Boycotts, Bathrooms, and the Boss

bruce_springsteenThis past Sunday, Bruce Springsteen was scheduled to play a concert in Greensboro, NC. He canceled the concert, citing opposition to the recently passed HB2, the “bathroom bill”, which he labeled discriminatory against the transgendered community.  Three weeks ago, Disney and several other companies, state governments, and individuals threatened to boycott the state of Georgia if Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill with similar legislation. He folded to the pressure and vetoed that bill. In 2010, a similar boycott of the state of Arizona was launched in opposition to SB 1070, a bill which strengthened immigration laws.

Never mind that the people boycotting these states haven’t read or don’t understand what’s in these bills. If they did, they might stop hyperventilating and calling everyone they disagree with bigots. Let’s assume for a moment the bills that liberals cite as their reasons for boycotting entire states are really as horrible as they say. Their boycotts are ineffective.

In fact, boycotts, in general, are ineffective. Greenpeace and other groups called for a boycott of Exxon following the Valdez oil spill. Here in my home state of Washington, Exxon gas stations disappeared fairly quickly. But not for long. And my guess is, even while Exxon signage was “gone”, the company itself was probably still raking in bucks from Washington. And now, of course, ExxonMobil is the largest oil company in the world.

Even sanctions, legally enforced boycotts of entire nations, are not nearly effective as supporters claim. Tin-pot dictators are very adept at illegally funding their dictatorships and sanctions typically hurt the masses much more than they hurt the leaders. (Not that I’m saying we should do away with sanctions; they still have their place, are much more effective than voluntary boycotts, and do help to stifle the flow of funds to said dictators. Besides, regardless of sanctions, money rarely gets to the masses anyway in third-world states. There’s always another Ferrari to buy for Uday or Kusay, after all.)

Yes, for the most part, boycotts are nothing more than feel-good endeavors that help buoy the self-righteousness of the boycotter, and may, at best, make the company being boycotted look up for half-a-second until the next squirrel races by for the masses to follow. (“Oh, look! Monsanto!”)

And boycotting an entire state, at least voluntarily, i.e. not through sanctions, is the most ineffective boycott of all because it is near impossible to boycott an entire state in today’s interconnected world. You want to boycott North Carolina, Mr. Springsteen? Okay. Better make sure none of your millions find their way through a Bank of America account. And no sleeping on a Sealy mattress tonight. That Hanes undershirt you’re wearing? Scrap it. Same with the Burt’s Bees you just put on those talented lips of yours. All those “evil corporations” are headquartered in North Carolina. And you’d better cancel that upcoming tour stop in Italy as well. They still don’t even recognize gay marriage!

And what about Disney? Certainly no small potatoes compared to yesterday’s rock star. They’re one of the largest media companies in the world and spend millions of dollars on production in the state of Georgia every year. Disney threatening to boycott Georgia certainly made Governor Deal’s decision to veto HB 757 a bit easier but it wasn’t the deciding factor I’m sure. And if it was, he’s clearly not adept at making deals. I would have played chicken with the Mouse. Again, a squirrel would have run by in a matter of months and Disney would have been back to filming all sorts of movies and TV shows in the home of the Falcons (and herein ends the animal references). Curiously, Disney didn’t seem to have a problem distributing Force Awakens, which was filmed in the United Arab Emirates, a nation that actually murders people for simply engaging in same-sex activities. (To be fair, I’m not sure where they come down on transgendered bathroom use.)

So, we’ve established liberals boycott because they want to feel good about themselves. They’re also notorious hypocrites so that argument falls on deaf ears. But what about hurting those you’re aiming to help?

Liberals love to point out the evils of sanctions because, as mentioned above, they disproportionally fall on the backs of the downtrodden masses.  And an argument can be made that engaging with one’s foe will do more than stonewalling him. This is even more so the case when one’s foe is not a bloodthirsty dictator. I know liberals love to equate murderous thugs like Kim Jong Un and “evil Christian bigots” like those at Focus on the Family or Chick-fil-A, but if they actually took a moment to listen to Jim Daly or Dan Cathy, they’d realize there’s actually quite a bit of difference.

But, okay, okay, let’s go even further and assume they’re right and everyone who voted for North Carolina’s HB2 and everyone who voted for those people are really hate-filled homophobes that want to send every transgendered person in the state to a re-education camp where they’ll be thumped by Bibles 24/7. Are these the same people who would attend a Bruce Springsteen concert? Actually, yes. Unlike liberals who would rather stand in a downpour than take an umbrella from someone with whom they disagree, those of us on the right can separate the fact that good music can be made by people with whom we disagree politically and our entire outlook on life isn’t going to be defeated by listening to a little Born in the U.S.A. Heck, even Ronald Reagan used it as a campaign theme for a while until Springsteen threw a fit over that because, again, “tolerant” liberals simply can’t tolerate things like that.

But I’ll go yet one step further. Let’s say that those supporting HB2 would never be caught dead at a Bruce Springsteen concert and the whole audience agrees with Bruce. That only makes the argument stronger. Refusing to play a concert in a state that has policies you disagree with doesn’t hurt the people with whom you disagree, it hurts the people with whom you agree and those you seek to help.

If Bruce Springsteen and his followers want to change the political tide in North Carolina, the best thing he could have done is play his concert in Greensboro and, between songs, give a heartfelt plea to those in attendance to rally for the cause. Who knows, maybe a few folks not in his camp may even have been persuaded.

And with Disney and Georgia, assuming that bill hadn’t been vetoed, Disney’s impact could have been even greater. I’m assuming that the majority of the people in the entertainment industry were opposed to Georgia’s religious freedom bill, so how much better would it have been to put money in those people’s pockets by filming in Georgia; money that could have gone on to elect people who are more amiable to Disney’s views?

So, liberal boycotters (and conservative boycotters for that matter), be the change you want to see in the world! Engage! You’re sure to change more views from inside the state than screaming at it from the outside, even if you can scream as loud as Bruce Springsteen.

Cross posted at

States’ Rights and the Gay Marriage Debate

English: United States Supreme Court building ...
English: United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., USA. Front facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’ll start by saying that I think the whole gay marriage debate is stupid. It’s a distraction perpetuated by zealots on both sides to distract us from the more important issues like the ever increasing debt and the anemic economy. (For my simple senator solution to the problem read my post A Victory for Love?)


But there is one important issue that the recent cases before SCOTUS raise, namely states’ rights.


The point was raised in a recent discussion with a friend that gay marriage isn’t a states’ rights issue but a human rights issue. It could be that. Legitimate arguments could be made either way (I’m not going to take the time to make them because, again, I think there are more important things to discuss). But it is most certainly a states’ rights issue. Just as, in fact, slavery (which is most certainly also a human rights issue) was. Why? The 10th Amendment.


It states that “[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Since marriage and slavery were not covered by the Constitution at its inception this means that those issues had to be addressed by the states individually. It could be said that slavery was covered by certain clauses of the Constitution prior to the passage of the 14th Amendment (something I agree with) but, as we all know, a very bloody war had to be fought to resolve that argument and, unfortunately, sometimes right only comes about by might. Marriage, of course, is still not addressed by the Constitution or any of its amendments.


Now, why is it important that these are issues that should be addressed by the states and not the federal government? Because if we argue that they should be addressed by the federal government then the 10th Amendment ceases to have any significance (something that began happening shortly after it was written and continues at an ever increasing speed today with things like federal welfare, education and health care, as noble as those things might be on some [read: individual] level). If we argue this then we might as well argue that, since it is such an important human rights issue then the UN should address it. I’m sure there are many who might agree with that last point but here is why that opinion (and the UN itself, one could argue) is so dangerous.


Practically, the overwhelming majority (all but 15 either in part or in whole) of member nations in the UN do not recognize gay marriage. And there are quite a few nations (54) that oppose not only marriage but other homosexual “rights” (several of these even put homosexuals to death). So there’s not much chance that it would happen today. And even if it did, what’s to say that tomorrow an opposite minded majority reigned supreme. And so the same goes at the federal level.


I can use abortion as another example. This too should be a states’ rights issue even though many folks would argue that the life of an unborn child is one of the greatest human rights issues we face today. The problem is, although many folks feel this way, there are many that feel the exact opposite (abortion is currently opposed by about half of Americans). So instead of passing so sweeping law that covers all 50 states, why not just sit the issue out and let each individual state come up with its own laws. You’re never going to force someone to agree with your opinion and if such a great number of people disagree (whether its gay marriage or abortion) it does no good to shove it down their throats. Better to appeal to them rationally unless you’re willing to fight a very bloody war over the issue.


Yes, although I ardently agree that fighting the Civil War was a good decision by the Lincoln and the Union, it was still a states’ rights issue and a legitimate argument could be made that, technically, the Northern states had no right as delineated by the Constitution to wage war on the South. Of course, the Union had a moral right and that’s much more important but at the end of the day, if the North had lost then it would have had to continue to recognize slavery as legal in those Southern states and hope that things would change another way.


And that last point is what makes the argument of some on the left so fascinatingly hypocritical. Many of the same folks arguing for gay marriage are the same folks who argue against foreign intervention in those nations which not only don’t recognize gay marriage but put homosexuals to death. You can’t have it both ways. If you’re not prepared to recognize this as a states’ rights issue then it means you feel it is okay to impose your opinions on others who do not agree with you (one of the main characteristics of a statist so it’s no surprise). And that’s fine as long as you’re willing to back it up with military might (and no, I’m not saying that we should fight an actual war over gay marriage although there are plenty of stupid cases of physical violence happening over this issue). That’s fine as long as you’re willing to impose that same view of gay marriage not only on people in other U.S. states but also people in places like Saudi Arabia and the Chicksaw and Iowa Indian Nations.


And, yes, I know some may argue that the U.S. never fought a war to end slavery in another nation. I’m not arguing that it should have or shouldn’t have, just that, if it had, those who supported the initial war would have to support the ensuing war on moral grounds to be consistent.



A Victory for Love?

Last night New York became the sixth state to “legalize” gay marriage and, not surprisingly, many people across the nation are celebrating the legislation. Fine. Whatever. Regardless of what my religious convictions may be, my libertarian streak leads me to not care much either way. Despite what Fred Phelps and others on the “religious right” may say, the world is not going to come to an end because the New York State Legislature decided to recognize the legal status of homosexual marriage. Neither, though, will anti-gay sentiment be completely squashed across the land. In fact, once all the cheering and jeering from either side calms down it really isn’t going to affect that many people. At the absolute most it will grant about 8% of homosexuals  the opportunity to have their union legally recognized as marriage by the State of New York (based on 2000 census data showing that 8% of homosexuals identify as being part of a single household; of course not all of these couples want legal recognition for their relationship). Of course there is the very real potential that it may affect religious communities and free speech overall but more on that later.

The big problem I have with what’s going on is the way this issue continues to be framed by gay marriage supporters. Immediately after it passed, Facebook, Twitter and blogs coast to coast became alive with comments like “Hooray! This is a victory for love!” or “Way to go New York for recognizing the rights of ALL people.” Arguments like these are disingenuous; especially the first one. How is this a victory for love? Despite what some may wish us to believe, gay marriage was not, in fact, illegal in New York before yesterday. I can’t find any references to gay marriage being illegal anywhere in the US at anytime although I suppose one could cite sodomy laws as a good comparison. And those were struck down by a New York appellate court decision in 1980 (and by the SCOTUS in 2003). And let’s face it, even when sodomy laws were in effect they were rarely enforced. In short, yesterday’s decision has nothing to do with love just as a law repealing such a decision wouldn’t be a “defeat” of love. Love can not be legislated. Prior to yesterday, homosexual Unitarian Universalists and members of the United Church of Christ had no problem walking into their houses of worship and asking their ministers to solemnize their vows. They may not have received a piece of paper from the state recognizing that union, but since when did the county clerk become the arbiter of love?

As for the second, slightly more cogent argument of gay marriage being the recognition of rights, that, too, is largely incorrect. The only right involved with marriage is the right of marriage itself; the right to be joined to another person in a committed relationship recognized by that couple’s (or triple’s or group’s) god (however god may be defined) and, as I just pointed out, that hasn’t been “illegal” in any sense, nationwide, since 2003. Most everything else that comes with marriage is, in the legal sense of the word, either a privilege (spending time away from work to be with a sick spouse) or is a right not infringed upon. If I want to leave my house to my mailman or make my barista the legal guardian of my children I can do that. If I want my poker buddy to be the one who decides whether I live or die while on life support, that’s completely legal too. And as we saw with the Teri Shiavo case, simply being married to someone doesn’t always lead to a simple decision of who gets to pull the plug. (As a side note, that’s why everyone should get a living will that spells out in ridiculous detail what you want to happen if you fall into a coma.) As far as I know, the only privileges which are afforded to legally married couples would be things like survivor benefits for social security and federal pensions, and if that’s the big beef then take the SSA, DoD and USPS to court and I’d probably support you except for the fact that I’d rather just see Social Security and federal pensions eliminated completely.

So why is this such a big deal for “gay marriage opponents”? How might this affect religious communities to the point that passing such legislation was not a good idea?

In short, it’s government putting its nose where it doesn’t belong by trying to legislate social mores. It is no more proper for the government to suggest to me through this legislation that I must condone gay marriage than it would be for government to suggest I must condemn it.

“But laws recognizing gay marriage don’t force you to condone it,” you say? Well, maybe not today and I certainly appreciate the protections within the law for religious and non-profit organizations, but the problem with this type of social legislation and a certain portion of the gay rights movement (again, a certain portion, not all) is that they won’t be content in stopping here. We saw it in California with the terrorizing of old women and church services who dared to voice their opposition to gay marriage, and we see it with “hate speech” regulations that have led to severe legal repercussions for some.

Whether you agree with someone like Fred Phelps or not, one of the things that makes this country great is our right to free speech. As long as we are not inciting violence we can say whatever ludicrous thing we want. Phelps can say gays are going to hell and Perez Hilton can say that members of the Westboro Baptist Church are going to hell. But when we start legislating morality (or “immorality”, as some might say), we begin to erode those first amendment rights. That was the problem with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 despite its overall good aims. Society will never succeed in stamping out discrimination, especially through legal force, nor should it since any attempt to do so is “thought policing”. To be sure, governments should not discriminate. If they offer health benefits and family leave for a heterosexual couple they should offer them for a homosexual couple or not offer them at all. The proper aim of government should be to remain neutral in issues of morality (as long as one person’s morality doesn’t directly infringe on another’s). Government’s proper aim is to allow society to dictate adherence to a moral code on a voluntary basis through education. (Not only is it the right thing to do, in the end it leads to more adherence as people tend to not like being forced into a belief system. Furthermore, it brings things like homophobia and racism in to the light where they have the best chance of being dealt with instead of leaving them in the darkness where they are allowed to grow unbeknownst and at great threat to the world.)

So, then, what’s the solution to this whole gay marriage business? Marriage privatization. People like Ron Paul have it right when it comes to this issue. Government has no role in dictating relationships. If someone wants to live in a harmonious relationship with someone, be they boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, cousin, roommate or all of the above, that’s their business. It doesn’t even matter if it’s sexual in nature or not and government stepping in to recognize it or not recognize it doesn’t make it any more right or wrong in the eyes of the participants or onlookers. The only reason government needs to be involved at all is for child custody and end of life issues; and the marital status of the participants has nothing to do with those things. If I want to leave my estate to fifteen of my second-cousins, give custody of my kids to my next door neighbors and allow my third-grade teacher to come visit me when I’m on my death bed, that’s my business and I can state so in my will.

And not only should libertarian minded folks get behind marriage privatization but so, too, should religious minded folks. By relying on government to recognize a union, couples (or triples or groups) are putting government above God (however one may define God) and love itself. When we realize government has no role in marriage it is then we will truly have a “victory for love.”

AIDS walk just has to get political

I was at the 2009 AIDS Walk yesterday. It was a beautiful, warm and sunshiny day, perfect for runners and walkers to do their part in raising, thus far, close to $400,000. The event kicked off with some nice speeches from AG Rob McKenna and others including a very moving speech from a woman who’s been living with HIV for 23 years, a great testament to how far we’ve come in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

While overall it was a good morning, unfortunately there were a couple moments that spoiled it some. Instead of just cheering on all the teams that did such hard work to raise all this money, celebrating the recent advances in AIDS research and enjoying the weather at Volunteer Park, some speakers just had to get political.

No surprise that one of them was Congressman Jim McDermott. While McDermott was not there in person he sent a letter praising the event’s aims and achievements but also giving a plug to Congress’s current fight for government run health care. Just leave it alone, Jim. Can’t we all just come together for a moment, agree that we all would like to see AIDS gone from the planet and not have to bring the divisiveness of the health care debate into it?

And perhaps the worst of it came when one of the organizers of the event cheered with glee that finally “we’ve turned our anger and activism into action and elected a president and congress” that care about the fight against AIDS. Never mind that President Bush gave billions of dollars to combat AIDS, helping millions of people worldwide with the disease earning praise from the likes of the New York Times and erstwhile opponent John Kerry. And never mind that President Obama actually broke campaign promises to devote more funds to the fight against AIDS.

I know that probably 85% of the people at the AIDS Walk yesterday were your typical far-left Seattle liberals but was sliding a sly jab against Republicans into your event really necessary? In the words of Rodney King, “can’t we all just get along” if even for a day?