Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Great and Powerful Gays

Here’s a novel approach to perpetuating discrimination against gays and lesbians: they already have too much power, so let’s not give them any more.

Gay Americans simply have too much political power to be afforded equal rights under the Constitution, according to a brief filed by the state of Ohio asking the Supreme Court to permit that state to continue to practice marriage discrimination. Ohio’s claim comes as part of a greater effort to convince the justices that laws which discriminate again gay men, lesbians and bisexuals should not be treated with skepticism by courts applying the Constitution’s guarantee that everyone shall be afforded “the equal protection of the laws.”

Under this provision of the Constitution, most forms of discrimination are entirely permissible. It is acceptable, for example, for the government to discriminate against unqualified job applicants when making hiring decisions, or to discriminate against people who commit serious crimes in deciding who to incarcerate.

When the government discriminates against groups that have historically been subject to unequal treatment that has little basis in their ability to “perform or contribute to society,” however, the Court applies what is known as “heightened scrutiny” to such discrimination. This is why discrimination on the basis of race or gender is typically not allowed, because racial minorities and women have historically been subject to the kind of irrational discrimination that triggers heightened scrutiny. A major question in the marriage equality litigation now pending before the Supreme Court is whether the nation’s long history of irrational discrimination against gay people also justifies applying such scrutiny to laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Uh, excuse me, but look next door, Ohio.  If we were so powerful, Indiana would not only not have passed their RFRA last week, we would have forced the state to do a complete make-over, made the Purdue football team play in tank-tops and short-shorts, replaced the state song with “It’s Raining Men,” and made Birkenstocks the official state shoe.

Sheesh.

Just Messing With Them Now

President Obama is going to Kenya in July to participate in a summit on global entrepreneurship… or so the White House would have you believe.  I think he’s doing it just to get a rise out of people like this doofus.

“I think his trip back to Kenya is going to create a lot of chatter and commentary amongst some of the hard right, who still don’t see him as having been born in the U.S.,” Sununu said on the show “America’s Newsroom.”

“I personally think he’s just inciting some chatter on an issue that should have been a dead issue a long time ago,” he said.

It’s like throwing the invisible ball for the dog: hours of endless fun.

Jeb Chimes In

We know where the nutsery comes down on Indiana’s RFRA, but let’s see what the “establishment” Republicans who are planning to be the adults in the 2016 race are saying:

“I think Governor Pence has done the right thing,” said Mr. Bush, who is expected to run for president in 2016. “I think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”

It all depends on what you mean by “moderate.”  If you mean the kind of “moderate” who will get the federal government to force through a law to keep a dead person strapped to a feeding tube for the love of the Baby Jesus, he’s your guy.

Not His First Rodeo

Gov. Mike Pence’s shocked reaction to the furor over the Indiana RFRA comes across as a little forced when you realize that he’s got a long record of being opposed to equal rights for the LGBTQ community.  From TPM:

Pence took the Indiana governor’s mansion in 2013, following his time in the House of Representatives, where he made opposition to gay rights in general, and gay marriage in particular, his standard practice.

In 2010, Pence signed an open letter by the anti-gay marriage Family Research Council that ran in Politico and the Washington Examiner expressing support for organizations that oppose same-sex marriage and “protect and promote natural marriage and family.” (A year earlier, the FRC’s Tony Perkins praised Pence for joining a private briefing with local pastors on efforts to pass a traditional “marriage protection amendment.” Perkins praised Pence as a “solid ally on this issue in the U.S. House.”)

In December 2010, Pence appeared on CNN and argued against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the official U.S. military policy that governed service by gays and lesbians. He said that repealing the act would be using the American military “as a backdrop for social experimentation.”

“So I don’t believe the time has come to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Pence said. “I really believe our soldiers that are at the tip of the spear know that. We ought to put their interests and the interests of our national security first.”

Not surprisingly, during his time in the House, Pence voted “yes” on legislation defining marriage as only between one man and one woman, and he opposed legislation that prohibited workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In 2011, an opinion piece by Wendy Kaminer in The Atlantic quoted Pence arguing that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act “wages war on freedom of religion in the workplace.”

You get the idea.  I think his only genuine surprise is that it has blown up so loudly and so fiercely in his face.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holder or Folder

The nomination of Loretta Lynch to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General is still stuck in the Senate because the Republicans are scared to vote on it.  Via the New York Times:

Senate Republicans bolted for a two-week spring recess with the confirmation of Loretta E. Lynch as attorney general in jeopardy, and themselves in a quandary: Accept a qualified nominee they oppose because she backs President Obama’s policies or reject her and live with an attorney general they despise, Eric H. Holder Jr.

The nomination of Ms. Lynch, a seasoned United States attorney from New York, has laid bare the difficult politics confronting the new Republican majority. Lawmakers have found nothing in Ms. Lynch’s background to latch on to in opposition, and many are loath to reject the first African-American woman put forth to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

But, they say, their constituents have told them that a vote for Ms. Lynch affirms Mr. Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which she has said she finds lawful.

I can’t help but think that even though both Mr. Holder and Ms. Lynch would like to get this over with, there are a lot of people who are amused in a sardonic way by the fact that the Republicans are so afraid of their rancid base that they can’t even do what most of them want to do.

If this is their way of showing that they really want to reach out to voters in both the African-American and immigrant communities, they have got a long way to go.

With Friends Like These

Ted Cruz is off and running, which in his case are two different things [rimshot].

Not only has he pulled in the expected amount of derision from the liberal side of the tracks, but as Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice has compiled, he’s getting a good deal of flack from the right as well.

Charles C.W. Cooke at the National Review:

Striking a pose that lands somewhere between the oleaginousness of a Joel Osteen and the self-assuredness of a midwestern vacuum-cleaner salesman, Cruz delivers his speeches as might a mass-market motivational speaker in an Atlantic City Convention Center. The country, he tells his audiences rather obsequiously, will be saved by “people like you” — people, that is, who are willing to text the word “Constitution” to the number 33733, and to contribute generously to his political action committee…

[…]

For what it is worth, my prediction is that there is not. Rather, I expect that Cruz will push the Republican field a little to the right, but that he will ultimately fail to catch fire. Moreover, I’d guess that if Cruz does somehow end up as the nominee he will lose convincingly…

Daniel Larison at The American Conservative:

Cruz is a skillful demagogue, and he’ll be able to put on quite a show during candidate debates, but that will probably take the form of accusing the other candidates of being sell-outs and attributing views to them that they don’t hold. That is normally how he responds to criticism from within his own party. He also repeatedly misleads his followers about what can be achieved by following his lead, and then denounces people on his side for “failing” to defer to his bad leadership and blames them for the failure he orchestrated. Since he claims to believe that the party must nominate a “real” conservative in order to win, he will be at pains to portray all of his rivals as anything but that. All of this will remind the voters outside of his core supporters why so many people that have dealt with him viscerally dislike him.

As E.K. Hornbeck notes in the film of Inherit the Wind, “He has no enemies.  Only his friends hate him.”

Didn’t See That Coming?

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) seemed genuinely surprised at the backlash to his state’s new law that legalized gay-bashing in the name of “religious freedom.”

Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.

“I support religious liberty, and I support this law,” Pence said in an exclusive interview. “But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.”

The governor, although not ready to provide details on what the new bill will say, said he expects the legislation to be introduced into the General Assembly this coming week.

By yesterday he seemed to regain his footing and went on the defensive, going back to his bullshit arguments that the Indiana law is the same as the federal law.  It’s not; the Indiana law addresses individuals and their ability to use “religious liberty” as their reason for discriminating against customers.*

Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not be changing despite critics saying it allows business owners to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, state Gov. Mike Pence said today during an exclusive interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

Pence described the media coverage and opposition to the law as “shameless rhetoric,” saying it strengthens the foundation of First Amendment rights rather than discriminates.

“We’re not going to change the law,” he said, “but if the general assembly in Indiana sends me a bill that adds a section that reiterates and amplifies and clarifies what the law really is and what it has been for the last 20 years, than I’m open to that.”

His reaction to the reaction is pure knee-jerk defensiveness: blame the media, blame the rhetoric, blame the dog for his farts.

But he has no one to blame for the backlash but himself.  It’s not as if he didn’t know that this would happen, and if he honestly didn’t, then he has no business being in elected office.  It’s not as if equality for LGBTQ people and marriage equality just happened last week.

Laws such as RFRA are the last gasps of the anti-gay forces to barricade themselves against the progress of the 21st century.  The more they scramble the more they know they’re going to lose.

*Garrett Epps at The Atlantic explains why the Indiana RFRA law is not like the others.

Back to Work

Okay, spring break’s over.

I caught up on some sleep, did a couple of fun car show events, took the Pontiac in for its annual spring check-up, and even had time to catch up with some friends.

Anyway, back to work, and blogging is back to its normal schedule.  Try to control your joyous rapture.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Reading

Shut Up, John Bolton — Peter Beinart in The Atlantic on the warmonger’s reckless case for war with Iran.

According to a 2013 study by the Costs of War Project at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost the United States more than $4 trillion. Over the coming decades, that number will likely rise by trillions more. If you include America’s military operations in Pakistan, these wars have taken the lives of roughly 300,000 people. And almost 15 years later, both Iraq and Afghanistan are virtually failed states.

This does not mean The New York Times should never publish op-eds proposing new wars. Although always tragic, war can sometimes be less horrible than the alternative. And it does not mean The New York Times should never publish op-eds by people who have supported disastrous wars. Even commentators who have made huge errors in the past may still contribute useful arguments in the present. At least I hope so, given that I supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq myself.

But what The New York Times should not do is let people who have supported disastrous wars in the past propose new wars casually. If you want to advocate for a new war in the most prestigious newspaper in the United States, you should have to grapple, at least briefly, with the potential dangers. Given the costs, both financial and human, of America’s post-9/11 conflicts, that’s not too much to ask.

Which brings me to John Bolton’s Thursday New York Times op-ed, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Bolton was both a booster, and a minor architect, of the war in Iraq. As George W. Bush’s undersecretary of state in late 2002, he told the BBC that, “We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq.” He added that, “the Iraqi people would be unique in history if they didn’t welcome the overthrow of this dictatorial regime,” and that although building a democracy would prove a “difficult task,” the people of Iraq “are fully competent to do it.” So competent, in fact, that “the American role [in post-war Iraq] actually will be fairly minimal.”

That’s what Bolton said publicly. Privately, according to a 2005 report by the Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee, he distributed classified information about Joe Wilson in an attempt to smear the former ambassador, who was then questioning President Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. Bolton also played a key role in forcing out Jose Bustani, director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, because he feared Bustani’s inspectors in Iraq would undermine the case for war. It was behavior like this that led Washington Post columnist David Ignatius to observe that Bolton “epitomizes the politicization of intelligence that helped produce the fiasco over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.”

Should this disqualify Bolton from penning a New York Times op-ed urging America to bomb Iran? No. But it should have disqualified him from penning the op-ed he published on Thursday.

Replacing Andrew Jackson — Jaime Fuller in New York magazine in getting a woman on the $20 bill.

On paper, it doesn’t look like it would be difficult to change the faces that greet us on dollar bills whenever we pull out our wallets. The Treasury Secretary has unilateral authority to banish Franklin from the $100 or Lincoln from the five spot whenever he wants; Congress also has the power to change the portraits used on U.S. currency. The possibilities for new monetary muses are nearly limitless — the only requirement is that they be dead, just like the luminaries chosen for stamps. There’s also an expectation that the portraits will be familiar faces from history.

However, the process must be harder than it looks, because the Treasury hasn’t retired a portrait since 1929, when Andrew Jackson replaced Grover Cleveland — which has everyone wondering what will happen with a new campaign to get a woman on the $20.

Plenty of people have tried to change a portrait. Most of these attempts involved Ronald Reagan. In 2004, Grover Norquist tried to boot Alexander Hamilton from the $10 and replace him with the conservative icon; Senator Mitch McConnell thought the idea was a great one. “Hamilton was a nice guy and everything, but he wasn’t president,” Norquist told USA Today. At the same time, a few House Republicans were trying to get Reagan put on the $20. Six years after those efforts failed, Representative Patrick McHenry sponsored legislation to get Reagan on the $50.

“There’s an inherent conservatism when it comes to money here,” notes Matthew Wittmann, assistant curator of American coins and currency at the American Numismatic Society.

A new group has decided to try a different tack by advancing a new portrait that is not Ronald Reagan. Women on 20s has started a campaign to get a woman on money that Americans use (unlike $1 coins) — something that even President Obama has said is a “pretty good idea.” They’ve even picked the perfect guy to kick off currency — Andrew Jackson, once best known for military prowess, and now remembered for causing the Trail of Tears.

“Andrew Jackson folks would complain,” says Daniel Feller, an expert on our seventh president at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, “but there aren’t many Andrew Jackson folks left. I don’t know who in government would be against it.”

However, the problem was never going to be complaints about keeping Jackson on the $20; it was always going to be about narrowing the entire universe of eligible women to put on the bill to one in a town where agreeing is often a laughable dream, and everyone has different reasons for wanting to try something new with currency — or keep it the same.

When the Treasury thinks about redesigning money, it isn’t about the politics. The department — along with the Federal Reserve, the Secret Service, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing — is always thinking about how to best stop people from counterfeiting it. (Everyone forgets, but the Secret Service was created to protect money, not the president.) That’s why dollar bills have slowly morphed over time, with stripes and nearly unnoticed whizbangs continually cluttering the currency, and the important men in them shifting in their invisible seats and switching up their stare. A Treasury official, who stressed the department’s aim to prevent unauthorized production of money, was unable to talk about any specific campaigns to change currency design “or about anything political.”

Making Stupid Official — Andy Borowitz on the new law in Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—In a history-making decision, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana has signed into law a bill that officially recognizes stupidity as a religion.

Pence said that he hoped the law would protect millions of state residents “who, like me, have been practicing this religion passionately for years.”

The bill would grant politicians like Pence the right to observe their faith freely, even if their practice of stupidity costs the state billions of dollars.

While Pence’s action drew the praise of stupid people across America, former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was not among them. “Even I wasn’t dumb enough to sign a bill like that,” she said.

Doonesbury — Without notice.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Test of Faith

If you think that your religion tells you it’s okay to discriminate against certain people simply because of who they are, then perhaps you need to re-examine your religion… or at very the least your understanding of it.

Love Thy Neighbor 03-28-15

Wagon Train

Eighth in the series…

1974 Ford Pinto wagon1974 Ford Pinto wagon.  Dad traded in his 1970 Thunderbird for a red bare-bones manual transmission wagon from Kistler Ford in Toledo.  We were in the height of the oil embargo and he needed something that was more economical on fuel.  I remember borrowing it to bring back my stuff to Perrysburg from my apartment in Minneapolis in the spring of 1977.  The 1,000 mile round-trip proved that it was not really a road-trip wagon: no cruise control, no FM radio, and very thin padding on the seats.

Friday, March 27, 2015

How Would They Know?

In light of Indiana now codifying anti-gay discrimination into state law, the question arises: how would the businesses that seek to use the law know who’s gay so they can refuse them service?  Via Balloon Juice:

1.) What criteria will business owners be using to determine who is and who is not gay? Ordering a latte? Saying please? Not liking President Bush? Or do you just have to be suspiciously gay-like to impinge enough on someone’s religious freedom to warrant being denied service.

2.) As the Klan also operated under the auspices of Christianity, what is to keep businesses from kicking out or denying service to blacks, and when confronted, just say “Oh, we didn’t kick them out because they were black, we kicked them out because they were gay.”

It’s not like we wear signs or pink triangles.

I am curious to know who’s going to pay for defending the state in the inevitable lawsuits that will be brought against the state for passing such a law.  Should every taxpayer in Indiana foot the bill for defending this bigotry, and does the state have funding in their budget to pay for it?

Also, as noted yesterday, the backlash has already begun and it’s more than just fair-minded Christians.  Businesses are having second thoughts about doing business in the Hoosier State.  That more than anything should get the attention of the Republicans because if there’s one thing that will get them to abandon their sacred principles of adoring the Baby Jesus, it’s money.

Indiana isn’t the first state to pass such a bill, but it is the first that has a large and varied corporate profile.  Major industries and sports franchises are located in the state, and very few of them are willing to sacrifice both their public image and their bottom line in defense of bigotry.

You Can’t Make Me

A lawmaker in Arizona would like to make church attendance mandatory.

PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) – Each year a few bills get proposed at the state Capitol that have people shaking their heads.

This year: Mandatory church attendance.

An Arizona state senator thinks it is a good idea for the American people.

State Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, brought it up during a committee meeting Tuesday while lawmakers were debating a gun bill, not religion.

Allen explained that without a “moral rebirth” in the country, more people may feel the need to carry a weapon.

“I believe what’s happening to our country is that there’s a moral erosion of the soul of America,” she said.

Democratic Sen. Steve Farley of Tucson, who was at that same meeting, posted Allen’s comments on social media, and said he believes the idea goes against the U.S. Constitution.

“Even if you believe that would stem the moral decay, I think the Constitution makes it very clear that our country is founded on the pillar of separation of church and state,” Farley said.

Yes, I realize that Ms. Allen was probably just thinking out loud…which assumes that she can think in the first place, and yes, Sen. Farley is right that it would be laughably unconstitutional.  But I’ll bet you can find somewhere that Ms. Allen is on the record as being a strong proponent of a state law banning the use of Sharia law in Arizona because it’s derived from a foreign religion and everyone knows that Jesus Christ was born outside of Tucson.

Ms. Allen also yearns for better times, like the 1950’s: “People prayed, people went to church. I remember on Sundays the stores were closed. The biggest thing is religion was kicked out of our public places, out of our schools.”  Yeah, the ’50’s also gave us Joe McCarthy, polio, duck-and-cover, segregated schools, and the Edsel.  Good times.

The best news is that she’s not from Florida.