Monday, April 30, 2012

Virginia Senate Candidates Talk About Gay Marriage

One of the questions posed to the four candidates seeking the Republican nomination to succeed Democrat Jim Webb in the U.S. Senate concerned DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act.

The panelist asked the candidates -- George Allen, E.W. Jackson, Bob Marshall, and Jamie Radtke -- whether they supported DOMA and whether the law has a constitutional basis.

Here is a video of the four candidates' answers. The first to respond is Jackson, followed by Marshall -- author of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, which bans gay marriage in Virginia -- Radtke, and finally former Senator Allen, who seems eager to give a perfunctory "yes" answer to the question and then quickly switch to a topic he prefers to talk about, energy and gasoline prices.

After the debate, I was able to ask Bishop Jackson how his position on gay marriage is consistent with a broader position he holds, namely that the government should not interfere with the private, moral decisions of individuals. (Jackson had explained that position to me in an interview a few weeks ago, when he made a campaign appearance in Charlottesville.)

The full interview is available as a podcast on Bearing Drift, and the portion dealing with same-sex marriage is excerpted on Here is part of what he said:
E.W. Jackson in Charlottesville
Jackson conceded that he would not call himself a libertarian and added that “I don’t know that libertarians would call me a libertarian,” but that what he had said previously is that “libertarians like me because they know I lean very strongly into keeping government out of the lives of people.”

With regard to gay marriage, he added, “you’ve got to remember, what is really happening there is that people who want homosexual marriage are inviting the government to put its imprimatur on what they want to do and to change 6,000 years of human history and 200 years of American policy. So in my view, they’re the ones who are trying to use the government to intrude upon those of us who believe that marriage as it is is just fine.”

The next question was how Jackson would be affected if the gay couple next door were to get married.

“I’m talking about it affecting society, affecting our culture in the long term,” he answered.

“I would turn the question around and say, if you’re going to upend 6,000 years of human history, it is incumbent upon you to prove to me that somehow we’re going to be better off with that.”

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

How Squirrels Potty-Train

Did I really need to know this?

In his column ending "Squirrel Week" today, Washington Post Metro section columnist John Kelly reports on how baby squirrels learn to defecate.  It doesn't just come naturally, it seems:

This fascinating bit of information came from Don Moore, associate director of animal care sciences at the National Zoo. Earlier in his career, Don worked in Syracuse, N.Y., rehabilitating baby squirrels. Squirrels are among species — deer are another — where the mother uses her mouth to carry her offspring’s poo and pee away from the nest. This is to protect her litter from predators.
“Evolutionarily, that’s a great strategy,” Don said. “The mother’s removing the only thing that can give [the baby] a scent: the pee and poo.” With no scent to follow, predators can’t find the defenseless baby.
The mother’s selfless act is so hard-wired in a squirrel’s very being that babies can urinate and defecate only after being stimulated by the mother licking around . . . down there.
Orphaned squirrels raised by humans risk becoming constipated and bloated. “The gut stops moving,” Don said. “You don’t want that to happen, so you stimulate them. In fact, you have to start stimulating them just to get them to feed.”
Squirrel moms provide stimulation with their tongues. “We don’t recommend that,” Don said. “We would use a warm, damp washcloth.”
Baby squirrels must have their nether regions stimulated at every feeding from birth to about five weeks of age, when their eyes are open and their fur is coming in.
“It’s a wonderful day when they start doing it themselves,” Don said.
My life could have gone on without knowing that, but it's bound to be a conversation-starter. (Or -stopper?)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

FDR Visits Charlottesville, April 1942

Seventy years ago this week, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a few of his closest advisors made a private trip to Charlottesville to relax and do some brainstorming in the midst of the first full year of the Second World War.

Law professor John Q. Barrett of St. John's University sends out periodic snapshots of the life of Robert Jackson, who served as FDR's Attorney General and was later appointed by Roosevelt to the U.S. Supreme Court. Jackson also served as chief prosecutor at the Nazi war crimes trials in Nuremberg after the war. Taken altogether, these "Jackson list" postings are a biography of Jackson, though in the form of an anecdotal mosaic.

In his latest note (not yet online but in email form), Barrett writes:

On Saturday, April 11, 1942, Justice Robert H. Jackson arrived, by invitation, at the White House. That afternoon, he was driven, along with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, his press secretary Stephen Early, Postmaster General Frank Walker and presidential physician Dr. Ross McIntire, to Charlottesville, Virginia.

In those early months of United States military involvement in World War II, the President was getting away from Washington to relax with current and former assistants. They spent that Saturday might at the Charlottesville home of President Roosevelt’s appointments secretary, U.S. Army Major General Edwin M. (“Pa”) Watson. They probably played some cards and had a drink or two.
Among the items that came up for discussion was an incipient idea of Roosevelt's that he should appoint a White House counsel, a lawyer inside the West Wing who could provide him with legal advice.

Jackson was not too keen on that proposal. He thought that the job of legal counsel to the President belonged to the Attorney General and that, as he recalled later, "A White House counsel between the President and the Attorney General was a bad thing likely to lead to conflict and I wouldn’t want it if I were Attorney General." If the President didn't like the advice he was getting from the Attorney General, Jackson said, he should appoint a new Attorney General, not a separate White House counsel.

Subsequent presidents have, of course, appointed their own White House counsels. In the Nixon administration, for instance, John Dean was White House counsel and John Mitchell was Attorney General. Both ended up in prison.

Jackson and Roosevelt also discussed the progress of the war, and the prospects of a post-war settlement. As Jackson recalled their conversation, he turned out to be more prescient than the president:
We discussed many phases of the conflict and the problems that it was going to raise in the future. Some of them we had discussed before. The proposition came up as to the future of Germany. We all assumed, of course, that there was no question that eventually the United States, with its allies, would win. How long it would take no one was in a position to say. The President long before that had said to me what he now repeated—that he thought Germany would have to be broken up to its pre-Bismarckian small states. I had argued against that. It seemed to me that peace in the world could never be advanced by atomizing large units, but would rather come by consolidating them and reducing the occasions for friction. During our week-end trip the President again was back on that thesis that Germany ought to be broken up. We discussed that at some length.
Roosevelt, Jackson, and the others returned from Charlottesville to Washington on April 12. Three years later on that date, as Barrett points out, Roosevelt died.

Those interested in learning more may want to look at a book edited by John Barrett, a memoir of Robert H. Jackson about FDR called That Man:  An Insider's Portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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