Tuesday, October 28, 2008

California Proposition 8: What Is It, and How Does It Affect You?

California Proposition 8 (Prop 8) is a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that provides that "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Background In 2000, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 22 which contained the same wording as above. It was a landslide victory; 61.4% of Californians voted in favor of Prop 22. On May 15, 2008, four out of seven California Supreme Court judges voted to overturn the voice of the voting public on this matter. Thus, nearly two thirds of California voters—over 4.6 million people—had their voices silenced by four judges. Beginning on June 17, 2008, California began recognizing same-sex marriages. What Does a Yes Vote Mean? If the majority of Californians vote "Yes" on Proposition 8, then the traditional definition of marriage will become part of the state constitution, the voice of the people will be restored, and state Supreme Court judges will no longer be able to overrule California voters on this matter. California will only recognize marriages between a man and a woman. Over forty states have already passed legislation clarifying marriage as being between a man and a woman, twenty-seven of which have made amendments to their state constitutions.[1] How Would a Yes Vote Affect Gay and Lesbian Couples? If Prop 8 passes, same-sex marriages would no longer be recognized in California. However, gay and lesbian couples wishing to legally unite themselves would retain the right to enter into domestic partnerships, which under California law offer "the same rights, protections, and benefits" that are offered to married couples. Quoting from the California Family Code:
"297.5. (a) Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses."[2]
California domestic partners are treated equal to married couples, including but not limited to hospital visitation and health care rights, insurance policies, property and state taxes, etc. A domestic partner may even take the other partner's last name after registration if desired.[3] Under California law, there is effectively no difference between married couples and domestic partners. Proposition 8 does not change that. What Does a No Vote Mean? If the majority of Californians vote "No" on Proposition 8, then the May 15, 2008 decision of four activist judges would remain in effect, and gay marriages would continue to be performed and recognized under California law. There would also be a number of other effects that may be less obvious on the surface, a few of which I will outline here. Prop 8 and Education Unless California voters pass Proposition 8, public schools will teach about homosexual marriage as being equal to heterosexual marriage. The California Education Code requires the following of all schools (emphasis added):
"51890. (a) For the purposes of this chapter, 'comprehensive health education programs' are defined as all educational programs offered in kindergarten and grades 1 to 12, inclusive, in the public school system, including in-class and out-of-class activities designed to ensure that: (1) Pupils will receive instruction to aid them in making decisions in matters of personal, family, and community health, to include the following subjects: ... (D) Family health and child development, including the legal and financial aspects and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood. ... (2) To the maximum extent possible, the instruction in health is structured to provide comprehensive education in health that includes all the subjects in paragraph (1)."[4]
The California Education Code also requires the following of all schools that teach about sexual health (emphasis added):
"51933. (a) School districts may provide comprehensive sexual health education, consisting of age-appropriate instruction, in any kindergarten to grade 12, inclusive, using instructors trained in the appropriate courses. (b) A school district that elects to offer comprehensive sexual health education pursuant to subdivision (a), whether taught by school district personnel or outside consultants, shall satisfy all of the following criteria: ... (7) Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships."[5]
According to the California Department of Education, "96 percent of California school districts provide comprehensive sexual health education,"[6] and all of these school districts are required by law to "teach respect for marriage"—which currently includes gay and lesbian marriage. If Prop 8 does not pass, it is an indisputable fact that homosexual marriage will be taught in California schools. If the majority of Californians vote "No" on Prop 8, children will be taught in school that same-gender marriage between a man and a man, or between a woman and a woman, is no different from traditional marriage between a man and a woman. If Prop 8 fails, California law would even permit kindergarten teachers to teach students about homosexual marriages without fear of consequences, according to the laws quoted above. In fact, such changes have already started to take place in San Francisco, where first graders were recently taken to City Hall to witness a lesbian wedding[7] and throw rose petals on the new brides.[8] The school director happily approved this first-grade field trip, calling it "a teachable moment." Can parents opt out of having their children taught about gay marriage, or at least be notified when the subject is discussed? According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a major opponent of Prop 8, under California law parents have no right to be notified or to opt their children out of "instruction or materials that discuss gender, sexual orientation, or family life" as long as there is no discussion of "human reproductive organs and their functions"[9] (PDF, page 50; text-only mirrors: [10][11]). Thus, according to NCLR's view of the law, California parents have no right to be pre-notified or to exclude their children from discussion of gay marriage or related subjects. In 2003, the state of Massachusetts began recognizing same-sex marriage due to a 4-3 court ruling[12] similar to the recent rulings in California and Connecticut[13]. Since then, a Federal court ruled that Massachusetts parents have no right to be informed when gay marriage or homosexual topics are being taught to their young children, and parents have no right to exempt their children from such discussions or from being read books that promote and endorse homosexual lifestyles.[14] Shockingly, this ruling is in spite of Massachusetts legislation dating back to 1996 which is supposed to give parents the right to "exempt their children from any portion" of "curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues".[15] In this video, two Massachusetts parents discuss how the redefining of marriage in their state has begun to permeate the entire school curriculum. "And the tolerance that the gay community cries out for is not demonstrated to people who have differing points of view," says one parent. If the majority of Californians vote "Yes" on Prop 8, it would restore the traditional definition of marriage and would not force the idea of homosexual marriage on impressionable children in K-12 schools. Other Consequences There are a number of legal ramifications for any number of industries, religious groups, and individuals if Prop 8 fails to pass. Following are some examples of legal rulings in other states, and they provide only a small sampling of potential consequences in California.
  • A Methodist organization in New Jersey lost some of its tax benefits[16] for declining to allow a lesbian civil union to take place on its private property. Some legal experts believe that churches in California that refuse to perform gay marriages—and even parachurch non-profit organizations—could have their tax-exempt status completely eliminated[17], which in many cases would force such organizations to shut down.
  • A New Mexico photographer declined to photograph a lesbian civil union ceremony because of her religious beliefs[18], and she was subsequently ordered to pay over $6,600 in legal fees to the couple.[19]
  • When a Mississippi mental health counselor declined to provide therapy for a woman who wanted to improve her lesbian relationship, the counselor was fired, and the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the employer's decision on the grounds that the counselor's religious beliefs were in conflict with the employer's interests.[20]
Adoption services, private schools, youth groups such as the Boy Scouts of America, and other organizations have all been adversely affected by such rulings[21], and in each case First Amendment rights intended to guarantee freedom of religion have been trampled underfoot by the courts. If Proposition 8 does not pass, religious liberties and the free exercise of religion in California and throughout the United States of America will continue to erode. Even those who are not religious will ultimately be affected by the outcome of Proposition 8. Many church-funded non-profit organizations freely provide public services or emergency relief that are beneficial to all members of communities, and such organizations could be forced to close down or reduce their services if they were to lose their tax-exempt status or endure other hardships as a direct result of Prop 8 not passing. There are countless and far-reaching social and political ramifications, and it is likely that we do not yet realize all the ways in which society would be negatively affected if Prop 8 fails. Conclusion Proposition 8 is not an attack on the gay lifestyle. It does not prevent anyone from engaging in consensual homosexual relationships or living together. It does not take away any legal rights or benefits from gay couples; domestic partnerships will still be legal and in full effect regardless of whether or not Prop 8 passes. Proposition 8 is about restoring the traditional definition of marriage, preserving religious liberties, and preserving the right of parents to have their children taught in public schools without being subjected to homosexual indoctrination. As for me, I seek to love and respect all people regardless of their sexual orientation, political views, religious beliefs, or other factors. The bottom line is that marriage has always been defined as being between man and woman, and activist efforts to redefine marriage in California are not truly about gay rights or civil liberties; the institution of domestic partnership already offers homosexual couples the same rights that marriage offers straight couples. I will vote Yes on Proposition 8 to restore, protect, and defend the traditional definition of marriage, to defend my rights as a parent of young children, and to defend the Constitutional rights of religious individuals and institutions. I hope that you will take these things into consideration as you decide how you will vote on Proposition 8. Materials for Further Study · The Divine Institution of Marriage · PreservingMarriage.org - Videos responding to concerns about Prop 8 · NPR: "When Gay Rights and Religious Liberties Clash" · LA Times Opinion: Protecting marriage to protect children · ProtectMarriage.com - Official Yes on 8 campaign site / (español) · The American Family Association's Proposition 8 Video · A Statement of the Catholic Bishops of California in Support of Proposition 8 / (español) · The Family: A Proclamation to the World / (español) Respectful comments from readers are welcome.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

PayPal to Ban Apple's Safari Browser? [Updated]

Yesterday I wrote an editorial at MacMod.com about PayPal's intentions to prevent Safari users from accessing its services. I am republishing my article here because it covers topics that are important for Apple and PayPal customers to be aware of, as well as security-conscious readers in general.

Anyone who has listened to either MacMod Live or Tech Pulse or has read my blog knows how frustrated I am that Apple has been negligent about adding anti-phishing functionality to Safari. The feature had been announced by Apple in August 2006 and already existed in early private beta builds of Safari 3 before being dropped inexplicably in the Public Beta. Apple clearly had the technology in place, so why in the world did they decide to drop the feature?

Well, the latest news on this front is that PayPal has plans to prevent its users from accessing its site if they're using a browser that PayPal deems to be "unsafe." eWeek quotes PayPal Chief Information Security Officer Michael Barrett:

"'At PayPal, we are in the process of reimplementing controls which will first warn our customers when logging in to PayPal of those browsers that we consider unsafe. Later, we plan on blocking customers from accessing the site from the most unsafe--usually the oldest--browsers,' he declared. Barrett only mentioned old, out-of-support versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer among this group of 'unsafe browsers,' but it's clear his warning extends to Apple's Safari browser, which offers no anti-phishing protection and does not support the use of EV SSL certificates."

In an interview in late February, Barrett advised PayPal users to stop using Safari, stating that "Apple, unfortunately, is lagging behind what they need to do to protect their customers," and that he would "love to say that Safari was a safer browser, but at this point it isn't."

Netcraft, an anti-phishing organization, recently released a report saying that EV SSL ("Extended Validation," which means that the browser bar turns green when you access a page with a really expensive SSL certificate) is vulnerable to cross-site scripting in both Internet Explorer and Firefox, meaning that in theory scammers could exploit a vulnerable site that uses EV SSL (such as Sourceforge, whose site was discovered to be vulnerable last year and still hasn't been fixed) and phish users in spite of the "trusted" green bar. EV SSL is clearly not a good thing, as it only gives users the illusion of more perfect security when the feature itself can be exploited by scammers. And yet this is one of the things that PayPal wants to make a requirement in order to be considered a "safe" browser from which one can access his or her PayPal account.

If PayPal goes through with its plans, and if Apple doesn't deliver anti-phishing functionality and EV SSL before then, what would this mean for Apple customers? Those who prefer Safari, or those who simply use it because it came with the computer, will be forced to download and start using a different browser, which is not good news for Apple if it wants to continue to increase its share of the browser market. Additionally, PayPal's plans would make it impossible to access PayPal on the go via an iPhone or iPod touch.

(original source: eWeek via Slashdot)

UPDATE: A representative of the Wall Street Journal "spoke to PayPal" (wow, the whole company?!). Apparently, "contrary to many reports [PayPal] will not block Apple's Safari browser" in spite of the seemingly contradictory remarks from PayPal's Chief Information Security Officer quoted above.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

lolphone [Updated]

My cell phone (or more accurately, the Verizon Wireless network) was having major issues in my area on Tuesday night. The phone couldn't keep a signal for more than a few seconds, no matter where I went inside and outside my house. I decided to take advantage of the situation and took this photograph, my first lolcats-inspired work. I hope you enjoy it. =)

lolphone: reception

UPDATED: The above is actually a revised version. The full text is "i can has resepshun?" [sic]. The full text of the original that I posted earlier (see it here) is "i am in ur hand wit no barz droppin all ur callz". Both of these are much funnier if you're familiar with lolcats, of course.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How to Delete Stubborn Files in Mac OS X

Have you ever tried to empty the Trash, only to get a message such as this?
The operation cannot be completed because the item "filename.blah" is in use.
( Stop ) ( Continue )
Obviously the first thing you should do is to verify that any application that might have opened that file is no longer accessing it. An easy way to do that is to quit any related applications. After doing so, try emptying the Trash again. Still no luck? Here's a tip that usually does the trick:
  1. Drag the offending file, folder, or application out of the Trash.
  2. Open the Terminal (found inside the Utilities folder, inside the Applications folder).
  3. Type "rm -r " (without quotation marks, and with a space after the last r) and then drag the stubborn file, folder, or app onto the Terminal window. This will add the full path into the Terminal window. Click on the Terminal window to make sure that it's in front, and then press either the Return or Enter key on the keyboard. Tah-dah! That should do it.
In some rare circumstances, it's possible that even the Terminal trick may not work. If all else fails, restart the computer and then try to empty the Trash again.

If you found this tip helpful, please consider making a donation:

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Correct Way to Spell "the JoshMeister"

People often misspell "the JoshMeister" or leave off the "the." Here are some rules to follow when writing my nickname:
  • The "the" in "the JoshMeister" is an integral article, meaning that it's always supposed to be there. My nickname should always be written as "the JoshMeister," never just "JoshMeister."
  • Also incorrect are "the Joshmeister" (lowercase m) and "the Josh Meister" (space between Josh and Meister).
  • The "the" should never be capitalized; "The JoshMeister" is incorrect. Even if my nickname is used at the beginning of a sentence, I prefer for the word "the" to not be capitalized. If that is unacceptable to you, you may wish to avoid starting sentences with my nickname.
  • If you ever want to abbreviate my nickname, you can write "tJM." The same capitalization rules apply to this abbreviation.
  • Pronouns are fine, of course. You can refer to me using words like "he," "him," "his," etc.
  • For clarity's sake, I should note that quotation marks are not part of my nickname.
  • Although my LOST blog's URL and related e-mail address contain the string "thelostmeister," I don't actually use that as a nickname. I apologize for any confusion this might cause. Please refer to me as the JoshMeister instead.
Here are some sample sentences that demonstrate proper usage: "I love the JoshMeister's podcasts. They're really cool. the JoshMeister writes some pretty awesome blog articles, too. I'm such a big fan of tJM that I'm going to add him on all my social networks."

So, in short, please refer to me as the JoshMeister. Thank you!

I'm the JoshMeister, and I approve this message.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New LOST Alternate Reality Game

I'm keeping track of the new LOST ARG, called Find 815, over at my LOST blog. If you're a fan of the TV show LOST (or just a fan of alternate reality games), be sure to subscribe to that blog for clues!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

the JoshMeister's Audioblog

I decided to create an audioblog which I may update occasionally. I recorded an Introduction episode (in which I explained who I am and briefly reviewed Wicked), and I also recorded a couple of brief shows to ring in the new year for the east and west coasts. Here are the direct links to the MP3s: