• Why states rights, religious freedom do not belong in a conversation about marriage equality.

    Since marriage equality was legalized nationwide on June 26, right-wing opposition and reactionaries have protested the decision, arguing instead for states’ rights or religious freedom. Each and every Republican presidential candidate opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling under similar excuses, crediting their lack of support to either personal beliefs (religious freedom) or a resistance to “big government” (states rights).  What these protesters fail to grasp is that neither of these things have anything to do with marriage equality.

    Opposition to marriage equality on the basis of religious freedom stems from a simple misunderstanding of what religious freedom means in the context of the First Amendment. As the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment explicitly protects the rights of Americans to practice religion. That does not mean the right to infringe beliefs on others. The First Amendment also implicitly protects Americans from practicing religion, meaning they do not have to conform to religious norms of one belief system that is not meaningful to them.

    Another opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the basis of religion is an opposition to the use of the word “marriage”. These opponents claim that marriage was a word created by God to describe the godly union between a man and a woman. What these opponents don’t acknowledge is that we live in a secular state where religion does not control how we define functions of governance, such as lawfully joining two people together in a partnership from which they receive many government benefits, such as tax breaks — maybe it’s just me, but “marriage” has a much more succinct ring than that. What these opponents also don’t grasp, apparently, is that even if God created the word marriage, he also did not create the ability of his followers to dictate how others conduct their lives (read: freewill).

    Other opponents to marriage equality claim that it should be decided by states or by popular votes by state populations. While this isn’t necessarily a horrible idea all on its own, it is ignorant of just how ready Americans are to deny each other basic civil rights when they have the ability to do so. During the desegregation of schools in the 1950s, opponents also claimed that the states should be able to decide; they sought the ability for states to decide so that the same states could block the desegregation of schools because of bigotry and racism. States cannot always be trusted to pass or enforce moral legislation; take for example any of the 20 anti-LGBT legislation that thankfully was not passed this session. This is why the Supreme Court is important: they are able to judge the constitutionality of government measures independent of flawed and sometime immoral legislators or constituents.

    I understand pushing back against new policies that one does not agree with —having an active and vocal populace is the fundamental strength of a democracy. What I do not understand is people trying to rewrite the Constitution to fit their own narrow views and deny equality to others, simply because LGBT people are different from them. The Constitution loses all meaning when it is recklessly assigned to the defense of any given belief, but especially so when such a belief is in direct opposition to the ruling of the Constitution’s interpreters and the highest Court in the land. The opposition to same-sex marriage is playing a dangerous game by making this conversation about anything other than equality.

    Smith is a humanities and history senior. Smith is the editor-in-chief.

  • Communal sigh of relief as Google announces 'undo send' feature

    Google recently made its undo send email feature available to all gmail users on computer platforms. The feature, once activated by users, provides a delayed send period, customizable from 5 to 30 seconds, in which the choice to send can be cancelled.

    The six year development of this obviously useful feature has sparked curiosity. One long-time computer industry analyst suggests that Google simply forgot about it amid a large vault of beta testing projects. Whatever the reason for the long test period, critical reception has been entirely, if unsurprisingly, positive.

    Reviews have roundly praised the benefit of preventing accidental mistakes, such as sending to the wrong person, typos and other like errors. This will spare consequences ranging from personal or  professional embarrassment to serious privacy violation. In case you are of the rare breed that has not brushed with such email concerns, here are some examples of how emails can go dreadfully wrong.

    Despite the useful relief of some of the immense anxiety that plagues email, the feature should not be a crutch that enables sloppy work, knowing that a simple ‘undo send’ watches over you. Rather, it is a reconciliation of the facts that people make mistakes in life and many online programs lock in such mistakes immediately and without recourse. Google had the capability to help and now it has.

    The business world is especially likely to take notice of the acknowledgement that mistakes occur in a world increasingly dominated by instant and irrevocable communication. Text messages and work chat programs are increasingly competing with email, pitching speed and ease of use. Amid this competitive environment, Google’s new feature has strengthened its defense against such competition.

    To say that the undo send feature has abated alternative communication systems’ encroachment upon email in the business world would be extreme. It has, however, gone some way in gaining support from many of gmail’s 900 million users. And, it is an interesting reminder that in a technological world dominated by ruthless and unceasing innovation that a simple development can be among the most beneficial.  

    Clark is an Associate Editor.

  • #Testaburger10

    Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s announcement June 17 that a woman will be on the redesigned $10 bill in 2020 created quite a flurry of public excitement and comment. Most of the initial responses were expected: enthusiasm for the women’s rights victory, desire for further progress, resentment from our more obtuse peers, etc. But, no matter the opinion, the most pressing and intriguing question gripped them all: Who is she going to be?

    Lew bravely stuck his neck out by asking that great vat of absurdity, the internet, to brainstorm. Maybe he knew how amusing some of the responses would be and wanted to uplift spirits around the all-beige-everything atmosphere of the Treasury. Or maybe he wanted to finally convince his kids that he’s still “hip and with it.” Whatever the case may be, the internet did not disappoint.

    Suggestions ranged from mysteriously still popular Honey Boo Boo to Shania Twain for her “GREAT music."

    While these suggestions, and many others of equal intellectual consideration, are (sort of) what Lew asked for, none can make the cut, as the Treasury’s only condition was that the woman be dead. But, you guessed it, social media was undeterred, as the likes of Beyonce and Taylor Swift drew large support anyway, alongside the aforementioned possibilities. I’m not surprised at either the emphatic support of the two pop heavyweights or the American public’s reluctance to follow even one rule. So, in keeping with the absurd undercurrent of less-than-likely nominees, I’ll toss a criminally underappreciated name into the ring.

    I throw my full support behind Wendy Testaburger, the long embattled women’s rights advocate on the popular show "South Park". The animated fourth grader has endured seventeen seasons of some of television’s most vile and offensive content with the utmost grace and maturity. Her appeal strengthens with the multitude of demographics and interests she covers: women’s rights, animated character interests, millennial concerns and many others. Also, as a non-living character, the death criteria is not an issue. To give social media the spark it needs to thrust her campaign into the spotlight, I’ll throw in a hashtag. Let’s hear it for #Testaburger10.

  • Lege goes home, cue empty bragging

    Imagine being a typical shy kid at summer camp. You go off to a foreign place for a few weeks, have to meet new people and get involved in new situations. Inevitably, you'll realize that certain people are being more outgoing or otherwise more successful than you. Perhaps during the big dance, you'll be too shy to talk to those aesthetically pleasing members of the opposite sex, instead lurking silently in the back.

    This narrative, though, gets positively wharped once you return back to your native town. Instead of uneasiness, timidity and fright, the recollection you transmit to your friends is one of you being the suave, fearless and ever-popular center of the party.

    This is basically what happens to members of the state Legislature once the body adjourns sine die and the members disperse throughout the state to their individual constituencies.

    It doesn't matter how feckless a freshman representative might have been on the floor of the House this session, when he — or, sadly, far less often, she — returns home the ineffectiveness is brushed aside and replaced with tales of their audacious leadership on some big partisan issue.

    Take state Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving), a freshman representative already in a contentious primary fight for renomination. Rinaldi, who had an unsuccessful session with no bills making it out of the chamber and onto Gov. Abbott’s desk, is already touting how ostensibly invaluable he was during his first 140 days in government. He points to his supposed work on gun rights, anti-abortion legislation and even anti-LGBT matters — all better, I suppose, than admitting the spectacularly inefficient and unsuccessful legislative season this year.

    I suppose, too, it's a better way to whitewash that Austin sleep-away camp experience.

    Horwitz is the Senior Associate Editor.

  • Leaders need to get their act together, get back our Blue Bell, Whataburger

    “The night is always darkest before the dawn.” — Batman

    The proud nation of Texas has fallen on perhaps the hardest times it has ever faced in its one million year history as a country. Let's not confuse the issue, we Texans are a strong people who could probably withstand anything. In the entire world. But all of us, like the famed Trojan warrior Achilles, have a weakness. And that is our food.

    Since the Great Blue Bell Crisis of 2015, Texans have been suffering, bleeding, for two long months. And now that Whataburger has announced shortened breakfast hours, I don’t know how much more we can take. Our strong bodies and minds need the enriching sustenance of ice cream and early morning tacos. In this rare moment of weakness, I ask you this: where are our politicians?

    It has been 59 days since Texas store owners began removing our nectar of the gods, otherwise known as Blue Bell Ice Cream, from store shelves. That’s 59 days too long. And how did our "leaders" respond to this? The FDA had to go launch an investigation into Blue Bell. If you were to believe them, this most Texan of dessert companier knew about the listeria outbreak and chose to ship the cartons anyway. Who would you believe: Bluebell or Obama?

    Yeah, that’s what I thought.

    When Whataburger announced its severely shortened breakfast hours on Monday, I swear I felt an angry rumble of Texans' tummies roar across the Texas hill country. Before yesterday, you would have had to take my 11p.m. honey butter chicken biscuit from my cold, dead hands.

    Where, in these most trying of times, is Gov. Abbott, I ask you? We are but children in this world without breakfast taquitos. Yet, Gov. Abbott remains locked away in his Governor’s Mansion, as out of reach with the Texas people as Whata breakfast burritos are from me right now.

    Apparently, Gov. Abbott is too busy wining and dining fat cat Whataburger lobbyists to give a thought to our problems. To all the leaders who cut a deal on my HBCB game and cut hard-working Texans out, all I have to say this: I’ll keep my guns, religion and Whataburger, you keep the change.

    Now, I’m not an educated woman. I’ve only been to two countries in my life (the United States of America and Texas) but I know right from wrong. Where are our leaders?