Sunday, April 27, 2014

You can apply to another

Yesterday I was at the meat counter and bought a turkey drumstick. The counter man commented about how big it was -- big enough that I didn't buy two. This morning I prepared my crock-pot for turkey soup. In went water, herbs, a bit of olive oil, and the drumstick.

That's when I found the drumstick was too big for the crock-pot.

It almost fit. But enough stuck out that the lid didn't seal.

After the morning church service I headed to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see their Samurai exhibit and to hear a couple of my professor colleagues perform in the Rivera Court. I also had lunch in the café and took in the other special exhibits for a lovely afternoon.

When I got home I saw that much of the turkey was still pink. So I had something else for supper. I searched the kitchen for a pot big enough (hey, I cook for one) and finally found a disposable roaster I bought (and used as a lid) last Thanksgiving. I transferred the drumstick and dumped in the broth, then put the whole thing in the oven for an hour. Alas, roasted turkey isn't as easily deboned as crock-pot turkey. I'll have soup tomorrow.

A friend responded to yesterday's post, part of my ongoing discussion of affirmative action and same-sex marriage in Michigan. He linked me to a similar story in the Detroit Free Press. The view in that article is different from the on in the National Review. Some of the Freep's article's major points.

Yes, a right to an education is different than a right to marriage. If you're denied admission to one school you can apply to another. That option doesn't exist in marriage.

Michigan AG Bill Scheutte talked about his favorite quotes from the affirmative action ruling (the case he won). These are the parts about the Supremes being in favor of big issues being decided at the ballot box. But he also said he does not apply the same reasoning to the marriage case. He has already said he will abide by however the Supremes rule on same-sex marriage (not that he could do anything else).

So Scheutte won't use the AA case against us. But conservative members of the Supremes certainly might throw Anthony Kennedy's words back at him.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

One culture war over

News that has accumulated…

I should be careful what I wish for. That last snowstorm that set a record for snowfall in Detroit, over which I rejoiced, apparently also froze the buds on my forsythia bushes. One bush that usually has thousands of little bright yellow blossoms now has just three. I don't think it is just late -- forsythia along the highways has bloomed. I may have to be content with looking at the pictures I posted last year.

A third federal district judge in Texas has ruled that state's same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional. This case was about a lesbian couple who married out-of-state and now wanted a divorce. Texas had said since there is no recognition of your marriage you can't get divorced. Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that "a state cannot do what the federal government cannot — that is, it cannot discriminate against same-sex couples." All three of those cases are likely on their way to the 5th Circuit.

The same-sex marriage case in Pennsylvania will likely skip the trial and go straight to summary judgment. The state said the trial is not necessary because they will not call any witnesses. Perhaps the mauling those witnesses got in Michigan convinced Pennsylvania that it wasn't worth the effort.

A challenge to the same-sex marriage ban in Georgia has been filed. That means there are only two or three states that don't have marriage equality and also don't have a challenge case.

A year ago Pat Brady, chairman of the GOP in Illinois announced he is for marriage equality and started lobbying state legislators to pass such a bill. A few people of the GOP central committee didn't like that and called for a vote to remove Brady. They didn't have enough votes, only seven of 18. Later Brady resigned, but in such a way to show he wasn't forced out. Last November the legislature passed marriage equality with three GOP votes. The anti-gay crowd vowed revenge for those "betrayals."

Those three GOP legislators faced primary challengers and all three challengers lost. And all seven of the anti-gay central committee members have been replaced. One culture war over.

I feel a bit better about not witnessing the recent milestone with my car. While it was parked in the Orchestra Hall structure yesterday it showed the number 100100, a pretty pattern.

Wave it in front of their noses

A couple days ago I looked at the decision by the Supremes on permitting a voter approved ban on affirmative action and asked the question:
If it is permissible for voters to ban racial preferences is it also permissible for voters to ban same-sex marriage?
The blog Box Turtle Bulletin works to disprove anti-gay claims. I refer to its postings frequently. One of the site's features is a Daily Agenda. It lists important items for the day (such as a court case) and discusses sexual minorities in history through birthdays and anniversaries of significant events. At the end of each day's Agenda writer Jim Burroway invites readers to tell him and co-authors what is on our minds.

So after posting the above question I also wrote a comment to the Daily Agenda asking the BTB crew what they thought of it. A couple authors replied, a few regular commenters did too.

Commenter jpeckjr sees a distinction -- marriage is a fundamental right (as several court cases repeat). A college education is not. Commenter Billy Glover sees no connection then reminds us that laws and court rulings frequently have unintended side effect.

BTB author Rob Tisinai says I'm not the only one to think of that question. He included a link to an article in the National Review pondering it. So, on to the article.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Scheutte is highly involved in the affirmative action (AA) case (his name is on it). He was also active in the marriage case decided in Michigan a month ago. And the Supremes, in the AA case, used similar language that Scheutte used in describing the marriage case. He said voters can be deliberative and reasonable when deciding big issues. Voters are not necessarily guided by animus when they make those deliberations (though I find those pushing to ban same-sex marriage and those pushing to end affirmative action are indeed guided by animus). Because voters are deliberate, courts should defer to voters. (Yeah, there is that tyranny of the majority thing, but so many like Scheutte, and maybe a few of the Supremes, pretend that doesn't exist.)

Will the ruling in the AA case shape the marriage case? We won't know how the Supremes view that relationship until a marriage case gets to them. But many Circuit judges write their opinions trying to please the justices or at least knowing the justices might review their work. And we'll know real soon if the AA case influences their decisions. The 10th Circuit has heard the Oklahoma and Utah cases but has not yet issued an opinion. There is still time for those judges to consider what the Supremes wrote.

And you can be sure Bill Scheutte's fingers are typing as fast as they can to write an amendment to his filing of the Michigan marriage case with the 6th Circuit. He will (at least figuratively) wave the AA ruling in front of the judge's noses and say, "See what the Supremes said about voter approved bans!"

My question wasn't so idle or hypothetical.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A referendum of the voters

I've been hearing about the Michigan affirmative action case just decided by the Supremes. My regular (gay) news sources didn't discuss it, so I went to the source, that being SCOTUSblog. According to its reporting the 6-2 decision essentially says that voters have a right to determine issues related to race.
The race issue, Kennedy said, is not so sensitive that it cannot be made the topic of political conversation and submitted to a referendum of the voters.
I see so many things wrong with that statement. Yes, I'm saying a Supreme Court justice got it wrong (and it won't be the first or last time). At a time when so many people are freaking out about a black president Anthony Kennedy is saying race relations are not sensitive? And when have we had an intelligent political conversation about race? Certainly the GOP hasn't had that conversation since Richard Nixon pulled his Southern Strategy to win the presidency. And that bit about "submitted to a referendum of the voters" sounds like an endorsement of tyranny of the majority.

I'll let other legal minds ponder the racial and policy implications, such as this one that debates whether affirmative action is about upholding diversity or is reparative justice. I have a different burning question to ask.

If it is permissible for voters to ban racial preferences is it also permissible for voters to ban same-sex marriage?

Have the Supremes given us a hint on how they might rule in a marriage equality case when it gets to them? Bases on the rulings last summer court after court has been saying marriage is a fundamental right and using that as a basis to confirm same-sex marriage. So is education not a fundamental right? Did we miss something about the Constitution's inclusive language and now find it applies to sexual minorities and not racial minorities (and I'm very aware lots of people try to claim the Constitution indeed does not cover racial minorities -- and apparently a few justices do too). Are these two cases different? If so, in what way?

Devalue everyday workers

The GOP frequently and loudly trumpets that raising the minimum wage is bad for business. Their chant has something to do with raising prices and causing companies to close. They have such a "terrible fear" -- the words used by Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers in an opinion piece in the Huffington Post -- that they are working hard to insure poor people remain poor. Their latest efforts are to push for legislation in various states that forbids cities and counties from raising minimum wage rates.

Doesn't the salary of Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, at $78 million also cause prices to rise? Doesn't the $28 million paid to James Skinner, head of McDonald's reduce shareholder dividends? Perhaps the $31 million to the head of CVS Larry Merlo has no effect of pharmacy prices?

The AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch team calculated that the average CEO gets paid 331 times the average worker. Is a CEO worth 331 times that of a heart surgeon who is saving peoples lives? Are CEOs 331 times more important than the fireman who enters a burning house to save a life? Are they 331 times more valuable than the teacher who nurtures a shy child and a faltering student? The GOP says yes, because
Republicans are so enthralled with the 1 percent who write supersized campaign checks that they devalue the contributions of everyday workers to the welfare of America.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lots of zeros

I had lunch with my friend and debate partner today. After greeting him I said that my car was sitting in the parking lot with an odometer reading of 99998. So, yes, on the way home my car passed 100,000 miles. This is the car that was hit almost two months ago and repaired. I've had it 8 1/2 years. It is only the second car I've owned to reach that milestone. The first was my very first car, purchased in 1978, and it "rolled over" -- the five digits of the odometer went to all zeros. After that I worked for a car company and got the employee discount, so kept a car for only five years at the most. This car, purchased the year before retiring from the auto industry, now displays six digits for miles.

Alas, I didn't actually witness the one with the string of zeros. Between the lively conversation at lunch and the thick traffic afterward I didn't think of looking at the odometer until after I had stopped at a store. By then the right digit was a "2." The switch to six digits happened on Ford Road, at about the time I passed under I-275.

Sigh. I didn't think I would feel so disappointed in not seeing the string of zeros. Part of my says I'd have to drive another car over eight years to be able to see it again and every time I glance at the six digits I'll be reminded I missed it. Another part reminds me it is just a car and just a number, of small consequence.

Monday, April 21, 2014

That's so morally unacceptable

The Pew Research Center surveyed people in 40 countries, asking them if an issue was morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue. The issues included extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol use, and contraception use. They provide charts to show the data by country and issue. They also provide five key findings.

1. Extramarital affairs are widely seen as morally unacceptable.

2. Contraception use is widely seen as morally acceptable or not a moral issue. Alas, 65% of Pakistanis think contraceptives are unacceptable.

3. The opinions on premarital sex and alcohol are split.

4. Americans view affairs as unacceptable by 84% but were mostly accepting of all other issues. Abortion is at 49% unacceptable, homosexuality is at 37% unacceptable (cool!), and contraception use is at 7% unacceptable.

5. In America there is a big difference on most of these issues between Republicans and Democrats.

I clicked on the homosexuality chart. That shows why we have so much trouble in Africa. 98% of those surveyed in Ghana say homosexuality is morally unacceptable. In Uganda (where that nasty law was recently passed) the score is 93%. Even in South Africa, where protections are in the constitution, the score is 62%. Spain is at the bottom of the list with only 6% thinking homosexuality is morally unacceptable.

Where the population is not

I'm used to maps showing some sort of data by state and county (though there is one memorable one that uses a dot per person). We're now getting maps with data by census block. The US Census Bureau started using blocks in 1990 to improve their population count. Some are about the size of a city block, those in the vacant west might be a couple hundred square miles. Across the 50 states and Puerto Rico there are over 11 million census blocks.

Nik Freeman noted a lot of maps show where the American population is, so he made one where the population is not. To do that he colored each census block that has a population of zero. That's 4.8 million census blocks or 47% of America. Of course, a large chunk of that is in Alaska.

Though I haven't seen a description it seems that the entire country is divided into census blocks -- even where there are obviously no residents, such as highways, industrial parks, and rivers. While we expect highlighted areas for the mountainous and desert spaces in the West as well as for national parks, the map also shows us highlighted rivers. I wonder if large Plains farms are divided into multiple census blocks. The block with the farmhouse would show as inhabited but the cultivated fields would show zero residents, even though the land is owned and in use.

There are vacant areas in the northern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula and more in the Upper Peninsula. A large vacant area that might be a surprise to some is northern Maine. I'll check some of that this summer, though I won't be going through the largest area of no inhabitants.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Arc of the moral universe

Says Rachel Maddow, using a line from Martin Luther King:
Sometimes the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. But you know what? Sometimes the arc of the moral universe runs around like a chicken with its head cut off.
She bases that conclusion on two stories that appeared on the same day. I already mentioned one of them -- Louisiana choosing to keep its unenforceable sodomy law.

The other story is about Charles Cooper. A year ago he was the lead lawyer before the Supremes arguing that Calif. should be allowed to keep its same-sex marriage ban. This year he is helping his daughter plan her lesbian wedding. Yep, his opinion has changed.

The video is under five minutes.

Leading the defense will be …

On April 23 US District Judge Michael McShane will hear the case challenging Oregon's ban on same-sex marriages. But the defense table will be empty.

* Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum won't be there. She filed a brief saying, "This case presents that rare case in which there simply is no legal argument to be made in support of a state law."

* The governor or any other state officer won't be there.

* No outside anti-gay group will be there. The Supremes decided the Calif. case last summer by saying outside groups don't have standing to appeal. So why get involved if they can't pursue an appeal? They didn't even file briefs laying out their position. That's perhaps because they no longer have the resources to devote to a lost cause -- they want to use their dwindling resources to overturn public accommodation laws (see Arizona).

The judge did get lots of briefs -- from Oregon businesses saying the ban was bad for business.

Now some judges might feel free to impose their own opinion on the case, someone like Antonin Scalia, for example.

But not this judge. He's gay. Yes, a gay federal judge. Judge McShane did tell the attorneys in the case he'd be willing to step aside if anyone was uncomfortable with him being gay. But nobody expressed any concerns. Then again, there weren't any attorneys for the anti-gay side.

Of course, anti-gays from other states will complain about the activist gay judge. Too bad.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Big consequences that I can't prove

The Oklahoma marriage equality case was before the 10th Circuit Court yesterday. The state had declared that allowing same-sex couples to marry "harms the government’s interest in creating stable families and cared for children." One of the judges on the case demanded the state prove it. The attorney for the state said it isn't the government's responsibility to show the harm. Quite the dodge. The judge persisted. The attorney replied there are "real world consequences" but "no one knows the long-term effects." Translation: The most horrible things are going to happen and we can't prove any of it, nor do we have to. Which means they're in the same situation as this guy.

The Arkansas same-sex marriage ban has been before the judge. He says he will rule within two weeks. The plaintiff attorney is feeling pretty good. Since the Windsor case last summer, the one that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, there have been 18 cases at the state and federal level that ruled in favor of equality. The attorney for the state said that ruling only applies to federal laws and did not block states from defining marriage as they wish. He is correct, but he misses the point.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Take it to the square

I'm not sure why I did not get a paper version of The Washington Spectator this month. It's only now, half way through the month, that I've gotten around to reading it online. The article that caught my attention is a review of the book The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right by Lee Fang. The review is written by Samir Chopra so most of the quotes are of Chopra's words. This book is a thorough review of the relentless takeover of American society and politics by the Koch brothers.

Chopra starts off by confirming the actions of the Koch brothers and their puppet GOP are all about Power.
The modern Republican Party supposedly suffers from ideological confusion. It is for the regulation of gay marriage and reproductive rights; it is against the regulation of industrial pollution, healthcare insurance, and workplace safety. It is for the reduced power of the executive branch, except when it comes to spying on Americans and declaring war. It is for the religious freedom of Christian evangelicals but not Muslim Americans. These seemingly disparate platforms actually display a coherent unity: the American Right is committed to preserving all hierarchy and imposed order: men over women, white over black, rich over poor, bosses over workers, Christian majorities over Muslim minorities. This love of hierarchy, of entrenched power, is manifest in the most visible face of opposition to the Obama Presidency: the Tea Party and the new crop of Republican representatives it has sent to Congress.
The rest of the review -- and the whole of the book -- delve into how the Koch brothers have thoroughly derailed Obama's agenda and voter mandate. Distressing reading, and perhaps a guidebook on how they might be resisted. I'll only mention one more item.
Fang shows how the Tea Party never was, or is, a grassroots phenomenon; its birth is found in the tobacco industry’s resistance to government regulation, packaged in a verbal and visual co-optation of the language and symbols of the Boston Tea Party. Indeed, every instance of supposed bottoms-up Tea Party activism is shown to be corporate funded and organized to advance a corporate agenda, whether in pursuing tax breaks or derailing climate change legislation.
Yes, distressing. Add to that Nate Silver's prediction that the Senate will likely flip to GOP this November and I'm feeling glum. I'm also thinking about how this might play out. So a prediction -- with the warning that you have no reason to trust my fractured and cloudy crystal ball, especially since I fear I'm right yet hope I'm wrong.

So, the Senate flips to GOP. That means at the national level absolutely nothing gets done in the next two years. Anything Congress gets past a Dem filibuster and passes Obama vetoes and Congress won't have the votes to override. Anything Obama proposes is severely criticized and ignored. I know this isn't all that different than what is happening now (though there was that bipartisan budget deal not long ago).

Which leads us to what comes after the 2016 election. The House will stay GOP -- it is too gerrymandered to change. Will enough Dem voters (the ones who tend not to vote in midterm elections) be enough to flip the Senate back to Dem? We're likely to get a Dem president. Will he or she be as hobbled as Obama? Will the takeover be so complete that it won't matter? Strange that this prediction has more questions than answers.

A second Washington Spectator article is about Art Pope, North Carolina's local equivalent to the Koch brothers. Pope sprinkled enough money around politicians that he got himself appointed as the state budget director. Which means if you annoy him he defunds you. That is what is happening to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill because they are teaching economic theories that Pope disapproves of. Yup, another Power. As expected, Pope is working to discredit the Moral Monday protests. Thankfully, that work is backfiring.

A third Washington Spectator article is written by Gigi Ibrahim and is about the new documentary The Square by Jehane Noujaim. It is about Egypt's rough road after the Tahrir Square protests that ousted Hosni Mubarak three years ago. Ibrahim reminds us:
The Square returns us to Tahrir and the beginning of a revolution that not only inspired other revolutions in the Arab world in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria, but the entire world: Wisconsin, Trafalgar Square, Catalonia Square, Syntagma Square, Zuccotti Park and most recently the Maidan in Kiev.
Ibrahim concludes by saying:
Squares are not just physical places. They are an idea that becomes a state of mind. One of the lessons we must learn is that unless Tahrir is taken to our cities, councils, factories, universities, where alternative systems of democratic power can be organized and nurtured, then the idea of a revolution in a public square may become our very own limitation to freedom.
Will Americans take to the Square? We did in Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street. Though we now talk about the 1% those protests didn't accomplish much.

Another prediction: If we take it to the Square it will be because too many Americans have so little prospect and hope they have nothing to lose. It will likely get bloody. It certainly won't end well.

Will you see me in the Square? Right now I’m sitting pretty good with a comfortable retirement. But I can see the squeeze on the middle class could get to the point where it affects me. The last economic mess sucked a lot of value out of the poor and handed it to the rich. Another such downturn could possibly wipe out my pension and savings, leaving me with nothing to lose.

If the Square becomes a big part of American life, I plan to be there, whether or not my savings crashed. I have much more empathy with the poor and with justice than I would have with the 1%.

An unenforceable law has its uses

Malta has passed a civil unions law! This is significant because Malta is highly Catholic.

I had reported that Peter LeBarbara of Americans for Truth About Homosexualty was detained at the Canadian border while they decided whether the brochures and books he was carrying amounted to hate speech.

Well, LaBarbara did go on to his speaking gig at the University of Regina. Apparently, they had a change of heart (or maybe he wasn't exactly invited in the first place) and asked him and a colleague to leave. They refused to go and were arrested.

They were released and had time to visit another university. Instead they cut their visit short to return to Chicago. Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin suspects LaBarbara was ready to play the martyr card for his cause, but then "decided that the martyr thing was more fun in theory than in practice."

Eleven years ago the Supremes ruled that sodomy laws were unconstitutional. At the time there were only 13 states that used such laws to criminalize private consensual gay sex. Not many states actually repealed those laws. And last summer Louisiana showed why.

Even though the sodomy law was unenforceable, it was the reason behind an entrapment campaign last summer near Baton Rouge. Sheriff deputies propositioned men. When the victim agreed to private consensual sex, they were arrested. The purpose was, of course, intimidation.

So a legislator introduced a bill to remove the law. No go. By a large majority the state House voted to keep a discriminatory yet unenforceable law.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Setting a record

Yes! We did it! Detroit has broken the record for the most snowfall in one year!

Though I had quite enough snow to last me to next December, last week we were two inches short of a record set back in the winter of 1881. The piles of snow had melted. The grass was turning green. Trees were beginning to show some activity. I had been out on my bike a couple times. We got a day or two with temperatures around 70F. I've even seen several robins and a daffodil or two. We had just gone through a brutal winter and we had not broken the record. That's like training for years and only getting a silver medal.

This is Detroit, however, and it is only April. And Monday night we got snow. According to the weather station at Detroit Metro Airport 3.1 inches fell. So a new record has been set at 94.8 inches in one season. That's almost eight feet! For my foreign readers, that's 2.4 meters. Fortunately, it wasn't all on the ground at once.

I didn't get all three inches at my house and because the pavement was still warm there was nothing to plow or shovel.

The snow season doesn't officially end until the end of June. We've had snow in May. So we might lengthen our lead. Thankfully, meteorologists think it is likely that was the last snow of the season.

We also had the most severe winter in a good long time (though perhaps not a record). This was measured by the low temperatures and the number of days between thaws. And many cities are posting high costs for snow removal, busting several budgets.

So I claim bragging rights: I lived through the winter of 2014!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Reminding us who they really are

What better topic for tax day than the federal budget!

Paul Ryan, the guy nominated in 2012 to be Vice President, is touting his federal budget again. I think it got an endorsement from the House. It very clearly shows what the GOP will do if given enough power in Washington. Terrence Heath summarizes the major goals. We've seen these before.

* Repeal Obamacare but don't offer anything to replace it.

* Cut welfare. Cut food stamps and convert the rest to block grants to states with emphasis on "flexibility." That means if a state throws enough people off food stamps the state can do what it wants with the "overrun."

* Cut the Home Energy Assistance Program because several states are "abusing" it. They have linked that program to food stamps and food stamp usage has gone up.

* Cut Medicaid by turning it into a block grant (see above) and by indexing it to inflation even though medical expenses rise faster than inflation.

* Cut Medicare by changing it to "premium support" with the same inflation index.

* Cut aid to students and increase interest paid on student debt.

* Cut the budget of the Securities and Exchange Commission, so the financial industry has less regulation. That will invite another financial mess (and we know who ends up profiting from those).

* Increase spending on the military as a patriotic way of sucking money out of the rest of the federal budget.

* All those cuts will result in a much smaller budget. Which means the deficit will be eliminated and the national debt will go down -- just like the GOP is calling for. No. Wait. I'm being silly. All that savings will give the 1% another tax cut to the tune of more than a quarter million dollars each. Deficit? Never heard of it.

This budget isn't going anywhere beyond the House. The Senate will only touch it long enough to toss it out. Even if the GOP takes the Senate in November the Dems will still be able to filibuster it. Besides, this prez. will veto it. Which means this annual exercise is a way for the GOP to remind us who they really are.

But the GOP and their backers are a patient bunch. And in 2017…

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chipping away at Ohio

Last December Timothy Black, a judge at the Federal District level in Ohio, ruled that if a same-sex couple got married out of state the death certificate in Ohio must identify them as married. He didn't rule any more than that because that was all he was asked.

Black is back with another ruling. Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. He didn't issue a stay, but this isn't a case where gay couples are ready to dash to the courthouse. State officials will likely ask the 6th Circuit Court for a stay and an appeal.

This makes the 6th Circuit the only one where all its states -- Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee -- have appealed to it with marriage equality cases.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

No right to hurt others

Peter LaBarbera heads the organization named Americans for Truth bout Homosexuality. The group consists of himself and anyone he can convince to donate, which isn't many these days. He is very much against us, though he usually comes across as bumbling rather than dangerous.

Several big anti-gay crusaders go to places like Uganda and are quite successful in stirring up trouble. LaBarbera gets invited to places such Canada, where marriage equality has been around for a decade. And he is detained at the border while his luggage (full of brochures and books) is searched to determine if there is any hate speech. That is illegal in Canada. He's eventually allowed to enter.

A report of that incident by Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin led to a discussion of whether hate speech should be included under Free Speech. Commenter FYoung supplies a good definition:
Like every other freedom and right, free speech does not include the right to hurt others.

There are all kinds of limits to free speech, such as: bad-mouthing your employer, blackmail, bomb threats, copyright, defamation, disclosing official secrets, distribution of pornography, extortion, false labeling, forgery, fraud, giving professional advice without being professionally qualified, misleading advertising, professionals non-reporting of child abuse, solicitor-client privilege, threatening to hurt someone, trade-mark infringement, violation of confidentiality by a professional, violation of privacy laws, yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre.

Few think there is anything wrong with these limits; they are taken for granted and rarely even discussed.

Another limit is hate speech. The reason for it is that hate speech leads to violence, It is always a prerequisite of genocide.

Yet, all types of objections are raised about this one limit, and only this limit.
From all the venom that is spewed in our direction -- and the violence that results -- I'm inclined to agree that hate speech should not get First Amendment protections.

A lighter platform

The Nevada GOP just concluded their annual state convention. Yeah, there was the usual sniping about what is a "true" Republican and who fits the definition. But there was also an important bit of business -- opposition to both abortion and same-sex marriage was dropped from the party platform.

We don't discriminate

I reported last week that Mississippi did indeed pass a license to discriminate law similar to the one vetoed in Arizona. The governor promptly signed it. Yep, Jim Crow is back but for gays instead of blacks. No, the term is not an exaggeration. There was a time when blacks had to be very careful in planning travel to make sure there were restaurants and hotels that would accommodate them. David Mixner says the same is true for us today, at least in Mississippi. Of course, there are gay people who live in the state who may have to make those calculations just to get across town (or when hiring a plumber) and do it every day.

No, I'm not heading to the South for my vacation this year. New England is much more deserving of my vacation dollars.

Fortunately, for gays that will have to put up with this every day there is a new campaign to pass out signs to be posted in store and restaurant windows that say, "We don't discriminate." There is a real cost here -- Fundies might boycott such businesses.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Round up a few friends

The weather was finally warm enough on a day that I had time so I was on my bicycle this afternoon. The temperature was 56-58F, the sun was shining, there was a bit of wind, and the grass was just beginning to turn green. Though I've been pretty regular on my exercise bike through the winter, 45 minutes on suburban streets was a good workout.

This evening I went to the Detroit Film Theater for the British Arrows. This program used to be known as the British Television Advertising Awards. Yep, it is an evening of watching the best of British TV commercials. Because of the difference in culture some of these come off as hilarious, others, mostly issue ads, can be blunt and brutal, much more severe that I've ever seen on American TV (not that I've watched much of that lately). Some that stick in the mind:

We see Irish sheepdog trials. But the champion dog isn't herding sheep, instead it's young men. The dog has to get the men through the gates, away from the pretty girls and the Indian restaurant, and into the pub. The tagline: Round up a few friends for a Guinness.

A young boy pushes a box of cereal to his father saying, "You're gonna need it." While Mom is gone for the day son and father spend it playing and Dad really gets a workout pushing the swing and merry-go-round and blocking the soccer goal.

We see the efforts taken to prevent cell phones from getting into the movie theater. Patrons pass through security machines. The guard dumps the popcorn into a tub and runs his hands through it. We're introduced to the dog trained to sniff out those annoying phones (though when let loose it dashes for the exit).

We cut between a young woman and young man who sing their vow to run across the country (and the country is America, no less) to meet in the middle and be together. She's in fine shape and keeps moving along. He's not and soon needs an ambulance to take him to the hospital where she eventually arrives. He thought she was speaking figuratively. The ad was for running shoes.

Various Kevin Bacon characters (yep, all played by Kevin Bacon) are around the table trying to decide what kind of movie to see that evening.

One of the brutal ones shows what happens when shark fins are harvested for shark fin soup. Hint: they don't kill the shark.

Another shows what happens when one texts while driving. We see a truck run over and flatten a sedan. These do not spare a person's tender sensibilities.

It looks like you could see many of the commercials on YouTube (search for British Arrows) or on the Arrows website. It also looks like the 2014 awards were just handed out. I'll probably see those a year from now.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

We don't have time to wait

Lambda Legal created a list of all the marriage equality cases before the various courts. There are 65 cases in 28 states. 9 of those are in Federal Appeals Courts (Circuits 4, 5, 6, 9, and 10 -- no need for cases in Circuits 1 & 2), 35 in Federal District Courts, and 21 cases in state courts. Of the state cases 5 are at some level of appeal, including at state supremes. The cases are about one or more of freedom to marry, recognition of out-of-state marriages, freedom to divorce, and freedom to adopt. There are now only five states without marriage equality that do not have pending legislation -- Alaska, Georgia, Montana, North & South Dakota.

Each case includes the current status. For example, in the Michigan case it lists the date of the trial, ruling, and appeal. For that appeal briefs must be filed in May and June, so oral arguments won't happen until at least July.

When the list was posted it had 64 entries. That same day another case was filed, this one in North Carolina. One of the plaintiffs is age 89. Her partner says "We don't have time to wait!"

One of those 65 cases is Utah. Oral arguments were heard today at the 10th Circuit before a 3-judge panel. From what was said by the judges it seems one will likely approve marriage equality, one will deny it, and the third judge gave conflicting indications. They probably will take their time to rule because the 10th Circuit hears the Oklahoma case next week. More here.

In preparation for the Utah case the defendants filed a letter saying they decided not to use the study by Mark Regnerus after all. That's the study declared "unbelievable" by the judge in the Michigan case. But somehow the state of Utah concluded that while kids of gay parents do just fine, if marriage equality is allowed kids of straight parents will suffer. Tell it to the judge.

Back in 2012 an Italian gay couple went to New York to get married (I'm sure more cool than Amsterdam). A court has now ordered the town of Grosseto, in Tuscany, to officially list the couple as married.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Badge of honor

Kristen Hotham Carroll wrote an essay just before Fred Phelps died for Huffington Post Gay Voices. She is lesbian and was just beginning to heal from a Fundie upbringing when she joined Soulforce. Her first protest with them was of Jerry Falwell. And Westboro Baptist Church showed up to protest Soulforce. That was painful.

But as Phelps began to broaden his protests to include soldiers and, well, everybody, Carroll began to see his uses. The WBC protests were backfiring and acceptance was turning in our direction. And now…
Not too long ago, I had the thought that I could only hope I lived a life that would warrant a funeral picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church. I posted a Facebook status to that effect, and not long after, I noticed several others shared that sentiment, independent of my post. For quite some time, it became a pretty widespread sentiment that I saw throughout many different unique corners within social media. What a shift from the horror and hurt they caused not so many years before! A WBC picket had evolved into the badge of honor for a life well lived.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Private and personal presidential primary

Earlier this week the Supremes removed some of the caps on campaign spending by corporations and unions (though we know in what direction that balance is weighted). I don't understand all the details. Some say it is good because it leads to more transparency (though it also leads to more money in campaigns).

As part of a weekly political discussion on NPR commentators E.J. Dionne and David Brooks noted (though I don't remember which one said it) that this ruling will affect only about 550 people. Along the way they argue the more money v. transparency issue.

Terrence Heath in his personal blog describes what money from some of those 550 people is already doing to our election system. Sheldon Adelson, number eight in the list of wealthiest Americans, has made perhaps $40 billion through casinos. Back in 2012 he backed Newt Gingrich for president, keeping Newt in the action way past the sell date. Then Adelson backed Romney. He tanked too.

So Adelson is looking to reduce the risk of his investment -- and he is definitely looking for a return on dollars spent -- by conducting his own "Sheldon Primary." He invited the various GOP prez. hopefuls to visit him in Las Vegas and over four days of schmoozing he checked them out. He doesn't want to back someone who is so crazy they can't go the distance.

Heath also reports on the latest Koch brother strategy -- get involved in local politics.
The idea is to embed staff members in a community, giving conservative advocacy a permanent local voice through field workers who live in the neighborhood year-round and appreciate the nuances of local issues.
To what ends? That's unclear right now. Just remember they are making an investment and expect a return.

Recently Nate Silver predicted there is a 60% chance the GOP will take the Senate in November (alas, I didn't keep a link). A big part of his reasoning is that Democratic voters tend to turn out less in midterm elections. As several have pointed out if that happens Obama will get absolutely nothing through Congress for the last two years of his presidency, the lamest of ducks.

Of high concern to me is that the Senate then won't confirm any of Obama's picks to any court (including the Supremes if that should come up). Not that many are getting through now even with the elimination of the filibuster on judicial nominees because there are lots of other speed reducing procedures and the GOP is using every last one of them.

All that means we are facing a judicial system full of vacancies that leads to case backlogs and justice delayed and thus denied. This won't end until 2017. And if the next prez. is GOP all those vacancies will be promptly filled with candidates that will do GOP bidding.

Here's one small aspect of what that would look like. Sen. Charles Grassley is now grilling court nominees on the Windsor case. That was last summer's case that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage act and is now being used to justify that whole slew of rulings for marriage equality. It appears Grassley is trying to get nominees to declare such rulings are an incorrect use of the Windsor case.

All kinds of wholesome families

Three weeks ago Honey Maid graham crackers released a commercial celebrating all kinds of wholesome families, including gay families. They got some criticism, so they put together an awesome two minute response. I recommend clicking to full screen before starting either video.

Brendan Eich has been working at Mozilla (makers of the Firefox web browser) for a good long time, rising through the ranks. Back in 2008 he contributed $1,000 to the campaign to halt gay marriages in Calif. Recently he was named as CEO of Mozilla. While Eich confirmed that Mozilla believes in diversity (a central piece of the Mozilla mission) he didn't say his views on marriage have changed. The pushback from both within and outside Mozilla was fierce. Eich finally resigned.

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin wonders about the statue of limitations on such a donation. He thinks our criticism of Eich is being as bullying as the Fundies are to us.

This did not sit well with his readers. They bring up many worthwhile points. The only one I'll mention is this: Would Burroway be saying the same thing if Eich had donated to the Klan?

Remember that "license to discriminate" bill that was vetoed in Arizona? It passed the Mississippi legislature in lopsided votes and that governor signed it.

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin isn't so worried. He says there aren't that many businesses willing to get a reputation for refusing service to gays. He then says there will be many unintended side-effects that will turn around and bite lawmakers, such as Rastafarians demanding the legalization of pot and other religious minorities declaring their freedom.

Kincaid's readers strongly disagree. In spite of any side-effects the bill, just by existing, will have the intended effect of belittling and demoralizing gay people.

Gene Robinson takes on the Fundie claim that it is the Fundies who are the victims.
But I have to ask: are religious conservatives confusing the pain of finding oneself “suddenly” in the minority with actually being a victim? Both feel uncomfortable, even painful, and are fraught with anxiety. But they’re very different.
He then describes what being a victim is really like.

Several gay organizations were a part of the protests that ousted the previous Prime Minister of Ukraine. They were right there in the square where the protests were held -- but without their banners and flags. It is a rather homophobic country after all.

But now that a new guy is installed and treading carefully between Russia and the European Union, the gays of Ukraine are in a bind.

If they push too hard for rights they hand Russian Prez. Putin an easy propaganda victory. He can say, "See! The West really is all about homosexuals!"

But not pushing hard enough is also a problem. Officials from the EU are quietly lessening their demands that Ukraine must pass certain human (gay) rights laws in order to be an auxiliary member. Gay groups think that now is the time to get these laws passed because they won't be passed without EU pressure. Weren't those protests about human rights?

This one is ugly. The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda put together a well-attended five-hour celebration as a thank you to the legislators and prez. Museveni for enacting the recent anti-homosexual bill.

So go watch that Honey Maid response again.