Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Short Takes

Supreme Court blocks transgender bathroom rule for now.

President Obama commutes sentences for over 200 federal inmates.

Jetliner explodes, burns on Dubai runaway; no casualties.

GOP allies plan “intervention” for Trump.

Tropical Update: TS Earl heads for Belize.

The Tigers beat the White Sox 2-1; streak hits 8.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Rule of Law

Vice President Joe Biden made a good point about the problem with Donald Trump’s racist comments about a judge who is presiding over the civil case against “Trump U.”

Biden said such attacks by a candidate from a major political party make Trump unable to be “trusted to respect the independence of the judiciary as president.”

“These are words of someone who sees our federal judiciary … as a tool to manipulate to do what he calls ‘to deal with the laws of our country,’” Biden said. “I don’t think the framers envisioned a presidential candidate accusing a judge of being incapable of reaching a fair decision because of his ethnic decent.

“I find Donald Trump’s conduct in this regard reprehensible,” Biden said. “It is a dangerous attack on a vital pillar of democracy … undercutting the legitimacy of a judge by suggesting that because of his heritage he’s incapable of being fair. It is racist.”

The Judiciary at the federal level is a co-equal branch of government along with the legislative (Congress) and the executive (the presidency), but it’s also the only branch that is unelected and has a lifetime tenure.  The idea was that judges and the legal system were not supposed to be subject to the whims of electioneering and political persuasion.

So when you hear someone on the right — or the left — carry on about “unelected justices on the Supreme Court” handing down opinions and “making laws,” they seem to have missed that day in Grade 10 civics class when it was explained that that is how it’s supposed to work.

To be thoroughly cynical, I’m willing to believe that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and the folks who carry on about the courts know exactly how the system works but they’re exploiting those who don’t.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Short Takes

Austria: The racist xenophobic right-wing candidate narrowly lost the presidential election.

Baltimore: One of six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray was acquitted in a bench trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court tossed the conviction of a black man found guilty by an all-white juror based on overwhelming evidence of racism.

That’s Hot: Temperatures in India hit 123.8 F.

Tropical Update: It’s a little early, but there’s something brewing in the ocean.

The Tigers beat the Phillies 5-4.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Short Takes

Senate confirms Eric Fanning, first openly gay Secretary of the Army.

TSA apologizes, promises hundreds of new staffers at O’Hare.

Senate passes bill to allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia.

Human error, high speed blamed for deadly train wreck in Philadelphia last year.

Better late than never: Court orders Mississippi school district to desegregate.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau introduces bill to protect transgender rights.

The Tigers beat the Twins 7-2.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Reading

Out of the Death Business — Matt Ford in The Atlantic reports on Pfizer’s decision to stop selling drugs for lethal injections.

Pfizer said Friday it would impose stringent controls on distributors to block its drugs from use in lethal injections, underscoring the pharmaceutical industry’s consensus against participation in the death penalty amid a nationwide shortage in execution drugs.“Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve,” the pharmaceutical giant’s updated policy said. “Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.”

The new policy’s impact on future executions will be difficult to measure. Many states with capital punishment have also enacted laws that shield the identities of execution-drug providers, making those drugs’ origins hard to trace. It is also unclear when or how often Pfizer-manufactured drugs have been used in U.S. executions.

But Pfizer’s move adds new barriers as states struggle to find reliable suppliers of execution drugs. Maya Foa, executive director of Reprieve, a U.K.-based human-rights organization, said in a statement that Pfizer’s move means “all FDA-approved manufacturers of all execution drugs have spoken out against the misuse of medicines in lethal injections and taken steps to prevent it.”

A Pfizer spokesperson said the company opposed the use of its drugs in lethal injections before today’s update. An earlier version of its policy on capital punishment took a less forceful stance on the issue than Friday’s update, insisting that “efforts to influence policy” were better directed towards legislators and public officials.“Our distribution plan, which restricts the sale of these seven products for unintended uses, implements our publicly stated position against improper use of our products and, most importantly, doesn’t stand in the way of patient access to these critical medications,” an October 2015 version of the policy stated.

“However, due to the complex supply chain and the gray market in the United States, despite our efforts, Pfizer cannot guarantee that a U.S. prison could not secure restricted products through other channels not under Pfizer’s control,” it cautioned.

Hail New Columbia — John Nichols at The Nation on support for admitting Washington, D.C. to the union.

When it comes time to write the Democratic platform, it is likely that the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns will have their disagreements. But there is one place where they can find common ground and address a glaring omission in the party’s statement of principles and purposes.

As recently as 2000, the Democratic platform declared support from what should be a basic premise of a party that advocates for voting rights and robust democracy: statehood for the District of Columbia. The platform on which Al Gore ran for the presidency that year declared, “Just as our country has been the chief apostle of democracy in the world, we must lead by example at home. This begins with our nation’s capital. The citizens of the District of Columbia are entitled to autonomy in the conduct of their civic affairs, full political representation as Americans who are fully taxed, and statehood.”

In 2004, however, the word “statehood” was dropped. While the party still advocated for equal rights and representation, it no longer declared that the residents of Washington, DC, should be able to lock in their rights as residents of a state that is equal to every other American state. Despite efforts by DC officials and statehood advocates to get the word restored in 2008 and 2012, the platform has remained vague on the issue.

That should change in 2016.

President Obama has endorsed statehood for DC—which, if estimates are correct, has a higher population than the states of Wyoming and Vermont—and so have Clinton and Sanders.

Clinton wrote a terrific article for The Washington Informer this week, in which she argued that support for DC statehood is critical to “restoring faith in democracy.”

“[Enfranchisement] isn’t solely a matter of individual rights. In the case of our nation’s capital, we have an entire populace that is routinely denied a voice in its own democracy,” explained the former secretary of state. “Washington, DC, is home to nearly 700,000 Americans—more than the entire population of several states. Washingtonians serve in the military, serve on juries and pay taxes just like everyone else. And yet they don’t even have a vote in Congress.”

“Hard as it is to believe, America is the only democracy on the planet that treats the residents of capital this way,” continued Clinton, who argued that

Lacking representatives with voting power, the District of Columbia is often neglected when it comes to federal appropriations. Many of the District’s decisions are also at the mercy of right-wing ideologues in Congress, and as you can imagine, they don’t show very much of it. Everything from commonsense gun laws to providing women’s health care and efforts to cut down on drug abuse has been halted by Republicans, who claim the District is an exception to their long-held notion that communities ought to be able to govern themselves.

Solidarity is no longer enough. We need a solution.

That’s why, as president, I will be a vocal champion for DC statehood.

She will get no argument from Sanders.

The senator from Vermont is a co-sponsor of the “New Columbia Admission Act,” a bill that would lay groundwork for making Washington, DC, the 51st state.

“Washington, DC, is currently home to more people than the state of Vermont, yet its residents lack voting representation in Congress,” says Sanders. “I think it is morally wrong for American citizens who pay federal taxes, fight in our wars, and live in our country to be denied the basic right to full congressional representation.”

This is a long-term stance for Sanders, who as a member of the US House, supported DC statehood initiatives.

Sanders once asked during a congressional debate, “How could I in good conscience say that it is appropriate for Vermont to have two seats in the Senate, which we do, to have a congressman who can vote on all of the issues, which we do, to have a governor and a state legislature which deals with all the problems facing our people, which we do, and then say that the people of the District of Columbia, with a population larger than Vermont and larger than some other states, should not be able to enjoy the same rights?”

“I could not make that case. It would not be a fair case. It would not be a rational argument,” replied Sanders, who explained, “This debate is about one thing and the thing alone. That is whether the people of Washington, DC, are entitled to be full citizens. To me the answer is obvious and I intend vote yes for statehood for the District of Columbia.”

Sanders and Clinton are right.

DC statehood is a voting-rights issue and a democracy issue. And the Democratic platform should make that absolutely clear.

Our History in Super 8 — Alastair Gee in The New Yorker on the revelations of gay home movies.

One home movie shows a telegenic group of men on a getaway at a shoreline cabin in the Bay Area town of Vallejo, in 1947. The friends sunbathe, laugh together, mug for the camera with more than a touch of theatricality. A man picks some orange flowers and tucks them behind his ear; another wears a grass skirt and dances the hula.

Another movie, from 1946, shows a house party where guests in suits and ties smoke cigarettes and drink from dainty glasses. Men dance in pairs, hands clasped, a head against a cheek. One giddily air-claps to music the viewer cannot hear.

Both of these films, and numerous others like them, are part of the private home-movie collection of Harold O’Neal, an amateur filmmaker who spent much of his adult life in San Francisco. Born in Stockton, California, in 1910, he was a reserved, somewhat shy man who worked as a rehabilitation officer for the Veterans Administration and later in personnel for the Army Corps of Engineers. Like many gay men and women of the time, he kept his sexuality closely guarded. But over the years O’Neal made dozens of home movies—of house parties, drag performances, skinny-dips, travels with his partner—many of which captured the rhythms and intimacies of gay social life long before it was allowed to flourish in the open.

O’Neal’s home-movie collection spent decades in obscurity, as home movies often do. Then, in the mid-nineteen-nineties, a San Francisco filmmaker, Peter Stein, put an ad on local television soliciting historic footage for a documentary he was making about the Castro, and O’Neal responded. Only a few minutes of his footage, showing parties, San Francisco street scenes, and O’Neal standing atop Coit Tower, ended up in the film, but Stein realized that O’Neal’s recordings were valuable artifacts of San Francisco gay history. Stein alerted Susan Stryker, who was the executive director of the city’s GLBT Historical Society, and on the drive home from a vacation Stryker stopped in Washington, where O’Neal had relocated, to ask him to donate his films. O’Neal was ambivalent. As Stryker was packing up to leave, O’Neal’s life partner, George Torgerson, walked out to the car and handed her paper shopping bags filled with reels. “He wants to let go, but he can’t let go, so I’m letting go for him,” Torgerson said.

With O’Neal’s permission, the movies now live in the GLBT Historical Society archives amid a remarkably varied set of holdings, from a sewing machine used to create the first rainbow flags to the sequinned outfits worn by the disco star Sylvester. Clips from several of the films also appear in “Reel in the Closet,” a new documentary about gay home movies by the Bay Area independent filmmaker Stu Maddux. Maddux read about the Society’s work and spent a year digging through the archives. “To see those same types of mannerisms and the same types of laughter, and laughter at the same things, just made me feel like I wasn’t alone in time,” Maddux told me. “Like my generation and the generations around me are not alone in time.” His film includes footage from a tape discovered in an unmarked can at a San Jose flea market, showing the San Francisco lesbian bar Mona’s Candle Light around 1950. A drag king called Jimmy Reynard introduces a chanteuse; female patrons with immaculate, gamine haircuts listen at tables; there is the twinkle of jewelry. In another clip, from 1978, the documentarian Dan Smith recorded people on the streets of the Castro describing their reactions to the murder of Harvey Milk. There are long-haired men, cops, a leather aficionado. “Nobody filmed us,” Smith says in “Reel in the Closet.” “So we really thought that in order to be recorded it was necessary for us to do it ourselves.”

One challenge for home-movie preservationists is that most footage, having been shot for a private audience of family and friends, isn’t particularly accessible to the general viewer. But what the movies lack in narrative cogency they make up for in a sense of immersion—of giving viewers the feeling of dropping directly into the private worlds of strangers. In the case of gay home movies, the viewing experience is complicated, and enriched, by the knowledge of what’s to come, for good and for bad—the liberation of Stonewall, the devastation of the AIDS crisis, the undoing of the Defense of Marriage Act, which couples like O’Neal and Torgerson, who both died in the mid-aughts, never got to see.

Jim Morin — Lookin’ pretty.

Morin 05-15-16

Doonesbury — The happy couple.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Short Takes

Nine dead from 6.4 earthquake in Japan.

Canada proposes a physician-assisted suicide law.

Microsoft sues U.S. over gag orders on search warrants.

Coal in the red: Peabody Energy files for Chapter 11.

R.I.P. Anne Jackson, legendary actor on stage and screen.

The Tigers beat the Pirates 7-4.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Short Takes

Secretary of State Kerry to hold talks with Russia over Syria.

The White House says 81 major companies have committed to reducing greenhouse gases.

Bystander mistaken for terrorist is shot and beaten by Israeli mob.

Texas cuts Planned Parenthood from Medicaid.  Lawsuit to follow.

Ohio halts all executions until 2017.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Short Takes

General John F. Campbell: U.S. responsible for mistaken hospital attack.

Justice Department set to release 6,000 prisoners.

40,000 residents of South Carolina are without water after weekend flooding.

N.Y. Attorney General opens investigation into fantasy sports sites.

Ten Commandments monument removed from Oklahoma City capitol grounds.

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.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Connecticut Death Penalty Ruled Unconstitutional

This is good news.

Connecticut’s highest court ruled on Thursday that the state’s death penalty law was unconstitutional, blocking the state from executing the 11 inmates who are currently on death row.

The state passed a law in 2012 that barred the execution of inmates convicted of crimes that were committed on or after the date the law was enacted, but permitted the execution of inmates who committed earlier crimes. Those inmates included Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, who were given death sentences for killing a woman and her two daughters during a home invasion in 2007 in Cheshire.

But the State Supreme Court said the death penalty, as it stands under the current law, constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

I’ve heard all the pro-death penalty arguments — often from people who call themselves “pro-life” on other issues — and yet it still comes down to the fact that state-sanctioned killing is not justice but vengeance.  We’re better than that.

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.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Short Takes

Three Spanish reporters missing in Syria.

Iran’s parliament put off voting on the nuclear deal for 80 days.

Sweet Sixteen: Ohio Gov. John Kasich joins the GOP field.

Part of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s sentence for corruption is vacated.

Check your mailbox: Citibank is going to pay credit card holders $700 million for ripping them off.

R.I.P. Theodore Bikel, 91, actor, singer, humanitarian; E.L. Doctorow, 84, author of Ragtime and Billy Bathgate.

The Tigers lost to the Mariners 11-9.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Short Takes

Gone Quiet — Silence indicates that Iran nuclear negotiators are close to a deal.

Mexican authorities are searching frantically for the escaped drug lord.

New York offers Eric Garner’s family $5.9 million to settle case.

President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent offenders.

The Pentagon is finalizing plans to lift the ban on transgender soldiers.

Tropical Update: TS Claudette forms out in the Atlantic; heads to sea.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

There Goes the Judge

I think the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct will be looking into this situation.

Toledo Municipal Judge Allen McConnell, who was in the midst of a three-week stint performing civil ceremonies, refused to marry Carolyn Wilson and her partner on Monday.

“I declined to marry a non-traditional couple during my duties assignment,” McConnell said in a statement. “The declination was based upon my personal and Christian beliefs established over many years. I apologize to the couple for the delay they experienced and wish them the best.”

The judge also said he’s asked the Ohio Supreme Court whether he can opt out of the rotation to avoid violating his religious beliefs.

A court administrator told Reuters that Wilson and her partner’s wedding was the first same-sex ceremony the court had been asked to perform. The couple was married by another judge after McConnell refused.

I understand what he’s saying, but when you take an oath to uphold the laws and the Constitution, you don’t get to pick and choose.  You’re not a priest or a rabbi being forced to violate your faith; you’re an officer of the court and you do what the law says or get another job.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Short Takes

Germany is keeping the pressure on Greece.

President Obama says we will battle ISIS on two fronts: militarily  and ideologically.

Many non-violent drug offense prisoners could be freed by the president.

South Carolina Senate votes to take down Confederate flag.

Scientists excited about possible AIDS vaccine.

R.I.P. Jerry Weintraub, 77, Hollywood producer.

The Tigers beat the Mariners 12-5.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Good For Nebraska

Via NBC:

Nebraska became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty on Wednesday when lawmakers boldly voted 30-19 to override the governor’s veto.

There are 10 inmates on Nebraska’s death row — the 11th died this week — but the state has not executed anyone since 1997 and only recently ordered the drugs necessary to carry out a lethal injection. It’s the 19th state to abolish capital punishment.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum came together to pass a repeal bill three times. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a first-term Republican, then vetoed the legislation on Tuesday. Thirty senators were needed to override him.

More and more states are finding it harder to execute people.  Drug companies won’t sell them the cocktails for the lethal injections, court challenges drag out the appeals to the point that it’s a huge drain on the taxpayers, and when you get right down to it, capital punishment isn’t justice; it’s vengeance.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Short Takes

Iraqi forces will try to re-take Ramadi.

Texas, Oklahoma and the Plains can’t catch a weather break.

The Nebraska Senate will try to override the veto of the death penalty repeal.

Cleveland and the DOJ have reached a settlement on their policing.

One person/one vote will be tested in a case before the Supreme Court next fall.

The Tigers beat the A’s 1-0.