Monday, April 7, 2014

Peak Eich

The story of Brendan Eich and his resignation from Mozilla over his donation to Prop 8 has gotten to the point of internet infinity: where the story itself has been put gently aside so that we can all discuss various bloggers’ and columnist’s reactions to it.

If you feel compelled to follow along with them, be my guest.  I’ve said what I have to say about this particular story for now.  What is being lost in the fog is the movement towards equality — not just marriage equality for which Mr. Eich bid against in California and found himself held accountable for it — for one community is a movement for all people, not just those of us who are currently defined as less than full citizens by a majority of states.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Find Another Baker or Florist

The veto of the anti-gay law in Arizona may have settled the issue for the moment in that state — although bigotry always needs feeding and I’m sure the proponents of the law are planning a comeback.  But the people on the losing end of it are still saying that the law was not really that big a deal and that if there are businesses like bakers or florists who don’t want to participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony, you can always find another one who will.

That’s not the point.

Aside from the practical matter that not everyone lives in a place where you have a lot of bakers or florists to choose from, the idea of having to choose where to shop shouldn’t be based on a social policy — separate but equal — that was supposed to have been killed off sixty years ago.  It is, in the words of the United States Supreme Court, inherently unequal.  It doesn’t work for public education, public accommodation, or city planning, and it shouldn’t work for catering and decoration.

More to the point, though, is why should the burden of proving to be worthy up to the customer?  No one should have to prove anything to a business other than their honest ability to pay for the services purchased.  Anything else is a big mistake.

The only time that anyone should have to find another baker or florist is when the first one has gone out of business because they’re bigoted assholes and no one — gay, straight or anything — doesn’t shop there anymore.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Special Rights

Paul Waldman has a good piece in The American Prospect on the folks who are demanding special rights for themselves.

Up until now, the distinction between religious practice and the things religious people do when they enter the secular world has worked pretty well. Anti-discrimination laws don’t mean that a rabbi has to conduct a wedding for two Baptists. Religious organizations can hire only people of their own faith. But once you enter into other realms, like commerce, you have to obey the laws that govern those realms.

If we grant religious people the kind of elevated citizenship conservatives are now demanding, where the special consideration given to religious practice is extended to anything a religious person does, the results could be truly staggering. Why stop at commerce? If things like employment law and anti-discrimination laws don’t apply to religious people, what about zoning laws, or laws on domestic abuse, or laws in any other realm?

The supporters of these laws, and of Hobby Lobby, argue that religious people shouldn’t have to put aside their beliefs when they act in the secular world. “It’s alien to me that a business owner can’t reflect his faith in his business,” said one Republican Arizona legislator. But when your business puts you in contact with people who don’t share your faith, putting aside your religion is precisely what you have to do, if “reflecting” that religion means violating the law.

He goes on to note that ironically, the Religious Right has been claiming for decades that the gay community has been demanding “special rights,” including the right to have a job, to live in an apartment, get married, or collect tax benefits because they’ve been denied them based on their sexual orientation.  (Even if they were granted, they’d only be catching up to everyone else, so they’re not really all that “special.”)

Now the Religious Right is claiming their own special right to discriminate against other people not just in their churches but in their workplace, as if their faith was the shield against being held to the same standards as the lower forms of life who have not accepted Jesus Ronald Reagan Christ as their personal savior and insurance agent.

That’s not how it works.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Suddenly They Care

Back in 2005 when it was revealed that the Bush administration was conducting wholesale warrantless wiretapping, a lot of progressives and liberals were not happy about it.  But the Republicans thought it was just dandy; violating the 4th Amendment in pursuit of terrorists was absolutely necessary, and they let us know that with a full-throated defense of the practice at their RNC winter meeting in 2006.

“Do Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean really think that when the NSA is listening in on terrorists planning attacks on America, they need to hang up when those terrorists dial their sleeper cells inside the United States?” Ken Mehlman, then RNC chair, told the RNC gathering in his keynote speech at the time.

So now that we know that the N.S.A. was doing the same thing under the Obama administration, you would think that the Republicans would have his back.

Well, you would be wrong.

In a jarring break from the George W. Bush era, the Republican National Committee voted Friday to adopt a resolution demanding an investigation into the National Security Agency’s spy programs.

According to the resolution, the NSA metadata program revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is deemed “an invasion into the personal lives of American citizens that violates the right of free speech and association afforded by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” In addition, “the mass collection and retention of personal data is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

So suddenly because there’s a Democrat in the White House — and specifically Barack Obama — the Republicans care about the Constitutional rights of Americans.

Okay, if that’s how they roll, I suggest that in order to make marriage equality the law of the land, President Obama should condemn same-sex marriage as abhorrent and an abomination.  We’d see Republicans tripping all over themselves to rush to the defense of couples who want to live their lives in peace regardless of their gender without interference from the state.  In addition, Mr. Obama should take up the mantle of the immortal Charlton Heston and stand up for unfettered gun rights.  We’d have gun control by sundown.

Friday, January 24, 2014

It Didn’t Work

All that N.S.A. hay-baling of data, phone records, and whatever else they did was a waste of time and illegal.  That’s according to the panel that looked into it.

An independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the National Security Agency’s program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down.

The findings are laid out in a 238-page report, scheduled for release by Thursday and obtained by The New York Times, that represent the first major public statement by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress made an independent agency in 2007 and only recently became fully operational.

I have yet to hear a plausible reason that this approach works better than tracking down a single suspect or group.  Going fishing with huge nets might get what you’re after, but you have to sift through all the other garbage floating out there, and, to carry on the metaphor, you might kill some vulnerable species like dolphins.

I doubt that this report will get much attention from the White House other than “Thanks, we’ll get back to you.”  Just a hunch.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Yes, Virginia

Via NPR:

Virginia’s new attorney general has decided to switch sides in an important case that is challenging the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

In an interview with Morning Edition‘s Steve Inskeep, Democrat Mark Herring said his office will no longer defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.

“As attorney general, I cannot and will not defend laws that violate Virginians’ rights,” Herring said. “The commonwealth will be siding with the plaintiffs in this case and with every other Virginia couple whose right to marry is being denied.”

Herring was sworn in just days ago after , an election that also ushered in Democrat Terry McAuliffe to the governor’s mansion. Herring is taking over for Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican who ran and lost a bid for governor on a Tea Party platform and was a staunch defender of the gay-marriage ban.

Herring said as he came into office, he asked his staff to review Bostic v. Rainey and, after careful consideration, he came to the conclusion that the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

Expect the howls of outrage and the sadz from the usual suspects.

As Mr. Herring notes in the interview, Virginia has been in the battle over marriage equality before.  In 1967, the state was on the losing side of Loving v. Virginia, the case that put an end to bans on interracial marriage.  The Supreme Court declared that marriage is a fundamental right and that to deny it to couples based on their race was a violation of the Constitution.  At the time, the losers were certain that allowing interracial couples to get married would destroy traditional marriage and make a mockery of the institution.  Sound familiar?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Teach Your Children Well

Ironically-named South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright is challenging Lindsey Graham in the GOP primary.  He has a novel idea on how to protect schools.

Appearing on Fox News Radio’s The Alan Colmes Show, Bright expanded on his proposed bill to create high school courses on how to use a fire arm by agreeing with Colmes that the government cannot legally restrict gun ownership on school grounds:

COLMES: So [teachers] shouldn’t have machine guns?

BRIGHT: I would think a teacher protecting a school grounds should be able to carry whatever she can carry legally.

COLMES: So should machine guns be legal to carry?

BRIGHT: The Second Amendment is pretty clear. It says the right to carry arms should not be infringed.

[...]

COLMES: So you should be able to have any gun you want?

BRIGHT: Well, I don’t see how the government can regulate it.

By that logic, the sale and distribution of child pornography should be perfectly legal because the First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….”  Sounds pretty clear to me, and there are no exceptions listed.  So therefore laws against kiddie-porn are unconstitutional, right?

Actually, the Second Amendment includes the term “a well-regulated militia,” so yes, the government can — and does — regulate the right to carry arms, including machine guns.  Even Antonin Scalia thinks that regulating the sale of guns or use in schools is well within the Constitution.

In any case, it sounds like this genius needs a refresher course in high school civics and history before he starts telling schools what to teach about guns and how to use them.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Reading

Here, Boy — Ian Haney-Lopez at Salon reports on how Ronald Reagan turned the Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon and George Wallace into the mainstream dog-whistle of the GOP in the 1980′s.

Why did Ronald Reagan do so well among white voters? Certainly elements beyond race contributed, including the faltering economy, foreign events (especially in Iran), the nation’s mood, and the candidates’ temperaments. But one indisputable factor was the return of aggressive race-baiting. A year after Reagan’s victory, a key operative gave what was then an anonymous interview, and perhaps lulled by the anonymity, he offered an unusually candid response to a question about Reagan, the Southern strategy, and the drive to attract the “Wallace voter”:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “N—, n—, n—.” [Editor's note: The actual word used by Atwater has been replaced with "N—" for the purposes of this article.] By 1968 you can’t say “n—” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut taxes and we want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N—, n—.” So anyway you look at it, race is coming on the back burner.

This analysis was provided by a young Lee Atwater. Its significance is two fold: First, it offers an unvarnished account of Reagan’s strategy. Second, it reveals the thinking of Atwater himself, someone whose career traced the rise of GOP dog whistle politics. A protégé of the pro-segregationist Strom Thurmond in South Carolina, the young Atwater held Richard Nixon as a personal hero, even describing Nixon’s Southern strategy as “a blue print for everything I’ve done.” After assisting in Reagan’s initial victory, Atwater became the political director of Reagan’s 1984 campaign, the manager of George Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign, and eventually the chair of the Republican National Committee. In all of these capacities, he drew on the quick sketch of dog whistle politics he had offered in 1981: from “n—, n—, n—” to “states’ rights” and “forced busing,” and from there to “cutting taxes”—and linking all of these, “race . . . coming on the back burner.”

When Reagan picked up the dog whistle in 1980, the continuity in technique nevertheless masked a crucial difference between him versus Wallace and Nixon. Those two had used racial appeals to get elected, yet their racially reactionary language did not match reactionary political positions. Political moderates, both became racial demagogues when it became clear that this would help win elections. Reagan was different. Unlike Wallace and Nixon, Reagan was not a moderate, but an old-time Goldwater conservative in both the ideological and racial senses, with his own intuitive grasp of the power of racial provocation. For Reagan, conservatism and racial resentment were inextricably fused.

In the early 1960s, Reagan was still a minor actor in Hollywood, but he was becoming increasingly active in conservative politics. When Goldwater decided to run for president, Reagan emerged as a fierce partisan. Reagan’s advocacy included a stock speech, given many times over, that drummed up support for Goldwater with overwrought balderdash such as the following: “We are  faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.” Reagan’s rightwing speechifying didn’t save Goldwater, but it did earn Reagan a glowing reputation among Republican groups in California, which led to his being recruited to run for governor of California in 1966. During that campaign, he wed his fringe politics to early dog whistle themes, for instance excoriating welfare, calling for law and order, and opposing government efforts to promote neighborhood integration. He also signaled blatant hostility toward civil rights, supporting a state ballot initiative to allow racial discrimination in the housing market, proclaiming: “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so.”

Reagan’s race-baiting continued when he moved to national politics. After securing the Republican nomination in 1980, Reagan launched his official campaign at a county fair just outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town still notorious in the national imagination for the Klan lynching of civil rights volunteers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner 16 years earlier. Reagan selected the location on the advice of a local official, who had written to the Republican National Committee assuring them that the Neshoba County Fair was an ideal place for winning “George Wallace inclined voters.” Neshoba did not disappoint. The candidate arrived to a raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000 whites chanting “We want Reagan! We want Reagan!”—and he returned their fevered embrace by assuring them, “I believe in states’ rights.” In 1984, Reagan came back, this time to endorse the neo-Confederate slogan “the South shall rise again.” As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert concludes, “Reagan may have been blessed with a Hollywood smile and an avuncular delivery, but he was elbow deep in the same old race-baiting Southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon.”

State vs. Family — Leonard Pitts, Jr. on life vs. death decisions.

Marlise Munoz was 33 when she died.

She was at home when she collapsed from an apparent blood clot in her lungs. It was an hour or more before her husband Erick found her. He says doctors pronounced her brain dead, though. John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, citing privacy concerns, has declined to confirm that diagnosis.

It is, at any rate, nearly a month and a half since this happened, yet Marlise remains hooked up to life support. Her mother wants her removed. Her father wants her removed. Her husband wants her removed. He says his wife — like him, a paramedic — specifically said she never wanted to be kept alive by artificial means.

But the hospital has refused the family’s requests, citing a Texas law that prohibits taking a pregnant woman off life support. And Marlise, the doctors found, was 14 weeks along.

As it happens, this family’s plight is the inverse of another which has recently transfixed the nation. Marlise’s family wants her removed from life support, but the family of 13-year old Jahi McMath fought to keep her attached. McMath was declared brain dead by a hospital in Oakland after complications from surgery to remove her tonsils. This triggered a legal struggle that was resolved last week when the hospital released Jahi to the coroner and the coroner released her to her mother’s custody. Jahi is now receiving “treatment” at an undisclosed facility and her family says her condition is improving.

It seems unlikely. The cessation of neurological function is not some “technical” death. Experts say that in such cases, the brain liquefies, which would seem to be about as dead as you can get. So one suspects Jahi’s family is simply seeing what it needs to see.

That said, who can blame them? Who among us has the right to foreclose their prayers or the wisdom to draw some hard and fast line beyond which faith becomes foolishness and steadfastness an excuse to ignore reality? Who among us in the same situation would want somebody to substitute their judgment for ours — particularly if that somebody was some politician who’d never met us or our loved one?

This is what makes the situation in Texas particularly galling. Why is the state — not a doctor, not a faith leader, but the state — interposing itself in one of the most wrenching and intimate moral choices a family can ever make? What gives it the right?

News to Him — Andy Borowitz has the latest from New Jersey.

TRENTON (The Borowitz Report)—At a hastily called press conference today, Chris Christie revealed that he only became aware that he was the governor of New Jersey in the past seventy-two hours.

“Unbeknownst to me, some people I thought I could trust were secretly working to elect me governor of this state,” a visibly stunned Christie told reporters. “I have acted swiftly and fired them all.”

While asserting that he had terminated all of the people who were involved in the scheme to elect him, he said that, if he finds additional conspirators, “I will deal with them accordingly.”

Christie struggled to explain how he remained in the dark about being governor, a position he has held since 2010: “I guess I’m just not much of a detail person. People think I’m a micromanager. I’m not. If a bunch of people are going behind my back and plotting to make me the governor, that’s not the kind of thing I pick up on.”

Reflecting on his reaction to the news that he is the governor of New Jersey, Christie said he felt “angry, embarrassed, and humiliated, but mainly just sad.”

“It’s sad that this was allowed to happen,” he said. “It’s a sad situation for me and for New Jersey.”

Doonesbury — Coming up short.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

War Dispatches

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty.  And now because it’s been fifty years, the sages and pundits are assessing how it went.

The usual suspects — the GOP and conservatives such as Rand Paul and Marco Rubio who think the way to end poverty is pray harder and be born white and able-bodied — are claiming the war was lost and that we should never have fought it in the first place.  Facts prove otherwise; and while it hasn’t been the dream envisioned by LBJ and the people who truly wanted to end poverty, it’s certainly better than the alternative.  From Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast:

You may have seen the big Times piece Sunday that looked back over the half-century war on poverty, kicked off by Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 State of the Union address. The article noted that in terms of health and nutrition and numerous other factors, the poor in the United States are immeasurably less immiserated today than they were then. But it did lead by saying the overall poverty rate in all that time has dropped only from 19 to 15 percent, suggesting to the casual reader that all these billions for five decades haven’t accomplished much.

What’s wrong with thinking is that we have not, of course, been fighting any kind of serious war on poverty for five decades. We fought it with truly adequate funding for about one decade. Less, even. Then the backlash started, and by 1981, Ronald Reagan’s government was fighting a war on the war on poverty. The fate of many anti-poverty programs has ebbed and flowed ever since.

But at the beginning, in the ’60s, those programs were fully funded, or close. And what happened? According to Joseph Califano, who worked in the Johnson White House, “the portion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent, the most dramatic decline over such a brief period in this century.” That’s a staggering 43 percent reduction. In six years.

The war on poverty then lost steam in the 1970s. Some of that was Johnson’s fault—money that might have been spent fighting poverty was diverted to bombing and shooting the Vietnamese. Some of it was the fault of liberal rhetoric. Johnson and others would speak of eradicating poverty, and of course eradicating poverty is impossible, and when it didn’t happen, conservatives were able to say, “See?” (Democrats ought to have learned their lesson along these lines; Barack Obama made a similar mistake in 2009, vowing that the stimulus would keep the jobless rate under 8.5 percent.) And so the public started electing politicians who told them poverty couldn’t be cured by government but only by pulling up one’s bootstraps and friending Jesus more aggressively.

Despite the best efforts of the Republicans, the Great Society programs have chalked up major successes.  Schools have improved immensely for all children, including those with disabilities, and programs such as Medicare and Medicaid have saved thousands of lives.  (And they work.  Just try taking Medicare away from the most ardent Tea Partier and see what happens.)

The political problem is that Americans don’t know about or focus on these successes. They just know that we tried, and poverty still exists. Thus has the “war” frame ended up being extremely handy for conservatives, who will always be able to point to the existence of poor people and therefore to make the claim that the whole thing has been a failure. That is why Rubio can say what he says in his new video and have people who don’t know any better nodding their heads in agreement. And it’s why Ryan can prattle on as he does about government and dependency. I can assure you that when both unveil their specific policy platforms later this year, they’ll consist of a mix of things that a) already exist in some form; b) have been tried and proved tricky to implement; c) sound good in theory but will be woefully underfunded; or d) have been studied to death, with findings suggesting their impact will be minimal.

One problem with the War on Poverty was branding.  Calling it a “war” made it binary: wars are either won or lost, and putting the effort to relieve the situation in those terms made it simplistic… and easy for detractors to attack when there were the inevitable failures or shortfalls.  At the time, though, labeling it as a war was good P.R.; the United States was less than 20 years from the victory over the Axis in World War II and we were eight months away from the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that would drag us into the first war we would lose.  So calling it the War on Poverty sounded good, and if they had had such things as focus groups back then, they would have found that declaring a war on something sounded like a good thing.  (Of course, so did “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”)

If we are to raise people out of poverty and hopelessness, it should be done not as a war but as an effort by all of us to overcome inequality on all levels, be they economic or social barriers.  It should be part of our goal as the Constitution states:  “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  Ending poverty goes a long way to accomplish all of those, and fifty years later, we are that posterity.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Catching Up

A couple of news items that came across the wires in the last couple of days might be of interest.

First, Britain tries to make up for a terrible wrong.

LONDON (AP) — Britain has tried to make good by one of its most famous sons, posthumously pardoning Alan Turing for a gay sex conviction which tarnished the brilliant career of the code breaker credited with helping win the war against Nazi Germany and laying the foundation for the computer age.

One author said he hoped Tuesday’s symbolic act — the famous mathematician committed suicide more than 50 years ago — would send a message to countries such as India and Russia, where gays can still be prosecuted for expressing their sexuality.

Others say the pardon doesn’t go far enough, noting that thousands of others shared in Turing’s humiliation in the years during which Britain criminalized homosexual behavior.

For lawmaker Iain Stewart, one of many who campaigned for the pardon, the act helped right a massive wrong.

“He helped preserve our liberty,” Stewart told The Associated Press. “We owed it to him in recognition of what he did for the country — and indeed the free world — that his name should be cleared.”

Not to be churlish or anything about the British authorities trying to right a massive wrong nearly 60 years after Mr. Turing committed suicide, but as I noted over at Rubber Hose, “posthumous pardons are like funerals: only the living appreciate them, and it’s an attempt to alleviate the guilt of having treated the person so rottenly during their life. In other words, cold comfort to the dead, and a free pass to those who hurt them in life.”

I wonder how much further along we’d have come in the digital age had Mr. Turing been allowed to continue his work with no regard to his private life.  More importantly, how much better his life would have been.

And somewhat related, the state of Utah is scrambling to try to put out the fire started last weekend when a judge ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage in the state violated the Constitution and hundreds of couples flocked to county clerk offices to get marriage licenses.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that gay marriages can continue in Utah, denying a request from the state to halt same-sex weddings that have been occurring at a rapid rate since last week.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ rejection of Utah’s request for an emergency stay marks yet another legal setback for the state. The same federal judge who ruled that Utah’s same-sex marriage ban violates gay and lesbian couples’ rights previously denied the state’s request to halt the marriages.

The appeals court said in its short ruling that a decision to put gay marriage on hold was not warranted, but said it put the case on the fast track for a full appeal of the ruling.

Utah’s last chance to temporarily stop the marriages would be the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s what the Utah Attorney General’s Office is prepared to do, said spokesman Ryan Bruckman. “We’re disappointed in the ruling, but we just have to take it to the next level,” Bruckman said.

The cat, as they say, is out of the bag.  It’s going to be very hard to stop the flood, and the justice who oversees the 10th U.S. Circuit is Sonia Sotomayor.  She can either issue a ruling or turn it over to the whole court for them to rule.  No matter what, a whole lotta couples in Utah are getting licenses and getting married.

By the way, who knew that there were that many same-sex couples in Utah?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Downside

It is a victory for civil rights and privacy that a federal judge has ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection of metadata on Americans’ phone calls is a violation of the 4th Amendment’s ban on unreasonable search and seizure.

But it also makes a martyr out of plaintiff Larry Klayman, the right-wing nut who has called for the overthrow of the Obama administration and has been carrying on like a banshee in a hurricane about everything to the left of Attila the Hun since the Clinton years.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Civil Discourse

A group of gun safety advocates had a meeting at a restaurant in Dallas the other day.  Word got out, and here’s how some of the people who have a different point of view reacted.

open-carry-texas-moms-demand-action-gun-555x403

On Saturday, nearly 40 armed men, women, and children waited outside a Dallas, Texas area restaurant to protest a membership meeting for the state chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun safety advocacy group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

According to a spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action (MDA), the moms were inside the Blue Mesa Grill when members of Open Carry Texas (OCT) — an open carry advocacy group — “pull[ed] up in the parking lot and start[ed] getting guns out of their trunks.” The group then waited in the parking lot for the four MDA members to come out. The spokeswoman said that the restaurant manager did not want to call 911, for fear of “inciting a riot” and waited for the gun advocates to leave. The group moved to a nearby Hooters after approximately two hours.

Because the only part of the Constitution that really matters to them is this one.

NRA Constitution 01-04-13PS: I love the part about the gun guys retreating to Hooters.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Devil In The Details

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wonders if devil worshipers will show up at town meetings.

He made his remark while interjecting during a line of questioning by Justice Samuel Alito about whether any conceivable prayer could simultaneously be acceptable to Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus.

“What about devil worshippers?” Scalia said, to laughs in the chamber.

The jurist, a devout Catholic, defended a practice by a town in New York named Greece of holding prayers during open board meetings, arguing that citizens have a right to free exercise of religion. He argued that it’s not a plausible to require that a prayer satisfy everyone’s beliefs.

“What is the equivalent of prayer for someone who is not religious?” Scalia said. “There are many people who do not believe in God. … If you had an atheist [town] board, you would not have any prayer. I guarantee you.”

Scalia recently told New York magazine in an interview that he believes in the devil. “Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person,” the justice said. “In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.”

Whatever gets you through the night, but c’mon…seriously?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Equal Rights

Alex Roarty in The Atlantic wonders if gay-rights laws are trampling on freedom of religion.

Conservatives may have found another way to stem the rising tide of rights for America’s gays and lesbians. Rather than a frontal assault on the constitutionality of, say, same-sex marriage, they’re taking another tack — asserting that their own civil rights are violated when they’re forced to treat gay couples like straight ones.

Take the case of Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, co-owners of a small Albuquerque, New Mexico, photography company. Last month, the New Mexico Supreme Court determined the couple had acted illegally in 2006 when they refused to take pictures of a commitment ceremony (held in lieu of a still-illegal marriage) between a gay couple. Noting that state law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, the state court decreed that accommodating different types of people was the “price of citizenship” in America.

It was yet another victory for gay-rights advocates, who have watched public opinion swell in their favor in recent years. But to the Hugeunins and those who have rallied to their cause, the case represents something else: a rare opportunity to shift public opinion in the other direction.

The Huguenins argue being forced to photograph the ceremony amounted to a persecution of their faith and an infringement on their First Amendment rights. “This idea that people in America can be compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives as the ‘price of citizenship’ is an unbelievable attack on freedom,” Jim Campbell, an attorney for the Huguenins, told National Journal. “Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin were simply trying to live their lives and operate their business in accordance with their faith.”

No, treating other people like shit because your mythology and bigotry says you should is not an excuse or a right.  You can believe whatever you want, but when you open a business to the public, then you have no expectation of exclusion.

On the other hand, the Huguenins could open a megachurch and discriminate against whomever they choose.  Not only that, the money’s better.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cutting Class

Via TPM:

A professor at Michigan State University has been relieved of his teaching duties after making anti-Republican comments in front of a college class, the Detroit News reported Thursday.

Writing professor William Penn said in videotaped remarks posted by CampusReform, an organization geared toward young conservative students, that Republicans “don’t want to pay taxes because they have already raped this country and gotten everything out of it they possibly could.” In a nod to his students, he added that GOP supporters don’t want to pay for college students’ tuition.

[...]

“The dean of the College of Arts and Letters and a representative from the provost’s office met with Penn, who acknowledged that some of his comments were inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive and may have negatively affected the learning environment,” the university said in a statement, as quoted by the Detroit News.

MSU spokesman Jason Cody told the newspaper that Penn will remain employed with the university, although his classes have been reassigned for at least the remainder of the fall semester.

Okay, let’s start the countdown clock for all those freedom-loving Constitution-quoting Tea Partiers and the folks at Fox News to jump to Professor Penn’s defense and scream about how he’s being muzzled by the state for daring to express his opinions in front of college students who are certainly old enough to make up their own minds and perhaps even challenge him on his views.  How dare they try to strip him of his First Amendment rights.

Oh wait, he was ranting against conservatives?  Never mind.  Fire his ass.  Pointy-headed liberals have no right to voice their opinions.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Latest Invention

According to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the only people who are really entitled to equal rights are the white guys with money.  The rest of us are just along to make their life easier.

“It’s not up to the courts to invent new minorities that get special protections,” Scalia said to the audience at a Federalist Society event in Bozeman, Mt., presumably talking about the Court’s recent rulings on marriage equality.

When the Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act, which had prohibited married couples from receiving federal marriage benefits, Scalia wrote a scathing dissent, in which made a similar argument.

“We have no power to decide this case,” Scalia wrote. “And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation. The Court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.”

Scalia also noted during Monday’s address to the Federalist Society that while changes were made to the Constitution to give greater civil rights to minorities and voting rights to women, that the court shouldn’t operate that way today, according to the AP’s account.

So enabling the courts to interpret the constitutional amendments that allowed women and other people the right to vote or have equal protection under the law was a flagrant violation of the Constitution.

I guess he missed that part where the “invented minorities” were never granted the rights in the first place, so that even if they did get “special rights,” all that would do would be to bring them level with the white men.  And we can’t have that, can we?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Get Me Spencer Tracy

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to lay the blame for the Holocaust at the feet of judicial activism.

Speaking to a gathering of the Utah State Bar Association at the Westin Resort in Snowmass Village, the longest-serving justice on the nation’s highest court lamented a trend among federal judges, including his colleagues on the Supreme Court, to read and interpret the U.S. Constitution as a “living document” that changes over time.

Scalia described himself as an “originalist” in his reading of legal texts.

“I believe that texts should be read to mean what they were understood to mean when they were adopted,” he explained.

In other words, he sees the Constitution as a “static document” that means the same thing now as it did at the time of its creation.

When judges begin to reinterpret founding documents like the Constitution and make value-laden decisions about individual rights and liberties, Scalia said, they distort the workings of a democratic society.

[...]

Scalia opened his talk with a reference to the Holocaust, which happened to occur in a society that was, at the time, “the most advanced country in the world.” One of the many mistakes that Germany made in the 1930s was that judges began to interpret the law in ways that reflected “the spirit of the age.” When judges accept this sort of moral authority, as Scalia claims they’re doing now in the U.S., they get themselves and society into trouble.

So if a majority of the Supreme Court justices decide — just this once — to appoint a president that belongs to a party that they happen to agree with and in doing so steps all over states rights and local legal interpretaion, that’s neither “activism” or “the spirit of the age”?

Yeah, right.  Someone needs to see Judgment at Nuremberg.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Criminalizing Marriage

Apparently the state of Indiana isn’t content to just ban marriage equality.  They’ve already done that and are working on a constitutional amendment to that effect.  Now they’re planning to make it a crime to perform a same-sex marriage.

An update to the state’s criminal code classifies that it’s a Level 6 felony if someone submits false information or lies on a marriage license application. This is actually a downgrade from a Class D felony that was established by a 1997 law, but the adjustment has made news as a reminder that the law exists in the first place. Because the marriage form specifies one “male applicant” and “female applicant,” a same-sex couple could not actually use the form as its written. If a couple were thus to attempt submitting an application in protest of the state ban, they could face a maximum of 18 months in prison and a potential fine of up to $10,000.

The law actually has some particularly troubling language for clergy as well. Even if state law doesn’t legally recognize same-sex marriages, religious organizations have always been free to at least recognize them within their faith. That may not be so true in Indiana, where the new criminal code says that anyone “who knowingly solemnizes” a same-sex marriage is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. It remains unclear if a solemnization has legally occurred in the absence of an issued license. Thus, if an Episcopal church, for example, decided to celebrate the union of two of its gay congregants, the priest might be in violation of the law.

Regardless of whether or not you believe in marriage equality, it seems like Indiana is skating way too close to violating the First Amendment in dictating to a religious organizations what they can or can’t do in their sanctuary.  Whether or not they recognize same-sex marriages is up to them (see below), but I’m hard-pressed to think of a reason the state has a legitimate reason to bust a church for performing a wedding.

It’s also pretty clear that the proponents of this enhancement to the law didn’t do a lot of research about certain practices in some denominations.  For example, the Quakers.  In the Quaker tradition of unprogrammed worship, a wedding between Friends is not performed by a clergy-person, but under the care of the entire meeting.  All the people present at the wedding (called “A meeting for worship with a concern for marriage”) sign the marriage certificate.  That means that in Indiana, the authorities would have to arrest the entire meeting.  (When such a law was proposed in New Mexico by a legislator of the far-right persuasion, the Albuquerque Friends Meeting sent a letter that basically said “Come and get us.”  The law went nowhere.)

It’s one thing to be against marriage equality and ban it via legislation or referendum.  But to criminalize it indicates a level of animus and hatred that violates more than just the First Amendment.  It’s a violation of the basic respect for freedom that our laws are supposed to ensure.