Open Letter to California Supreme Court

Well, the citizens of California passed Proposition 8 last year with 52% of the votes. Many felt heartbroken while others, including me, vented that the conservatives were up to their old dirty tricks again. Anyways, the issue is now in the hands of the California Supreme Court, which just last year had ruled that the constitution of the state precluded barring same-sex couples from getting married.

I figured that I should weigh in on the subject and give the justices something to chew on. And here it is.

Dear Judges of the California Supreme Court,
I am a fellow citizen of California and I would like to give you a hand in deciding the knotty problem facing you - the resolution of Proposition 8. Yes, I know that it is a messy situation and I also know that I am no lawyer. I am just a poor farm boy from Iowa and all I have is horse sense.

First of all, let us look at Proposition 8 itself. It essentially says that only marriages between one man and one woman would be recognized by the state of California. There is a problem right there. Imagine if we had a similar law on the books saying that only people of the same race could marry each other. (Hint: We used to have that). Or that only US citizens could marry each other (no non-citizens thank you). Or that only coreligionists could marry each other. What happens when fundamentalist Hindus get involved and they want to ban inter-caste marriages? Does it not sound absurd that the state of California is inserting itself in the matters of the heart?

Second, let us look at the argument put forth by Kenneth Starr - that the citizenary is sovreign and while the citizens may approve dumb propositions, the court cannot ignore the will of the people. Yes, ultimately, the citizens are supreme. I have made that assertion and I stand by it. But can just 52% of them change the constitution? Here in California, we cannot even pass a 0.0001% tax on lollipops without a 2/3rds majority! Yes, the citizenary is sovreign but to assert that 50% + 1 votes is laughable at best - especially when it comes to changing the constitution, the supreme law of the state.

Finally, let us look at the difference between amending the California constitution and revising it. The proponents of Proposition 8 say that it is an amendment, a minimal change that only changes the restrictions on who can get married. But there is a larger principal involved. What Proposition 8 does is change the very nature of our constitution. Proposition 8 says that the government must treat certain people in a fundamentally different manner - not because of any criminal activity or bad behavior but because of who they are. That is a major revision in just about anyone's eyes.

Proposition 8 sets up a dangerous precedent and can easily undermine the core of the spirit of California - Live and let live. We have been an incubator of dreams, of ideas and of passion. Teenagers around the world dream of California. We are a diverse state - home to people of all lineages and thoughts. Enshrining discrimination in the very core of our legal framework cannot be good for us.

Can you stand up for common decency and fight this scourge?


Flip-flop of time

Last Sunday morning I adjusted many clocks - in the stove, in the microwave oven, on the kitchen wall, on the bedroom dresser, in the programmable thermostat and in the car. No, there was no power failure which threw all the clocks off. No, there was no mysterious magnetic storm. No aliens landed in my backyard. The reason was that earlier that day, at 2am precisely, we switched to Daylight Savings Time. So, the twice-yearly ritual of fixing all the clocks took place. There is even a mnemonic to make sure people get it right "Spring forward, Fall back".

On Monday, I drove to work and after parking my car, I had a strong urge to take a nap before going into the office. Every day this week I have had trouble waking up with the alarm clock even though I have been getting enough sleep. What gives?

Well, this one-hour change is a mini jet lag. And it takes a while for the body to synchronize back to the wall clock. During this time, people feel less energetic, less coordinated and are more susceptible to accidents - at home, in the office and on the road.

So, why do we go through this time change if there is such a downside? Well, years ago - back when most people worked on the same schedule, such time changes saved us daylight time in the evening and hence reduced energy consumption. But those days are long over now. We have factories and offices that are open 24-hours a day. Many people work flexible schedules. Many of us interact with people living in other countries. This time-shift business only adds to confusion when you are trying to figure out what time it is on the other side of the globe. And let us not forget what messes get created when various computer systems either fail to account for the time changes or fail to keep up with ever-changing laws in various countries.

Face it people, there was a point in time when daylight saving and the subsequent fiddling with time made sense. But it doesn't any more. This flip-flop in time only causes more headaches. Like many ideas whose time has come and gone, we must retire this concept and go back to fixed time. Perhaps we can put a proposition on the California ballot. Who is with me?