Friday Reads

images (1)It’s the Labor Day weekend which usually puts people in the mood for autumn!

In New Orleans, tis the season of Southern Decadence!  I imagine the Kim Davis costumes will be everywhere!  I’ve already seen a tremendous number of her face photoshopped onto an orange jumpsuit with various members of the cast of Orange is the New Black. My guess is there will be plenty of that in the flesh on Bourbon Street this weekend.  She’s in jail but her staff is putting out marriage licenses for all couples while she stews in her martyr soup.

When the Rowan County Courthouse opened for business Friday, deputy clerk Brian Mason was waiting at the front counter, behind a sign reading: “Marriage License Deputy.”

James Yates and William Smith Jr. entered the media-filled courthouse shortly after 8 a.m. and began the process of applying for a marriage license. Again.

They had been rejected five times previously, as Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples since the Supreme Court declared in June that gay couples had a constitutional right to wed.

On Thursday, Davis was sent to jail by U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, who also ordered five of the six deputy clerks in the county to begin issuing marriage licenses to all couples. The deputies agreed, under oath.

By 8:15 Friday morning, Yates and Smith — together since 2006 — had finally obtained the elusive $35 license.

Mason, the deputy clerk, congratulated the couple and shook their hands.

Three GLBT couples have now gotten their licenses. It must have been hell as a work place since most of the clerks indicated to the judge they had no problem issuing licenses but were stopped by the self-righteous Davis.  Her husband (who is both #2 and #4 of her marriages) is a piece of work too.

The husband of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis said early Friday that Kim remains in good spirits and is prepared to remain in jail for months.

Joe Davis appeared outside the Rowan County Courthouse, calling U.S. District Judge David Bunning a bully for jailing his wife on Thursday for contempt of court.

“She won’t resign I promise you,” he said. “Until something gives, she’ll be there.”

Joe Davis said he went out to eat with the five deputy clerks who agreed in court Thursday to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He said he anticipates that they will keep their word and has no hard feelings against them despite Kim’s adamant refusal to authorize the forms.

At least two couples plan to return to the Rowan County Courthouse on Friday to request licenses from the five deputy clerks who say they will comply with the court to avoid jail.

imagesThe husband referred to the Bush-appointed Judge as a “butt”.

Joe also had some important words for Judge Bunning, who presided over his wife’s contempt case.

“Bunning cannot bully me, my wife or my son,” Joe Davis said on Friday of the judge, via Louisville television station WDRB. “I taught my son how to stand up for what’s right and what he believes in at any cost. Bunning doesn’t know how to pick on somebody that can handle him. The only thing he knows how to do is to pick up on the weak people.”

As for Judge Bunning, he told the New York Times: “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order. If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.”

autumn-leaves-2-mark-fullerA tell all book about Donald Trump may expose some information that will put the Huckster of Bad Deals in a very bad light.

David Cay Johnston is an author, lecturer, and investigative reporter who has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting who has presided over the board of the non-profit organization Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. His areas of expertise include tax law, accounting, economics, business and finance. He is also an outspoken Progressive whose thoughts and ideas echo those of Bernie Sanders. Since 1988, Johnston has been watching Trump closely. Recently, he came up with a list of questions that would reveal much about the GOP’s “Golden Boy” – assuming Trump would provide frank and forthcoming answers, as he claims to do.

For example, how many of our readers knew that Trump was successfully sued by the Attorney General of New York for running an “illegal educational institution”? Students at “Trump University” paid a whopping $35,000 for “Elite” mentorships – but never even saw their mentor. And here’s a juicy little fact that fans of The Godfather and The Sopranos should appreciate: the contracting firm that constructed Trump Tower was owned by a pair of gentlemen who went by the monikers of “Fat Tony” Salerno and “Big Paul” Castellano.

When it comes to charity, Trump doesn’t even donate to his own foundation. Instead, he donates other people’s money – specifically, those who do business with him.

Can you say, “kickbacks”?

It only gets better: Trump was found guilty in federal court of cheating immigrant workers hired to demolish a multi-story building. He paid them less than $5 per hour under the table. He didn’t even furnish them with hard hats.  Oh, and all that talk from Trump about how he’s a “self-made billionaire”? It turns out that he had a bit of help from the taxpayers of New York. The mayor of NYC at the time, Abe Beame, happened to be good buddies with Donny-boy’s Daddy, Fred Trump. That little connection got Donald a tax abatement on a mid-town Manhattan property (right next door to Grand Central Station) in 1976. That was the old Commodore Hotel, which today is the Grand Hyatt New York. As of 2016, that little deal that his daddy made for him will have cost taxpayers $400 million.

So much for being a “self-made” billionaire.

One of the Donald’s biggest troupes is how he’s made so much money.  Actually, he would be far wealthier had he just put his inheritance into S&P images (2)Index Fund.  I really wish the media would ask him about this little tidbit.

“It takes brains to make millions,” according to the slogan of Donald Trump’s board game. “It takes Trump to make billions.” It appears that’s truer than Trump himself might like to admit. A new analysis suggests that Trump would’ve been a billionaire even if he’d never had a career in real estate, and had instead thrown his father’s inheritance into a index fund that tracked the market. His wealth, in other words, isn’t because of his brains. It’s because he’s a Trump.

In an outstanding piece for National Journal, reporter S.V. Dáte notes that in 1974, the real estate empire of Trump’s father, Fred, was worth about $200 million. Trump is one of five siblings, making his stake at that time worth about $40 million. If someone were to invest $40 million in a S&P 500 index in August 1974, reinvest all dividends, not cash out and have to pay capital gains, and pay nothing in investment fees, he’d wind up with about $3.4 billion come August 2015, according to Don’t Quit Your Day Job’s handy S&P calculator. If one factors in dividend taxes and a fee of 0.15 percent — which is triple Vanguard’s actual fee for an exchange-traded S&P 500 fund — the total only falls to $2.3 billion.

It’s hard to nail down Trump’s precise net worth, but Bloomberg currently puts it at $2.9 billion, while Forbes puts it at $4 billion. So he’s worth about as much as he would’ve been if he had taken $40 million from his dad and thrown it into an index fund.

It takes a massive ego and a whole ton of hubris to suggest he’s actually “made” money given that it’s less than the opportunity cost of doing an mifx3Swinvestment that any one could easily access with a small balance and some stick-to -itness.
Adam B. Schiff, a Democrat from California who is the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and who serves on the Select Committee on Benghazi, is calling on Congress to disband the Benghazi committee. 

Since its formation, the Select Committee on Benghazi has been aimless and slow moving, not knowing what it was looking for or where. It has acted in a deeply partisan way, frequently failing to consult or even to inform Democratic members before taking action, and selectively leaking information to the press. After 16 months and more than $4 million, the committee has gained no additional insight into the attacks in Benghazi. It has nothing new to tell the families of those killed or the American people.

But it does have emails. Lots of emails. Some of them are from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But none of her emails tell us anything of consequence regarding the events of Sept. 11, 2012. They don’t substantiate the bogus theory that the State Department ordered the military to “stand down” or that there wasgun running, or that the secretary somehow interfered with the security provided at the diplomatic facility or annex.

Nor were any of the secretary’s emails marked classified at the time she received them. Some in the intelligence community believe that a subset of them should have been, a conclusion with which the State Department disagrees. That’s not an uncommon clash of views. As the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, I am deeply interested in making sure that all classified information is protected. And yet, as a member of the Select Committee charged with finding out the truth about the attacks, I am appalled at how much we have lost sight of the mission — if indeed that was ever the point.

Whatever their original purpose, the Select Committee’s leaders appear no longer to have any interest in Benghazi, except as the tragic events of that day may be used as a cudgel against the likely Democratic nominee for president.

The committee is solely concerned with damaging her candidacy, searching for something, anything, that can be insinuated against her. With all of the committee’s obsessive focus on Mrs. Clinton, you would think that she was a witness to the killings, instead of half a world away.

There is a refugee crisis around the world as the western world’s imperialist and colonial policies of the last century come home to roost.  I’ve been images (3)following the crisis in Syria and the number of refugees dying on their way to Europe.  Syrians are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met and it’s completely disheartening to see so many die because of our failed Middle East policies.  We already know how Texas and other places have met refugee women and children coming from South American to our country as a result of our failed drug war policies.  How is Europe handling its worst refugee crisis since World War 2?  This depends on the country and the degree to which right wing nationalism still rules the day. Nadia Khomami of the UK Guardian has listed all the signficiant developments at the link.

That site is continually updated and is a good source of information.

So, that’s the three big things that I’ve beeen following. What’s on your blogging and reading list today?



Friday Reads: Welcome to the Jungle

Justice Kennedy delivers opinion in same sex marriage

Justice Kennedy delivers opinion in same sex marriage

How very ironic that it is my day to post and it’s the very day that all my gay friends get access to the one institution that I tell every one I know and love to avoid like a plague.  You can ask my daughters. My first response is that you really don’t have to do this because you’re educated, can make your own life, and you don’t have to continually have your assets, energy, will to live, and dreams drained away from you over time.  Just hang out with him until the inevitable drift to hell becomes obvious.  Please, don’t do it.  It hasn’t worked so far. Just a few months ago, yet another long time, long married friend confessed to me that she–and others she knows–would have the kids and everything else but never do the husband thing again. That’s pretty much where I’m at with an institution designed to make you disappear into chattel v. meal ticket status.

No one can make you happy but you.  That’s basically a head trip. Marriage, however, absolutely gives another person the right to make you miserable in ways that you’d never even dreamed about when you’re lost to bonding hormones.  You can’t ever ever know how to properly enunciate “till death to us part” until you’ve been stuck at least a good 15 -20 years in the institution. Then you realize, it’s pretty much akin to a death row sentence where the things you really wanted to do with your life were left outside the doors.

Bill Murray showed up–seemingly drunk–on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show in May when the nice young gay couple looking to get married that were filmed in  that Hillary Clinton commercial were interviewed.  He pretty much expressed my views exactly.  I really hope you all make a better situation out of it than straight people generally do. Knock yourselves out!  I want nothing to do with any of it!  I frankly think that there’s hope for some change given the rigid expectations that come with an institution that’s generally been defined by really awful stereotypical sex roles and where it may not treated as a purely breeder institution.

So, with you knowing that I am a conscientious objector to the entire institution for any one, I give you the day that marriage equality happened in the USA.  To my knowledge, nobody’s church has crumbled to the ground and no one’s sanctified marriage has been taken away by any angry sky fairy.   This gives legal access to huge numbers of subsidies, tax benefits, and rights that were never available to gay couples before.  For that, I am very happy.  All the spoils that government provides the institution should be available to any one that wants to try to go the distance; especially if they do so with children.

The Supreme Court has given gay couples the right to be married every where in the United States and its territories.  Just think on that one given Scalia, Thomas, and the religious-politico harpies of the the-honeymooners-pow2Republican party.  Teenagers, now is the time to go to law school and become a divorce lawyer.  An entirely new and huge market segment has just opened up. Until then, welcome to the boom in wedding paraphernalia and hoopla.

“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. He was joined in the ruling by the court’s liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

All four of the court’s most conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — dissented and each wrote a separate opinion, saying the court had usurped a power that belongs to the people.

That sums it up and it happened just about the way every one thought it would. Kennedy has always seemed open to the idea that civil marriage was a civil right.  I’m not sure how access to a legal institution basically is a power that belongs to the people, but that appears to be the argument by the court’s hyper religious sour grapes.

Here’s the analysis from SCOTUSBlog.

Putting itself back in the forefront of the gay rights revolution, the Supreme Court ruled by the narrowest margin on Friday that same-sex couples across the nation have an equal right to marry.  The five-to-four decision was based firmly on the Constitution, and thus could be undone only by a formal amendment to the basic document, or a change of mind by a future Supreme Court.  Neither is predictable.

Explicitly refusing to hold off deciding the issue to see how other parts of society may deal with the rising demand for gay acceptance and legitimacy, the Court declared that two clauses in the Fourteenth Amendment mean that a “fundamental right to marry” can no longer be denied because the partners are of the same sex.   It did not create a new right, but opened a long-existing one to those partners.

The ruling was the most important victory in a cultural revolution that began almost exactly forty-six years ago, when patrons of a gay bar — the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village — fought back against a police raid.  The events that began on the night of June 28, 1969, are widely known as the beginning of “gay pride” and an unapologetic campaign for equality.

The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges expressly overruled the Court’s only prior ruling directly on same-sex marriage — a one-line decision in the 1972 case of Baker v. Nelson, declaring that a claim to such marriage did not raise “a substantial question” for the Court to resolve.

Over the last two years, the right to marry has been extended rapidly and widely for gays and lesbians, ultimately expanding the places where they may marry legally to thirty-six states and Washington, D.C., through new laws, court rulings, or voters’ approval.  From a 2003 ruling by the highest state court in Massachusetts allowing same-sex marriage, the movement to gain marital rights had spread from coast to coast, with lawsuits in every state where the right had not yet been recognized.

The decision on Friday will open marriage legally in the remaining fourteen states, and will give new legal protection for those who got married under court rulings that actually could not be considered truly final until the Supreme Court itself had decided the constitutional question.  The decision nullified bans on same-sex marriage as well as bans on official recognition of such marriages performed outside a state.   Both prohibitions, it said, violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection.

6993425243_70e116e576The dissenting justices evidently strongly dissented. Quelle Suprise!

Chief Justice John Roberts not only dissented from the Court’s ruling but also read a summary of his dissent from the bench.  It was the first time that he has done so in his ten Terms on the Court, and it signaled how strongly he disagreed with the Court’s ruling.  Roberts forcefully criticized the majority for side-stepping the democratic process and declaring that same-sex couples have the right to marry when, in his view, such a right “has no basis in the Constitution.”  The Court’s decision, he complained, “orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.”  “Just who,” Roberts laments, “do we think we are?”  The other three Justices echoed Roberts’s sentiments, sometimes in even more strident terms:  Justice Antonin Scalia characterized the decision as a “judicial Putsch” and suggested that, before he signed on to an opinion like the majority’s, “I would hide my head in a bag.”

I always love that historical and religious marriage is always defined by modern terms.  They so overlook the traditional old man and harem mold.  It’s always amazing to me when people that should be smart and well educated just get so hung up in the frames of their bias that they conveniently overlook a huge amount of history that contradicts their halcyon view. Marriage has had many forms over history. The rich and powerful basically treat it as a protocol for more property, power, and strategic alliances. Beyond the breeding requirements, historically, it’s more of an economic and political arrangement with the exceptions of the old common law marriages of the masses.  Most of those were never even registered or recognized by the state. Here’s the typical ancient Greek marriage according to one scholar.

Closely endogamous marriages between uncles and nieces (and sometimes half-siblings), marriages in which women retained almost no property rights or independence and were regularly both physically segregated and violently abused, and a system in which marriage was designed explicitly to increase and safeguard the property of closely related men while encouraging the production of definitely legitimate male heirs to those men through tightly restricting access to their wives.

Scalia was unhinged, as usual.

“‘The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality,'” he quoted from the majority opinion before adding, “Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.”

So, while, I’m just a grumpy pessimist who thinks the entire institution and its subsidies/financial incentives should go away, the 2016 GOP candidates are on their barn burning fatwas.   Which gas bag should I quote first?  Hmmm…. let’s go with the Jebster of love.

“Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.”

Prop8-gay-weddingAh, yes, HIS faith should triumph, every one else’s can go to hell, and if we don’t agree with his faith than were oppressing him.  His brain should explode from this basket of contradiction if it were functional enough to fire a synapse to set off the explosion.

Rubio actually tried the pragmatic dogmatic approach. I’ll be interested in seeing how that flies with the hate groups that now comprise the republican base.

I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman. People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.

“While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.

The most interesting thing about this bit of dogma dancing is that Kennedy rooted the finding in the Constitution which solomonwivesmakes what Rubio said flagrantly out to lunch.  (Is it just me or does Rubio always say things that just are not grounded in the facts on the ground?)  Kennedy carefully crafted the decision in light of a constitutional right.

The first line of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, on the legality of same-sex marriage in the United States, is as breathtaking as it is legalistic.

The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.

There it is, the ruling that gay-marriage advocates and opponents have been waiting for since April when the Court took up the case—but really, for years long before that. There is now a constitutional right for people of the same sex to get married in the United States.

He even crafted the ruling’s logic to follow the precedent of similar constitutional rights.

Second, Kennedy writes, marriage is a distinctive institution: “It supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals.” Here, he points to the Court’s opinion in Griswold v. Connecticut, which affirmed the right of married couples to use birth control. “Same-sex couples have the same right as opposite-sex couples to enjoy intimate association.”

So, my gay friends and family, you have total access to the institution of marriage  in these United States.  Please make it a better arrangement for everyone!

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.

Friday Reads: Best of Times and Worst of Times Edition

ww1-coverI’m frequently heartened by the increasing acceptance of members of the GLBT community and recognition of their civil rights in this country even while I’m dismayed at the outright war on the rights of women and other minorities.  Here’s a few interesting things to think about in terms of GLBT rights and recognizing committed relationships as equal in the eyes of the law.  First up, a great interview  from our great blog friend Joyce Arnold.

You’ve seen the “Gay Marriage Already Won” Time covers. The lesbian couple, or as I’ve heard it described, the “kissing wives” cover (the kissing engaged guys – Russell Hart and Eric LaBonté – were good, too, of course) are Kristen and Sarah Ellis-Henderson. Kristen and Sarah were married in New York in 2011, and have co-authored a memoir, Times Two, Two Women in Love and The Happy Family They Made (Simon & Schuster), released the same year. Kristen is a member of the band, Antigone Rising. All band members are women, out lesbians and in an interview this week, talked about both the band and their music, and their take on that “kissing wives” cover, and LGBT equality in general.

A quick introduction to Antigone Rising. Or perhaps you’re among the many who don’t need an introduction. Either way, follow the link for the complete bio. Short version: in 2005 the band is in “high profile” mode, opening for Rob Thomas, Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. Three years later, changes at the label meant “bankability … yielded to unpredictability.” But with some regrouping, Kristen, founding member, bassist/songwriter; Cathy Henderson, Kristen’s sister, founding member, and lead guitarist; Dena Tauriello, drummer; and Nini Camps, singer/songwriter “coalesced, and the band was readier than ever for the second phase of their career.”


We’ll get to more about the band, their music – including an upcoming EP and a single, That Was the Whiskey, along with some really good stories in the second part of this article, coming tomorrow. First, the “kissing wives” story. I asked Kristen how that came about, that she and wife Sarah ended up on the cover of Time. She began by talking about the memoir the two wrote, Times Two.

Just when you think things are getting much better you hear a story straight out of those horrible old days that the crazy wicked Republican Party is trying to drag us all back into. A Missouri man was arrested at hospital for refusing to leave his very ill gay partner.

A gay man was arrested at a hospital in Missouri this week when he refused to leave the bedside of his partner, and now a restraining order is preventing him from any type of visitation.

Roger Gorley told WDAF that even though he has power of attorney to handle his partner’s affairs, a family member asked him to leave when he visited Research Medical Center in Kansas City on Tuesday.

Gorley said he refused to leave his partner Allen’s bedside, and that’s when security put him in handcuffs and escorted him from the building.

“I was not recognized as being the husband, I wasn’t recognized as being the partner,” Gorley explained.

He said the nurse refused to confirm that the couple shared power of attorney and made medical decision for each other.

“She didn’t even bother to look it up, to check in to it,” the Lee’s Summit resident recalled.

In a 2010 memorandum, President Barack Obama ordered hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding to allow visitation rights for gay and lesbian partners.

For its part, Research Medical Center insisted that it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

“We believe involving the family is an important part of the patient care process,” the hospital said in a statement. “And, the patient`s needs are always our first priority. When anyone becomes disruptive to providing the necessary patient care, we involve our security team to help calm the situation and to protect our patients and staff. If the situation continues to escalate, we have no choice but to request police assistance.”

We need legal protection of all of our rights. I hope a few members of SCOTUS will read this story and understand what exactly is at stake in their upcoming decisions on Prop 8 and DOMA.

While the rights of ethnic and racial minorities has always been in issue, there are some important things occurring right now that will determine who be allowed into this country and who will have the right to call themselves American in our future.  There’s a very important discussion at Democracy Now! on this topic.  We’ve always been a hodgepodge nation of immigrants.  Will we continue to be welcoming to the tired, the weary, and the oppressed in our future?

As tens of thousands rallied on Capitol Hill for humane reform Wednesday, more details emerged on the bipartisan immigration plan being drafted in the Senate. The deal will reportedly require greatly increased surveillance and policing near the U.S.-Mexico border. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. immigration officials would have to certify complete monitoring of the southern U.S. border and a 90 percent success rate in blocking unlawful entry in certain areas. Only then could the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants apply for permanent residency. The process is expected to take at least 10 years. Juan González, Democracy Now! co-host and New York Daily News columnist, calls the looming congressional debate on immigration “a battle over what will America look like in the 21st century.”

AMY GOODMAN: Juan González, co-host on  Democracy Now!and columnist with the  New York Daily News on Wednesday wrote a  piece called “With Much at Stake, Gang of Eight Senators’ Immigration Bill, Due to Be Unveiled Soon, Awaits Uphill Climb.” Juan, talk about what is happening here. You’ve been covering this very closely.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I think the first thing that people have to understand is that what’s at stake here, what this battle—which is going to go on for all the spring and summer and probably into the fall, is really a battle over what will America look like in the 21st century, what will be the—who is legitimately in the country, and who will be legitimately allowed to come into the country over the next several decades.

And it’s not the first kind of battle of this kind. The ’86 immigration reform bill actually was not fully comprehensive. We had a huge battle in the ’60s, 1965; in the 1920s; and then even further back, in the 1880s with the Chinese Exclusion Act, which for 60 years then excluded any kind of immigration of Chinese and other folks from Asia into the country. So, this is one of the many battles we’ve had in American history over the issue of immigration.

And I think the key thing to understand about this proposal, the Gang of Eight proposal, that no one has yet seen a bill. Everyone is talking about the agreements that have been reached, but no one has actually seen the language of the law. And the devil is always in the details when it comes to legislation, so that what we have heard so far about the compromise proposal of the Gang of Eight—and remember, there will be a separate bill adopted in the House of Representatives, which will be undoubtedly far weaker than whatever the Gang of Eight come up with in the Senate, and those have to be then reconciled and then signed into law by the president. So this is the beginning of a long process.

And—but what we do know is that this—even this bill, the so-called—the compromise bill is going to be heavy on border security. It’s going to delay the process by which those who are undocumented in the country will be able to establish their legal status, and even citizenship, a minimum of 10 years. So in the first 10 years, there will be beefed-up border security, more requirements, more spending by the government, an already enormous sum—$17.9 billion was spent last year alone on border security in the United States. That will be increased. And the border has got to be 100 percent under surveillance, according to Congress, and there have to be triggers before anyone can then be moved onto permanent residency status—not citizenship—permanent residency status.

quote-i-seem-to-smell-the-stench-of-appeasement-in-the-air-margaret-thatcher-183801The mainstream media has a total fascination with the idea of legislation crafted by a bipartisan group.  However, today’s congress is held hostage by right wing republicans and any negotiations or ideas of bipartisanship must recognize we’re dealing with terrorists.  There are so many Republicans these days that get elected to government that hate our government that it’s hard for me to understand why we consider it fashionable to negotiate with people that would destroy the very things that we hold dear.  These folks also hate nonchristians, racial minorities, LBTG people, and women that won’t obey their idea of womanly servitude.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in southern states where state’s rights is nothing more than a rallying cry of neoconfederates in the guise of the cult of Ayn. Take Tennessee, Please!!

If you’re worried about where America is heading, look no further than Tennessee. Its lush mountains and verdant rolling countryside belie a mean-spirited public policy that only makes sense if you believe deeply in the anti-collectivist, anti-altruist philosophy of Ayn Rand. It’s what you get when you combine hatred for government with disgust for poor people.

Tennessee starves what little government it has, ranking dead last in per capita tax revenue. To fund its minimalist public sector, it makes sure that low-income residents pay as much as possible through heavily regressive sales taxes, which rank 10th highest among all states as a percent of total tax revenues. (For more detailed data see  here.)

As you would expect, this translates into hard times for its public school systems, which rank 48th in school revenues per student and 45th in teacher salaries. The failure to invest in education also corresponds with poverty: the state has the 40th worst poverty rate (15%) and the 13th highest state  percentage of poor children (26%).

Employment opportunities also are extremely poor for the poor. Only 25% have full-time jobs, 45% are employed part-time, and a whopping 30% have no jobs at all.

So what do you do with all those low-income folks who don’t have decent jobs? You put a good number of them in jail. In fact, only Louisiana, Georgia and New Mexico have  higher jail incarceration rates.

From the perspective of Tennessee legislators, it’s all about providing the proper incentives to motivate the poor. For starters, you make sure that no one could possible live on welfare payments (TANF: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). Although President Clinton’s welfare reform program curtailed how long a family can receive welfare (60 months) and dramatically increased the work requirements, Tennessee set the  maximum family welfare payment at only $185 per month. (That’s how much a top hedge fund manager makes in under one second.) As a result, the Volunteer State ranks 49th in TANF, just above Mississippi ($170).

This is the vision of the future for those holding office under the guise of the Republican Party.  These are the folks Obama wishes to appease.  This are the folks that the east coast media wants to make nice with in the spirit of bipartansanship. Nowhere is the stink of appeasement bipartisanship more apparent than in the Obama budget document that sells out nearly every good, democratic principle of the last 100 years. The WSJ calls it reaching for middle ground.  I call it going way past the middle ground to the fence that divides sanity from right wing hysteria and climbing the fence, going to the other side … and starting negotiations from there.  Obama left the middle ground in the rear view mirror way way back with this budget.

Congressional Republican leaders mostly dismissed the package and described it as a nonstarter because of proposed tax increases. But other Republicans said it contained measures that could show promise.

While the nearly 2,500-page budget package is stuffed with different proposals, including higher taxes on cigarettes and spending on climate-change research, there are a handful of items the White House hopes could be the seeds of a broad deficit-reduction deal later this year.

These include slowing the growth of spending on programs such as Social Security by $130 billion over 10 years by using a different inflation measure for calculating annual cost-of-living increases, and making $370 billion in changes to Medicare through cuts to providers and raising certain fees and premiums. Many Democrats have long objected to cutting future benefits or spending on these programs, and adding them to the White House’s budget infuriated liberals and labor unions.

But the president offered no apologies. “I am willing to make tough choices that may not be popular within my own party, because there can be no sacred cows for either party,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday. At the same time, he said his offer to slow entitlement growth was conditioned on lawmakers agreeing to higher taxes, such as new limits on tax breaks claimed by wealthier Americans—something GOP leaders have recently said they won’t accept.

Since 2011, the White House and Congress have already agreed to roughly $2.5 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. Many Republicans say much more needs to be done, but White House officials say their new budget would bring the total deficit reduction to more than $4 trillion over 10 years.

The minute that you accept the fantasy that the federal budget deficit or debt is the big problem, you’ve already lost the battle for what is right and good in this country.    History may associate this President’s name as the Neville Chamberlain of US economic policy.  You should not look for middle ground with folks that look to the evils of the past for inspiration.  Our country does soundly rejects the vision of becoming Tennessee or Mississippi or South Carolina in election after election.  This includes the President’s re-election.

It’s not about the middle ground.  It’s about the higher ground.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Tuesday Reads: Republicans and Marriage Equality, The Aryan Brotherhood, and Other News


Good Morning!!

I’ve got some kind of virus, and it’s making my brain very fuzzy. For the past three days I’ve been having trouble even staying awake. I think I’m better, but this morning I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for an hour without getting anything written. So I guess I’ll just get started and see what happens.

I guess one of the reasons I’ve been a little stuck is that I’ve been reading about Matt Salmon. Matt is gay and he’s also the son of Arizona Rep. Matthew J. Salmon, who spent yesterday telling the media that–unlike Ohio Sen Rob Portman–having a gay son hasn’t changed his attitudes about gay marriage. From The Washington Post:

In an interview aired over the weekend, Rep. Matt J. Salmon (R-Ariz.) told a local news station that his son’s homosexuality has not led him to change his position on gay marriage.

“I don’t support the gay marriage,” the congressman said. But Salmon emphasized that he loved and respected his son and did not consider homosexuality a choice.

“My son is by far one of the most important people in my life. I love him more than I can say,” an emotional Salmon told 3TV. “It doesn’t mean that I don’t have respect, it doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize with some of the issues. It just means I haven’t evolved to that stage.” [….]

“We respect each others’ opinions and we just know that on certain issues we have to agree to disagree,” the congressman’s son, Matt R. Salmon, told The Post. “I love my father and realize that he can have the opinions that he has, and they might differ from mine, but that doesn’t change the way I feel about him.”

Here’s the video of the interview via Mediaite:

I wasn’t that impressed with Rob Portman’s change of attitude–he realized his own son was gay and then suddenly decided gay marriage was okay. But at least Portman showed some empathy. Salmon sounds just plain cruel.

The younger Matt (father and son have different middle initials-the son is Matt R. Salmon) still supported his father’s run for Congress. His partner is Kent Flake, who is also the second cousin of Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. Rep. Matt J. Salmon and Sen. Jeff Flake are both Mormons.

It’s nice that father and son still have a relationship, but it has to be incredibly painful for Matt to know that his own father disapproves of who you are and stands in the way of your marrying the person you love. According to Think Progress,

Portman clearly coordinated his announcement with his son, Will, in mind. The family released photos of Rob and Will spending time together, Will tweeted his support for his father that day, and last week wrote about how they made the decision together. Salmon has done the opposite, speaking without the consent of his son in an attempt to soften his own anti-gay positions, including past support for banning same-sex marriage and adoption.

I’m not sure how TP knows that Salmon spoke without this son’s consent, but Matt’s family has not been particularly supportive–at least according to an interview he gave to the Arizona New Times in 2010. For further reading, here is Will Portman’s coming out statement at the Yale Daily News.

All of this makes me so sad. Bigotry is so ugly and hurtful, and it’s amazing to me that people who have gone through this pain can still remain Republicans.

In Other News…

Evan Ebel, the man who shot Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements was released from jail because of a “clerical error.” He should have stayed locked up for another four years.

Ebel was on parole from Colorado prisons and was not legally allowed to purchase a weapon. He is believed to have used a gun to kill Clements on March 19 at Clements’ Colorado home. He is also believed to be involved in the death of a Domino’s delivery man, Nathan Leon, in Denver.

Ebel was then pulled over by Texas authorities two days later and engaged in a high-speed chase and gun battle with them. He was shot and died later at a hospital.

Ebel was a member of a “white supremacist gang 211 Crew.” It’s not yet clear if that is relevant to the murders, but coincidentally or not, there have been three recent murders in Texas that may be linked to a white supremacist group, “the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.”

Kaufman County, Texas (CNN) — As state and federal investigators flood this north Texas county searching for clues in the killing of two prosecutors in two months, the 100,000 people who live here can do little but nervously watch, and hope.

“The residents are, I think, astounded,” said Delois Stolusky, who has lived in the county seat of Kaufman for 30 years. “It’s just, one and one make two. You can’t keep from connecting these. And it’s just scary because we have no clue of who did the first shooting. And no clue, of course, yet who did this one. And, so of course our concern is what’s going to happen next.”

Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, died in a shooting at their home over the weekend. Friends discovered their bodies Saturday, nearly two months to the day after someone killed McLelland’s chief felony prosecutor, Mark Hasse, in a daytime shooting outside the county courthouse.

Law enforcement officials have no clues in the shootings, but there are suspicions that the Aryan Brotherhood could be involved.

But McLelland’s office was one of numerous Texas and federal agencies involved in a multi-year investigation that led to the indictment last year of 34 alleged members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, including four of its senior leaders, on racketeering charges.

At the time, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lanny A. Breuer called the indictment a “devastating blow” to the organization, which he said used threats and violence — including murder — against those who violate its rules or pose a threat to the enterprise….

While authorities have not said whether they have linked the deaths of Hasse and McLelland, or the involvement of white supremacists, Texas law enforcement agencies did warn shortly after the November 2012 indictment that there was “credible information” that members of the Aryan Brotherhood were planning to retaliate.

This is very creepy, and after learning about this I was interested to read this piece at The Daily Beast by an African American former prison inmate who understandably chooses to remain anonymous: Why I Fear the Aryan Brotherhood—and You Should, Too. Here’s the introduction. I hope you’ll be interested enough to read the whole thing.

Four people have been killed since the beginning of the year in a series of shootings that appear to be connected to the homegrown jihadists of the Aryan Brotherhood. Mike McLelland, the district attorney of Texas’s Kaufman County, and his wife, Cynthia Woodward, became the latest victims this past weekend. Before that, McLelland’s former colleague Mark Hasse was shot in January. Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements was gunned down in mid-March.

The Brotherhood, also known as The Brand, AB, and One-Two, was formed during the 1960s by a group of white convicts serving time at San Quentin. They allegedly were fed up with white prisoners being victimized by the two predominant gangs, the Black Gorilla Family (BGF) and the Mexican Mafia and decided to form a gang of their own for self-protection. While initially closely associated with Nazism ideologically, many adherents belong to the group for the identity and purpose it provides. The ironclad rule for entrée into the Brotherhood is simple: kill a black or a Hispanic prisoner. The other rule, which is just as ironclad, gave rise to their motto: “Blood In/Blood Out.”

Quitting isn’t an option. There’s only death.

I got up close and personal with members of the Brotherhood more than 20 years ago in Nevada. Due to the relatively sparse population in northern Nevada, the feds didn’t have their own lockup in which to house pretrial detainees, or at least they didn’t back then. So they rented a “range”— a row—of 14 cells in Nevada’s maximum-security prison in Carson City to house defendants going back and forth to Federal Court in nearby Reno.

I have some more reads for you that I’ll give you in link dump style, because otherwise I’ll never be able to finish this post with my brain working so slowly.

According to the Greek Reporter, politicians in Cyprus got special treatment: Cypriot Politicians’ Loans Written Off.

Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider: Russian Businessman Was Offered Chance To Smuggle €1 Million Out Of Cyprus For A €200,000 Fee

The NYT Sunday Magazine had a long article about Oikos University mass murderer One L. Goh: That Other School Shooting.

Barney Frank spoke to the Portland (ME) Press Herald: Social Security ‘entitlement’ deserves funding and respect: We should ensure its solvency by applying the payroll tax to earnings of $250,000 to $400,000.

The New York Times editorialized against cuts to Social Security: Social Security, Present and Future.

Raw Story: New York police sued for pepper-spraying 5-month-old baby

The New York Daily News: NYPD Commish Ray Kelly said ‘stop and frisk’ intended to ‘instill fear’ in blacks and Latinos: State Sen. Eric Adams

National Geographic: Cicadas Coming to U.S. East Coast This Spring. (Once every 17 years.)

Business Insider: Macy’s Accidentally Puts $1,500 Necklace On Sale For $47

Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading and blogging list today. I’m looking forward to clicking on your links!