So you think you’re informed?

November 23, 2013

I’m an information snob.

By that, I mean I hate it when my friends try to tell me they’re “informed.” Usually what they mean by that is they watch “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report” and listen to NPR every so often. They think that by being on Facebook and following @CNN on Twitter means they know what’s going on in the world.

This drives me fucking crazy.

Granted, I work in news, so my standard of “being informed” skews kind of high. I work with highly informed individuals on a daily basis, and a lot of my daily interaction comes from people who work in government. It’s my job to be as informed as humanly possible. I guess it’s why I’m a snob when it comes to “being informed.”

Case in point: before SCOTUS handed down its ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, a friend on Facebook had posted a status about how gay people should allowed to get married because love is love. Then he said he was in favor of Prop 8.

facepalm

In case you didn’t know, the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2008, but a ballot measure known as Proposition 8 passed that fall, which made gay marriage illegal again. So my friend was basically saying he was in favor of gay people getting married, BUT NOT REALLY.

And you know what I ESPECIALLY hate? I hate it when people try to one-up me when it comes to being informed. Old college friends try to do that a lot. They try to tell me, “Oh, I stay so well-informed. I know what’s going on in the world. I understand current events. I think the government shut down was total bullshit. I think the health care roll out is a disaster.”

Yeah, OK. Good for you. You took a cursory glance at CNN’s homepage. Have a cookie.

But here’s a little test I’ve devised to see how truly informed an individual is. When someone comes up to me bragging about how informed they are, you should ask them this series of questions in this exact order:

  1. Who’s the president of the United States?
  2. Who are the U.S. senators for your state?
  3. Who’s your U.S. representative?
  4. Who’s the governor of your state?
  5. Who’s your state senator?
  6. Who’s your state representative?
  7. Who’s your mayor?
  8. Who’s your city council person?

Chances are they’ll know the answer to Nos. 1, 2 and 4. The rest, they’ll be screwed.

Look, everyone and their mother can stay informed of national politics. In this day and age of information and technology, you’d literally have to be living under a rock not to know who the president is. But if you want to impress me by how informed you are, then keep up with LOCAL current events because that is where the majority of shit gets done. The ordinances and state laws that happen practically in your backyard is what affects your life the most. It isn’t Obamacare, it isn’t the government shut down. It’s the municipal government, the county government and yes, your state government.

So when you’re able to answer all of those questions, then I’ll be impressed. But until then, don’t try to one up me in informed-ness, because you’re going to lose every goddamn time.


What the state can gain from marriage equality

April 29, 2013

About a month ago, the Supreme Court decided to hear two separate cases related to marriage: a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a ballot measure that nullified the legalization of gay marriage in the state of California.

That day, my Facebook page lit up with people coming out in favor of gay marriage, which heartened me. They started changing their profile pictures to a red square with two, pink, parallel bars depicting an equal sign. It showed their support of marriage equality.

But while I appreciate my very progressive friends with whom I agree, I also, unfortunately, have a minority of friends who would every so often post the link to a poorly researched blog post arguing against gay marriage.

Reading them made me feel like this.

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I couldn’t reply or post to any of it without ruining my journalistic street cred, so I had to vent to patient best friends instead. Then I remembered I had a fairly anonymous blog.

One of my Facebook friends posted an article entitled “The secular case against gay marriage” in which the writer makes a case against gay marriage because it serves no quantifiable purpose to society.

When a state recognizes a marriage, it bestows upon the couple certain benefits which are costly to both the state and other individuals. Collecting a deceased spouse’s social security, claiming an extra tax exemption for a spouse, and having the right to be covered under a spouse’s health insurance policy are just a few examples of the costly benefits associated with marriage. In a sense, a married couple receives a subsidy. Why? Because a marriage between two unrelated heterosexuals is likely to result in a family with children, and propagation of society is a compelling state interest. For this reason, states have, in varying degrees, restricted from marriage couples unlikely to produce children.

Except for the fact that no one has restricted old people from getting married. But whatever.

He continues.

Homosexual relationships do nothing to serve the state interest of propagating society, so there is no reason for the state to grant them the costly benefits of marriage, unless they serve some other state interest. The burden of proof, therefore, is on the advocates of gay marriage to show what state interest these marriages serve. Thus far, this burden has not been met.

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Some background. In my last reporting job, I did a huge enterprise/feature project on foster care. In the reporting process, I learned some startling statistics. For example:

  • On any given day, there are approximately 400,000 children in foster care in the United States
  • This means the U.S. spends $5 billion every year to take care of these foster children (and it’s not nearly enough)
  • 11 percent (26,000 children) age out of the system every year, and most of them have no safety net in place upon aging out
  • Because there is no safety net, the majority of these children usually don’t graduate high school and end up in jail (or dead)

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Yeah. Exactly.

So here are some gay adoption statistics:

  • According to a 2011 story in the New York Times, 19 percent of gay couples raising children have adopted
  • But only 4 percent of adopted children in the country live in a household led by a gay couple

There are only two states in the country that forbid gay couples from adopting: Utah and Mississippi. So why are the numbers so small? Because adopting without a valid, state-recognized marriage is damn near impossible. And guess what? There are still too few states who recognize gay marriage.

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(No, Tom Hiddleston. I’m not joking.)

There aren’t any hard or fast numbers, and I don’t purport to be a clairvoyant, but I’m willing to bet if you legalized gay marriage it would possibly mean:

  • A larger pool of couples able to adopt children who need loving homes which would possibly mean less foster children
  • Which would also possibly mean the government would have to spend less (taxpayer) money on fostering programs
  • Which would also possibly mean less former foster children in prison
  • Which would also possibly mean the government would have to spend less on prisoners

So I think it’s safe to say the state has a lot to gain by legalizing gay marriage.

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