Thursday, April 30, 2009
All available NOW through Hautelook, which is really a perfect website and reminds me of when I first began using Zappos for shoes, Benefit for makeup or Apple for computers. It's that same kind of corporate love that you just don't get often enough in these troubled times of congressional bailouts and executive bonuses.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I received a 100-day report card from the US Green Party and thought it summed up just a few of the reasons why I'm not jumping on the icky Obama bandwagon. The people who already agree with it will continue to agree and the people who are obsessed with Obama will continue to be defensive and creepy. I figured I'd throw it up here regardless.
After 100 days of Obama's presidency, it has become clear that we are a far cry from where we need to be as far as civil liberties, the environment, the economy, health care, and the military. The Green Party has real solutions to the problems at hand. Please look over the 100 Day Report Card below. Keep in mind that C is "good enough"; in percentages, in order to get a "better than average" grade, you need to score 80%.
Civil Liberties: F
The Executive Branch is finally following the law by releasing and repudiating the Bush Administration's legal memos that attempted to justify torture. The President also raised the possibility of prosecuting those responsible for providing that justification.
However, the Obama Administration defends the illegal wiretapping program, leaves the door open to outsourcing torture through "extraordinary rendition," and argues that prisoners can be denied habeas corpus if they are shipped to the Bagram prison in Afghanistan instead of Guantanamo! The Administration also opposes a Congressional truth commission to investigate torture by the Bush Presidency, although citizen pressure may successfully force an investigation.
Obama supporter Glenn Greenwald, who writes for Salon.com, recently wrote: "What's being asserted here by the Obama DOJ is the virtually absolute power of presidential secrecy, the right to break the law with no consequences, and immunity from surveillance lawsuits so sweeping that one can hardly believe that it's being claimed with a straight face."
The Green Party supports a ban on torture, the repeal of the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and opposes the warrantless surveillance of US citizens, 'extraordinary rendition' of prisoners to extract information, and denial of habeas corpus and due process.
The Obama Administration has taken some positive steps on global warming by allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants, initiating legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, and providing funds for alternative energy in the recently passed economic stimulus bill.
Unfortunately, the Administration has committed to spending only $145 billion on alternative energy over the next 10 years, about 0.1% of our country's gross domestic product (GDP). In contract, the proposed military budget for 2010 alone is $664 billion. The Administration supports nuclear power and "clean" coal, and its proposed cap and trade scheme is vulnerable to abuses such as free giveaway licenses for utilities to emit greenhouse gases. In the European Union, free licenses have resulted in increased emissions from coal plants that have offset the reductions gained from new wind power.
The Green Party advocates a moratorium on new coal fired power plants, ending subsidies to the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, increasing CAFE standards, and ending mountaintop removal mining.
The Obama Administration's economic stimulus bill is headed in the right direction with new infrastructure projects that can put Americans back to work. Plans to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire are also encouraging.
However, the stimulus was too small and too focused on tax cuts. The Administration's plans for repairing the financial system are likely to result in a great deal of wasteful spending, reward those who got us into the current economic crisis, and ignore the fundamental problems. It is unfortunate that the Administration has rejected calls to nationalize the largest and most insolvent banks in favor of a plan that loans nearly $1 trillion to hedge funds to indirectly subsidize the banks. By contrast, Wall Street Journal recently reported that only "10% of borrowers in some stage of foreclosure appear to be eligible for the federal aid to homeowners program."
The Green party advocates ending trade in the highly speculative financial instruments that helped cause the crisis, restoring regulations on banks, breaking up financial conglomerates, promoting small local banks and credit unions, implementing a much larger public works program, and working to build a steady state economy based upon sustainability.
Health Care: D+
The Obama Administration has proposed substantial increases in federal spending in order to extend health coverage to more Americans. The Administration's spending plans will extend coverage only to about one-half of uninsured Americans are are short of effective methods for cost control.
The Green Party continues to advocate the single-payer health care systems as the most efficient and effective way to deliver health care to all Americans.
Foreign Policy/Military: D
The Obama Administration has taken a few encouraging steps, such as starting to at least open talks with foreign leaders. The President has shown an increased willingness to negotiate with Iran, and has stated plans to discuss nuclear arms reductions with Russia. However, there are numerous loopholes in the agreement to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, and the Administration is re-deploying some of the troops to Afghanistan. The US is also continuing to launch military operations in Pakistan that have killed and displaced many civilians and contributed to destabilizing the country. The Administration also plans to maintain unnecessarily high levels of military spending.
The Green Party advocates the complete and immediate withdrawal of all US troops and contractors from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq and deep reductions in military spending.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The New Paltz Green Party has initiated yet another a wonderful public service. It has established a "Candidate Questionnaire" process where candidates have an opportunity to fill out questionnaires related to the party platform and a number of other relevant local issues.
The candidates are then interviewed by the GP and given an opportunity to revise their questionnaire. The completed questionnaires are posted online for the sake of voter education. This interview is also where decisions regarding endorsements are made, when applicable.
I want to commend the candidates who participated in this process: Dan Torres, KT Tobin-Flusser, Brian Kimbiz and Pete Healey. These candidates recognize that writing down and sharing their positions helps contribute to the overall education of voters in our community and demonstrates a strong commitment to their platforms and priorities.
I also want to commend the New Paltz Green Party for creating this wonderful opportunity. It certainly highlights the competence, organization and political savvy of this group, as they are the only New Paltz-based political party that has instituted a questionnaire process in conjunction with their endorsements and interviews.
Completed questionnaires for the Village Board candidates Healey and Kimbiz (O'Donnell has, thus far, declined) are available under the "Elections" section of the New Paltz Greens website. Completed School Board questionnaires for Tobin-Flusser and Torres will be available on the website by the end of the week (Kerr has, thus far, declined).
Blank questionnaires may be filled out by any person seeking elective office, including those launching write-in campaigns, and will also be available on the website. There are 2 versions of the questionnaire: a general questionnaire based on the GP's platform and an office-specific questionnaire tailored to address local issues as they pertain to the position being sought. Candidates should fill out both.
The Village election is Tuesday, May 5, from 12:00pm-9:00pm at the Village Firehouse, located at 25 Plattekill Ave.
The School Board election is Tuesday, May 19, from 12:00pm-9:00pm at the New Paltz High School, located at 130 South Putt Corners Rd.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The Forum will be broadcast live at 7:00pm (assuming the modulator is working) on New Paltz Public Access Channel 23. To submit a question in advance, please contact Bill Mulcahy at email@example.com. Alternately, a call-in number will be available during the live broadcast.
The Village Elections will be held on Tuesday, May 5, from 12:00pm until 9:00pm at the Village Firehouse, located at 25 Plattekill Ave. There are 2 Trustee seats open, each with a 4-year term. Healey and O'Donnell are both on the ballott; Kimbiz has announced a write-in campaign. Any other person can also be written in as a candidate.
To cast a write-in vote on a lever machine, follow the instructions below.
1. Find the column for the office where you wish to cast a write-in vote.
2. Lift the metal door at the top of the column.
3. Behind the door, there should be a blank piece of white paper. If there is ANYTHING written on the paper, alert an election inspector without opening the curtain; just stick your head outside without pulling any levers.
4. Write in the name of the candidate you wish to cast a vote for.
5. Finish casting your votes by pulling levers and/or writing in names. When you are finished, pull the large lever at the bottom to open the curtain. This will record your votes.
***Please note: Lifting the metal write-in slide at the top of any column will count as a vote. You will NOT be able to pull a lever in that column once the slide has been lifted, even if you write nothing on the paper.
***Please note: Write-in votes for candidates whose names appear on the ballot will not be counted.
***Please note: You may cast a write-in vote for anyone you want, for as many offices as you want.
***Please note: You may bring pens, pencils, palm cards, voter guides, etc. into the polling place and voter booth. These do not constitute electioneering materials.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
It was long. Really, really long. I stuck it out until 10:30pm and then proceeded to watch from home, but it went on until about 2:00am. Luckily, I was accompanied by the lovely Lagusta, which makes everything more enjoyable (as does the alliteration of "luckily," "lovely" and "Lagusta"). There were also antics in the hallway that proved to be far more interesting than the meeting itself, but I digress.
If you really need a play-by-play, you can probably see a repeat of the meeting on New Paltz Public Access Channel 23 this weekend (at least, the 4 hours that the Village actually pays to have taped. You'll get the idea).
The Butterfly showed up. It's true. Only about 20 minutes late (she got there before me), she came, participated (if weird outbursts and ADD qualify as participation) and stayed almost until the end. Good job, Butterfly! You get a gold star.
The VB spent a pretty sizeable chunk of time going over paperwork from Ulster County regarding the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for Woodland Ponds. Most of the questions during this portion of the meeting could've been easily answered by a representative from the county, which is where I really started to get worked up.
See, in Dutchess County, the majority of County Legislators believe it is part of their job to attend local meetings in addition to their county meetings. So, for example, a legislator would routinely attend village, town and school board meetings in addition to county committees and the legislature. I know, the whole thing is kinda crazy (don't even get me started on the regular communications and newsletters that are sent in-district to keep constituents informed about what their legislators are actually doing!).
Just imagine the improved functionality and transparency of our government if our county legislators showed up at local meetings even once a year, let alone once a month, where their direct interests aren't being served? Given that their attendance at county meetings is inadequate, though, I'll just stick with my dreams of a perfect world where government actually communicates internally, not only from the top down, but from the bottom up, too. And if actual voters get some information occasionally, well, the more, the merrier.
The ever-present salary question rose from the ashes, as it tends to do in budget season annually. Ever since Jason West was elected Mayor, the issue of salaried elected officials has become pretty contentious.
I have strong personal feelings on this issue, believing very firmly that people should receive adequate, fair compensation for the work that they do and that we should make it feasible for regular people to govern, which includes attention to financial support. I also feel very strongly, however, that elected officials must lead by example. In situations where layoffs, reduced hours and shortened work weeks are being discussed increasingly, no one has any business hiring new staff or raising their own salaries.
We should protect existing employees first and ONLY then, if there's extra left over, should anyone else be considered. The audacity of even suggesting a pay increase (no matter how insubstantial) is abhorrent, especially during a spending freeze with a proposed budget reflecting monumental tax increases and rumors of layoffs. I am rarely in favor of the VB's tendency to nickel-and-dime, especially when the focus ought to be on reducing the budget $250,000+ (hint: you'll never get there cutting $100 here and $300 there), but this is one area where that tendency is not only appropriate, but necessary.
Last night, the Village Clerk and Treasurer grew increasingly emotional and frustrated as their supply budget had been stripped to the point where they were unsure if they will even be able to afford paper. How, in light of such petty, shortsighted revisions can the VB seriously consider any discussion of a pay increase for themselves? While The Butterfly's argument was right, in principle, her insensitivity and unwillingness to see the significance of her raucous grandstanding was completely inappropriate and unbefitting of an elected official. The Butterfly gave the strong impression that she is somehow doing this work in order to be compensated, rather than doing this work because the voters put their faith in her to act as their representative and voice on the VB. To cheapen the magnitude of that decision is disgraceful and I am disappointed to have chosen this individual to represent my interests.
Many of us attend government meetings regularly (or watch them on TV and online). These meetings often run far longer than they need to as a result of the theatrics and long-winded tirades on irrelevant matters. We don't get paid to attend, either, but we're there because it's important. Our time is not respected by our elected officials. We certainly do not request any compensation for doing our civic duty: being active and attentive to the important issues in our community through watching meetings, sharing feedback and researching different topics (which is much easier and much cheaper for elected officials than ordinary people). I'm certain The Butterfly is there for the same reasons, but she needs to start acting like it.
The Mayor defended the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) on two separate occasions, once as it related to their annual kumbaya get-together for elected officials and also as it pertained to the Village's general membership with NYCOM. According to The Mayor, the trainings and resources offered by NYCOM are incredibly informative, educational and valuable and it is simply impossible to create good government without affiliating with NYCOM.
Wow. Where do I start? NYCOM is a bunch of attorneys. We see how great the attorneys over at Greenwald Law have been for the VONP (including, most recently, work that was done at $225/hour instead of the regular rate of $175/hour). We've got at least two people on the VONP Board who are literally OBSESSED with issues of liability. Their obsession has gotten to the point where the quality of life in the VONP is adversely affected by their overzealous and belligerent pursuits to eliminate any activity that may lead to "liability", no matter how insignificant. "Liability" is quickly becoming their favorite word. Now, all anyone has to say is "liability" instead of "no"; the outcome remains the same, but no one has to be the bad guy
Either the VONP is giving NYCOM's attorneys some competition in the litigation market, or NYCOM is somehow responsible for this crazy attitude towards wily residents who go out of their way to sue the VONP without cause (like the Caribbean Latin American Support Project, who was told they cannot use village facilities without a $1,000,000 insurance policy*).
If The Mayor and his actions are an example of NYCOM's wonderful explanation and execution of good, efficient government, SHOULDN'T WE BE RUNNING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION?!?! Things have gotten so bad that not only are The Gatekeeper and Renegade criticizing The Mayor for his secretive and self-destructive actions, but even The Financier and The Butterfly are starting to chime in. He had withheld information that each of them found pertinent to last night's meeting, had budgeted for things that do not exist and, in some cases, must go before the public at a referendum and made haphazard changes on his budget worksheets to the point where no one else on the Board was able to follow his thought process (as if it were so easy to do to begin with!). If this is what we get through our allegiance to NYCOM, we're probably better off affiliating with the Chuck E. Cheese Confederacy of Dunces. It'll probably be cheaper.
The overall lack of awareness on the VB continues to be troubling. The VB has been working on this budget for months and there are still frequent questions about what is kept under what line, what different words mean, why things are categorized the way they are, etc. My personal favorite was, "What is public finance, anyways?!". If you want to get paid to be there, you ought to do something worth being paid for. I'd suggest starting with paying attention and learning your job. This is getting incredibly tiresome.
I had an outburst during the meeting. It was due to the VB's interpretation of Open Meetings Law and I'm surprised I've been able to contain it for this long. I think my TV generally bears the brunt of it, as demonstrated by scratches and chips around the frame.
Anyone who has watched a meeting of the current VB has probably noticed the interesting phenomenon of pointing, smirking and whispering. The VB is incapable of doing their jobs in open meetings, since the majority of the VB refuses to communicate outside of regular meetings and they do little preparatory work leading up to these meetings. The VB is also completely unprofessional, incapable of keeping snide remarks, underhanded comments and knowing glances to themselves.
The VB has no respect for the public. In any given meeting, at least one VB member will glance coyly at the camera and proceed to whisper, point and gesture without giving any indication what the conversation is actually about. The Financier is famous for this during Bills & Claims, as she will point to figures without saying the numbers aloud and will refuse to indicate what the claim is actually for. Trustees who are not adjacent to the Financier are SOL, as she is far more concerned with being sly than being accountable.
It is no secret that the VB's executive sessions are routinely used for business that is expressly prohibited from discussion in executive session. So, instead of using executive session for private, confidential discussion, they use that time for conversations bound by open meetings law. It only makes sense, therefore, that the VB use the public meeting for private, confidential discussion.
If a VBmember has something to say that cannot be done in an open meeting, they have two options. In situations where it is legal, enter into executive session. In situations where it is not, shut your damn mouth and do it outside of the meeting. I guess the Renegade's quote, "We act formally when we should be informal, and informally when we should be formal," has been proven yet again.
*There is more coming on Insurancegate, but I'm doing a little research first. If my suspicions are correct, I'm going to want backup documentation.
Friday, April 17, 2009
The full letter is below:
Thanks for top billing in your story on the upcoming village elections, to be held on Tuesday, May 5 at the Fire House on Plattekill Avenue. I have spent my first year on the Village Board learning about the process used at Village Hall and getting to know the other board members, the employees and volunteers who serve the public in their various capacities. I believe I understand the frustrations and sometimes the satisfactions that come with this kind of position, and I'm willing to accept the risks that come with standing for election again.
I want to state for the record here and now, however, that I don't expect to serve out my full four year term. I'm looking forward to the day when, two or three years from now, I can decide if I care to campaign for election to a unified New Paltz municipal government, which will replace the separate village and town governments.
Until then there is of course the current election process, for two open board seats. First, I want to say that Michael Zierler's presence will be sorely missed at Village Hall since he has decided not to run for another term, and his current term expires on May 31. Second, I'm disappointed that, just like two years ago, an inexperienced petitioner and candidate for public office in this village has been removed from the ballot. Those of us who have experience in the political process ought not to use this knowledge to block others' attempts at joining this process. On the contrary, we ought to encourage people to engage and help them to work through the difficult, detailed signature-gathering and filing procedures.
Finally, it's my contention that the overriding issue in this campaign is the direction and leadership of this village government, and I have to state here that I've been sorely disappointed in Mayor Terry Dungan's efforts during my time in office. I have researched Village Election Law and can find no fair and reasonable way to hold a vote of no confidence nor conduct a special election for the remaining two years of his term, to either confirm or deny his continued leadership in this village.
I have, therefore, set up an informal poll on Mayor Dungan with essentially a "Yes or No" vote on his leadership. If you support the mayor then he should "Stay," if you want the mayor to change direction and adjust his leadership style then he should "Go." The poll can be found at http://snappoll.com/poll/322669.php. Any questions regarding this poll or any of the issues I've raised above can be directed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First, the cast of characters:
The Mayor - living in a bubble, working incredibly hard, accomplishing absolutely nothing and believing he is simply misunderstood as the sole protector of our community. He thinks he is a visionary, except no one else shares his vision or even knows what it is. The Mayor occasionally gives information to others, but would really rather be left to implement his plan without any consultation from the rest of the Board, the community or the staff. He willfully disregards others and consistently takes action without approval or discussion. The Mayor is generally a likeable person and a terrible politician.
Policy example: Singlehandedly instituting a "spending freeze" that is applied inconsistently and erratically, looking in all the wrong places when it comes time to balance the budget.
Quote: "This isn't information that you need to know."
The Financier - concerned with only one thing, which is particularly problematic, since The Financier is secretive, incapable of working with other people, clearly has little interest in this job outside of "liability" and "financial" issues and has no commitment to this community outside of her rigid, narrow view which usually amounts to "When I was Clerk-Treasurer, this is how I did it, so it's right." The unspoken details involving her departure from her previous position suggest the opposite may be true and she continues to prove this in her work with the Village. She would rather be at home than at meetings, and this is apparent on the occasions when she actually shows up. She contributes little outside of her 2 specific interests and is generally unprepared for meetings except when it comes to nickel-and-diming and acting as the extremely overbearing and overprotective parent of the Village, which is usually detrimental to the people who actually live in the Village.
Policy example: Requiring permission slips to use the parks.
Priorities: Bills & Claims
Quote: "This is a liability."
The Butterfly - seems like an accidental Trustee most of the time, The Butterfly flits around and doesn't fully commit to much except those issues that pertain to her immediate environment. Moriello Pool, parks, sidewalks and trees are of utmost importance, but nuts-and-bolts aren't really her thing. She is cute, colorful and bubbly but can becomes incredibly hostile and irrational if she feels threatened. In these cases, she engages in long-winded and disjointed diatribes toward the source of her discomfort without any real suggestions for improvement. She then follows up with a Letter to the Editor reiterating her annoyance, and drops out of sight for a while until she calms down. She goes out of her way to antagonize stakeholders that she personally dislikes, while making remarkable concessions for those she considers important members of our community. If The Butterfly were a student, she'd have been run out of town by now, but because she's a mom her constant absences and latenesses are generally overlooked.
Policy example: Hmm... well, she volunteers for a lot of stuff.
Priorities: Anything that impacts her interests and those of her family.
Quote: "Sorry I'm late!"
The Gatekeeper - seems like the only veteran Trustee (this characterization surprisingly belongs to The Mayor, although The Financier will argue that she's a veteran, too). Even though The Gatekeeper has only served 1 full term on the Board, he knows the Village inside out. The Gatekeeper has been diligent, thoughtful and detail-oriented. The Gatekeeper has a slight tendency to be rigid and overly invested in his view of what is right, but has grown tremendously since his election in 2005. Unfortunately, his tenure on the Board began with a Mayor who was far from ideal. He then supported the current Mayor and... shit. It actually does get worse! So he's finally had enough and is leaving his position effective June 1. This is a huge loss to the Village, as his likely replacement is another dopey, unknown, bland, non-committal transplant from the Huguenot Street Dems (think: David Lewis). Blech. He is attentive to the concerns of Village employees and is often called upon in his capacity as Deputy Mayor to engage with these individuals, as the Mayor is far too busy in his tower at all hours of the night to actually be bothered by people.
Priorities: Process, Building, Zoning, Planning.
Policy example: Woodland Ponds.
Quote: "OK, but can we talk about the agenda now?"
The Renegade - the newest Trustee, but you wouldn't know it. A longstanding member of this community, The Renegade has a focused list of priorities and will do whatever it takes to see that these priorities are achieved. He is clear, unapologetic, driven and fully aware of the staggering political barriers to moving his agenda forward. While The Renegade has taken a tempered, patient approach, it is obvious that his patience is quickly running out. The only Board ally that The Renegade has is The Gatekeeper, probably because they are the only Trustees who are actually doing anything. The Renegade is the only Trustee who interacts with staff at all levels on a regular basis and identifies issues of concern in order to get things done. He speaks his mind and consistently highlights the hypocrisy and self-preservationist tendencies of other Board members. His view of his position as Village Trustee is realistic, characterized by humility, humor and the recognition that VONP Trustees aren't actually the most important elected officials on the planet. The Renegade is about to come into his own and the other Trustees should be wary but will continue to be oblivious.
Policy example: Revisions to the Code on Blasting.
Priorities: Unification, Public Access Television, Village Employees.
Quote: "We act formally when we should be informal, and informally when we should be formal."
Now to set the stage:
It is April 15 at a workshop meeting to discuss the budget, which must be approved by April 30. After spending the first hour of the meeting fixing a botched SEQRA process, the Board finally gets down to business.
(Absent: The Butterfly).
The Mayor: We can either have a really long meeting or a really short one. I suggest everyone send me their ideas and then I will look at them and decide if I agree.
The Financier: I agree, and I want to point out that I can't work like this and should be left to look at the budget at home. Give me original worksheets so I don't have to go through the budget line by line. When you do that, I'll look at it. There's no reason that we should go through all of this together. I have to leave early so I think we should just end the meeting now. The morning comes early.
The Gatekeeper: Well, I think there's something between going line by line and addressing obvious concerns tonight.
The Mayor: OK, great. So everyone send me your suggestions and I'll decide if I want to look at them. Oh, right, Renegade, do you have anything to add?
The Renegade: Uh... yeah.
The Mayor: (sigh) OK, what did you need to discuss?
The Renegade: All of it!
The Mayor: (BIG SIGH)
The Renegade: Well, you didn't distribute copies of my suggestions to anyone, but luckily I have a copy right here. We need to look at the attorneys, engineers, etc. etc. etc.
(A really good conversation occurs where The Gatekeeper and The Renegade make brilliant points, the Mayor pretends to concede but writes down completely different numbers in his notes and The Financier only communicates with the Village Treasurer).
The Mayor: OK, great. I'll look at this with the Treasurer and I will do what I want to anyway. Meeting adjourned!
Village Treasurer: Um, were you going to make a motion to make any of these changes? At this point in the budget process, it's necessary to make all changes by a vote of the Board.
The Mayor: Oh... right. Um... did anyone want to make a motion? Renegade?
The Renegade: Well, no one actually agreed to anything, so no. What is the deadline?
Village Treasurer: April 30.
The Mayor: OK, great. So we'll discuss this at our next meeting. Goodnight!
So... I've gotta wonder... these people are actually ELECTED to do this work?!?!?!?!?!?!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Lolita Lempicka. Just say it. It literally DANCES in your mouth, it's like pop rocks. Plus, I'm a packaging junkie and anything that looks like bottled mermaid is probably going to feel like bottled mermaid. It's spicy and sexy and warm and sugary and tempestuous and while I'm not generally one for "oriental" fragrances, L de Lolita Lempicka is simply divine and vying with Givenchy's Very Irresistible for "signature scent" status (formerly held by Paris Hilton, which is an example of horrific packaging).
In the vein of glorious packaging, I am completely obsessed with Bluestocking Bonbons. Occasionally something will be packaged in a way that is misleading; the outside is extraordinary but the inside doesn't meet the expectations. More often, something will have humble packaging and the product will be a pleasurable surprise. Well, Bluestocking Bonbons has both, which is basically a guarantee that I will fall deeply in love. In addition to the joy delivered by the package and contents, BB's also have an incredible theory. Who knew that there could be such a thing as fun, elegant, principled chocolate?!?! Go buy some. Now. (I'm not one for spicy or salty chocolate, so I stay away from the vulvas and vandanas, but the patties, pb cups, raspberries de pizan and coconut pyramids are incredible and I could eat them all day... and I do!!!)
Since I've gotten the things that make me blissfully happy out of the way, we can move on to topics that make me want to stab myself in the temple. Ah, yes, the New Paltz Village Board... up next!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
The Kingston Daily Freeman held a poll on on whether same sex marriages should be permitted, and a majority indicated that they approved. But the question was posed as a simple "yes" or "no." Is it really a yes or no question? I think the issue is far more complex than one that can be summed up in a single-word answer.
We need to have a broader conversation about government sanctioned relationships, the creation of inequity and privilege based on relationship status and generally interfering with the personal lives of citizens.
The idea that we complacently allow the government to attribute worth and incentives to something as intangible and sacred as love is a strange concept. For many, marriage is a sacrament. For some, it is a means to an end. Why the government should be involved is still unclear to me.
If marriage existed solely as a religious sacrament, available as an option to those who choose it, I really wouldn't have any problem. I certainly wouldn't choose it, but it would be available to those who wish to recognize their relationship in that way. Marriage as a social concept would exist without any legal attributes. When we insist on validating a relationship and, subsequently, invalidating other types of relationships, we inherently create inequity and this is why the fight for gay marriage isn't one that should be championed under the banner of "equality."
We can't end discrimination by expanding a practice that is inherently discriminatory. Of course homosexual people should have the same rights as heterosexual people. But shouldn't single people, regardless of their sexual orientation, also be eligible for those same rights? What is it about being "coupled" that establishes an entitlement to rights that are denied to others in our society?
Our government has no business valuing some people over others and our legal recognition of marriage does exactly that. I'm happy that same sex couples are making huge strides, but it is still being done on the backs of others. What is the point in fighting for rights when those rights are won on the backs of others? We only continue to undervalue certain groups when we expand an inequitable practice. Marriage is, by its nature, exclusive and while we may increase the inclusiveness it will never be a fair and just institution.
It is far bigger than an issue of just health care or taxes or the ability to make medical decisions. Adding in the social benefits of being "coupled," we are creating an incredibly unfair and discriminatory system based solely on whether someone is in a relationship or not. As long as we elevate the status of some individuals over others, we will never have true equality. Our actions further oppress others and, at some point, we need to reevaluate the system.
Government has no responsibility for policing morality. Society does this without any governmental interference, and we need to make changes there, too. We need to question the interest of government in relationships and start pushing back.
How can we fix the system so that it conveys the rights created by legal marriage to
- Single people?
- Divorced people?
- People in short term relationships?
- People in long term, committed relationships who choose to remain unmarried?
- People in non-traditional relationships, such as polyamory?
It's an issue I struggle with every day, as someone who has recently become engaged. I certainly feel like a hypocrite, but also recognize the spiritual, legal and social reasons that make this is important to my partner. It doesn't change the fact that I don't share the same spiritual considerations and wish the legal and social incentives were wholly non-existent. I'm perfectly happy as a single person and don't need the government, a religion, or anyone else to validate my love. I don't want to benefit from my relationship, and don't need to be rewarded or congratulated; I haven't done anything warranting it. The happiness I've found in our relationship is benefit enough and I don't need any reinforcement from society or our nosy government.