Monday, December 31, 2007

The NFL Network sucks

The NYT is only half wrong, for once.

The NFL network has a problem - its production of games absolutely sucks. It's not a bad network overall (because the others all suck worse), but it cannot produce a live NFL game to save its life. The biggest problem is the inane commentary from the two morons in the booth - Cris "Race-Baiting" Collinsworth and Bryant "Tanking Career" Gumbel (yes, that Bryant Gumbel). Both are self-assured and completely wrong. As the Internet teaches us, this is a monster of a combo.

Like I said, the NYT is only half wrong - it manages to cite some Gumbel blunders but then verbally fellates Collinsworth for some reason:
They heard someone who shouldn’t be in this seat, not beside Cris Collinsworth, who has proved through his work on the NFL Network, NBC and HBO that he is the best N.F.L. analyst around.
He also worked for Fox; I guess having your panties in a bunch over the entire Fox empire trumps actually reporting the facts. Or maybe the Times is actually recalling Collinsworth's tasteless racial remarks while at Fox, and realizing that whatever integrity he may have earned now (which, oddly enough, is none, so I'm not sure why they're praising him; gay crush?) is overwhelmed by his bone-headedness early in his career.

The NFL Network also sucks at replaying games. Lots of things are done well; the meaningless parts are excised and the whole thing is sped up to fit in a ninety-minute slot. The bad part is that if you're watching the replayed game because you missed it live and want to watch it for the first time, the NFL will completely spoil it for you. They don't actually come out and say, "Hey, why are you watching this crap? New York wins, idiot! Haha! Also Vader is Luke's father." Instead, when important plays happen, a little window will open with postgame commentary from coaches and players. When, say, New York completes a 50-yard pass in the second quarter of a close game, it's certainly good for them, but not game-winning. However, when the coach says, "And that was the play that turned it around for us," you can go ahead and change the channel. The NFL Network just spoiled its own f-ing game and basically peed in your coffee, hit on your wife, and dared you to watch something else.

Thanks, I think I will.

Friday, December 28, 2007


I am fairly certain posting on my part will return on Monday. Thanks to Freiheit for breaking the silence, thanks to Three Olives for making some decent vodka, thank you Santa for the presents, thank you HDTV for crisp, clear images, thank you New England Patriots for never losing, ever, even though you barely beat the Eagles.

I suppose I should finish that Ron Paul post.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Once more with feeling

For a while, I was happy that Congress managed to avoid passing any dumb legislation after the Virginia Tech shootings. Of course, Congress eventually passed some legislation relating to background checks and mental health records, but in the light of dumb laws of past years (such as the Brady ban), it was a minor bit of stupidity. Luckily, a group of people are going to lobby Congress to make sure the appropriately idiotic and ineffective gun laws are passed.

However, people can still buy guns through other means that require no background check in Virginia, such as gun shows where scores of people sell or swap firearms.

Efforts to close the so-called gun show loophole have failed repeatedly, and even Andrew Goddard - the most outspoken family member on the issue - acknowledges that getting lawmakers to close it this year will be a struggle.

Say it with me now:
there is no such thing as a gun-show loophole! Is everybody clear on that? Let's try it again: there is no such thing as a gun-show loophole!

There are two types of sales at a gun show: sales by a store and sales by an independent seller. If a store conducts a sale, a background check is still required. A store cannot avoid this requirement simply by making sales at a gun show. No matter where the sale occurs, a store must conduct a background check.

An independent seller is not required to conduct a background check, but that is because an independent seller is never required to conduct one. The same goes for making a sale through a newspaper classifieds, through word of mouth, or some other advertising mechanism. It's a private sale, and such sales are legal. Some states restrict these sales (at gun shows, anyway), but there are no federal restrictions.

Some people worry that a store could pose as an private seller and avoid the background check. A store cannot "sell" a firearm to an employee and then have the employee (as an independent seller) sell it to a customer to avoid the background check, though: that is already illegal. The ATF conducts stings to catch stores engaging in such behavior.

The only "loophole" is that private sellers can conduct a sale at a gun show just like they can conduct a sale anywhere else. The "gun show loophole" is an impressive bit of chicanery: the laws are uniform, therefore it's a loophole. Yay for accuracy in the media.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Over the years Al Jazeera has become remarkably fair and balanced, at least in its English language channel Al Jazeera International, of which the biweekly programme People and Power is a part.
I'll tell you something - ChessBase is classic. Imagine ChessBase 1939 - interviews with Alekhine and Bogoljubov, sneering at the paranoid French and British!

Iran, great place for women; Al Jazeera, the network of record! What an ugly relationship they have with dangerous and evil people.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Posting on my end will be absent this week.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Weekend Post

The MPAA goes Humean.
“Youth Without Youth” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Gun violence, sexual congress, female nudity, metaphysics.
If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Private Property: Square Circle?

You probably think you have a good idea how bad Kelo was for property owners. You have no idea.
The new agreement, forged Monday, allows Corcoran Jennison six months — until May 29, 2008 — to secure financing for the construction of 66 luxury apartments and 14 townhouses on a 4-acre tract formerly occupied by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.
In other words, the developer for whose benefit the city of New London stole people's property hasn't even got financing for the development that was supposed to bring prosperity and happiness to the area. When will something useful actually be done with the land?
If financing is arranged, it would allow a late June 2008 groundbreaking and completion of the housing project by Dec. 26, 2009 — the same date required had the company met the original financing deadline last month, NLDC President Michael Joplin said.
So there's your optimistic date - four and a half years after the Supreme Court greenlighted the noxious plan in an awful, embarrassing decision (Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, in case you wanted me to name names [note that some people decried the decision as a product of a conservative Rehnquist Court! Again - Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer; lots of Federalist Society members there, right?]), New London may finally start seeing a return on its Faustian bargain. I'm no economics expert, but whiskey-tango-foxtrot, guys?!

Also comforting:
If it fails to come up with the money for the housing portion of the project, the developer would forfeit all rights to that housing as well as two office buildings and a hotel it planned to build without litigation and would allow the NLDC to seek another developer.
This is basically the effect of Kelo: the government can seize your property not only when it has a solid plan for using your property in a more publicly useful way, but it can also just take your property whenever it thinks there might be someone better able to take advantage of your property than you, and sit on the stuff until that white knight comes along. So, really, any parcel of land the size of a Wal-Mart should be considered potentially condemned, because one of these days, Wal-Mart might get around to wanting to put a new store there!

Quick question: if New London was really poorly off, economically, before this whole affair, what about now, when they've driven people out of the area (by taking their homes) and created massive bad publicity for themselves? Well, whatever; yay Communism!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A question on rhetoric

Last week, a blog that I read on occasion was invaded by Freepers. It was impressive in the way that a locust swarm is impressive: the destruction is astonishing in its simplemindedness. After a few days, the invaders grew bored and moved to greener pastures. Picking through their wake, I came across a bizarre argument I have seen employed in the past, but didn't notice at the time. Here is a sample of the argument:

Commenter 1:
The issue isn’t whether all Muslims are dangerous, clearly they aren’t. The problem is that if 1% of all Muslims are dangerous, that’s 10 million people who need to die.

Commenter 2:
Are you suggesting that genocide is the appropriate answer to terrorism?

Commenter 3:
Could you point out where Commenter 1 or anyone else has even mentioned genocide, much less advocated it as a solution to Islamic terrorism?

Commenter 1 has argued that 10 million people must be killed because they are dangerous (but not because they've actually done anything), but Commenter 3 comes to his defense because Commenter 1 did not actually use the word "genocide." There are certainly situations where one commenter may attempt to put words in another's mouth, but this does not appear to be the situation. Here, one commenter is paraphrasing another, but a third is objecting to the paraphrase because a certain word is used. In its most general form, the argument is that a paraphrase is incorrect because it is not a direct quote, but the argument does not address that the paraphrase is actually correct when the subject matter is considered.

My question is this: is there a term for this fallacy? I've seen it used by partisans of all stripes (although it appears to be a favorite tactic of Freepers and LGF monkeys), and it baffles me. In a way, it might simply be a factual error and not a logical fallacy, but it also appears to be a Red Herring fallacy. Is is a combination of the two? That is, arguing something that is factually incorrect to create a Red Herring? I would like to be precise when this issue arises in the future, so any help is appreciated.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This is why blogs are big, dudes

Headline: Israeli Army attacks southern Gaza ahead of talks.

Those damn Jews; will they ever learn? Let's all talk about the Palestinian question, and not go killing the people before they get a chance to be heard! Barbarians! Look at this:
Israeli troops accompanied by about a dozen tanks moved Tuesday into southern Gaza, a day before Israelis and Palestinians were due to hold their first talks on a comprehensive peace following the U.S.-led conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
I think we all know who's responsible for the violence in Israel. (Hint: the guys who own the banks and all that jazz)

If you read further, you might get an entirely false impression about what Israel was doing:
The army said the operation was a routine effort to disrupt rocket and mortar assaults on army bases and the Israeli-controlled Sufa crossing into Gaza, similar to regular raids into Gaza over the past six months.
Wait, wait, so Israel was responding to rocket and mortar assaults? I'm confused; let me try to work this out. If you're trying to disrupt something, it's because that thing is happening. In fact, the occurence of that thing is what causes you to become moved to disrupt it, so that the disruption has to succeed the thing disrupted. Meaning, then, that Israel was not actually launching an aggressive campaign against Gaza, but Palestinians in Gaza were firing mortars and rockets, causing Israel to respond to try to defend itself. So if an article were written about this saying something like "Israel viciously breaks ceasefire prior to eternal peace agreement," that would be shifting the blame completely to the wrong side.

"Minutes before police show up at burgled house, crazy homeowner kills peace-loving, though armed, intruder."

There, I think I'm getting the hang of this.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One Down, Four to Go

One final is complete! O frabjous day! Still having quite a bit of work to do, I can hardly take time out to celebrate now, or to devote myself to more pleasant intellectual projects, but a preview:

This looks nice. I was thinking of perfecting my refutation of the Refutation of Idealism, which you may see here if you're really that curious (you won't long be). Take that, Manny!

I bought even more Kant stuff. It's a sickness. Cambridge has done us a great service and I would hate not to take advantage of it (this is a good excuse). He did have some decent stuff to say about religion, though it's hard to imagine a person with his irreligious temperament still being a believer. Apparently, he pulled it off.

I wish I knew more about mathematics and logic. Send over suggestions.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Back to Buffoonery

Chessbase is up to its old antics, interviewing morons whose limited brain power is clouded utterly by overwhelming ideological commitment. Like this random:
There are so many issues in Tsarist Russia that have a resonance today – the anti-semitism of that time, for example, chimes with the suspicion of Islam today.
Oh, I guess we're just suspicious that Islamic terrorists have killed thousands of people. We don't know it's the case, of course. Sure.

Here's a fun question - who are the big anti-Semites today? Right, right. Moving on, then.

Who is this guy, anyway?
Ronan Bennett was brought up in Belfast. A youthful civil rights demonstrator, he ended up, at the age of 18, as a Republican prisoner in the notorious Long Kesh camp, sentenced to life by a special non-jury ‘Diplock’ court.
Oh, an Irish "civil rights demonstrator." Mmhmm. Sort of how the KKK was an ethnic awareness interest group, I guess.

Newsflash! Nigel Short is still a retard:
It was on, perhaps, the fifth occasion that the tournament hall was plunged into darkness at the Asian Cities chess championship in Tehran earlier this year that a daring, heterodox thought entered my head: could it be possible that when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran needs nuclear power for civilian purposes he might be telling the truth?
Is he also telling the truth when he says the know what, this is too stupid even to attempt to refute. Go away, loser.
I was greatly touched by the warmth and friendliness of ordinary Iranians. However, there were a couple of jarring notes amid all the goodwill. One of the girls on the national team invited me to her home for dinner, to which I agreed. It turned out that in order to take up her invitation I had to have the permission of both the federation and the religious police.
Jarring, that's the word. Jarring. It's jarring to have to get government approval to visit someone. J-a-r-r-i-n-g.
In my report of the event, I stressed a vital and obvious point: if women are to reach their full potential, they have to be allowed to participate against the best opposition, which in chess means men. Within a week of this report having been submitted, the Iranian minister of sport had agreed to an unprecedented change in regulations. While it would be inaccurate for me to claim full responsibility for this seismic shift, it would, perhaps, be fair to say that I acted as a catalyst.
You had absolutely zero effect on Iranian politics, you buffoon. Get over yourself, and while you're at it, think about the moral implications of being a tool of a regime like Iran. Congratulations! You're the new Alekhine!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Final Round

The reading period officially ends today and finals officially begin tomorrow. Because I have no final tomorrow, it is not quite true that I will be suffering and miserable this weekend, but the pain will start on Monday with Business Organizations: Explain Agency, Partnerships, Corporations, and Mergers for Three Hours. Having four of five finals be open-book is comforting, even if not as helpful as one might think.

Meanwhile, I think literally every Republican candidate for President is a compromise. Giuliani doesn't get immigration at all, nor Huckabee, whose religious zealotry seems to have stepped over the line into insanity. Romney is as slick as Bill Clinton and 90% as untrustworthy (still pretty bad), Thompson doesn't seem to stand for anything, preferring to rest on his undeserved conservative cred instead, and McCain has already proved unwilling to allow people to express political views (not to mention, he's been bad and will probably continue to be so on judicial nominations). Ron Paul believes in the impending North American Union.

I am not sure it's really worth it to vote for the least of these evils this time around, because they are so far from true conservatism, any one of them will probably be more liberal than Bush (yep).

Have fun with that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Atheist Argument

Atheists with brains might want to check out David Hume. He was an atheist with an actual capacity for argument, as well as a wonderfully fluent literary style. For intelligent anti-theist philosophy, see Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. That ought to do you well, but if you want to get into ethical naturalism and other philosophical aspects of materialism, go ahead with An Enquiry Concerning The Principles Of Morals and An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

I am sure acosmists feel left out. Please have fun with Spinoza, guys. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And the odd part is...

Gmail was kind enough to press this link upon me.
An injured woman who slipped in an Alaskan parking lot can sue the federal government for failing to remove snow and ice, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Monday.
This is one of the latest in Reuters's "Oddly Enough" series of stories. What I can't understand is what's so odd about it. A woman slips and falls because of the negligence of a landowner in maintaining its property. Wow, that's odd! ...except, no, it happens all the time. As far as I can glean from the paltry facts in the story, the U.S. government was attempting to invoke sovereign immunity, but immunity based on the law of Alaska, which apparently retains that immunity for municipalities. The U.S. government not being a municipality, the Federal Tort Claims Act probably took over.

I guess...I really don't know why that's odd. Slow news day?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hate the Religion, Love the Catholic Schoolgirls

Richard Dawkins, cool-headed intellectual of our time. The laughs start immediately:
Only a person infected by the sort of sanctimonious self-righteousness that religion uniquely inspires would apply the meaningless word 'sin' to private sexual behavior.
Got that? Religion uniquely inspires that sort of sanctimonious self-righteousness, leaving us to wonder what sort of sanctimonious self-righteousness Mr. Dawkins is launching at us, and what inspires it.
Officially, Bill Clinton was impeached not for sexual misconduct but for lying about it.
"Officially" meaning, of course, "it is the case that."
But he was entitled to lie about his private life: one could even make a case that he had a positive duty to do so.
Perjury is a crime, Dick. You wouldn't be counseling people to lie under oath, would you now? Well, the simplest interpretation is the best, so I suppose that, yes, you really are telling people to lie under oath. In fact, you're commanding them to, by imposing a duty upon them (which is all right, because imposing your sanctimonious self-righteous moral attitude on someone is OK as long as you're not a religious guy).
Lying to Congress by saying, "I did not have sex with that woman" should not be an impeachable offense, because where a man puts his penis is none of Congress's damn business.
It follows precisely from this that rape is not Congress's business. Perhaps Mr. Dawkins is just enlightening us on the limits of Congress's power and affirming that, indeed, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress the power to criminalize sexual misconduct. That was a close one, because I almost thought there that he was saying it's not the government's business where a man puts his penis, which would be unhinged lunacy.
And please don't say the right answer to an impertinent question about your private life is "No comment", because we all know how that would be interpreted. Telling a lie is often the only way to convey an effective "No comment."
You might be misinterpreted if you refuse to answer a question you have no intention of answering, so just lie, but, presumably, lie in a believable fashion, so no one will make any false inferences about you. Yes, this is what passes for morality in the world of Richard Dawkins.
A censorious culture in which public figures are forced to answer impertinent questions about their past, or their private affairs, would lead to open season on everybody.
I expect the grand jury to be assembled for me any day now.
What is more, the revolting hue and cry that our religiously inspired society habitually raises over private sexual 'morality' serves as a dangerous distraction away from important matters of public morality such as the Blair/Bush lies about Iraq's weapons.
There's a good boy, it's all about Iraq. And global warming. I hope you get to global warming. It really is all about Bush, and Iraq, and global warming, and the Illuminati &c. (Where did Clinton drop bombs when the questions about Lewinsky started? Hmm...)
Shouldn't public figures be entitled to lie about their religious affiliations (just like the many atheists that the laws of probability tell us must be there in Congress)? Not always. The reason is that religious views, even if they seem private in themselves, can become public in their implications.
Whereas, as one can discover by pure reason, it is logically impossible for one's sex life ever to have any effect on anyone other than oneself.
But George Bush has publicly boasted that God told him to invade Iraq, and his religious faith obviously inspired his irrational stances on stem cell research, the Terri Schiavo case and many others.
In this country, and this is one of the reasons we rebelled against yours, Dick, we think freedom of religion is a good thing, so George Bush is allowed to have thoughts that are heterodox compared to your atheist dogmatism. Further, what's irrational about Bush's position on stem cell research? Or the Terri Schiavo affair, for that matter? Are you in favor of killing innocent people, Dick? Or what? I wish you'd offer an argument, really. It'd be nice, for once.
But going beyond direct influences on policies, would you wish to be governed by a man who has such a cock-eyed view of reality that he thinks the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, even if he keeps that cock-eyed view private?
Whereas the real Garden of Eden is in ____? (Fill in the blank, Dick)
Returning to the original topic of sex outside marriage
Whew, back to the topic at hand, after a non sequitur assault on religion.
Why are we so obsessed with monogamous fidelity in the first place?
This sounds like a really bad way to begin a conversation with one's wife.
The underlying presumption -- that a human being has some kind of property rights over another human being's body -- is unspoken because it is assumed to be obvious.
Property rights. Huh. Here, I thought it was about mutual respect for autonomy, but no, I don't want you to cheat because I own you, and I'll refrain from cheating because I'm chattel. Yep, that must be it.
From a Darwinian perspective, sexual jealousy is easily understood.
Yep. Wonder if there's another, equally useful explanation. Nah.
Why should you deny your loved one the pleasure of sexual encounters with others, if he or she is that way inclined?
Use your body as mere means!
imagine a sort of intelligent Ann Coulter
I don't have to imagine; Ms. Coulter graduated with honors from a top-ten law school. You were saying?
Even sticking to the higher plane of love, is it so very obvious that you can't love more than one person?
No more obvious than the opposite. What a conundrum! I guess, all things being equal, we should start being sluts.
We seem to manage it with parental love (parents are reproached if they don't at least pretend to love all their children equally), love of books, of food, of wine (love of Chateau Margaux does not preclude love of a fine Hock, and we don't feel unfaithful to the red when we dally with the white), love of composers, poets, holiday beaches, friends . . . why is erotic love the one exception that everybody instantly acknowledges without even thinking about it?
Richard Dawkins has had sex with his parents, books, food, wine, composers, poets, holiday beaches, and friends. You heard it here first, folks.
Why can a woman not love two men at the same time, in their different ways?
Have you figured out the internet yet? Google "gangbang," man.
It is ubiquitous if not universal. you have a dictionary handy? That internet thing has one, if you need it.
I'm just wondering aloud why we all accept it so readily, without even thinking about it.
For most people, this would lead to skepticism and perhaps an attempt to understand sexual jealousy, taking all possible causes into account and being prepared to change one's position if a better theory is apparent. To Richard Dawkins, however, wonder is the end of learning, not the beginning. "That's odd; oh well, I must be right and there is no way this oddness could possibly mean the truth is deeper than I understand."
And why don't we all admire – as I increasingly do -- those rare free spirits confident enough to rise above jealousy, stop fretting about who is "cheating on" whom, and tell the green-eyed monster to go jump in the lake?
Paris Hilton, object of my admiration. Will you be mine?

So, uh, he's a really smart guy, right?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hoist the black flag

In the last few weeks, I have had two delightful interactions with the federal government. Each interaction has cost me time and money, and I have received no benefit from either transaction.

My first interaction occurred due to my savings account with my bank. While moving into a new apartment and taking care of several financial obligations, I had to make a number of unexpected transfers from my savings account to my checking account. When I reviewed my statement, I discovered a charge for transferring money in that manner. Considering my bank had never disclosed that such a fee would exist (not even in the little pamphlet given to me), I found this irritating. Upon navigating the phone system and reaching a person at my bank, I learned that this fee is mandated by the federal government to keep people from treating their savings account as a checking account.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but I certainly do not see the necessity of the federal government interfering in a contract between myself and the bank. If the fee was charged by the bank as an administrative matter (and disclosed beforehand), then it would not bother me since I could find a different bank more attuned to my needs as a customer. However, by mandating this, the federal government both inconveniences me and destroys competition among banks on this type of fee. Apparently, the justification given by the federal government is "ensuring that financial institutions maintain adequate reserves for the funds on deposit." It seems to me there is an easy correction for institutions that fail to maintain adequate funds: they lose customers and go out of business.

The second interaction occurred when I attempted to apply for a second credit card. The application was approved, but the bank could not issue the card because they could not verify my address. As mentioned above, I had recently moved and I have a tendency not to receive mail at my physical address, so it made my address somewhat unclear. However, I called and talked to the bank, verified my past addresses, my current balance on my other credit card, my social security number, and a few other pieces of information.

All of this was for naught, though, because the federal government, in the name of "fighting terrorism," has mandated that a credit card applicant must provide certain bits of paper. Never mind that I had called the bank and provided everything but a blood sample or that the bank had decided it was a financially sound move to issue me a card with a fairly large credit limit; only certain papers would suffice when proving I'm not a radical with explosive plans (I'm not sure how a phone bill for a land line proves I'm legitimate, but the federal government is nothing if not ridiculous in its security state designs). Once again, the federal government managed to meddle in my affairs and destroy otherwise smoothly-operating business relationships.

Of course, despite the reference in the post title, there is little I can do about these wonderful policies. A majority of the populace appears to enjoy having the federal government involved in every aspect of their lives, so those of us that do not wish for that sort of government end up getting it anyway. I will reduce my use of banks, but that's about the limit of my options (incidentally, Bank of America, the second bank, can kiss my ass for their rude customer service). Other than that, I must be content with saying "goddamn, I hate the federal government."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Gay Marriage: The Final Word

I don’t see much to argue with here except to point out that while marriage was created to serve certain ends, there is nothing to indicate those ends cannot change. Additionally, I don’t see how marriage falls into either category of a fixed concept, which lends credence to the assertion that it is a malleable concept.
The ends marriage was created to serve may change, but what should that mean for marriage? Marriage can either change (impossible if it's a fixed concept) or it could always perish, replaced by a different social arrangement based on a different concept. If gay marriage is an alteration of marriage, it's really a destruction of it and a replacement by a new institution, based on a new concept. That still doesn't refute the immutabilty of the concept; in fact, it reinforces it.
I agree that a marriage involves certain features. It involves at least two people creating a contract and the contracting parties receiving benefits from the government. I don’t see any reason why a contract between homosexual couple (or other combinations) cannot have those features. Certainly there are more features to traditional religious marriage, but that’s not the issue. The issue is state-sanctioned “marriage,” which probably needs quotation marks more than gay marriage needs them.
That's a definition of marriage pregnant with legal meaning. I've already admitted that the government may institute any arrangement it wants, and give it any name it wants, but this does not change reality. If marriage is nothing more than a relationship of contracting parties with certain statutory benefits accruing to that particular contractural relationship, then the government can change it at will. If marriage is something else, nothing the government does cn really change it.
There is no real meaning of state-sanctioned marriage outside the legal meaning. It’s a creation of the state. There is no separate real meaning of social security or welfare; the legal meaning is the real meaning.

Incidentally, I think the pi story is an urban legend.
Really? But state-sanctioned marriage did not arise ex nihilo. Nor do I think it useful to concentrate on marriage-as-sacrament, because even irreligious cultures have the institution, and marriage exists across very different religious beliefs anyway. Marriage as an institution is prior to the government, unlike some other institutions, like corporations, which are properly described as legal fictions. Having the state recognize marriage is an attempt to give legal meaning (and legal enforcement) to an aspect of culture. The legal status of marriage depends for its existence on cultural attitudes toward marriage. I would suggest that those attitudes are incompatible with homosexual civil unions.

I was thinking of the Indiana legislature thing, which apparently is erroneously described as an attempt to redefine pi. Internet 1 Vernunft 0.
If you mean “gay marriage (of the traditional religious meaning),” then yes, it appears nonsensical. However, the debate is over benefits and state recognition, so the information communicated is a contractual relationship granted benefits by the state. It would not be a marriage in the eyes of many religions, but there is a difference between religious marriage and legal marriage. Gay marriage is clearly a shorthand for a type of the latter, since the proponents are arguing for state recognition and not religious recognition.
And there is a third meaning of marriage between "religious marriage" and "legal marriage." A tolerant, pluralistic social arrangement is still capable of entertaining norms of conduct and universal institutions. Marriage is intimately connected with religion, but that is simply because the entire culture of the West is intimately connected with religion. Marriage is effectively secular for a great many people, even in this country. I do not think that those people believe they are merely paying their respects to the State, but that they are engaging in the performance of a socially-important, secular "ritual" the legal consequences of which are less important than the ritual.

Strangely enough, gay marriage may be compatible with religious marriage, for some sects. I don't think that gay marriage is compatible with the institution as created for the benefit of intelligent primates living in organized society.