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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Two Things ...

A bit on historical fiction. One issue there is to the mind-set of people -- hard to imagine really how different it is. Some things stay same (we can tell by reading sources), some things don't. Most movies, e.g., make it feel almost topical. A discussion of "majority rule" in courts. Yes, a supermajority for overruling certain things might make sense. A few states have it. The stereotypical 5/4 splits are like one in four, but still worth thinking about.

Switched At Birth

Catching up a bit on demand. The daughter dating stuff is tiresome, but on the whole, the ensemble cast provides a good effort with the diverse story lines interesting. The daughter of the dad's competition was in Mayor Cupcake with the mom and also on Disney -- another example of a star going from G/PG to PG-13 fare (here in a hot tub).  Also, is the stream of consciousness/Gilmore level talking thing a normal teen girl thing?  Guess/bit much at times.

Tax Day

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
I think this was true regardless, since "income" is "indirect" (maybe some special cases arise) but fine. [insert Holmes' quote]. Not the only redundant phrase probably.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Nevada GOP Strips Opposition To Gay Marriage, Abortion From Platform"

Even Sen. Heller (NV) is now semi-sane on the first issue. Might actually be sane for some to vote (R) locally in Nevada. Still pretty crazy to help Rs control U.S. Senate. Somewhat sure they won't in '15, but crazy that it's half-way possible this national party will control Congress!

TV Update

Veep covered abortion last night and a poll determined "don't know" as basically the plurality position.  Not far off.  Abortion also a theme of a recent hit here and this older discussion of emotional responses to issues. Oh, and "Sue" is played by "Sufe Bradshaw." Funny for nerds.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pluto and Civil Rights Act of 1964

The fact that image matters to them is underlined by their opening chapter: "Why Pluto Matters." The decision that Pluto was not a planet was a story that the public at large cared about. It seemed to many to be unfair and arbitrary. Scientists probably might find that silly. There is a good reason to not list it as a planet. It isn't really a matter of life or death either way. But, it did matter and the negative response suggests a disconnect. The friendly astronomer, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is not mentioned. His The Pluto Files and presence on various shows like Stephen Colbert should be a model for them, so that's disappointing.
I wrote this regarding a book on scientific illiteracy, earlier noting that the Pluto book itself was good. The controversy is discussed here too and the fact it is now merely a "dwarf planet" (at least officially) is a small measure of how things change. It might not be the most important significant thing that did in the last decade or so, but heck, Colbert was right (Tyson is a repeat guest on his show and Colbert has a cameo in the Nova special -- just saw the DVD -- based on Tyson's book) that many of us probably thinks what the planets are is a pretty certain thing.

Also watched Parkland, a ensemble cast film concerning the reactions to JFK being shot, that being the hospital that both JFK and his killer (yeah, he was) were unsuccessfully treated as they died on the table. The FBI, secret service, the guy who took the famous film and Oswald's brother (who knew?) had their own basic subplots along with those who treated the two gunshot victims.  It was no classic, but (is that this blog's favorite word?) a nice little film -- under 100 minutes. Good to watch after missing it when it is in the theaters. People still go there, right?

Talking about ensemble casts, the LBJ play (All the Way) itself have one, even if LBJ (exaggerating things some) has a big one as well. It is largely about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so read a new book on the subject: An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, And The Battle For The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Todd S. Purdum (married to Dee Dee Myers -- remember her?) is a senior writer at Politico, so this sort of thing is ideal for him.  The title reminds us that it is not merely the LBJ Civil Right Act or something.  Will this set in at some point when the term "Obamacare" (the "care" part is misleading too, since this is not Medicare for All etc., but at least a party label would be semi-truthful)  is brought up? Yeah, term still rankles.

Anyway, the book is split between sections -- executive (ultimately written as things develop from 1963-64, this is the Kennedy's section), the House (key player here is a little known Republican) and the Senate (which seems a bit long, but guess that works with the filibuster and all). There are various vignettes of the players involved, including MLK and a lesser known black lobbyist, Clarence Mitchell Jr.  Overall, it provides what looks like a pretty comprehensive three hundred or so page volume on the issue (Henry Louis Gate Jr. speaks of "nearly every angle" in his blurb) though didn't quite get a full sense of the "anti" side.

So, there's two books, two DVDs and a play for ya.  As an additional comment, the civil rights book doesn't have a copy of the actual legislation as an appendix or something.  Why not?

Rev. Joe: Palm Sunday Edition

This being Holy Week, it is also notable that John follows the synoptics regarding palms (Happy Palm Sunday), but not the bread/wine remembrance thing. (He also has the Last Supper on a different day.) That is one of the few things in Jesus' life Paul actually covers. The Jesus Seminar thinks it was a later edition by pagan followers, who unlike Jews would not find the idea as offensive and matches Greek/Roman cultural remembrance practices.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"An Idea Whose Time Has Come"

After watching the LBJ play, reading Todd Purdum's book on the passage of the Civil Rights Act & halfway thru it is pretty good (few pages in, already found I liked the smooth writing style). March on Washington happened fifty years ago, August. Colbert's (profiled here in '05) mom was pregnant with him as she watched on there. Now that's pretty kewl.

Colbert Pick

Saw a reference that he is a "safe choice" given he's another white guy. True enough on some level. It would be nice to have a different look with Arsenio left to channels with much less viewership and Chelsea Handler on some channel that makes Conan's audience seem huge. Ellen is rather bland and has a pretty good gig. But, other options are available. Samantha Bee to replace Colbert? Talk Chelsea might replace Craig. If he leaves.

"Law prawf letter on Adegbile nomination" etc.

Interesting discussion. As usual, provide my .02. John Paul Stevens' new book -- wary about some of his amendments & think others (e.g., non-native born as President) more important than some of them. Ditto. Mets starting off too much like last few years.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Utah and same-sex marriage: Issues on appeal"

The 10th Cir. heard oral arguments in the SSM case and analysis/audio can be accessed here.  This will be the next step in the process over the next year or so. 

Usual caveats, but listening, it is unlikely to me that the claimants will lose here.  It is true the one judge suggested if "rational basis" is used that the state has a decent case -- since the evidence regarding SSM is open to question -- even though repeatedly judges have now held even that level of scrutiny cannot be met. Also, at least one judge seemed wary about deciding the matter on summary judgment -- a lower court judge recently might have been the first since Judge Walker to protect SSM after full factual hearings. Seems that would be a logical way to delay though the ball is rolling so fast, that judges don't seem to think that necessary.

Such a delay for a hearing might be seen as something of a loss, but to me, not that big of one -- imagine a few years back if judges think some Utah law against SSM is so dubious that the matter should be given a close look by the lower court.  One judge, e.g., challenged the claim that "animus" here (which would warrant rational basis with teeth -- the sort of "careful" review cited in Windsor, though people keep on saying it didn't provide any guideline)  is merely a legal question. Recall that there also is a trend to focus on "illegitimate" purpose here. Windsor itself:
In determining whether a law is motivated by an improper animus or purpose, discriminations of an unusual character especially require careful consideration. 
(cleaning up some quotations)  It isn't just blind hate.  This helps address the concern that following long practice here is a curious thing to reject. Also, as noted, the amendments in general at issue in these cases are specifically unusual in character, different from usual marriage laws.

This along with the fact that marriage is involved can be a way to avoid overruling precedent that did not give heightened scrutiny to sexual orientation. Some of the questioning did suggest that gender discrimination might be at issue here. This raises the almost amusing novel claim that same sex marriage promotes the compelling interest of diversity with a citation to an opinion by Justice Brennan. What if the couple is diverse in other ways like race or something? That work?  The gender assumptions here alone can bite ya, since it raises concerns for gender stereotypes that just opens up gender discrimination claims.

The broad nature of the ban here as compared to any number of other marriage laws (which yet again have changed over time though some of them probably were cemented in constitutional provisions too -- coverture, for instance -- but today they too would be unconstitutional)  to me is a glaring issue. This provides an opening to strike down laws without using full heightened scrutiny -- any reasonable doubt only underlines that it is an "improper" thing to do, since it highlights the value of the flexibility of normal legislation as compared to constitutional bars.

Still, since marriage is involved particularly, more than equal protection based on class of the individual is involved.  And, basically, these cases are but of a piece on the more expansive nature of "marriage" in the current day. The contraception cases underline that marriage is not merely about childbearing -- people have the right there not to have children.  Such is ultimately the broader interpretation provided by Lawrence v. Texas.  The same overall theme applies to changing sex roles.  A question also pointed out how denial here actually harms children, a concern flagged in Windsor itself.  Again I quote (cleaning up):
The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, see Lawrence,  and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify [editor note: here, pointedly refuse to dignify]. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.
As one or more judges note, the majority, not dissents by Scalia and Alito is what lower court judges need to follow.  I assume it was in the briefs, but it does bother me a bit that Turner v. Safley was not even mentioned during the oral argument. The case provides us with a reminder of just what marriage entails these days, not merely procreation. The word "inmate" can be replaced with "same sex" to get us to the same place:
First, inmate marriages, like others, are expressions of emotional support and public commitment. These elements  are an important and significant aspect of the marital relationship. In addition, many religions recognize marriage as having spiritual significance; for some inmates and their spouses, therefore, the commitment of marriage may be an exercise of religious faith as well as an expression of personal dedication. Third, most inmates eventually will be released by parole or commutation, and therefore most inmate marriages are formed in the expectation that they ultimately will be fully consummated. Finally, marital status often is a precondition to the receipt of government benefits (e. g., Social Security benefits), property rights (e. g., tenancy by the entirety, inheritance rights), and other, less tangible benefits (e. g., legitimation of children born out of wedlock). These incidents of marriage, like the religious and personal aspects of the marriage commitment, are unaffected by the fact of confinement or the pursuit of legitimate corrections goals.
And, to quote Meyer v. Nebraska, the couples can fit into the general "to marry, establish a home and bring up children" idea here.  Note even there the word "bring up" is used -- adoption etc. was around then too. It is not just about "procreation" though the Skinner case flagged that specifically given the nature of the case (sterilization). There too, sterilization can interfere with procreation that arises in the assisted reproduction area. Many same sex couples marry to establish a "home" (with all that entails) and make raising children a better experience, including in all the ways that have a legal aspect. To the degree that marriage was a traditional way to legitimize sex in a safe and controlled environment same thing.  As with contraceptives, a same sex relationship is also a choice in the overall liberty involved in choosing whether or not to have a child.  This is particularly the case regarding bisexuals.  Lawrence is a case in point here: not only do same sex couples fit but the liberty is broader than them.

Anyway, somewhat narrower questions might be focused upon in some of these cases, but ultimately the big picture arises. This is the value of citing Turner -- it honors the true complex and diverse nature of marriage. Opponents here want marriage to be small. It's sad.  As to going too fast, putting aside that it has been long enough, what other "novel" couples should we block from marrying?  At home husbands, e.g., still seems strange to some. Why have no fault divorce if we are supposed to promote two mother/dad families over and above marriage flexibility?  Guess single parent adoption might be pretty problematic too.

Well, this is pretty old news here by this point, but such things should be underlined as these cases reach the appellate stage.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Colbert To Replace Letterman

Jon Stewart probably knew. Didn't know he was up for the gig, but thinking about it, I can see it. Also, he's the only one of the bunch I really watch now. Check out Letterman and Craig a few times. Colbert has range and it will be interesting to see what he does with it.

More On Andrew Sullivan

Looking at his blog to find a link as to the last post, his "book club" entry will be Bart Ehrman's newest (on reserve) and a recent post on suicide is worthwhile. The author cited also is a poet and reserved her book in honor of poetry month. Don't see her suicide book in the library yet. Still have time to choose your "poem in your pocket" selection!

Brendan Eich

Andrew Sullivan was on Colbert last night voicing his dissenting view regarding the pressure to have him resign from heading Mozilla (which I use) because of his support for Prop 8 (I'm sure he did more for the cause than donate $1000). Multiple posts here, e.g., on how this was not some grand violation of the 1A principles. I agree -- he is the head of the company, important for the "brand," not an ordinary employee, etc. Still, Sullivan has a point too.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Noble Eightfold Path

Good chart and summary. Also was looking at "Tao of Pooh." Want to read a bit on Eastern religions and that might work. First, a bit on Didache, which gets less love than Thomas et. al., but as Pagels noted in a recent book etc., important very early work.

“awesome in its evilness"

I'm wary of the term "evil" since it seems supernatural and often leads people to deem certain others as subhuman. Was listening to Bart Ehrman talk about the "problem of evil." But, like "sacred," the term has a certain valid bite. Denying the needy care is pretty evil on some level. Thanks to the USSC, state governors have the power to do that regarding Medicaid expansion. Thankfully it isn't quite as bad as it could be (see, e.g. Arizona).

"You Don't Have to Be a Racist to Practice Racism"

An article by Chait on the tragic place of race in politics today is worth reading, but the response here -- in effect promoting the idea of "objective racism" -- is a good "let's be careful here" reply. I think if a white guy was up there, the Tea Party will find a reason to despise him too (see Bill Clinton), but it isn't all in our heads either. And, like in other human interactions, de facto matters. Even if "I don't really mean it." Complicated mess.

Further Reading ...

Various good links discussing the campaign finance ruling here, including multiple ones by Rick Hasen, with additional ones when you get to each. For instance, on the limited definition of "corruption" in Citizens United, which is worse than "corporation as people" which is a normal trope used. And, the "bad" and "good" responses to such cases. Likewise, false minimalism and need for courts to realistically address what they are doing. As to the latter, Justice Breyer is a mixed bag, but his upfront prudential approach has its values.