"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

Friday, November 28, 2014

Today In Disgusting People

Gary Bauer. I'm sure you've heard the name, although he doesn't seem to be as much in the limelight as the likes of Tony Perkins, Scott Lively, and Brian Brown (who just can't seem to get enough attention as NOM sinks under the tide). Alvin McEwen has a revealing post at Justice For All about Bauer's role in undercutting efforts by the Reagan administration to address the AIDS crisis, as late as they were.
And I remember, even though I was too young to take part in, the demand that Reagan address this issue. No one knows what would have happened had Reagan addressed the HIV/AIDS crisis sooner than he did. But it is rather nauseating and disturbing that there was someone in his cabinet who worked to undermine the fight against HIV/AIDS because he felt that those affected “deserved” what they got.

Read the whole post. It is, as I noted, illuminating, and even manages to give a good insight into what passes for morality on the "Christian" right.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's Thanksgiving (Updated)

But reading the news this morning, I wonder.

I'm not going to post any links about Ferguson, or the travesty of grand jury that didn't indict Darren Wilson, or the new "tax reform" deal that screws everyone but the rich and corporations, or any of the other top stories of the day.

I'm going to take it easy, have a nice dinner, maybe go to a movie later.

Updated to add: And even though there are a number of things I need to pick up, I absolutely refuse to shop at any retailer that is not a drug store or grocery today. They can all wait until later.

Enjoy your day.

Compare and Contrast

Two maps for you, the first the most recent map showing marriage equality states. Dark blue denotes those states with marriage equality (and note that Arkansas should be included):

Then there's the one showing states in which LGBTs are included in non-discrimination laws; dark green denotes those states that include transgender protections:


My only solace is that, with marriage equality, it will be harder for states to justify not including LGBTs in non-discrimination laws, especially considering the number of courts that have considered the historic discrimination against us.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Culture Break: Jorie Graham reads "Later in Life"

Jorie Graham is one of the more amazing poets I've run across, although not the best reader of her work. (Which seems to be a trait of poets, unless they've also been trained as actors.)

If you run across a copy, pick up her collection The Dream of a Unified Field -- it's a retrospective collection, but also an excellent introduction to her work. Some riveting stuff in there.

Like Dominoes Falling

Arkansas and Mississippi, both, in one day. The Arkansas ruling is a joy to read, not only for the conclusion but for its tightness and clarity. The Mississippi ruling manages a couple of swipes at Scalia and the 6th Circuit.

No updated maps yet, but the country's getting bluer and bluer. In that regard, at least.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Marriage News Watch, November 24, 2014 (Update)

We picked up three states with marriage this week. But in one of those states, some clerks are refusing to issue licenses. Alabama's attorneys are using a discredited anti-gay researcher to build a case for banning marriage. And we have more bad news for what's left of the National Organization for Marriage.

Citing the Regnerus (Witherspoon Foundation) study? At this stage of the game? Well, it's Alabama.

And I wrote about NOM's troubles here, although I did neglect to mention the $50,000+ fine they're facing in Maine, which is still outstanding.

Update: Equality Kansas has provided some clear information on the state of marriage in Kansas. And isn't Sam Brownback just a mean-spirited, spiteful little bitch?

On "Legal Immigrants"

Very interesting article by Ben Railton at TPM on the history of US immigration laws. The meat:

So if your ancestors came before the 1920s and weren’t prostitutes, criminals, or from one of those Asian nations [covered by extensions to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act]*, they remained unaffected by any laws, and so were still neither legal nor illegal. This might seem like a semantic distinction, but it’s much more; the phrase “My ancestors came here legally” implies that they “chose to follow the law,” yet none of these unaffected immigrants had to make any such choice, nor had any laws to follow.

(* -- See? There's always been a racist element in America.)

For the record, my father's family came over well before there were any "immigration laws" -- he and his siblings were all born here, my father in 1916. My mother's family was here well before the mid-19th century: my sister found a land transfer dated 1847 between one set of Strouds and another set of Strouds. (Of course, if you believe family history, which I'm inclined to do, at least some of my ancestors have been here for at least 12,000 years.)

The article is worth a read. Click through.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


I have to hand it to the "Christian" right -- even though they're doing as much damage as they can to human rights worldwide, they do provide some entertainment.

You may have heard about Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's invitation for married couples to post pictures of themselves kissing on their Facebook page. Apparently they didn't realize that people other than good "Christians" get married and also have access to the Internet -- you can guess who posted pictures:

Fans quickly responded to the challenge with photos of themselves and their spouses smooching for the camera. According to John Becker, however, some of those photos were deleted — because they featured same-sex couples.

Becker, who runs the LGBTQ blog The Bilerico Project, wrote on Tuesday, Nov. 11, that the picture he posted of himself and his husband was deleted from the comments section, along with other shots of same-sex twosomes.

"Oh no, I think I've been banned from the Duggar Family Official Facebook page! (I'm crying into my coffee cup right now, I assure you)," he shared on his own Facebook page, and on The Bilerico Project. "I posted this photo of Michael and me with the following comment: 'Happily married for nearly nine years; working hard for #MarriageEquality for all loving couples."

He continued: "It was getting lots of likes, but the Duggars must not have liked it very much — they pulled it down and blocked me from posting, liking, or commenting on the page altogether. How sad that they feel so threatened by other loving marriages."

I'm sure the Duggars see those responses as persecution, because we all know that if you disagree with "Christians," you're suppressing their religious freedom.

Well, it seems that the Duggars are a little more vicious than I had realized. So someone started a petition at change.org asking TLC to cancel their "reality" show (in sarcasm quotes because, after all, what do the Duggars know about reality?). Needless to say, the American "Family" Association jumped in with a Twitter campaign to Save the Duggars! You can imagine what happened:
At the core of the issue is not whether or not the Duggars should have their TV show, which reportedly has netted them millions of dollars. At the core of the issue is that TLC and the show's producers aren't being honest with the Duggar family's practices and beliefs. Also at issue is the outrageous hypocrisy that conservatives are claiming liberals have no right to boycott or petition a company about their beliefs, but conservatives claim they do.

So Twitter made sure that those lapses in transparency are being corrected.

Click through to read the tweets -- for some reason, I can't copy them from The New Civil Rights Movement.

The lesson is plain: If your mind is stuck in the early 19th century, avoid social media.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Snow's Not All Bad

A taste of things to come. At least the panda's enjoying it.

Saturday Science: The Evolution of Morality

I go on quite a bit about how human beings, as social animals, are more or less hard-wired toward what we call "moral behavior." As I usually phrase it, "Why do people form societies?" The answer, of course, is "For mutual benefit." (Actually, my usual answer is "I don't think it's so that the greediest and most dishonest can take everything," but that's usually when I'm debating "libertarians.")

Well, this morning I ran across this post from Undercover Blue at Hullabaloo, referencing this article by Indre Viskontas on the work of psychologist Paul Bloom. The article is not easy to excerpt, but click through -- it's short, and it has videos and stuff. Essentially, it summarizes Bloom's work with infants and toddlers on how compassion and a sense of fairness seem to be on display early on, based on babies' choices of the good guys (those who help or share) over the bad guys (those who do neither) as preferences -- they opt for the good guys.

This echoes the behavior of other primates exhibited both in research settings and in the wild: most of our relatives travel in groups, and they help each other out. Primate societies are marked by cooperation among the members, which from an evolutionary standpoint (you knew this was coming) has proven to be an adaptive trait: cooperation among members of the group enhances the survival of the group and, by extension, that of the individuals who make up the group.

There's always self-interest, though. In the realm of small children, Bloom discovered that, while perfectly happy to distribute someone else's treats in equal shares, when it comes to the child's own treats, it's a very different story. As they grow, however, that changes, as witness Viskontas' first anecdote in the article on Bloom's work:

At the playground, I watch my 10-month-old son beeline to the center of the sandbox where there is a bright pink shovel. But before he gets there, a rambunctious 2-year-old snatches up the coveted toy first. As my son watches the shovel slip away, a wobbly 14-month-old comes over and offers him a half-chewed cookie.

There's an element of tribalism in this. As Bloom notes, as quoted by Undercover Blue:
"But this compassion and this helping, it all pertains to the baby's own group," says Bloom. They are less naturally generous with out-group members.

By our natures, we strongly value those around us over strangers. And to the extent that you and I don't, to the extent that you and I might recognize that somebody suffering, I don't know, from the Ebola virus in Africa, is a life just as valuable as those of our closest friends and family, that's an extraordinary cultural accomplishment. And it's something that's not in the genes. It's not what we're born with.

And there we have an added wrinkle: culture building on inheritance.

(I don't think I need to emphasize how this applies to, say, contemporary American politics: it's a matter of expanding your perception of "Us" as opposed to "Them," and the trend in American history has always been toward a larger "Us." There's always been an element in American society, and others as well, that fails to make the leap. These days, we call them "Republicans.")

National Graphic did a special with Richard Leakey on his discoveries at Turkana in Africa, of which this clip addresses the issue under discussion here:

Self-interest? Yes, but also, as Leakey puts it, "bonding, care, love, affection, protection" -- which all boils down to "compassion."

If you look at any religion -- and most people, for some reason, consider the teachings of their religion as the basis of morality, rather than its codification -- you'll find that underlying all the codes of behavior, tribal taboos, and "history" is one basic precept: we take care of each other. (Some evoutionary theorists have hypothesized that we're also hard-wired for belief. Be interesting to see how they test that one.)

And I can already hear the objections: how can genetics determine something as complex as our understanding of morality? Well, in addition to instilling a tendency toward cooperation and compassion, evolution also gave us brains. You do the math.

(I'm going to refrain from commenting on the somewhat rudimentary sense of morality evidenced by the spokespersons of the "religious" right, except to note that their concern is with tribal taboos, not any real values. Although I will admit that imagining their reaction to the idea that morality is hard-wired gives me a great sense of satisfaction.)

This one has a lot of ramifications. Use your imagination.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

This Is Not A Culture Break

Take is as a metaphorical history of the marriage equality movement:

OK -- that was my sniffles attack for the day. Somehow, the "Ode to Joy" always has me laughing and crying at the same time.

Culture Break: Nickelback, "Gotta Be Somebody"

Yes, Nickelback is culture, in the broad sense. And this has always seemed to me like a particularly fitting song for the marriage equality movement. Chad Kroeger even washed his hair.

Looking at this one again, it's one really weird video. Really weird.

"Let Them Eat Cake"

I saw this story while surfing, yesterday I think, and my only thought was, "Mike Pence is a dick." In case you missed it, he was trying to rationalize kicking 65,000 residents of Indiana off of food stamps.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced last month that beginning in 2015, it would no longer request a waiver to the federal work requirement for certain people who use the SNAP program. Up to 65,000 single Hoosiers could lose food stamp benefits unless they are working 20 hours a week or attending job training.

Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday, Pence argued that 50,000 people had joined the Indiana workforce since 2008 so it was time to return to a “core principle” of welfare reform.

“How do you feel about people who say you are targeting poor people?” Fox News host Brian Kilmeade asked the governor.

“I’m someone that believes there’s nothing more ennobling to a person than a job,” Pence insisted. “And to make sure that able-bodied adults without dependants at home know that here in the state of Indiana, we want to partner with them in their success.”

“You know, it’s the old story,” he continued. “Give someone a fish, and they’ll eat for a day. Teach them to fish, they’ll eat for a lifetime. I think this is an idea whose time has come here in the state of Indiana.”

It's estimated that there are two million people out of work in the Midwest, but only a million jobs. Good luck with that fishing pole, Gov. Pence.

And it appears I'm not the only one who thinks he's a dick -- the Young Turks took a swing at him, too:

Thirty-Four? I'm Losing Count (Updated)

At any rate, add Montana to the list of marriage equality states. Via Joe.My.God.:

The Court hereby DECLARES that Montana’s laws that ban same-sex marriage, including Article XIII, section 7 of the Montana Constitution, and Montana Code Annotated section 40-1-103 and section 40-1-401, violate Plaintiffs’ rights to equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court PERMANENTLY ENJOINS the State of Montana and its officers, employees, agents, and political subdivisions from enforcing Article XIII, section 7 of the Montana Constitution, Montana Code Annotated section 40-1-103 and section 40-1-401, and any other laws or regulations, to the extent that they prohibit otherwise qualified same-sex couples from marrying in Montana, and to the extent that they do not recognize same-sex marriages validly contracted outside Montana. This injunction shall take effect immediately.
(Emphasis added.)

Yep, no stay. Marriages begin immediately. The full ruling is here.

The Republican Attorney General, Tim Fox, will, of course, appeal. His appeal will most likely go first to the Ninth Circuit, which has already struck down marriage bans in Nevada and Utah and is not likely to change its mind for Montana. He can appeal to SCOTUS, which has already declined to hear appeals from Nevada and Utah, so I doubt that he'll get any satisfaction there.

The Democratic Governor, Steve Bullock, has a different take entirely. Again, via Joe.My.God.:

Today’s decision ensures we are closer to fulfilling our promise of freedom, dignity, and equality for all Montanans. It is a day to celebrate our progress, while recognizing the qualities that bind us as Montanans: a desire to make a good life for ourselves and our families, while providing greater opportunities to the next generation. I have instructed my administration to quickly take all appropriate steps to ensure that we are recognizing and affording the same rights and responsibilities to legally married same-sex couples that all married Montanans have long enjoyed.

And of course, the map:

It appears that both Kansas and Missouri are going county by county and waiting for someone to make it statewide. Desperation makes people do weird things.

Update: Here's Timothy Kincaid's summary of the status of marriage equality as of today, with an updated map.

Now We Know

Why Brian Brown's fundraising appeals have gotten so desperate:

In a time when virtually every nightly newscast, political debate, even television series delves into discussions about marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, the beleaguered National Organization for Marriage (NOM) can’t seem to raise enough money to cover its expenses. According to analysis of the organization’s 2013 tax filings done by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), NOM raised $5.1 million in 2013, dropping by over 50% since 2012. Just 2 donors accounted for more than half of the organization’s funding – further evidence that everyday Americans have little interest in furthering NOM’s extremist agenda. In addition, the NOM Education Fund also dropped by nearly $3.5 million in funding -- a drop of almost 70% since the previous year. NOM ended the year more than $2.5 million in debt.

Any guesses on which two churches are the major donors? Oops -- did I say that out loud?

I don't normally gloat, but in this case, I'll make an exception.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I'm So Glad I Live In Illinois

This is an ad for something:

A nice little bit of reverse psychology to get young people to sign up for Obamacare.

As one commenter noted, now the Republicans have their replacement for the ACA.

Now if the state can just survive our new governor. (Even we make mistakes.)

Marriage: Of Course Marriage Discrimination Is Rational

Tweet from Chad Griffin, Executive Director of HRC:
Chad Griffin @ChadHGriffin

80yo Charles Manson will soon be getting married, but by all means don't let gay couples destroy sanctity of marriage!

4:20 PM - 17 Nov 2014

Here's the story.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Marriage News Watch, November 17, 2014

The official summary:
More victories this week. Marriage has started in Kansas, and a judge has overturned a ban in South Carolina but you still can't get married there yet. The lawyer who got DOMA overturned is now taking on Mississippi's marriage ban. And a few states are taking a closer look at overturning marriage bans at the ballot or in the legislature, just in case the Supreme Court doesn't come through for us.

Thirty-what? I can't keep track, it's happening so fast. Here's Wikipedia's most recent map:

  Same-sex marriage legal2
  Same-sex marriage performed elsewhere recognized
  Same-sex marriage legalization pending3
  No prohibition or recognition of same-sex marriage
  Judicial ruling(s) overturning a same-sex marriage ban stayed indefinitely pending appeal
  Same-sex marriage banned contrary to federal circuit precedent
  Same-sex marriage banned

1Native American tribal jurisdictions have laws pertaining to same-sex marriage independent of state law.
2 Same-sex marriage is legal in St. Louis, Missouri.
3 A ruling striking down Florida's same-sex marriage ban has been stayed until January 5, 2015. A ruling striking down South Carolina's same-sex marriage ban has been stayed until November 20, 2014.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Welcome to Feudal America (Update)

This story is just unbelievable:

To get the $15-an-hour job last spring, Almeida was required to sign a “restriction on competition” clause that said if he leaves, he can’t work for two years for any firm doing similar work in ServiceMaster’s “geographic area” — which the company’s lawyer told me means King, Snohomish, Island, Yakima and Kittitas counties.

ServiceMaster of Seattle, a franchise in a $3.4 billion national corporation, now is trying to force Almeida to forfeit his $18-an-hour job at Superior Cleaning of Woodinville.

The noncompete clause would mean Almeida also couldn’t work in any water- or fire-damage job, janitorial, office cleaning, window washing, floor or carpet cleaning or other job ServiceMaster does.

I've had to sign non-competition agreements, but I was a highly placed employee with inside information on clients, as well as personal relationships with many of them. But for a $15/hr janitorial job?

If something like this goes to the Supreme Court, expect a 5-4 decision in favor of the corporation.

Read the whole story at the link. It's pretty appalling.

Update: And they have all sorts of ways of screwing us. Just ran across this story, via Balloon Juice:

Tens of thousands of Americans who went through bankruptcy are still haunted by debts long after — sometimes as long as a decade after — federal judges have extinguished the bills in court.

The problem, state and federal officials suspect, is that some of the nation’s biggest banks ignore bankruptcy court discharges, which render the debts void. Paying no heed to the courts, the banks keep the debts alive on credit reports, essentially forcing borrowers to make payments on bills that they do not legally owe.

But there's a ray of hope?

Now lawyers with the United States Trustee Program, an arm of the Justice Department, are investigating JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Synchrony Financial, formerly known as GE Capital Retail Finance, suspecting the banks of violating federal bankruptcy law by ignoring the discharge injunction, say people briefed on the investigations.

The banks say that they comply with all federal laws in their collection and sale of debt.

Really. This is the Obama/Holder Justice Department. Frankly, I'm surprised they're investigating at all, especially with Holder getting ready to step down. I mean, what will he do for a job if he alienates the banksters?

Best case scenario: the banks get a slap on a wrist and maybe -- just maybe -- stop doing it for a while. Until no one's looking.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow. . . .

Add Kansas to the list:

marriage 2014

By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court has refused to grant a stay in Kansas' appeal of the district court decision finding the state's marriage ban unconstitutional.

14A503 Kansas Stay Denied by Equality Case Files

As others have noted, it's interesting, not that Scalia and Thomas would vote against lifting the stay -- that's a foregone conclusion -- but that they'd elect to publish their dissent. I mean, it's not like they're running for re-election. Alito voting to vacate surprised me a little, but I'm not counting on him in the long run.

And of course, Gov. Sam Brownback, who has already worked such wonders for Kansas (I understand the state is facing a $1.8 billion budget shortfall; time to close more schools), intends to keep on fighting the good fight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Through the Looking Glass Award: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Comcast)

By now I'm sure you've heard about Sen. Ted Cruz' tweet about Net Neutrality:

Gods. Where to start? How about my designation of Ted Cruz as (R-Comcast)? Turns out, he's one of many.

And of course, he's flipped reality on its head. His tweet was in response to this statement from the President:
An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.

“Net neutrality” has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas. That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.

Click through to read the whole thing.

In essence, Cruz is coming out against maintaining the free and open Internet that we now have. He wants the major ISPs -- Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, TimeWarner -- to be able to dictate who gets what content and what speeds. The battle-cry, of course, is "No regulation! Free market! Freedom!" This follow-up tweet from Cruz' communications director summarizes Cruz' bullshit statement neatly:

Amanda Carpenter @amandacarpenter

Net neutrality puts gov't in charge of determining pricing, terms of service, and what products can be delivered. Sound like Obamacare much?

9:51 AM - 10 Nov 2014

It's a lie, of course.

Ted Cruz and his team have the facts wrong about net neutrality. Obama specifically said the government would NOT be in charge of pricing: "I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services."

A lot of the commenters on various sites reporting this little dust-up assume Cruz is stupid. He's not. He's throwing red meat to his base. Besides, Obama supports Net Neutrality. Therefore, the Republicans are agin' it.

Given that the FCC's website entertained over 4 million comments from the public, overwhelmingly in favor of Net Neutrality, it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Marriage News Watch, November 10, 2014

The official summary:

Well we just capped off the busiest month in marriage equality history, but it's looking like November's going to be just as busy. Two judges in the Sixth Circuit just ruled against equality, which sets us up for a Supreme Court ruling in the coming months. And no sooner did the Sixth Circuit uphold marriage bans than a judge in West Virginia issued a ruling of his own, explaining why they're wrong. Plus, judges overturned marriage bans in Kansas and Missouri, with some complicated rules about who can get married and when.

I commented on the Sixth Circuit decision here.

And here's the juicy part of the West Virginia decision by Judge Robert Chambers:

Lambda Legal adds Chambers also offered a critique of the Sixth Circuit's ruling upholding four states' gay marriage bans, with Chambers stating that the appeals court:

"fail[ed] to recognize the role of courts in the democratic process. It is the duty of the judiciary to examine government action through the lens of the Constitution’s protection of individual freedom. Courts cannot avoid or deny this duty just because it arises during the contentious public debate that often accompanies the evolution of policy making throughout the states. Judges may not simultaneously find a right violated yet defer to an uncertain future remedy voluntarily undertaken by the violators."

Here's Judge Chambers' decision.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


If you haven't heard about this one, I'd love to know how you managed it. Here's a story on it from Towleroad.

And I'm including the video of Alex's appearance on Ellen, just because:

You should click through and check out the comments at Towleroad, not because they're particularly insightful, but because they're so typical. My only comment is "You people are really overthinking this." It's an internet craze, it'll be gone in a week to make way for the new meme. Alex seems dazed by the whole think, although from his appearance on Ellen he seems to be a very solid kid. (One thing about the reactions, and it may be purely subjective: several commenters noted how cute he is -- disparagingly, in some cases, but that's only to be expected -- but no one mentioned what beautiful eyes he has. Maybe that's just me.)

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Saturday Science: Wings

I am heartily sick of election post-mortems. Insects are a lot more interesting. The headline for this story sort of says it:

Insects flew 200 million years before any other animal had wings

And that's a long time ago:

The scientists went on to note that the first winged-insects likely came about 400 million years ago. That is a whopping 200 million years before any other organism on Earth acquired wings, and something scientists previously were unable to determine for certain. Currently, the oldest wing fossil that scientists have identified is one that is roughly 340 million years old.

It's not just that they were equipped to fly that early, but get this:

The first insects were found on earth right around the same time as the first land plants were found, according to the scientist who estimated that this took place about 480 million years ago. However, scientists noted that, this date, was nearly 70 million years earlier than the first insect fossil, or the oldest-known insect fossil.

And check out this article. It's focused on Kansas, but it's got some good general information.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Decision We've Been Waiting For

The Sixth Circuit has upheld marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The majority opinion, written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, is, quite frankly, garbage, starting with Sutton's assumption that Nelson v. Baker is still controlling -- which only two other courts have found to be the case, a district court in Louisiana and a district court in Puerto Rico.

Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey's dissent nails it in the first paragraph:
The author of the majority opinion has drafted what would make an engrossing TED Talk or, possibly, an introductory lecture in Political Philosophy. But as an appellate court decision, it wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional question in this appeal: whether a state’s constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage violates equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, the majority sets up a false premise—that the question before us is “who should decide?”—and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism.

The usual suspects are nearly wetting themselves from joy -- Brian Brown, somehow, didn't claim credit, while Tony Perkins simply hauled out his fill-in-the-blanks press release, particularly praising the "who should decide" language in Sutton's opinion -- but I suspect this won't last long -- the ACLU has announced that it will appeal the decision directly to the Supreme Court.

There's a lot of speculation on how the Supreme Court will fall on this one -- it's a foregone conclusion that they'll hear the appeal, since there is now a split in the circuits -- with the major focus being on Anthony Kennedy, because of his stress on states' rights in Windsor. I think there's no real problem there: it's called the Fourteenth Amendment, which expressly subjects state laws to the authority of the federal Constitution. And it's a basic principle of American law that constitutionally guaranteed rights -- of which marriage to the person of one's choice is one -- take precedence over state laws, no matter whether passed by legislatures or the voters themselves. The people don't get to vote on the civil rights of minorities, a point that Sutton seems to have missed completely. If nothing else, Romer v. Evans is the stake in the heart of the states' rights claims on this question, and if I remember correctly, Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in that case.

So, it's almost guaranteed the Supreme Court will hear the appeal, and I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility for a 6-3 decision in our favor.

And if you feel like punishing yourself, you can read Sutton's majority opinion here, but as a reward, you get to read Daughtrey's dissent, starting on page 43.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Today's Must Read

From Josh Marshall at TPM:

"To prevent Obama from becoming the hero who fixed Washington, McConnell decided to break it. And it worked." That's from Matt Yglesias in a post he published yesterday evening before the scope of the GOP victory became fully clear. This is succinct and it is correct.

Indeed, in key respects it worked in 2010. By many measures Republicans should have won the Senate in 2010 and 2012. But each year they were hobbled by a raft of crazy and indisciplined senate candidates who squandered what should have been easy or at least odds-on wins. This year, the terrain was heavily weighted in their favor. And they kept their candidates on the straight and narrow.

But if this was the plan (and it was) and if it worked (which it did) we should ask, why?

Marshall has some interesting insights on this, and builds a good historical context, but there's one point I think he misses: the Republican party, at least as now constituted, is not interested in governing. It is interested in ruling. (And this article only points that up: the gist is that the GOP should wait until it controls Congress and the White House to do anything. Then it can rule without hindrance.) From everything I've read -- and especially from those "mainstream media" figures whose non-partisanship is rather tattered mask -- it seems that the GOP's favored mode is oligarchy. Sadly, too many Democrats have fallen into that trap -- the Blue Dogs and DINOs -- and have paid the price:
One trend that was interesting last night is that clear, strong progressives like Jeff Merkley (OR), Tom Udall (NM), Brian Schatz (HI) and Al Franken (MN)-- who had massive right-wing money thrown at them-- won, while conservative Democrats like Mark Warner, Mary Landrieu, Mark Udall, and Kay Hagan stumbled and the most conservative Democrat of all, Mark Pryor, lost badly. In the House, conservative Democrats-- Blue Dogs and New Dems-- lost everywhere, even in Democratic districts. Almost all of Israel's Red-to-Blue recruits lost, as did many of his Frontline incumbents.

The lesson here is that the Democratic party has a winning message. They should use it.

Someone Always Has It Worse

Posted without comment:

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Well, That's Depressing

The Republicans took control of the Senate, which means the posturing will continue for another two years. First will come impeachment, then repeal everything. Oh, and a "Protect Marriage" amendment, of course. Beats actually governing, I guess.

And in Illinois, it looks as though billionaire Bruce Rauner, who wants to turn the state into a hybrid between Scott Walker's Wisconsin and Sam Brownback's Kansas, will be our governor, although there are still votes to be counted, mostly from Chicago. There's hope.

But overall, it's pretty awful.

It's going to be hard to sit here and watch the country go down the toilet.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Election Day Link Dump

And it's really depressing. One of the first stories that I ran across today had the Republicans with a 70% chance of taking a Senate majority, since the Democratic party seems determined to shoot itself in the foot, which means two years of nothing happening in Congress at all -- unless, of course, the Great Negotiator in the White House caves. Again.

Meanwhile, Anti-Gay, Inc., is pulling out all the stops -- the rhetoric is now completely over the top, and the "religious" members are once again flouting the law.

And I have to go out and find my new polling place -- apparently, I'm not the only one. Happily, in Chicago the powers that be actually want us to vote, so I got a mailer with not only the address of my polling place, but a URL for early and absentee voting information -- in English, Spanish, Hindi, and Vietnamese (I think -- could be Chinese, but I tend to think Vietnamese because the major Vietnamese community is on the North Side, where I am; Chinatown's on the South Side). It was much easier when the polls were half a block away on the corner. That's what I get for moving. I meant to vote early -- there was an early voting location right on my usual bus route -- and kept forgetting until Saturday, when the wait time was an hour and a half to two hours. I know how I'm going to vote -- except for the judges. There are always a million judges up for retention, and I have no idea who they are and I kept forgetting to check the CBA ratings.

For some reason, there are a lot of ambulances and fire trucks going by this morning.

And it's cloudy, although we're promised sun later.

And I just feel like sitting around chain-smoking, even though I'm doing pretty well on cutting down and eventually stopping.


Monday, November 03, 2014

Marriage News Watch, November 3, 2014

The future of Florida's marriage ban is hanging in the balance, with a big ruling that could allow marriage to start any day now. Anti-gay groups are still spending tons of money in multiple states, but they're not getting much out of it. And there's an election this week could determine the future of marriage in multiple southwestern states.

The Right To Die

You've probably heard or read about Brittany Maynard, the young woman diagnosed with terminal brain cancer who chose to commit suicide rather than go through the process of dying "naturally." Fortunately for her, she happened to live in Oregon, where you can do that. From Crooks and Liars:

Brittany Maynard died peacefully surrounded by her family and friends after she took a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by a doctor under Oregon's right-to-die law.

She didn't suffer, nor did she lose her faculties and subject her family to the dreadful decline brain cancer causes as it consumes more and more space in her skull. Most importantly, she made her choice out of compassion for her family.

It turns out that the particular form of brain cancer she has can be treated, but not cured -- and it seems the treatment only prolongs the agony.

There's a video at the C&L post with Lawrence O'Donnell's segment on the story.

The post at C&L also linked to this article by Joni Eareckson, which, given the source, is rather unsurprisingly critical of Ms. Maynard's choice:

It has been heartbreaking these last few days to hear the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old, beautiful young woman diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumor and given only a few months to live. The saddest part of the story for me, however, is not her prognosis, but her decision to end her life prematurely on Nov. 1 through physician-assisted suicide.

I understand she may be in great pain, and her treatment options are limited and have their own devastating side effects, but I believe Brittany is missing a critical factor in her formula for death: God. The journey Brittany — for that matter, all of us — will undertake on the other side of death is the most important venture on which we will ever embark. So it must not be disregarded or brushed aside without thinking twice about the God who alone has the right to decide when life should begin and end.

There is, of course, the usual Christian arrogance of assuming that their beliefs are universally valid, that no one else's beliefs have any substance, and that other people's decisions are somehow their business. Not to mention the denial of the fact that other people do, indeed, have the right make their own decisions about their lives without interference.

Brittany may think her choice is a highly personal and private one, but it is not. Already, her decision has reignited hotly contested debates as to whether physician-assisted suicide should be expanded beyond the five states where it is legal. Proponents of Brittany’s decision are already using her story as a bully pulpit to advance their so-called death-with-dignity agendas.

Eareckson is confusing Ms. Maynard's right to make her decision with the political struggle over -- well, people's right to make those decisions without government interference. They're not the same thing. I also might note that Eareckson is using Ms. Maynard's decision in the same way that she accuses the proponents of death with dignity, just from the opposite stand.

I don't know if I'd have the gumption to make the same decision if faced with a terminable debilitating illness. I've thought about suicide in the abstract, but I'm afraid that if I were dead, I might miss something. Besides, I'm really, really stubborn.

I do, however, think that Ms. Maynard and others in like situations should have the right to make that decision for themselves.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Review in Brief: Gail Simone, Freddie Williams II: The Movement, #1-12

I’ve been catching up on the monthly comics that I have been following, but not following, if you catch my meaning. (Life has a way of intruding, sometimes.)

Warren Ellis made a comment relative to our fascination with superheroes (from an interview published in Voyage in Noise) to the effect that "we rely on them to save us, when we should be saving ourselves." Gail Simone has taken that idea and run with it in The Movement.

Simone has been one of my favorite comics writers for a while now, ever since I read her Secret Six series. She has a way of making her characters very real – they’re not all sweetness and light, but they’re not morbidly self-absorbed. In The Movement, she brings us a bunch of teenagers with particular abilities who have decided to take Coral City – or their part of it, the “Tweens,” the area between Tenth and Twentieth Streets – back from a corrupt police force and uncaring city government. They wind up taking on not only the police department, but City Hall and ultimately, the man who is actually running things, even though he holds no formal office. Then, they tangle with Batgirl, who comes to Coral City in pursuit of a fugitive – who isn’t really a criminal. And finally, they defeat the Cornea Killer, who has been killing the homeless and taking their eyes.

Simone’s ability with character is in full evidence here, not only with the team members – a group of misfits who’ve banded together as much because they have no place else to go as for any other reason – but, most tellingly, the villain in chief, James Cannon, the aforementioned man who’s really in charge, who ultimately turns out to be a man who bit off more than he could chew – not the Movement, but his chief tool for “cleaning up” his city. (In this and the general setting, the series reminds me somewhat of the TV series Arrow.) Simone also leaves room for some humor, mostly revolving around Mouse, who is one of the more off-the-wall characters I've ever seen.

The story arcs are good and tight, but there’s room for some history as we learn who these kids are and how they got here. Dialogue is sharp and to the point, and even the narration tells us what we need to know and no more.

Freddie Williams II did the art, and it’s right on target – comic realism, leaning a bit toward the comic but not enough to undercut the realism. Chris Sotomayor’s color is apt, a little dark, but it fits the setting and mood. Narrative flow is good – the layouts are not rigid, with a fair amount of overlapping frames, but it’s always clear. All in all, we’re treated to some nice, juicy visuals.

Sadly, the series didn’t get the fan support it deserved – which means, in the world of comic publishing, that sales weren’t good enough – so it ends rather abruptly with #12.

If you’re interested in my reaction to Secret Six, the reviews are at Sleeping Hedgehog – look for Gail Simone under “Reviews: Graphic Lit" in the sidebar.

(DC Comics, 2013-14)