"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Story

I know -- I've been absent -- half the news, which just gets more and more depressing (Carrie Fisher and George Michael, within a day?), and half a miserable cold which is, slowly, getting better.

But, I promised you mini-stories at Green Man Review, and there's one up today, so check it out.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

What's New at Green Man Review

A pretty wide selection today, so click on over and take your pick.

Carol of the Bells

My favorite Christmas carol, in my favorite version:

Santa Tracker Update

Here's more on the story of how the Santa Tracker got started:

This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup's secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

Shoup's children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.

The Santa Tracker tradition started with this Sears ad, which instructed children to call Santa on what turned out to be a secret military hotline. Kids today can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk to NORAD staff about Santa's exact location.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. "Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number," she says.

"This was the '50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States," Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. "And then there was a small voice that just asked, 'Is this Santa Claus?' "

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

"And Dad realized that it wasn't a joke," her sister says. "So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho'd and asked if he had been a good boy and, 'May I talk to your mother?' And the mother got on and said, 'You haven't seen the paper yet? There's a phone number to call Santa. It's in the Sears ad.' Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus."

There's more. Click through a read the whole thing.

Via Digby.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

And Beginning This Evening


"Nes Gadol Haya Sham" (A Great Miracle Happened There) was recorded completely in Israel. The song compares the lights of the hanukkiah/menorah to the Light in our hearts. When people see the symbol of a lit hanukkiah/menorah in the window they should remember that "a great miracle happened there" in Israel at the time of the Maccabees when the nation survived violent persecution and the Temple was restored to Israel and rededicated. Likewise, when people see us we should be like a living hanukkiah/menorah of Light so that when they see our lives they can recognize that "a great miracle happened there" in our hearts!

From the video description at YouTube.

Via Balloon Juice

On the Lighter Side

Now that the Hairpiece has decided to ramp up his nuclear war rhetoric, it's time for a break -- and, given the season, what better than NORAD's Santa Tracker?

There are few Christmas traditions in the U.S. that are prized and anticipated quite as much as the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD) efforts to track Santa Claus.

For the remaining 363 days of the year, the joint U.S. and Canadian agency monitors the North American territory for aerospace or maritime threats. However, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the agency is tasked with keeping tabs on the whereabouts of the jolly man in the red suit, and relaying the information to millions of children (and even some adults) from around the world who call and email, requesting an estimate on when to expect a gift delivery. The practice has been in place for 61 years.

It initially began completely by accident in 1955, when Sears department store misprinted a phone number in an advertisement it placed in a Colorado Springs newspaper, urging kids to dial Santa directly. Instead the phone calls went to Colorado Springs' Continental Air Defense Command Center (CONRAD). Not wanting to crush the spirits of children, then-colonel Harry Shoup told his colleagues to play along and provide callers with Santa’s exact location. NORAD replaced CONRAD in 1958, and the tradition has continued.

And if you want to follow Santa's progress yourself:

Thursday, December 22, 2016


I really don't know why I surf the news any more. There are no surprises -- the North Carolina legislature did not repeal HB2 as promised (these are people with no morals, no ethics, no integrity, and no standards -- also known as "Republicans"); Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter have revealed themselves to be white supremacists -- again; Donald Trump has named another oligarch to his administration; Roy Moore is being considered to replace Jeff Sessions in the US Senate (I guess the governor wants to get the closest match possible -- a raving homophobe to replace a raving racist).

Happily, every once in a while you run into a story like this:

A gay couple have been receiving hundreds of letters to their apartment addressed to Santa Claus.

Jim Glaub and Dylan Parker started receiving the letters back in 2010 after they moved into their apartment on 22nd Street, Manhattan.

The pair had been warned of the letter before they moved in, with previous tenants of the apartment saying they received a handful of letters for Santa.

“They never answered them because it was only three or four letters a year,” Glaub, 36, told PEOPLE.

“And the first two years I lived there, it was that exact thing. I’d get three letters and I didn’t really think anything of it. I was like, ‘Oh, sorry — wrong number.’”

After a couple of letters trickled in the first year, the gay couple, who have now been married four years, started receive more and more.

It’s at that point they decided to start replying to the messages.

How many of us would do that? Even if it's only three or four a year. As it turned out, they received 450 letters by Christmas Day, 2010.

But wait:

The couple struggled to cope with the huge influx of letters, so set up a Facebook group and used their friendship group to reply to every letter.

They set up a Facebook group, Miracle on 22nd Street, where strangers from all over the world have taken to writing replies.

“It’s just so strange! It’s caused this global effort!” Glaub, a marketing executive, says.

“We’ve had people from Hawaii to Alaska, Germany to London, Nicaragua, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo — all helping. I guess that’s the power of social media.

“Why would a woman from Abu Dhabi care about some family from Corona, Queens? It’s amazing.”

Social media does have an upside.

And now you know the source of my optimism about humanity: I'm convinced we're hard-wired to take care of each other. Republicans are an aberration.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

E-Mails!!1!: There Was No There There

Guess what the result of the FBI "reopening" the e-mails investigation a few days before the election:

The FBI told a federal judge that it needed to search a computer to resume its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server because agents had found correspondence on the device between Clinton and top aide Huma Abedin — though they did not have any inkling what was being discussed, according to newly unsealed court documents.

The documents, made public Tuesday after a Los Angeles lawyer sued for their release, reinforce the impression that when the bureau revealed less than two weeks before the election that agents were again investigating Clinton, they had no new evidence of actual wrongdoing. The FBI’s revelation upended the presidential campaign, and to this day, Clinton and her supporters say it is at least partly to blame for her surprising loss to Donald Trump.

There's more at HuffPo:

The warrant connected to the FBI search that Hillary Clinton says cost her the election shouldn’t have been granted, legal experts who reviewed the document released on Tuesday told The Huffington Post.

FBI Director James Comey shook up the presidential race 11 days before the election by telling Congress the agency had discovered new evidence in its previously closed investigation into the email habits of Clinton, who was significantly ahead in the polls at the time.

When Comey made the announcement, the bureau did not have a warrant to search a laptop that agents believed might contain evidence of criminal activity. The FBI set out to rectify that two days later, on Oct. 30, when agents applied for a warrant to search the laptop, which was already in the FBI’s possession. The FBI had seized the computer as part of an investigation into former Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

The unsealed warrant “reveals Comey’s intrusion on the election was as utterly unjustified as we suspected at time,” Brian Fallon, a Clinton campaign spokesman, said on Twitter Tuesday.

Read this whole article -- it gets worse. Much worse.

Via Dibgy, who notes:

I know that it's considered whining to be concerned about this but seriously, we should be concerned about this. The FBI is the most powerful domestic intelligence and police agency in the country. In the world, actually. It's really a big deal if they interfere in democratic elections. In fact, it's the mark of authoritarian states.

The problem with the warrant really is beside the point. They didn't seek the warrant until after Comey had dropped his bombshell. If they hadn't gotten the warrant it's unlikely it would have made any different. Comey had already tainted the election in the final stretch and it wouldn't have helped. Still, it's outrageous all on its own that this warrant application was "garbage" and that James Comey almost certainly had to have approved it.

If Comey simply "made a mistake" then he should be removed from office because that level of bad judgement means he is incapable of doing the job. If he did this in order to head off Giuliani's pro-Trump FBI agents leaking to the media, then he's lost control of his agency and he also needs to be removed. (And again, it would show monumental bad judgement since a notice coming from the FBI director would be far more damaging than any anonymous leaks to the press from rogue FBI agents. ) And then there's the fact that Comey may have taken the action he did for straight up political purposes. He was deputy counsel for the Republican Senate Whitewater Committee which leaked like a sieve and was outrageously partisan. He should be fired for that.

Whatever James Comey's motives, his actions and that of his agents who seemed to be working on behalf of Donald Trump should be investigated, just as the alleged Russian hacking must be investigated. (Indeed, his unwillingness to put his weight behind a bipartisan statement about the Russian hacking merits an investigation of its own.) This was a world-changing event.

I said at the time it was Comey playing politics. We got a good sense of where he was coming from in July, when he called a press conference to announce that the FBI had found nothing actionable in its investigation -- while taking the opportunity smear Clinton as much as he could. The maddening thing about this is that, in spite of flouting normal procedure, a direct advisory from the Attorney General, and quite possibly violating the Hatch Act, Comey will face no consequences.

And let me add that I think Digby's concerns about the role of the FBI in this whole debacle are fully justified, and only exacerbated by the news that Trump plans to maintain his own private security even after he's sworn in.

Welcome to post-democracy America.

Yay! (Knock on Wood)

It looks as though the layout of the blog has corrected itself -- side bars on the side and footer at the foot.

Cross your fingers.

Culture Break: Béla Bartók: Winter Solstice Song

From "For Children", Vol. 1, No. 38. Performed by Bulgheroni Elia, eight years old.

A lively little tune for those of us in the winter doldrums.

The days are getting longer.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Today's Must-Read: The Russian Factor

Josh Marshall has what I think is a pretty good summary of why the Russian hacking of Democrats' e-mails had the result it did, although I think he understates it a little:

The administration did a huge amount over the course of the fall to alert the public, alert the world was happening. They finally went so far as to issue a public consensus judgment of the entire US intelligence community about Russian tampering in the election.

This was loud. Everybody heard about it. It was widely reported. It certainly didn't get the same volume or intensity of attention as Hillary Clinton's emails. But the President can't control press coverage. The key issue was that political partisanship by and large kept Republicans from caring. The dynamics of the presidential contest were more important than foreign meddling or sabotage.

It's not, in my opinion, that the Republicans didn't care. It's that they welcomed it. The conservative focus has been narrowed down to "will it help us gain/maintain power"? That's the only question of any importance to them. If you doubt that, take a look at what's happening in North Carolina, now that a Democrat has won the governor's office. Oh, and let's not forget God's chosen and all their bullshit about "traditional values." It's all about power.

On the whole, though, Marshall's got it pinned down, although there is one more notion on which I think he's once again understated the issue:

The vast majority, I would say basically all of what the Russians found, was pedestrian and inconsequential. I would say that it had a small to marginal effect on the outcome. But it was an extremely close election that can be enough to make the difference. Can you imagine the emails within the RNC as Trump went from being the scourge and mortal enemy to man of destiny? But having close to all of one side's private communication dribbled out into the public realm and fluffed up by a credulous press was obviously damaging.
(Emphasis added.)

It's not that the leaks were "fluffed up" -- they were eagerly sought after and trumpeted from the rooftops by a press that was on an anti-Clinton feeding frenzy. My own take is that the American press did at least as much as the Russians to tilt the election in Trump's favor. Putin just provided the ammunition.

What's New at Green Man Review

Yep, it's that time again. Good stuff, including a lot in the holiday spirit, so click on through.

It occurred to me that I should mention our stories, little fictions published on Wednesdays which are quite entertaining. I've contributed a few, so you should check them out. (Not that I'm tooting my own horn or anything.) Here's a sample.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Today's Must-Read: Useful Idiots

Paul Krugman (and why has this man never been appointed to a high-level government position? We need someone like him.) lays it out:

On Wednesday an editorial in The Times described Donald Trump as a “useful idiot” serving Russian interests. That may not be exactly right. After all, useful idiots are supposed to be unaware of how they’re being used, but Mr. Trump probably knows very well how much he owes to Vladimir Putin. Remember, he once openly appealed to the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Still, the general picture of a president-elect who owes his position in part to intervention by a foreign power, and shows every sign of being prepared to use U.S. policy to reward that power, is accurate.

But let’s be honest: Mr. Trump is by no means the only useful idiot in this story. As recent reporting by The Times makes clear, bad guys couldn’t have hacked the U.S. election without a lot of help, both from U.S. politicians and from the news media.

Let me explain what I mean by saying that bad guys hacked the election. I’m not talking about some kind of wild conspiracy theory. I’m talking about the obvious effect of two factors on voting: the steady drumbeat of Russia-contrived leaks about Democrats, and only Democrats, and the dramatic, totally unjustified last-minute intervention by the F.B.I., which appears to have become a highly partisan institution, with distinct alt-right sympathies.

He goes on from there, and no one gets away unscathed. Read it.

Footnote: The President's final press conference makes a nice coda.

Friday, December 16, 2016

And This Is A Surprise?

Bradd Jaffy Verified account

Unless Trump picks a diverse Secretary of Agriculture, the line of succession to the presidency would be 12 white guys — via @maddow


Thursday, December 15, 2016

There Is an Alternative

Justin Trudeau seems to have a rational take on how to deal with the eroding middle class, refugees, climate change, and pretty much everything else:

Last year, at a time when Trump was being described as a long shot for president and the threat of Brexit seemed a distant possibility, Trudeau, 44, swept to a majority government on an ambitious platform that included addressing growing inequality and creating real change for the country’s middle class.

One year on, what has emerged is a government that seems to go against the political tide around the world; open to trade, immigration and diversity and led by a social media star whose views on feminism, Syrian refugees and LGBT rights have provoked delight among progressives.

But as he enters his second year in power, Trudeau – a former high school teacher and snowboarding instructor – is under pressure to show the world that his government has found an alternative means of tackling the concerns of those who feel they’ve been left behind.

He cited the signing of Ceta – the free trade deal between the EU and Canada – and a hotly contested decision to approve two pipelines as examples of this approach.

“We were able to sign free trade agreement with Europe at a time when people tend to be closing off,” he said. “We’re actually able to approve pipelines at a time when everyone wants protection of the environment. We’re being able to show that we get people’s fears and there are constructive ways of allaying them – and not just ways to lash out and give a big kick to the system.”

What a refreshing dose of rationality.

Today's Must-Read: Willful Ignorance

This piece by Brody Levesque at NCRM lays out something that others seem to be missing. The meat:

“He just doesn't get it. Every action he takes, every tweet he sends, every public pronouncement he makes has a direct impact on more than just foreign policies and U.S. interests. He is displaying willing effort to remain ignorant about matters than change in mere hours or even minutes – that impact not just national security but global stability.”

Famed journalist Dan Rather took the President-elect to task too, saying, “Forget talking about the Trump Administration. The question now is whether this will be a Trump Putin Administration or a Putin Trump Administration.”

It's beyond Trump claiming he doesn't need intelligence briefings because he's a "smart person" -- it's a determination to remain ignorant of critically important information.

And it's beyond Russia putting him in office (which, of course, is something we should be really pissed off about): there are other players that Trump seems to be going out of his way to offend, starting with China.

It's been a long time since this country could operate as though it's the only country that matters. This idiot could really screw everything up royally.

Read the whole thing.

Footnote: And this.

Rep. Chris Collins has some advice for us. Just move on, give it up, nothing to see here.

"I don't think we should continue investigations because at the end, what do we really accomplish," Collins said. "We need to unite the country."

I'm not going to bother with comparisons to Benghazi!!1! or E-Mails!!1! (and thank you, James Comey, for doing your part to saddle us with this nightmare). But I seem to remember someone, maybe about eight years ago, a little less, refusing to investigate members of the previous administration for war crimes, saying "We need to move on and unite the country."

Things like that have a way of coming back to bite you in the ass. Especially when you've established a precedent of "No consequences."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What's New at Green Man Review

Yep -- it's Sunday again, and some interesting stuff at Green Man Review. Click on through to see what's what.

Another Must-Read: Compassion (Update)

From Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo. It's largely a scathing indictment of right-wing "morality" and how we lost our bearings, but this summation strikes me as apt:

What strikes me is how this research echoes something paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey said about Turkana Boy in speculating about the development of compassion in early Man:

Bipedalism carried an enormous price, where compassion was what you paid your ticket with. You simply can't abandon somebody who's incapacitated because the rest will abandon you next time it comes to be your turn.

There but for the grace of God. Compassion has an evolutionary advantage, Leakey suggests. Perhaps it is what helped us rise above the law of the jungle.

This goes back to my conviction that our morality -- the real thing, not the Bronze Age tribal taboos -- is hard-wired, or close to it: we're social animals, which implies that our primary moral imperative is to work for the benefit of the group, which necessarily (in most cases) works to our own good.

The American right seems to have dispensed with that idea.

Update: In support of that last statement, read this and this.

Welcome to Putin's America (Update)

Given the indicators that were waving in the breeze during the later stages of the campaign, I can't say that I'm surprised at this. Washington Post broke the story:

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

The Hairpiece camp is pooh-poohing the report, obviously. McTurtle isn't talking. The article is a must-read.

There are stories relating to pieces of this all over the place. Rachel Maddow sums up the various aspects nicely. I can't embed the video, but here's the link.

Update: I stand vindicated in my dark suspicions. From Josh Marshall:

We've known this for months. We knew it while the campaign was going on. The major new revelation is that the CIA believes Russia intervened in the US election not merely with the aim of disrupting or delegitimizing the electoral process but with the specific aim of electing Trump. But again, we already knew this. If Russian intelligence was behind the hacking of the DNC and Podesta emails, of course they were trying to elect Trump. The intelligence briefing Senators got back in September was not definitive on this point of intention. But to suggest otherwise is to believe you can intend to knock over the bottle but be agnostic on spilling the milk. Of course, they were trying to elect Trump.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

About the Page Layout

I don't know if this is happening on anyone else's browser, but suddenly when I view the blog, all the sidebars are down at the bottom and the copyright notice is up where the sidebars should be. When I try to edit the layout, everything is where it should be. There doesn't seem to be anything I can do to correct it, so I'll just have to hope that it will correct itself.

Marriage News

One thing we tend not to think about in the ongoing battle over same-sex marriage in this country is how the Indian tribes and nations are dealing with it. This story brought the question front and center:

While a tribal court recently avoided ruling on the issue, the Cherokee Nation will begin recognizing same-sex marriages under an opinion issued Friday by the tribe’s attorney general, who said that Cherokees practiced something similar to gay marriage in past centuries.

While agreeing that the tribe, as a sovereign nation itself, was not bound by the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made gay marriage legal in all 50 states, Todd Hembree echoed the court’s reasoning, deciding that the tribe’s own constitution “protects the fundamental right to marry” regardless of the genders involved in the relationship.

This may not be the final word, if the council decides to get involved, but the opinion does take effect immediately. If you're interested, the full opinion is here.

One thing that came up in the comments on the post at Towleroad impelled me to do a little checking. As of now, thirty-three jurisdictions among the Indian nations and tribes specifically recognize and/or permit same-sex marriages; another seventy-two have laws that are ambiguous but do not forbid it. There are ten that specifically do not permit same-sex marriages.

One other thing that struck me about Hembree's opinion: He does note that before European contact, alternative gender roles and sexual orientations were recognized and, according to some early accounts, may have been formalized. (Pages 3 ff. of the full opinion, which PDF will not let me copy and paste.) This is something that seems to hold true for any number of societies before Western contact and the introduction of Christianity.

Take that for what it's worth.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Saturday Science on Friday: Dinosaur Feathers

Just a little bit, 'cause it's exciting. They've found them, still attached to the dinosaur -- well, to part of it.

The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur, including bones, soft tissue, and even feathers, has been found preserved in amber, according to a report published today in the journal Current Biology.

While individual dinosaur-era feathers have been found in amber, and evidence for feathered dinosaurs is captured in fossil impressions, this is the first time that scientists are able to clearly associate well-preserved feathers with a dinosaur, and in turn gain a better understanding of the evolution and structure of dinosaur feathers. . . .
The semitranslucent mid-Cretaceous amber sample, roughly the size and shape of a dried apricot, captures one of the earliest moments of differentiation between the feathers of birds of flight and the feathers of dinosaurs. (Learn more about the evolutionary relationship between dinosaurs and birds.)
Inside the lump of resin is a 1.4-inch appendage covered in delicate feathers, described as chestnut brown with a pale or white underside.

Click through and read the whole thing. Lots more information, and lots of gorgeous -- and very informative -- pictures.

Idiots du Jour

Which would be the majority of the Arkansas Supreme Court who came up with this decision:

Arkansas' highest court on Thursday threw out a judge's ruling that could have allowed all married same-sex couples to get the names of both spouses on their children's birth certificates without a court order, saying it doesn't violate equal protection "to acknowledge basic biological truths."

The state Supreme Court also issued a rare admonishment to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, saying he made "inappropriate remarks" in his ruling that struck down the birth certificate law. Fox had cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing gay marriage in his ruling last year that said married same-sex couples should have both names listed on their children's birth certificates, just as heterosexual married couples do, without requiring a court order. . . .

"What is before this court is a narrow issue of whether the birth-certificate statutes as written deny the appellees due process," Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote in the court's majority opinion. "...In the situation involving the female spouse of a biological mother, the female spouse does not have the same biological nexus to the child that the biological mother or the biological father has. It does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths."

The stupidity evidenced here is staggering.

Right up front, birth certificates are not about biological parentage, they are about legal parentage: who has legal responsibility for the child. Under the Arkansas court's thinking, a child born through artificial insemination to a woman whose husband is sterile should have the (anonymous) sperm donor listed as the father. A child born through surrogacy should have the surrogate listed as the mother. Neither a sperm donor nor a surrogate has legal responsibility for the child.

The bias in this opinion is only compounded by the fact that it quotes the portion of Obergefell that says listing as parent/spouse on birth and death certificates as among the rights and benefits of marriage that must be accorded to same-sex couples, and then declares that part of the opinion irrelevant to the question of whether both same-sex parents must be listed on a child's birth certificate.

The Court mentioned birth certificates only once, stating,

Indeed, while the States are in general free to vary the benefits they confer on all married couples, they have throughout our history made marriage the basis for an expanding list of governmental rights, benefits, and responsibilities. These aspects of marital status include: taxation; inheritance and property rights; rules of intestate
succession; spousal privilege in the law of evidence; hospital access; medical decisionmaking authority; adoption rights; the rights and benefits of survivors; birth and death certificates; professional ethics rules; campaign finance restrictions; workers’ compensation benefits; health insurance; and child custody, support, and visitation rules.

Obergefell, ___ U.S. at ___, 135 S. Ct. at 2601. This single mention of birth certificates was related only to its observation that states conferred benefits on married couples, which in part demonstrated that “ the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same-sex couples.” Id. at ___, 135 S.Ct. at 2599.

The full slip opinion is here.

Depending on how fast this gets to the Supreme Court, if the Court decides to hear it at all, rather than remanding it back to the state court, it will go down in flames, 5-3. Even if the Hairpiece manages to get an appointment through the Senate, it will still be 5-4.

And, just in case you were wondering, bias is alive and well in Arkansas.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Mayor Gets It Right

Well, Mayor Emanuel has finally done something I can approve of:

During his 45-minute meeting with the president-elect in his personal office high above Manhattan in Trump Tower, Emanuel hand-delivered a letter from the mayors of some of the nation's largest cities urging Trump to continue protections offered to young immigrants instituted under President Barack Obama's administration.

The two-page letter asked Trump to continue Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the so-called DACA provision that protects young so-called Dreamers who came to the country before the age of 16 from deportation and allows them to study and work in the U.S.

"I delivered to the president-elect and his senior adviser and his chief of staff a letter signed by 14 mayors that, uh, put together from across the country about our DACA students. And that they were working hard towards the American dream," Emanuel told reporters in the Trump Tower lobby following the meeting.

"And all of us fundamentally believe that those are students, those are also people that want to join the armed forces. They gave their name, their address, their phone number, where they are. They are trying to achieve the American dream, no fault of their own their parents came here. They are something we should hold up and embrace," the mayor added.

Like most American cities, Chicago is a city of immigrants, from just about everywhere. (This is fun, from Wikipedia:

The main ethnic groups in Chicago include Irish, German, Italian, Mexican, Assyrian, Arab, Bangladeshi, Jews, English, Bosnian, Croatian, Bulgarian, Czech, Greek, Black, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Albanian, Pakistani, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Swedish, Ukrainian, Dutch, Belgian, Cuban, and Puerto Rican. Chicago is also home to 30,000 natives of Iran (mostly Azerbaijani).

I don't think this city would be nearly as much fun if it weren't for the ethnic mix.

Today in Trump's America

Ilhan Omar; image via Twitter
It's getting to the point where it's not safe to get in a cab any more -- unless you're white and male:

The nation’s first elected Somali-American lawmaker Wednesday said she was the target of the “most hateful, derogatory, islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats” she’s ever experienced when a cab driver transporting her from the White House to her hotel called her ISIS and threatened to remove her hijab.

Here's her Facebook post:

Ilhan Omar
17 hours ago

I spent yesterday afternoon at the White House, learning about policy ideas states could implement in the areas I am passionate about. On my way to our hotel, I got in a cab and became subjected to the most hateful, derogatory, islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats I have ever experienced. The cab driver called me ISIS and threatened to remove my hijab, I wasn't really sure how this encounter would end as I attempted to rush out of his cab and retrieve my belongs. I am still shaken by this incident and can't wrap my head around how bold being are becoming in displaying their hate towards Muslims. I pray for his humanity and for all those who harbor hate in their hearts.

I'm having trouble wrapping my head around this -- maybe because in my neighborhood so many of the taxi drivers are Somali or Ethiopian.

And what do you suppose it's going to be like not so many years in the future when Syrians and Iraquis start running for office?

Giggle du Jour

Because, y'know, it's the War on Christmas and all that:

View image on Twitter

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Culture Break: Steve Goodman: City of New Orleans

Somehow this seemed appropriate for the time, as we watch what, barring a miracle, is our incoming administration floundering around while stacking the deck against most of us. The refrain, I think, is what does it: "Good morning, America, how are you? Don't you know me, I'm your native son."

This version is probably better known:

What We're Losing

Via C&L, President Obama's speech to the troops at MacDill Air Force Base -- his "final words" as Commander-in-Chief. Here's the meat:

So let my final words to you, as your Commander-in-Chief, be a reminder of what it is that you are fighting for, what it is that we are fighting for. The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom. We’re a country that was founded so that people could practice their faiths as they choose. The United States of America is not a place where some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny, or carry a special I.D. Card, or prove that they are not an enemy from within. We are a country that has bled and struggled and sacrificed against that kind of discrimination and arbitrary rule, here in our own country and around the world.

We’re a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted, and that each of us has a responsibility to sustain it. The universal right to speak your mind and to protest against authority. To live in a society that’s open and free. That can criticize our president without retribution. A country where you’re judged by the content of your character, rather than what you look like, or how you worship, or what your last name is, or where your family came from. That’s what separates us from tyrants and terrorists.

We are a nation that stands for the rule of law, and strengthened the laws of war. When the Nazis were defeated, we put them on trial. Some couldn’t understand that. It had never happened before. But as one of the American lawyers who was at Nuremberg said, “I was trying to prove that the rule of law should govern human behavior,” and by doing so, we broadened the scope and reach of justice around the world. Held ourselves out as a beacon and an example for others.

We are a nation that won world wars without grabbing the resources of those we defeated. We helped them rebuild. We didn’t hold on to territory, other than the cemeteries where we buried our dead. Our greatest generation fought and bled and died to build an international order of laws and institutions that could preserve the peace, and extend prosperity and promote cooperation among nations. And for all of its imperfections, we depend on that international order to protect our own freedom.

In other words, we are a nation that, at our best, has been defined by hope and not fear. A country that went through the crucible of a civil war to offer a new birth of freedom, that stormed the beaches of Normandy, climbed the hills of Iwo Jima, that saw normal people mobilize to extend the freedom of civil rights. That’s what makes us who we are. It makes us stronger than any act of terror.

Remember that history. Remember what that flag stands for. For we depend on you. The heirs to that legacy. Our men and women in uniform, and the citizens who support you, to carry forward what is best in us, that commitment to a common creed, the confidence that right makes might, not the other way around.

I didn't agree with him sometimes on specifics, and I felt he was too willing to negotiate with Republicans, who don't have the word "compromise" in their vocabulary. But he's a class act. Pity all we have to follow that with is a fraud.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Happy Merry Blessed Whatever

Yeah, it's "war on Christmas" time, with all the attendant pouting and histrionics. We all know that no one is making war on Christmas; we're all just a) recognizing that everyone has a winter solstice festival, and b) ignoring the assumption of Christian dominance. I think it's the ignoring that bothers the likes of Bill O'Reilly the most.

At any rate, here's a piece from Robbie Medwed, who describes himself as a "decently observant Jew," that takes a look at the phenomenon, with particular attention to America's favorite deadbeat dad and ex-Illinois congressman, Joe Walsh.

It's pretty much on the mark, but there's one point on which I take issue with both Walsh and Medwed:

Joe Walsh✔

Take away Christmas at this time of the year and what do you have?


That's cuz it's the Christmas season.

Merry Christmas.
8:48 PM - 3 Dec 2016

Aside from being factually incorrect, it’s just absurd. If we take away Christmas at this time of year, you know what we have? Another day, just like any other. Dec. 25 would still exist. No catastrophe would take its place and no one would disappear from the Earth because of it.

Medwed does go on to acknowledge that fact that there are other solstice festivals, but I think he misses the point: They all acknowledge, in some way, the turning of the year, no matter the specific event they are ostensibly celebrating.

OK -- that's all I've got to say about the "war on Christmas," except to say that if someone wishes me a "Merry Christmas," I'm not enough of an asshole that I'm going to respond with something like "Blessed Yule." As I remarked to the Iranian gentleman who owned the store where I used to buy cigarettes when he was concerned that I might be offended when he wished me "Inshallah," I'm not one to be offended by a blessing offered in good will.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

What's New at Green Man Review

Lots of fun stuff today -- great books, wild music, and chocolate! So scoot on over.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Looks Like Not Everyone's on Board

Paul Ryan and the teabaggers want to repeal Obamacare and gut Medicare as quickly as possible, before there's time for opponents to get their act together. Lamar Alexander is the second Republican I've seen saying "chill a minute."

A senior U.S. Senate Republican warned his party on Thursday against simultaneously overhauling Medicare and the Obamacare health insurance program, saying this would be “biting off more than you can chew.”

The cautionary comments from Senator Lamar Alexander came after House Speaker Paul Ryan, long an advocate of privatize Medicare, said Republican lawmakers would be discussing reforms of the health insurance program for the elderly with President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

Ryan's claims about Medicare are pretty much standard GOP alarmist bullshit:

Ryan earlier Thursday said that Medicare was on a path to going bankrupt around 2028, and needed reform, a repeat of his long-standing stance. He wants to convert the fee-for-service program into a system of subsidies for seniors, to buy coverage from private insurers or a scaled-back Medicare.

I'm inclined to take his warnings about insolvency with a grain of salt, at least, seeing as how he can't submit a budget proposal in which the numbers actually add up.

Just as a reminder, anyone remember the backlash when Bush the Lesser tried to privatize Social Security? Not pretty.

Yes, I Know

I haven't been commenting on the news lately. You hit a point where you just go numb, from sheer disbelief if nothing else: each nomination coming from the Hairpiece for high positions in his administration is worse than the last*, Kellyanne Conway is proving stiff competition for Tony Perkins for "Miss Mendacity," he's already started wheeling and dealing to land good deals for his companies, and there's only so much you can take.

Add in that the weather in Chicago is not helping: it's turned chilly and cloudy, which is not conducive to much.

One thing that did occur to me: Trump is pulling the same shit he pulled during the campaign: do or say something outrageous, something completely outside of any recognized norm, and the press will eat it up. He did it for fifteen months, at least in part as a smokescreen, and the press ate it up. They know he's doing it, and they're still eating it up, because it makes their bosses happy: the money, to quote one network CEO, is just rolling in.

So I am sitting here listening to some music from an online friend of old by the name of John Stone, whom I met when we were both reviewing for Epinions, before a series of acquisitions left it as part of eBay and they wiped all the reviews of items not on the eBay database and stopped accepting new reviews on Epinions. It's a selection of smaller pieces, and very nice stuff. If you should run across any of his music, I recommend it.

* The main reason to have the world's most powerful military is so that you don't have to use it. Duh. And this guy, who has not been on my radar before now, sounds like a real sicko.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Culture Break: Eric Whitacre: Cloudburst

I haven't listened to this for a while. It is rather calming, which I need right now -- I think we all do.

Whitacre is one of those contemporary composers who seems to have stumbled into composing backwards, as you can see if you read my review.