Thursday, October 30, 2014

Get the values right

The Detroit Free Press printed its endorsement for Michigan governor in last Sunday's edition. They said it was a tough choice because both candidates, current GOP Gov. Rick Snyder and challenger Dem Mark Schauer, have important advantages and significant drawbacks. So they took three full pages to explain their choice with articles looking at Snyder's record and Schauer's campaign. The six areas are Taxes and the Economy, Education, Detroit and other cities, Values, Environment, and Leadership. The conclusion: Snyder was a bit better, thus gets the endorsement. The paper gets praise for being so thorough in their analysis of the two candidates. But since I disagree with their choice I'll use this post to critique their reasoning.

I heard through a news report on Michigan Radio that the Toledo newspaper didn't like either candidate for governor of Ohio and thus didn't endorse either one. But the Free Press (I'll use their own nickname of Freep) attitude was that one of these two guys is going to be governor; we need to state our view. Michigan Radio also said lots of progressives in Michigan are furious with the Freep but some also said the newspaper's endorsement, especially made 10 days before the election wasn't going to make much difference.

Taxes and Economy
In the last four years Snyder has made significant changes to Michigan's tax system with claims that it would boost the economy. While Michigan's economy is better, not much has to do with Snyder's tax system. Alas, his changes have significantly shifted the burden from corporations to poor and low-income people in the form of higher taxes, reduced services, and worse education. But with some "tweaks" (Freep's word) the tax system can be improved. They still gave Snyder the edge.

Their complaint against Schauer is that he is too vague. Also, he has no plan on how he would get his changes through a hostile legislature. The legislature would indeed be hostile – the state Senate is in GOP hands and isn't up for election.

My reaction: I seriously doubt Snyder has any inclination (even if he isn't beholden to the Tea Party) to even try to shift the tax burden away from the poor or to make their plight any better. Besides, tweaking the tax code won't be enough. Yes, the tax code needed simplification, but it could have been done in a revenue neutral way to maintain funding for schools and services for the poor.

Snyder touts his increased funding for schools. But most of that money went into underfunded retirement programs, to the detriment of the classroom. With a proper tax code he could have funded both. He talks about the need for high quality education but his actions don't match.

Schauer says enough of the right things that the Freep gives the education advantage to him.

Detroit and cities
Snyder was instrumental in getting Detroit into and through bankruptcy (final ruling next week) and pushing the Grand Bargain between donors, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the legislature, and unions to make it happen. Snyder also pushed for the Emergency Manager law (over strong voter objection) that allowed the recalcitrant city gov't to be pushed aside so that the bankruptcy could happen. Detroit's finances will be in a much better place. Snyder wins this round.

The Freep has significant doubts that Schauer, a Democrat tied to unions, could have made any of it happen. Schauer is running on his opposition to the Emergency Manager law. The Freep says "But there's got to be a middle ground between noninterference and bankruptcy."

My reaction: Yes, there is a middle ground. It includes such things as: Restoration of revenue sharing that the state promised, then chopped (Detroit isn't the only Michigan city with shaky finances). Filing suit against some of the fraudulent bank deals that ensnared Detroit's finances and decimated the city's housing. Work out deals before bankruptcy to avoid cutting pensions of city workers.

Snyder has repeatedly said he is above and outside the social and cultural battles being waged in Michigan. But every time the GOP controlled legislature indulged in extremism (which has been often) Snyder went along with it. That means in the areas of gay rights, abortion rights, minority rights, and labor rights Michigan or "Michissippi" has become a much less tolerant place under Snyder's leadership. Snyder also touted transparency, which the Freep says "has become a joke."

In this area Schauer's chief qualification is his willingness to veto GOP extremism. Schauer also says he will push for a non-partisan redistricting commission to end gerrymandering. The Freep says "Schauer is far and away preferable to Snyder."

My response: This issue alone is enough for me to choose a candidate. I guess that makes me a "values voter." How a candidate views minorities (including gays), women, and the poor (including those in a labor union) colors everything – tax code, education funding, health of cities, environmental protection, and even leadership – he or she does. Get the values right and everything else follows. And Snyder's values are opposite of mine.

Snyder's record is pretty bad. He has supported fracking, cut funding to both Dept. of Environmental Quality and Dept. of Natural Resources, backed a steel plant that wanted pollution limits to be raised, and not opposed the legislature from opening public lands to industry and private use.

There was a big oil spill in a Michigan river a few years ago. The cleanup is just now being finished. That spill was in Schauer's district at a time when he was in the US House. He led the response in Washington for appropriate punishment and cleanup. Here's a place where Schauer has a record, one the Freep likes.

There are some important projects that Snyder made happen. These include: A second international bridge between Detroit and Windsor over fierce opposition from the billionaire who owns the existing bridge (clearing of land has begun). Getting the legislature to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Tax reform. Detroit finances. I don't agree with all of them (though I do agree with the bridge and Medicaid).

There have been a few leadership failures: Road repair funding. Refusing to stand up to the Legislature's extremism.

Alas, Schauer hasn't been in big leadership roles and isn't using the campaign to demonstrate whatever leadership skills he has. The Freep nod goes to Snyder.

So, according to the Freep Snyder wins on tax reform, guiding Detroit into solvency, and leadership. Schauer wins on education, values, and environment. Three each. Yet, the Freep goes contrary to its own values (by their own admission) to break the tie in favor of Snyder. Since I oppose how Snyder went about tax reform and guiding Detroit my choice is clear. I will vote for Schauer and recommend you do too.

The latest polls show the race too close to call.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Refrocking upheld

Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked almost a year ago for performing a same-sex ceremony for his gay son. His case was appealed and that decision was in turn appealed to the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church. The Council issued its ruling today. His reinstatement is upheld. See my brother blog for more.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Progressive voter guide

The gay newspaper Between the Lines has put together a voter guide for progressives in Michigan. They give their endorsements for all the statewide races. For each of the US Congress, state Senate, and state House races the guide lists whether the candidate has been endorsed by gay rights groups (including BTL), women's groups, environment groups, labor groups, and also conservative groups (such as Michigan Right to Life so you know who to avoid). For some zip codes (though not mine) there are also endorsements for local elections. I strongly encourage you to follow its recommendations.

Humanizing Palestinians

I wrote more than a year ago about composer John Adams and his frustration to present his opera The Death of Klinghoffer because it tells the Palestinian side of their conflict with Israel. I was delighted to hear the Metropolitan Opera would be producing Klinghoffer this fall and that they would be simulcasting it to area movie theaters in mid November as part of their regular season. I put it on my calendar.

Alas, the same forces that protested the opera for glorifying terrorism (humanizing Palestinians) when it was first produced 20 years ago are protesting the Met's production. In a compromise that pleases nobody performances will continue in New York, but the simulcast has been canceled. Klinghoffer also won't appear in the Saturday radio broadcasts. Because Adams is a favorite composer I'm quite disappointed – enough that I'm wondering if it is worthwhile to go to New York for two nights. I checked – the total cost would be above $700. But to be in NYC for just a short amount of time would be frustrating and in the middle of the semester I don't have time for a long trip.

The disastrous old fashioned way

And other news of the week …

Jonathan Capehart, writing for the Washington Post, says Pope Francis may have lost the battle in the recent Vatican Synod, but he will win the long-term war. Yes, conservatives made sure the gay-friendly statements were voted down in the final document. But Francis made sure the interim report with all that fine language as well as the vote tally of the final report was made public. Thus the topic is now open for discussion by the wider church. That is his win. In addition Francis has changed the tone from demonization to recognition of gays as children of God.

I listen to NPR for my news. Their coverage of the ebola epidemic (here and in Africa) is measured and calm. That is not the style of other media sources. The hysteria is bad enough that Tristan McConnell of GlobalPost has listed five myths of the disease. So why are these media people so hysterical? One reason is that hysteria on TV attracts viewers. And another is the old conservative-GOP claim: Vote for us because we're the only ones who can keep you safe. That claim is made after huge cuts to the budget of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), especially cuts to funding for public health preparedness and response.

Credit Suisse issued its Global Annual Wealth Report. Global wealth has risen annually since 2008 at a pretty good pace. That's good. Except nearly all of it is going to those already wealthy. We're to the point where the richest 1% own almost half the world's assets – and the poorest half own less than 1% of total wealth.

Lynn Stuart Parramore of AlterNet says this level of imbalance tends not to end well. See 18th Century France. So do we recognize
… that inequality is extremely destabilizing and dangerous, and that non-violent interventions are possible, as we saw in America with the New Deal. Things like robust tax reform, unions, regulation, changes in corporate governance and CEO pay, affordable education, jobs programs, expansion of Social Security and universal healthcare.

Or we could just do things the old-fashioned way and wait for a disaster even bigger than the meltdown of 2007-'08. In that case, fasten your seatbelts. This ride could get very rough.

Gay marriage makes my marriage yucky

Marriage news of the week...

The governor of Wyoming officially notified the federal district court that he will not appeal the ruling that overturns the state's same-sex marriage ban. Marriages have begun (a few photos here). Some of the first were in Laramie County. That has some significance because that was where Matthew Shepard was murdered for being gay 16 years ago.

Kansas is the only state in the 10th Circuit that doesn't have marriage equality yet. A straight couple has filed a suit at the federal district court level to make sure it stays that way. Their suit claims that allowing same-sex couples to marry somehow defiles their marriage and makes it worthless. They got a lawyer to fill out and submit the motion, but that doesn't mean there is a smidgen of logic to it. I didn't waste my time to read it.

The Utah Supremes have lifted their stay against adoption by same-sex parents. Five months ago adoptions were put on hold by the state. Officials wanted to wait until it was clear same-sex marriage would be legal.

The governor of Idaho has asked the 9th Circuit for an en banc hearing of the state's same-sex marriage ban. The Gov is fuming over the statements that marriage equality would harm nobody. But a wedding chapel in Coeur d'Alene is claiming harm. The owners say their religious freedom would be violated if they must marry same-sex couples but the city's antidiscrimination ordinance doesn't exempt them because they aren't a legitimate nonprofit religious organization.

A federal district judge in Puerto Rico has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the island's same-sex marriage ban. Some of his reasons:

Same-sex marriage isn't mentioned in the Constitution.

Back in the 1970s the Supremes refused to hear a same-sex marriage case. While circuit court judges say times have changed and that refusal no longer applies, this judge says it still does.

Circuit courts have been basing their arguments in favor of same-sex marriage on the big *Windsor* case from a year ago that struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act. This judge, reading a lot from the dissents in that case, says states maintain the right to define marriage.

He bought the conservative stories that procreation and tradition apply and that there is that big slippery slope.

All those other judges are just wrong.

The case has been appealed to the 1st Circuit. That is an interesting situation because all the states in the 1st Circuit (Maine, Mass., NH, RI) have equality and none of them got it through a federal ruling. So the 1st Circuit hasn't yet taken up the issue.

Monday, October 20, 2014


I put my classroom preparations on hold for a while this afternoon to see the movie Pride. The general plot based on real events: Back in 1984 Britain at the height of Margaret Thatcher's power the Welsh miners were on strike. A gay man in London tells his friends that the cops aren't beating on gays so much that summer because they're beating on miners. We need to help them. They do a good enough job with their help they are invited to the town that received their help. Of course, such a manly town as a miner town doesn't exactly welcome the gays and lesbians with open arms. Prejudices need to fall – and they do, though not all of them and not all at once. It is a delightful and humorous look at building an unlikely community. It is also quite well made with some intricate scenes that assume the audience will get it. The movie is in Royal Oak at least until Thursday and will likely appear in Ann Arbor. If you don't catch it on the big screen it will soon be available through Netflix or your local video store. I highly recommend it.

Back to getting ready for tomorrow's teaching.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Positive actions at my local church

My local church commissioned another pastor today. The important and wonderful story is told on my brother blog.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Arizona and Wyoming!

Another round of the status of same-sex marriage...

A judge in Wyoming said he would issue a ruling on Monday. It came out yesterday. The judge wrote that "Wyoming cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples." The ruling is stayed until the four defendants say whether they will appeal. So far Gov. Matthew Mead says he will not, nor will Debra Lathrup, Laramie County Clerk. The other two are members of Mead's administration and should follow the boss's lead. Lifting the stay likely won't happen before Monday.

The 9th Circuit had put a temporary stay on the ruling in Alaska to permit time to appeal to the Supremes. The Supremes did not receive an appeal request so declined to extend the stay.

Magistrates in North Carolina were ordered to perform same-sex marriages as part of their duties. John Kallam, Magistrate of Rockingham County decided to resign instead.

The AG of Arizona admits all those court rulings that strike down same-sex marriage bans probably applies to his state too. But he won't allow marriages to happen until all the legal details are properly in place. But a district judge said there is no reason for delay because appeals to the 9th Circuit "would be futile." So get cracking. Marriages supposedly began yesterday.

I had an interesting thought today, though have no evidence to back it up. Suppose you were a judge on the 6th Circuit and really didn't like same-sex marriage. How could you prevent it, or at least slow it down? If you rule that bans are permissible those for equality will dash to the Supremes and would likely be heard. But what if you didn't rule at all? What if you just let the case sit on your desk? Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee can't do anything about equality until you act. So you accomplish your goal by not acting.

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress says there is a way the Supremes could rule against same-sex marriage. Before he gets to that he agrees the current set of justices have been very clear they won't stand in the way of marriage equality. There was that original refusal to hear cases at the start of the month (sheesh, only 11 days ago!) and consistent rulings since then to not continue stays and not hear appeals. Then Millhiser reminds us that rulings on same-sex marriage have a basis in the Constitution while that nasty Hobby Lobby case does not. So why haven't the justices ruled? Millhiser says that if these nine justices don't hand down a definitive decision then a later court could rule in the opposite way. We have three progressive justices age 76 and older and it is quite possible when any of them leave the court a conservative White House or Congress would push for a conservative justice. And our gains could be overruled.

Paul Waldman of The American Prospect says same-sex marriage could lead to major headaches for the GOP leading up to the 2016 elections. I like when the GOP has headaches. I've reported before that most members of the GOP have been mighty quiet about the Supreme Court ruling that started this month's flurry of activity (Ted Cruz the noisy exception).

But the first three GOP primaries are in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. There are likely no issues in NH, but the Iowa GOP still has a strong and active anti-gay component. I don't have to say much about SC. A candidate looking for an edge could proclaim his anti-gay credentials to make it an issue in the race. And if the party leaders try to change the subject the religious and Tea Party base might feel betrayed by elites "who are perfectly happy consorting with sodomites." Get out the popcorn. This could be an entertaining show (alas, damaging too).

A stunning rebuke

I've been reporting on the Catholic Synod being held at the Vatican. The final, approved statement has been released. This is the version the bishops vote on. Various paragraphs must pass with a 2/3 majority.

The outcome: all that wonderful language about gay people was not approved, losing by only six votes. Also not approved were paragraphs on divorce and remarriage.

The interim report had nice words about the "gifts and talents" that gay people can offer. There were words of welcome. And there was that wonderful phrase about being willing to sacrifice for a spouse. Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin says:
The new statement has none of that. It recognizes nothing about gay people or their children. In fact, it doesn’t recognize gays and lesbians at all, but rather restricts itself to addressing families who “live the experience of having members who are of homosexual orientation.” Which means it’s not even meant to address us. This is not just a full reversal from Monday’s statement, it’s not even as minimally positive as the mysteriously revised English mistranslation that was issued Thursday. This is more than just a backtrack. It’s a doubling down on the part of John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s appointed English-speaking bishops, and stunning rebuke of Pope Francis’s attempts to inject a small dose of humanity into the operation of the Church.
From The Economist

Even with all that the conservative National Catholic Register laments that the whole process has put out "weak and ambiguous" signals about where the church is headed.

What's next? Lots of discussion and a reconvening of the Synod next October. Between now and then one conservative cardinal will be sidelined and Francis will likely select new cardinals in February. The vote tally next fall may be different.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Rome officiated at 16 same-sex marriages. They won't be legal, but they are highly symbolic. And an overwhelming majority of young Catholics in America say homosexuality should be socially acceptable. Even a majority of Catholics over 65 agree.

Only one motivation

A week ago I wrote about the strict voter ID law in Wisconsin. At that time the Supremes put the law on hold for this election season, but didn't strike it down. The issue of its constitutionality was before the 7th Circuit. Though I don't have confirmation it sounds like it went before the standard 3 judge panel and was upheld. That panel at least said the stay on the law must be lifted (the stay the Supremes just reapplied).

One judge of the 7th Circuit, Richard Posner, took advantage of one of the rules of the court. Without the request of either parties of this particular case he asked for an en banc hearing by the full 7th Circuit. Ten judges voted whether that hearing should be granted. The vote was tied at 5-5, which meant the hearing was denied. Judge Posner wrote a dissent of that denial (copy through this link). His four voting partners signed on.

That dissent, like the one Posner wrote to overturn the same-sex marriage ban, eviscerates the claims the GOP made when they passed the voter ID law and stomps all over the opinions of the judges who voted to not hear the case.

The dissent doesn't do anything at the moment. The law still stands and is still stayed until the November election is over. But this document is important for two big reasons. First, Posner approved Indiana's voter ID law in 2008, which went on to be confirmed by the Supremes. Yes, he changed his mind about voter ID laws and did so based on more evidence. Second, Posner handed those pushing for wide voter access a comprehensive rebuttal that can be used when this case goes to the Supremes. And the Supremes know to read rulings from Posner very carefully.

I read through the 30 pages of the ruling. Here is my summary of the arguments:

Wisconsin's law is much more severe than Indiana's. The types of IDs permitted form a smaller list. The documentation required to get an ID is greater. The list of those who can vote without an ID is shorter. The number of citizens without an ID is much larger, and many who don't have an ID also don't have the backup documentation. The length of time to come up with an ID when challenged at the polling place is much shorter – 3 days instead of 10.

Those who favor the voter ID law say there aren't that many people who tried to vote and were turned away. Posner says that didn't count those who wanted to vote, but decided the obstacles were insurmountable and didn't bother trying.

The district court listed some of those obstacles: It is difficult (especially for a poor person) to find what the required documents are. To get to the DMV one must go during business hours and claim a vacation day or suffer lost wages to do so. If one doesn't have a license one must, of course, rely on the vagaries of public transport and pay for that cost. If any of the underlying documents are not at hand the whole business of lost wages and transport costs is repeated to find and deal with each gov't agency. If those original documents, such as a birth certificate, must be obtained from another state, it may take weeks for the document to arrive. If there is a discrepancy between any of the documents then more time off work and more transport costs will be needed to straighten out the mess. Those who, because of poverty, race, or language (all categories not likely to vote GOP), are uncomfortable dealing with gov't officials are less likely to endure the process of getting documents.

Expenses for fees, travel, and lost work can be about $75 to $175, far greater (even adjusted for inflation) than the $1.50 poll tax outlawed in 1964.

Several citizens testified to the difficulty of getting a birth certificate, especially if they are elderly. What to do if the state of birth lost the certificate? What if the birth wasn't properly registered? The last 10 pages of the ruling are copies of forms that might be needed to request, and perhaps find, a birth certificate.

Proponents say 22% of eligible voters don't register (which doesn't require ID). They must not want to vote. Fine. But not wanting to vote does not describe the 9% of registered voters without ID.

There are several types of vote fraud: voter impersonation, electorate manipulation (gerrymandering and laws that prevent voting), voter intimidation, vote buying, misinformation (advertising the wrong election day or polling place), misleading ballots (see Florida in 2000), ballot stuffing, misrecording of votes, misuse of proxy votes, destruction of ballots, tampering with voting machines (which is why my city has us vote on paper, which is tallied by machine). The voter ID law deals only with voter impersonation (and it seems to me the GOP is actively engaging in many of the other types of fraud).

The evidence of voter impersonation fraud is extremely rare. The effect of a voter ID law means a large number of people who will probably vote Democratic are discouraged from voting. This is Posner's basic point.

Requiring a voter ID is supposed to prevent non-citizens from voting. Nope. Non-citizens are given drivers licenses too. That puts a big hole in the effectiveness of preventing voter impersonation.

Posner goes through the list of states who have enacted voter ID laws. Those with the strictest laws have the GOP in control of the state House and Senate and all but one have a GOP governor. Most of the other states with such laws are also controlled by the GOP.

Evidence of voter impersonation fraud "is downright goofy, if not paranoid" and rarely exists. Even Fox News says there isn't much evidence. A journalism consortium found only 10 cases since 2000 out of 146 million voters. One is a dozen times more likely to be struck by lightning.

The incentive for someone to engage in voter impersonation fraud is low (the incentive to vote, never mind impersonate, is low – see stats on voter turnout), so even a modest penalty strongly discourages the crime. Only a massive campaign will sway most elections and those are too risky for politicians considering the costs of bribes to make it worthwhile for voters.

Proponents of the law say getting a photo ID is no big deal because one is needed to fly, pick up a prescription, open a bank account, buy a gun, or enter a courthouse. Some courthouses do require ID, but the Supreme Court building does not. As for the others, not true (besides, poor people don't fly). But in the same paragraph is the claim that an ID is easy to get and that 300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin don't have one. So, they are lazy?

Voter ID laws don't increase the confidence of an election leading to increased turnout. That would only happen if voters believe the law actually reduces fraud. A state with a law that reduces fraud implies that in states without the law fraud is rampant – or there is some unusual compulsion in Wisconsin.

The panel of proponent judges are not bothered by an absence of evidence. It appears to be enough that the legislation says there is a problem. "In so saying, the panel conjures up a fact-free cocoon in which to lodge the federal judiciary. … If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?"

The conclusion:
There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mutual aid to the point of sacrifice

There is an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family being held at the Vatican. It started last week and released an interim report on Monday. Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin walks us through some important details.

There is a section titled "Welcoming homosexual persons." The phrase "intrinsically disordered" is missing. Instead, is the phrase "moral problems" – just a touch murkier. It also, for the first time, acknowledges that gay people have "gifts and talents" and does so without pairing that with our supposed sins.

An even bigger point, the document says same-sex couples offer "mutual aid to the point of sacrifice." Burroway reminds us of how central "sacrifice" is to Catholic doctrine, that Christ sacrificed himself for us and sacrifices, big and small, are to be a central part of a life of faith. That gays, who are usually seen as too self-absorbed to bother with anyone else (and, to defy the will of God so completely to even think of being gay, they would have to be self-absorbed), are described as being capable of sacrifice is revolutionary in Catholic discussions.

Of course, conservatives are outraged and toss around the word "heresy" (though one wonders how an infallible pope can be heretical). The pushback, at least so far, is to make sure the final document clarifies how thoroughly the Catholic doctrine declares gay people to be less than straights and that being gay is definitely not a good thing.

But this is a working document, a first draft. Discussions go on for a couple more days, when a final version is approved (or not) and released. Even that doesn't change doctrine. The synod will reconvene a year from now after the church (the bishops and cardinals) have a chance to discuss the issues. This document is supposed to be a guide to those discussions.

Today, a new English – and only English – translation of Monday's interim report was released. The original Italian and the French and Spanish translations were left alone. There are several interesting changes to the English version. One of them is the title was changed from "Welcoming homosexual persons" to "Providing for homosexual persons." Quite a difference.

Those church watchers whose first language is Italian say the original document, the one deemed official and which wasn't changed, clearly says "Welcoming" and not "Providing for." What's going on?

It appears the English speaking clergy of the Synod are in a panic. They don't want to "confuse" people with this talk of welcome. They want to make sure the doctrine and teaching doesn't change, that the Church still teaches being gay is yucky. Perhaps the change in translation is part of the process of changing the document.

Does this Synod mark the start of a Catholic Church less hostile and more welcoming to gay people? Commenters tend towards saying I'll believe it when I see it. Don't confuse me with mere talk of change.

Never piss off the judge

Now that I have time to get to the marriage news of the week...

A judge in Wyoming will issue a ruling on Monday on whether the 10th Circuit rulings for Utah and Oklahoma for same-sex marriage apply to Wyoming as well.

By today the AG of Arizona was to file a brief with the 9th Circuit on whether or not the 9th Circuit's rulings on same-sex marriage should apply. The Arizona AG seems to concede that it does.

The AG in South Carolina rants that "I'm only for the rule of law." Well, since the 4th Circuit has declared bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, isn't that now law? Lambda Legal has filed a suit to hurry things along.

The ACLU asked for summary judgment in Montana. That's a request for a ruling when the facts are so obvious no trial (or lengthy proceedings) are needed.

Lots of same-sex couples were married in Idaho. Photos here. There's still a bit of fear their joy might be taken away because the Gov. said marriages may take place "for now."

The GOP Gov. in North Carolina says he'll now defend the right for same-sex couples to get married. Commenters note the other nasty things he has done – cut unemployment, opt out of Obamacare, etc. – and aren't impressed.

The 9th Circuit issued a temporary stay of same-sex marriages in Alaska to give the state time to appeal to the Supremes.

The AG of Florida had asked that the various cases in that state be put on hold until the Supremes have their say. Well, the Supremes decided to say nothing (in a rather loud voice). So the AG has asked the state Supremes to rule on the issue "once-and-for-all." Some speculate that means she sees her crusade against same-sex marriage coming to an end. And, yes, the state Supremes can rule against an article in the state constitution. Does it conflict with the national constitution? Does it conflict with other clauses in the state constitution?

The Coalition for the Protection of Marriage in Nevada filed suit against the 9th Circuit. The three judges for any particular case are supposed to be selected randomly. The CPM analysis says that one particular judge has appeared on way too many 3-judge panels for cases involving sexual minority rights for it to be purely random. Therefore the ruling in the Nevada same-sex marriage case should be thrown out and the case heard again with a panel of all of judges of the circuit. Those versed in statistics say the analysis is wacky. Those versed in legal matters say this suit violates the first rule of litigation: Never piss off the judge.

In an article printed in Between the Lines Lisa Keen asks why the Supremes refused to hear those same-sex marriage cases on the first day of the term? That court doesn't need to rush. They could have waited until the 5th or 6th Circuits ruled to see if there was a conflict in the rulings. But they didn't. If the Supremes were seriously thinking of taking another case down the road with the possibility of the mess of all these marriages happening in the meantime, they would have waited for the right case. That rush to refuse these cases is what prompted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to declare the issue "resolved."

The anti-gay mob is furious that "unelected judges" can overrule the will of the majority. As part of that fury Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (a fancy name for a hate group) pulled out the old slogan that children do best with a mom and a dad. John Greenberg of PunditFact tackles that and the ten claims the FRC uses to support it.

Five of the ten claims have nothing to do with children. They say opposite-sex marriage promotes domestication of men, paternal commitment, sexual fidelity, "gender-typical" roles, and links between marriage and procreation. Ah, a guide to fathering, which is rather nice of them (though that "gender-typical" roles thing sets off some red flags), but not related to any scientific study.

A sixth claim is about how children conceived through artificial insemination "hunger" to know about their fathers. Likely true, but not proven and not a reason to ban same-sex marriage.

A seventh claim cites studies where a father is absent. But those studies examine single parent households, not same-sex households. An eight claim says children need mothers. But the studies cited don't compare same-sex and opposite-sex households.

Claims nine and ten say that studies of children growing up in same-sex households are flawed – were not "conducted according to generally accepted standards of scientific research." This is called cherry-picking of findings.

There is a great deal of research that shows kids of same-sex parents do just as well as those raised by straight parents. Therefore the claim that Perkins made is rated as false.

But we knew all that and are rather tired of going through it all again.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thirty states

Same-sex marriages have begun in Alaska. The governor vows to defend the ban.

That first link shows a map of the thirty states with freedom to marry. It also shows the five states that are affected by a ruling at their Circuit Court but have not yet permitted freedom to marry. Court actions should take care of those in days to weeks. Then there are the eight states with a ruling in our favor waiting for a ruling at the Circuit Court level.

Do you think, perhaps, that Vladimir Putin can see gay marriages from his house?

There was a recent ruling in Missouri saying it must recognize same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere. That means it is possible to drive from Chicago (or even Duluth) to Los Angeles without becoming "not married" along the way – as long as you find a road to go directly from Missouri to Oklahoma, then loop around Arizona. You can also drive the same way from Charlotte, NC to Houlton, Maine (then on into gay-friendly Canada).

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Last May a gay couple filed a suit in Alaska asking for the right to marry. That suit was heard in federal district court and the judge has now ruled. Yep, Alaska's ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional. The ruling takes effect immediately.

The state could appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit. But we can ask the governor of Idaho how far that will go.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Adventure in eating continues

I've been seeing my nutritionist for over a year now. At my last visit (I see her once a month now) I asked for an overview of progress in the last year. She didn't discuss it during the visit. Instead, she sent me an email a week later.

I've been following the low-carb guidelines for about a year, though the details of the menu have changed several times. There have also been several changes in the nutritional supplements I've been taking. Right now sauteed butternut squash and chicken breast are a big part of my diet.

In the last year my blood sugar level has settled down. I don't get what I've been calling "carb hunger" an hour after nearly every meal (something that mystified the dietitian at my traditional medical center), though I still get it occasionally. After a proper meal I can now usually last the morning and evening, and eat one snack in the afternoon instead of two or three. She says my pancreas has improved.

I avoid soy now and eliminating that has improved healing (though some things take a while to heal). I think the trace of arsenic she found on the first visit has been eliminated – she didn't mention it this time. She says in addition to the pancreas there is also some healing of my adrenals, gall bladder, and liver – though full healing of the liver may take a good long time now. All of these are needed for digestion, so the better they operate the more nutrition I get from my food. And less food goes straight to body fat.

Over the year she has detected immune challenges in the form of parasites, viruses, and fungi. I'm still dealing with them. Those tend to not show up in her testing until one has been eating low-carb for a month or two. These challenges show up as a recurring skin rash, which has been a problem for over 20 years now (and which traditional medicine could only suppress). The skin rash should clear up as the liver heals.

When I started seeing this nutritionist I signed various forms which said I understand the practitioners do not diagnose diseases. For example, I doubt she could tell me which particular parasites are the problem. Instead, she gets a general idea of the issue and through her testing is able to determine which supplement is able to supply a nutrient my body is lacking, which helps it drive out the toxin or parasites.

So, in the last year my health is better – I don't have the carb hungers and my weight is down a few pounds (probably enough to satisfy my health insurance program). However, other issues remain which should be handled eventually through proper nutrition. The adventure in eating continues.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Like its poll-tax ancestor

The voter ID law in Wisconsin was put on hold by the Supremes. The reason given was it was being implemented too close to the election and after absentee ballots were sent out. The implementation was late because the law was only recently confirmed by an appeals court. The Supremes did not rule on the constitutionality of the law, so this isn't over.

About the same time a district court in Texas struck down that state's voter ID law. This court explicitly said it is unconstitutional. It will be appealed.
Ryan P. Haygood, a lawyer at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, welcomed the decision. “The evidence in this case,” he said, “demonstrated that the law, like its poll-tax ancestor, imposes real costs and unjustified, disparate burdens on the voting rights of more than 600,000 registered Texas voters, a substantial percentage of whom are voters of color.”

North Carolina and Idaho!

What happened in the marriage equality world today:

A federal judge struck down the North Carolina same-sex marriage ban. Licenses are being issued and weddings performed.

The governor of Idaho took his shot at explaining why the 9th Circuit ruling didn't apply to his state. Or at least he should be granted an en banc hearing. Justice Kennedy wasn't impressed and lifted the stay he had granted. Couples gathered in clerk's offices, but it doesn't look like the state AG gave the go-ahead before closing time. Since Monday is a holiday, the next day they open is Tuesday.

Same-sex marriage was happening in one county in Kansas. The state AG has asked the state Supremes for a stay.

Stephen Colbert does a 7 minute reaction to the ruling by the Supremes.

Rachel Maddow, on last Tuesday's show, does a thorough report on the ruling. A great moment – the gay couple at the heart of the Virginia case were first in line to get their license. The clerk who signed their license was the guy they sued, triggering the case.

David Crary (I think) wrote an article for a Fox affiliate, though I'm not sure where. He says there are now three views of same-sex marriage in the GOP. One faction has endorsed same-sex marriage. Some, such as Rob Portman of Ohio, have gay kids. The second faction is the bunch who are strongly anti-gay. This includes Ted Cruz of Texas. The third group doesn't want to talk about it. That includes Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, running for reelection.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

We may not need the Supremes

t seems the marriage equality map is changing daily, and maybe more often than that.

Apparently a court ruling comes in two parts. One is the ruling, a declaration that a law is unconstitutional. The other is the mandate, what the losing side has to do about it. It also seems that both of these are rarely issued together. When the 9th Circuit ruled on Tuesday that the bans on same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada were unconstitutional it issued the ruling and mandate together. It also combined the mandates for the two states.

While Nevada officials said same-sex marriage is just fine with them, Idaho balked. They asked for a stay. Though the Supremes may not take the case, Idaho wants the entire 9th Circuit to rule in what is known as en banc, not just the usual three judge panel that heard the case and issued the ruling.

So Justice Kennedy, the one to oversee the 9th Circuit, issued the stay. But he didn't separate out the two states, so Nevada was affected too. Kennedy later removed Nevada's stay. Then Nevada's Coalition for the Protection of Marriage popped up and requested a stay. So no marriages until that got sorted out. Last year's Calif. case showed they won't have standing when a court takes a closer look.

Another complication: The federal judge, the one handling the Coalition's request, says he can't sign an order to allow same-sex marriage in Nevada because, well because he has a strong bias against it. So he stepped aside to let another judge take over, That next judge is being chosen. There is an important question: If that judge is that biased, why didn't he say so and step aside when the Nevada case was first decided? That sounds like judicial activism.

The Coalition has now withdrawn their motions. Marriages in Nevada have begun.

At least one gay couple in Idaho was able to get married before Kennedy issued the stay.

In other states:

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, under guidance of AG Patrick Morrissey sees where the issue is heading and thus has no reason to be defiant. He has directed state agencies to comply with the 4th Circuit ruling. It will take a few days to withdraw their defense of same-sex marriage cases and for the Dept. of Health to get the forms ready. Gay couples across the river in Ohio had always considered their state more progressive than West Virginia. Not this time.

The GOP lawmakers in North Carolina have decided their state is special and the 4th Circuit ruling doesn't apply. If that gambit doesn't work they'll ask for an en banc hearing.

A lawmaker in Utah wants to officially rename same-sex marriages as "pairages" to avoid redefining marriage.

Some counties in South Carolina are taking applications for same-sex marriages – there is a waiting period before licenses can be issued. And that waiting period was enough to allow the state Supremes to stop the process. There is a case that will soon go before a federal district court to overturn SC's ban and the state Supremes are halting marriages until that case can be heard.

A federal distsrict judge in Kansas has ordered the Johnson County Clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This county includes the southwest suburbs of Kansas City.

Mike Huckabee has threatened to leave the GOP and become independent because the GOP has been so silent on same-sex marriage. Oh goody! Though I hear independents don't want him.

The 5th Circuit agreed to expedite a same-sex marriage case from Texas. One of the couple is pregnant and they don't want to go through the hassle of the other woman adopting the baby. So this case will be combined with a case from Louisiana. Even so, hearings may not happen until December (which means the 6th Circuit, which heard the Michigan case two months ago, is the closest to a ruling).

Ari Ezra Waldman of Towleroad takes a look at what the action by the Supremes means.

* There is no definitive ruling on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage or bans of marriage.

* There is no explicit legal precedent beyond the particular seven cases the Supremes refused to hear.

* In those seven cases there are no more appeals. Also, appeals aren't possible in the other states covered by the affected Circuits.

Waldman then explains why he thinks the Supremes did what they did.

* The conservatives didn't take the cases because they don't believe same-sex marriage is a federal right (they don't like federal rights in general). Allowing all the action to take place at the state and Circuit level (as distasteful as that may be) means the Supremes don't have to declare another federal right.

* The moderates, Kennedy and Breyer, may not want to take these cases until they absolutely have to. Part of it is judicial humility and part of it is a feeling the nation isn't ready for such a ruling (but, sheesh, this action affected South Carolina).

* The progressives may not want to take these cases because they don't want a slim majority, they want a decisive majority. And waiting may allow Roberts to stew over the idea for a few years.

Waldman also says we may not need the Supremes. We may get to all 50 states through the Circuit Courts. His reasons:

1. Marriage equality already exists in all states covered by the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Circuits (well, not Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands).

2. The recent Supreme (in)action covered the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits. Actions by the 9th Circuit pretty much mean equality is coming to all of its states.

3. In spite of the GOP Obama has done pretty good at rebalancing the federal courts. The 11th Circuit has become quite progressive.

4. Lots of judges appointed by GOP presidents have sided with equality.

5. Circuit judges who haven't ruled yet (5th, 6th, 8th, 11th) are aware of the pro-equality rulings issued around them and of the growing public support.

6. Those same judges have a pretty good idea how Justice Kennedy will rule, based on the Defense of Marriage case a year ago.

A commenter suggests one reason why the Supremes didn't take any cases is there are no compelling arguments for a ban that the justices thought didn't get a thorough hearing in lower court proceedings.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Idaho and Nevada!

To put a generous dollop of icing on yesterday's sweet cake... The 9th Circuit ruled that the same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada are unconstitutional. Those who watched the hearing are not at all surprised. So these two states jumped ahead of the tag-along states (NC, SC, WV, KS, WY) from yesterday's Supreme (in)action and bring three more states of the 9th Circuit into play – Alaska, Arizona, and Montana.

The next question is whether there will be a stay. The answer: highly unlikely. The 9th Circuit won't issue one. And if the Supremes issue one they're right back into the situation they just got out of.

We haven't heard yet from the 5th (TX, LA, MS), 6th (MI, OH, KY, TN), 8th (MO, NE, ND, SD), and 11th (GA, AL, FL) Circuits. So, yeah, there are 8 tag-along states and only 14 states beyond that.

As for one of those tag-along states, a same-sex couple applied for a marriage license in Kansas and were denied. That is grounds for a lawsuit. Gov. Sam Brownback declared he will remain defiant.

That 9th Circuit ruling has a great footnote that rebuts the claims of the governor of Idaho, which had a central role in their reasoning for their ban.
He also states, in conclusory fashion, that allowing same-sex marriage will lead opposite-sex couples to abuse alcohol and drugs, engage in extramarital affairs, take on demanding work schedules, and participate in time-consuming hobbies. We seriously doubt that allowing committed same-sex couples to settle down in legally recognized marriages will drive opposite-sex couples to sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, and... !

The Supremes issued a great piece of news today. They had seven marriage equality cases before them – and denied to review all of them. No explanation was given. I took a look at the order document. It is 89 pages. A good chunk of it – pages 8 to perhaps 60 – is a long list of cases that were not accepted for review. I think I heard 2,000 cases arrive at the Supreme Court every year and they have time to hear maybe 40 of them.

That means the same-sex marriage issue goes back to the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuit Courts and all of them had previously ruled in our favor. They are, at various speeds now removing the stays that prevented same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Quite an important non-decision by the Supremes.

The next question is how, or perhaps how soon, does marriage equality come to the other states in those circuits? The affected states are:

4th Circuit: North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia (Maryland already has equality).

5th Circuit: (Illinois already has equality)

10 Circuit: Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming (New Mexico already has equality)

According to Ari Ezra Waldman of Towleroad an additional step is needed to bring equality to these six states. The attorney general or governor of the state could say that since their Circuit Court is about to issue an order, we might as well start allowing same-sex marriages. Or they could wait for the actual order. Or they could be defiant – and as soon as a same-sex couple was denied a license the resulting lawsuit would be resolved swiftly.

Waldman also supplies some meaning to these denials:

* If a majority of the Supremes were against equality they would have taken one of the cases. So the Supremes are saying indirectly they are on our side.

* Since there is no split decisions between circuits there is no need for the Supremes to get involved, so they won't.

* C'mon, 6th Circuit, we dare you to be that dissenting voice! The 6th Circuit equality cases – including Michigan's case – were heard two months ago but no ruling given. Is the 6th Circuit waiting for the Supremes? Well...

The reaction:

Virginia: We're ready to go! The state AG was one who declined to defend the ban in court.

Wisconsin: A couple counties will issue licenses. AG: We made every effort to defend the ban, but we'll support same-sex marriage now. Gov: We'll evaluate the impact and determine next steps. He sounds mighty reluctant.

Oklahoma and Utah: The 10th Circuit has lifted the stays.

The Oklahoma governor is pouting that with this ruling human rights trump states rights.

The Mormon leaders say alright, fine, but God only accepts man-woman marriages.

Indiana: The clerk for Marion County has started issuing licenses. The urgency is over so we won't offer immediate civil ceremonies.

Colorado: We're just waiting for formalities to be resolved and then we'll start issuing licenses.

North Carolina: ACLU is getting ready to ask a federal judge to strike down the state's ban.

South Carolina: AG is defiant: We will fight on to protect marriage until there is an actual ruling against our ban!

Kansas: As in North Carolina, the ACLU will prod things along.

Marriages have indeed begun in all five states named in the lawsuits. And some clerks in Colorado aren't waiting for the formalities.

Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage has issued his screech and condemnation of the Supremes – if you really need to read it. A leader of the Southern Baptist Convention warns members that even though this doesn't have the "shock and awe" of a ruling, it is still momentous. Is this a white flag?

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in a snit, complaining of the worst judicial activism. But, Ted, wasn't it only 3 months ago you were praising the Supremes for their Hobby Lobby decision? It seems, though, that he and Utah Senator Mike Lee are the only two GOP senators who had anything to say. The rest of the party is quite silent. Perhaps John Boehner is too busy – he's in San Diego raising money for a gay GOP congressional candidate. As for the rest, perhaps they're disappointed the issue isn't over – there's still 20 states to deal with.

A judge in Missouri ruled last Friday that the state must recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Since Missouri borders Iowa, Oklahoma, and Illinois, all now offering same-sex weddings, the AG has decided not to appeal this decision. How soon will the wedding business in Missouri be clamoring for a piece of the action?

Alas, delving into more of the analysis and reaction that's out there will have to wait for another day.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rock the block

I was back in the Brightmoor neighborhood in Detroit today (previous adventures in a different part of Brightmoor described here with photos here). It is one of the poorest in Detroit, quite devastated by decades of white flight, compounded by the recent mortgage mess. The event is the annual Hands4Detroit, put on by the local district of the United Methodist Church. I've taken part in this event the previous two years (last year's event described here). This time I joined the team at the Brightmoor UMC, which is a partner church to the one I attend.

About 200 people gathered this morning at the church. Some of us worked in the community garden beside the church. Another team worked to prepare the foundation of what will be a barn to hold the church's "free store" for those in the neighborhood. A half-dozen lawnmowers were distributed to another team to cut grass along the street beside the church to make it safer for kids to walk to the church from the school at the other end of the street.

I was part of the "Rock the Block" team, the largest contingent. We walked about a quarter mile to one particular block. Our job was to walk through the yards (only one house was occupied, most lots vacant) and haul any trash out to the curb. In some areas there was very little, in others quite a bit. I was surprised by the number of piles of roof shingles we had to haul. Those are heavy! Most of us also had trash bags to fill with all kinds of plastic litter.

Though I turned on the furnace of my house back in mid September, today was the first day that stayed cold – about 48F for the high. There was also rain overnight and occasional sprinkles in the afternoon. I was glad I was wearing my parka. The wet weather meant my gloves got damp.

We were directed back to the church at 11:00 for lunch after only about 75 minutes of work. I was back out with a crew after lunch for another hour. I felt tired after that time of reaching down to gather stuff up out of the dirt.

Friday, October 3, 2014

It brings out the worst in us

Paul Verhaeghe of The Guardian lists ways our current economic system, with its emphasis on financial success that vanquishes the opposition, is affecting our personalities and bringing out the worst in us. Some of the ways:

A person finds it important to: Win over people, even if contact is superficial. Sell yourself, even if most of what you say is hot air (leaving no guilt for the lie and no responsibility for behavior). Be flexible and impulsive, leading to risky behavior. Forge temporary alliances for the purpose of profit, leading to a breakdown in community. Submit to constant evaluations, leading to a loss of independent thinking, dependence on shifting external norms, and damage to self-respect, which leads to bullying of others over trivialities.

We are told we must be a success and can be one with enough hard work. We aren't granted any alternative. From the effort to reach that lie we feel overstretched, exhausted, humiliated, and ashamed. We need freedom. But the kind of freedom we are now permitted to have, such as being able to criticize religion, no longer has significance. We're becoming psychopathic.

Jingoism isn't up to snuff

The school board of Jefferson County, Colorado, under conservative control, declared history classes should be purged of anything that is "unpatriotic." High school students walked out in protest. Conservatives responded by declaring students must be pawns of the teachers' union. Apparently, students are incapable of thinking for themselves. Joseph Palermo of Huffington Post put it this way:
Young people today have lived their entire lives under the shadow of multiple foreign wars, the worst economic collapse in 75 years, and governing institutions dominated by Koch Brothers plutocrats that seem wholly unresponsive to the needs of the people. They've been exposed to terrorist attacks and beheadings by America's vast array of enemies, and are now urged to get behind yet another American war in Syria. They've lived through the dashed hopes of the Obama presidency, and they've been subjected to fossil fuel industry propaganda telling them to bury their heads in the sand about global warming.

They've also lived through the Occupy Wall Street movement's exposure of the bankers' crimes, and ongoing racial conflict like we've seen recently in Ferguson, Missouri. The same week their protests broke out calling for critical thinking in their American history courses the world saw the giant People's Climate March in New York City. The student demonstrations in Jefferson County are about the present as much as they are about the past.

Given what they've seen throughout their childhoods it's not surprising that these kids would sense that the jingoistic version of American history that their right-wing school board wants to spoon feed them isn't up to snuff.

Whatever it takes to protect Americans

Connie and Aimee Wilson were married in California. Connie took Aimee's last name. Later, they moved to Texas. But Texas won't give Connie a driver's license because it doesn't recognize the marriage. She can't get a license under her previous name either because that's not her legal name anymore. As Wonkette snidely puts it:
Because if you can’t make life miserable for someone whose life you disapprove of, what’s the point of even having a government?

The Supremes didn't accept any of the seven marriage equality cases before them. They didn't reject them either. The next possibility for news is Tuesday, Oct. 14. The waiting could go until mid January and still get a ruling by June.

Lyle Denniston of Scotusblog says there were four justices who strongly objected to the big case a year ago that touched off the string of cases affirming marriage equality. Perhaps they are "arguing energetically" to take one of the cases provided there is hope one of their colleagues will join their side.

Denniston takes a look at the streak of victories we've gotten over the last year. Such a long list of victories means a few things: As other judges take up the issue they look at the consensus of their colleagues. State attorneys general decide that defense of a same-sex marriage ban no longer makes sense. The string and pace of victories will impress the Supremes. But the streak may also allow the Supremes to allow the issue to be resolved in lower courts without their intervention.

The World Wildlife Fund issued a report saying the earth has lost 50% of its wildlife in the last 40 years.

Jon Stewart takes a look at what Republicans are saying about ebola, the Islamic State, and illegal immigrants. The phrase seems to be, "We'll do whatever it takes to protect American lives!" Actual American death count so far for all three: maybe 10. But on issues such as heart disease, guns, and climate change, that are actually killing people in the range of tens to hundreds of thousands, the GOP suddenly has no memory of the phrase, "We'll do whatever it takes..." The difference? The issues causing the GOP to foam at the mouth are not yet in America (well, there is one case of ebola). A person keeling over from a heart attack can say, "At least my death was made in America."