Sunday, March 31, 2013

Gay Marriage and the Supreme Court II

So where are we after the oral arguments?

If you listen to the media, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be declared unconstitutional and either the defenders of Prop 8 will be declared to have no standing or the court will let the appellate court decision stand.

I agree on DOMA. The court will strike it down and leave the definition of who's married to the states. I also believe they will leave the definition of who can marry to the states. This will allow both sides to declare victory.

As for Prop 8, I still think the court is going to revert back to the California Supreme Court decision and leave Prop 8 in place. If for some reason they decide not to do that, they'll declare the supporters to have no standing which would leave Prop 8 overturned but would not force the court to address the larger issues.

Again this would allow both sides to declare victory as the court would not be forced to resolve the question of Gay Marriage protection under the 14th Amendment.

The Religious Right is going absolutely off the deep end over this issue and are howling bloody murder that the mainstream media is essentially leading a propaganda campaign in favor of Gay Marriage.

Yeah, they're right about that one. It's called editorializing and newspapers, radio stations and TV stations tend to do that. It's part of the media charter to inform the electorate.

This court is not ready to make a sweeping decision in favor of Gay Marriage but I don't think Roberts is going to tempt his place in history by attempting to roll back the clock either. I still think it will be a compromise that satisfies no one.

Friday, March 29, 2013

North Korea

Those people are clearly crazy. That's what worries me.

I don't think Iran is a threat to anybody because they're smart enough to realize starting a fight with the West would be suicidal. North Korea, on the other hand, may not be smart enough.

The North Koreans may very well be delusional or at least some of them may be. The big question is whether there is a rational element that might step in before things go beyond the point of no return.

I'm not sure what this Kim Jong Un is thinking but things might be getting a little out of hand.

I'm sure the Chinese are jumping all over Un trying to keep him from doing something stupid but it's not clear they have much control over this nut job.

This situation could get tense.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In the meantime, over on Saturn...

Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council (FRC), is warning of dire consequences if the court goes too far on the Gay Marriage question. According to Perkins  "...if you get government out of whack with where the people are and it goes too far, you create revolution. I think you could see a social and cultural revolution if the court goes too far on this."

A couple of observations.

First, yo Tony, have you been keeping up with the latest polls? The majority now supports Gay Marriage and opponents are, literally, dying off. The younger you are, the more likely you are to support marriage equality.

There's that bubble of delusion again. Conservatives simply do not seem to be able to differentiate between reality and what they want to believe is reality.

Granted, there is a significant regional variation here. The South would probably go bonkers but the rest of the country, including the generally practical Midwest, would probably simply shrug and move on.

The second point is there's almost no chance of a broad, sweeping decision here. I still expect a narrow compromise sort of decision. I don't think this court has the courage to do anything else.

A "social and cultural revolution" indeed. I seriously wonder what planet Perkins lives on?

Update on Oral Arguments

Based upon the Prop 8 oral arguments and questions from the judges, Prop 8 may be in more trouble than I thought.

There is a question as to whether the proponents of Prop 8 have legal standing to defend it. Roberts in particular appears to be showing doubt that they do.

A ruling that Prop 8 proponents have no standing would, I believe, leave the circuit court ruling in place and Prop 8 would fall.

I found it amusing that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out to the attorney defending Prop 8 that he was relying on case from 1971 when homosexual activity was still mostly illegal.

Those of us in the real world find that bizarre but conservatives, in their bubble, probably don't. It must be terrifying for them when reality finally comes crashing in.

Gay Marriage and the Supreme Court

The SCOTUS is hearing oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8. Given the current make-up of the court, I'm more than a tad nervous about what's about to happen.

Ultimately I think everything hinges upon Chief Justice John Roberts and his concern about how his court will be viewed by history.

The correct thing to do is to declare that Gay Marriage, like interracial marriage, is a clear extension of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. That would invalidate DOMA, Prop 8 and every law and state constitutional amendment declaring marriage as between one man and one woman in the country.

There isn't a snow ball's chance in hell of that happening.

At the other extreme would be to uphold DOMA despite the fact that marriage, based upon the 10th Amendment, should be the sole province of the states, and vacate the federal court decisions on Prop 8 leaving the California Supreme Court's acceptance of the amendment in place.

I don't really expect that to happen either.

I expect a split decision as they say. I don't see how the court can uphold DOMA. I suspect they will rule that the federal government has to respect the individual state's definition of who's married. This also protects the most conservative states from a federal law legalizing Gay Marriage that might be considered down the road.

On Prop 8 I expect the circuit court and Judge Walker's decisions to be vacated and the decision of the California Supreme Court to be upheld. That would leave Prop 8 in place and set the stage for another ballot battle in California to repeal Prop 8 sometime in the not too distant future.

Most knowledgeable observers expect the issue to come down to the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Luckily for me I'm not considered knowledgeable so I can be creative.

No, seriously, I think it's safe to bet that Scalia and Thomas are going to vote (1) to uphold DOMA and (2) to reinstate Prop 8. Justice Samuel Alito will also most likely vote with Scalia and Thomas.

On the other side of the aisle justices Ginsburg and Breyer will most likely vote (1) to strike down DOMA and (2) let one of the federal court decisions on Prop 8 stand.

Kagan and Sotomeyer will probably go with Ginsburg and Breyer but only if the rulings are very narrow. I'm especially suspicious of Sotomeyer. I wouldn't be surprised if she balked here especially on the Prop 8 question.

I think Kennedy is going to lean right on this one and isn't going to be the savior Gay Marriage proponents are hoping for.

If anyone is going to carry that torch, it might be Roberts because he recognizes that history is on the side of Gay Marriage.

I think the compromise is let the 10th Amendment and states rights rule supreme. That would mean the overturning of DOMA but the reinstitution of Prop 8.

I'm thinking DOMA goes down by a 5-4 vote with Roberts, and not Kennedy, casting the deciding vote. Prop 8 gets reinstated by a 6-3, or perhaps even 7-2, vote depending upon where Kagan falls.

Both sides can then declare victory and we can get ready for the next big California vote. This time the electorate will vote to repeal Prop 8 so, ultimately, the forces of darkness will lose again but only after much pain and gnashing of teeth.

Conservatives, as usual, are fighting a losing battle here against the tide of history. Their defeat is certain. The only questions are how long will it take and what will be the cost.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Bracket

For the first time in my life I filled out an NCAA tournament bracket.

I'd never done it before because I felt I didn't know enough about college basketball. I sure was right.

At the moment I'm sitting at 27 out of 43 correct. That puts me in 2,113,164th place our of 3,329,637. That's only the 36th percentile.

Hey, but all of my final four teams are still alive. What really hurt me was Wisconsin. I was banking on the Badgers to make a run and they got knocked out by Ole Miss in the 1st round. I also had Georgetown going into the final eight and they lost to FGCU in the 1st round and that was supposed to be a easy one.

The top score so far is 39 out of 43. He called Old Miss and Harvard as well?!

It's just a bit of harmless fun as long as no money is involved. But some folks do seem to get really obsessed over the whole thing.

Anyway, my final four are Louisville, Ohio St., Kansas and Indiana. I've got Louisville topping Kansas in the final. Go Cardinals!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sarah Palin at CPAC

In a speech at CPAC, Sarah Palin told fellow Republicans "Now is the time to furlough the consultants, and tune out the pollsters, send the focus groups home, and toss the political scripts, because If we truly know what we believe, we don't need professionals to tell us."

This is typical neo-conservative arrogance and loss of touch with reality.

It doesn't matter what the facts are, we know what we believe and, if we believe it, it must be true and everyone else must also believe it.

Here's the problem lady, much, not all but much, of what conservatives "believe" is just flat out not true and, as the electorate becomes better educated and more sophisticated, it KNOWS it's not true.

Abortion is not murder; homosexuality is not a choice and it's not evil; guns kill people when the wrong people have them; health care in America sucks unless you have means to afford it; Social Security is NOT charity, it's been earned; Medicare isn't charity either; Evolution really is correct; the US WASN'T founded as a Christian nation; tax cuts for the rich DO NOT grow the economy; global warming is really happening; universities and public schools aren't liberal indoctrination centers; teachers really do work hard and unions are generally good things.

The modern conservative movement is bogged down is a quagmire of WRONG ideas that is literally choking the life out of the traditional good fiscal responsibility ideas that are its historical foundation.

Here's an idea, ditch the right wing nuts and return to the conservative roots of social moderation paired with fiscal responsibility. Until that happens I can't take conservatives or the Republican Party seriously.

As for Ms. Palin, will someone please just make her go away.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rob Portman Reverses on Gay Marriage

Rob Portman, the Republican senator from Ohio that I thought was sure to be the Republican VP nominee, has announced his support for Gay Marriage.

This is a reversal of a long standing position by Portman opposed to Gay Marriage. Why you ask? Well, according to Portman, it was due to a long thoughtful process after his son announced that he was gay.

In an op-ed for the Columbus dispatch Portman wrote “I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn't deny them the opportunity to get married."

It's amazing how that works out when "gay" takes on a face and a personality rather than being a conservative boogey-man.

I give Portman credit for doing the right thing. Just six months ago I was saying he epitomized the Republican position that gays should be ostracized and now this happens. It takes a strong man to conquer his own prejudices.

Do you hear the walls crumbling?

 Unfortunately the Supreme Court can re-establish all the walls with its DOMA and Proposition 8 decisions. Here's hoping the judges take a lesson from Rob Portman and do the right thing also.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Please Check the Facts

Everyone, including Republicans, Conservatives and Christians, are entitled to their opinion. But they are NOT entitled to their own facts.

Representative Randy Hultgren (R-IL) epitomizes the Conservative Republican in a bubble with his own set of facts that have no relation to reality.

Hultgren is pushing a bill to divert $110 million a year over the next five years from comprehensive sex education programs to programs that teach abstinence only.

His rationale for this is that programs pushing abstinence only until marriage curriculums have "incredible success records."

This is a statement of fact, not of opinion, and it's just flat out not true. Studies have consistently demonstrated that comprehensive sex education works better than abstinence only education.

A study by the University of Washington showed that students that had some sort of comprehensive sex education were 60% less likely to get pregnant or make someone pregnant.

In the meantime, on the other side of the aisle, a 2007 federal study on Abstinence Only Programs found that they had no impact on teen pregnancy.

Like I've said before, it's not the "Abstinence" part of the program that's the problem, it's the "Only" part. Yes, abstinence should be stressed but it's also useful to insure there is an understanding of the broader picture and why abstinence is so critical.

I continue to be amazed at how conservatives just make stuff up to make themselves feel good or justify their opinions or actions.

Pope Francis I

Much to my surprise the Cardinals have elected a non-European pope.

The newly elected pontiff, Francis I, is Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina and he's a Jesuit to boot.

The election went surprisingly fast. So fast in fact that one has to wonder whether the whole affair, resignation and election, wasn't part of some sort of pre-negotiated plan.

No, I have no evidence to support that conjecture and I'm sure it's simply my natural paranoia coming to the surface.

On the down side the man is 76 years old. That means he was born prior to World War II so I wouldn't expect any real modern ideas from him.

In 2010 he vehemently opposed the legalization of Gay Marriage in Argentina calling it a “destructive attack on God’s plan.”

He's also apparently opposed to abortion access and birth control so I wouldn't expect the church to be moving out of the 14th century anytime soon.

In other words what we have here is Benedict XVI redux as a lot of Vatican watchers predicted.

The Boy Scout's Gay Survey

As it continues its struggle over whether to reverse a long standing policy denying gay leaders and gay scouts membership, the Boy Scouts of America has released a survey to 1.4 million volunteers, parents of scouts and alumni.

The survey, created by a third party, identifies realistic scenarios that may be encountered if the scouts lift their ban. The survey strikes me as fair, even handed and realistic. Here are the six questions along with how I would answer them and why.

Bob is 15 years old, and the only openly gay Scout in a Boy Scout troop. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the troop leader to allow Bob to tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight camping trip?

It's acceptable unless the heterosexual boy objects. What you wouldn't allow is two gay 15 year olds to share a tent just like you wouldn't allow a 15 year old boy and a 15 year old girl to share a tent.

Tom started in the program as a Tiger Cub, and finished every requirement for the Eagle Scout Award at 16 years of age. At his board of review Tom reveals that he is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the review board to deny his Eagle Scout award based on that admission?

It's unacceptable. Tom did the work and he deserves the award that he worked for.

A gay male troop leader, along with another adult leader, is taking a group of boys on a camping trip following the youth protection guidelines of two-deep leadership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the gay adult leader to take adolescent boys on an overnight camping trip?

It's acceptable. No one should be the lone adult on an overnight camping trip for many, many reasons including simple propriety and safety. As long as there is a second adult along, I see no problem with this. The sexual orientations of the adults strikes me as irrelevant.
A troop is chartered by an organization that does not believe homosexuality is wrong and allows gays to be ministers. The youth minister traditionally serves as the Scoutmaster for the troop. The congregation hires a youth minister who is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this youth minister to serve as the Scoutmaster? 

It's acceptable. Why the hell would it be unacceptable under these conditions?

Johnny, a first grade boy, has joined Tiger Cubs with his friends. Johnny’s friends and their parents unanimously nominate Johnny’s mom, who is known by them to be lesbian, to be the den leader. Johnny’s pack is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith does not teach that homosexuality is wrong. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for his mother to serve as a den leader for his Cub Scout den?

It's acceptable. Again, why the hell would it not be acceptable?

David, a Boy Scout, believes that homosexuality is wrong. His troop is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith also teaches that homosexuality is wrong. Steve, an openly gay youth, applies to be a member in the troop and is denied membership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this troop to deny Steve membership in their troop?

It's acceptable. The troop should be allowed to remain true to their own beliefs regardless of how misguided some of us may believe those beliefs to be.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Will of God is not Entirely Clear

That's what Cardinal Francis George of Chicago says about the upcoming conclave to elect a new pope.

Let me see if I've got this straight. The "all powerful creator of the universe" has not made his will clear to the Cardinal electors.

That sort of implies to me that either (a) he doesn't care or (b) he doesn't exist. Your choice Mr. Cardinal. Personally I'm going with option (b).

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Darwin's Conversion

A story circulated by a certain Lady Hope claimed that Charles Darwin, shortly before his death, renounced evolution and died a Christian.

The beyond bat shit crazy creationist sites, and extremely conservative fundamentalist groups, tend to accept the story as true. The run of the mill bat shit crazy creationist site Answers in Genesis rejects it as unlikely.

Both Darwin's son and daughter reject the story and say flat out that it is not true and a fabrication by the devout Christian Lady Hope. Wow, another case of Christian dishonesty. Is anything they ever say true?

Personally I don't know if Darwin rejected evolution or not. I wasn't at Darwin's death bed but I'm inclined to believe his son and daughter rather then the woman with an ulterior motive, Lady Hope.

But it really doesn't matter. Even if Darwin had converted and rejected all of his work as wrong, it's irrelevent. Science is not based upon authorities but evidence. Once Darwin let the genie out of the lamp so to speak, he no longer had any control over the direction things would take.

You can't undo scientific discoveries once those discoveries become widely known.

The Theory of Evolution will stand as long as the evidence continues to bear it out and the evidence has born it out for more than 150 of the most scientifically productive years in human history.

Monday, March 04, 2013


I've been retired for two days and, basically, this sucks.

I'm bored already. I've got two or three irons in the fire but when no real money is involved, things can move at a glacial pace.

I feel like a rudderless ship.

Ok, enough with the self pity. Onward and upward as they say.