Thursday, December 04, 2008

Prop 8 - The Musical!

I just love it when good stuff goes viral!

Sami sent me this last night, then I saw it at Jack and Jill Politics. I'm sure by now it has circled the blogosphere 10 or 12 times over, but, in case you missed it, here is (drum roll please....)

Prop 8 - The Musical!!


See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Reminds me a bit of my favorite scene in the West Wing, Season 2, Episode 3, "The Midterms" (and, seriously, what good is the Internet if I can't flagrantly violate copyright laws by finding then posting a clip of that scene?!?):


Update: 12-8-08, 10:36 am

Because I just can't get enough video embeds, here's video of Keith Olbermann interviewing Mark Shaiman, Jack Black and John C. Reilly:


Tom said...

You have a pretty good fair use argument for posting that clip, given the nature of the show and this post. I'm sorry to say that you have not broken any laws with this post that I can tell. Besides, if there were a copyright violation I believe that it would have been the copying of that clip from whatever format it was originally in (DVD, DVR, TV airwaves, etc.) on to the original uploader's computer, and then the copying from there to YouTube. You're not a bad ass criminal, after all.

Anonymous said...


I have seen neither of these clips, and may I say: they fucking rock.

I'd also note: it is Sacramento City (not Community) College, and that is not our actual stage, of course. We also have a much nicer marquee with electronic scolling now :) .

On the WW clip: I am reading Exodus, bout halfway through, and while some of the Holiness Code which comes after the big Ten (ish) is in fact quite enlightened for its time, attempts to be genuinely loving, that law-set can in no way escape the cultural limitations which produced it. I'd add to the list of oft neglected verses on the part of fundamentalists: if I beat my slave and he dies right away, I am liable. But if I beat him and he lives a day or two and then dies, I am not liable for his death as he is my property. That is in Exodus. And it has nothing to do with maintaining seperation from surrounding cultures, or purity preparation for offering sacrifice, or the varied ethics of a prior dispensation. It is immoral and has always been immoral. Like selling one's daughter. The Torah Law may be generally liberal for the ancient world, but it is not the final word on human behavior from a loving God.

Christians, like myself, must read the bible in light of its very human shortcomings.

Can liberal dismissals go too far? Is skepticism the end-all hermeutic? For me, no. The Israelites may well have been led out of Egypt by God in dramatic fashion one way or another; but there is no way that the entire OT law-set fits with Jesus' teaching; it doesn't even fit with much of the prophetic content. I must add: I love Jack Black's depticion of Jesus, a more historical Jesus, in some ways, than some scholars continue to proclaim. Jesus clearly, unequivocally, reinterprets portions of the Law in the gospels; he does not just set aside the oral additions to the written Torah. And his apostles surely dismissed huge chunks of the Law in the earliest ministries before the destuction of the Temple. Those are NT facts.

Oh, I had to laugh that she was a Ph.D. in English.

Wrestling with the same stuff as everyone but trying to live and love,


Jeff Carter said...

I'm glad you posted both clips. The musical is well-done and biting. I agree with Anonymous that Black's depiction resonates with my perception of Jesus. And it's good to recall just how well-written The West Wing was.

Nevertheless, is Prop 8 really a matter of Christians picking and choosing from the Bible? I think it has little to do with that. Doesn't it have more to do with the majority expressing their will? See by blog, "Life in the Big Democracy" at

BTW, I heard about you on Debunking Christianity and have tried to follow you ever since.

Sandalstraps said...


Thanks for your comment.

In this case, the primary force behind Prop 8 was a (principally Christian) religious coalition. The stated reasons for the necessity of Prop 8 failed, I think, to appeal to any commonly held, non-religious principles. The motivation thus seemed to be the imposition of a distinct religious ethic on the broader community.

It was also, as a ballot initiative, an example, as you note, of a majority expressing its will. However, that is no less problematic.

The will of the majority in any democracy is to be law. However, there are some things that even a majority - especially a simple majority - is not entitled to do. A majority, for instance, is not entitled to deprive a majority of fundamental rights. Of course, how such rights are determined is a complicated question, and not entirely divorced from the will of the majority.

That said, it would be neither moral nor legal in this country, for a majority to deny the right of a minority group to live. If - in some strange bizzaro-world - the majority of the population of the United States, or, for that matter, the state of California, were to collectively decide by some mechanism I'm simply not creative enough to describe here that some identifiable minority group - let's say "people with red hair" - should all be summarily executed, that majority would have neither a moral nor a legal leg to stand on. They may desire the extermination of all red-heads. They may even propose a ballot-initiative to that effect, and then vote on it and pass it. But the majority would still be both morally and legally wrong, as a simple majority is not empowered to, via ballot-initiative, deny a majority of some identified right.

While the situation with Prop 8 obviously does not rise to the level of genocide, there are those who argue credibly that the legal and moral principles clumsily articulated here apply. That is, the state of California had already identified the right of gays and lesbians to marry their same-sex partners, and then a simple majority, via a ballot initiative, took that identified right away.

The only thing we're then left to argue about is whether or not the previously identified right is/was in fact a right. That argument may boil down to how the right was initially conferred. Are the courts empowered to grant new rights? And, is that an accurate explanation of what happened, or did the court merely articulate a right that was granted by some other means?

Or, that argument may boil down to sexual ethics. If it does - and, for many in favor of Prop 8, it does - then that ethical discussion is ultimately a theological one, as the only arguments that don't ultimately amount to some kind of Slippery Slope fallacy ("if we permit this, then what's to stop us from permitting, say, beastiality or child molestation?") appeal either to principles of Biblical interpretation ("God said it, that settles it") or natural theology ("the proper end of sex is procreation, and same-sex sexual relations do not aim for an cannot end in the creation of new life, thus they are not natural nor within God's plan for creation").

And if the only valid arguments are religious (and I think the above examples fail to properly understand Christian theology) then we have an example of something else the majority is not entitled to do: impose their religious beliefs on the public.

Sandalstraps said...


I posted my comment before reading your post, and as a result, it doesn't really interact with what you wrote.

Now that I've read your post I'm struck with how the arguments you make - especially the assumption that rights are granted by the will of the majority - were made by those who defended first slavery and then Jim Crow. I am of course not accusing you of doing either of those things. I'm merely noting that appeals to the right of the majority to define the rights of the minority have been made before, and I think that then as now they fail to understand the moral limits on the power of the majority.

In any case, as stated above, this hinges on which rights the minority can be said to have, and by what mechanism. To what I wrote above I would only add a clarifier on the point I was trying to make above with the silly thought-experiment of the majority willing the extermination of red-heads, which is that giving the majority the power to determine which rights a minority can make claim to is exceedingly dangerous, and is made more dangerous when that majority need not give any reason beyond religious impulse for their decision to deny rights.

Jeff Carter said...

I think everything you wrote is well said, and you get to my point when begin to discuss who it is that grants the rights of the minority. I was indeed making the point that is the majority - either directly or by their representatives - that does that. It's unfortunate that I can get lumped with Jim Crow and slavery proponents, but in fact, I'm in better company. It wasn't the Supreme Court that established the Bill of Rights, it was representatives of the people through constitutional convention and state legislatures that adopted them.

You are indeed correct when you state that giving the majority the power to determine which rights a minority can make claim to is exceedingly dangerous, and is made more dangerous when that majority need not give any reason beyond religious impulse for their decision to deny rights. but can this world do better than to establish a democratic republic?

I thought majority rule was an advancement over that of kings and theocracies. It's useless to say that we are ruled by law, because it is the people that make the law.

I see, as do you, the danger in majority rule, but what is better? If we say we will leave it up to the judge, are we giving him the power to add rights to the constitution that were never meant to be there? If the people do not have the sense to make such decisions, then why in the world do we let them vote on anything, even President? Perhaps it is the judges that should decide that, too?

Sandalstraps said...


Interesting discussion. Alas this comment will not push that discussion far enough. This, rather than a full-fledged advancement of my theme, is instead a clarifier.

The Supreme Court of California would argue - cogently, I think - that their act of articulating a right for people of the same gender to marry was not, in fact, granting a new right, but rather cashing out one of many implications of an already codified right.

I am not an expert on any legal matter - and certainly not on the Constitution of the state of California. However, I think that I understand their basic argument, which is roughly as follows:

California's constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of a great many factors, including sexual orientation. It also preserves for people equal rights without regard to their sexual orientation. Thus, to deny same-sex couples the rights and protections guaranteed under constitutional law is unconstitutional. As such, the state may not - per the relevant clauses in that state's Constitution, which while not specifically enumerating a right to same-sex marriage provide the basis for it per the argument above - prevent same-sex couples from marrying, nor may it deny to their relationships the legal protections afforded to heterosexual couples.

Whether this argument works or not depends on both the specific language of California's constitution - which I don't have access to - and the history of its interpretation - which I probably wouldn't understand even if I did have access to it. However, if it can be reasonably asserted that California's constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, then it seems to me that a right to marry one's partner, regardless of respective genders of the persons involved, follows of necessity.

Thus a simple majority has overturned a constitutionally granted right, even if that right is not specifically enumerated, because that right follows of logical necessity from other enumerated rights. And when a simple majority can overturn the fundamental rights of a vulnerable majority, that frankly scares the shit out of me. Politics reverts to simple power-dynamics, barely distinguishable from a Hobbesian state of nature, a war of all against all were only strong alliances and raw power can prevail.

Sandalstraps said...

I would add one other consideration to the comment above:

Is it the case that the decision of the majority is and must be right?

This stands apart from any consideration of rights and power. That is, it may be the case that the majority has a legitimate claim to the right to grant or deprive rights, and that the majority is actually empowered to do so. I don't believe either of those, but for the sake of this argument will grant them.

Does it then follow that what the majority wills, by virtue of their right to will it and their power to enforce their will, is moral?

Of course not.

The principle argument here is that the majority is - beyond any legal or political considerations - morally wrong. They have misunderstood the ethics of the situation, and have wielded power (which they may or may not legitimately hold) wrongly.

They have taken a situation in which there is no identifiable, concrete harm done to anyone (who is victimized by same-sex relations having equal protection under the law? And, if you think someone is, in what way are they victimized, in what way are they harmed?) and have turned it into a situation in which a great deal of identifiable, concrete harm is done to real persons.

This is deeply immoral, even if it is legal. And I say "if," not "though."

At some point, the ethics involved has to factor into public discourse. And public discourse is and should be a part of the political process. My ultimate aim here is persuasion, not imposition.