors and the tried-and-true lighting rig of the California sun. Luckily everybody was down for all the driving, lack of parking, and general running around. I loved every minute of it.”
I think the PSA works because it’s pretty matter-of-fact in describing one person’s life dreams, and they’re ones that many people can relate to. It also shows the attitude of young people these days, that of course they should be able to live their lives and achieve their dreams. Anything that helps motivate young people to vote is a good thing, I think.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

None of the above

The morning I learned—from several different places—of a new study by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life on religious affiliation in the United States. Naturally, the interpretations of the implications of those results varied somewhat, but to me it’s very good news.

One of the findings that was most talked about on the Internet, and that must certainly have given pause to the US’ rightwing, was that for the first time, Protestants are not the majority in the USA. To me, and probably most people, this is just an interesting statistic, but for conservatives, whose self-identity as the Conservative “movement” is closely tied to fundamentalist Protestantism, this is worrying news.

While Protestantism is in decline, Roman Catholicism is steady. The fastest growing group, however, is made up of those who indicated they have no religious affiliation. This will scare the crap out of conservatives, but it shouldn’t: It doesn’t mean what they’ll assume it does.

People who say they have no religious affiliation are simply that: People with no religious affiliation. That includes atheists, who make up a tiny minority in the US, agnostics, a slightly bigger minority, and the rest who, apparently, simply have no religious affiliation but who may nevertheless be religious or spiritual in a religious sense.

On the other hand, 88% of these unaffiliated folks are “are not looking for a religion that would be right for them”, and only 10% are. Put another way, most of the “nones”, as they’re being called, are “lost” to organised religion.

The big question, of course, is why? Part of the reason is age: The youngest segments of the population are the least religious, and this study includes people who were too young to be included in 2007. This same age-cohort is also most likely to support marriage equality, reproductive rights (including access to contraceptives), as well as other positions the exact opposite of America’s rightwing. Other studies have shown that this is true even among young Evangelicals.

So the problem faced by conservatives isn’t some imaginary march toward secularism—it’s demographics. The Republican Party is older, more male and whiter than is the population generally; as they die off, where will new conservatives come from?

American conservatism as it currently exists is doomed to extinction. Younger people simply don’t accept homophobia as a requirement to be a Christian, even if they’re Evangelical Protestants. On other “hot button” social issues, younger people, whatever their personal beliefs, reject forcing their views onto everyone else.

So, in my opinion, the rise of the unaffiliated has everything to do with the theocratic political agenda of America’s religious rightwing. As the Roman church becomes ever more involved in promoting a rightwing social/political agenda, I would expect to see them affected in the years to come the same way Protestantism has been.

Young people, we’re learning, have few beliefs in common with their parents, and even fewer with their grandparents. If society is ever to move forward and progress, this is very good news indeed.

Sunshine for democracy

The organised opponents of marriage equality always resort to deception or being deliberately untruthful in order to wage their campaigns. They do this because the facts and reason are against them, so they have to resort to deceit, since they have nothing else.

In this video, Matt Baume from the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) takes apart two anti-gay ads that have started running in Maine. AFER is he organisation fighting California’s Prop 8 in the courts, and has extensive experience in the legal battle for marriage equality in the United States.

While the ads taken apart in the video are specific to Maine, our adversaries use similar deceitful tactics in other places, so this video can help supporters of equality to recognise and to fight the deceit wherever they live.

In a democracy, sometimes the best thing for fighting the darkness our adversaries hide in is to shine a little sunlight on them—and their lies.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Lost Memories

LOST MEMORIES (French, English Subtitles) from Francois Ferracci on Vimeo.

I first saw this very short film when it was posted to Facebook by Upworthy under the title, “Oh Great, Now I'm Depressed AND On Facebook”. Rollie Williams wrote in the Upworthy post: “I don't know how probable an event like this is, but I bet the point this video is making is slightly deeper than ‘I need to back up my hard drive.’"

Yes, it is. The Description on Vimeo says: “Paris, 2020. A beautiful couple, a city over-saturated by holograms and digital stream. A Polaroid camera. Tomorrow will never be the same.” It’s more than that, too.

The film, by visual effects artist Francois Ferracci, shows the tenuousness of memory—and, by extension, identity—in an era in which our lives, loves and adventures are Facebooked, Tweeted, text messaged, emailed and so on. With so much of the evidence of our lives existing only in digital form, what would happen if our access to all this digital memory was suddenly lost?

A few years ago, my good friend Jason was talking about a book he’d read that was based on the letters between John and Abigail Adams, and how now, in the era of email, there could very well be nothing comparable for future historians to pore over. Post offices around the world are failing as volume of mail sent—including letters and greeting cards—declines. I think he was right.

Like so many others, I haven’t mailed a personal letter on paper in years. I have thousands and thousands of digital photos, few of which are printed (though there are multiple digital back-ups, of course). All of those emails and photos, all the stuff I’ve Facebooked, Tweeted, podcasted or blogged, as well as the comments I’ve left for others, could be lost forever in an instant.

Some big companies have contingency plans to prevent the permanent loss of commercial digital material (at least), but how many of us have any kind of plan for our own stuff? What should we safeguard? Actually, should we safeguard at all?

The future Paris in the film is, like much of the documentary evidence of our lives, something that exists only in digital form. Francois Ferracci posted a fascinating video of the “Visual Effects Breakdown”, showing how the look of the film emerged. An interview with him on One Small Window includes before/after stills.

There’s nothing particularly new about the questions posed by the film, of course, but I think it presents them in an accessible and visually interesting way. Memory inevitably fades over time. What we choose to do to, if anything, to preserve those memories is up to us.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Save Big Bird

In my previous post, I mentioned the Internet Meme that Mitt Romney wants to fire Big Bird. This isn’t a literal thing, of course, but a way to mock Romney being so bad at math, as well as out of touch.

The video above is from the Democratic Party, and it highlights some of the reaction and coverage this has received. Mitt’s main problem, of course, is that his numbers simply don’t add up—it’s not just about fundamental disagreements about policy, it’s also about arithmetic, and Mitt fails badly.

But it also underscores Mitt’s elitism. As one commentator in the video points out, there are thousands of American families who can’t afford cable/pay television, and they rely on PBS, especially for children’s programming. When Mitt attacks PBS, he’s affecting plenty of people in the 47% of Americans that he loathes.

Mostly, though, the Internet Meme is just pretty funny.

About that debate

I watched/listened to the US presidential debate this week and I was, to put it mildly, underwhelmed. The newsmedia, both mainstream and rightwing, went into overdrive, talking about it as if it was some sort of sporting match, so I just tuned out. Their noise wasn’t at all helpful.

I thought President Obama seemed overly reserved, however, we ought to have learned by now that he plays a long game. I think that if he had come out against Romney with both barrels blazing, with so many weeks to go before the election, it would have helped Mitt by giving him time to spin it in his favour. Better to let Mitt be Mitt and keep the powder dry for the second debate, with less time afterward for the rightwing media machine to try to spin it.

Romney’s performance was… interesting: I don’t think we’ve seen this version before. It was especially interesting seeing him embrace his record as governor of Massachusetts, instead of running away from it as he has for all these years. He wasn’t honest about his record, of course, but at least he didn’t deny it completely this time.

Mitt has a well-documented problem telling the truth about, well, anything. If he was open and honest, he’d release his tax returns (like his father did) so we can see what he’s trying to hide. I don’t think he’s done anything illegal, but it would be embarrassing for him if Americans could see that a millionaire like Mitt paid no federal income taxes—and we must assume he didn’t, since he refuses to prove he did.

His open lies have been documented, fact-checked and debunked repeatedly, and yet he goes on lying with reckless abandon. The video above, from the Obama-Biden campaign, shows some of Romney’s lies in the debate. Romney clearly believes that if he repeats a lie often enough, people will accept his lies as truth.

One of the main things the Internet seized on was Romney’s pledge to fire Big Bird. He already declared that he loves firing people, and now we know he also loves firing beloved characters on children’s TV.

The incident shows how out of touch and a rich elitist he is: Ending funding for PBS—firing Big Bird—would do nothing to help pay for his $5 trillion tax cut mostly for the rich. In fact, apart from firing Big Bird, he won’t tell anybody what federal programmes he’d cut or what loopholes he’ll close.

Based on his record, we know that whatever Rmoney would do would hurt the middle class to help the rich. Failed Republican economic policies nearly brought worldwide depression, and now Romney wants to go back to them? Do he and the Republican Party really think American voters are that stupid?

Thanks to Big Bird and his friends, Americans aren’t as stupid as Mitt thinks. Maybe that’s the real reason Mitt wants to fire Big Bird.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Marriage is not about children

The most frequent reason conservatives give for opposing marriage equality is because they say that marriage is about raising children. While simple logic would lead anyone to doubt that claim, it nevertheless persists. Despite what opponents claim, marriage is not about raising children.

The most obvious reason that civil marriage is not about children is that raising them isn’t mandatory. If marriage were only about, or even primarily about, raising children, then we would require all married couples to produce or adopt children within a specified period of time. Obviously, we don’t require married couples to bear or adopt children.

Similarly, opposite-gender couples that cannot have children for biological or medical reasons aren’t forbidden to marry, nor are those beyond childbearing years. Our opponents often dismiss that by arguing that, theoretically, they could bear children if some sort of miracle occurred, whereas a same-gender couple can’t without help from others—apparently miracles are quite limited in their miraculousness. Our opponents’ assertion is irrelevant: The point is that, unlikely miracles aside, those couples can’t directly produce children any more than same-gender couples can, but we don’t exclude such opposite-gender couples from civil marriage.

Opponents of marriage equality continually talk about what’s best for raising children, and while that’s a very important topic, it, too, is irrelevant to the discussion of marriage equality. Allowing same-gender couples to commit to each other in marriage does NOT prevent an opposite-gender couple from doing the exact same thing and then having or raising children together. Obviously, one has nothing to do with the other.

What many opponents actually seem to be arguing is that same-gender couples shouldn’t be allowed to raise children at all. That’s obviously a very skewed viewpoint, especially given that there are plenty of opposite-gender couples who make headlines as horrible parents. But all of that is also totally irrelevant to this discussion because not all opposite-gender couples have children, and neither do all same-gender couples, even in places where marriage equality has been enacted.

Still, plenty of same-gender couples are already raising children, often the biological children of one or partner or the other. Yet because they cannot have a civil marriage, those families are put at great risk. Under current law, the same-gender partner of a parent (legal or biological) has no parental rights—they aren’t next of kin. This situation places that family in a very vulnerable position if, for example, the legal parent dies or is incapacitated. The children could be torn from the only home and family they’ve ever known because their other parent isn’t married to their legal parent. How is THAT in any child’s best interest?

So, we’ve seen how no couple is required to raise children as a condition of marriage, that opposite-gender couples that cannot produce (or raise) children aren’t forbidden to marry, that allowing same-gender couples to commit in marriage doesn’t stop opposite-gender couple from doing the same and also that the children of families of same-gender couples are put at risk because their parents cannot marry.

Is there anything else to add? Only this: Marriages don’t raise children, parents do.

Families, with or without children, are always the most successful when they’re based on love. All children deserve to be in a home filled with love, but we all know some won’t have that. Instead of obsessing about the genders of the married partners, we ought to be doing all we can to foster and protect love. We also ought to be helping all families succeed, not trying to pit one kind of family against another.

Marriage equality will help promote stable, loving families. All of us—including children—will benefit from that and a world filled with more love.

Previous posts in this series:

Marriage is not being ‘redefined’
Why civil unions aren’t enough
There is no ‘slippery slope’
The people DO decide
Religious and personal freedom alike
Choice and the ‘gay gene’

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

For Our Women

The video above is from the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. Part of their “Our Women” campaign, it’s intended to get people to convince the women in their lives to get screened for breast cancer. It features several prominent New Zealanders, along with a lot of people who I don’t recognise and, of course, foreigners probably won’t recognise any of them. It doesn’t really matter, though, because the message of the video doesn’t depend on knowing who the people are.

The music in the video is a re-make of “Not Given Lightly” by Chris Knox, which includes many New Zealand singers. The song is available for purchase through iTunes, with the artist credited as “For Our Women”, which is also the title of the video.

I think the video is highly effective, but I’m a sucker for appeals to emotion, so that’s not surprising. But I also like the idea of asking people to ask the women in their lives to get screened. After all, we all have women in our lives who we love and don’t want to lose.

One thing I wasn’t fond of was that the direct way to share the video on Facebook was to sign in through your account, then it calculated the women among your friends list so you could send the video to them. However noble the ideal, I just don’t believe in sending out what amounts to spam.

Nevertheless, I hope a lot of women will see the video and be motivated to act, or, if not them, that others will convince the women in their lives to do so. So, c’mon, ladies: Go get "the girls" checked—we're not ready to be without you!

Worth quoting: Chris Kluwe

Chris Kluwe, kicker for the Minnesota Vikings, has refuted the illogical arguments of an opponent of marriage equality in Minnesota, specifically the opponent’s invoking of “traditional marriage”. Kluwe wrote:
Which version of “traditional marriage” would you like to use Mr. Balling? Should we go back to ancient Israel and practice polygamy, with a woman’s only right that to own her own tent? Or should we use the ancient Greek definition of marriage, one more concerned with inheritance than love or procreation, one that would force a woman to divorce her current husband and marry a sibling if that was required to continue the family? Should we force a brother to marry his dead sibling’s wife? Or perhaps we should make arranged marriages with child brides, that’s certainly traditional enough. Wait, I know, let’s go with the one where you have to pay three goats and a cow in order to ensure the woman is yours to keep forever, and you can stone her to death if she cheats on you. That one sounds terrific!
You see, Mr. Balling, since you don’t actually provide a definition of what “traditional marriage” is, I think your definition of “traditional marriage” boils down to “I want to make other people who believe differently than I do miserable by taking away their free will so I’ll cloak my hate in the guise of ‘tradition’ and ‘history’ without knowing what those words really mean”, and, well, I’m not really ok with that. Also, “traditional marriage” has traditionally been rather tough on 50% of the human population, what with the whole enslavement and forced child bearing and stoning to death thing (I’m talking about women if you haven’t figured it out (sorry to the people who figured it out like 5 minutes ago but I wanted to make sure he got it)), and I’m not really ok with that either.
It’s pretty obvious that all arguments against marriage equality are based on particular religious views, so it’s not surprising that our opponents use the phrase “traditional marriage” in their favourite arguments. As Kluwe points out, however, there are many traditions in marriage. Actually, many of those different traditions are still practiced in the world.

Our more extreme opponents bizarrely declare that marriage equality will “destroy” (or, at least, “end”) opposite-gender marriage. Our less extreme opponents instead claim that marriage equality will somehow “undermine” opposite-gender marriages. Most mainstream people know without even thinking about it how silly these arguments are, but, for the rest, it’s good to show how illogical our opponents’ arguments are, as well as how historically and culturally inaccurate they are to practically claim copyright over the phrase “traditional marriage”.

The real truth is that marriage is more than the narrow definition given to it by some conservative religionists—it means far more than they assert. Marriage equality will strengthen marriage not just through ensuring equality of all citizens, but by encouraging all loving couples, same-gender and opposite-gender alike, to make lifelong commitments. That’s a tradition worth fostering.

Tip o’ the Hat to Joe.My.God.