Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

That’s Some Progress

From the man who admonished his fellow Republicans not to be “the stupid party,” we get this pearl of wisdom regarding LGBT rights and the people who fight for them:

“My concern about creating special legal protections is, historically in our country, we’ve only done that in extraordinary circumstances,” the Republican governor continued. “And it doesn’t appear to me that we’re at one of those moments today.”

According to [Louisiana Gov. Bobby] Jindal, “there are many that turn to the heavy hand of government to solve societies problems too easily.”

“I do think we need to be very careful about creating special rights,” he declared.

You’re not creating “special rights” when you grant people who have been denied rights the same rights as everyone else.  It’s called equality.

By the way, fifty years ago Mr. Jindal would have been denied the right to stay in any number of hotels, use any number of bathrooms, and not allowed to rent any number of apartments based solely on the color of his skin.  So it must be some kind of weird progress in America were civil rights have evolved so that he can turn around and be just as much of a bigot.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Other Side of The Coin

Mitt Romney was deservedly mocked in 2011 for asserting that “corporations are people, my friend,” and a lot of people were understandably concerned when the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case affirming the right of a family-held corporation to essentially have the same religious rights as a living, breathing human citizen.

It seems ridiculous that a company is entitled to the same protections under the First Amendment as a citizen, but if that’s the case, there’s an upside to it.  If they’re entitled to them, they can exercise them in ways that may not make their conservative allies happy.  Witness the number of companies that have voiced disapproval of the RFRA law in Indiana, many threatening or following through on their intention to not to business in a state that allows discrimination against gays and lesbians, and when Walmart warned the governor of Arkansas not to sign the bill, they got his attention.

Be careful what you wish for, my friend.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Utah Passes Landmark Anti-Discrimination Bill

It’s not perfect, but it’s impressive that a state that is not known for religious diversity and tolerance would pass it.

The legislation, known as “the Utah compromise,” has been hailed by Mormon leaders and gay rights advocates as a breakthrough in balancing rights and religious freedom, and as a model for other conservative states. But leaders of some other churches oppose it, saying it would not sufficiently protect the rights of individuals who have religious objections to homosexuality.

[…]

The bill would ban employers and landlords or property owners from discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, adding those categories to Utah’s laws that already protect against discrimination on the basis of race, sex and age.

Religious organizations and their affiliates, such as colleges and charities, would be exempted. It also would exempt the Boy Scouts of America, which voted in 2013 to end a ban on gay scouts but still prohibits gay scout leaders. The bill also would protect employees from being fired for talking about religious or moral beliefs, as long as the speech was reasonable and not harassing or disruptive.

The legislation passed the Utah House on a vote of 65 to 10, after passing the Senate last week, 23 to 5.

“It is a landmark,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights organization. “This is a Republican-controlled Legislature with a Republican governor, and this will be the first time that a Republican-controlled process has led to extension of protections for L.G.B.T. people.”

The Southern Baptists don’t like it because it doesn’t demonize gay people enough, but the Baptists don’t think Mormons are real Christians anyway.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Detest and Defend

“I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” — Voltaire.

At first I thought it was a good idea to expel two college students at the University of Oklahoma for the racist video that’s gone viral; there’s no place at an institution of higher learning for such vile and juvenile behavior.  But the more I think about it and read what legal scholars that I respect have to say on the matter, I’m inclined to think that no matter how vile and indefensible the speech was, being expelled for it from a public university runs headlong into the First Amendment.

There’s probably a lawsuit already in the works to get the students reinstated.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Short Takes

Secretary of Defense stands up for transgender people in the service.

Malls in U.S. on alert after terror threat.

More winter weather hits the South.

South African miners rescued after fire.

New killer virus found in Kansas.

And the Oscars went to…  (And my brother was right about Birdman.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Jim Crow 2.0

Bob Cesca has a good post on the backlash to the rapid rise of marriage equality.

[…] in the face rapidly emerging and long overdue civil rights for LGBT citizens, RedState.com founder and Fox News screecher Erick Erickson posted an article on Friday calling for more state legislatures to pass what are known as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) before the Supreme Court weighs in on same-sex marriage in June. In 19 states, RFRAs are already law, and additional RFRAs in other states would make it legal to refuse service to gays and same-sex couples based on religious objections to their homosexuality. Last year, Fox News analyst Kirsten Powers (a Democrat) saliently referred to RFRAs as “homosexual Jim Crow Laws.”

[…]

History has proved that religious freedom ought to end when it’s exploited as means of discrimination and oppression. The religious freedom clause of the First Amendment isn’t a valid excuse for slavery, segregation or vigilante justice; the free speech clause isn’t a valid excuse for slander, libel, child pornography, etc; and the 2nd Amendment isn’t a valid excuse for stockpiling cruise missiles and RPGs. Religious liberty isn’t absolute, because if it were, it’d open the door to all varieties of terrible things. Zealots who argue otherwise have probably never actually read the Bible. If they did, they’d also find a long list of passages that could be used to justify abortion. Someone could extrapolate the various episodes of infanticide depicted in the Bible as a religious justification protecting abortion rights. Faith is personal, so if a business owner can cherrypick a Bible passage that says homosexuality is an abomination and extrapolate that out to mean he’s allowed to not sell a cake to a gay couple solely because they’re gay, how can Erickson object to a woman using a similar form of twisty logic on abortion?

I’d like to think that this ploy of using the religious liberty clause as a valid reason to keep the LGBT community from achieving equality as the last desperate act of a dying mindset, but prejudice and bigotry is like Whack-A-Mole; you smash it in one way and it pops up again in another venue and fashion.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Civics Test

Todd Starnes is a particularly obnoxious reporter for Fox News who now has the monumental sadz because the state of Oregon has told a couple of Christian bakers that they violated the state’s public accommodation law by refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.  He sums up his veil of tears by citing the Constitution thus:

The evidence seems to indicate that Christian business owners are being intentionally singled out for persecution. And it appears the courts are consistently ruling that gay rights trump everyone else’s rights. The Constitution guarantees every American a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Melissa Klein makes wedding cakes. That’s her pursuit of happiness. Should she be denied that right simply because of her Christian faith?

Raise your hand if you see the flaw in his argument.

Okay, I’ll give it to you: The Constitution does not guarantee “every American a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Those words are in the Declaration of Independence, which has no force of law.  There is nothing in the Constitution about those guarantees.  There is, however, the right to equal protection under the law which has been interpreted by the courts and just about anyone who went to law school to mean that you can’t have a business that is open to the public and choose not to serve a certain segment of the public because you think they’re icky.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Speak the Speech

I was going to write something about Jonathan Chait’s column on the resurgence of “political correctness,” but here are two people who do it a lot better:

Melissa McEwan:

There’s little I can say in response to this piece that wouldn’t merely be a variation on what I’ve already said before.

But I do want to note this important context: Chait et. al. have spent a very long time making a living treating defining the terms of debate as the debate itself.

And that’s why we get these petulant thinkpieces about “the nature of the debate” and tortured explanations about how what they do is speech, but what their critics do is something that endangers speech.

Chait is a professional gatekeepers, whose career is built upon having conversations he defines as important exclusively with people who view his being white and male as credentials, but don’t practice identity politics. Ahem.

And the thing about professional gatekeepers is that they get very miffed indeed when people start saying fuck the rules of sitting at your table; we’ll build our own table.

Oh the terrible rending of garments when you make it clear you don’t care about their rules of engagement for discourse, because their discourse is garbage.

Betty Cracker:

Chait also seems to engage in some magical thinking about the curative powers of the “free market of ideas,” wherein more speech is always the cure for bad speech and therefore all speech must be protected (with the usual caveat about yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, one presumes). I subscribe to that view myself, in the absence of a better one. But as always, there’s a difference between protecting speech and insisting that it remain free from criticism — even from harsh criticism that results in hurt feelings and blog-flounces!

And maybe it’s important to acknowledge that there will always be an imbalance in the free market model of speech, just as there is in the commodities market. I’m just as free to invest in political speech as defined by the Roberts Court as the Koch Bros. are; I just have a lot less to invest. And that matters.

Well said.

Short Takes

The blizzard in New England isn’t over yet.

Americans among those killed in a terrorist attack on a hotel in Libya.

A lot of people, including President Obama, showed up to pay respects in Saudi Arabia.

Consumer confidence is at its highest rating since 2007.

Mormons try to balance marriage equality and the right to discriminate.

Obamacare cost estimate keeps getting smaller.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Short Takes

Charlie Hebdo comes out with its next issue.

France’s parliament voted to increase strikes against ISIS.

Supreme Court denies stay in execution of vet with PTSD.

Jobless rates continue to fall.

Charges filed against bartender who plotted to poison John Boehner.

Happy birthday, Lucy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rights and Wrongs

Frank Bruni in yesterday’s New York Times:

I’ve been called many unpleasant things in my life, and I’ve deserved no small number of them. But I chafe at this latest label:

A threat to your religious liberty.

I don’t mean me alone. I mean me and my evidently menacing kind: men who have romantic relationships with other men and maybe want to marry them, and women in analogous situations. According to many of the Americans who still cast judgment on us, our “I do” somehow tramples you, not merely running counter to your creed but running roughshod over it.

That’s absurd. And the deference that many politicians show to such thinking is an example not of religion getting the protection it must but of religious people getting a pass that isn’t warranted. It’s an illustration of religion’s favored status in a country that’s still working out this separation-of-church-and-state business and hasn’t yet gotten it quite right.

We’re at an interesting crossroads, brought about by the rapid advance of same-sex marriage. It’s now legal in 36 states, including, as of last week, Florida. Equality is increasingly being enshrined into law, and one response from those opposed to it is that the law shouldn’t apply to them.

Why? Because it contradicts their religious beliefs, which they use as a fig leaf for intolerance.

Fifty years ago the opponents of civil rights and integration asserted that “states’ rights” affirmed their belief that discrimination should stand.  Today “religious liberty” bears the same burden, and it fails to carry the weight.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Reading

The Right to Be Offended — Karl Sharro in The Atlantic on the retreat of free speech.

As a satirist who focuses on the Middle East, I’ve bumped up against my share of boundaries. Two years ago, for example, I struggled with how to satirize the tendency of some Western observers to distort conflicts in the Middle East by attributing those conflicts to “ancient rivalries” rather than, say, contemporary political struggles. Ultimately, I decided that the best approach would be to push that logic to its absurd conclusion by writing a “tribal” guide to the region, which relied on familiar stereotypes about Sunnis, Shiites, Jews, and others. I hoped readers would understand that these caricatures were meant not to be crude and bigoted, but rather to show how disconnected the ancient-rivalries thesis is from reality. And readers did understand—for the most part. This ability to test the boundaries of good taste, and even to be offensive, is essential to effective satire. But it’s now under threat.

Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris and the cold-blooded murder of 12 people, a familiar refrain rang out in some quarters. The assault on the satirical magazine, so the argument went, represented a collision of cultures: a Western one that champions freedom of speech and an Islamic one that does not tolerate offenses to its religious symbols. But one of the real storylines here isn’t some clash of civilizations; it’s the steady erosion of freedom of expression and the rise of the right to be offended—in the West as well as other parts of the world.

The culture-clash interpretation of the horror in Paris transcends political divides in the West. On the right, some claim that Muslims’ beliefs are incompatible with modernity and Western values. On the left, some construe the attack as a retaliation for severe offenses, essentially suggesting that Muslims are incapable of responding rationally to such offenses and that it is therefore best not to provoke them. The latter explanation is dressed up in the language of social justice and marginalization, but is, at its core, a patronizing view of ordinary Muslims and their capacity to advocate for their rights without resorting to nihilistic violence. This outlook also promotes the idea that Muslims and other people of Middle Eastern origin are defined primarily by their religion, which in turn devalues and demeans the attempts of Arab and Middle Eastern secularists to define themselves through varying interpretations of religion or even by challenging religion and its role in public life. By seeking to present religion as a form of cultural identity that should be protected from offense and critique, Western liberals are consequently undermining the very struggles against the authority of inherited institutions through which much of the Western world’s social and political progress was achieved.

Given that I often deal with the issue of jihadism in my satire, the Charlie Hebdo attack highlighted the dangers that my colleagues and I face when we mock extremists. Still, there is a risk in framing what we do as satirists and cartoonists as a heroic battle against extremism. For one thing, this implies that only ‘worthy’ works of satire should be defended on the grounds of free speech. For freedom of speech and expression to mean something, they must be defended on their own terms, not because of their political usefulness in the fight against extremism.

This is a critical distinction given the current climate in the West, where a culture of taking offense has found fertile ground and is increasingly restricting what artists and writers are able to do and say. The British writer Kenan Malik traces the origins of this trend to 1989, when the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomenei issued his infamous fatwa against Salman Rushdie for allegedly blaspheming Islam in The Satanic Verses. In From Fatwa to Jihad, Malik argues convincingly that the response to the fatwa and similar threats has been counterproductive, coming to pose a grave threat to free speech. “Internalizing the fatwa has not just created a new culture of self-censorship, it has also helped generate the same problems to which self-censorship was supposedly a response,” he writes. “The fear of giving offence has simply made it easier to take offence.”

[…]

The murders in Paris have certainly brought the struggle for free speech into stark relief. But it’s premature to expect the episode to reverse the trend toward more restrictions on expression in the West. This week, for instance, the gush of support for freedom of expression was quickly countered by backlash against an op-ed written by Anjem Choudary, in which the radical British Islamist justified the Charlie Hebdo attack by claiming that Muslims don’t believe in free speech and that France shouldn’t have allowed the cartoons to be published. Many people argued that he shouldn’t have been given a platform in the press, particularly at a moment like this (for a sense of the intensity of the response, just look at Twitter).

But restricting free speech further, even in the case of so-called hate speech, would be precisely the wrong response to the carnage in Paris. Instead, we should reassert the rights of satirical magazines and radical preachers alike to express their views, and the freedom of anyone and everyone to challenge them. That’s the best lesson to learn from this tragedy.

What’s Funny — Colin Stokes in The New Yorker.

Over the past few days, it has become apparent that many people have lost their ability to laugh. Some of us could laugh at one point but, owing to recent events, have become unable to do so. Others of us seem never to have been able to laugh in the first place. This is a guide both for those who only now find themselves incapable of laughter and for those who have had difficulty laughing their entire lives.

Part I. A joke is a thing that is meant to make life tolerable.

Suffering is all around us, just like furniture when you are at an IKEA store. Sometimes it comes from the natural world, like the wood used to make the furniture that is currently surrounding you at the IKEA store. Sometimes it comes from other people, like the people who pick things up and then leave them in totally random places around the IKEA store. Sometimes it’s just there, and we don’t know where it came from, like that ownerless dog that follows you around the IKEA parking lot, and then wants to come home with you, but the second you let it into your car, it poops everywhere.

When people make a joke, what they are doing is combining words and/or images in ways that are intended to surprise you a little. They may even surprise you a lot. These surprises make us laugh because we weren’t expecting them, and we involuntarily react by laughing when we are released from a state of not knowing what is about to come. Laughing lets us forget about the suffering that is an unavoidable part of life, at least temporarily. It frees us to lie down in a bed that we don’t own at IKEA, and to try to forget about the small dog that changed the way our car smells forever.

Part II. Sometimes jokes make people upset.

Necessarily, in the course of trying to surprise people, jokes can surprise some people a little too much. Once I told a joke to James Bond when he was suspended above a tank of sharks, trapped in a device that would drop him into the tank if he laughed. He didn’t laugh, though, because he’s a professional spy. Also, it was a current-events joke, and he’s a fictional character from the nineteen-fifties, so he didn’t get it, even though it was really funny, I swear. People often get angry about a joke that they think went too far, and they lash out at the person who told it to them. After he escaped from the shark-tank-laughing device, James Bond was pretty upset with me.

But those who write jokes come to expect negative reactions from a certain number of people. James Bond doesn’t come to any of my standup shows anymore, and certainly not when he’s stuck in the shark-tank-laughing device, which is surprisingly often.

Part III. Jokes can tell truths about things.

Some jokes are more than just surprising per se, because they articulate a truth about something in real life. My friends used to joke that I didn’t know what the term “per se” meant, because I always used it when I was talking about pears that could talk. We laugh at these types of jokes and then, when we’re done laughing, we realize that some of the things we heard in the jokes relate to real life. In this case, I realized that I was, in fact, using “per se” incorrectly.

Part IV. Sometimes getting upset at jokes helps you learn new things.

There are some people who have distorted beliefs about reality. I once fiercely believed that priests and rabbis rarely frequented bars together. When people hear jokes that challenge what they think they know, they can get angry. Did you hear the one about the priest and the rabbi in the bar? It took me a long time to wrap my mind around that one. But now I am surprised by almost no one entering a bar.

Part V. Jokes can be bad.

Some jokes are just completely horrible. Did you hear the one about the blind ship captain? He couldn’t sea anything. That’s a horrendous joke. But I still should have the right to tell it. Just like you have the right to say that it’s not funny, and then temporarily blind me and make me the captain of a ship to show me how unfunny it is. Actually, you don’t have the right to do that—that would be false imprisonment and the infliction of grievous bodily harm. What you should really do is say that it’s not funny, perhaps call it insensitive to blind ship captains, and then move on.

Doonesbury — Hot tips.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Matter of Degree

It’s interesting timing that on the day the world finds out just how methodical and brutal an agency of our government can be against its fellow man, the good citizens of Fayetteville, Arkansas, voted to repeal an ordinance that protected some of its own citizens from being tortured.

Richard Drake of the Arkansas Times:

While no doubt those who were trembling at the thought of sending their sons and daughters into public restrooms alone can now sleep the sleep of the just (and the paranoid), and those who also relish the idea of turning away business from those they find yucky can run up and down the streets in victory, it might be a good time to quietly reflect on the fact that, though some might vociferously deny it, in the not-so-recent past, Fayetteville hasn’t been such a healthy place for those who have been gay, or even the children of those who have been gay.

There is a difference between the C.I.A. torturing terror suspects and a landlord in Arkansas refusing to rent a house to a gay couple, but it’s really only a matter of degree.  Both systematically deprive the subject of their basic humanity.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cause and Effect

Dr. Ben Carson, one of the more interesting characters running for the GOP nomination, knows who to blame for the riots in Ferguson.

“Certainly in a lot of our inner cities, in particular the black inner cities, where 73 percent of the young people are born out of wedlock, the majority of them have no father figure in their life. Usually the father figure is where you learn how to respond to authority,” Carson said. “So now you become a teenager, you’re out there, you have really no idea how to respond to authority, you eventually run into the police or you run into somebody else in the neighborhood who also doesn’t know how to respond but is badder than you are, and you get killed or you end up in the penal system.” […]

“I think a lot of it really got started in the ’60s with the ‘me generation,’” he replied. “‘What’s in it for me?’ I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women’s lib movement. You know, ‘I’ve been taking care of my family, I’ve been doing that, what about me?’ You know, it really should be about us.”

Gee, and all along I thought it was a cop who shot an unarmed man, not some selfish woman looking to burn a bra.

Except that Michael Brown was raised with a father and a mother.  So too was Trayvon Martin, as was Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old in Cleveland who was shot to death by police last week.

There’s another perspective, though, on why there has been seething rage in places like Ferguson or other places where demonstrations against oppression have taken to the streets and rousted the cable news anchors out of the studio.  It’s the rage the cameras don’t see or pass by without acknowledging what it is.  It is, as Carol Anderson writes in this Washington Post op-ed, the white rage against equality.

Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.

White rage recurs in American history. It exploded after the Civil War, erupted again to undermine the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision and took on its latest incarnation with Barack Obama’s ascent to the White House. For every action of African American advancement, there’s a reaction, a backlash.

[…]

So when you think of Ferguson, don’t just think of black resentment at a criminal justice system that allows a white police officer to put six bullets into an unarmed black teen. Consider the economic dislocation of black America. Remember a Florida judge instructing a jury to focus only on the moment when George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin interacted, thus transforming a 17-year-old, unarmed kid into a big, scary black guy, while the grown man who stalked him through the neighborhood with a loaded gun becomes a victim. Remember the assault on the Voting Rights Act. Look at Connick v. Thompson, a partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2011 that ruled it was legal for a city prosecutor’s staff to hide evidence that exonerated a black man who was rotting on death row for 14years. And think of a recent study by Stanford University psychology researchers concluding that, when white people were told that black Americans are incarcerated in numbers far beyond their proportion of the population, “they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities,” such as three-strikes or stop-and-frisk laws.

Only then does Ferguson make sense. It’s about white rage.

We have seen this played out in other areas as well.  The advancement of LGBT rights and marriage equality has led to a rash of claims of “Christian oppression,” as if 80% of the country suddenly lost their right to worship in their own fashion instead of writing laws and promoting discrimination against the gay community.

This comes from the viewpoint that in order for one group to be granted the rights they are entitled to, someone else has to give up their rights.  But where does anyone get the idea that rights and the right to them is a zero sum game?  Granting African Americans the right to vote or granting same-sex couples the right to marriage does not require a white person to give up their vote or a straight married couple to get divorced.  It doesn’t even dilute them.  It strengthens them because letting everyone vote brings out the truth.

What the oppressors are afraid of is that after generations of holding people back, the floodgates will open and those they’ve kept locked up will seek them out and exact revenge for all the wrongs that were done to them.  They’re not afraid of the riots or the looting; after all, they have the police to protect them against unarmed teenagers.  What they’re most afraid of is that they will vote and elect people who will right the wrongs and enforce the rights.  That’s what makes them truly angry.

Bonus: Jon Stewart.

HT to CLW.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Short Takes

Commercial rocket to the space station explodes on lift-off.

President Obama praises Ebola caretakers.

Second nurse infected with Ebola in Texas has been released from hospital.

U.N. human rights advocate wants North Korea to be put on trial for violation of human rights.

Iran wants a nuclear deal.

The Royals force Game 7 by beating the Giants 10-0.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Beginning Of The End

Looking at some of the reactions to the Supreme Court’s non-decision on marriage equality by the anti-equality folks — outragejudicial activism by unelected judges, a violation of God-given rights, and so on — tells me that the battle for same-sex marriage is coming to the end the way I thought it would: by the slow inexorable march, state by state, court battle by court battle, until finally the freedom to marry is as ordinary as any other exercised right.

The losers are outraged because they believed that they had the right to encode their bigotry and religious prejudice into law.  They also have gone over the top because they hear the distant approach of oblivion.  It won’t happen overnight; history tells us that overcoming pride and prejudice (h/t Jane Austen) takes a long time.  But they know the jig is up and the anti-gay movement will in time become as relevant and forceful as the temperance movement.

This may not be the solution some of us wanted: a firm holding from the Supreme Court that the Fourteenth Amendment, contrary to Sen. Cruz’s assertion, does guarantee equal protection under the law and that marriage, established as a fundamental right in cases going back generations, should be available to all citizens regardless of genitalia.  Those who criticize the Court for not taking up the case should understand that in order to do so they had to have conflicting rulings: a ruling for and a ruling against.  So far no federal bench has sided with the anti-same-sex side, therefore there’s no decision to make, and they let the lower courts rulings stand.  In baseball, it would be called a walk-off: there’s no need to have the final out when the winning run has scored and the other team has no more at-bats.

They’re going to go out in the same way they came in, though.  They will grift the foolish and the fearful of their money and hope to hang on to their cash while desperately finding some other line of work.  They know that the lies they tell and the fundamental misstatements about the make-up of our government are meant only for their pigeons.  They carry on about “unelected judges,” knowing full well that the federal judiciary doesn’t face the voters for a very good reason: they — at least it is to be hoped — should not be swayed by political or financial ambition (even if that concept has been put to the test by the current Supreme Court).  Judicial activism is clearly in the eye of the beholder.  These same people praised the genius of the Court when it decided that corporations themselves can hold religious beliefs and that a checkbook is the same thing as a soapbox; two decisions that legal scholars of every stripe agree were outside the scope of the original cases.  And while appealing to heaven and the Almighty make for some thunderous rhetoric and get the money flowing, using a religious argument to enforce an untenable violation of the Constitution should automatically disqualify it from consideration.

A federal court could rule against marriage equality and that could set up a hearing before the Supreme Court.  But yesterday’s move basically opened the door and hundreds of couples have already tied the knot in places such as Virginia, and Utah (!); states that up until yesterday morning did not have marriage equality.  Even the losers concede that undoing those bonds would be impossible.

This is not the end.  Florida still has the ban — for the moment — as do nineteen other states.  But it is only a matter of time, and I’m not talking years.  It will be months, perhaps weeks now.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Athesists Need Not Apply

Via TPM:

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave its blessing to local governments that want to open their public meetings with religious prayer.

It was a victory for the town board of Greece, N.Y., which stressed that it was fighting not just for Christian prayer but for the right of all people express their views regardless of their faith. In a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines, the Court ruled against the Jewish and atheist plaintiffs, who argued that the practice violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Less than four months later, the town of Greece has adopted an invocation policy that excludes non-religious citizens and potentially shuts out faiths that aren’t well-established in the town, according to a top secular group.

Seeking to “avail itself of the Supreme Court’s recognition” that government prayer is constitutional, the new policy restricts opening remarks to “assemblies with an established presence in the Town of Greece that regularly meet for the primary purpose of sharing a religious perspective.”

Translation: atheists and agnostics need not apply. And unless the board clerk decides that your faith has an “established presence” in the New York town of fewer than 100,000, you may not deliver an invocation.

I realize that it takes a lot of study of the law and you really have to be good at it to get appointed to the United States Supreme Court, but if the five men who ruled in favor of the town Greece didn’t see this coming, then they’re idiots.

Of course there’s always the possibility that they knew that this would happen but ruled in favor anyway.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fits The Description

Thirty years ago Beverly Hills Cop was a laugh-riot of a comedy with Eddie Murphy as a hip Detroit police officer working with the uptight white cops in the ritzy L.A. suburb.  The premise was that a black man would completely discombobulate the force and create plenty of fun moments on the screen.  What a hoot.

Yeah, well, here we are today in 2014, but it’s not so funny when you see that a black man walking down the street in Beverly Hills can still get busted for walking down the street.  It happened to Charles Belk.

It’s one of those things that you hear about, but never think it would happen to you.

On Friday afternoon, August 22nd around 5:20pm, while innocently walking by myself from a restaurant on Wilshire Blvd, to my car up LaCienega Blvd my freedom was taken from me by the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Within seconds, I was detained and told to sit on the curb of the very busy street, during rush hour traffic.

Within minutes, I was surrounded by 6 police cars, handcuffed very tightly, fully searched for weapons, and placed back on the curb.

Within an hour, I was transported to the Beverly Hills Police Headquarters, photographed, finger printed and put under a $100,000 bail and accused of armed bank robbery and accessory to robbery of a Citibank.

Within an evening, I was wrongly arrested, locked up, denied a phone call, denied explanation of charges against me, denied ever being read my rights, denied being able to speak to my lawyer for a lengthy time, and denied being told that my car had been impounded…..All because I was mis-indentified as the wrong “tall, bald head, black male,” … “fitting the description.”

I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know at the time that I was a law abiding citizen of the community and that in my 51 years of existence, had never been handcuffed or arrested for any reason. All they saw, was someone fitting the description. Doesn’t matter if he’s a “Taye Diggs BLACK”, a “LL Cool J BLACK”, or “a Drake BLACK”

Mr. Belk was released six hours later thanks to the intervention of the NAACP attorney who got the police to finally review videos of the robbery and decided that oops, they had the wrong man.

Welcome to post-racial America.