Caturday: Celebrations and Reflections

1014335_406336752816251_509147101_nGood afternoon, newsjunkies!

Have you seen next week’s cover of The New Yorker that’s been floating around the internet yet? Well, obviously you have now if you’re reading this post. It’s nothing short of SQUEEEEE! Bert and Ernie nestled together on the couch snuggin’ while watching The Supremes in their robes on the TV.

The Supremes did good on knocking the wind out of DOMA, but it was a long time coming. They’re still in the doghouse for all their other despicable and unreal rulings this week. So while I did pop some champagne to celebrate the good things going on, including the tumbling down of DOMA, no cookies to the Supremes on this. I give the credit to all the grassroots LGBT activists and their growing accumulation of allies who have worked so hard for so many years to bring Wednesday’s ruling to fruition. Well done, everyone! The 21st century is finally starting to arrive…it’s here, it’s queer, and we as a society are not only going to live with it–we are going to live it up! Watch out, y’all, I am so happy for our LGBT sisters and brothers and for all of us as a ONE LOVE-ONE WORLD, I could about start doing some of my inner feminist Pollyanna somersaults all over this page. (I am an absolute klutz with no athletic motor skill coordination whatsoever, so that is truly a feat!)

So, to review:

relaxheterosexuals

And, via HuffPo, 10 WAYS THE DOMA REPEAL WILL AFFECT ‘TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE’:

After the Supreme Court’s landmark decision that the Defense Of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, it’s time to look at the top 10 ways heterosexual marriage will be affected now that it’s not being defended.

1. Uh…
1

2. Uhhh…
2

3. Hmm…
3

4. Just a sec…
4

5. It’s like… You know how… It’s like when things… Right?
5

6. We swear we just had one
6

7. It’s coming… Wait for it…
7

8. Hey! Look over there!
8

9. Wait, where are you going?
9

10. Global warming?
10

Here’s what the wonderful Joyce L. Arnold  of “Queer Talk” has been blogging over at Taylor Marsh’s, which I think gives a pretty good overview and is instructive in terms of “Where we go from here”…Note: I am only quoting excerpts here, interspersed with a bit of commentary from me, so take the time to click over and read the pieces in full when you get the chance:

The much anticipated Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 were announced this morning.[…] The fight for marriage equality isn’t over. Everyone knows that. But today is huge, and it’s time to do some celebrating.

Post SCOTUS, post DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, the “now what” in LGBT equality question is getting attention, and one response to that question comes by way of the Campaign for Southern Equality. The organization didn’t just come into existence, but they were very ready for this moment. Other LGBT groups are, too, of course, from local to state to national levels. I find the efforts of CSE to be particularly inspiring precisely because they refuse to comply with the “just move to where you’re more accepted” arguments – and we hear them regularly – but stay, and fight for equality. There are a lot of people doing that, in the South and other more “challenging,” but definitely changing toward the better, areas.

About CSE: (emphasis added throughout)

Based in North Carolina, the Campaign for Southern Equality is an effort to assert the full humanity and equality of LGBT people living in the South.

One of their projects is the WE DO Campaign, which

… involves LGBT couples in the Southern communities where they live requesting – and being denied – marriage licenses in order to call for full equality under federal law and to resist unjust state laws.

These WE DO actions serve to make the impact of discriminatory laws visible to the general public; they illustrate what it looks like when LGBT people are treated as second-class… citizens under the law.

Take less than three minutes to watch.

Here is the video Joyce has spotlighted, which is well worth the watch if you haven’t seen it yet. Very inspiring (this roundup continues after the video, so please keep scrolling after you view it):

More from Joyce’s post:

Celebrations continue. Statements agreeing and disagreeing with the decisions are still coming, from the White House to “citizen on the street.” Most likely the next sermon topic was an easy one for many, pro and con marriage equality.

And lots of analysis, which is obviously important, continues being done. It includes wide recognition that while this really is one of those moments we can call “historic,” there are 37 states with no marriage recognition; there are big questions about how same-sex couples are treated in terms of the military and immigration; and among other things, there is no federal employment protection. None of that detracts from the celebration. In fact, equality proponents in all of those “issues,” and more, can be energized by the SCOTUS decisions.

At The Advocate, “Message at Rallies: Celebrate Today, Fight Tomorrow.” At a post-SCOTUS decision rally in West Hollywood, with about 4000 people present, screenwriter Dustin Lanc Black said:

‘(I)t is time for each and every one of us to take that strength you now feel as Californians, and take it to Texas, and take it to Virginia … take it to Holland, Michigan … to Altoona, Pennsylvania. … You need to take your strength to these places, and share this feeling with this nation so we no longer leave a single one of our brothers or our sisters behind, no matter … which state they live.’

From the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force:

‘Today’s historic decisions are a significant leap forward for freedom and justice for same-sex couples and their families, the LGBT community and for our nation — and a lot more work needs to be done to deliver marriage equality to the rest of our nation’s same-sex couples and their families and full equality in every other respect for all LGBT people,’ said Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director.

Parties continue around the nation, as they should. There’s a lot to celebrate. Statements and analyses will keep coming for a long time, I’d guess, as the impact of the decisions is made clear in practice. And advocacy and actions will continue, in all regions and states of the nation. Look to every region, including the South.

(We Do Campaign via Campaign for Southern Equality)

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, tweeted his sadness about the Supreme Court decisions regarding DOMA and Prop 8, but then rather quickly deleted it. That seems a fair representation of Cathy’s efforts to somehow balance an anti-LGBT – at least related to marriage equality – while also, as a spokesperson put it, provide “genuine hospitality to everyone.”

Via Huffington, Cathy’s tweet:

Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: conerstone of strong societies

No word about what the founding mothers would think.

Ok, pardon me but I have to interrupt here to cackle my witchy woman feminist ass off. Joyce goes on to cover the ins-and-outs of Cathy’s trying to have his corporate cake and eat it too while lamenting his sadness over…what seems to me a more perfect union. That appears to be the source of Cathy and his ilk’s lament. They don’t want this union to become more perfect, because that requires giving up their various privileges and twisted means of ‘control.’  (Though it’s always hard not to ask for the most vehement of the homophobic crowd, if they are in control at all or really they are deep in the closet. Because, let’s let the elephant out the room, y’all. That’s the only reason legalizing gay marriage would affect a so-called heterosexual marriage that would need any defending from it.)

Joyce also quotes more whining tweets from Huckabee, et al., via OpEd News:

[Mike Huckabee tweet]: ‘My thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: ‘Jesus wept.’ …

‘Today, marriage, children, and the rule of law all suffer.’ Randy Thomassen, Save California. …

[Matt Barber tweet]: In states w/ ‘gay marriage’ there is no longer a legal or ethical defense against multi-party, incestuous or any other twiested ‘marriages’ …

How long before federal agents haul pastors out of the pulpit? – Todd Starnes, Fox News.

To which Joyce’s response is simply awesome:

Founding Fathers, weeping, suffering, children and incest … the familiar “the sky is falling” kind of responses.

As a follow-up to Joyce’s comment, I must insert the following, which I had used elsewhere on the internet (Facebook of course..on the Pink Sneaks support page JJ and I are working on) in reference to Stupakistan’s reaction. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Gov. Goodhair…) to the arrival of what Salon proposes we are now, i.e. a “Wendy Davis Nation.”

Anyhow, here is the graphic because it applies to what Joyce has highlighted about the sad, lamenting reactions to the DOMA/Prop8 reversal:

"Oh, the sound of male ego. You travel halfway across the galaxy, and it’s still the same song." Star Trek: The Original Series, 1x06 ("Mudd’s Women")

“Oh, the sound of male ego. You travel halfway across the galaxy, and it’s still the same song.” Star Trek: The Original Series, 1×06 (“Mudd’s Women”)

Joyce concludes by saying the following, which I totally agree:

My bet is the founding mothers and fathers just might approve of “liberty and justice for all” efforts. And since we’ve more or less (with some significant “less” moments and issues) been focused on that goal for quite some time, and the sky hasn’t even started falling, we’re safe to keep at it. And in trouble if we don’t.

Last but not least, Joyce reports…

The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA), filed by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in the Senate and by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House, would completely repeal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). The Supreme Court decisions were a big step in that direction, but not complete.

Ok, as I said, please do go read Joyce’s pieces in full whenever you can. Here’s a handy link where you can see her posts archived together in one place.

Pivoting from “gay rights are human rights” (smiles in thoughts of Hillary and Hillary 2016) to “women’s rights are human rights,” I want to touch on that article,“It’s a Wendy Davis Nation Now,” that I briefly linked to above from Salon though, because I have a very revealing excerpt I wanted to highlight from it:

For years — particularly the ones Democrats spent in the wilderness, losing national elections — the party’s pro-choice stance was blamed for losing so-called values voters. Axelrod pointed out how that had changed: “These were motivational issues for people on our side … What’s interesting to me is that these were once wedge issues for Republicans. Now some of them are working as wedge issues against Republicans. And it shows a shift of attitudes.”

Gay rights, of course, have long since lost any traction as a wedge issue in Republicans’ favor in all but the narrowest districts. It remains to be seen how the immigration reform debate will play out politically, but the 2012 election and its “self-deportation” rhetoric is widely seen to have driven away Latinos and Asians. And of course there was defunding Planned Parenthood and Todd Akin. But, Axelrod added, abortion wasn’t part of that. Or, as he put it, “Abortion’s a separate discussion.”

If this week was any indication — along with recent protests in Wisconsin and Ohio, and possibly more to come — that may not prove true.

Thus, if we are truly entering Wendy Davis Nation, then we must be exiting not just Bush country, but also Rove-Axelrod’s understanding of women’s rights as a “separate discussion.” Keeping my ears open and my eyes wide and waiting to see what happens next!

Before I end this post, just for some Caturday fun, and for purposes of smashing the patriarchy with my crazy cat lady pink-ness, here are pictures of my nails that I got done last night (click for larger view):

1002764_406725882777338_1556208287_n998668_406725862777340_1727898640_n

And, on that note, Sky Dancers, I’m going to turn the soapbox over to you. Do the wonderful thing you do in the comments y’all, and have a great weekend!


Breaking News: DOMA Falls

moreweddingsEven though SCOTUS did not rule on the broader issue of marriage equality, DOMA has fallen.  The usual Klan of Religious Freaks dissented.  Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote.

The Supreme Court issued rulings on two highly-anticipated cases on gay marriage today. By 5-4, .

In a separate ruling, it declined to take on the broader issue of gay marriage. The court to bring the case to the court.

NPR’s Carrie Johnson explains the Prop. 8 ruling: “By a holding of 5-4 with Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority, the Supreme Court rules the petitioners lack standing so the court avoids the underlying issues, remands and wipes away the decision by 9th Circuit Court of appeals, which means for now the lower court ruling invalidating California’s Prop. 8 stands.”

That means same-sex marriages in California may resume, but the ruling does not have a broader implication across the country.

The Defense of Marriage Act case is simpler. As SCOTUSblog reports, the court struck down the federal law because it denies same-sex couples the “equal liberty” guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes such as Social Security survivors’ benefits, insurance benefits, immigration and tax filing.

Section 3 of the law defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and a spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” That provision had been struck down by eight lower courts before the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in United States v. Windsor settled the matter for good.

This decision means that legally married same-sex couples are now entitled to the same federal benefits as married opposite sex couples.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

SCOTUS Blog has some analysis here.

Cutting to the marquee issue – whether DOMA is constitutional – the Court acknowledged that Congress can pass laws that affect marriage in limited ways, but in its view DOMA goes much further than that:  it applies to over a thousand federal laws and all federal regulations.  (In this week’s version of “Supreme Court Justices:  They’re Just Like Us,” the version of the opinion that was distributed to reporters misspells “statutes” as “statues,” suggesting that perhaps someone was up late last night finishing up the draft.)  But states, rather than the federal government, have historically been responsible for regulating and defining “marriage” – establishing their own (and sometimes different) minimum ages for marriage, for example.  In recent years, the Court explained, some states have decided to allow same-sex couples to marry, giving them the same protection and dignity that opposite-sex couples get from marriage.  But despite the traditional role of the states in regulating marriage, the Court reasoned, DOMA discriminates against same-sex couples by preventing the federal government from recognizing their marriages, and it does so to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage.

As a result of today’s decision, same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples.  That conclusion (and the steps that the Court took to get there) drew the ire of the Court’s four more conservative Justices – Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito – who filed three separate dissenting opinions totaling nearly fifty pages.

Justice Antonin Scalia read from the bench to demonstrate his severe disagreement with the ruling.  The opinion is an “instant classic” that uses Scalia-isms like “jaw-dropping” and “rootless and shifting” to describe the Court’s rationales; at one point, he indicates that “[t]he sum of all the Court’s nonspecific hand-waving is that this law is invalid (maybe on substantive-due-process grounds, and perhaps with some amorphous federalism component playing a role).”  Although the four dissenters did not completely agree on everything, they were united in their belief that DOMA is constitutional.

I want to put this into a bit of perspective.  We are TWO days short of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

Here, in summary, is what the Court did — and did not do — on same-sex marriage on the final day of its 2012-13 Term:

** It ruled unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act’s Section 3, which defines marriage for purposes of one thousand federal laws and multitudes of official regulations as the union of one man and one woman only — a definition that excludes probably millions of already-married same-sex couples from any of those benefits or opportunities.  “DOMA,” the Court majority said caustically, ”writes inequality into the entire U.S. Code.”

** It decided that sponsors of California’s “Proposition 8,” adopted by the state’s voters in an election almost five years ago, did not have a legal right to be in the Supreme Court or in a federal appeals court to try to defend that measure from constitutional attack.  That is likely to have the early impact of putting into final effect a San Francisco federal judge’s 2010 decision striking down Proposition 8 under the U.S. Constitution.   Some 18,000 California same-sex couples already had been married when they had a brief chance to do so as the issue developed in that state, but now millions are likely to gain the right to marry when the judge’s ruling is implemented by state officials.  Happening perhaps in just a few weeks, that would make California the fourteenth — and largest — state to permit such marriages (along with Washington, D.C.).

** It declared, in quite explicit terms, that it was not deciding at this point whether the Constitution guarantees gays and lesbians a right to marry or whether the Constitution forbids states’ bans on such marriages.  That will leave the promoters of marriage equality to continue with their efforts, in state legislatures and in lower courts, to try to win the right one more state at a time.   The Court itself has a chance to take up that basic issue, as early as tomorrow, in a pair of new cases — from Arizona and Nevada — but it may not yet be ready to do so.

** And the Court did not spell out a new constitutional test for courts to use in judging new laws or other government actions that treat homosexuals less favorably than other people in similar settings and factual contexts.   Although DOMA’s benefits ban was nullified under the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of legal equality, the majority opinion did not sort out explicitly which level of judicial review — in escalating toughness — is supposed to be used in gay rights cases.  In fact, the test that was applied this time appeared to be notably indistinct.

With the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act’s benefits ban in Section 3, for legally married gays and lesbians, the Court immediately — even if inadvertently — gave rise to a situation in which couples living in states that will not allow them to marry because they are homosexuals will still be able to qualify for federal benefits, many of which are handed out or managed by state governments.

But the ruling did not do anything explicitly about another section of DOMA — Section 2, which gives the states the right to refuse to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.  That thus raised the prospect that a same-sex couple married in one of the states now allowing such unions could face obstacles to their marital rights when they moved into states that still do not recognize their unions.  This might be a particular problem for already-married gay couples serving in the military, who often have to move from state to state.

Although Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., dissented from the ruling in the DOMA case, he went to special lengths in his opinion in that case to apply the states’ rights language that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion had employed in justifying the nullification of Section 3.

Roberts wrote, borrowing words from the Kennedy opinion: “While ‘the state’s power in defining the marital relation is of central relevance’ to the majority’s decision to strike down DOMA here, that power will come into play on the other side of the board in future cases about the constitutionality of state marriage definitions.  So too will be concerns for state diversity and sovereignty that weighs against DOMA’s constitutionality in this case.”

The Court, the Chief Justice added, “may in the future have to resolve challenges to state marriage definitions affecting same-sex couples.”  His remarks about the majority arguments on states’ rights in this field seemed to be telegraphing his views on the basic definition of marriage — and an implied suggestion that lower courts might be interested in following.

At least in one regard, we are closer to the reality of liberty and justice for all.


Thursday Reads: Banks Reopen in Cyprus; An End to “Too Big to Fail” Banks (?); Vagina-Phobia; and Much More

Banks reopen in Cyprus and media jostle to get the best view - posted by Joe Parkinson (@JoeWSJ)

Banks reopen in Cyprus and media jostle to get the best view – posted by Joe Parkinson (@JoeWSJ)

Good Morning!!

The banks have opened in Cyprus with controls on how much depositors can withdraw.

Joe Weisenthal posted updates at his Business Insider blog:

At 6:00 AM ET, banks in Cyprus reopened their doors for the first time since March 16.

Wall Street Journal’s Joe Parkinson reports that only eight people are being allowed in at a time at one Bank of Cyprus branch.

However, the crowds have been orderly.

Everyone is wondering whether there will be a huge run on the banks.

So far? Not yet.

This is likely due to a set of capital controls that have been imposed on the banks.  Specifically, Cypriot depositors cannot withdraw more than 300 euros per day from any one bank.  Also, checks cannot be cashed.

These controls will be in place for seven days.

See more Twitter updates and photos at the link. International Business Times has some details about the capital controls that are supposed to prevent bank runs. In addition to the withdrawal limit, depositors can’t cash checks unless they come from another country.

In the meantime, non-cash payments or money transfers are banned unless they are related to a number of conditions.

These conditions include commercial transactions, payroll, living expenses and tuition fees.

If commercials transactions are less than €5,000, there are no restrictions, but payments above this amount and up to €200,000 will be subject to a 24-hour decision making process, in order to determine whether the liquidity of the bank would be able to incur such a withdrawal.

Transfers for paying employees will also still be allowed but relevant documents would have to be presented in order to prove the money is being used to pay staff.

Transactions on credit or debit cards are also capped at €5,000 euros per month.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some large depositors seemingly had advance knowledge of what was going to happen in Cyprus and moved their money out of the country weeks before the crisis.

The chairman of the Committee for Institutions in the Cypriot Parliament, Deputy Dimitris Syllouris, said he had submitted a letter to the Central Bank of Cyprus demanding an investigation into account holders who moved large sums of cash out of the country in the weeks ahead of Cyprus’s chaotic bailout talks…

He said he had received information about individuals and businesses moving money out of Cyprus weeks ahead of the bailout deal—a move that wouldn’t be illegal but could imply that some depositors had warning that negotiations for a bailout could, for the first time in the financial crisis that has rattled the euro zone, take a cut out of regular bank deposits.

Asked whether his suspicions focused on one specific group of depositors, he said “politicians, all sorts of people, and bankers themselves are no better.”

That figures…

Outflows from Cyprus were increasing from moderate levels from January until March 15, the officials said. Last week—especially after March 19, when the Cypriot Parliament rejected the first bailout deal that would have imposed a one-time levy on large deposits—the outflows under the central bank’s exemptions went up significantly, they said.

Several hundred million euros, but less than a billion euros, left the country despite the bank closures, according to one official.

At Bloomberg, Clive Crook says Cyprus’ Plan B is Still a Disaster.

The new deal has removed the craziest part of the agreement reached March 16 — the plan to default on deposit insurance. Let’s not dwell any further on that insanity. But the new plan still has features that, seen in any other context, would surely arouse surprise.

For instance, the so-called troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund wanted to be sure that the new debt Cyprus is about to take on will be sustainable — meaning, presumably, that Cyprus will be able to repay it. Yet, by writing down high- value deposits, the revised plan will also cause a sudden contraction of the Cypriot banking system, and thus of the whole Cypriot economy, which depends on banking to an unusual degree.

He concludes that,

Bailout fatigue says: “The Cypriots got themselves into this mess, and they should get themselves out. We’ll lend them a bit more, but only if we’re sure they’ll pay us back.” Cyprus didn’t get itself into this mess. It joined the euro system in 2008 with low public debt and a clean bill of health from EU governments (back then, not a word was said about shady Russians). Its banks are in trouble not because they accepted too many overseas deposits but because they bought too many Greek bonds — an investment sanctified by international banking rules (which called such investments riskless) that was destroyed by the EU’s ham-fisted resolution of Greece’s threatened default.

Europe’s sense of “we’re all in this together” seems to have evaporated entirely. Now one has to ask not merely what the euro is for, but what the EU itself is for.

Back in the U.S.A.,

too-big-to-fail

Simon Johnson has an interesting post at the NYT’ “Explaining the Science of Everyday Life” blog: The Debate on Bank Size Is Over.

While bank lobbyists and some commentators are suddenly taken with the idea that an active debate is under way about whether to limit bank size in the United States, they are wrong. The debate is over; the decision to cap the size of the largest banks has been made. All that remains is to work out the details.

To grasp the new reality, think about the Cyprus debacle this month, the Senate budget resolution last week and Ben Bernanke’s revelation that — on too big to fail — “I agree with Elizabeth Warren 100 percent that it’s a real problem.”

Policy is rarely changed by ideas alone and, in isolation, even stunning events can sometimes have surprisingly little effect. What really moves the needle in terms of consensus among policy makers and the broader public opinion is when events combine with a new understanding of how the world works. Thanks to Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio; Senator Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, and many other people who have worked hard over the last four years, we are ready to understand what finally defeated the argument that bank size does not matter: Cyprus.

I can’t briefly summarize the gist of Johnson’s piece, so if you’re following this story, please read the whole thing. Could he really be right about limits on “to big to fail or prosecute banks.” I sure hope so!

In other news,

Read the rest of this entry »


DOMA Likely to Fall

It appears that the arguments and questioning on DOMA during the SCOTUS hearing today have put the 17 year old law into question.  As usual, SCOTUSBLOG has some great analysis of the arguments.marriage equality bug

That was the overriding impression after just under two hours of argument Wednesday on the fate of the Defense of Marriage Act.

That would happen, it appeared, primarily because Justice Anthony M. Kennedy seemed persuaded that the federal law intruded too deeply into the power of the states to regulate marriage, and that the federal definition cannot prevail.   The only barrier to such a ruling, it appeared, was the chance – an outside one, though — that the Court majority might conclude that there is no live case before it at this point.

After a sometimes bewilderingly complex first hour, discussing the Court’s power to decide the case of United States v. Windsor (12-307), the Court moved on to explore DOMA’s constitutionality.  And one of the most talented lawyers appearing these days before the Court — Washington attorney Paul D. Clement — faced fervent opposition to his defense of DOMA from enough members of the Court to make the difference.  He was there on behalf of the Republican leaders of the House (as majority members of the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group), defending the law because the Obama administration has stopped doing so.

Justice Kennedy told Clement that there was “a real risk” that DOMA would interfere with the traditional authority of states to regulate marriage.   Kennedy also seemed troubled about the sweeping breadth of DOMA’s Section 3, noting that its ban on benefits to already married same-sex couples under 1,100 laws and programs would mean that the federal government was “intertwined with citizens’ daily lives.”   He questioned Congress’s very authority to pass such a broad law.

Moreover, Kennedy questioned Clement’s most basic argument — that Congress was only reaching for uniformity, so that federal agencies would not have to sort out who was or was not married legally in deciding who could qualify for federal marital benefits, because some states were on the verge of recognizing same-sex marriage.

Along with sharply negative comments about DOMA by the Court’s four more liberal members, Kennedy’s stance could put the law on the edge of constitutional extinction.  But, if the Court were to do that based on states’ rights premises, the final ruling might not say much at all about whether same-sex couples were any closer to gaining an equal right to marry under the Constitution.

There did not appear to be a majority of Justices willing to strike down the 1996 law based on the argument that the Obama administration and gay rights advocates have been pressing: that is, the law violates the Fifth Amendment guarantee of legal equality in general.

Elena Kagan had some interesting moments today.

In discussing the origins of the law, Paul Clement, who represents the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, said that Congress’s key interest in passing DOMA was preserving the uniform treatment of couples in various states at a time when there where indications that some states might allow same-sex marriages.
“All these federal statutes were passed with the traditional definition of marriage in mind,” Clement said. “What Congress says is, ‘Let’s take a time out. This is a redefinition of an age-old tradition.’”

But Kagan fired back in her questioning, telling Clement that Congress wasn’t preserving tradition, but departing from it when it jumped into the marriage issue. “The only uniformity that the federal government has pursued is that it’s uniformly recognized the marriages that are recognized by the state,” she said. Congress’ foray into the issue in 1996 was so unusual that it “sen[t] up a pretty good red flag,” she said.

A short time later, Kagan read aloud from the House Judiciary Committee report on DOMA. “Congress decided to reflect and honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality,” she said, quoting the report.

“Is that what happened in 1996?” she asked to gasps, “oohs” and some laughter from many in the gallery who seemed to think she’d managed a rare Supreme Court “gotcha” moment.

Clement said he was not claiming moral disapproval constituted a sufficient basis for the law. “The House report says those things,” he said. But, he added, “we’ve never invoked [the report] in trying to defend the statute.”

The crowd outside the SCOTUS building got rowdy and into some fights.  Other interesting analysis can be found on Slate. I loved this line by Ginsberg.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had the laugh line of the day when she scolded DOMA for creating “two kinds of marriage, full marriage and the skim-milk marriage.” It was easy to see which one you’d want in your coffee.

Please post more things you’ve found on the arguments today!


Thursday Reads: Rick Scott Folds on Medicaid, the Sanctity of Marriage, GOP Meltdown, and Media News

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Good Morning!!

There’s another winter storm moving across the country, and we could get another big snowstorm here in New England this weekend. My local NPR station predicted a foot of snow for the Boston area on Sunday, but the Weather Channel says it could turn out to be mixed with rain. We’ll just have to wait and see. The good news is that February is almost over and spring is on the horizon.

For now, pull up a chair (or curl up in bed with your laptop, grab your coffee or tea, and let’s see what’s in the news this morning.

Yesterday JJ wrote about all the Republican governors who are refusing to cooperate with the ACA by setting up health care exchanges in their states. Many GOP governors have also said they will not agree to an expansion of Medicaid. But late yesterday, one of the most recalcitrant of these governors, Rick Scott of Florida, reversed course and accepted a Medicaid expansion that would provide health coverage for an additional 1 million Floridians. The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday a proposed three-year expansion of Florida’s Medicaid program — enrolling an additional one million poor and disabled Floridians beginning next year — after the Obama administration gave the state tentative approval to privatize Medicaid services. If the Legislature approves, Scott’s announcement means the state will extend eligibility in the federal-state program to single people and families earning up to 138 percent of poverty….”While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care,” Scott said at a press conference. He added that the expansion would have to be renewed in three years.

Florida has approximately 3.8 million uninsured citizens, so this isn’t going to solve the problem for most of them. So what’s going on with the privatization deal?

Scott’s announcement came a few hours after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced its tentative approval of a managed-care plan that Scott had previously said might well determine his decision on expansion – though the governor said he had not committed to the expansion in return for the approval….

But, the approval is conditional. According to CMS, the state still needs to show how it plans to monitor the quality of care that the Medicaid recipients will receive, plus create a “rigorous and independent evaluation” of the managed-care plans.

Republicans in the Florida legislature are unhappy and may still challenge Scott’s decision.

Erik Erikson is unhappy too, writing at Red State: I Am Very Disappointed in Governor Rick Scott. Erikson says “[i]t is a sad day for conservatives.”

Pete Domenici and Michelle Laxalt

Pete Domenici and Michelle Laxalt

In sanctity of marriage news,

Just a week after Democratic Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee revealed that a young girl he was tweeting with was his daughter–a child he had not know about until recently–we learned yesterday that former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici had a secret, out-of-wedlock child, a son who is now in his thirties. From the Albuquerque Journal:

Statements given to the Journal by Domenici and the son’s mother, Michelle Laxalt of Alexandria, Va., identified the son as Adam Paul Laxalt, a Nevada lawyer. Michelle Laxalt formerly was a prominent government relations consultant and television political commentator in Washington, D.C. She is a daughter of former U.S. senator and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt. “More than 30 years ago, I fathered a child outside of my marriage,” Domenici said in his statement. “The mother of that child made me pledge that we would never reveal that parenthood, and I have tried to honor that pledge and so has she,” Domenici said.

Michelle Laxalt said that she and Domenici decided to go public now because she had reason to believe that someone else was going to (someone in the media?) was going to reveal their secret.

“Recently information has come to me that this sacred situation might be twisted … and shopped to press outlets large and small in a vicious attempt to smear, hurt and diminish Pete Domenici, an honorable man, his extraordinary wife, Nancy, and other innocents.” Michelle Laxalt said in her prepared statement.

“Why, after more than 30 years, would anyone insinuate pain and ugliness where joy and beauty have presided?” she asked.

Michelle Laxalt said “one night’s mistake led to pregnancy” and she chose to raise the son as a single parent.

“Given the fact that both my father and the father of my child were United States senators, I felt strongly that I would make this choice according to my values and would not seek advice, input or permission,” Michelle Laxalt said.

A few more reactions to the Domenici-Laxalt story:

Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic Wire: Senator Had a Secret Son With Pundit Who Praised Him as a Great Dad.

Digby at Hullabaloo notes that Domenici was extremely judgmental of Bill Clinton over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

I really liked this one at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen: “Secret Children For Me, No Gay Marriage For Thee!”

More evidence that the GOP is melting down:

Yesterday, conservative pundit Byron York was mystified by John Boehner’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the sequester. York writes:

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner describes the upcoming sequester as a policy “that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more.”

Which leads to the question: Why would Republicans support a measure that threatens national security and thousands of jobs? Boehner and the GOP are determined to allow the $1.2 trillion sequester go into effect unless President Obama and Democrats agree to replacement cuts, of an equal amount, that target entitlement spending. If that doesn’t happen — and it seems entirely unlikely — the sequester goes into effect, with the GOP’s blessing.

In addition, Boehner calls the cuts “deep,” when most conservatives emphasize that for the next year they amount to about $85 billion out of a $3,600 billion budget. Which leads to another question: Why would Boehner adopt the Democratic description of the cuts as “deep” when they would touch such a relatively small part of federal spending?

The effect of Boehner’s argument is to make Obama seem reasonable in comparison. After all, the president certainly agrees with Boehner that the sequester cuts threaten national security and jobs. The difference is that Obama wants to avoid them….Could the GOP message on the sequester be any more self-defeating?

Bwwwwwaaaaaaahahahahahaha!!!!

o-KILLING-JESUS-BILL-O-REILLY-570

In other bizarre wingnut news,

I had to double check to make sure this story at HuffPo wasn’t satire.

Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly has announced that Killing Jesus: A History will be his follow-up book to the NYT Bestsellers Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. A press release from his publisher Henry Holt stated that the book will

…tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth as a beloved and controversial young revolutionary brutally killed by Roman soldiers. O’Reilly will recount the seismic political and historical events that made his death inevitable, and the changes his life brought upon the world for the centuries to follow. “Jesus Christ has not walked among us physically for more than two thousand years, yet his presence today is felt the world over and his spirit is worshipped by more than 2.2 billion people,” said O’Reilly. “His teachings, his legacy, his life as a flesh-and-blood man, and his death created the world in which we live.”

Too much! More from The Hollywood Reporter:

In Killing Jesus, O’Reilly “will recount the seismic political and historical events” that made the death of the “beloved and controversial young revolutionary” known as Jesus of Nazareth inevitable.

“Jesus Christ has not walked among us physically for more than 2,000 years, yet his presence today is felt the world over and his spirit is worshipped by more than 2.2 billion people, O’Reilly said in a statement released by Holt. “His teachings, his legacy, his life as a flesh-and-blood man and his death created the world in which we live.”

This is a riot:

Candy Crowley moderating presidential debate

Candy Crowley moderating presidential debate

Dylan Byers reported at Politico last night that former RNC chairman and current co-chair of the presidential debate commission Frank Farenkopf regrets allowing CNN’s Candy Crowley to moderate the second presidential debate between Obama and Romney.

Why, you ask?

Crowley, who moderated the second, town-hall-style debate, drew heavy fire from conservatives for challenging Mitt Romney after he suggested that President Obama had not called the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, “acts of terror.”

According to an agreement between the Obama and Romney campaigns, the moderator of the town hall debate was to refrain from asking questions or participating in the debate. Crowley had promised to defy that agreement even before the debate started.

Give me a break! Farenkopf was upset because Candy told the truth. Does anyone really believe he would have objected if she had been backing up something Romney said?

Soledad O'Brien

Soledad O’Brien

In other CNN news, The New York Post reported yesterday that Soledad O’Brien is leaving the network and {ugh!} Erin Burnett will be moved into the morning spot.

We’re told award-winning journalist O’Brien has indicated she is ready to leave after she was initially promised a plum prime-time slot, but that role has so far failed to materialize. A source tells us: “The deal to move Erin to the morning alongside Chris Cuomo is basically done. Soledad had been told she’d get a prime-time slot, but that hasn’t yet happened, and now she is telling friends she is likely to leave.”

What is the deal with CNN and that airhead Erin Burnett? She’s been all over the network lately–even getting foreign assignments that she’s completely unqualified for. Frankly, she’s unqualified to report anything other than lightweight feature stories where she just reads off a teleprompter.

Other reactions:

The Atlantic Wire: Soledad O’Brien Is Not a Part of Jeff Zucker’s Vision for CNN

It looks like one of CNN’s most liked stars won’t fit at the burgeoning home of poop-cruise story torture and soft morning news — this is new president Jeff Zucker’s CNN, and Soledad O’Brien is not it….

If you’re a fan of Starting Point, you can take some solace in that Page Six’s run-up to Zucker’s changes hasn’t come to complete fruition… yet. a tiny bit solace in that some some of Page Six’s revelations haven’t happened … yet. They outlined the new morning shift late last month, although Cuomo hasn’t moved from his co-hosting gig during primetime breaking-news events like the Christopher Dorner manhunt … yet. That whole Ann-Curry-to-CNN-primetime rumor from December still hasn’t been worked out … yet. And — who knows? — this could light the fire to get CNN execs talking (probably to Page Six) about keeping O’Brien in primetime after all. Last time we checked, even shifting Curry to the 10 o’clock hour would leave one spot open — for O’Brien or another new splashy hire from Zucker … or, you know, more Anderson Cooper.

Erin Burnett

Erin Burnett

Jezebel: Oh Crap: Soledad O’Brien Is Rumored to Be Pushed Out at CNN.

As a wise person once said, “If you are a dumbass, it’s probably a bad idea to agree to be interviewed by Soledad O’Brien.” The anchor is a whip-smart bulldog who never backs down, who schools fools and fact checks John Sununu. Unfortunately, the buzz is that she’s getting the boot at CNN….

While some journalists are comfortable taking a break from the hard stuff and embracing the softer side of news (looking at you, Peabody Award-winning Hoda Kotb), O’Brien is not that kind of reporter. If you’re seen her deal with Michelle Bachman or argue with Rudy Giuliani, you know that a cushy gig like Today would not be right.

Those are my recommended reads for this morning. Now it’s your turn to share your links. I promise to click on every one!  Have a great day everyone!


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Last night I wrote about Mitt Romney’s claim that he “longed” to serve in Vietnam, but instead sacrificed his fondest dream by living in France for the war years. But he wasn’t always averse to wearing a uniform. When he was in prep school at Cranbrook, he once played a “prank” in which he impersonated a police officer and stopped a car in which four of his “friends” were out on a double date.

But until I read this piece by Joe Conason, I had no idea that Romney had repeatedly dressed as a Michigan state trooper even when he was a student at Stanford.

According to Robin Madden, one of Romney’s Stanford classmates, Romney once showed him a state trooper’s uniform and said he’d gotten it from his father George Romney, who was then Governor of Michigan. Madden told Conason:

“He told us that he had gotten the uniform from his father,” George Romney, then the Governor of Michigan, whose security detail was staffed by uniformed troopers. “He told us that he was using it to pull over drivers on the road. He also had a red flashing light that he would attach to the top of his white Rambler.”

In Madden’s recollection, confirmed by his wife Susan, who also attended Stanford during those years, “we thought it was all pretty weird. We all thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty creepy.’ And after that, we didn’t have much interaction with him,” although both Madden and Romney were prep school boys living in the same dorm, called Rinconada.

Is there no end to this man’s weirdness? Just one more Romney story and then I’ll move on to something else. The New York Times has a front page story today on Romney’s neighbors in La Jolla and how annoyed they are by him.

ON Dunemere Drive, it seems as if just about everyone has a gripe against the owners of No. 311.

The elderly woman next door complains that her car is constantly boxed into her driveway. A few houses over, a gay couple grumbles that their beloved ocean views are in jeopardy. And down the street, a widow grouses that her children’s favorite dog-walking route has been disrupted.

Bellyaching over the arrival of an irritating new neighbor is a suburban cliché, as elemental to the life on America’s Wisteria Lanes as fastidiously edged lawns and Sunday afternoon barbecues.

But here in La Jolla, a wealthy coast-hugging enclave of San Diego, the ordinary resident at the end of the block is no ordinary neighbor.

He is Mitt Romney.

The biggest complaints seem to be about the Romney’s plans to turn their beachfront home into a giant “McMansion. The article says that the Romneys haven’t asked any of the neighbors over to their house, but Ann and Mitt do take walks and interact people they see along the way.

Mr. Romney and his wife take regular walks around La Jolla, exchanging pleasantries with fellow strollers and occasionally enforcing the law. A young man in town recalled that Mr. Romney confronted him as he smoked marijuana and drank on the beach last summer, demanding that he stop.

The issue appears to be a recurring nuisance for the Romneys. Mr. Quint, who lives on the waterfront near Mr. Romney, said that a police officer had asked him, on a weekend when the candidate was in town, to report any pot smoking on the beach. The officer explained to him that “your neighbors have complained,” Mr. Quint recalled. “He was pretty clear that it was the Romneys.”

I hope our libertarian readers are paying attention.

The Washington Post reports that there has been another massacre in Syria.

Two activists in Hama said Wednesday that at least 30 people, and possibly many more, had been killed in Qubair, northwest of Hama, after the militias known as the shabiha raided the village. Government forces had blocked roads leading to the village and prevented activists from gathering evidence of the killings, they said.

But one of the activists, Asem Abu Mohammed, said he had received frantic calls for help from people in the village starting in the late afternoon.

Another activist, Mousab al-Hamadi, said people in the village told him that many women and children were among those hacked to death with knives by the militiamen.

Also at the WaPo, there is an interesting graphic piece: Ray Bradbury: 10 of his most prescient predictions. Bradbury apparently foresaw earbuds, Facebook, ATM’s, and E-books!

This story is a couple of days old, but did you hear about the hundreds of mormons and ex-mormons who participated in Salt Lake City’s gay pride march?

They came in suits and skirts, and they drew tears and cheers.

More than 300 current and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated in the Utah Gay Pride Parade on Sunday as part of a group called Mormons Building Bridges.

“I haven’t recognized them as equals,” one marcher, Emily Vandyke, 50, told the Salt Lake Tribune. “They have been invisible to me.”

She carried a sign with words from a Mormon children’s song: “I’ll walk with you, I’ll talk with you. That’s how I’ll show my love for you.”

It’s a start, anyway.

Another judge has ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

The law was challenged by 83-year-old Edith “Edie” Windsor after the federal government failed to recognize her marriage to her partner Thea Spyer, after Spyer’s death in 2009. Her marriage was recognized by the state of New York.

The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted in 1996 and Section 3 of the law, which the case challenged, defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. It prohibited legally married same sex couples from receiving federal benefits.

“Thea and I shared our lives together for 44 years, and I miss her each and every day,” said Windsor. “It’s thrilling to have a court finally recognize how unfair it is for the government to have treated us as though we were strangers.”

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara S. Jones of the Southern District of New York ruled the statue violated the constitution’s guarantee of equal protection because it discriminated against married same sex couples.

This next one is pretty funny: Senator Asks DOJ to Investigate SWAT-ting Attacks on Conservative Bloggers

A number of conservative bloggers allege they have been targeted through the use of harassment tactics such as SWAT-ting (fooling 911 operators into sending emergency teams to their homes), in retaliation for posts they have written, and now Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., has stepped into the matter. He has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to investigate the SWAT-ting cases to see if federal laws have been violated.

Who are these bloggers and when were that “SWAT-ted?” Are there videos? Inquiring minds want to see them.

ABC News spoke with two prominent conservative bloggers who were victims of SWAT-ting, a hoax tactic used by some hackers to infiltrate a victim’s phone system, often through voice over IP (VOIP) technology to make calls appear as if they are coming from a residence. The perpetrators call police to report a violent crime at that home to which the police respond, sometimes with SWAT teams.

And ABC names names! Victim 1: Patrick Frey AKA Patterico. Victim 2: Erick Erickson of Red State and CNN fame. Victim 3: Robert Stacy McCain of “The Other McCain.” Victim 4: Ali Akbar, whoever that is. Other victims are referred to but not named. And the culprit? The mysterious Brett Kimberlin, whom the wingers think is a prominent “progressive.”

Brett Kimberlin, a man who was convicted of a series of bombings in Speedway, Indiana in the 1980s and made headlines in 1988 when he claimed to have once sold marijuana to then-vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle….

Kimberlin, who is now the director of a non-profit organization called Justice Through Music, told ABC News that he did not commit or ask anyone to conduct the SWAT-ting hoaxes that were perpetrated against Erickson and Frey.

“Of course not, it’s ridiculous. It’s totally irresponsible for them to even say this,” Kimberlin told ABC News. “There is no truth to anything about the SWAT-ting.”

This is so bizarre. I read all about it at Cannonfire ages ago. I can’t believe ABC News bought into this nonsense.

In crime news, someone mailed body parts to two schools in Vancouver. Naturally, the prime suspect is Luka Rocco Magnotta.

St. George’s senior school student Trevor Leung was working on his computer Tuesday afternoon when he saw the Yahoo news alert: a package of human remains had been discovered in the mail room at the nearby St. George’s junior school.

Leung didn’t know then that it was a human foot. Or that earlier, at about

1 p.m., a package containing a hand had been opened by a staff member at another Vancouver school, False Creek elementary.

By then, investigators in Montreal and Vancouver were on the phone, trying to establish whether the body parts were linked to the murder case involving former Canadian porn actor Luka Rocco Magnotta.

Ugh! Thank goodness that monster is behind bars for now.

George Zimmerman won’t have a second bail hearing until June 29, so he’ll be behind bars for awhile also. The article says that Attorney Mark O’Mara claims that Zimmerman “has learned his lesson.” I guess that will be up to the judge to determine.

Finally, a bit of provincial sports news: The aging Boston Celtics have LeBron James and the Miami Heat on the ropes in the NBA Playoffs.

Boston is the first road team in the series to win just as the Oklahoma City Thunder did in taking a 3-2 Western series lead. Both are trying to to rally from 2-0 deficits, never done in the same conference finals round.

No two teams have ever come back from 2-0 deficits in the same year in the conference finals. The only time it has happened twice during the same stage was 2005, when the Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks topped the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets in the first round.

“We’re just hanging in there and I tell (them), ‘Hang in, hang in there, don’t overreact,’ ” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

Game 6 in the East finals is Thursday in Boston (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Le Bron is such a choker. He’s loaded with talent but just doesn’t have the necessary fire in the belly.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

There was another Republican debate last night, and it may actually be the last one! We live blogged it here. I watched the debate and all it did was remind me how distasteful–actually repulsive–every one of these candidates is. Romney is the slimiest, liar ever; Gingrich is nothing but a grifter; Ron Paul is a whiny old geezer; and Santorum is a sanctimonious, preachy theocrat. After this election, the Republican Party may be truly dead. It’s already brain dead.

Here are a few reactions to the debate for those who are interested.

Paul Begala: Romney Wins the battle, but it may lose him the war.

Andrew Sullivan: The winner’s in the White House.

TPM: Rick’s rough night.

Hot Air: Tough night for Santorum

In state legislatures around the country women are fighting back against the Republican war on women. Yesterday, Governor Bob O’Donnell of Virginia was forced to back down on the anti-woman state-sanctioned rape law that he had originally said he’d sign. In Georgia, (via Charlie Pierce), state rep. Yasmin Neal

was the driving force behind a brilliant bill filed yesterday that would outlaw vasectomies in Georgia on anti-abortion grounds — namely, that the lives of millions of potential “persons” were snuffed out because of the vas deferens between the way we see men as reproductive critters and the way we see women as reproductive critters:

Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies,” said Rep. Yasmin Neal, D-Riverdale, author of the Democrats’ bill. “It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States.”

Now some Democrats are fighting back at the federal level.

The House Judiciary Committee recently passed a bill that would ban selective abortions based on race or gender by a 20-13 vote. The biggest hurdle to passage was the bill’s name.

Democrats proposed calling the bill “The Ronald Reagan Impose Your Beliefs on a Woman’s Womb Act” and “The Tea Party Determines What Rights a Woman Has Act.”

The legislation (H.R. 3541), sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), was originally entitled the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Non-discrimination Act of 2011.” But after objections by committee Democrats and an amendment by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the bill, which passed on Feb. 16, was changed to the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act (PRENDA) during mark-up sessions last week.

Thirteen Democrats voted against the measure claiming it violated the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, and would “make it more difficult for women of color to obtain the basic reproductive health care services.”

The GLBT community is fighting back against the GOP haters too. Not too long ago, an anti-gay Tennessee state legislator was asked by the owner, Martha Boggs to leave her restaurant because of his bigoted public statements. Today, Antonio a gay hairdresser in Santa Fe, said he will no longer cut Republican New Mexico governor Susannah Martinez’s hair. Even {gasp!} Alan Simpson is getting in on the act. He says Rick Santorum is “rigid and a homophobic.”

Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wy.) weighed in on the Republican presidential primary on Wednesday, calling Rick Santorum “rigid and a homophobic.”

In an interview with CBS News’ Bob Schieffer, Simpson faulted the Republican field for making issues like same-sex marriage and reproductive rights central to their platforms, warning that they would lose favor with voters if the conversation does not change.

“I am convinced that if you get into these social issues and just stay in there about abortion and homosexuality and even mental health they bring up, somehow they’re going to take us all to Alaska and float us out in the Bering Sea or something,” said Simpson, long known for colorful commentary. “We won’t have a prayer.”

He continued, “I watch Republicans, they give each other the saliva test of purity, and then they lose and they bitch for four years.”

Simpson supports Romney, who also claims to be homophobic, anti-choice, and anti-birth control. Oh well….

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and one of those mainline Protestant churches that Rick Santorum thinks have been taken over by Satan offered drive-thru ashes! Someone needs to tell Rick! It’s the Devil’s work!!

Over the weekend, Newt Gingrich tried to look macho by claiming “you can’t put a gun rack on a Chevy Volt!” But lots of people have stepped forward to prove him wrong.

A GM exec came forward to prove Newt was incorrect.

Chevrolet executive Selim Bingol fired back this morning via GM’s new blog, called BTW:

“Newt Gingrich has taken up saying that ‘You can’t put a gun rack on a Volt.’ That’s like saying ‘You can’t put training wheels on a Harley.’ Actually, you can. But the real question is ‘Why would you?’ In both examples:

It looks weird,

It doesn’t work very well, and

There are better places for gun racks and training wheels — pickup trucks and little Schwinns, respectively.

Seriously, when is the last time you saw a gun rack in ANY sedan?”

OK, I know I haven’t posted much serious news this morning. I guess I’m just punch drunk from that debate last night. We did get a bit of good news last night though. A federal judge in California–a Bush appointee yet–found the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

You may recall that Martha Coakley got the ball rolling in Massachusetts in 2010, convincing the Obama administration to stop defending the law. Yesterday’s decision is the third time a court has called DOMA unconstitutional

The New York Times has an interview with the mother of Marie Colvin, who was killed in Syria yesterday. Colvin was majoring in anthropology at Yale in the late 1970s,

but took a course with the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Hersey. She also started writing for The Yale Daily News “and decided to be a journalist,” her mother said.

On Wednesday, Marie Colvin, 56, a veteran correspondent for The Sunday Times of London, was killed as Syrian forces shelled the city of Homs. She was working in a makeshift media center that was destroyed in the assault. A French photographer, Rémi Ochlik, was also killed.

At her family’s split-level home on Long Island, the telephone rang at 5 a.m. It was so early, her mother said, that “I knew it was something terrible.”

“She was supposed to leave Syria” on Wednesday, Ms. Colvin said. “Her editor told me he called her yesterday and said it was getting too dangerous and they wanted to take her out. She said she was doing a story and she wanted to finish it and it was important and she would come out” on Wednesday.

Photojournalist Remi Olchlik was also killed in Syria yesterday

Remi Ochlik didn’t waste any time celebrating after he won one of photojournalism’s most prestigious prizes two weeks ago. Hours later, he was on a plane headed back to work in Middle East danger zones, a friend recalled.

On Wednesday, the promising 28-year-old French photographer was dead, killed in a barrage of gunfire and shelling by government forces in Homs, Syria, where he had arrived just the night before….

Colleagues remembered Ochlik as careful and experienced despite his young age, but driven to cover a string of conflicts that won him a reputation as one of the world’s best young photojournalists.

At just 20 years old, Ochlik got his professional start covering riots in Haiti in 2004. The next year he set up photo agency IP3 Press and covered sports, society and politics. When the “Arab Spring” erupted last year, Ochlik was all over it: In Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, and most recently, Syria.

That’s it for me this morning. What are you reading and blogging about?