Thursday, July 31, 2014

Detroit's Andrew Carnegie?

There were a couple articles on the front page of the Sunday Free Press from a few days ago. One contrasted the two big real estate holders in downtown Detroit. Mike Ilitch owns a couple sports teams and the lavish Fox Theater and recently proposed a new hockey arena – and got the bankrupt city to cough up lots of millions to support him. Dan Gilbert brought his Quicken Loans business to downtown, a business some people blame for the residential blight in Detroit. He has been buying and renovating lots of downtown office buildings and now owns or controls about 60 buildings. In some eyes these two guys are leading the redevelopment of Detroit. At least the downtown area of Detroit.

There was one small section of the article that caught my eye.
One day, Detroiters and historians might hold the Ilitch and Gilbert contributions in the same esteem Pittsburgh residents have for the corporate benefactors Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon, who used their wealth to endow universities, libraries and cultural institutions in the steel town and across the country.
Which sounds like a backhanded way of saying Ilitch and Gilbert have not yet become benefactors of Detroit. So far, both appear to be in it only for the profit and Ilitch appears to be in it to suck public money into his grand schemes.

The other article is about the water shutoff issue. It said that several other cities across the state and country shut off water when bills are overdue. In Detroit the program is very good at prompting residents to pay up – 60% paid in full within two days of a shutoff.

That got me thinking of an issue not well stated in the article. Detroit has a culture of not paying city tax and utility bills. Why should I pay when my neighbor doesn't? The city has been lax on collection from a combination of incompetence and woefully scrambled and out-of-date records on out-of-date computers.

It is this combination of incompetence and bad records that have compounded the shutoff problem. When the resident is too poor to be able to pay there is a big headache to get the records straight and another headache convincing the clerks of poverty. Then incompetence again, the water company spokesman confessed no clue to the potential blowback he might receive when the shutoffs began several months ago. That is what had turned this into a public relations nightmare.

I can see the water department's dilemma. If there is a culture of nonpayment how do you change it? Shutting off water is a simple way to prompt payment, but with nasty consequences. A better way would be to deal with those incompetence issues. Alas, Detroit siphoned away the money that was supposed to help with that.

Vote for me!

I heard there are 11 people on the ballot to be the Democratic candidate for state representative of my district. The primary is Tuesday and the incumbent isn't running. I have a pile of campaign flyers and I don't think I've gotten one from each of the candidates yet. The flyers list qualifications and endorsements, then give general platitudes. However, they say little about their views on what I think are important issues.

Twice now when a candidate has been at my door I've stepped out and talked to them. I've asked them about privatization and adding sexual minorities to the Michigan civil rights bill.

The first candidate was pleased I spent the time talking and she thanked me for broadening her view of privatization. She had originally thought lots of things could be privatized given enough legal oversight. I said that when schools are privatized taxpayers now have to pay for profit. When prisons are privatized, the company has incentive to lobby for harsher prison terms. She got the point, but why did she not understand that before? Should I favor her because she gets it now?

The second one was this evening. He understood what I meant by privatization (his wife is a teacher). But he was unaware that sexual minorities are not covered by the state civil rights law. Should I vote for him because he gets it now? Or avoid him because he needed to be educated? This one campaigned with the chief of the fire department, who stood quite straight during our discussion.

A third stopped by a few days ago. I heard her put her flyer in my door, but figured it was a sales flyer. I didn't retrieve it until later. I'm annoyed because my desk is close to the door and if she had glanced in the window she would have seen me and perhaps made a bit more noise. I suppose I should get the doorbell replaced. Alas, her flyer doesn't list contact info.

This is a chance to broaden the diversity of the state House. But in which way? One of the women? The African-American? The Arab-American?

With the way the state is gerrymandered, many of the big races, including this one, will be decided in the primary. Whoever wins the primary will get my vote in November. Which reminds me, I've heard nothing of GOP candidates.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Woefully underinclusive

I wrote yesterday that the 4th Circuit ruling in Virginia's same-sex marriage case prompted the AG in North Carolina to stop defending his state's ban. Not so in South Carolina. The AG there has essentially said full steam ahead. No need to change course until the Supremes rule.

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin delves into the ruling from the 4th Circuit. The state had said the vote of the people matters. The court replied that the people's will does not warrant depriving same-sex couples of a fundamental right. The state brought forth history and tradition as good reasons. The court replied, nope. The state pulled out safeguarding the institution of marriage. The court said that allowing committed same-sex couples to marry strengthens marriage. The state tried "responsible procreation." The court replied the current law is "woefully underinclusive" – you let straight sterile couples marry. The state claimed that straight couples offer "optimal childrearing." The court said that claim has "overbroad generalizations" and the law must have a means that corresponds to its end. Therefore denying marriage to same-sex couples is a violation of the 14th Amendment.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Virginia! (round 2)

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The 4th Circuit covers Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and North and South Carolina. If this ruling isn't appealed it will apply to all five states.

This is the second Circuit Court to agree that same-sex marriage is a good thing. Last month the 10th Circuit struck down the bans in Utah and Oklahoma.

Shortly after the ruling the Attorney General of North Carolina said he would no longer defend that state's same-sex marriage ban because such effort would be "futile." There are four cases challenging the NC ban.

The three-judge panel that wrote this ruling was not unanimous. Judge Paul Niemeyer dissented. The majority opinion is familiar: Marriage is a fundamental right (which the Supremes have affirmed over 15 times). And it is a violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments to deny that right to same-sex couples.

While good hand helpful that opinion is not all that interesting. Which is why Ari Ezra Waldman takes a look at the dissenting opinion. Niemeyer was appointed by Bush I. The basic idea of his opinion is: Yeah, marriage is a fundamental right. But same-sex marriage isn't marriage. It is something new. Therefore it isn't what the Supremes talked about as a fundamental right.

Waldman says this reasoning was tried in the sodomy cases that went before the Supremes. There's sex and there's gay sex. And the first case said there is no right to gay sex. But the second ruling said looking at just the sex is crass. The actual rights are about freedom of association, freedom to love, and freedom of expression.

So there is a very good chance the Supremes will disagree with Niemeyer's dissent.

There are now two Circuit Courts who have affirmed same-sex marriage. Both will go to the Supremes. But since there is no conflict between these two rulings the Supremes don't have to take the cases.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Motown Mission, the finished product

The Motown Mission leader with the camera gave me a CD of 40 photos of our week. I'll share three of them with you. This first one shows the community garden where I worked in the first day and some of the team worked in all week. I'm wearing brown in about the middle of the photo. I and one of the youth are building trellises out of twine for the tomato plants. The whole garden is about an acre.

This photo shows the rebuilt back porch with the new steps. A handrail would eventually be added to the steps.

This final photo shows the team (minus a couple leaders) who built the porch, steps, and the railing with gate around the deck. From the left is Austyn, James, Catrina, myself, Alaija, Freddy, Trevor, and Pastor Jeff (who did more cheering than work). They were a great team.

This morning during the worship service we saw a video showing scenes from the week and the kids telling what the week meant to them. Very nice.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Something nice

My day lilies are in bloom!

That means my deck is pretty this time of year. There are even a few rose of Sharon in the left background. Those I can see from my bedroom.

Florida! (part 2)

Another county judge, this one in Miami-Dade, has ruled the Florida ban on same-sex marriage (and thus the Florida constitution) violates the 14th Amendment of the national constitution. The ruling has been stayed, pending appeal. When the stay is lifted this particular ruling applies only to Miami-Dade County.

There is also a third case in the court system. I don't know if it is before the state Supremes (who would rule on one part of the state constitution being in conflict with another) or before a federal district court. Either way that case affects the entire state.

Friday, July 25, 2014

It is about the money

My evening started out rather slow. I came out of the bathroom and discovered I couldn't turn on the sound system. Yup, the power was out. I called the electric company (why it is good to have a landline) to report the outage. I heard voices outside, so went out to talk to neighbors. Power was out down the street. Some of the neighbors said they heard a boom and they thought it was a transformer that blew.

I grabbed a magazine and sat on the porch. Fortunately, the weather was cool and the mosquitos were not swarming. The power came on after about 90 minutes (a full two hours before the power company said it might). I had gotten out the candles, but they weren't lit very long when the power came back – while I was again in the bathroom.

When I visited my sister last week, her partner handed me two magazines I might appreciate. In the first one, Curve, I didn't see anyting of interest. I read much of the second one, The Gay and Lesbian Review, but I won't subscribe(thanks for sharing the magazines with me!). One article did hold my interest – an interview with Roger Ross Williams, who created the documentary film God Loves Uganda. The film explores the American Evangelicals and their campaign to convince Uganda to pass the draconian anti-gay laws, which happened earlier this year. One exchange in the interview explains a great deal of what happened in Uganda.
[Interviewer] Jim Farley: There was a very telling scene in the movie when David Bahati, the MP who sponsored the gay bill, was boasting on a Ugandan talk show about how donations from Western religious organizations tripled once the Ugandan government said no to homosexuality. So is it just about the money?
Roger Ross Williams: It is about the money. Uganda is a very poor and very corrupt country. These pastors become rich from the money they get from American churches who want to broadcast back to America that Uganda is a success story. I mean, they just passed a law outlawing miniskirts on women! They have a Minister of Ethics who basically enforces these sorts of moral laws. And they raise a ton of money from these churches. So they want to please them. And you have a bunch of American conservatives who are totally frustrated with what's going on in the U.S., which is lost in sin, while Uganda is the Promised Land.
The whole interview is a good read.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cut taxes for economic growth

The NPR program Morning Edition took a look at the race for governor in Kansas. There an interesting thing has happened. One hundred current and former moderate GOP state legislators endorsed – the Democratic candidate. Sam Brownback, the current GOP governor, did exactly what he campaigned on – cut taxes. He said it would boost growth and create jobs. He eventually wants to eliminate the income tax.
What it did was create a huge budget deficit and the state's economic growth is now slower than the national rate. Brownback says give the cuts time to do their work. He tells the story of meeting a small business owner who will use the tax savings to grow his business.

What is happening in Kansas demonstrates the fallacy of the GOP claims about tax cuts. They say lower tax cuts attract businesses to the state. But others (such as those 100 GOP lawmakers) are finding out what attracts business investment is a diverse and educated workforce and sound infrastructure. And massive tax cuts puts both in jeopardy.

Colorado! (again)

Just a couple weeks ago a state judge in Colorado declared the same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional. Yesterday, a federal district judge did the same thing.

His ruling is rather short. He doesn't delve into the reasons behind the decision, partly because he doesn't have to – the 10th Circuit has already ruled in Utah and Oklahoma (just last week). The judge did discuss that if the ban is not lifted same-sex couples are harmed. But if the ban is left in place, the harm falls on … nobody.

The other issue is whether to issue a stay. He says harm is only perpetrated by a stay, so there shouldn't be one. But he is also aware that if he doesn't issue a stay then either the 10th Circuit or the Supremes will. So he issued a stay – until August 25th, giving the state plenty of time to secure a stay from a higher court – or decide not to appeal.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Of course, they flee

Terrence Heath takes a look at the crisis of Central American children coming to America. Warning, the pictures in his post are difficult to look at. Heath discusses how violent Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have become. Many children are given the choice of working for the drug cartels or being killed. Of course, they flee. What the morning news (and those protesting these kids) don't tell us is the role the USA has in creating the violence.

The USA has repeatedly intervened in the Honduran gov't. The most recent time was in 2009 when we sponsored a coup that ousted a left-leaning president and installed a repressive regime.

The CAFTA trade deal meant local farmers of Central America had to compete with subsidized American agribusiness. Nearly two-thirds of Hondurans live below the poverty line.

The War on Drugs pushed cartels out of Mexico (I didn't think they were gone) and into Central America. The drug trade fuels the violence.

Three-quarters of the kids in American detention are from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. If we send them home they return to conditions we caused and will kill them. Are we insisting they be sent home because we can't bear to be reminded of our guilt in their plight?

Compelling interest

Yesterday law professor Ari Ezra Waldman on Towleroad contrasted Obama's Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating against sexual minorities with the Hobby Lobby decision recently issued by the Supremes. Today Waldman takes another look at the issue. That Hobby Lobby decision includes the sentence:
The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the workforce without regard to race...
Great sentence, says Waldman. Most of America agrees that discrimination based on race is bad. But what about what isn't said?

Yes, that sentence (written by Justice Alito) should be taken as an example that the Hobby Lobby decision won't tolerate religious claims to discriminate based on gender or other characteristics. But an important question remains. Has the government stated a compelling interest in banning discrimination against sexual minorities? The Supremes have sidestepped that point. Many judges aren't there yet. Congress isn't there yet. So stating a compelling interest may have to wait until a company with religious owners discriminates against us and the issue is again before the Supremes.

Malice or incompetence

Mark Regnerus was the anti-gay researcher who was declared unbelievable by the judge in the Michigan marriage equality case. He can't seem to give up, though. A recent report came out of Australia saying kids of same-sex couples do just fine. Regnerus does his best to shoot it down (which isn't much). As part of his tirade he links to a research article to prove his point. One little problem. The article actually proves the opposite of what Regnerus says it does.

In exposing Regnerus Rob Tisinai of Box Turtle Bulletin mentioned a few quotes he keeps in mind when knocking holes in our adversaries' arguments:
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
That is a variation of:
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
Those familiar with science fiction will recognize that as a riff on author Arthur C. Clarke's famous law:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
That prompted me to leave Regnerus and his folly behind and following the link to Clarke's other laws. Here is another one:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
And that Wikipeida page prompted me to check out the laws devised by author Larry Niven. Here is a selection:
F × S = k. The product of Freedom and Security is a constant. To gain more freedom of thought and/or action, you must give up some security, and vice versa.

Ethics change with technology. (We're finding this true with privacy laws written before the internet.)

No technique works if it isn't used.

It is a sin to waste the reader's time.
So I had better stop.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Featuring the kids

Not that long ago, certainly in 2006, when gay couples went to court to demand marriage equality any children of those couples were carefully kept out of sight. There was still lots of talk of same-sex marriage being harmful to kids. The couples didn't want to make the public relations problems worse.

Then last summer in the big equality cases Justice Kennedy wrote that treating same-sex couples differently “humiliates” their kids. In addition the big studies claiming harm to kids have been thoroughly discredited in the media.

And now the kids are featured in these cases. It is a broad statement of this is who you are harming. And our society is geared to protect the kids.

From hiding kids and talk of harm to featuring kids and talk of protection is quite the change in attitudes and perceptions.

Due to Michigan's gerrymandering both of my sisters ended up in the same state senate district. This year Garnet Lewis, a lesbian, is in the race for that district. So be sure to vote in the primary. Alas, I have my suspicions the district is rigged for the GOP so she may not have much chance of winning in November. Other gay and lesbian candidates, of which there are several, might have a better chance.

Executive order!

As has been anticipated for months – and requested for years – Obama signed an executive order banning discrimination of sexual minorities in companies with contracts with the federal government. And he did it in a good way. Obama finally signed it because ENDA isn't going anywhere.

Back in 1964 President Johnson issued an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Obama modified that order to add sexual orientation and gender identity.

President Nixon issued an EO that bans discrimination against federal employees based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age. President Clinton added sexual orientation to this list. Obama added gender identity. Some had said gender identity is already included because it is a form of sex discrimination. Perhaps. This EO removes any question.

Bush II had issued an EO saying that religious federal contractors may have a preference for those of their own religion when hiring. That is the only religious exemption in these EOs and Obama did not add to them. So the battle over generous exemptions came out decisively in our favor. Yay!

I've heard this EO covers 20% of American workers. Alas, without the cooperation of Congress (which isn't cooperating) Obama can't cover the other 80% of workers. We're in the strange legal situation in which more states permit same-sex marriage than ban discrimination of sexual minorities. So you can get married, but if your boss finds out you can be fired.

Law professor Ari Ezra Waldman on Towleroad explains what an Executive Order is and what it can and cannot do. Then he contrasts this new EO with the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supremes. It is possible a federal contractor owned by a religious family will refuse to sign the pledge saying they won't discriminate against gay people. They won't get the contract and will sue. How will courts, and eventually the Supremes, interpret the religious exemptions in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (the law behind the Hobby Lobby decision)? Will the emphasis be on religion or on this ruling's declaration that it can't be used in discrimination cases?

Commenters to Waldman's post note that Clinton's protections for gay federal employees is stated policy without the force of law that the federal contract EO has. A new boss in a federal agency from Mississippi may decide to fire the gay employees under him and those former employees don't have any recourse. Obama didn't change this.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What I wish I could buy for $1.35

Andy Puzder is the CEO of the company that owns Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast food restaurants. He was paid $4.4 million in 2012. That's almost 300 times what most of his workers make. Puzder opposes raising the minimum wage because he says that will harm workers.

Because Congress is ignoring the minimum wage issue various states are passing their own minimum wage laws. Thirteen states did so back at the beginning of the year (alas, not Michigan). The Center for Economic and Policy Research charted change in employment for each state and highlighted which ones increased their minimum wages. Those that did tended to have higher job growth than those that didn't.

Puzder says raising the minimum wage would push teenagers out of jobs. But 75% of those earning minimum wage are adults. And minimum wage is below livable wage in every state.

Michele Bachmann said back in 2005 that if the minimum wage law was abolished, everyone could have a job. Full employment by paying people less? This study says that doesn't work.

According to the FEC v. McClutcheon ruling handed down by the Supremes earlier this year a person is permitted to spend almost $1.3 million on House and Senate races every two years. That's $2600 directly to each of 468 candidates, plus $74,600 for PACs and the political parties.

According to Owen Poindexter of AlterNet 97% of Americans could liquidate all their assets and still not reach that amount. In contrast that $1.3 million is 0.003% (by my calculation) of David Koch's $41 billion fortune (and his brother can contribute just as much). So, of course, he will make that investment in his future and “support every pro-fracking, climate-denying, anti-tax candidate.”

So, let's see... It looks like the median wealth for Americans is $45,000. That means add in all of a family's assets, subtract out the debts and half of us have a net worth more than that, half less. According to my calculations $1.3 million hurts David Koch in the same way $1.35 hurts the rest of us. So, yes, if I could buy Congress for $1.35 I would consider it a worthwhile investment.

These billionaires are able to warp American policy decisions in ways that are harmful to 97% of us. The Supremes ruled that money is speech for less than 3% of the country.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Round two for Oklahoma

The 10th Circuit upheld the ruling from a district court that struck down Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage. The ruling is stayed pending the expected appeal. Not only is it the same court, but the same 3-judge panel, that upheld striking down Utah's ban three weeks ago.

The National Center for Health Statistics did a big survey of over 34 thousand adults. This time the survey included questions about orientation, which gives a new look at the number of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in America. Back in 1948 the Kinsey Report claimed 10% of men were gay. A study in 2011 put the number at 3.8%. This survey says 1.6% are gay or lesbian, another 0.7% are bisexual. That 1.6% means there are about 5 million gays and lesbians in the country.

I wrote a few days ago that top gay rights organizations were withdrawing their support of ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Some conservatives are responding by saying gay groups want out because religious exemptions are too broad? Sounds good! Let's get that thing passed pronto! It is still quite unlikely to get through the House.

In the meantime 69 religious and civil rights groups are asking Obama to not exempt religious contractors from a coming executive order banning discrimination of sexual minorities from govt' work. Taxpayer funded discrimination is against American values.

This is not a natural disaster

Yesterday was a big protest day. The Netroots Nation Conference is at Cobo Hall in Detroit. For those who aren't tech savvy Netroots is a gathering of progressive activists. So for this week's protest we teamed up with Netroots, asking them to protest with us. We got quite a crowd! Quite a few more than the 30 we've gotten on many Fridays. Here is the crowd gathering outside Cobo Hall.

The issue of water shutoffs in Detroit got the attention of National Nurses United. Most of them wore red and called themselves the real emergency managers. The group said the shutoffs the reason for declaring a Public Health Emergency Zone in Detroit. Their flyer details their reasons for calling shutoffs a violation of human rights. This is not a natural disaster. Water is necessary for life, health, cooking, hygiene, sanitation, growing food, and a healthy environment.

We spent some time at Cobo with leaders getting the crowd going. At 1:00 we started the march by going behind the brown building in the photo above. A few blocks down the street we circled the Bank of America building, then headed into Hart Plaza. Here's a photo of the march.

Once in the plaza I saw several people dressed like this guy. They're promoting a Robin Hood tax, essentially higher taxes on the rich to fund services for the poor.

In the plaza we had a series of speakers. The sound system wasn't strong enough for the crowd so they were hard to hear. I stuck around for a half hour, then decided I should head to my mother's birthday party. I went to a restroom in the nearby Renaissance Center, then found my car. When I drove past the plaza they were still going strong.

This week's edition of Between the Lines took advantage of Netroots Nation being in town. The staff conducted email interviews with the leaders of four progressive organizations, asking them why their group and LGBT organizations should work together. Two of the four who were interviewed are gay. As one of the questions they were all asked to give three messages to the LGBT community. I've summarized their responses.

Travis Ballie of NARAL Pro-Choice America:
* Gay rights and reproductive rights are supported by a majority of Americans.
* The Millennial Generation is the most pro-equality generation in American history.
* Economic Justice = Reproductive Rights.

Julie Powers of Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council:
* We need gay voices calling for environmental protection to help be heard above the money voices.
* We're all connected on this planet, your actions can help or harm the environment.
* Environmental advocacy covers a wide number of topics. Pick one that interests you.

Curtis Hertel, Jr. Ingham County Register of Deeds. He is on the front lines of the foreclosure crisis, having to handle paperwork for each foreclosure. He created systems for public integrity of records of land to lessen the ability of fraud.
* Michigan suffers economically from our lack of equal rights. The young don't want to live here.
* Employers won't locate where schools are failing, workers aren't qualified, and infrastructure is crumbling.
* Attacks on workers rights, pay inequality, lack of support of cities affects us all. We must work together.

Carlos Padilla of Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project United We Dream:
* LGBT community should fight for immigration reform because we know the pain of being separated from our loved ones, whether by border or legal document.
* Both communities work to end legal limits to full participation in society.
* We do not live single issue lives.

The overall message: The same bigots and forces of oppression are behind all these issues.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Florida! (part 1)

A judge in Monroe County, Florida has ruled the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Marriage licenses may be issued starting on Tuesday. The ruling applies only to Monroe County, which is made up of the Florida Keys (and the gay hotspot of Key West) and a hunk of the mainland, most of which is in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, so almost nobody lives there.

In a lot of cases interested outside parties will file briefs. These present additional material or reasons why the author believes the judge should rule one way or the other. This ruling is fascinating because the judge cited one of those briefs as evidence that these marriage bans were passed simply because some people just don't like gay people. Animus is not a reason to deny rights.

The Florida AG Pam Bondi has been vocal in how strongly she will defend the marriage ban in this case and the one that will affect the ban across the state. She is now getting criticism that she says her defense will be vigorous but she doesn't appear to be doing a whole lot. Perhaps that is because a majority in Florida want equality.

It seems the only reason the state gave for defending the ban was simple: The state gets to decide the definition of marriage. That hasn't gone over well in other states where it was used.

Ya gotta have art

I've lived in the Detroit area for more than three decades and had never gone to the Ann Arbor Art Fair (I don't know if that is the official title). It is a huge event spread from the University of Michigan main campus to downtown. Because it is held in July the weather is usually beastly hot, a good reason for me not to go.

But with a July polar vortex and a high for today predicted to be 75F I decided it was a good year to go. So I did. My overall reaction is that now that I've done it I don't have to do it again.

I parked at a high school in northeast Ann Arbor and took a shuttle to the fair. I got there about 12:30. I strolled past the booths and very few of them prompted me to linger. As I passed the displays I thought most of it was way too cute or too precious or too garish. Rugged landscapes! Barns! Wolves! Mermaids! Michigan scenes! Fish! Sailboats! Dogs! Cats! Sport scenes! Frogs! Interesting patterns! Bright colors! See how clever I am to make this scene out of this unusual material! Some booths had jewelry, which I have no need for. Some had clothing, almost all for women. Some had toys and my nieces and nephews don't play with toys anymore.

Along the way I got to be thinking about what one of my music professor colleagues had said. Her definition of popular music was something that was obvious – one could tell immediately what one was going to get. Classical music had depth – the complete meaning was not apparent in one hearing. What I was seeing in these booths was obvious and had little depth. I finally figured out this was a fair of decorations for house, yard, and body. I understand most people don't want a lot of deep meaning on the wall above the couch.

My house doesn't need any more decoration. I've got plenty of stuff on the walls, much of it from my travels around the world.

I didn't pass every booth, but I did get all the way from South University to Main St. and back to the Quad and the shuttle by 3:30. And that included a lunch stop. That gives some of you an idea of how quickly I walked.

I had lunch with my friend and debate partner yesterday. We talked about the fair. He was taking his girlfriend that afternoon. It is just as well I didn't go with them. Friend, I hope you had a good time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hot time

I live on a cul-de-sac with a golf course surrounding the street. I sometimes describe my location as being alongside the 6th tee. Yes, I collected golf balls in my yard. That golf course closed three years ago. With no grounds crew it quickly became a nature preserve by default and my neighbors said it would take too much money to turn it into a golf course again. In this more natural state I've occasionally seen deer.

I got home this evening at 9:30, a bit after sunset, and as I was taking the trash out I could see a glow and a big column of smoke behind the house across the circle. I heard the neighbor talking, so went over. Through the trees we could see a pretty good blaze going. The clubhouse was burning. The neighbor said it had been burning for perhaps 15 minutes before fire trucks showed up from less than a half mile away.

While there he and other neighbors said they had heard rumors that the clubhouse and some parcels of the golf course property had been sold, though no idea to whom or for what purpose. I doubt much could be done with the course because it is in a floodplain that floods with every big rainstorm, though it would be good to have some type of business where the clubhouse was.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Don't even ask for exceptions!

I'm not sure I followed every nuance of Ari Ezra Waldman's latest critique of the Supreme's Hobby Lobby decision which allows some family owned companies to refuse to cover some forms of contraception. Even so, Waldman's conclusion is disturbing.

As part of the ruling the justices point to a part of the Affordable Care Act, in which Obama had already worked out a deal with religious institutions. They could fill out a document to proclaim their objection and the gov't would pay for contraception coverage.

But for highly conservative Wheaton College that wasn't good enough. Objectionable contraception coverage was still given to employees, even if WC didn't pay for it. So they challenged this compromise.

The way I understand it, the Supremes wrote the Hobby Lobby ruling saying the religious exemption to the ACA is for only this one thing. Nothing else will be allowed. We can't permit these exceptions to proliferate. Don't even ask.

The next day Wheaton College asked. And the Supremes said, well, maybe that too.

At the moment the Supremes haven't ruled that Wheaton College gets their exception. But the Supremes did imply there is a good chance WC will so they'll let them have their way until they get around to an official ruling.

Sotomayor, Ginsberg, and Kagan were livid and blasted their male colleagues in dissent. This WC mess does two things. It erodes the respect citizens have for the court. And it implies that the Supremes will look kindly on other religious exemptions – likely to the further detriment of women and sexual minorities.

Manageable standard

In 2012 Obama won Florida by less than one percent. Yet 63% of Florida's congressional seats went to the GOP. The reason is familiar – the same thing happened in Michigan and several other states. That reason is gerrymandering. The issue was taken to court with plaintiffs (alas, not identified) saying 9 of 27 districts violate the state constitution, specifically an amendment added in 2010 (how'd that happen?) to require districts not favor one political party over another.

Last week a Florida trial judge ruled that two of the districts violated the state constitution. Those districts, and any close enough to be affected, must be redrawn. There was lots of evidence (shown clearly in maps and testimony) that what should have been two GOP and two Dem districts came out as four GOP districts.

So far the Supremes have avoided cases involving political gerrymandering. They say they can't identify a “manageable standard” which, I think, means coming up with a definition of gerrymandering in such a way that other judges can study maps and say, “This is gerrymandering, that isn't.”

But this judge managed to come up with such a definition. So this victory is also a proof of concept. And likely be replicated across the country, even if the Supremes don't step in. Michigan, are you paying attention?

I'm surprised that GOP leaders in the Florida legislature have decided to not appeal the ruling. However, they did say that since we're so close to the primary election can we please keep the current map through November?

The GOP is able to violate the state constitution and still get one, maybe two, elections with its gerrymandered advantages. Unless courts move faster the GOP still has an incentive to create gerrymandered districts.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Generous religious exemption

Most gay rights organizations have dropped their support for the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). This version of ENDA has an explicit and generous religious exemption. This would allow employers with a religious objection to treat sexual minorities differently to other groups, such as women, even if they also have religious objections to women.

In the recent Hobby Lobby decision the Supremes said that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) can be applied to the Affordable Care Act. That's because the ACA doesn't have a clause saying the RFRA can't be applied.

In a similar manner the Supremes could conclude that because the exemption in ENDA is so generous that Congress means to apply that generous exemption to other gay-related laws, such as hospital visitations and spousal benefits.

It is obvious that the current ENDA isn't going anywhere in the House. But Obama is talking about doing much the same thing through executive order (with federal contractors). Gay rights groups don't want Obama to think he can lift the religious exemption language from ENDA. So they dropped their support.

My dad pointed me to an article on DailyKos written by Man from Wasichustan. He expands on an idea from radio host Mike Papantonio, which is something like this: A person or family incorporates their business to create a legal separation between the business and the owners. If the business defaults on a debt business assets can be taken for payment but family assets cannot. This separation is known as the corporate veil. Through the Hobby Lobby ruling the Supremes pierced that veil – the owner's religion and the business' religion have become the same thing. The owners are not completely separate from their business. Perhaps owners can be made responsible for the business debts too. And lawsuits making this claim will soon be filed.

The price is right

I did some shopping this afternoon with one of the items a cable from my synthesizer to my new computer. It is needed because this computer has a different sound card. Some web searching showed what I needed was a MIDI to USB cable.

At one store a sales assistant helped me locate the cable and pulled it off a hanger with a tag for what I thought was $8.99. When checking out the total came to over $60. I balked. She called another assistant and I took him to where I got the cable. There was another one hanging there and the tag did indeed say $8.99. On closer inspection the assistant discovered the tag was for a different product. He said that with the second one there it wasn't a case of a customer putting a product on the wrong hanger, so he would give it to me for $8.99.

When I got home I checked for a similar product on Amazon. There the price was $7.99 and I have it now.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

In the soup

I put two chicken legs in the crockpot this morning to make soup. I added water and herbs, turned it on, and left it. I was quite surprised when I opened it to start deboning and saw the meat was still cold and raw. It took me just a moment to see I hadn't plugged it in. This particular model doesn't have a light. Considering it was a gift, I'm not complaining. So I plugged it in and turned it on high thinking I would let it cook through the evening. I went back a couple hours later. Still cold. I had plugged in the toaster.

Soup tomorrow!

Opposite of traditional medicine

My nutritionist gave me a handout at my last visit listing the top 10 medical myths. Most of the responses are from the book What Doctors Don't Tell You and the rest from The Cancer Handbook, The Dental Handbook, and others. I don't have the author or publisher of any of these. Here's my summary:

#1 Lowering cholesterol prevents heart disease. There is no proof of a link between lowering cholesterol and fewer deaths.

#2 Screening for cancer saves lives. Sorry, the tests are too inaccurate.

#3 Mercury in tooth fillings is harmless. Actually, it acts like a time-release poison.

#4 Fluoride protects teeth. No, it causes osteoporosis and may cause Alzheimer's.

#5 Vaccination has conquered infectious disease. Rates of disease fell before vaccines, which took the credit.

#6 Women need hormone replacement to protect them from heart disease. The studies are flawed and the hormones can cause breast cancer.

#7 Modern drugs conquered disease. Only if it is an antibiotic. Otherwise all drugs do is mask symptoms.

#8 Routine X-rays are safe. Actually, they may be the source of 8% of all cancers.

#9 Mental Health has nothing to do with diet. Almost all cases of depression are from a wheat allergy and schizophrenia is being traced to nutritional deficiencies.

#10 More people survive cancer thanks to chemotherapy. Sorry, it has no effect on solid tumors, which make up 90% of all cancers.

I am very aware that a great deal of what my nutritionist says sounds opposite of what traditional medical practice says. So, yeah, one of them is wrong. She would say the list shows how big corporations have taken over health science and treatment. Since my nutritionist is making progress with some of my long-term health issues that were merely “managed” I'll go with what she says rather than traditional medicine. She is a part of a network of practitioners. I can provide details if you'd like.

Threading the labyrinth

I finally have things together enough that I can show you what my new computer looks like:

Both screens show the same photo. I took it while flying over Detroit on my way home from Italy a couple years ago.

I bought this rolltop desk more than 20 years ago when I moved into this house. It is designed to hold a computer system – as such things were 20 years ago. The little drawers on the left side are sized for 5.25 inch floppies and 3.5 inch diskettes. It has been a long time since I've used either. The space under the drawers was for the computer, back when they were housed in what was known as “pizza boxes.” You can see the modern tower must go in the knee hole. The area below the printer opens up to reveal a platform that pulls out. That was supposed to be for the printer. It now holds my LP turntable – the only way to listen to my collection of LPs is to play them into the computer and listen to the resulting soundfile. Yeah, that doesn't happen very often.

Under the right monitor you can see the surge protector. That came with the desk and has a slot designed for it. But the design wasn't all that good. To connect to the surge protector I must pull it out of its slot, which doesn't really get out of the way if anything is plugged into it. Then I feed cables through a hole high in the knee hole to the space behind the drawers on the right. From there it is a sharp turn upward through another hole to get to the back of the surge protector slot. Then I squeeze an arm into the slot to pull the cable on through. The holes are small, the slot is narrow. It's a tough job. For items on the desktop cables are fed through a hole behind the printer, pulled across the knee hole, and threaded through the labyrinth. Of course, the monitor on the right has its power plug on the right. It wasn't going to make it across to the hole in the desktop and through the labyrinth. Fortunately, I have a second surge protector that has been in the basement since I don't know when. That one is now in the knee hole with everything plugged into it and it's cable snaked through the labyrinth so that the master on/off switch is where I can reach it. Which means I have a surge protector plugged into a surge protector. You just try to zap me now!

There are a few connections yet to complete. The cable out front that ends in red and white leads to my sound system. I need a different adapter for this computer. I also need a new connector to my synthesizer. Then there are another half-dozen things to do.

I installed my music notation program yesterday and tried it out with my current composition project. The music program drives a couple other programs to generate the sounds, so I can hear a full orchestra play what I just composed. I used two programs because neither one had all the sounds I want. Alas, one of them isn't on the installation DVDs I have and is likely obsolete.

Here is the photo you see on the monitors. I added an oval that shows the area of last week's Motown Mission. The house with the porch is in the lower right of the oval, the garden in the upper left.

The tall buildings are downtown and the other side of the river is Windsor, Ontario.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Does it seem a bit chilly to you?

I reported yesterday that the Denver County clerk's office has begun to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. What I didn't know at the time is that when the ruling striking down the same-sex marriage ban was issued it also came with a stay. So clerks in Boulder, Denver, and now Pueblo are disobeying the stay.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has urged the state AG not to appeal the ruling.

The polar vortex is back! Let's first get beyond the little technicality that to those who study weather the term “polar vortex” has been around for a long time and has a particular meaning. Since the real genuine polar vortex last winter the term has come to mean a cold snap in popular culture. And it looks like the recent Pacific typhoon pushed north, causing cold air to push south over the Midwest. That means colder temperatures this coming week. It won't get below freezing but temps 10-18F below average are expected – as far south as Arkansas. It could get to 41F in Chicago. In Detroit where temps have been below average for June and July we may not notice much difference.

Proof that global warming is a hoax? Nope. British Columbia is expected to be 20F warmer than average. And worldwide this was the hottest May on record, in spite of the below average temps in Michigan and much of the rest of America.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Queers for the climate

I finally have a functioning calendar on my computer. I'm using the calendar half of an email program I considered, but had to reject because of incompatibility with my internet provider. So I'm back to the same kind of setup as on the old computer, using one email program for email and another email program for my calendar.

News of the week...

I mentioned before that Colorado's same-sex marriage ban had been struck down. Weddings are now taking place in Denver. This is in addition to weddings done by the renegade county clerk in Boulder. And in that case a judge denied the state AG's request to get her to stop.

A new study from the University of Melbourne in Australia says that children raised by same-sex couples are happier, that they rated higher than kids of straight parents in the areas of physical health and social well-being. The big reason for this is that in same-sex families the roles and work is distributed according to skills instead of gender stereotypes. That leads to more harmonious families.

Critics respond by saying, the kids may be fine now but what about when they grow up? Besides, the lead researcher is gay, so the study must be biased. Meaning they don't have a substantial objection.

A new activist group has formed – Queers for the Climate. Their tagline is “Save the Straights (oh, and the planet too).” They say they want to harness the political success and energy that was brought to gay rights and same-sex marriage battles over the last 20 years. Then add to that the fabulous creativity seen in pride parades. So, yeah, their aim is to save the straight (white men), the ones who are destroying both the climate and our democracy, and save them from themselves. Since the House is in control of the fossil fuel lobby, action turns to the state level. The gay community can be tapped both as an example of how that is done and as workers with existing political skill.

My dad sent an article by two United Methodist pastors in North Carolina who have a proposal in hopes of preventing a denominational split. I summarized it and included my response in my brother blog.

I've got your fresh water right here

Another protest this afternoon. We were again outside the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. We marched for a while, then had a meeting (right there on the sidewalk) to make sure everyone knew about upcoming events, including an important rally next week with national connections (early afternoon so I should make it to Mom's birthday party). New slogan for future marches: “It's not your fault, but it is your fight.”

Some things I learned: There are now complaints of water shutoff happening to people who are not behind in their payments. I don't know if it is intentional or incompetence. Either is possible. A friend who lives in Detroit told me about a water main break that had been flooding an intersection for 3 days. That's either incompetence or having been swindled by a bank out of the money needed for repairs.

One of today's speakers connected a few dots. The water shutoffs are part of an effort to make the DWSD more enticing to outside investors, so that the whole thing can be privatized. The main reason is so that a profit can be made from what is as a community asset. This afternoon another reason was mentioned. Water is becoming a scarce resource. The Great Lakes have 20% of the world's fresh water. Somebody will make a fortune if they are able to privatize the entire Great Lakes. Privatizing Detroit water is the first step in that direction. That sounds farfetched, but I now believe it is in the realm of possibility and that someone is thinking about it. A big complaint about the shutoffs is that residents are getting cut off when behind by only $150 yet big clients (such as golf courses) are behind in payments by $55K to $200K. Why? Perhaps because a private company wouldn't want small, delinquent customers where they would be delighted with big corporate customers, delinquent or not. Which makes me wonder if some of those huge delinquent companies are withholding their money to force the DWSD towards privatization.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Motown Mission complete

I didn't go to Motown Mission yesterday so that I could do my usual duties at the Ruth Ellis Center. I was back to the mission work today. The weather was cooperative – mostly sunny, temperature about 73F. I returned to the construction team. In my absence they had finished off the porch, added porch steps, and put up the frames for the deck railing. Thinking they might have completed all the work yesterday I was a bit hesitant about going today and spending the day in the garden. But the construction team needed me because the pastor, the 3rd adult in the team, had been called back to the church. So the six youth and us two adults got to work. We installed all the spindles in the railing, created a deck gate with latch, and put a handrail on the porch steps. All this – the entire project – was completed by 4:30 today. We heard a bit of the homeowner's reason for requesting the deck railing. She has grandchildren under the age of 4 and wants them to be able to play on the deck without falling off it or getting away.

Though our youth leader has construction experience from working with his father, he credits me for averting a big problem. Much of my job was to guide the youth (and not do it for them) and also make sure things make sense. I caught that our youth leader had a plan for the gate that would not have been able to be opened.

My work for the mission is complete. They will do another project tomorrow morning and then visit Belle Isle and Mexicantown before heading home.

The pastor's wife serves as the youth leader and was in charge of this week. She commented at lunch that most of the books written about youth ministry talk about the abundance of girls and how to keep them busy as well as how to attract boys. She has the opposite problem: 17 boys and 6 girls. Keeping boys busy is different than keeping girls busy. She also said that during work mission trips she has a big problem getting male chaperones. The boys either don't have fathers around or their fathers are too ill to take part. So the pastor has to go to be the chaperone for the boy's room.


The Colorado ban on same-sex marriage was declared unconstitutional by a state judge. The usual reasons for protecting man-woman marriage – marriage is for procreation, preservation of tradition, legislative history – were trotted out by the state and, for the usual reasons, swatted aside by the judge. The judge notes that the famous Loving v. Virginia case was not a “right to interracial marriage” and the case that affirmed prisoners may marry is not “deat-beat dad's” right to marry. Both were a right to marry. As is this.

There is one interesting wrinkle in this case. Colorado is in the 10th Circuit and that court has already ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in the Utah case. Could this state court do differently? This judge includes this line in the ruling, “The Court heartily endorses the recent holding by the Tenth Circuit...”

As for the Utah case, that state's Attorney General confirmed their next stop is the Supremes, which means Utah gets there first.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Constructing in the rain

For today's Motown Mission the group split in two. I joined the construction crew of 7 youth and 3 adults. At a nearby house the crew pulled out a small rotting back porch (pretty much done by the time I got there). A few started laying the joists for the porch while the rest started building sections of a railing to surround the adjacent deck. There was a light rain for most of the morning, but it wasn't a problem because of the large tree overhanging the deck. But there were storms in the forecast, so I frequently asked another adult to use his phone to check weather maps. At about 11:00 the rain got a bit stronger, so we dashed (by car) to the church a block away where we had an early lunch. The part of the team from the garden was already at the church.

The rain lessened by 12:15. The garden team decided to do an indoor project for the afternoon. We went back to the house. We got the frames for the railing done in short order. The slats will come later. We also got the joists done and started laying the deck boards. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining. Things were looking good. Then the last of the power tool batteries gave out. So at 3:00 we declared the work day was over.

The teen leading the project is the son of a home builder. He's apparently worked for his father a lot.

That early end of work meant I had time this afternoon and evening to resolve a few issues with the new computer. The big one: I got the adapter so the second screen is now working! On the vertical screen I can expand windows to see up to a page and a half of a document. With the two together I can have three documents open without them overlapping. I haven't tried displaying music on the vertical screen because I haven't loaded my music program yet.

I went exploring on the Microsoft help forum for the new email program. Yes, it had loaded all my email messages from the previous computer. How was I to know I had to type “ctrl-y” to see all of the folders? Now that I know that I can see each of my three attempts to load was successful so I have 3 sets of emails. I also set up the old computer (on the floor in the kitchen where there is room) to extract the address book in a format the new system understands. Strange that a few addresses showed up on the new system without names prompting another look at the old one.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Motown Mission

Today was the first day of Motown Mission. This is the work mission for the youth group of my new church. Since it involved beautifying Detroit I asked to be included. I'm not going to spend the entire week living at the big Metropolitan United Methodist Church, but I will drive down to that area most days to help on the current project. And sleep in my own bed.

Today's project was the community garden a few blocks from the church. I spent the day weaving twine between poles to hold up tomato plants and weeding around tomatoes and cabbages. It reminded me why this kind of stuff tends to not get done around my house. Others in the team did weeding, hammering in poles for a fence, planting peppers, and preparing another area for planting. That last bit involved turning over the soil and removing the bricks. Various other people (I doubt from Motown Mission) showed up to help. The garden is about an acre, which means it had been several lots with houses. Many of the other houses in the area are blighted.

Some groups take a rest or water break. This group takes a dance break. I was told I was allowed to sit out only one day.

There was a rainstorm as I was getting ready and while driving to the site. It ended a bit before I got there. The damp soil made the weeds a bit easier to pull. There was a period of light rain in the afternoon. Thankfully the thunderstorm passed to the south of us. There were periods of sun with the high about 80F. The forecast for tomorrow is more scattered storms and the same top temperature.

After I got home I got a call from the helpdesk of the company whose graphics card I bought for the new computer. This is the card that prevents one of my monitors from working while connected to the standard video link. The person was helpful, explaining I needed a $5 connector to plug the monitor into the other spot on the card. He even gave me his direct phone number so I could call him if I had continued problems. Yay! A helpdesk that helped!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Blowing raspberries

A few things are better on the new computer, a few others aren't.

I contacted my internet provider (who also does my email) and got the details on how to connect. It downloaded mail once, hasn't worked since. Supplying a working email account did not reveal my old email messages. I imported them again. I saw fancy graphics counting through the messages as they imported but no messages appeared when that completed. There doesn't seem to be any way to import my previous address book.

I wrote a message to a friend in a simple text editor and clicked on send. I came back later and found it hadn't been sent. So I went to my email account on the web. I copied the text from the old and was astonished the web create mail page did not have a paste. The idea that someone might want to compose a message in some other program apparently never crossed their minds.

Windows Live Mail, the new program, also has a calendar. I looked for an import command. Didn't find one. I went to the program's online forum. Short answer: importing to the desktop calendar isn't possible, though importing it to the cloud is. I'm not interested.

I wish I had known while still on the old computer. But the new program didn't run under XP and the old one doesn't run on Windows 7. Not that my internet provider gives me much choice in the matter.

Though I don't have a calendar program I did dump my entire calendar into a CSV file. There are over 3000 entries in the file going back to 2007. To make sure I didn't miss anything this week I opened the calendar data into a spreadsheet program. I saw that the appointments were ordered by when they were created. Later ones are near the bottom, but it wasn't easy to scroll up the list to this coming week. So I sorted by appointment date – and it sorted by month. All September appointments, regardless of the year were at the bottom of the list. Then it wouldn't let me reformat the date to put the year first.

I'm blowing raspberries at the lot of them.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Stepping into the technology of the decade

I'm writing this on my new computer. Setup is only partially complete. But I've had enough sitting and waiting for downloads for one evening.

Much of the transfer between computers was done through my external drive. I created a backup folder on that drive and copied all necessary files on the main drive onto it. I disconnected it from the old computer and plugged it into the new and all the files are available, though maybe not yet in the right place.

I've had the old computer since 2005. I got it off my desk yesterday. In the process I pulled out the cables for the old one and found a couple cables not attached on either end. Those were for the computer I had before 2000. Then I swept up a lot of dust.

I started unpacking the new one last evening. I finished getting stuff out of boxes this morning. Since I have two monitors (one horizontal, one vertical – I'll take a picture soon) I bought a graphics card for the second one. That installed easily and the two monitors connected just fine. But when I turned on the computer I got a message on one monitor saying since I had installed the graphics card the computer had no need for the standard monitor port and I must use the port on the card instead. I disconnected the one monitor and the other one works just fine. Need to have a chat with the store that sold the card.

I installed the Microsoft successor to the email program I had been using. It appears to have loaded all the messages from the old system just fine, once I told where to get them from the backup folder (I had experimented with another mail program that expected files in particular places, but wouldn't tell me where those places were). Though it says all the messages loaded it won't show them to me until I configure how to connect to my mail server – and that will require a call to their helpdesk. So today I'm reading email from the server's website.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Water is a human right

Melissa Block of NPR talked to Steve Pardo of the Detroit News about the huge number of cases of water being shut off to residences in Detroit for missing as few as two payments. It seems the Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept. is using shutoffs to get resident's attention and get them to pay. That is a nasty way to do it. But there is a deeper problem – DWSD is having a hard time distinguishing between those who can't pay and those who simply won't.

Human rights groups have gotten involved and taken the issue to the United Nations. And the UN has said the DWSD is in violation of basic human rights.

Commenters to the NPR story noted the DWSD has a bloated payroll, and that their record system is messed up with residents frequently billed for the wrong amount (and the error can be in the thousands).

I had written that it seems those Detroit city retirees who voted to not accept the bankruptcy deal, which would reduce their pensions, were encouraged to vote again. In an email the Moratorium Now Coalition included a reproduction of a letter reminding retirees they could change their mind. A good chance those letters were sent to only those who had voted no.


Yes, there is a marriage equality case from Kentucky before the 6th Circuit already, but that one is whether the state must recognize same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere. That case will be heard on August 6, the same day as cases from Michigan (our big one), Ohio, and Tennessee.

John Heyburn, the same judge who ruled on that earlier case, completed the job, declaring that Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. A stay came with the ruling so no dash to the county clerks' offices. The 6th Circuit hasn't said yet whether this case will be combined with the Michigan case or at least heard on the same day.

Previous marriage cases came with a string of reasons – gays can't procreate, marriage has always been one man-one woman, gays aren't good parents, a child needs a mom and dad, we don't have enough experience yet with same-sex marriage, this is a state issue – but this case has only one. Perhaps state officials learned the other reasons don't fly? We'll this one doesn't either. The reason, with a bit of an addition:
“encouraging, promoting, and supporting the formation of relationships that have the natural ability to procreate.” … traditional marriages contribute to a stable birth rate which, in turn, ensures the state’s long-term economic stability.
The first part is from the state, the second part is apparently the judge summarizing what the state said. Heyburn's response to that claim is being quoted a lot, to which I'll gladly contribute.
These arguments are not those of serious people. Though it seems almost unnecessary to explain, here are the reasons why. Even assuming the state has a legitimate interest in promoting procreation, the Court fails to see, and Defendant never explains, how the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage does not change the number of heterosexual couples who choose to get married, the number who choose to have children, or the number of children they have. … The Court finds no rational relation between the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the Commonwealth’s asserted interest in promoting naturally procreative marriages.

The state’s attempts to connect the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage to its interest in economic stability and in “ensuring humanity’s continued existence” are at best illogical and even bewildering. These arguments fail for the precise reasons that Defendant’s procreation argument fails.

Ari Ezra Waldman on Towleroad delves into why Heyburn decided the case only on Equal Protection grounds and not on Due Process. That goes back to the big DOMA case the Supremes decided a year ago. In that case Justice Kennedy could have decided on Due Process and didn't. Kennedy could have declared same-sex marriage a fundamental right and didn't. So what Heyburn and all his fellow judges are doing is making their best guess on how Kennedy's ruling should be extended – and how to convince Kennedy their ruling is correct.

Huffington Post has a collection of 15 great protest signs in support of same-sex marriage. It is hard to choose a favorite, though I guess that would be: “Umm... We've been planning your weddings for ages …” All the rest are worth a look.

There have been so many victories for same-sex marriage over the last year that Mark Joseph Stern of Slate has a bit of fun with them. Want a ruling that is plain-spoken? Highly personal? Declares marriage bans to be extremely harmful to gay people? Click on the various buttons of his page and put together phrases from existing rulings to make your own.

Some media talking heads are now proclaiming that with marriage equality we have full equality. Derrick Clinton of Identities.Mic lists 11 reasons why that claim of full equality isn't accurate.

* We can be fired for being gay in many states.

* We're excluded from public accommodation laws in many states.

* We're not included in many hate crime laws.

* Some states still declare consensual sex to be illegal (though the Supremes struck them down 11 years ago).

* Sexually active gay men are banned from donating blood.

* We still struggle for custody rights.

* We aren't accepted in all major religious denominations.

* Our youth aren't adequately protected from bullying.

* We're not included in sex education classes.

* We still face stigma from health care providers.

* We are sometimes turned away from our partners who are hospitalized.