Thursday, August 28, 2014

Paging Dr. Strangelove

Via Kevin Drum, William Kristol is at it again, this time taking his love of raining terror on people back to ISIS in Iraq:

What’s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens? I don’t think there’s much in the way of unanticipated side effects that are going to be bad there.

Oh, I get it; he’s saying that just to get a rise out of us.  He doesn’t really want to kill a bunch of people just to see if they decapitate any more hostages or something.  He’s messing with us.  Right?  Right?

Take It To The Top

Florida’s ban on marriage equality and recognizing same-sex marriages from out of state may get in front of the state supreme court.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

The Second District Court of Appeal passed up its chance to make a ruling on the issue, that of two Tampa women who had asked a judge in Hillsborough County to give them a divorce.

The smart thing, the appeals wrote, would be for the Florida Supreme Court to take over the appeal because same-sex marriage has become an issue of great public importance in the state.

“Resolution of the constitutional questions will no doubt impact far more individuals than the two involved here,” the appeals court wrote. “And there can be little doubt that until the constitutional questions are finally resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, there will be a great impact on the proper administration of justice in Florida.”

The clerk of the Florida Supreme Court immediately opened a case file. However, the high court could refuse to review it, according to Craig Waters, a court spokesman.

Four state courts have already ruled in favor of striking down the ban.  All of those rulings are on hold pending appeal, and state Attorney General Pam Bondi is playing the waiting game, hoping to pass the buck to the U.S. Supreme Court.  But if the Florida court strikes down the ban, it’s done.  And if for some bizarre reason they uphold the ban, there’s still the U.S. Supreme Court.

HT to Riptide.

Threepeat

Mitt Romney is being all coy about it, but you know he’s dying to run again.

“Circumstances can change, but I’m just not going to let my head go there,” he said during an interview on the “The Hugh Hewitt Show” radio program.

Well, why not?  It’s not like he’s got anything better to do.

Happy Birthday Phil and Steve

To my dad and his twin.

099

Sailing.
Digging.
Hunting.
Shard-picking.
Swallows and Amazons.
The Wind in the Willows.
Animal jokes.
Lake Harriet.
The cuckoo clock.
Red or green?
red/green.
Boston.
The Cape.
Minneapolis.
Bandelier.
Lake Charlevoix.
“Find the bottom.”
Postscript.
The Navy.
Princeton.
Yale.
Michigan.
Harvard.
O-I.
Four kids.
Two sons.
My life.

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.

Tough Day In Court

Lawyers defending Indiana and Wisconsin’s bans on marriage equality went before a three-judge panel in Chicago yesterday.  It didn’t go well.  From the AP:

While judges often play devil’s advocate during oral arguments, the panel’s often-blistering questions for the defenders of the same-sex marriage bans could be a signal the laws may be in trouble — at least at this step in the legal process.

Richard Posner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, hit the backers of the ban the hardest. He balked when Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson repeatedly pointed to “tradition” as the underlying justification for barring gay marriage.

“It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry — a tradition that got swept away,” the 75-year-old judge said. Prohibition of same-sex marriage, Posner said, derives from “a tradition of hate … and savage discrimination” of homosexuals.

[...]

Posner, who has a reputation for making lawyers before him squirm, cut off Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher just moments into his presentation and frequently chided him to answer his questions.

At one point, Posner ran through a list of psychological strains the children of unmarried same-sex couples suffered, including having to struggle to grasp why their schoolmates’ parents were married and theirs weren’t.

“What horrible stuff,” Posner said. What benefit to society in barring gay marriage, he asked, outweighs that kind of harm to children?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the court ruled 3-0 against the state bans.

Darwin Award Front Runner

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

An instructor who was shot by a 9-year-old girl who fired an Uzi at a northwestern Arizona shooting range died Monday night at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.The girl fired the weapon at the outdoor range that caters to heavy tourism traffic along U.S. Highway 93 between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Highway signage and Internet advertising beckons visitors to stop in, fire a machine gun and enjoy a meal at the Bullets and Burgers enterprise at the Last Stop, about 25 miles south of Las Vegas.

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said the accidental shooting occurred about 10 a.m. Spokeswoman Trish Carter said the girl, who was vacationing from New Jersey with her parents, was standing next to the instructor at the time.

Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe described a video taken of the accident as “ghastly.” His office released a short video of the girl taking her first few shots.

He said the girl safely and successfully fired the 9 mm weapon several times when it was set in the “single-shot” mode.

He said the weapon was put into the “fully-automatic” mode before the girl fired again with the instructor standing off to her left. The weapon recoiled and drifted left as the girl squeezed off an undetermined number of rounds as she maintained possession but lost control of the Uzi as it raised up above her head.

“The guy just dropped,” McCabe said of shooting instructor Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City, who suffered at least one gunshot to the head.

I’m sure his family and friends are devastated, but who in the world hands an Uzi to a nine-year-old kid and doesn’t foresee something like this happening?

I’m also sure the kid is traumatized, but I wonder what kind of parent takes their child to a gun range and lets them use an Uzi?  A .22, perhaps, like they use at the rifle range at camp, but a weapon that the Israelis used to win the 6-Day War?  Really?

Maybe we don’t need gun control after all; with people like this in self-extinction mode, they’ll die out by their own devices.

Curiouser and Curiouser

I haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife, but this piece of news did make me go “Oh, I say….”

Virginia ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) revealed during testimony last week that he moved out of his family home and in with his parish priest the week before his federal corruption trial began.

McDonnell explained on the stand that living separately from his wife Maureen would make it easier for him to prepare for trial each day and described their marriage as “on hold.” The priest he is staying with or the time being, Rev. Wayne Ball of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Richmond, Va., is a family friend who officiated his daughter Cailin’s wedding.

Ball also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor sex charge in late 2002.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported at the time that Ball, then pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Norfolk, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of frequenting a bawdy place. Other media reports defined that as a place used for “lewdness, assignation or prostitution.” Norfolk police had arrested Ball and another Richmond man the night before Thanksgiving when they were found together in a parked car in a local park.

The charge was dismissed in 2003 after Ball fulfilled the terms of his plea agreement.

I come to no conclusion whatsoever about the living arrangement, but I have to ask: When was the last time you saw the terms “a bawdy place” or “lewdness, assignation or prostitution” in print when it wasn’t a review of Oliver Twist?  I must go and find out what Lady Sneerwell has to say about this most curious arrangement.

Election Results

I voted in the Florida primary yesterday.  The polling place is in the parish hall of a local church, so I parked and walked across the parking lot, through the throngs of campaign workers handing out cards and leaflets, and I was swarmed by candidates.  I haven’t had that much attention since I did mail-call at camp.

I was approached by the incumbent county commission candidate who has a reputation as being very conservative.  She was all smiles until I asked her about her stand on marriage equality. The smile became fixed and she replied that it wasn’t her issue.  “Sure it is,” I replied.  “I live in this county. You’re making decisions about my life. I want to know where you stand on it.”  She responded with something along the lines of Ralph Kramden’s “Hamana-hamana-hamana-hamana….” and then “It’s not my issue” again.  “I am pro-life,” she offered. I said, “Okay, that’s got nothing to do with marriage equality.” More hamana-hamana, until she finally came up with “Live and let live, I don’t care what other people do.”  “So,” I said, “If the courts overturned the ban on same-sex marriage, you’d have no problem with that?”  Shrug.  “Not my issue.”

Hm.  According to SAVE Dade, the local marriage-equality organization, she’s virulently anti-marriage-equality. I smiled politely, said “Thanks,” and proceeded to the polling station.  I voted for the other candidate.

Yes, it is a legitimate question to ask every candidate in every race.  If they don’t believe in my fundamental right to marry whom I wish regardless of genitalia, then I’m a second-class citizen to them, and they have no business controlling my government.

By the way, she lost.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our Better Angels

A lot of people are upset at the article in the New York Times that labeled Michael Brown as “no angel.”  It’s not that the article makes the case that because he did things that a lot of eighteen year old kids do such as blaze a doobie and get into rap music, that somehow he got what was coming to him.  It doesn’t.

The issue is the disproportionate level of law enforcement being meted out to people of color and minorities and at a harsher level than it is to others who are neither.  The situation in Ferguson is the dramatic demonstration, showing us just one example of what happens in communities all over this country.  It also brings out the angels of our nature; the knee-jerk response by defenders of the police and the visceral anger of a community that has all too long felt both ignored and victimized by their elected officials and authorities.

Whether or not one young man was “no angel” isn’t the point.  Neither was the person who killed him, nor the people who created the situation that caused it, or those who exploited it.  None of us are.

Primary Day

It’s primary day in Florida.  Yip yah; that means the polling and the junk mail are over for a week or so.

The attention of this election will be on the governor’s race, although it’s already pretty much a study in foregone conclusions.  Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor now running as a Democrat, will beat former state senator Nan Rich because of name recognition and the notoriety and novelty of Mr. Crist being a party switcher.  He will take on the man who succeeded him, Rick Scott.

The other race that is drawing attention in the Miami area is the race for County Commission being waged between incumbent Lynda Bell and Daniella Levine Cava.  For a local race it’s been generating a lot of direct mail and negative TV ads, especially from Ms. Bell, a right-winger of the first order.

There are also the usual local issues, including one in the city of Miami as to whether or not to approve a deal that would build a 1,000 foot tower in downtown that resembles a giant nail clipper.

Optical Illusion

Now that President Obama is back from his vacation, is it too much to ask the Villagers and the rest of the people who seriously waste their time counting the days he or any other president takes off to please shut up about it already?

If that’s what they think is worth the time and pixels to waste talking about, then they need to find something else to do.  It’s not like anyone really cares, and if they do, then they can go back to reading about the latest antics of the Kardashians in the National Enquirer.

The latest version of this comes from the usual suspects like Maureen Dowd, who, in true eighth-grade-mentality aggravation, sniffs that playing golf is more important to the president than shedding TV tears.  Her theory is that the president has to fake phony sincerity in order to be a genuine leader.  Others, less neener-neener spiteful, worry that because the president would rather play a round of golf with Alonzo Mourning than John Boehner, the work of the Congress won’t get done.  News flash: the work of the Congress won’t get done — at least not by the current crop of Republicans — if President Obama sent John Boehner a case of scotch and a truckload of Camel cigarettes.

I would rather have a president who doesn’t give a flying rats ass about the optics of schmoozing some backbencher from Congress or glad-handing some donor than one who does.

Second To None

According to the parole board in Georgia, the Second Amendment is absolute, trumping every other amendment, including those that guarantee life, liberty, and safety, and even a former police officer, now a convicted felon and rapist — white, of course — has the right to carry a gun once he’s served his debt to society.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “[h]is record was filled with allegations of misconduct: that he beat a prisoner so severely the man’s brain bled; that he threatened to fabricate charges against a suspect so he could sleep with the man’s wife; that he pressured at least 10 women for sex to avoid arrest.” The former cop, for his part, is unrepentant. When asked about his sexual assault conviction, he claims that “[t]here wasn’t any crime,” and that “I was dealt a bad hand.”

And yet, in July of 2013, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles restored Krauss’ right to carry a firearm. According to a Journal-Constitution tally, he is one of 358 violent felons who regained these rights over a six year period. That includes 32 violent felons who killed someone, and 44 who committed sex crimes. One man regained his right to own a gun in 2012 after serving a 10 year sentence for child molestation and aggravated child molestation. Some offenders regained their gun rights after being convicted of crimes such as armed robbery, burglary or aggravated assault.

So these are all “good guys with a gun” now?

Annals of the Truly Desperate

If you’re in a Senate race you have no hope of winning, I guess it doesn’t hurt to throw everything you can because, hey, why not?

That’s the case with Allen Weh who is running against Tom Udall (D) in New Mexico.

The masked man who beheaded journalist James Foley appears in a web video created in support of New Mexico Republican Senate candidate Allen Weh.

The ad, released by the New Mexico Republican Party, is a combination of clips of President Barack Obama golfing and smiling paired with violence. The video also features Weh’s opponent, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).

Halfway through the one-minute video a still shot of Foley’s not-yet-identified killer is displayed for a few seconds. Foley’s image does not appear in the video, just the image of the jihadist, holding a knife.

Text at the end of the video reads “to change Washington, you must change your Senator.”

Mr. Weh must figure the only way anyone will pay him any attention is by pointing out how truly exploitative and despicable he can be.

Short Takes

President Obama will allow surveillance flights over Syria.

Egypt and U.A.E. bombing militants in Libya.

Thousands gathered for the funeral for Michael Brown in St. Louis.

Rick Perry’s lawyers seek dismissal of charges.

Congratulations to the Emmy winners.

Tropical Update: Hurricane Cristobal heads off to the east; still keeping an eye in Invest 97L.

The Tigers had the night off.

Monday, August 25, 2014