I LOVE comments. Please leave some even if they are brief half-formed ideas
that you aren't even sure you really believe. I just love comments.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's the Analogy for Marriage Equality?

Analogies are of limited usefulness when trying to change someones mind. If I say, "It's just like interracial marriage . . ." or someone else says, "It's just like adult incest . . .", you pretty much know where we stand. So the analogy ends up being little more than stating your opinion.

I think analogies are more helpful when we are trying to analyze our own thoughts. So, consider the following list of potential or actual changes to marriage laws:

* Allowing fourteen year-olds to marry with parental consent
* Allowing a white person to marry a black person
* Allowing an adult man to marry his adult sister
* Allowing people to divorce without stating a cause
* Allowing an adult man to marry two adult women
* Recognizing a year of continuous cohabitation as a marriage

Why are each of these like or unlike allowing an adult man to marry another adult man, or an adult woman to marry another adult woman? Does this give you insight into your position on recognizing the marriages of gays and lesbians?

Meta Question

In the course of discussing Marriage Equality here, we have entered into what I see as a two-headed discussion of the Church's role in society in general. I think the two heads of the discussion are has Christianity been a net good in society and can Christianity be a net good in society. Notice the issue is net good. It would be impossible to argue that Christianity, or any organized religion, has not been a force for good and evil in society. Indeed, I would suggest a significant force for good and evil at times.

My meta question is this: Is it possible to evaluate the effect of a society's predominate religion independent of other cultural elements of a society?

Addressing the historical question, Atrios put it this way, asking about religion's effect on history is like asking about the effect of weather on history.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Third of Three Navy/Submarine Posts

CNN reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the Navy to continue training with SONAR despite the fact that the impact on whales has not been studied. I remember this coming up around 1995-96 while I was on board Billfish. The Assistant Weapons Office was completing an audit that had a question: "What if anything has the ship done to minimize the impact of SONAR on marine mammals?" The officer, who graduated from Berkeley and who I was relieving as tokin liberal on baord, thought it was a pretty funny question. We determined that we were doing nothing. Perhaps things have changed.

I do believe the folks that say practicing using SONAR can seriously harm marine mammals. For example, it can kill divers that are in the water and for that reason the Navy has special safety tags it hangs on SONAR equipment when divers are working on the ship.

I also believe practicing active SONAR is essential. It is a skill that the US did not have to rely on during the cold war because loud Russian submarines allowed us to use passive SONAR. Furthermore, when engaging diesel submarines running on the battery, active SONAR is an important tool, and our current enemies, e.g. Iran, have diesels.

So, I'm torn.

Finally, I find it frustrating that the Bush Administration has not performed the necessary studies and provided the public and the courts with a realistic picture of the potential impact on marine mammals. Then people other than the Bush administration could actually weigh the risks and gains and develop a position. But President Bush's absolute disregard for American Democracy is one of the many reasons he is a terrible president. I hope that President Obama realizes he is not a king and restores the rule of law in the United States.

Second of Three Navy/Submarine Posts

CNN reports that the accident on board the Russian nuclear submarine was cause by an error by one of the crew members. I just have a couple of thoughts about this. First, the accident was entirely not nuclear. The submarine is powered by a nuclear reactor, which boils the water to turn the turbine, but the accident had to do with a fire safety system going off. Of course, non-nuclear accidents can result in nuclear reactors being left at the bottom of the ocean, which is not good. See e.g. Kurst, Scorpion, and Thresher. Nonetheless, it doesn't show one way or another about the safety of nuclear reactors. Although, it is shocking to me that 17 people could be killed during what appears to be an underway test of a fire supression system. So, may say something about Russians and their attitude toward industrial safety.

First of Three Navy/Submarine Posts

I have not yet had a chance to write a Veterans' Day post, so I thought I would start there. I happily served in the U.S. Navy for five years. I was a submarine officer and learned much about the technical workings of everything from sonar to reactors to periscopes. I've commented that between reactor chemistry, sound velocity profiles, and trimming the ship while submerged the amount of information that has passed through my heard regarding water is breathtaking.

I also learned about leadership and observed the personal interactions while in the peculiar environment of 150+ men, all between 18 & 40, confined to a structure that measures about 300 feet long. Which brings me to what I really want to write about: Openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the military.

First, it is an honor and a privilege to do so. It has been a great advantage to me, not only on my resume but in giving me confidence in the face of unfamiliar challenges.

Second, while on Billfish, there were two men who the crew believed were gay. One of them was, and one of them may not have been gay, but in any case, everyone thought he was. It did not rip the crew apart. It did not prevent unit cohesion. Even in a place where your privacy was zero. (During my last month on board I went to use the shower just as another officer was coming out, and another was using the stall in the same small room. I commented, "Someday I will have no idea what my coworkers look like naked.")

So it is a great opportunity, it is wrong to deny it to people because of their sexual orientation, and it can be fixed without harming our military readiness. Here's what the out going Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Shalikashvili said two years ago:
I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.
Amen brother.

Full article here.