Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Welcome to the Only State More Corrupt than Louisiana! Now, Go Vote!

How do you choose who to vote for when there aren't any viable options?

I live in New Jersey these days and my first state-wide election here is coming up. For those of you who don't follow our politics here (outside of scandals that landed many in jail, including the mayor of my town), we are in the midst of perhaps the most heated election cycle of my lifetime. Our incumbent, Jon Corzine, is a favorite of Obama's (apparently, as he seems to spend almost as much time campaigning for him as he does on television appearances and screwing up New York City traffic) but pretty much no one else. His numbers are as bad as David Patterson's yet the Democratic Party seems to be fighting for him instead of asking him to step aside. I can't figure out if they really want to lose NJ or something. If they do I'm thinking it's because Corzine's opponent, Chris Christie, is so corrupt that they think he'll raise a lot of money for the party every time he does something that makes Democrats mad.

Either way, I have ended up with a huge dilemma. I'm very (theoretically) excited to vote at last in the state I grew up in and left before I was old enough to register but I have no one to vote for.

As you know if you've read my post on The World's Smallest Political Quiz, I am a Libertarian. The problem is, if I vote for my own party's candidate, it's pretty much a wasted vote. That is why the two-party system does not work. Call me crazy, but I'd much rather vote for the least of several-to-many evils than the lesser of two. I'm wise enough to know I will be unlikely to have the chance to vote for someone I might actually believe in but why do I only have two choices? In this case, it's not even the lesser-of situation, it's more, "I'm voting for pure evil and shortsightedness either way."

Two of my most politically-aware friends also live in New Jersey and are staunch Democrats. I respect their views immensely even when we completely disagree but they are considering not voting at all. That's how bad it is. They are not the sort to skip voting and they have very strong opinions on this election but they can't in good conscience vote for either of these men. They know better but just can't figure out what to do.

For me, not casting a vote is not an option at all, but I understand their sentiment. As far as I can tell, these are my options:
  1. Vote for the status quo and accept that my state will continue on it's extreme downslide. This is also a vote for corruption and irresponsibility.
  2. Vote for the "other guy" who is even more corrupt and wants to focus on issues that hardly even matter in this economy and time period rather than fixing anything for anyone.
  3. Vote for my party's candidate just to up their vote count, perhaps aiding the cause of being able to vote for a third, fourth, or fifth party someday in the future but more likely having the same effect as not voting.
New Jersey is, I believe, unique in that we depend so much on two other states (New York and Pennsylvania) for employment and therefore it's pretty hard to change our fate when we can't do anything to change their policies. Still, things used to be better here for individuals, families, and corporations alike. When I was a kid this was an exciting place to be, always growing and changing. As much as I've railed against the development around me and particularly hate how much farmland has become condos, at least most people could find a job, usually a very good one to support living somewhere so costly. Now we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and it's still more expensive to live here than anywhere but Manhattan and San Francisco. Everything has gotten worse. Everything.

I think about these things almost all the time with at least a few brain cells yet I am no closer to a decision than I was when the primaries ended.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Time for Change

Ahhhh, Autumn! I love everything about it. From the crazy weather that changes completely at the slightest whim, the special scent in the air, the changing leaves, the addition of clothing layers, to the promise of winter (my other favorite season) and holidays just around the corner. I could never live somewhere without such distinct seasons as the only one I don't adore is summer and even that serves to remind me why I appreciate the other three so much.

Today I am even more excited it's autumn than usual as I am about to launch my new company to the public. My excitement at this moment is a little more mundane, though. See, I live in a 2-bedroom apartment that I chose partially so I could have an office here. The need for it escalated when my partner moved in a few years ago but ironically we also needed extra storage space and I sacrificed my office, plus we no longer have an air-conditioner in there and it gets quite warm in summer (not great for the computer gear OR me). Right now, my office set-up is in the living room, which has been fine for the pre-startup phase but will definitely be untenable when I start getting calls from the public (fingers crossed!) and working the long hours that come with running a new business.

So, today I'm turning that room into an office again no matter how hard it may be. There's just no other option because I have a wonderful problem - I'm too in love!

I have been with my partner for over 12 years now and I'm still so attracted to him that I can't seem to get anything done when he's in the room. Everything takes far too long and I'm far more likely to make mistakes. It's like I never grew out of the high school mentality that plagues co-ed education, even though in every other way I'd like to think I've progressed. I'm blaming brain chemistry for this one as I really get a body buzz the moment he walks through the door every day, the kind you usually only experience for the first few months of a relationship.

I know, poor me, right? As I said, it's a wonderful problem to have and I hope I always have it. He's incredibly supportive and doesn't mind if I work all the time, I'm the one with the issues here and I'm afraid the fact of my distraction makes him feel guilty. It's not fair to either of us and certainly will not help me become the successful entrepreneur I am confident I can become if I just find a way to make this work, for the company AND for our relationship.

Step one is clearly a space for me to work in solace, and we're lucky enough in this city of tiny apartments to have the "extra" room even if I have to work amongst my huge collection of junk that I adore. It's exciting no matter how much I dread actually doing it, as I will finally have a space that is created for me by only me. If only I had that gene or upbringing or whatever that makes people good at cleaning!

(I'm also hoping that posting this for all of you to see will keep me honest and make me actually accomplish my goals here. I seriously hate cleaning!)

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Biggest Threat to the Sanctity of Marriage

The answer is simple: Civil recognition of marriage.

How did I get there? Well, the first easy answer is divorce and I've been watching the campaign of John Marcotte since reading about it in the Huffington Post a few days ago with amusement and interest. See, I have been saying that for a few years now (it came up in an argument with my father, truth be told) that marriage lost any sanctity it may have had when divorce became a common thing, almost more of a rule than an exception. Couples go into marriage expecting that it will succeed but always knowing, in the back of their minds, that if it's a mistake they have a way out that may require a lot of hassle but is ultimately easier than it ever has been before.

One day while I was waiting for someone on 72nd Street in Manhattan I noticed a giant sign in a window that read, "Sale! Divorces $500!" It broke my heart.

I firmly believe we need a divorce mechanism, there are some brutally bad marriages that need dissolution. However, it makes no sense that two people of the same sex who take their vows seriously can't avail themselves of the option when divorce (a much larger threat to "traditional" marriage) is readily available with not much sacrifice beyond money and, hey, you can even shop for sales to help that part!

However, divorce does not really touch on the sanctity thing in the end, as it is a civil procedure that is in no way sacred. In fact, unless you are married in a religious institution according to it's laws and customs, there is no sanctity whatsoever in marriage. Marriages performed by a justice of the peace, a ship captain, or an Elvis impersonator are not sacred, they are secular and legal. If you are Catholic and divorced and remarried there is no sanctity, as the Church will not recognize such marriages and they are technically adultery even though accepted in general society. There are plenty of examples of taking the sanctity out of marriage that apply to heterosexual couples without even entering the realm of true adultery, domestic violence, or other abuses of the institution.

So, can we just let go of that term when we're talking about gay marriage?

Honestly, I understand why some people hate the semantics of this notion, but I think that it would be totally fine if everyone who married outside a religious institution was considered to have a "civil union" (regardless of anyone's gender) and people who took religiously sanctioned vows could use "marriage". Anyone could get a civil union and each religion could have free domain over their own marriage rules. Everyone could have the level of legal and societal protection that suits each couple while religious people could have their sacred ceremonies truly be sanctified rather than a religious/civil hybrid.

Ahhh, separation of church and state, what an original notion that seems to be these days!

Friday, September 18, 2009

What Does it Really Mean to Be a Married Gay Today?

I may seem like an unlikely proponent of marriage equality, as I'm generally not pro-marriage, have never wanted to marry, and live with a man who is my long-term partner. So, you'd think marriage laws wouldn't be a passion of mine, but I abhor inequality and anytime people are restricted from doing anything they would like to do that doesn't hurt (or, in this case, even affect most) other people.

So, gay marriage is a cause I care about to the bottom of my brain and heart. I would also like for society to accept people (especially women) who choose to never marry, but I think marriage equality may actually be a more achievable goal in this country.

Why am I bringing this up today? I followed a "Follow Friday" message from my friend (@souphead) and ended up on a new site by one of her friends, Ruby. Ruby is a very smart and funny lesbian who married her wife while it was legal in California and mother of one of the most beautiful babies around. The happy family has decided to take a road trip across America to ponder the question, "Are We Married?" and what it really means as they spend time in states with widely varying laws. I'm looking forward to following their story, I'm sure they will have wonderful and thoroughly horrible adventures along the way (based on my own experiences traveling around America as a non-traditionally-minded person) and that Ruby will wittily report on them all.

If this family isn't a perfect example of why marriage equality is vital to our citizens, I don't know who is.

It's impossible to understand how anyone can preach "family values" and yet tell two loving mothers who value their family above all that they are in breach of them. I am very smart with test scores to prove it and quite creative in many ways and yet I can not wrap my brain around how people even come to these notions that have no bearing on reality.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue you should read Ruby's blog and get a glimpse of what it really means to be married as a lesbian in this nation at this crossroads in public policy and private beliefs.

Next up: What is really the greatest threat to the sanctity of marriage?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Death Penalty Truly Does = Homicide

Capital punishment. Just the words make my blood run cold. I am not a great believer in the Bible but I have often thought that was one of the best lessons of the New Testament, that capital or even corporal punishment are not the way to handle justice on any level.

On a logical level, it is nearly impossible to know a person's actions with 100% accuracy. Even video can lie, heck, you could be standing there watching something happen and not know the truth. It happens all the time, even to highly observant types.

The only good argument I've ever heard for the death penalty can be summed up in Ted Bundy's escape from prison via a law library and the subsequent murders he committed before Florida put him to death. However, that level of cunning is rare and Ted Bundy is an exception to many "rules" of criminal behavior. We like to pin the label sociopath onto all kinds of criminals but the truth is they are incredibly rare yet share the trait of most criminals that the death penalty is not even slightly a deterrent to them. If anything, it just ups the stakes of the game and makes it more interesting.

Well, I'm off on a tangent again. The point is, I've always been against capital punishment, but today I read an article that made my veins particularly icy and included a sentence that, to me, is the truly unrefutable argument to be made against it: "On his death certificate, the cause was listed as 'Homicide.'"

I don't know if that's standard, but it certainly makes sense, as it is quite intentional and thus homicide. Still, to see that we completely admit that we, as a society, are committing homicide on a regular basis just makes a horrifying concept seem that much more contentious. I'd honestly never thought about what they put on the death certificate in such cases before.

Even scarier, what the article was largely about was the appalling state of arson investigation in this country. If you watch much prime time television you must have seen some amazing arson investigations using all sorts of gizmos and scientific methodology. Well, it turns out that is more fictional than I thought. "In 1997, the International Association of Arson Investigators filed a legal brief arguing that arson sleuths should not be bound by a 1993 Supreme Court decision requiring experts who testified at trials to adhere to the scientific method." Seriously? I don't even have words (and that is extremely rare, as you may know if you've been reading this blog). Arson investigators often claim their profession is more of an art than a science. I'm sorry, but if you are going to kill me over something, I'd like some solid factual science to be behind it. Luckily, in this case the Supreme Court agrees, but arson investigators are still grappling with the concept.

Why is this country so much more accepting of art than science? Alas, that will have to be a discussion for another day.

The excellent article from the New Yorker that inspired these thoughts is a long one but well worth the time:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Surprise Vacation Surprises

I haven't posted in a little over a week because I had a little vacation, sorely needed. Most of it was spent at home, just enjoying some peace and quiet with my guy. It was nice. I didn't play guitar, write anything, work, or even keep up with Twitter the whole time (just checked in a few times for news on when Discovery would launch, which ended up conveniently being after our return). We had all these big plans for the week but ended up indulging in only one of them, our first overnight trip to the Jersey shore together, a last-minute idea that somehow came together.

We had gone on a day trip last summer, taking the high-speed ferry from Manhattan to Sandy Hook. It was fun, but I do question the name of that peninsula (island? I really should look at a map), there were far more rocks than sandiness. We wanted to go back there but couldn't find a room available within our price range, so I looked further afield along the train line that runs down the coast (it was very nice to NOT rent a car for this one, as I'm the only licensed driver in my household and I enjoy drinking alcohol on vacation, or pretty much anytime I'm not driving). I searched like mad for the right town and a B&B that wouldn't break the bank. All the towns I have spent time in on the shore are too distant for a train and there is nothing worse than a longish-distance bus ride to me, so I was going in rather blind.

Well, somehow it all came together and we ended up visiting Spring Lake, my new favorite shore town. Most of the people were older than us (which I like, a lot), it was quiet and peaceful without too many kids dominating the atmosphere. I like children but in shore towns they just get way too loud for me to take for long. There were quite a few on the beach itself, where they were delightful to watch and the waves were still the main sound. The beach was fantastic, soft sand with big waves thanks to Bill's recent presence.

I'm not usually a big public recommendation person, and part of me wants to keep my new spot a secret, but we were treated so well and had such a wonderful trip that I feel I should support everyone who made it that way. The White Lilac Inn was our home-away-from-home and the best B&B I've ever stayed in. Good food, comfortable places to relax including loads of porches and balconies, beds that made me sleep like a baby, and all brought together by the funny and thoughtful owner, Mari. Many times I have stayed in a place like that and felt like I was intruding in a stranger's home, but Mari and her staff made us feel like long-lost and very welcome family members rather than just paying customers. The other guests were also friendly and we had quite a bit of fun just hanging out on the porch with them. It was almost hard to leave the inn and explore the town, even though we were very much there for beach time!

The truly great meal of our trip was at The Mill at Spring Lake Heights. The food was very tasty, on par with some of the famous restaurants I've been lucky enough to dine in. Even better was the friendly waitstaff and the view of a pond filled with painted turtles. The only bad part was waddling home feeling like we had just been through a Thanksgiving meal (yes, Souphead, I did have the baby bump from overeating).

It's also amazing how relaxing a trip that involves no driving or flying can be. Most vacations end with aggravation purely because those modes of travel can be so stressful, whereas the train was pleasant and conveniently half a mile from both our home and the inn. It was lovely to come home still feeling refreshed and even nicer to come home from the beach when a storm was rolling in after our time there had perfect weather for swimming.

Happy on vacation, happy to be home. Does it get any better than that?