Gay marriage repeal fails in New Hampshire

And it failed by a hefty margin:

New Hampshire lawmakers easily defeated a bill on Wednesday that would have been the first step toward reversing the state’s law that allows same-sex couples to marry.

The attempt to repeal a law that made gay marriages legal in the state, failed by a vote of 116-211 in the Republican-controlled legislature, drawing applause from many lawmakers in the historic statehouse in Concord.

Three things. First, good. Second, it was going to get vetoed anyway. Third, what state legislature needs nearly 330 members? Maine has 186 members in its House and Senate whilst boasting about the same population (1.3 million) as New Hampshire.

“Booooo” Santorum

Rick Santorum is campaigning in New Hampshire, one of the few states that does not discriminate against gays in marriage and the site of the first Republican primary. I don’t think he’s going to do well there, but then who knew he was going to do well in Iowa. Of course, while Iowa also does not discriminate against gays in marriage, many of its citizens would prefer to turn the clock back. That gives Santorum and all the vile things he says a little power there. That probably won’t be the case in New Hampshire, and it certainly was not the case in front of a bunch of college students in Concord:

Rick Santorum was booed after a lengthy back-and-forth with several students in Concord, N.H., on the issue of same-sex marriage, which is legal in New Hampshire.

As Santorum addressed a group of college students, one asked him how same-sex marriage affects him personally and why not have legal same-sex marriage as long as it’s not religious in nature.

Santorum answered that for “230 years marriage has been between one man and woman. So if you want to change the law…you have to make the positive argument about why.”

This actually is sort of correct. In order for change to happen, those in favor of said change need to say why it should happen. However, the game has been rigged. People like Santorum never made their positive argument for marriage 230 years ago. They didn’t even give a second thought to gays and so marriage was assumed to be between one man and one woman. The onus is actually on him.

And what are his arguments? Appeals to tradition and inapt comparisons. The former is just an extension of the rigged game and is thus logically invalid; it isn’t a positive argument at all. The latter is why “Santorum” has the frothy definition it does.

But to Frothy’s credit, he stuck by his guns and tried to make the students justify their positions:

Santorum responded, “Are we saying that everyone should have the right to marry?”

Several members of the crowd loudly yelled, “Yes!”

At that point, the former senator from Pennsylvania compared same-sex marriage to polygamy.

“So anyone can marry can marry anybody else? So if that’s the case, then everyone can marry several people … so you can be married to five people. Is that OK?” Santorum asked.

I’m a little disappointed in the response. Students shouted back that they weren’t discussing polygamy. That is true and Frothy was creating a red herring, but I’m perfectly happy responding to his question: Yes, it is okay for a number of people to get married to each other at the same time. The only issue anyone can draw about that is how taxes would work out. New codes and laws would need to be created, and I’m not sure how that would or should go. But on the moral question, there is no doubt: there is nothing wrong with polygamy.

Frothy then got a little weird:

The student answered that [people] should [be allowed to do what makes them happy] as long as no one was harming anyone else. Santorum countered, raising his voice and asking, “Who decides if they are harming other people? Is there an objective standard?”

Wasn’t it Frothy who told people they needed to make positive arguments in order to defend their positions? If it is his contention that people are harmed by gay marriage, then he needs to say why. I have yet to see a remotely convincing argument for that position. Ever.

Santorum continued, but threatened to end the discussion, telling the crowd, “I’m going to give people one more chance and then we are going to move on. I’m going to ask the question again. If three people happen to get married based on what you just said, what makes that wrong and what you said right?”

“That’s irrelevant,” the student responded. “My personal opinion is, ‘Yeah go for it,’ but what I’m asking [is] for you [to] justify your belief and your high morals about all men created equal-”

At that point, Santorum cut off the student and, for the third time, asked, “What about three men?

Emphasis added.

Politicians tend to be pretty good when it comes to rhetoric. They certainly misstep, but they’re still better than the average Joe when it comes to this stuff. That includes Frothy. Except in this case. Using good rhetoric means, in part, appealing to one’s audience. If he was speaking to a bunch of sexually immature, sexually insecure Evangelicals, then sure, mention the idea of three men having sex. That would gross them out. “Icky!”, they would think. But saying that in front of a bunch of pro-equality college students is going to fall flat. In fact, it just made him look even worse.

When he wrapped up, several questions later, the crowd loudly booed him.

I think Frothy still has some learning to do. Maybe he should look to his biggest opponent. After all, I’m sure Romney wouldn’t have had a problem saying whatever would have please the crowd.

Anti-evolution legislation in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has been disappointing as of late. Here and there I’ve been hearing rumblings of Republicans gearing up to destroy the lives of Granite State gays. Then they put money in the pockets of naturopaths at the expense of the health of their citizens. And now a number of schmucks are getting ready to put forth some anti-science bills:

House Bill 1148, introduced by Jerry Bergevin (R-District 17), would charge the state board of education to “[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.” House Bill 1457, introduced by Gary Hopper (R-District 7) and John Burt (R-District 7), would charge the state board of education to “[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”

Bergevin pulls out what has got to be the most basic creationist canard by implying that a theory is somehow not scientifically sound or established. He’s wrong. See Theory of Gravity for further reference. But as if blatant ignorance wasn’t enough, he then goes and commits a logical fallacy by demanding, in poorly veiled code, that teachers make ad hominem attacks on scientists. It would be risible if it wasn’t so pitiable and contemptible and insensible all at the same time.

Hopper and Burt don’t fair much better. They use the broad concept that accepted science changes with the evidence, but they do so in an obviously sneaky, if superficially acceptable, way. Fortunately they slipped up and showed their hand early:

Although HB 1457 as drafted is silent about “intelligent design,” Hopper’s initial request was to have a bill drafted that would require “instruction in intelligent design in the public schools.”

Surprise, surprise. I guess they must have read Kitzmiller v. Dover after their first draft.

I remember Maine had a very brief flair up a few years ago when some administrator out in East Bumfuck made similar suggestions concerning the teaching of evolution. He quickly learned the value of shutting up in the face of overwhelming evidence he just didn’t understand, but it was still disappointing that the moment wasn’t captured more fruitfully by journalists; no one in the media took the time to pen a short article on why evolution is true and why the administrator was wrong. It wouldn’t have needed to be some in-depth piece, but just something that explained some of the basics (starting with what a theory is since that was at the heart of the issue here). Hell, I’m sure any paper could have gotten an actual biologist to write something for them in under an hour.

I just hope New Hampshire does at least a little bit better than Maine did.

Naturopathy in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire House recently had before it a measure to require health insurers to cover patients using naturopaths as primary physicians. (I don’t know how NH defines naturopaths, but in Maine they are not physicians.) The NH House did not pass that measure, though they have passed something which isn’t much better:

Instead, the requirement will be limited to the individual market, where people already had the option to use a naturopath, since consumers in that market pay a percentage of the cost of each visit, unlike an HMO-type system in which a physician acts as a gatekeeper to prevent the over-utilization of specialists…

Committee Chair Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, said insurers are upset because under current contracts, physicians are supposed to be able to refer patients to a specialist, not naturopaths.

Rep. Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, argued that it was good public policy not to discriminate. Besides, she said, naturopaths are less likely to refer patients to specialists, meaning lower costs.

What’s really unfortunate here is that Schlachman does not understand the reason naturopaths are less likely to refer patients to specialists: they do not have the requisite knowledge needed to make a proper determination for what the best course of medical action is for an individual. Go take a look at the few accredited naturopathic schools around the country – the course loads include a bunch of homeopathy, acupuncture, something known as cupping, and other forms of malarkey. Hardly any of it is science. People would be better offer finding a first semester pre-med student than going to a naturopath. (The same goes for people who seek any form of alternative medicine. After all, if it was medicine, it would just be called that: medicine.)

The end result of this measure in NH will be less cost for insurers, more business for naturopaths, and less health for consumers. It’s a bad deal.

Gay marriage updates

Here are just a few of the recent news stories concerning gay marriage:

  • Dubya’s daughter, Barbara, has come out in support of gay marriage. She is helping the fight for basic equality in New York. Currently, thousands of families with gay heads of the house are being forced into unnecessary financial difficulties while they face bigoted social stigma. It ought to stop.
  • Illinois has taken a step in the right direction by legalizing civil unions. Gay couples will still face unnecessary hardships, but they now have some relief. Oh, and the negatives? Nothing. Absolutely nothing negative will come from this law.
  • New Hampshire lawmakers are trying to turn the state back. They’ve attached the banning of incest to a law that would ban gay marriage. I find this repulsive for two reasons. First, the most obvious reason is that it associates two separate ideas, as if it’s okay to say homosexuality and incest go hand in hand. Second, this is simply logically offensive. It’s a classic “When are you going to stop beating your wife?” fallacy. That is, it’s asking two questions but seeking one answer. (Remember that famous Watergate inquiry, “What did Nixon know and when did he know it?”) On the plus side, it is destined to fail.

“Were you in the clouds?”

Over the past two days I’ve been fortunate enough to hike a part of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Leaving from Crawford Notch with two friends, we followed the Appalachian Trail (AT) to the summit of Mount Washington, cutting down Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail to Pinkham Notch.

The original plan was to use the AT for the entire trip, but after having done the 100 Mile Wilderness last year, the pain of a 15 mile day is well known to all of us. Even though we had an average trek of 11 miles on the first day, there was a lot of downhill, not to mention 90+ degree, humid, sunny weather ahead, and that adds up to a whole lot. There’s the toll on the knees, the toll on hydration, and the toll on the mind. We took our chance to shortcut down Tuckerman’s when the opportunity presented itself.

One of the most interesting aspects of this hike was the presence of hostels. Throughout the 100 Mile Wilderness the best accommodations were lean-to’s, so it was strange to see such significant buildings so far from anywhere. And I don’t mean relatively significant. They were actually good sized for the base of a mountain. They had all the amenities, including bunks, tables, showers, and a kitchen.

Of course, in the exact opposite spirit of the AT, it costs $100 to stay in one of these hostels. Per night. Per person. It’s bullshit.

But there were two hostels and the first was just a bit stop. We trudged on, passing Mount Monroe, among others, to arrive at the hostel at which we planned on staying, just 1.5 miles from the summit of Mount Washington. And by “planned on staying”, I mean “hoped would have some place to stay for real hikers”.

We walked the hostel, Lakes of the Clouds Hut, to find a mess hall filled with about 65 surely wealthy, non-hikers. Of course, they all had their $2000 worth of equipment they just bought earlier in the week, complete with retractable walking sticks (we had left our forest-born walking sticks outside, unafraid they would be swiped), but most of them likely walked the 1.5 miles from Mount Washington after taking the train that leads to the summit (for $45). And if they did it this past Sunday or Monday, they had perfect weather. I personally find this fitting since good weather is the antithesis of Mount Washington – sort of like these people are the antithesis of hikers.

(To be fair, I heard rumor of thru-hikers staying at the hut. Those people – who put me to shame – get a pass. They’re actually doing it. They mean it.)

But back to the hostel. We had heard tell of a so-called “dungeon” that cost a mere $10 per person. No meal, no amenities, but it was right there and out of the wind. The crew member helping us out didn’t make mention of it at first (instead recommending an out-of-the-way treeline hike that would have added miles to our at-the-time planned 15 mile hike the following day), but when prompted he offered it. It’s meant as an emergency refuse for hikers, but it’s really just for the winter when no one is likely to be at the hut. (It even has a raised door so all the snowfall won’t prevent a stranded hiker from gaining access.)

It was a little dank, but I actually enjoyed it better than some lean-to’s. The bunks (with our sleeping pads) were relatively comfortable, plus we weren’t sharing our room with 10 strangers like everyone else. It wasn’t a bad night.

I was pretty happy the next morning watching all the non-hikers gather their gear in preparation for what had to be the wettest fog I’ve ever experienced. The forecast called for awesome conditions (though humid) – but at lower elevations. On top of Mount Washington it was dense fog with 55mph winds, gusts up to 68mph. I’m glad they had to experience that – but I hope for some of the more genuine members of the group it wasn’t a matter of having to experience it, but rather getting to experience it.

I’ve hiked to the top of a sunny Mount Washington in the past (I refuse to pay the excessive price to drive or take the train to the top), but this was far, far better. The wind was intense. Visibility was measured in feet. We almost couldn’t find the summit building. It was difficult finding the trail head to Tuckerman’s. It was just right.

But in this whole excursion the best experience came at a much lower elevation, several thousand feet below. As we passed under-prepared after under-prepared hiking groups filled with children, one kid stopped for a moment. He looked up, at this point well below all the fog its non-raining wetness, and asked:

Were you in the clouds?

Yes, we answered.


And it was genuine. Whether this was a one-time summer camp sort of trip for this kid or if he was jumping at any opportunity to climb a mountain, he meant what he said, he meant what he was doing. He was a real hiker.

New Hampshire plays catch up

New Hampshire has caught up with most of New England by passing a bill to allow same-sex marriage.

New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage after the Senate and House passed key language on religious rights and Gov. John Lynch — who personally opposes gay marriage — signed the legislation Wednesday afternoon.

I’ve had discussions with people who claim Lynch is acting out of political pressure. I don’t see evidence for that. It’s certainly a possibility, but the man is hugely popular and won by landslides in his last two elections. At the very least, it seems just as likely that he was caving to political pressure when he initially said he was against same-sex marriage. In fact, why not more? He had more to gain then than he stands to lose now.

Lynch, a Democrat, had promised a veto if the law didn’t clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services. Legislators made the changes.

The revised bill added a sentence specifying that all religious organizations, associations or societies have exclusive control over their religious doctrines, policies, teachings and beliefs on marriage.

I believe this is correct. Morally, it isn’t, of course. It’s bankrupt in that sense. However, in a legal sense – and this is a legal issue – religions are protected by the First Amendment in this regard. Time may very well conclude that they are not, but it would appear that they are afforded these protections right now. Of course, the KKK is afforded First Amendment protections.

It also clarified that church-related organizations that serve charitable or educational purposes are exempt from having to provide insurance and other benefits to same-sex spouses of employees.

This, however, is not constitutional. This moves from the realm of protecting religious beliefs to harming people. If a religious organization hires a married homosexual, it is not germane to their beliefs to deny insurance. We’re talking about secular legal and tax issues, not religion at this point. New Hampshire went to far here. They are allowing religion to trump individual rights.

On the up side, discrimination has been significantly lessened in New England over the past few months.

Good news for Maine

A recent Gallup poll “asked representative samples in 143 countries and territories whether religion was an important part of their daily lives.” The United States, despite the religiously-driven anti-science movement, does not rank as having an especially high number of individuals who say religion is an important part of their lives. For all the countries surveyed, the median response was 82%. The U.S. came in at 65%.

This does not mean the U.S. is unreligious. The interesting thing about this survey is that it is strongly correlated with poverty. In nations where poverty is higher, so is the rate of positive respondents to the poll. That is, poor people cling to their religion. It makes sense that someone who has lost hope, or at least been placed in the dismal position of being desperately poor, would turn to mysticism as a last resort. Of course, this has not helped the people of Sri Lanka or Eygpt gain much wealth. Religion simply isn’t the helpful. In fact, it isn’t really helpful at all.

So what’s rather shocking, at least statistically, about this poll is America’s amount of wealth and rate of religiosity.

Social scientists have noted that one thing that makes Americans distinctive is our high level of religiosity relative to other rich-world populations. Among 27 countries commonly seen as part of the developed world, the median proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is just 38%. From this perspective, the fact two-thirds of Americans respond this way makes us look extremely devout.

Of course, the obvious point to be made is that this seems to directly contradict the issue of correlation. In fact, it does not. This is because as poverty increases by state, so does religosity. Alabama, the slack-jawed center of the South, comes in at 82% answering positively. Mississippi, the well-established cesspool of stupidity, Mr. 50 in Everything Bad, as it were, comes in a smidge higher than the worldwide median, at 85%. These two poverty-rich states are roughly equal to Iran with their rate of response.

It should be of little surprise, then, that all six states of New England fill out the top ten. In fact, the top four are, in order, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Tending toward less general poverty, these states also tend toward less religiosity. Of course, it’s important to also consider the more liberal, more moral, less evil leanings in this area as well. Such people – the ones concerned with reality – often have a liberal bias. Freed from the shackles of sheepdom as wrought by religion, these states have generally better standards of living and education. No big news there.

Vermont rated healthiest state; Maine 9th

Vermont tops states in health, Louisiana ranks last.

It was the second straight year that Vermont topped the rankings. It was followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Idaho and Maine.

Louisiana fell from 49th to 50th, replacing Mississippi. Rounding out the bottom 10 were South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nevada and Georgia.

California, the most populous state, ranked 24th and New York 25th.

Vermont, with the second smallest population of any state, had the third-highest public health spending and an obesity rate of 22 percent, four points below the national average.

It also had low child poverty and violent crime, a large number of doctors per capita and good high school graduation rates.

Hawaii had similarly low obesity, the highest public health spending, little air pollution, low rates of uninsured people, a low rate of preventable hospitalizations and low rates of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Mississippi led the nation in obesity at 33 percent of the population, while Colorado was lowest at 19 percent.

22% is the obesity rate in the healthiest state. That’s absolutely absurd. But let’s keep outspending every nation combined on our military. Health certainly isn’t relevant or important to life.

By the way, is it any surprise the South makes up the whole of the bottom 10?