What are Prop 8 and DOMA and Why Do They Matter?

This week, as the Supreme Court released its rulings on a variety of different issues, supporters of same-sex marriage were particularly anxious to hear an important piece of news: the Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8.

What is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)?

The Defense of Marriage Act is a federal law that restricts federal marriage rights to opposite-sex couples. It was enacted on September 21, 1996 under the Clinton administration, though Clinton, among others who were involved in the law’s enactment, has since changed his position and advocated for its repeal.

Supreme Court deems DOMA unconstitutional

Supreme Court deems DOMA unconstitutional

The law’s exact wording on the issue of marriage is as follows:
“In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any  ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative  bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage’ means  only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,  and the word `spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is  a husband or a wife.” (Defense of Marriage Act)

Among others, these are the benefits that have been denied to same-sex marriages under the Defense of Marriage Act:

  • Insurance benefits for government employees
  • Social Security survivors’ benefits
  • Immigration benefits
  • Joint tax return benefits

What is Prop. 8?

Prop. 8, or California Proposition 8, is a ballot proposition passed in California’s November 2008 elections. Much like DOMA, it declares that only opposite-sex marriages may be recognized by the state of California. The proposition effectively overturns a California Supreme Court ruling released in May of 2008 that found marriage to be a fundamental constitutional right that should be granted to all couples. The timeline of same-sex marriage history in California is shown below:

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Who is Edward Snowden and What Did He Do?

Some information for students (from a fellow student) to keep you up to date with this complicated current affair.

There’s been a lot of talk going around about Edward Snowden and his disclosure of NSA information, but with the amount of commentary in the media, it’s difficult to figure out even some basic information. The purpose of this post is to answer some of the basic questions revolving around Snowden and the NSA.

Who is Edward Snowden?

Born on June 21, 1983 in Wilmington, North Carolina, Edward Joseph Snowden is soon to be thirty years old. He studied computing at Anne Arundel Community College, but illness left him unable to complete his coursework, leaving him without a high school diploma until the later completion of his GED. In 2011, he participated in an online program, working towards a Masters Degree with the University of Liverpool. Seven years earlier, in 2004, Snowden had enlisted in the US Army as a Special Forces recruit, but according to his own reports, was discharged four months later after breaking both his legs in a training accident.

edwardSnowden

Snowden during an interview with Poitras and Greenwald.

Snowden’s former positions include (in the order he held them):

·      Working for the NSA, he was a security guard for the Center for the Advanced Study of Language, a covert center.

·      He worked for the CIA in IT Security.

·      According to his own reports, the CIA placed Snowden in Geneva under diplomatic cover in 2007, where he oversaw network security.

·      He reports leaving the CIA to work for a private contractor inside a US military base in Japan for the NSA.

·      Until recently, Snowden held a position as a system administrator inside the NSA for consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii. He held this position for under three months and was fired on June 10th after his media disclosures.

What did Snowden disclose?

Through the disclosure of documents and an arranged meeting in Hong Kong with reporter Glen Greenwald, of The Guardian, and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, Snowden revealed the following pieces of information:

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Catcher in the Rye To Be Dropped from Curriculum? Puh-lease

New Common Core Standards drop classic novels in favor of “informational texts.”

The US school system will undergo some big changes within the next two years, chiefly due to a decision to remove a good deal of classic novels from the curriculum, or so the recent media reports would have you think.

The idea behind discouraging or reducing the teaching of old favorites like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird is to make room for non-fiction “informational texts” in the curriculum. These should be approved by the Common Core Standards of each state. Suggested texts include, “Recommended Levels of Insulation by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California’s Invasive Plant Council,” among others.

Mmmm, I just love me a good read on insulation levels while I soak in the tub.

So, the idea behind this is that children who pass through such a school system will be better prepared for the workplace, their brains packed with useful, practical knowledge rather than brimming with literary fluff (my personal summation). It has the backing of the National Governors’ Association, the Council of Chief of State School Officers, and even the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which partially funded the directive.

But is that estimate correct? Will reading more non-fiction in favor of fiction breed better writing, or more informed graduates? The discussion is extremely divided. One Arkansas teacher wrote in this Telegraph article,

In the end, education has to be about more than simply ensuring that kids can get a job. Isn’t it supposed to be about making well-rounded citizens?

Meanwhile, another reader weighed in for the pros of teaching more scientific texts:

I don’t understand how adding non-fiction books to reading lists REDUCES imagination.  Hard science is all about imagination–the “what ifs” of nature and the universe… I am sick of English professors acting like English Literature is the only bastion of imagination/critical thinking/culture.

When I first read that article stating that The Catcher in the Rye and other novels specifically would be gone from curriculums nation-wide, I was alarmed and frightened, though I now know it was needlessly so. The reactions of protesters are a tad hyperbolic, given that the two soporific texts I named above are found amongst a long list of alternate suggestions in various subjects, for instance Circumference: Eratosthenes and the Ancient Quest to Measure the Globe by Nicholas Nicastro, and The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston, interesting and well-written books in their own right. English Literature classes will not be barred from teaching certain classic novels, as some of the reports would have you believe, though they may have more limited time to teach them than before. Yes, the school system will be changed and possibly not for the better, but Salinger and Lee aren’t going anywhere.

All in all, the arguments for both sides make overblown assumptions: on the one, that students will miraculously be better prepared for the job market, on the other, that all imagination and creativity will be drained from impressionable young adults. So, which side do you stand on, if either? Is the teaching of informational texts merited, or best left to vocational studies? Tell us in a comment below!


Got Swag? Top Ten Historic Political Buttons

If you think that buttons proclaiming your enthusiasm for one presidential candidate or another is a twentieth century invention, it may come as a surprise to learn that swag has been around since the time of America’s first president.  George Washington‘s political buttons were made of brass; in the center were his elegant initials, circled by the words, “Long Live the President.” The buttons were actually buttons, and were worn on the lapels.

Buttons continued to be made from brass until the invention of tintype (also known as “ferrotype” or “melainotype”) in 1853. Tintype allowed a candidate to press an image of himself, or any other image, onto sheets of iron metal. Worn around the neck, a hole was punched into the top and a ribbon was threaded through.

In 1896, “a patent from The Whitehead and Hoag Company of Newark, New Jersey brought about the political pins we know today.” Of course, today, “temporary” buttons, in the form of stickers, send the same message as their heartier cousins and are often distributed by the thousands at campaign rallies or in mass mailings. No matter what the form, though, the purpose of the campaign button has never changed: it shows other like-minded people the wearer is “one of them” and may help uncommitted voters be persuaded to join their cause.

Here are ten memorable examples of campaigns-past:

1.  McClellan Democrat 1864 (Tintype)

2.  William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, 1900. “Prosperity at Home, Prestige Abroad.”

3.  Herbert Hoover, 1928. “Put Hoover On.”

4.  Dwight Eisenhower and Richard “Dick” Nixon, 1952. “Ike / Dick: They’re For You.”

5. John F. Kennedy, 1960. “If I Were 21, I’d Vote for Kennedy.”

5. Richard M. Nixon, 1972. “McGovern Can’t Lick Our Dick.”  (Nixon opposing George McGovern. Truly. Stop that laughing.)

6.  Gerald Ford and Robert Dole, 1976

7.  Ronald Reagan, 1980. “Renew America’s Strength with Great American Values.”

8.  Bill Clinton, 1992. “I Still Believe in a Place Called Hope.”

9. George W. Bush, 2000. “Republican Dignity.”

10.  Barack Obama, 2008. “Yes We Can.”

Here at eNotes, we hope you’ll pin on whatever button most appeals to you and exercise your right to participate in democracy. So get offline, get IN line. GO VOTE!


Seven Poetic Presidents

It’s voting time! In the spirit of the culmination of the presidential election tomorrow, below is a list that highlights historic presidents’ more poetic attributes. Ever wondered whose poetry Thomas Jefferson cozied up with? Or which past president favored the eccentric Welsh poet Dylan Thomas? Read on to find out…

George Washington and Phillis Wheatley

He was the first president of the United State, she was the first African-American woman to publish a collection of poetry. In 1776, she sent Washington a poem that praised the general’s leadership. In reply he told her that, were she ever in town, he would “be happy to see a person so favoured by the Muses.”

Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies,
Till some lov’d object strikes her wand’ring eyes,
Whose silken fetters all the senses bind,
And soft captivity involves the mind.
Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Moore
Irish poet Thomas Moore was unimpressed with President Jefferson when he met him in the early 1800s, influenced by his friend, the British Minister to the States. Moore unkindly described Jefferson’s home as in a “state of uncleanly desolation.” But “years later, when Jefferson read Moore’s poetry, he exclaimed, ‘Why, this is the little man who satirized me so! Why, he is a poet after all!’ Moore became one of Jefferson’s favorite poets.”
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed!
John Quincy Adams and Christoph Martin Wieland
Turns out sixth president John Quincy Adams fancied himself a bit of a poet. In 1816 he declared, “Could I have chosen my own genius and condition, I would have made myself a great poet,” though he reconciled that his own poetry was “spell bound in the circle of mediocrity.” He fared better in translation, attempting to translate one of his favorite poets–Wieland–from German. Adams did abandon the attempt to translate the epic poem Oberon when he came across what he felt was a better translation. As a result it went unpublished until 1940.
Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns
Lincoln so admired the poetry of Scotsman Robert Burns, he actually declined making a toast to the poet at a banquet in Burns’ honor, saying, “I cannot frame a toast to Burns. I can say nothing worthy of his generous heart and transcending genius. Thinking of what he has said, I can not say anything which seems worth saying.” Lincoln committed many of Burns’ poems, like the one below, to memory.
Ae night the storm the steeples rocked,
Poor Labour sweet in sleep was locked,
While burns, wi’ snawy wreeths upchoked,
Wild-eddying swirl,
Or thro’ the mining outlet bocked,
Down headlong hurl.
Harry S. Truman and Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Of all of Tennyson’s poems, one struck a particular cord with President Truman, so much so that he carried a copy of “Locksley Hall” in his wallet from the time he graduated high school in 1901 onwards.
“The paper I copied it on kept wearing out, and I kept recopying it. I don’t know how many times, twenty or thirty, I expect,” Truman reportedly told the journalist Merle Miller, adding that he “had a lot more faith in poets than reporters.”
An excerpt of that same poem that meant so much to Truman:
Love took up the glass of Time, and turn’d it in his glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.
Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass’d in music out of sight.
John F. Kennedy and Robert Frost
The words spoken at JFK’s inauguration (“Ask not what your country can do for you…”) weren’t the only infamous lines read out that day. On January 20th, 1961, Robert Frost became the first poet to read at a presidential inauguration. The poet planned on reading out a poem he’d written especially for the occasion, “Dedication,” but as the bright afternoon sun bounced off of the freshly fallen snow surrounding the event, he found he couldn’t read his own handwriting at the podium. The 86 year-old then recited “The Gift Outright” from memory instead.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.
Jimmy Carter and Dylan Thomas
Not only is Carter a fan of Dylan Thomas’ work, this former president is a great advocate for the Welsh poet. He was the impetus behind the plaque dedicated to Thomas in Westminster Abbey’s “Poet’s Corner,” as well as Dylan Thomas Centre, a museum dedicated to the poet, in Swansea, Wales.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
For five more presidents’ poetic tendencies, including President Obama’s, head over to this Poetry Foundation article.

Curiosity Killed No-One: A Round-Up of eNotes’ Answers Across 10 Subjects

No matter what subject interests you, eNotes has you covered. Check out these recent answers from our expert editors, below:

Literature:

In Of Mice and Men, who deserves to be punished for Lennie’s death?

History:

What was the Holy Roman Empire?

Science:

What is the final product of translation as a part of protein synthesis?

Math:

Given the sample {7,6,10,7,5,9,3,7,5,13} find the standard deviation.

Arts:

What are the principal characteristics of Baroque art?

Business: How does a subsidy affect a market?

Social Sciences: What is critical race theory?

Law: What social trends will affect the criminal justice system over the next ten years?

Health: Make the argument that individuals with preexisting conditions should be able to purchase health insurance at the same cost as those without such conditions.

Religion: How do theologians address the issue of how we give meaning to the world when a loved one dies?
And an interesting discussion board to chime in on…
Should health insurance plans include infertility services?

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