Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016

Memo To John Kasich

John Kasich sat down with Chris Matthews last night and held forth on a variety of subjects as warm-up to next Tuesday’s New York primary — a state he professes to “love” even though he’s the governor of Ohio (“I love Ohio too” he admitted, not pandering at all) — and the subject of same-sex marriage came up.

Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews “the court has ruled” on same-sex marriage and he would not advocate for any efforts to ban it, even though he supports traditional marriage.

“There could be an effort to pass a Constitutional Amendment. I’m not for doing it. I’m for moving on,” the Republican presidential hopeful said Thursday in a town hall airing on MSNBC at 7 p.m. ET.

“Exactly where it is now, I’m fine with it,” he said when asked if there are any laws that should be changed to address the issue.

In a landmark decision last year, the Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Many in the once crowded Republican presidential field opposed the ruling, and while Kasich affirmed he believes marriage should remain between a man and woman, he told Matthews that everyone should be “a bit more tolerant.”

The Ohio governor often talks about how he recently attended a friend’s same-sex marriage ceremony.

“I don’t think it’s right and the wedding that I went to, they know that I don’t agree with them,” Kasich said.

Asked by Matthews what gay couples who love each other should do, Kasich said: “They should love one another. That’s the end of it.”

By “a bit more tolerant” he means the anti-gay people should be tolerant… and the gay-marriage advocates should be more tolerant of those with “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

That would be fine if there was any evidence that the LGBTQ community tried to pass laws that permitted discrimination against Christians getting married or buying flowers for their tacky weddings or if there was a gay county clerk who refused to sign a marriage certificate for a straight couple and threw quotes from Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote at them.  Has that happened?  [crickets]

We don’t want your tolerance, we don’t want your prayers, and we don’t want your opinion on our marriages any more than you want ours on anything of yours that you hold sacred, like your marriage.

We don’t want to know if you agree with it or not because frankly, I sincerely doubt that anyone would base their decision on whether or not to get married and live their life based on what an absolute stranger who has no chance of ever being anything more than an also-ran in the country’s most dysfunctional election in living memory thinks of it.

All we want is for you and your band of busybodies to leave us the hell alone and stop using us as your piñata to score easy applause lines from the base of your party, and I mean base in all the meanings of the word.  Tolerate that.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Reading

Teach Your Children Well — Jonathan Zimmerman in The Atlantic on the poor state of civics education in public schools.

Little hands. A bad tan. And blood coming from wherever.

If you’re put off by the crude tone of politics in the Age of Trump, you’re not alone. According to a recent poll by Weber Shandwick, Powell Tate, and KRC Research, 70 percent of Americans think that political incivility has reached “crisis” levels.

The poll also found that Americans avoid discussing controversial questions, out of fear they too will be perceived as uncivil. The findings speak to a flaw with civic education, especially in the main institution charged with delivering it: public schools. Put simply, schools in the United States don’t teach the country’s future citizens how to engage respectfully across their political differences. So it shouldn’t be surprising that they can’t, or that that they don’t.

Schools have sometimes been blamed for the meteoric rise of Donald Trump, whose legions of supporters allegedly lack the civic knowledge to see through his proposals to ban Muslims from entering the United States or to kill family members of terrorists in the fight against ISIS. But it’s hardly clear that Trump supporters are less knowledgeable than anyone else. In six state GOP exit polls, Trump was the most popular candidate among college-educated voters and came in second in another six polls.

Indeed, the facile dismissal of all Trump enthusiasts as bigots or ignoramuses speaks to the most urgent problem in American civic life: the inability to communicate with people who do not share the same opinion. Trump himself epitomizes that trend, routinely vilifying his opponents as “losers” or “dummies,” or worse. And yet Trump’s critics often use similar terms to tar his diverse array of devotees. This isn’t a discussion; it’s a shouting match.Public schools aren’t merely expected to teach young people the mechanics of government: how a bill is signed into law, what the Supreme Court does, and so on. They’re also responsible for teaching the skills and habits of democratic life, especially how to engage civilly with people from a different political camp.

Many districts have written policies promoting the teaching of “controversial issues” in schools. Typically, these policies affirm students’ right to discuss such issues as part of their preparation for citizenship. They also warn teachers against imposing their own point of view on students.But there’s an enormous gap between policy and practice. Many teachers say they’d like to address controversial issues but lack the time; in poorer districts, especially, every available minute is devoted to preparing students for high-stakes standardized tests. Others admitted that they were not prepared to lead such discussions, which require deep background knowledge on the issues as well as the skill to manage diverse opinions about them.

Still other teachers said that their districts discouraged or even barred them from addressing controversial issues, particularly if the teacher displayed a liberal or unorthodox bent. After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, for example, two teachers and a counselor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were suspended without pay for hanging posters in their classrooms urging “No War Against Iraq.” School officials invoked the district’s “controversial-issues” policy, which declared that teachers “will not attempt, directly or indirectly, to limit or control the opinions of pupils.”

As later court filings confirmed, however, the district offered no evidence that the teachers were trying to do that; instead, the mere expression of their opinion was taken as proof of their propagandistic intent. Never mind that military recruiting posters festooned other parts of the school, or that one of the suspended teachers had organized a debate between herself and a pro-war colleague. Her poster was an act of indoctrination rather than education, officials said, and it had to be stopped.

[…]

To be sure, it’s easy to imagine situations where teachers might impose their views instead of assisting students in formulating their own. But many school leaders simply don’t trust teachers to know the difference. After the Ferguson riots, a superintendent in nearby Edwardsville, Illinois, prohibited teachers from mentioning the subject, lest they sway students in one direction or another. “We all have opinions on what should be done,” the superintendent explained. “We don’t need to voice those opinions or engage those opinions in the classroom.”

But how will children learn to “engage those opinions” unless they do so in the classroom? That’s become even more urgent over the past few decades, when Americans increasingly segregated themselves into communities of the like-minded. In 1976, 27 percent of Americans made their homes in so-called “landslide counties” that voted either Democrat or Republican by 20 percent or more; by 2008, 48 percent of Americans lived in such environments.

When divisive subjects do arise, Americans don’t know how to discuss them. In the same KRC survey that revealed overwhelming concern about the incivility of modern politics, over a third of respondents said they avoid talking about racial inequality, abortion rights, or same-sex marriage for fear of the discussion turning “uncivil.” And only one-third said that they do not avoid any issues because of worries about incivility.

Trump has played on that anxiety in his frequent broadsides against “political correctness,” encouraging people to follow his lead and say whatever they think. And while there’s a certain attractiveness to that kind of blunt candor, it’s a poor formula for civic discourse. Nearly three-quarters of the people replying to the KRC survey said they supported “civility training” in schools. Let’s hope they prevail on the schools to provide it.

Why It’s The Worst — Katherine Stewart in The Nation on Mississippi’s gay-bashing law.

On Tuesday morning, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law HB 1523—the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”—one of the most sweeping of the nation’s “religious liberty” bills that are making the rounds in numerous red-state capitals this year. In the press they are often referred to as “anti-LGBT bills,” because they would give legal cover to those who want to discriminate against LGBT people out of “sincerely held religious belief.” Critics such as Ben Needham, director of Human Rights Campaign’s Project One America, has said the measure is “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date.” But there is an even more radical agenda behind these bills, and the atrocious attempt to deprive LGBT Americans of their rights is only a part of it.

According to State Senator Jennifer Branning, one of the Mississippi law’s original backers, the real victims of the story are not the LGBT couples denied services but people “who cannot in good conscience provide services for a same-sex marriage.” These are the true targets of discrimination, and we are invited to sympathize with the proverbial florist who balks at providing flowers at a gay wedding or the restaurant owner who refuses to serve a same-sex couple celebrating their wedding anniversary. But the text of the law also specifically protects the “sincerely held religious belief” that “sexual relations are properly reserved to” a marriage between a woman and a man. So if you are religiously opposed to other people having non-marital sex, this could be the law for you.

It is also inaccurate to think that this law is just about those who wish to refuse to perform a service. One of the more disconcerting sections of the law is that which discusses people who provide foster-care services. The government, we are told, will no longer be allowed to take action against any foster parent that “guides, instructs, or raises a child…in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief.” If you want to know what that could mean, check out Focus on the Family’s “spare the rod” philosophy of child rearing. On its website, the religious-right advocacy group offers handy tips on “the Biblical Approach to Spanking.”

If the point were only to spare the fine moral sentiments of a few florists, why would the law’s sponsors seek such a wide-ranging exemption from the laws and norms that apply to the rest of society? A helpful clue can be found in a letter that the American Family Association sent out in support of the Mississippi bill before it was passed. (The AFA has been named a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2010.) The bill, said the AFA, is crucial because it protects the AFA, and groups like it, from the “governmental threat of losing their tax exempt status.”

There is a revealing irony in that statement. Tax exemption is a kind of gift from the government, a privilege. It is an indirect way of funneling money from taxpayers to groups that engage in certain kinds of activities (like charity work or nonprofit education)—and not other kinds of activities (like political activism). The AFA is right to worry about the governmental threat to their governmental subsidy. As our society views the kinds of activities they endorse with increasing skepticism, the justification for continued subsidies and privileges from the government will diminish.

The people who drafted the bill on behalf of the Mississippi legislators get it. (Most of the red-state “religious liberty” bills were either drafted or, to some degree, inspired by the Alliance Defending Freedom—the “800-pound gorilla” of religious-right legal advocacy and itself a beneficiary of the great tax exemption game.) This is why the very first “discriminatory action” by the government the law prohibits is “to alter in any way the tax treatment” of any person or organization that abides by the newly sanctioned religious beliefs.

It’s about more than money, of course. The AFA and its allies on the religious right want to carve out a sphere in American public life where religion—their religion—trumps the law. It’s a breathtakingly radical ambition. And it upends the principles on which our constitutional democracy is based.

None other than the late Antonin Scalia put his finger on the problem. To make an individual’s obedience to the law “contingent upon the law’s coincidence with his religious beliefs” amounts to “permitting him, by virtue of his beliefs, ‘to become a law unto himself,’” he said. It “contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense.” Scalia made these comments in his 1990 majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith. In that case, the majority ruled that the state of Oregon could deny unemployment benefits to a pair of individuals who violated a state ban on the use of peyote, even though their use of the drug was part of a religious ritual. It was the overreaction to that verdict—on both the left and the right—that produced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. Though intended only to ensure that laws did not needlessly burden the religious liberty of individuals, the RFRA sparked a wave of unintended consequences. It effectively planted the demon seeds of the current crop of “religious liberty” bills.

Employment Division, as it happened, involved a religion—that practiced by the Native American Church—with which Scalia likely did not identify. Which brings up a crucial point about the Mississippi law and its numerous cousins. These “religious liberty” bills are really intended only for a particular variety of religion. Indeed, HB 1523 protects you only if your religion involves a specific set of beliefs—such as the religious belief that “man” and “woman” “refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex,” and that “sexual relations are properly reserved to” marriage. To speak frankly, the law was designed to advance the claims of conservative Christians, and it would never have become law otherwise. If you think that every religion will find as much liberty in the laws of Mississippi, then I have a Satanic temple to sell you.

Donald Trump Performs Shakespeare — Aryah Cohen-Wade in The New Yorker.

“Hamlet”

Listen—to be, not to be, this is a tough question, O.K.? Very tough. A lot of people come up to me and ask, “Donald, what’s more noble? Getting hit every day with the slings, the bows, the arrows, the sea of troubles—or just giving up?” I mean, smart people, the best Ivy League schools.

But I say to them, “Have you ever thought that we don’t know—we don’t know—what dreams may come? Have you ever thought about that?” Ay yi yi—there’s the rub! There’s the rub right there. When we shuffle off this mortal whatever it is—coil? They say to me, “Donald, you’ve built this fantastic company, how’d you do it? How?” And I say one word: “leadership.” Because that’s what it’s all about, is leadership. And people are so grateful whenever I bring up this whole “perchance to dream” thing. So grateful.

And on and on with the whips and the scorns of time and the contumely and the fardels and the blah blah blah.

Then I see a bare bodkin and I’m like—a bodkin? What the hell is this thing, a bodkin? Listen, I run a very successful business, I employ thousands of people and I’m supposed to care whether this bodkin is bare or not? Sad!

And when people say I don’t have a conscience—trust me, I have a conscience, and it’s a very big conscience, O.K.? And the native hue of my resolution is not sicklied o’er, that’s a lie! If anyone tells you that the native hue of my resolution is sicklied o’er, they’re trying to sell you a load of you-know-what. And enterprises of great pith—listen, my enterprises are so pithy. So pithy. Fantastic pith. But sometimes, hey, they lose the name of action, right? I mean, it happens—it happens.

“Romeo and Juliet”

Quiet, quiet—shut up, over there! What’s coming through that window? A light, it is the east, and Melania—you know, people are always telling me, they say, “Mr. Trump, you’ve got a wonderful wife”—Melania, she’s sitting right there. Stand up, sweetheart. Isn’t she a beautiful woman, Melania? Gorgeous. I love women, they love me—and I think we all know what I mean, folks! I’m gonna do so well with the women in November. So well.

Melania’s the sun, is what a lot of people are saying. Hillary Clinton? I mean, with that face? She looks like the moon! She’s very envious, if you ask me, very envious, but can you blame her? Visit Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue—which is the best street in New York, by the way—I mean, who wouldn’t be envious? This moon, Hillary, is sick and pale with grief when she compares herself to Melania, who is a very beautiful woman, I have to admit.

Melania, she’s got a great cheek, it’s a wonderful cheek, a bright cheek, everyone knows it, the stars ought to be ashamed of themselves, ashamed. The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars. As daylight doth a lamp! Look at this, folks, how she leans her cheek upon her hand. If I were a glove upon that hand—first, let me tell you, I think we all know what I would do, because I bought the Miss Universe Pageant, very successful, so I know a thing or two about gorgeous women. And all this stuff about the gloves, and my hands—I have great hands, O.K.? Gimme a break.

“Julius Caesar”

Friends, Romans, folks—listen up. The reason I’m here is to bury Julius. It’s not to praise him. It’s just not. Brutus over there—we all know he’s a good guy, right? And he says Julius was low-energy. Is it a crime to be low-energy? Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t—who knows?

The point is, Brutus is a good guy, all these guys over there, the ones who did this, they’re all good guys—and Julius, Julius was my friend, a really terrific friend to me.

Julius—he brought a lot of captives home to Rome, filled a lot of coffers. Really fantastic coffers. Does that sound low-energy to you? And when the poor people, regular, hardworking, everyday Romans, cried—Julius did, too. He cried. I saw it with my own eyes—many, many times. But Brutus—Brutus says Julius was low-energy. And everyone knows that Brutus is a good guy, right?

You all saw that on the Lupercal, three times—three times—I tried to give Julius a kingly crown. And you should’ve seen this crown—this was a great crown, O.K.? Very, very kingly. And three times he said, “Nope.” Is this low-energy? Yet Brutus says he was low-energy—and, sure, sure, Brutus is a good guy.

I’m not here to say Brutus is lying, but I am here to speak what I do know. You all loved Julius once—so why not be a little sad, now that he’s dead? Just a little sad.

I’m sorry to say that the Roman Senate has been run by a bunch of morons for a long, long time. Morons! A lot of bad decisions—these guys, they’re like a bunch of animals. It makes me so sad. So sad. And I’m looking here at the coffin of my good friend, Mr. Caesar. Just a minute. (He pauses to wipe a tear from his eye.)

So we’re gonna build a wall! And who’s gonna pay for it? (The crowd shouts, “The Visigoths!”)

“Macbeth”

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and yadda yadda, the days are going by—what I’m saying is this is gonna last a long time, believe you me. Long. I see this candle, and I say—should I blow it out?

Should I? Because, when you think about it, and there’s been some great polling on this, in fact there’s a new poll out from the Wall Street Journal—which is a terrific paper, by the way, they’ve won a lot of prizes—listen to this, they say blow out the candle. They do, they say blow it out.

People come up to me and say, “Mr. Trump, life is like a shadow,” and I’m like, “What? A shadow? I don’t get it, and, listen, I went to Wharton, O.K.—the top business school in the country. So I’m a smart guy, I’m a smart guy, it’s no secret.”

And what’s really interesting is I like to talk, and tell a tale, and that tale is gonna have a whole lotta sound, and a whole lotta fury, because that’s what the American people want to hear! They want to hear some sound and some fury sent to Washington for once in their lives, and, I mean, is that too much to ask? They want to hear me tell it, and they can decide what it signifies, but I’m saying right now—it’s gonna sound great, I guarantee it. Absolutely, a hundred and ten per cent, just really, really great. O.K.?

Doonesbury — Future shock.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Georgia Governor Deals A Veto To Hate

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Gov. Nathan Deal defied fellow Republicans on Monday by vetoing a controversial “religious liberty” measure aimed at strengthening legal protections for opponents of gay marriage, a move that could jeopardize his legislative agenda and shape the race for his successor.

His decision was swiftly met with calls from Republican lawmakers who approved the legislation less than two weeks ago and now want to overturn his decision, calling for a veto session.

Gov. Deal, unlike Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina, is not up for re-election this year and doesn’t have to appease his base of sniveling bigots… for now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Short Takes

Report: U.S. bombs terrorist camp in Somalia; over 150 killed.

Bloomberg’s off the trail: Former NYC mayor rules out a presidential run.

Senate Republicans said the Budget Committee will delay considering the budget.

The Supreme Court overturned Alabama court ruling against gay adoption.

The Florida Legislature re-wrote the state’s death penalty law to conform to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Ted Cruz’s Friends

Sen. Ted Cruz isn’t shy about being anti-gay, and he has a strong support staff to carry that message out to the base.  Via Right Wing Watch:

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group, helped coalesce Religious Right support behind Cruz and campaigned with the senator in Iowa. Cruz apparently sees it as helpful to campaign alongside Perkins, who has defended Uganda’s “kill-the-gays” bill and claimed that gay rights advocates are pawns of the Devil.

Perkins joined Cruz on the trail in Iowa along with Glenn Beck, the conspiracy theory radio host; David Barton, the right-wing pseudo-historian who heads one of the leading pro-Cruz super PACs and who, like Beck, has declared Cruz to be God’s answer to his prayers; reality TV star Phil Robertson, notorious for making bigoted remarks; James Dobson, the anti-gay radio personality who founded Focus on the Family; Rep. Steve King, the congressman known for his anti-gay and anti-immigrant tirades; Bob Vander Plaats, the Iowa political organizer who describes homosexuality as a “public health risk” similar to smoking; and far-right radio broadcaster Steve Deace.

Other endorsers touted by the Cruz campaign have included North Carolina activists who have referred to gay people as Satan’sminions; a North Carolina pastor who has likened gay people to “maggots” and linked them to Ebola; an Oklahoma preacher who warns that homosexuality is part of a demonic communist conspiracy to bring down America; a Virginia radio host who has blamed gays for everything from terrorism to train derailments; and a Virginia lawmaker who has sponsored an assortment of bizarre anti-gay bills.

Most recently, Cruz welcomed the endorsement of Mike Bickle, the leader of a church that many have criticized for using cult-like practices, who has referred to Oprah Winfrey as a harbinger of the Antichrist, called gay rights as a Satanic plot that will usher in the End Times, and explained that Adolf Hitler was raised up by God to be a “hunter” of Jews.

So when Marco Rubio says he will do what he can to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality — even though he doesn’t explain how or what will happen to the thousands of couples who have married — he sounds like a lightweight.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bigotry Isn’t Cheap

If the state of Tennessee follows through with passing an anti-gay marriage bill, it won’t be cheap.  Via Towleroad:

A Tennessee House committee is set to consider an anti-gay marriage bill next week that could cost the state $8 billion annually if it becomes law.

As we mentioned last week, GOP state Rep. Mark Pody believes God told him to introduce the “Natural Marriage Defense Act,” because same-sex marriage is “wicked.”

For the good of the “public welfare,” Pody’s HB 1412 would declare the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges — which it compares to previous rulings upholding the constitutionality of forced sterilization and Japanese internment — “unauthoritative, void, and of no effect.” The Senate version of the bill, SB1437, was introduced by anti-gay GOP Sen. Mae Beavers, a Donald Trump supporter who incidentally agrees with his plan to stop all Muslims from entering the US.

Last week, in the fiscal note attached to HB 1412 and SB 1437, legislative analysts determined that if the bill were to somehow become law, the state could lose $6.5 billion in Medicaid funds, and $2 billion for food stamps and welfare, because the respective state programs would be out of compliance with federal law. Tennessee is already facing a $2.3 million tab for its legal fight against same-sex marriage.

The Tennessee House Civil Justice Subcommittee is set to consider Pody’s bill on Jan. 20. Pody told The Tennessean he plans to work with legislative fiscal analysts on reducing the cost of the bill, but plans to continue pursuing the legislation.

You have to have an unhealthy obsession with the private lives of other people if you think it’s worth giving up $8 billion.  I really think this should make the people of Tennessee seriously reconsider who it is that they elect to represent them.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back/Looking Forward

It’s time for my annual re-cap and prognostication for the past year and the year coming up.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

– Now that we have a Republican House and Senate and a president who isn’t running for re-election, get out the popcorn, and I mean the good stuff.  The GOP will try to do everything they can to destroy the legacy of Barack Obama, but they will end up looking even more foolish, petulant, infantile, and borderline nuts than they have for the last two years, and that’s saying something.  Repeals of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and recharged attempts to investigate Benghazi!, the IRS, and the VA will be like the three rings of Barnum & Bailey, all of which President Obama will gleefully veto.  As Zandar noted at Balloon Juice, “Over/under on when a Republican declares on FOX that Obama’s veto is  “illegal”, Feb 8.”

They did all that except actually pass the bills for President Obama to veto.  Instead they putsched John Boehner and replaced him with Paul Ryan who will more than likely face the same nutsery in 2016.

– Hillary Clinton will announce that she is running for president by March 2015 at the latest.  Elizabeth Warren will not run, but Bernie Sanders, the Gene McCarthy of this generation, will announce as an independent and become a frequent guest on MSNBC.  Jeb Bush, after “actively exploring” a run in 2016, will announce that he is running and quickly fade to the single digits when the GOP base gets a taste of his views on immigration and Common Core.  He may be popular in Republican polls, but those people don’t vote in primaries.  The frontrunners for the Iowa caucuses a year from now will be Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

Nailed that one except for the last sentence.  But to be fair I don’t think anyone had Donald Trump on their betting sheets a year ago, and if they did, it was more for the entertainment value than serious consideration as a Republican candidate.

– The war in Afghanistan is officially over as of December 2014, but there will be U.S. troops actively engaged in combat in what is left of Syria and Iraq in 2015.

More’s the pity.

– The U.S. economy will continue to improve at a galloping pace.  The Dow will hit 19,000 at some point in 2015 and oil will continue to flood the market, keeping the price below $60 a barrel and gasoline will sell for under $2 a gallon, and finally wages will start to catch up with the improving economy.  I blame Obama.

Except for my overly-optimistic prediction on the Dow, this pretty much came true, even down to the price for gasoline: I paid $1.99 last night in Miami, which is not the lowest-priced city in the country.  President Obama is not getting any credit whatsoever for helping the economy improve, which he should, but then the Republicans never blamed Bush for crashing it in the first place.

– The Supreme Court will rule that bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution.  They will also narrowly uphold Obamacare again.

Happy dance, happy dance.

– The embargo against Cuba will end on a narrow vote in the Senate thanks to the overwhelming influence of Republican donors who see 11 million Cubans starving for Dunkin Donuts and car parts and don’t care what a bunch of domino-playing dreamers on Calle Ocho think.

The embargo is still in place as a matter of law, but for all intents and purposes, it is crumbling.  U.S. airlines and cruise ships are setting schedules, direct mail service is resuming, and travel there has become routine.

– The Tigers will win their division again.

Oh, shut up.

– We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I hold them in the Light.

– I technically retired on September 1, 2014, but my last day at work will be August 30, 2019.  (It’s complicated.)  I’m planning a return trip to Stratford this summer — more on that later — and I’ll get more plays produced.  I will finish at least one novel in 2015.

This was a productive year for me on the writing front: several plays of mine were done either in full stage productions or readings, and more are on the way.  No, I did not finish a novel yet.

Now for the predictions for 2016:

  • Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States.  I have no idea who she will beat; I don’t think the Republicans know, either, but she will win, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it will be a decisive win.  The GOP will blame everybody else and become even more cranky, self-injuring, and irresponsible.
  • The Democrats down-ticket will do better than expected by taking back the Senate and narrowing their gap in the House.  This will be achieved by the number of voters who will turn out to vote for them in order to hold off the GOP’s attempt to turn the country back over to the control of white Christian males.
  • The economy will continue to improve; maybe this is the year the Dow will hit 19,000.  The limiting factor will be how the rest of the world, mainly China, deals with their economic bubble.  I think a lot of the economic news will be based on the outcome of the U.S. election and the reaction to it.  If by some horrifying chance Donald Trump wins, all bets are off.  Economists and world markets like stability and sanity, and turning the U.S. over to a guy who acts like a used car hustler crossed with a casino pit boss will not instill confidence.
  • ISIS, which barely registered on the radar as an existential threat to the U.S. and the west a year ago, will be contained.  There will not be a large American troop presence in Syria and Iraq thanks in part to the response by the countries that themselves are being invaded by ISIS.  Finally.
  • Refugees will still be pouring out of the Middle East, putting the strain on countries that have taken them in.  It will be a test of both infrastructure and moral obligation, and some, such as Canada, will set the example of how to be humane.
  • Maybe this will be the year that Fidel Castro finally takes a dirt nap.
  • The Supreme Court will narrowly uphold affirmative action but leave room for gutting it later on.  They will also narrowly rule against further restrictions on reproductive rights.  And I am going out on a limb by predicting that President Obama will get to choose at least one more new justice for the Court, an appointment that will languish in the Senate until after the election.
  • Violence against our fellow citizens such as mass shootings will continue.  The difference now is that we have become numb to them and in an election year expecting any meaningful change to the gun laws or the mindset is right up there with flying pigs over downtown Miami.
  • Marriage equality will gain acceptance as it fades from the headlines, but the LGBTQ community’s next front will be anti-discrimination battles for jobs and housing.  It’s not over yet, honey.
  • We’re going to see more wild weather patterns but none of it will convince the hard-core deniers that it’s either really happening or that there’s anything we can do about it.
  • The Tigers will not win the division in 2016.  (Caution: reverse psychology at play.)
  • On a personal level, this could be a break-out year for my writing and play production.  I don’t say that every year.
  • A year from today I will write this same post and review what I got right and what I didn’t.  But stick around and see how I do on a daily basis.

Okay, it’s your turn.  What do you see for 2016?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Full Court Press

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) thinks he can get rid of marriage equality by appointing justices who will overturn the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling last summer that made it legal.  Here he is on NBC yesterday with his logic:

CHUCK TODD: Are you going to work to overturn the same sex marriage?

MARCO RUBIO: I disagree with it on constitutional grounds. As I have said–

CHUCK TODD: But are you going to work to overturn this?

MARCO RUBIO: I think it’s bad law. And for the following reason. If you want to change the definition of marriage, then you need to go to state legislatures and get them to change it. Because states have always defined marriage. And that’s why some people get married in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator. And in Florida, you have to wait a couple days when you get your permit. Every state has different marriage laws. But I do not believe that the court system was the right way to do it because I don’t believe–

CHUCK TODD: But it’s done now. Are you going to work to overturn it?

MARCO RUBIO: You can’t work to overturn it. What you–

CHUCK TODD: Sure. You can do a constitutional amendment.

MARCO RUBIO: As I’ve said, that would be conceding that the current Constitution is somehow wrong and needs to be fixed. I don’t think the current Constitution gives the federal government the power to regulate marriage. That belongs at the state and local level. And that’s why if you want to change the definition of marriage, which is what this argument is about.

It’s not about discrimination. It is about the definition of a very specific, traditional, and age-old institution. If you want to change it, you have a right to petition your state legislature and your elected representatives to do it. What is wrong is that the Supreme Court has found this hidden constitutional right that 200 years of jurisprudence had not discovered and basically overturn the will of voters in Florida where over 60% passed a constitutional amendment that defined marriage in the state constitution as the union of one man and one woman.

CHUCK TODD: So are you accepting the idea of same sex marriage in perpetuity?

MARCO RUBIO: It is the current law. I don’t believe any case law is settled law. Any future Supreme Court can change it. And ultimately, I will appoint Supreme Court justices that will interpret the Constitution as originally constructed.

Let’s get a couple of points out of the way.  With the understanding that I’m not a lawyer and so my interpretation of the law is based solely on what I’ve read in the history books by people who know a lot more about the law than I do, let’s dispense with the idea that the Supreme Court cannot overturn state and local laws that impose discrimination on its citizens.  If that were truly the case, then Mr. Rubio is also in favor of overturning Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which undid discrimination in public schools, and Loving v. Virginia (1967), which ended bans on interracial marriage.  The Loving case is truly the precedent for the Court saying that state marriage laws cannot bar certain people from being married.  It didn’t say anything about marriage licenses or who can perform the ceremony, so Mr. Rubio is setting up a strawman argument with his line about Elvis impersonators.  The King’s Invokers can still do the ceremony in Vegas and Florida can still make you hold off your hunka hunka burning love for a couple of days.

Second, in order to have the Court review a case, there has to be a federal court ruling that challenges the freedom for same-sex couples to get married.  In other words, there has to be someone who can show damages to themselves as a result of the ruling.  That’s called “standing.”  So far no one has been able to prove that they suffered any damages because the gay couple next door decided to get married.  That was the crux of the argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), also known as the Prop 8 case, and why it was thrown out by the Supreme Court.  So unless there’s someone out there who can maneuver a case through the courts that passes the standing tests as set forth by this ruling (much less the laugh test), there won’t be a challenge to Obergefell v. Hodges to rule on no matter who Mr. Rubio thinks he will appoint to the court.  And even if there is, the Court is rarely inclined to overturn precedent, especially their own.

Be that as it may, Mr. Rubio’s bigoted view of marriage reminds us that electing a president brings with it the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court and given the actuarial tables and nature, the next president will probably have that duty thrust upon him or her.  As I am fond of reminding voters, there’s more at stake in those three little words — The Supreme Court — than just who gets the most electoral votes.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Marry The Men Today

Via TPM:

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis objects to issuing same-sex marriage licenses for religious reasons. She stopped issuing marriage licenses the day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state bans on same-sex marriage.

Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her. A U.S. district judge ordered Davis to issue the marriage licenses, but later delayed his order so that Davis could have time to appeal to the 6th circuit. Wednesday, the appeals court denied Davis’ request for a stay.

An attorney for Davis said he was disappointed in the ruling and that Davis could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. He said he did not know how Davis would react to the ruling.

Ms. Davis’s feelings about the ruling are unknown at the moment, but another clerk, Casey Davis (no relation), is choosing this to be the hill to die on.  Via Right Wing Watch:

On Monday, Casey County Clerk Casey Davis (no relation) appeared on Huntington, West Virginia’s “The Tom Roten Morning Show” to discuss how he similarly plans to defy the courts if ordered to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples … even to the point of death.

[…]

An emotional Davis went on to claim that he may lose his life in defiance of marriage equality: “Our law says ‘one man and one woman’ and that is what I held my hand up and took an oath to and that is what I expected. If it takes it, I will go to jail over — if it takes my life, I will die for because I believe I owe that to the people that fought so I can have the freedom that I have, I owe that to them today, and you do, we all do. They fought and died so we could have this freedom and I’m going to fight and die for my kids and your kids can keep it.”

I have another idea: quit your job and become an itinerant preacher. You’ll be able to carry on being a sniveling Jesus-freak and the taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill for your bigotry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

No Exceptions (Good)

Via Cleveland.com:

Ohio judges who perform civil marriages may not refuse to conduct a ceremony for a gay couple, nor may they refuse to do all marriages based on personal beliefs opposing gay marriage, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board for Professional Conduct said.

The ruling follows the refusal by a judge in Toledo to conduct a same-sex ceremony for a couple in July, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a right in all states. Toledo Municipal Judge C. Allen McConnell said in a written statement he was following his personal and Christian beliefs.

But the professional conduct board, in an advisory opinion issued Friday and announced Monday, said refusing to perform the ceremony on that basis amounts to a violation of a judge’s oath of office.

“The oath represents the judge’s solemn and personal vow that he or she will impartially perform all duties incumbent on the office and do so without regard to the status or class of persons or parties who come before the court,” the board opinion states. “The oath is a reflection of the self-evident principle that the personal, moral, and religious beliefs of a judicial officer should never factor into the performance of any judicial duty.”

Not a tough call, your honors.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Next Battle

Now that the Supreme Court has made marriage equality the law of the land, what’s next?  Paul Waldman at the Washington Post says it’s going to be the “religious liberty” issue.

While there’s a political calculation at work and a lot of the rhetoric travels into the territory of the absurd, there are also some legitimate legal questions that have to be worked out.

First, let’s place this in context. For some time now, conservative Christians have told themselves a story of their own oppression, one that testifies to their courage in holding to their faith when hostile forces would rip it from them and send them cowering to the shadows. This is in large part a reaction to the diversification of our society, in which the proportion of Americans who are Christian is indeed declining. As a result of that change, many of the features of civil and commercial life have changed as well, so that instead of being the only religion expressed, Christianity is one among many. Some Christians would obviously prefer it if their particular faith had a monopoly on government expressions and things like signs in department stores, and are genuinely horrified when they see a sign reading “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Since those Christians are mostly Republicans, and evangelicals are particularly numerous in the state of Iowa, GOP presidential candidates almost inevitably echo those sentiments back to the voters, repeating the narrative of oppression. “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian,” said Rick Perry in a famous ad from his presidential run four years ago. So brave, to admit that! “But you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

For the record, people still celebrate Christmas pretty openly last time I checked, and every kid is free to pray in school; what’s forbidden (in most but not all cases) is prayers sponsored and organized by the public school itself.

In any case, the gay marriage decision is easy to turn into a story of Christians oppressed, like the baker who doesn’t want to bake a cake for a gay couple. Conservatives have successfully expanded the realm of the religious beyond things like rituals, worship, and sacraments into other realms like commerce, and if they’re feeling despondent over the Court decision, they should remember that this Supreme Court has agreed with them, holding in the Hobby Lobby case that a corporation can have its own religious beliefs and thus excuse itself from laws it doesn’t find congenial.

The course from there is pretty obvious: the Religious Right and their political allies running for president will use their vast lung power and internet reach to grift money from the foolish and the weak.  Every victory scored by the Radical Homosexuals (which sounds like an ’80’s heavy metal band) will generate e-mail blasts with pleas for money.

The conventional wisdom is that the ruling on marriage equality was greeted privately by the GOP and the Religious Right with, if not joy, at least relief.  For the Republicans, it removes it from the immediacy of the campaign and into the abstract (see Huckabee, Mike, and his plans to fight “judicial tyranny” with tyranny).  For the Religious Right, now they have a whole new flock of pigeons to pluck in the name of fighting non-existent persecution.

Monday, July 6, 2015

What’s Love Got To Do With It

It sounds like Mike Huckabee thinks there’s too much love in marriage.

Huckabee said this modern, emotional definition of love will destroy all marriages, not just same-sex marriage.

Sounds like he and the missus have some issues to work out.  Or perhaps he’d rather get back to the real traditional marriage where women were sold off to the highest bidder and the parents sealed the deal with twenty goats and a gift certificate from Golden Corral.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Short Takes

Grecian Turn: Another attempt at getting out debt is proposed.

Six predominately black churches have burned in the last two weeks.

The government is investigating whether major airlines colluded on keeping prices high.

A federal judge in Alabama has ordered judges to issue marriage licenses to all comers.

R.I.P Nicholas Winton, 106, a Briton who saved nearly 700 children from the Nazis.

The Tigers lost 9-3 to the Pirates.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Roberts Rules: You’ll Never Be Equal

Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges was, compared to the rants of Justices Thomas and Scalia, “measured,” but it still embraced a chilling view of the gay community, basically telling us “Okay, you can have your marriages and we’ll smile politely and indulge you, but you will never be equal to the straight world because you had to go to court to force us to accept you.  If you had just waited for us to come around, everything would have been fine.  But no, you had to go and spoil it all by making some of us rule in your favor.”

I find it disturbing that the Chief Justice would take such a petulant and patronizing tone.  Suppose he said the same about blacks wanting desegregated schools or women wanting to vote: Just wait, we’ll get to you.  That’s not how it works, Your Honor.  Injustice doesn’t go away by itself.

Footnote: There’s a remarkable bit of irony in one of Justice Roberts’ sentences: “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”  Funny, that’s what we said about Bush v. Gore.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Reading

Ten Days in June — David Remmick in The New Yorker on the days that changed America.

What a series of days in American life, full of savage mayhem, uncommon forgiveness, resistance to forgiveness, furious debate, mourning, and, finally, justice and grace. As President Obama led thousands of mourners in Charleston, South Carolina, in “Amazing Grace,” I thought about late 2013 and early 2014. Obama’s Presidency was surely dwindling, if not finished. His mood was sombre, philosophical—which is good if you are a philosopher; if not, not.

Obama described himself to me then in terms of his limits—as “a relay swimmer in a river full of rapids, and that river is history.” More than a few columnists believed that Obama was now resigned to small victories, at best. But pause to think of what has happened, the scale of recent events.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court (despite an apocalyptic dissent about “pure applesauce” and “interpretive jiggery-pokery” by Justice Scalia) put an end to years of court cases and congressional attacks against the Affordable Care Act, which means that millions of Americans will no longer live in a state of perpetual anxiety about health costs.

On Friday, the Supreme Court (despite a curiously ill-informed dissent about Kalahari, Aztec, and Han mating rites by Chief Justice Roberts) legalized same-sex marriage nationally—a colossal (and joyous) landmark moment in the liberation of gay men and lesbians.

Meanwhile, throughout the South, governors and legislatures are beginning to lower the racist banner of the Confederate flag. Cruelty on a horrific scale—slaughter committed in the name of racism and its symbols—has made all talk about the valuable “heritage” of such symbols absurd to all but a very few. The endlessly revived “conversation about race” shows signs of turning into something more serious—a debate about institutional racism, and about inequities in the criminal-justice system, in incarceration, in employment, in education. The more Obama leads on this, the more he sheds his tendency toward caution—his deep concern that he will alienate as many as he inspires—the better. The eulogy in Charleston, where he spoke as freely, and as emotionally, as he ever has about race during his Presidency, is a sign, I think—I hope—that he is prepared, between now and his last day in office, to seize the opportunity.

Finally, in recent months Obama has also, through executive action, made solid gains on immigration, wage discrimination, climate change, and foreign-policy issues, including an opening, after more than a half century of Cold War and embargo, to Cuba. These accomplishments—and potential accomplishments, like a rigorous, well-regulated nuclear arrangement with Iran—will help shape the coming election. In no small measure, Obama, and what he has achieved, will determine the parameters of the debate.

The Next Battle: “Religious Liberty” — Zoë Carpenter in The Nation on the next tactic the Religious Right will use to oppress the gay community.

As a jubilant crowd at the Supreme Court celebrated Friday’s 5-4 ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry, moans of impotent fury emanated from conservatives in and out of the Court. “The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie,” Justice Antonin Scalia fumed in his dissenting opinion. In his own dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the Court should not worry about human dignity: “Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved,” he wrote. Justice Samuel Alito, also dissenting, fretted that homophobes now “will risk being labeled as bigots.”

Among the field of Republican presidential candidates, the responses ranged from outrage to resignation; none embraced the ruling. Some were quick to throw red meat to the conservative base, ignoring yet another thing the GOP supposedly learned after getting crushed in 2012. But a few of the more serious candidates, who have read the polls and know that aggressive opposition to gay marriage spells trouble in a general election, tried to shift the focus to one of the next issues in the marriage debate, which Nan Hunter explores in detail here—the attempt to frame discrimination as the exercise of “religious liberty.”

“This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision,” squawked Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who recently issued an executive order designed to shield business owners who discriminate against same-sex couples. “The government should not force those who have sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage to participate in these ceremonies,” he argued in his statement.

Though his take was cautious, former Florida governor Jeb Bush also highlighted religious-freedom protections. “Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision,” Bush said. “In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio was somewhat resigned. “I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman.… While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law.”

But Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker urged opponents of gay marriage to keep fighting. “I believe this Supreme Court decision is a grave mistake,” he said. “As a result of this decision, the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum were predictably affronted. Huckabee declared that he would “not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.” Santorum blasted the Court majority for “decid[ing] to redefine the foundational unit that binds together our society without public debate or input.”

[…]

As with the Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, the ruling against gay-marriage bans is really a win for Republican candidates. They can use it to direct attention to the 2016 election, as Rubio, Walker, and former Texas governor Rick Perry did. “As we look ahead,” Rubio said, “it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.” Perry promised, “as president, I would appoint strict Constitutional conservatives who will apply the law as written.” And by taking the basic marriage question off the table, the Court offered candidates an exit from a debate they can’t win. As to who will actually take it—ask the nearest hippie.

Two Friends — Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi talk to Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times about gay pride.

Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi 06-27-15When Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi come sailing down Fifth Avenue in convertibles at the Gay Pride March on Sunday, they will not only be grand marshals at the annual event but also first-time attendees.

So on Thursday morning, these revered British actors, who appear together in the PBS sitcom “Vicious,” were wondering what awaited them beyond an afternoon of waving to fans and onlookers.

“I’m just a sponge for anything that might happen,” said Mr. Jacobi, the soft-spoken star of “I, Claudius” and countless stage productions.

Mr. McKellen, the “Lord of the Rings” and “X-Men” star, whose utterances are either deeply serious or extremely arch, opted for the second. “You may be in for a very, very happy weekend,” he replied.

On a visit to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in the West Village, these two performers, who are both 76 and are gay, had come for a quick education on New York’s Pride events and their significance to the city on a weekend following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage. (At this year’s 46th parade, Mr. Jacobi and Mr. McKellen share grand marshal duties with the artist J. Christopher Neal and Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a Ugandan activist.)

Along the way, they revisited their personal histories and reflected on the progress they had seen in their often parallel lives.

Even if his and Mr. Jacobi’s principal goal in participating in the parade was simply to have “a lovely time,” Mr. McKellen said that their mere presence in it, as living links between a less progressive era and the present day, made a statement of its own.

“That’s what we’re doing by being here and waving,” he said. “We don’t have to be reading out a long list of demands.”

The two friends, who play a longtime gay couple on “Vicious,” first met as students at the University of Cambridge in the 1950s, where they bonded over their interests in acting, their working-class backgrounds and their sexuality.

“We knew we were both gay,” Mr. Jacobi said, “but we didn’t call it gay.” Euphemisms like “camp” and “queer” were the norm, they explained, at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain.

Both men went on to illustrious stage and screen careers, to play Richard III and King Lear, and to receive knighthoods — “We’re pretty much the same person,” Mr. McKellen joked.

Unlike their industry forebears, who they said never acknowledged even to confidants that they were gay or bisexual, Mr. McKellen and Mr. Jacobi said actors of their generation could be open about their sexuality with friends and colleagues.

Yet Mr. McKellen did not come out publicly until 1988, at age 49, during a radio broadcast in which he and the conservative journalist Peregrine Worsthorne debated Britain’s so-called Section 28 legislation, which forbade authorities from “promoting homosexuality.”

As Mr. McKellen recalled it, “When he said something particularly nasty about gay people, I said I’m one of them myself.”

Mr. Jacobi, by his own reckoning, did not come out at all. “I kind of oozed out,” he said with a laugh.

While still in college, Mr. Jacobi said he told his mother he was gay, and her reaction was, “Oh, all boys go through this phase.”

Doonesbury — Regrets?