Thursday, July 24, 2014

Give Us A Reason

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on the question of marriage equality:

While recognizing that “our history is marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians,” Rubio argued that “traditional marriage has such an extraordinary record of success at raising children” and must be perpetuated to the exclusion of same-sex unions.

“[T]oday, there is a growing intolerance on this issue, intolerance towards those who continue to support traditional marriage,” Rubio observed, citing the firing of the CEO of Mozilla, following revelations that he supported California’s campaign to ban same-sex marriage, and other instances where opponents of marriage equality suffered economic consequences. “And I promise you that even before this speech is over, I will be attacked as a hater, a bigot or someone who is anti-gay,” he added. “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy.”

Rubio then sought to shield himself from accusations of homophobia, by linking his position on the issue to President Obama’s.” “Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage,” the junior senator claimed.

It takes more than a little gall to shed crocodile tears over discrimination against gays and lesbians and then turn around and explain in detail why he does it.

I’ve heard the “traditional marriage” line so many times that I’m not going to bother to once again remind him that what he calls traditional marriage — i.e. one man and one woman — isn’t all that traditional.  It certainly isn’t that way in the bible, nor is the idea of two people falling in love and getting married as opposed to an arranged marriage between two fathers as a business deal.  Read some Shakespeare or download Fiddler on the Roof.

His claim is that “traditional marriage” must be preserved to the exclusion of all others because it of its “extraordinary record of success in raising children.”  This claim may be true; it’s nice to have a mom and a dad.  But there are a lot of single parents who do just as good a job with their kids as anybody else.  So they shouldn’t be allowed to raise kids because they’re not married?  What about straight people who for whatever reason choose not to have children?  If you’re going to exclude same-sex couples from marriage because they can’t reproduce the old-fashioned way, why not exclude the straight ones who don’t have kids?  Must all marriage licenses require proof of fertility?

Mr. Rubio implies that “traditional marriage” is under attack.  By whom?  Advocates for marriage equality don’t want to stop straight people from getting married.  It’s not some zero-sum game wherein one is traded out for the other.  How can advocating for committed unions between two people who happen to have the same form of genitalia threaten those marriages between two people who don’t?

That’s where the intolerance comes in.  Pro-”traditional” marriage people don’t want same-sex couples to have the benefits of marriage, whereas those of us who are pro-marriage equality want everybody to have the benefits.  So who is the intolerant one?  Saying that same-sex marriage somehow denigrates or mocks straight marriage is yet again another sign of intolerance because that’s saying that the people in that marriage are less than worthy of respect simply because of their orientation.  Again, who is the intolerant one?

And then there’s the church.  Mr. Rubio doesn’t say it, but the implication is that marriage equality violates religious freedom by forcing Christians to accept something they don’t approve of.  However, not all Christians accept the idea of banning same-sex marriage.  In fact, there are a number of Christian denominations, including mainline Protestants, who welcome and perform same-sex weddings, as do a number of Jewish synagogues.  Why do some Christians get to tell others who they can or cannot celebrate in the bonds of holy matrimony?

But let’s be fair.  If Sen. Rubio can give us a valid reason based in law as to why same-sex couples should not be joined in matrimony, let him speak now.  So far, though, more than twenty state and federal courts have heard arguments for and against marriage equality since the Supreme Court handed down their decision in United States v. Windsor which struck down DOMA, and not one court has ruled in favor of his position.  In fact, the prevailing opinion of all those courts with judges appointed by everyone from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama is that state bans on marriage equality are violations of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution, and some of the rulings have said that the bans are in place for no other reason than to deny those protections to same-sex couples and serve no valid state purpose other than to enshrine gay-bashing in the law.

Sen. Rubio says that he will be labeled as is “a hater, a bigot or someone who is anti-gay” because he opposes marriage equality.  So let us give him the benefit of the doubt.  He can prove he is not by giving us a reason to oppose marriage equality that isn’t based on bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance.  We are all anxious to hear it.

Colorado Marriage Equality Ban Struck Down

Time to get a little Rocky Mountain love.

A federal judge declared Colorado’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional but temporarily stayed his ruling pending the outcome of appeals to a higher court.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore issued the ruling Wednesday in a civil lawsuit. A state judge issued a similar ruling earlier this month in a separate case.

The federal lawsuit, filed by six gay couples on July 1, names Gov. John Hickenlooper, Attorney General John Suthers and clerks from Denver and Jefferson counties as defendants.

One day after the lawsuit was filed, Suthers’ office asked the judge to stop proceedings in the case, pending a final resolution of a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found Utah’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional. As part of the request, Suthers asked that a stay be put in place, ensuring that county clerks do not begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a higher court makes a ruling.

Moore rejected Suthers’ argument that failing to issue a stay would be harmful to the state and cause legal confusion.

Still, Moore temporarily issued the stay, and gave Suthers’ office until 8 a.m. on Aug. 25 to appeal his ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In denying Suthers’ request for a stay Moore wrote that, “it is Plaintiffs who suffer irreparable harm if Colorado’s unconstitutional same-sex marriage ban is not enjoined.”

Yip-yah!

Short Takes

Ukraine: Two military jets were shot down in the same vicinity as the Malaysian airline.

Israel faces economic and political challenges; the FAA lifts the ban on flights to Tel Aviv.

Robert McDonald appears to have a lock on being confirmed as the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

It took almost two hours for Arizona to execute a condemned man.

Tropical Update:  TD Two has fizzled out.

The Tigers beat the Diamondbacks 11-5.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Just One Cup

Yesterday I fasted in anticipation of the wellness fair held at work where I got my insurance-required biometric assessment done.  That meant blood work, and although they didn’t require it, I held off eating or drinking anything more than water from midnight on.

BBWW Coffee MugThis fast meant forgoing my morning coffee.  I usually have one mug before work to get the day going and maybe one at the office.  Once the tests were over I had a light lunch and a regular dinner, but zonked out before dark.  When I got up this morning, I really needed the coffee to get going.  No, I didn’t have the shakes and symptoms associated with caffeine withdrawal, but it sure made a difference once I had that first couple of sips of Folger’s Black Silk.

By the way, all systems are functioning within normal parameters, but I still plan on getting in more exercise and losing some weight.

Frankly Speaking

Last week Thomas Frank wrote a piece in Salon in which he went all in on calling Barack Obama a weak and gutless leader and labeling his presidency an abject failure.  The Hope and Change president promised so much and delivered so little, he didn’t stand up to the crazy Republicans when he could have and should have, and worst of all, there’s no pony with rainbow ribbons and no sprinkles on the ice cream.

Why, the visitors to his library will wonder, did the president do so little about rising inequality, the subject on which he gave so many rousing speeches? Why did he do nothing, or next to nothing, about the crazy high price of a college education, the Great Good Thing that he has said, time and again, determines our personal as well as national success? Why didn’t he propose a proper healthcare program instead of the confusing jumble we got? Why not a proper stimulus package? Why didn’t he break up the banks? Or the agribusiness giants, for that matter?

Because, to quote Elliot in E.T., this is reality.  Governing in a democracy means working with other people, people who for some reason or another — I’ll let you fill in the blanks — have no interest in a president succeeding; people who in fact were plotting against his every move before the president had spent his first night in the White House.  Add to that a well-oiled and well-funded noise machine of unprecedented lung power and a TV network that can take the smallest thing and turn it into a 24-hour breaking news blitz, and getting things done becomes a bit of a challenge.

But to Mr. Frank’s charges of failure after failure, let’s think about the ones he’s listed:  How does a president persuade a college or university to lower their tuition and make it affordable?  Someone’s gotta pay for it; it’s not like the alumni are going to pick up everything else after football.  What about healthcare?  Well, the “proper” way would have been a single payer plan with the government picking up the tab and raising taxes, much in the way a number of industrialized nations and Canadian provinces do it: Medicare for all.  Yeah, try and pass that; I dare you.

The same could be said about the rest of Mr. Frank’s laments: the stimulus package that was passed was done in the first moments of the Obama presidency and while we were still under the weight of the crapfest left by the previous administration.  What we got would not have passed three months later, and certainly not through a Senate that was barely under the control of the Democrats.  Break up the big banks and agribusiness?  Sure, if you don’t think anyone with any influence or money will object, go ahead.

We expect to hear this kind of whining and pearl-clutching from the Republicans; they’ve mastered the art of crocodile tears and fear-mongering even when they’re in control.  In the last thirty years they have done a fine job of making the case that no one else but a true American conservative should be running the country and then providing us with laboratory-grade examples of exactly why they shouldn’t.

The biggest failure of the Obama presidency isn’t in what it didn’t accomplish or the “tepid” answers it gave to the problems at hand.  It’s that Barack Obama believed — and probably still does — that he was facing opposition from a political party that shared his basic goal of running the country and making it better for all the citizens, not just the ones who voted for him or contributed to his campaign.  He didn’t realize that their sole purpose in life was his personal destruction.  But if a genius like Thomas Frank can’t figure that out, how could anyone else?

One For, One Against

Can’t we all just get along?

Two federal appeals court panels issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on whether the government could subsidize health insurance premiums for people in three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange. The decisions are the latest in a series of legal challenges to central components of President Obama’s health care law.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, upheld the subsidies, saying that a rule issued by the Internal Revenue Service was “a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion.”

The ruling came within hours of a 2-to-1 ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which said that the government could not subsidize insurance for people in states that use the federal exchange.

The administration will ask for an en banc ruling from the court that ruled 2-1 against Obamacare.  That means the whole court — including the three judges who ruled today — will hear the case and overturn the first ruling.  For now, let the Republicans have their little moment of joy because it won’t last.

This ruling could also have political implications for Republican governors and legislators in states without the healthcare exchanges.  TPM reader HW explains:

…will they build a state health insurance exchange or allow the taxes of a large number of their citizens to go up (remember these are tax credits their middle class citizens are losing, not Medicaid benefits their poorest citizens are not getting in the first place). If you are Rick Scott (FL), Scott Walker (WI), John Kasich (OH), Rick Snyder (MI), or Tom Corbett (PA), all facing competitive races and important races for the long term balance in the House of Representatives, you are faced with a lose-lose proposition. If you say, “still no exchange,” you are basically forcing a large tax increase on health care- that strikes me as a pretty good issue for their Democratic opponents to run on in the fall. If you say, “ok, we’ll build an exchange,” you are alienating your base going into the fall- and, of course, this problem goes away for Americans in these states.

That leaves it up to the Democrats to push the issue: “Hey, voters, Republicans want to raise your taxes and take away your affordable health insurance.”  Run on that, get the policy and the law right, and win the election.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The New Jim Crow

A luxury condo complex in New York will have two entrances: one for the rich and one for the not-so.

Extell, which is building the 33-story complex, will build a specific door for the 55 affordable housing units it’s including in order to be allowed to build a bigger building. The low-income units, which are available to people making 60 percent of median income or less, will also be in a segment that only contains affordable apartments and that faces the street while the luxury apartments will face the river.

In New York City, this arrangement is relatively common. Luxury builders get credits to use up more square footage than they normally could by promising to build affordable units as well. Those developers can then sell the credits to cover the costs of building the low-income housing. Because Extell considers the affordable segment to be legally separate from the rest of the building, it says it is required to have different entrances.

There’s no truth to the rumor that the complex will be called Tara.

Minimum Results

Raising the minimum wage will stifle growth and put more people out of work, right?

New data show that the 13 states that raised the minimum wage this year are adding jobs at a faster pace than those that did not.

State-by-state hiring data released Friday by the Labor Department reveal that in the 13 states that boosted minimum wages at the beginning of this year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85 percent from January to June. The average in the other 37 states was 0.61 percent, the Associated Press reports.

The findings could undermine the argument that raising the minimum wage hurts job growth, a view held by major conservative lobbies. The Congressional Budget Office reported earlier this year that a minimum wage of $10.10 could bring 900,000 people out of of poverty, but would cost 500,000 jobs nationwide.

Well, whatta know, the Republicans were wrong about that.  How could that be?

20 Million

The Republicans were sure that Obamacare would crater and that no one would sign up for it.

Guess what.

A report published last week in the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine provided an overview of Obamacare’s first year, its successes and the challenges ahead. It also offered a yet another estimate of the number of people covered by the law: 20 million.

The NEJM report pulled a wealth of information, much of it already known by those closely following the law’s implementation but presented together by the journal, from think tanks and government agencies. It covered a range of topics, including the number of people covered, 2015 premiums, and the adequacy of provider networks for plans offered through the law.

But its bottom line was that millions of people have become insured under Obamacare.

“Taking all existing coverage expansions together, we estimate that 20 million Americans have gained coverage as of May 1 under the ACA,” the authors wrote. “We do not know yet exactly how many of these people were previously uninsured, but it seems certain that many were.”

But we all know that the NEJM is just another liberal mouthpiece for Obamacare.

Anything But That

Florida Gov. Rick Scott would rather talk about anything other than marriage equality.  Via Marc Caputo:

“Nobody wants discrimination in our state,” Scott said in Bonita Springs, adding that he believes “in traditional marriage” and citizens’ access to the courts.

Gay-rights groups say the same-sex marriage ban discriminates against them, but the ban’s backers say their votes are being discriminated against by judicial activism.

So what discrimination is Scott against? Scott won’t say.

“Aren’t you trying to have it both ways?” WPLG’s Michael Putney asked Scott Friday in Miami.“People have different view about it our state,” Scott replied. “But in 2008, the voters decided that this state would be a traditional marriage state. It’s going through the court system. But what’s important to me is I don’t want anybody discriminated against.”

Putney: Aren’t gays being discriminated against?

Scott: “I’m against any discrimination. But in 2008, the voters decided this would be a traditional marriage state.”

Putney: “Are you…”

Scott (cutting him off): “Let’s talk about jobs – 37,000 jobs in a month! It’s the biggest jump! Michael! Michael! This is our biggest month since I got elected,” Scott said. “We’re over 620,000 jobs [created]. When I ran in 2010, I said seven steps to 700,000 jobs over seven years. And a lot of people questioned whether we could do that…. We’re at 620,000. What’s so exciting is 37,000 a month. I mean I just still think about my dad, watching his face when the only car we had got repossessed. That’s what I want to help with.”

That’s become his stock answer for everything.  Ask any question — what about climate change, redistricting, education funding, or the main ingredient in tomato soup — and you get “Jobs!  Look at all the jobs!”  It’s like he’s stuck in a feedback loop.

Short Takes

Russia tries to sound both tough and nice on response to jet attack.

Death toll continues to rise on both sides in Israel/Gaza conflict.

U.N. says Iran has turned much of its nuclear material to harmless use.

Perry sends Texas troops to border.

Wildfires continue to expand in Pacific Northwest.

Tropical Update: TD Two is east of the Lesser Antilles.

The Tigers beat the Diamondbacks 4-3.

Monday, July 21, 2014

This Week

Blogging will be a light and variable while I’m taking care of Ben and Madam.  Just so you know.

Things should be back to normal by next weekend.

The Mockingbird’s Tale

Boris Kachka looks at the life of Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird.  What has happened to her in her later years is a tale that is sadder and more harrowing than any novel that could be written about a writer’s legacy and the people who took advantage of her kindness.

She’d once explained to Oprah Winfrey, over lunch in a private suite at the Four Seasons, why she’d never appear on her show: Everyone compares her to Scout, the sweetly pugnacious tomboy who narrates Mockingbird. But as she told Oprah, “I’m really Boo”—Boo Radley, the young recluse in the creepy house who winds up saving the day.

I wish people would just leave her in peace and let her writing speak for her.

The Never-Ending Job

Fifty years ago the New York Worlds Fair touted all the new technology — computers, lasers, picture phones — all displayed in the dizzying and awe-inspiring Carousel of Progress.  Soon, they promised, we would live a life of leisure thanks to labor-saving devices so we could shop from home and watch life go by on huge color TV’s.  Work would be a pastime because robots and machines would do the mundane chores and our office would be a dreamworld of paperless interchange.

How’d that work out?

The average cubicle farm, it seems, is where the 40-hour workweek went to die. According to a new survey, a staggering number of American professionals have workweeks that exceed 40 hours.

Virtual meetings software company PGi conducted an online survey of its customers that yielded more than 600 responses. Of those, 88 percent said they work more than 40 hours a week. Roughly a third each said they work between 41 and 45 hours, or between 46 and 50 hours.

Just over one in five said they work more than 50 hours a week. A main culprit in the lengthening of the workweek is technology that lets people work anywhere.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the “always on” atmosphere that’s permeated across our culture,” said PGi executive vice president of strategy and communications Sean O’Brien.

Now we have smartphones and laptops and Bluetooth.  The boss can always reach you; the files are never more than a click away, and even those of us who cherish time away and make an effort to get out of the office at the end of the day can still get a phone call in the middle of a beach in the Keys that begins with “I hate to bother you, but where’s the spreadsheet for the budget…?”

As Erik Loomis at LGM notes, “The 40-hour week becomes a joke, both because many people cannot work at all or can only find part-time work while those who do have work have to labor well past 40 hours because the boss can track them.”

And yes, we can now shop at home and watch stuff on huge color TV’s.  Of course the biggest market for that is porn.  (Or so I’m told.)