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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

DOMA Sec. 3 Struck Down in 1st Cir.

First Circuit uses rational basis with teeth and federalism to write a conservative opinion striking down Section 3 of DOMA as a mid-level NY state court determines calling someone gay is not libelous per se.

The Devil Bat

Appropriate for late night viewing, this vintage Bela Lugosi "B" movie was as expected. Hammy, low budget and having mild charm.

Sex Specific Abortion Bill

Since the "goal" of the bill is to remove choice from women, I take "issue" to a House bill that would outlaw sex specific abortions. It is unwise too and clearly a wedge. And, in certain cases (five boys? genetic issues?) is imho not clearly immoral. Overall, bad idea.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More mom stuff

Not fully on board with the cow/human mom comparison. I like the quite flexible actress (see Slither or Definitely Maybe etc.) Elizabeth Banks (both a local sports guy and Chris Hayes follow her on Twitter) and just found out she had a baby via surrogate. Also, became a Jew.

Military Moms

Interesting article on breastfeeding as a military mom.  I like the idea in principle but bf in practice can be tricky. Consider also the military officer in Army Wives. She thought of but did not have an abortion.

Partials (Films)

I have not got into various books recently but also a couple films too.  Rabbit Hole was well acted, but other dealings with a death of a child were better.  Will omit a foreign film similarly themed that I only saw a few minutes of.  Also did not finish That Evening Sun.  Lead was very good but I could see it was going downhill & not interested.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

NYT Obama Piece of Moment

Many things are depressing, same half true stuff raised each time mixed with the rightful, and it makes reading pretty tiresome. Small circle of topics lead the way here -- same sex marriage, PPACA and Obama's counter-terrorism (sometimes labeled "civil liberties" as if abortion rights etc. is not included there) policy seems to be up on the list. Some coverage of an extended look at Obama's "secret kill list" in the NYT continues the norm.

I made a few comments in two of those links and covered this stuff before.  Don't want to belabor the point, though didn't stop me in the past.  Don't want media articles, with various on the record and off the record sources, to be my primary source of the details though appreciate them all the same.  The Administration, as Jack Goldsmith and others who aren't a bunch of liberal pansies suggest, should release stuff like the legal memorandum (properly redacted) used to justify the killing of an American citizen (you know who I mean) though they had their guy give a speech summarizing things.  The latter suggests why I refuse to buy into the Glenn Greenwald (often with spittle) approach that Obama is useless here.
In an extensive piece Jo Becker and Scott Shane report for The New York Times that Obama has “preserved three major policies – rendition [where prisoners are sent to secretive sites to undergo harsh, often brutal interrogation], military commissions and indefinite detention – that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks.”
The fact is that the Administration has drawn lines here and some of the concern is a result of super-majority efforts like AUMF 2001 (voted by Ron f-ing Paul et. al. -- though, strangely, I'm the only one who seems to know this, given his name keeps on popping up as this great libertarian)  that gives broad discretion.  And, take this quote. That isn't what "rendition" means
In law, rendition is a "surrender" or "handing over" of persons or property, particularly from one jurisdiction to another. For criminal suspects, extradition is the most common type of rendition. Rendition can also be seen as the act of handing over, after the request for extradition has taken place.
Extraordinary rendition or rendition without proper procedures and safeguards is the damn problem. But, you know, I'm just an "Obama lover" (more than one person called me that inane term).  Some want Obama to release those in Gitmo or give them civilian trials.  Congress doesn't want to fund the latter, and in various cases, military commissions are appropriate (if done properly).  As to indefinite detention. simply put, putting aside that Congress is hindering the process of detainees, there are a portion that there is in the real world simply no easy way to handle.  Regardless, you are allowed to detain people here until the conflict is over. It isn't over. If you want a damn limit, have Congress pass one.

But, the buck always stops on the person who actually is doing the most (if not enough) in the long run here.  Congress wanted to give him MORE power.  The ACS link quoted GG. Sigh:

Virtually every one of the most far-right neocon Bush officials – including Dick Cheney himself – has spent years now praising Obama for continuing their Terrorism policies which Obama the Senator and Presidential Candidate once so harshly denounced. Every leading GOP candidate except Ron Paul wildly praised Obama for killing U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki without a shred of due process and for continuing to drop unaccountable bombs on multiple Muslim countries.
Right. That is, other than (see Rachel Maddow) they weren't out there (including father/daughter [not the lesbian one] Cheney) railing against Obama for being too soft.  He has it at both ends, I guess.   What policies are we talking about here? He tried to close GITMO. He tried to have civilian trials.  Obama was never some crystal pure civil libertarian, no matter how many times people put out that strawman.  He set up more rules, denied the "no limits" policy of Yoo/Cheney and so forth.  If Congress et. al. don't want to make him accountable, who's fault is it?  And, does a police who shoots a fleeing suspect within accepted rules have "not a shred of due process"?  Over and over again, b.s.

The tiresome thing is that the policy as a whole can't really be defended.  The problem is multi-fold but to me is largely a matter of policy as an expert quoted in the piece suggested.  It isn't, as Greenwald tweeted as if it was so horrible, that Axelrod is in on the decisions.  Are we not supposed to hope that public opinion serves as a check here?  That's inane.  Do you think politicians don't judge public reaction before they use military force?  Do you think Lincoln didn't?  Did he make public his "kill lists" aka the military targets that would kill Americans, at times civilians? 

LGM (linked above), at least not the tiresome knee-jerk duo, noted:
Jo Becker and Scott Shane’s extensive, extremely useful analysis is not entirely without flaws. There’s a strange bit of Green Laternism where Becker and Shane talk about how Holder and Hillary Clinton wanted to lobby Congress but Obama shut them down — with the implication that this might have made a difference — which is pretty silly. I’d listen to counterfactuals it if the bill passed by a vote or two, but the vote was 90-6; the idea that Clinton and Holder using the BULLY PULPIT could have shifted 54 votes is so implausible as to be self-refuting.
Anyways, there is a lot of power here and there should be more safeguards in place.  It's appreciated the media shines a light.

Chris Hayes Should Not Have Apologized

As noted here [read whole thing/watch clips at MSNBC], it is his (over the top) critics who should be in respect to his hesitance to use "hero" as part of his usual eloquent, nuanced and yes humble coverage of Memorial Day. I in fact find his statement sad and depressing.

Wright at SS (sic) ...

alone brought back bad memories. But, as the dad in War Horse noted, sometimes the team seems to have more than its share of bad luck. Granted, one of my readers is a Cubs fan. [But, the team continues to hold on. Just every few days or so something happens.]

Rev. Joe (Why We Believe)

Good concise book on the science of belief (security, social/pleasure of rituals, etc.) but has a somewhat anti-religious edge.  Is not some religion (see, e.g., Unitarians) possible without the baggage? 

Monday, May 28, 2012

"Anti-Sex Ed Curriculum Makes the List: Don't Blame Obama, Blame the System"

Some were upset at Obama for this, but as the article notes, the problem is more complicated. A usual case of the easy potshot being at least partially misguided even if ultimately the Administration could do more. [I can relate, btw, with this comma article.]

Congrats Cynthia

Since NY allows it now, my favorite "SIC" actress has got hooked.

ADHD Documentary

He isn't playing that well now but this documentary helps to show why many are rooting for him.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

In memoriam

Good stuff on the military too. As seen by the Biden clip, important to note -- usual gripes aside -- both Biden and McCain have had kids deployed. Still, I think universal service might just be proper with the caveat of providing alternative service especially for COs.

Hayes and MHP today

Questions: Catholic Church changed on various issues, but SSM, surely not?! Asians: the other white people? Wrongfully executed: still a small minority. Understandable why some see them as "unfortunate but necessary risk." Good stuff on yesterday on education.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

In memoriam

The best way to honor: avoid unnecessary and badly handled wars. 

Bush Critics Criticized

Someone already willing to allow broad executive power in certain times provides a mostly sympathetic review of a criticism of criticism of Bush.  Another article sought a reply from "the left," including:

“On the basis of your summary, Professor Knott has completely misunderstood both the Bush administration and my writings about it,” Wilentz says via e-mail. “Bush’s failures arose not from his being overly strong but so terribly weak. Handing so much power in shaping foreign policy to his vice president; giving his political ‘architect’ Karl Rove so much say in domestic policy, including the selection of federal attorneys; losing control of the FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Administration] and the SEC [Securities Exchange Commission], with continuing disastrous results. Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote that executive power is at its ‘lowest ebb’ when a president defies the express will of Congress, which applies directly to Bush’s use of signing statements.”
Other than criticism of various policies (some overruled by the USSC), this is an important point.  Having been in the midst of the debates online from 2002 on, in comparison to a comment at Amazon, there was no mere "assertion" of what Bush did, but a lot of argument.  One problem was that people at times didn't clarify that the past wasn't that ideal other, but even there, as a matter of degree, problems arose.  This is underlined by someone like Jack Goldsmith being upset with how things went, even though he was supportive of a lot of the ends. A lot of comparsion to Lincoln, which is off both in the scope of the problem, but also the skill used both as a strong president and getting Congress involved. 

The matter of degree also pops up with comparisons to Obama, an ongoing theme for me when people in effect say "not a dime's worth difference" (I can even hear the voice of Nader).  As suggested here, "a liberal compromise with many aspects of the national security posture conservatives had established after 9/11" might not seem that ideal, accepting various problematic principles. But, as with banning waterboarding, drawing a limit SOMEWHERE, the devil can be in the details given the breadth of the issue at hand.  The Bush criticism came in various degrees (though they often are stereotyped) from those who saw a middle ground (more Obama) to those who firmly opposed the ideas raised across the board (many now mad at Obama).

Anyway, Cheney is out there defending Bush's overall approach, and Romney supports Cheney, so there clearly continues to be a place for Bush defenders, including respecting his overall approach.  That ultimately is what matters, not just the man.

"Obama and Roberts: The View From 2005"

I leave it to you to judge which of those statements from 2005 stands up better seven years later as a guide to John Roberts's temperament and jurisprudence.
Rhetorical question.  One more reason to vote for Obama, I say.

"Another Federal Court Rules DOMA Unconstitutional"

I am in the midst of change, including in this area, this case also involving "domestic partner participation in aspects of the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS."  Federal law singling out SSM is particularly bad, but honestly, the breadth of the attack here can go beyond that. But, law develops bit by bit. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Life is Complicated (Makes It More Interesting)

Volokh Conspiracy, to cite Orin Kerr (the "reasonable conservative" with passive aggressive tendencies), is full of posts in "advocacy mode" that provide various tiresome tropes on how "the left" is trying to "intimidate" John Roberts in the PPACA lawsuit and other such things. It is oh so tiresome and reflects a thread of online conversation that is muy annoying -- the inability to skip pass stereotypical arguments that cloud the waters.  The idea there is no "limit" on the Commerce Clause, for instance, as if the Bill of Rights et. al. (limiting what is "proper" in respect to executing it under the Necessary and Proper Clause) doesn't put a limit even beyond limits in place in regard to the clause itself.  Why exactly don't those limits count?  Put aside "unprincipled" = "I don't agree with it" a bit too much.

This is in place on both sides. For instance, this is another in a serious of posts on the limits of the "bully pulpit." That is fine, but the example is not an isolated case. There is some (limited) affect here. The problem is people expect too much of it, not that has no effect. If pressed, he would admit this, but he spends a lot of time ridiculing those who argue that the bully pulpit of the presidency matters. A comment underlines the point, one that might be missed unless you closely read what he says (this simply is not done here -- there is much too much out there to carefully read each blog post; it is like someone who told me that if I only read the brief -- something like fifty pages -- I would see I was wrong when it sometimes seems like even judges don't do a good job there):
All of this brings me to my major point: Your writing on the myth of the bully pulpit has been really elucidating and valuable, but I would recommend that you not adopt the extreme position that the bully pulpit has no effect. Quite simply, it’s unlikely to be true in some specific circumstances, and it would be unfortunate if you left yourself exposed to easy attacks when a slightly more tempered position would make it harder to attack.
I find this standard advice and it works in diverse areas.  There was a debate at VC over the justices factoring in "legitimacy" and even a strong constitutional critic agreed there were some instances when that might matter.  And, it is not a matter of it (or "empathy" or whatever) deciding the matter.  It is a factor.   Legitimacy is a vague term anyhow, including a general understanding by the public (or select segments) that the courts are doing its job correctly.  In this system, "We the People" have some influence on the development of the law.  The Constitution itself sets up terms like "free speech" without details.  Details are filled in over time with changing understandings influenced by society as tends to occur in common law situations.  If even the Catholic Church can be influenced by the laity, as to my understanding is a factor in determining canon law, society can influence the Supreme Court, including by "legitimacy." 

And, in general, hard questions are not easy.*  People like to make it so, so Scalia -- according to one PPACA constitutionality supporter -- doesn't like druggies, so finds a way to differentiate between a stand alone law involving possession of guns (Lopez) and a medicinal marijuana law that fits into a wider regulation of the interstate and international regulation of drugs (Raich).  Putting aside the sixth vote (Kennedy)  didn't find a "drug exception" when euthanasia drugs were involved (stereotypical Catholic beliefs would suggest his position there would be the same as abortion), there are significant differences here, and not of the "red" and "green" car variety.  I myself think a case can be made to split the two cases.  But, sure, it is merely that Scalia is an unprincipled hack.

Turns out that the Constitution is full with things where there is a lot of reasonable debate and the answers are not all slam dunks, even when they are correctly decided.  I think -- unlike abortion or the death penalty -- that the arguments against the PPACA are particularly lame.  Still, even on that level, there are matters of degree. The "support me or Congress will have unbridled power" brigade is particularly lame. There still is a way to be principled here and more easily other areas.  And, it would be easier to debate such principles if over the top rhetoric and claims are avoided.


* For instance, the book I just cited, by a liberal sort, provided a reasonable explanation about how the UN Charter made "war" somewhat obsolete since it could only under international law now be waged for limited reasons. This doesn't erase the need for military force and congressional involvement in its use, but "declarations of war" as such might not be used in most cases.  The policy validity is another matter.

Likewise, he gave a sort of pro-prosecution argument against the death penalty, other than the concern for bad counsel and (something I am concerned about) the fact that many heinous crimes are in effect done by the mentally ill. He argued that judges put limits that flow over to non-capital cases where they (if they ever were) are much less justified.  This is somewhat comparable to those who fear trying terrorists in court will lead to watered down procedures that will affect other cases. 

Some of It Was Fun: Working with RFK and LBJ

With the death of Nicholas deB Katzenbach, I checked out this autobiography written but a few years ago. I skimmed it only but it has a good down to earth tone and covers a lot of ground respecting this sliver of his long life. Sounds like the type of guy I want in government. The link speaks of an upcoming biography.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Murphy Brown Again

Some talk about some special episodes for the campaign season.  In hindsight, and in later seasons at the time, the show is/seemed a tad forced.  Amusing repeat of Rules of Engagement.

Romney Hearts Cheney

Striking segment on Rachel Maddow last night.

John Paul Stevens Speaks

Two more speeches or such.

"Twelve More Lawsuits, Still No Case"

The bishops, of course, also maintain that contraceptives “are not ‘health’ services.” Tell that to the millions of women who depend on contraception to protect their health every day; to the infants who have better health outcomes because their mothers were able to plan their pregnancies; to the Centers for Disease Control, which hails family planning as one of the greatest public health achievements of the last century.
Oh, and the lawsuits are premature. The laity deserves better.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

War Horse

Another blockbuster that did its job, if more eloquently (and with twice the credits). To carp, the last twenty minutes seemed a bit weak (and timeline seems confused), but as a whole, well done.

Violence Against Women Renewal

The heart of the dispute is that Democrats want to expand coverage on college campuses and apply protections to Native Americans, the LGBT community and illegal immigrants. The Senate-passed bill includes those provisions. The GOP version excludes them and also narrows avenues for abused undocumented victims to seek legal status.
There is a powerful article concerning the breadth of the problem on reservations today that led me to look into this matter some.  The latest in this struggle, which has various constitutional/moral/policy aspects, was reported by TPM -- the House claims a provision in the Senate version makes it a revenue bill, which has to originate in the House. This means there would not be a "Senate version," which passed with enough Republican votes to be seen as bipartisan.  Obama has threatened to veto the more restrictive House bill (which does not merely address the most controversial measures involving Native Americans, undocumented people and LGBT groups*)  and Senate Democrats would be loathe to pass it without change.  There is room to maneuver.

One op-ed, who holds "hold both parties in equal contempt" (red flag alert) notes there are reasonable grounds to oppose aspects of the new version.  But, it only covers two basic aspects, so even there, it takes you only so far.  This baby of Sen. Biden already has went to the Supreme Court in the important Commerce Clause case U.S. v. Morrison.  The idea of giving concurrent power to tribal courts threatens to involve another trip, since some think it is unconstitutional to require non-tribal members to submit to to tribal jurisdictions, particularly since the courts don't have the exact same due process protections. Law professors already addressed the concern and a Supreme Court ruling from a few years back seems to address it:

Several considerations lead us to the conclusion that Congress does possess the constitutional power to lift the restrictions on the tribes’ criminal jurisdiction over nonmember Indians as the statute seeks to do.
A Senate version without this provision seems to be in the works and it is unclear how horrible it would be; on this front, the problems with tribal authorities as spelled out by the NYT (hard to tell really -- there are so many tribes here; it would be akin to treat Texas like New York) didn't help matters.  From what the article says, the most important thing would be resources for local centers to report and treat victims, less a matter of what court to try them -- at least, except in certain areas where non-tribe courts are so out of the way to be unmanageable. If the jurisdiction is unconstitutional, which seems to be questionable, let the courts settle it.

In pretend reasonable land, I can imagine some compromise that provides something for each side.  The college campuses thing seems more a spending matter.  The undocumented aliens matter also touches upon a hot button issue, especially to the degree it provides some extension on right to stay.**  The op-ed also thinks the Democrats are playing politics for inserting LGBT language.  To the degree this involves women,  the fact a person is lesbian or transsexual shouldn't matter.  To the extent not, it's a small subset and dealing with violence against gay men seems to be something for Republicans to latch on to show there aren't total reprobates on these issues.  As to playing politics, again, many of these people are women, and the renewal would be a good spot to deal with that community.  Particularly as they are starting to truly get respect.

The Republican concerns are not just "anti-women" though that is the net effect in various instances.  The Native American courts issue by itself is a hard place to justify drawing some line in the sand -- it's at best debatable. The GLBT thing is basically a policy issue and my idea would be to treat this as a violence against women bill -- lesbians and transsexuals count there too -- but if gay men are the stickler, address that in other legislation (a hate law was already passed). If the concern is that the law will protect them anyway, why are the Republicans upset about even a symbolic statement to protect them, to remind, e.g., lesbians abuse fellow lesbians too.  The provisions involving aliens underlines the need to treat everyone with some basic respect. The college stuff also doesn't seem like something that Republicans should draw the line on but unfortunately might be the sort of thing tossed aside in a compromise measure.  Overall, the Republicans are likely to force a sub-par law.

Such is how things go these days.  I would end with a charming bait and switch.  The Republicans force a restrictive amount of federal stimulus and then blame Obama and the Democrats for things not going well though they themselves (per the opinions of economic experts) are major problem. This is a different matter, but the flawed result is of a piece. 


* For instance, from Obama: "H.R. 4970 allows abusers to be notified when a victim files a VAWA self-petition for relief, and it eliminates the path to citizenship for U visa holders – victims of serious crimes such as torture, rape, and domestic violence – who are cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of these crimes."

** As one source notes:
Another point of contention is a provision that would increase the number of temporary U.S. visas for illegal immigrants who are victims of domestic violence. The new provision would expand the number of temporary visas available by allowing the unused visas from previous years to be added to the annual 10,000 U visas currently available to victims of domestic violence, rape, and sex trafficking. Opponents of the new provision argue that this would effectively grant a form of amnesty to illegal immigrants. Proponents argue that the visas are indispensable in helping victims whose abusers may be using the threat of deportation to control and exploit them.
This underlines the controversy -- there is a lot here.

"A Life Worth Ending"

The cover story of New York magazine deals with a striking article involving: "The era of medical miracles has created a new phase of aging, as far from living as it is from dying. A son’s plea to let his mother go." A frightful future and one I surely wouldn't want to occur.


The USSC took a case involving standing to challenge a surveillance program. Even asking the courts to decide is an uphill battle these days. So much to ask for basic things. Obama/Democrats more fiscally responsible. This shouldn't be news, but it is.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cowboys & Aliens

The sci fi stuff is not great but the western stuff is pretty fun summer blockbuster stuff. Overall, it's pretty fun, if flawed. One review noted Harrison Ford's character seems to need a nap.

Defense of Denying Religious Choice Continues

This still seems convincing. Basically, this is a neutral regulation, health care/women equality is a compelling state interest and real balancing of interests (ongoing, the final path not here yet) made by the Obama Administration. The cries of threat to religious liberty sound specious ... to quite a few Catholic lay persons.

Bonnie's Kids

Found this in effect pure '70s exploitation fare at the library recently.  Perfect for late nite (or drive-in/dive) viewing. The whole film is actually on YouTube, but here is a promotional ad. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Major League: Back to the Minors

The first one was fun, the second derivative, the third fun enough in a "straight to video" sort of way. It has played on t.v. lately (ditto the second one). I liked it when I first saw it; still pleasant enough.

Both Parties Aren't The Same

No doubt, Democrats were not exactly warm and fuzzy toward George W. Bush during his presidency. But recall that they worked hand in glove with the Republican president on the No Child Left Behind Act, provided crucial votes in the Senate for his tax cuts, joined with Republicans for all the steps taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and supplied the key votes for the Bush administration’s financial bailout at the height of the economic crisis in 2008. The difference is striking.
By "celebrated and respected figures of the Washington establishment."

The Good News Club: The Christian's Right's Stealth Assault On America's Children

Ross Douthat is repeatedly ridiculed in blogs. My ultimate concern is that this important issue is given (by the NYT yet) to such a flawed source. Michelle Goldberg and Sarah Posner and others provide voices from the left. We need smarter voices from the right, including realizing careful public statements that does not merely give the full expression of a politician's views is not -- per a recent blog by him -- "lying." Marci Hamilton, who is conservative on various issues, underlines the possibly complexity here.*

Katherine Stewart's book might be most copacetic to the left, but her discussions of textbook wars in Texas (its market big enough to influence the nation) shows that the concerns have a broad reach. I myself know a public school teacher who (benighted soul) is pretty conservative but would not take some Rick Santorum position on all these issues. Also, forgive me for the long excerpt, her bottom line is moderate: 
Again, if we are talking about elementary schools, I would exclude religion as a category, just as we exclude politics as a category. It used to be legal to exclude religion as a category, and it is legal in a limited way in certain contexts. However, in most of the country, as a result of the Milford decision, it is no longer legal to exclude religious groups. 

At the high school level, I think after-school groups in general should have maximum leeway. But bear in mind that a number of the religious groups make an effort to insert themselves in school-related activities, such as athletics. If Christian athletes want to get together after the game and after school to talk about their religion or engage in acts of worship, that seems perfectly fine. But many groups now attempt to make their religion part of the game, inevitably forcing everyone on the team to take a public stand. 

We should not get overly legalistic here. Some things are legally or constitutionally permissible, but that does not mean that they are the right thing to do. If a school in a diverse community is to function well, its members need to show a certain amount of civility and respect toward one another. We are all free to practice our faith, if any, in our homes, houses of worship, and any number of other places. Do we really need to turn our public schools into religious battlefields? 
The book addresses something that I have discussed in the past, the path taken by the Supreme Court in the last few decades which treated religious freedom as in effect a free speech issue.  There is some logic here: there is a clear overlap in First Amendment freedoms and early rulings like Cantwell v. Connecticut showed this by mixing free speech, assembly and free exercise issues involving in public promotion of the faith.  A famous ruling involving not pledging allegiance to the flag for religious reasons was ultimately treated as a free speech case.

And, in the 1980s, protecting religious clubs and so forth in public schools repeatedly gained near unanimous support in various rulings such as Lamb's Chapel (note horror movie reference) though various justices were wary or provided caveats. The caveats were important because merely speech isn't involved here. When the government endorses speech, as it can, it cannot endorse religions in the process. Stewart's book underlines such endorsement can come in other ways, particularly when we look at things as a matter of good policy.  This also is a matter of what states are allowed to do -- the very case involving the title group involved not letting New York choose to keep religious groups from public elementary schools and in an ongoing case from taking over public schools (for peanuts) for Sunday church services. 

New York broadly allows groups to use such schools to promote "moral" purposes and the open-ended nature of such discretion was one reason they got in trouble -- concerned? Just narrow the nature of the forum in question, perhaps not allowing outside groups to come in right after school.  Such was the trend of the questions at oral argument, Scalia wanting to rub in the apparent exaggerated nature of the state's case so much that he didn't even let CJ Rehnquist close the oral argument (a stickler unlike his successor, it was striking to listen to Scalia and Kennedy extend things, even if it amounted to only about 1/2 minute).  Even Souter was skeptical about the idea that you could keep a church from using an empty school building on Sundays.

One value of the book is that it provides some real life facts that belie various preconceived notions expressed in the oral argument. Breyer joined the conservatives here but the book should change his voice if his standards (stated in a concurrence) were seriously applied:
The time of day, the age of the children, the nature of the meetings, and other specific circumstances are relevant in helping to determine whether, in fact, the Club “so dominate[s]” the “forum” that, in the children’s minds, “a formal policy of equal access is transformed into a demonstration of approval.”
Scalia ridiculed the idea that children were hanging around to be drawn in but the book notes that the group starts setting up before the day begins, has been known to set up shop outside the school during recess and other times, have their personnel volunteer at the school and so forth.  The majority opinion noted at one point "even if we were to consider the possible misperceptions by schoolchildren," unlike Breyer really merely concerned with the parents, but the book shows that a honest person would see the young children here very well can and do "perceive [official] endorsement" here. [Endorsement that leads them to tell others that they have the wrong God and are going to hell. Ha ha, Scalia!]  This is part of the reason why public schools don't want groups like these there in the first place, particularly since the net result is that only certain religions will be promoted.  Confusion aside, yes, the fact religion and state mixture of this sort in practice benefits certain religions in particular was a major concern of James Madison et. al.

The author drew a different line for high school students and federal law does too via the funding requirements in the Equal Access ActYes, the advocate slipped up saying that 1980s law didn't allow religious clubs in elementary schools, but it does treat high school students differently given their maturity, both to make choices of whom to follow and that the groups aren't being endorsed by the school.  When the Good News ruling was handed down, I myself (who accepted the religious clubs rulings) thought having these groups right after school in second grade was a bridge too far.  And, though Scalia for some reason couldn't accept it, it surely looks to be a sort of "worship," not just a religious perspective given on the issues of the day.  The book explains all of this.

There are various books (including Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Rising) that covers the material found here (including the aforementioned textbook wars and how religious belief is mixed in with "secular" abstinence education; see, e.g., the dissent here).  The best aspect of this one in particular is the concerns of a parent of a young child in a public school that a divisive fundamentalist group is targeting public school children in a no holds barred fashion. In fact, they are quite enthusiastic about the battle (such is the nature of evangelism though others handle it differently)  and have a deep feeling of certitude and justice. And, they are far from totally aboveboard about it, thus the "stealth."  This all is counter to the basic cosmopolitan nature of public schools.  

[I would add that it would have be better if we had a fuller account respecting the origins of the Good News Clubs, instead of the book treating them in effect "in medias res."]  

This should (and does, once they get a sense of it) trouble even those -- after all "Christian" to the Good News Club movement has a narrow reach -- who do not mind some mixture of church and state, even pretty conservative in various respects.  At least, it is better to be more informed about the nature of the situation, avoiding the caricatures of a Scalia. Being fully informed will not lead everyone to agree, but  it helps.


* Both sides do this sort of thing, surely, but this strident (though there is someone else at the blog consistently worse) take on the Notre Dame lawsuit (as my comments there suggests) annoyed me. I find the argument weak, but a pet peeve of mine is attitude. When it is done by someone firmly in the wrong, it is harder to take; I don't like it either way. 

TV Watch

Army Wives mini-cliffhanger (June) with another wife at risk of dying -- tad repetitive. Show overall was pretty good. As was Victorious (hour episode) though Jade came off a bit too lame. Meanwhile, t.v. and gender issues discussed. More evidence Biden wasn't that off.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Combining Last Two Posts

Pardon (Commute) Him

As noted at times at Sentencing Law and Policy Blog (talking drug policy here; Obama hasn't done enough there either though better than some say) and elsewhere, Obama has been lousy respecting pardons. MHP this morning cited a case that should be up on the list. 

Rev. Joe (ULC Marriages)

As I noted, the actress and recent Rachel Maddow guest Jane Lynch married her partner in front of an Universal Life Church minister, though a state appellate court (Ranieri v. Ranieri, 1989) covering 3/5 of New York City and some surrounding areas held that "so casually and cavalierly acquired" ministries does not meet the rules under state law.  Jane Lynch married in Massachusetts, but repeatedly, I have seen multiple citations in NYT wedding announcements about these ministers. A 2001 ruling from Queens had the right sentiment, addressing a case involving Hindus:
This statute must be given a broad interpretation so as not to infringe on an individual's constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.  Subsumed within this constitutional right is the freedom to be married in accordance with the dictates of one's own faith.  Thus, short of finding a religious officiant a charlatan or the religion a mere sham, courts have confirmed the validity of a variety of spiritual faiths and their clergies' authority to solemnize marriages.  [cites omitted]
The two rulings (a district ruling in 1972 and the cited appellate case; the state's highest court has not ruled upon the issue) in New York covering marriages in particular were imho shallow discussions of this law and decided matters on statutory grounds. A third district ruling (1984) did briefly address constitutional concerns, but ruled that ULC ministers did not have a right to obtain a marriage officiant certificate from NYC in part because there is no constitutional right to perform official marriages. [A religious ceremony would still be allowed, but it would not have any official effect.]  A ruling involving prisons was cited, which itself cited an uncontroversial principle that the state has the power to regulate marriages.  My problem is giving the power to some ministers:
a duly authorized pastor, rector, priest, rabbi, and a person having authority from, or in accordance with, the rules and regulations of the governing ecclesiastical body of the denomination or order, if any, to which the church belongs, or otherwise from the church or synagogue to preside over and direct the spiritual affairs of the church or synagogue [see Hindu ruling]
So, the original NY ULC Church case noted:
neither had authority from a "governing ecclesiastical body of the denomination or order" nor "otherwise from the church or synagogue to preside over and direct the spiritual affairs of the church or synagogue."
This all seems pretty petty to me.  I covered this ground before but again I keep on seeing references to ULC ministers, even without Conan O'Brien and Fran Drescher types becoming one (they might not have joined the original church, but seriously, who cares? some, I bet, but basically, it doesn't matter on principle).  People, for various reasons, find it appealing to have a sort of "do it yourself" type religious ceremony here and the idea has a long reach in this country. People find religion many places and I still do not understand why being a ULC minister (the lead link suggests the serious nature this is to many people; some of the stuff there probably looks stupid to some people, but such is the nature in many religions which teach doctrine that looks stupid) shouldn't count.  If that is what provides meaning to your life, it can provide meaning to a wedding.

The original ruling argued that ULC did not have a "church" in New York as such. That is, a meeting place or such. There is such a concrete building in California, but when Christians met in homes back at the start, were these valid meeting places under such dictates?  One ruling in another state noted that a "church" can mean various things, including something connected online.  The term very well can be metaphorical.  There is also a need for a "governing ecclesiastical body of the denomination or order," whatever that exactly means. I don't think religion should require such hierarchy and the ULC Church is good enough for many states, including Mississippi. Anyways, it has some basic leadership (the very dispute between it and an offshoot underlines this) and thin they might be, but there are "rules" here.

[A person has to obtain a minister's license from a central office which also provides the authority to those who wish to set up local congregations. The cited dispute underlines some concern over who uses the church's name.  As to doctrine, the basic idea is that each person has the natural right to determine for themselves what is right but must not harm others in the process or in general break the law. The church promotes various ideas such as marriage, prayer and has an educational component, but such things are not obligatory.  It does add flavor to the organization, setting it apart from other religions. Its website and literature also has other "stated beliefs."  Suffice to say, there is some content here and some other "church" might find some of it distasteful.]

Perhaps because no recent problem has arose (NYC now even provides marriage officiant certificates to ULC ministers, though again a court ruling covering Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island suggests they should not), there has not been a recent ruling on this matter in NY.  I would hope that there would be some way, however, to clarify the matter, be it the proposed legislation or a court ruling.  In either case, a full discussion of what is at stake should be made.  One that covers all angles, including the vague nature of the terms, free exercise concerns and the problem with selectively giving certain religions the right to marry without a very good reason to do so.  Broad principles are at stake here.

Heidi Gail Brody and Franklin Jay Olson are to be married Sunday at the Alger House, an event space in Manhattan. Martin Lowenstein, a friend of the couple who became a Universal Life minister for the event, is to officiate.
And, practice reflects it, anyhow.  


* It allows those close to the couple to officiate, helps with interfaith situations (there are also various interfaith religious groups that I guess are more "authoritative" for these purposes), is gay friendly and so forth.  The issue of "self-uniting" marriages also fits in here.

By the way, for those who keep on saying that same sex marriage is a "war on religion," recently:
Jennifer Layne Vanasco and Jennifer Marie Hagel were married Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church of New York. The Rev. Heidi Neumark, the church’s pastor, performed the ceremony.
Yes, I'm a sucker for wedding announcements.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Zink elected to have the procedure because something terrible happened during a wanted pregnancy. This is hardly an uncommon scenario, yet H.R. 3803 makes no exceptions for fetal anomalies.
As Rachel Maddow has noted, Republican legislators have used success in the polls that appears to be largely motivated by economic factors to ratchet up  the effort against women's rights.

A recall election is under way because of moves that were deemed too much involving unions and such, but at least that is economic in nature (if a bridge too far).  Something similar can be seen in respect to the PPACA, which some forces sees as too intrusive and having negative economic effects.  Dim or not, there is a logic of legislators going after that.  But, with this stuff comes conservative social efforts of this type.  Something for libertarians who latch on to people like Ron Paul.

The title legislation has received some coverage, a particular issue being that it targets "D.C." without the committee chairman allowing its delegate to testify.  The one Democratic witness being the lady cited above, who had a late abortion because of fetal abnormality, which is not covered by the exception.  In fact, like the so-called "partial abortion" law, there is not even a "health" exception here.  The USSC in effect took the Congress' word that there didn't need to be one (at least, in a facial challenge), but that was merely for a specific procedure.  This involves abortions overall and it is a blatant violation of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, even without the fact there is no "at best dubious fetal pain" exception (even if cited as "facts" in the whereas section)  to the viability rule. 

To clarify, the idea here is that by twenty weeks (though the belief is much earlier), fetuses feel pain and that this justifies banning abortion at that point.  As noted by the lead link, the medical science here is at best strongly disputed.  This has to be balanced with a total ban on abortion, even when a woman's health is at stake or a severely deformed fetus who would die after a few hours once born is involved.  These wedge bills tend to address such tragic situations, over 90% of abortions occurring in the first trimester, a fraction of a percent by this point.  Furthermore, we are not just talking about use of some sort of anesthesia (if possible) to address the alleged fetal pain. And, again, Casey allows abortion until viability, even though even in the early 1990s, there were some who thought embryos and fetuses showed some reception to pain. 

The bill (like some recent state efforts) doesn't draw the line at viability, however, but twenty weeks. This is one of those "how far will Kennedy go" laws.  The federal "partial birth abortion" law cited, however, was national in scope.  This one focuses on one area because Congress has specific broad power (putting aside principles of local government) over the district though it also has specific power in other areas, including federal territories (e.g., let's say Guam wants to pass a law of this nature; Congress could let them have a local option).  It is, shall we say a bit dick-ish, to not even let the area's delegate to testify, given it is common practice to let members of Congress do so.

Taking away local options here (see also, use of funds for abortion) is bad enough without adding insult to injury.  What is the problem with giving her a say?  This sort of thing only increases the cries for D.C. statehood, which would be in foolhardy (it's not a "state" ... it's a small district area)  or giving the D.C. delegate a vote in Congress (a valid idea but the legit way to do it is via amendment).  D.C. only received limited rights via the 23rd Amendment the first time around in particular for racial reasons; now, there is a particular partisan flavor to Republican actions here. As shown by a proposal supported by Hatch to give D.C. a voting delegate in return for another for Utah or some such, there is room for compromise here.

No principle, including federalism or localism, is going to be applied completely. There is always going to be exceptions and it is not unprincipled to make an exception if you honestly believe that unborn "children" are at stake here. The argument is weaker here, since the Congress has "police power" that extends further than this one area.  Nonetheless, there is some limits even here, and not letting Eleanor Holmes Norton testify is partisan hardball that belittles what should be a matter of principle.

The principle is wrong here on the merits too.

Rob Johnson

The Mets played in Toronto last night, but the pitcher still hit. Sorta.  Rob Johnson, the back-up catcher (third really, the primary one now hurt) pitched the eighth in a 14-5 game, pitching the only 1-2-3 inning for the team. BTW, re-sign Wright and make him captain.

"to show hospitality"

Putting aside for present purposes whatever may turn out to be the view of the Maryland electorate regarding recognition of the performance in Maryland of domestic same sex marriages, the treatment given such relationships by the Maryland Legislature (until recently) may be characterized as a case of multiple personality disorder.
The ACS Blog flagged the case.  The American Constitution Society is an effort to provide a type of balance to the Federalist Society and other conservative/libertarian outlets, including providing evidence that originalism need not only lead to conservative results. 

I'm not a big fan of taking originalism too seriously (though it's always helpful to be able to meet your opponent on their chosen field) but the organization as a whole is much appreciated. For instance, it sponsored the release of Keeping Faith With The Constitution, (now CA Supreme Court Judge) Goodwin Liu and Pamela Karlan (fantasy judicial candidate) as co-authors, the original version free online (an amended version with a free speech chapter was put forth). The common law / people's constitutionalism view it promotes is to me the most logical path to take here.  Hopefully, Liu has a future in the federal courts to help it along.

Anyway, the core discussion for this specific ACS blog entry (the website has other material, including videos of panel discussions and book reviews) is GLBT jurors.  This is a tricky issue but there has been a trend to erase distinctions in various ways, including reducing the breadth of juror exemptions (if putting Justice Breyer in the jury pool makes sense aside, as a whole, this is a good development).  The question remains in specific cases if a juror should be excused for cause and particularly if a peremptory challenge can be used without it being discriminatory.  This is tricky when racial bias is alleged (race, e.g., can overlap with other things, such as class or community, my area known to be friendly to civil suits).  The USSC extended the rule to gender as well and GLBT can be seen as a logical extension, given gender is so important there.  See the article. 

As seen, the issue fits into a wider whole.  The same applies to the case.  The specific issue here is comity, the obligation per state law (this is a state case, most wins in the SSM area of that nature) to recognize out of state marriages (or some other "public act" ... marriages and divorces can result in various "judicial proceedings" that pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause are treated more strictly). The headnote provides a simple English summary, but basically, the ruling settled a state judicial dispute and agreed with an Attorney General's opinion that out of state SSM did not meet the strong “repugnant” to Maryland public policy test, even though state law specifically does not allow (yet: a law has passed but might be challenged by referendum before it comes into force) couples to obtain them in Maryland. Precedents involving common law, incestuous and interracial (in the 1950s) marriages were cited.  The one exception was a foreign divorce performed in a jurisdiction deemed inequitable.

Justice Brennan's dissenting opinion in an early 1980s case involving a fired bisexual teacher underlines the breadth of the issues involved in these cases, showing how they fit into a wider whole.  The same applies here.  Divorce back in the days of "traditional marriage" was often quite hard to come by, Linda Kerber discussing the point in one of her books on the Revolutionary Era.  It was a revolutionary thought to recognize that the right to alienate did not just apply to white nations but to other contexts, including slavery and yes the freedom to leave a marriage. 

Divorce is a basic aspect of the fundamental right to marriage and DOMA type laws are a major hindrance in this area, beyond the barrier to entry.  Maryland is one of a few states (including Rhode Island, New Mexico and New Mexico; New York also was one such state pre-SSM) to have reached a middle ground here though as the opening quote suggests, growing acceptance of the equality of same sex couples leads to various arbitrary seeming policies.  Public policy is often a matter of compromise and line drawing that does not seem overly logical if we take things in a vacuum, but at some point, strong protections for same sex couples leads one to wonder why marriage has to be a sine qua non.*

I actually read that Attorney General Opinion [the problem here was that the court itself argued it did not have the power to recognize the marriage, not that the state itself did not wish it to do so]  and it was an interesting look at the complexity of the situation. For instance, it cited some precedent where even polygamous marriage was recognized for limited purposes (such as property distribution).  States also have different rules here; as a comment recently noted, some states have not recognized out of state common law marriages (NY has).  The ruling here was not a pro-SSM ruling per se (ironically allowing the dissolution of one to go forth) but in effect treating them equally to other marriages.

This move "to show hospitality" on an equal basis unless it is crystal clear (thus the felt need for measures like the one in NC though again even on that level, it was woefully overbroad) that state law does not allow it is the basis to "comity" among the states of this union. 


* This underlines the utter stupidity (or unfortunate confusion, for those supporting of SSM) of arguing (or conceding) the USSC not accepting SSM as raising a substantial federal question c. 1970 closes the matter until it changes its mind.  Things have changed substantially, including state recognition of the rights of the GLBT community.  Baker v. Nelson is a dinosaur and this not being Jurassic Park, it should not scare us.

Rachael Yamagata

The latest writers/artists event at a local bookstore involved this singer, who turns out to have popped up on various shows and films I watched. Her website nicely provides some free songs.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kerry Wood Retires

He replaced a pitcher who was left in to hit with a man on third, got a hit to tie the game, but the next two didn't do anything.  Eventually, White Sox wins.  Meanwhile, Mets getting a few pity runs now.  

"we may be fellow-workers for the truth"

Gaius Charles (of FNL) is going to guest star on a USA show and is a '12 divinity degree student at Drew University.  He was named after the recipient of the shortest epistle (and book of the Bible itself) in the New Testament, 3 John, an eloquent little missive.  Good luck!

Kathleen Sebelius Georgetown Speech

public policy is about making difficult choices,” among them “the moral and economic imperative of providing health care to all our citizens.” ...  “ethical skills you have honed — the ability to weigh different views, see issues from other points of view, and in the end, follow your own moral compass.”

Ides of March

Didn't care for the 1/2 or so of this film (pretty boring and bland) and looking at the summary, doesn't seem the whole thing is worthwhile either.  Disappointment given the talent.  The intern bit as one review noted is particularly annoying in its stereotypical quality.  

"some sort of free expression"

"The manager said 'Ma'am, are you aware you have no clothes on?' She was kosher and cool about it, and the manager told her she needed to leave," a Stewart's employee named Terry told the Times Union.
Kosher? Like no mixture of fabrics?

"A Futile Suit Against the Filibuster"

Ezra Klein guest hosted for Rachel and had a segment on this lawsuit against the filibuster. It is being abused but making it a court case is dubious. A majority can, if it wished, could press the issue. It does not wish. We saw this when a minor reform was proposed recently.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Started to watch this some, still think it's pleasant fun and all, but the internal plot stuff tends to be a bit tedious. Usual dark past, conspiracy stuff. Tiresome. Love Ziva's matter of speaking -- it's like she is processing and (beat) English comes out.

Rules of Engagement

Decent episode overall covering Audrey's baby shower with Jen actually having a bit to do -- "that's today?!" Other subplots a bit lame, but the idea about stretch jeans was kinda clever. Took the idea too far though. Sara Rue deserves another sitcom.

National Defense Authorization Act Ruling

Prof. Kerr, in his usual passive aggressive way, is confused. But, the ruling answers at least some of his confusion, including noting detention here is harsh enough that it is as if it is "criminal" and the Icelandic plaintiff has been subpoenaed and has other reasons to have standing. Anyway, as in the past, the government left themselves open with broad claims. It's just a preliminary injunction anyhow.


R.I.P. Donna Summer. Don't Cubs fans have enough to worry about?

"State judge makes personal plea for right to use medical marijuana"

Striking. Hope N.Y. can follow Connecticut's lead.

Fries Rebellion

The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight [see also, Article V.], but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person. ...

No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
The Constitution earlier noted that Congress has the power to lay and collect "duties, imposts and excises," but that these must be "uniform" throughout the U.S.  This does not mean that each state had to have the same amount of taxes in some sort of similar per capita basis, even though certain taxes might fall on certain areas differently, such as a tax on shipbuilding.  The so-called Whiskey Rebellion underlined the point, an excise tax on whiskey particularly hard on those in which the substance served in effect as a sort of liquid capital. 

A special security was provided in respect to "direct taxes," which the justices in the 1790s ruling Hylton v. U.S. thought of as a tax directly on persons and land. "Persons" here included slaves ("such persons") and the disproportionate amount of both in certain areas led to the felt importance of these provisions, including an additional one stopping an amendment to override them before 1808.  It is noted that some gave more creative readings to the term (income taxes, the PPACA affair, which might have led to this "bleg" given the sentiments of the author), but the more limited understanding (if always a bit vague) is more sensible.

Direct taxes were never a major source of federal taxation, even if we take the logic of the majority in the late 19th Century income tax cases as correct (the 16A made the matter rather moot, but the dissent probably had the better case of it)  since even there only certain types of income taxes were deemed problematic.  A recent book on Civil War legal matters was cited; a direct tax was raised then, leading to some difficulties, but not much came from it in way of revenue.  The fear that direct taxes would be a means to target slavery never really came to pass.

The request for information ("bleg") addressed another war-related direct tax, this time during the so-called Quasi-War with France in the late 1790s. This too led to certain difficulties, including the Fries' Rebellion, itself a bit of a misnomer. A comment cites Fries's Rebellion: The Enduring Struggle for the American Revolution (cited as "the standard scholarly study")  and I also read an article by that author that summarizes the affair.  It is an interesting little footnote, involving a sort of mini-Shay's Rebellion, another veteran led affair in which public protest and a bit of "Second Amendment remedies" (a people's militia formed to address assumed tyranny) that caused some powers that be a lot of stress, but didn't really amount to much at the end.  The President, to the chagrin of some more "high" Federalists even pardoned the leader of the whole thing.* 

The backers of the tax (on land, houses and slaves), according to the article, actually thought it was rather benign -- it was less regressive than the excise that led to the Whiskey Rebellion and did not similarly hit to the core of local economies.  But, the problem was a bit different for the Pennsylvania communities that struck back here -- in effect, the tax was seen as an overly intrusive invasion of their privacy.  The "house tax" required assessments by government bureaucrats, involving such petty things like counting the windows on homes.  The home was then as now a representative of the family and brought back bad memories:
The House Tax was a reincarnation of the hated "Hearth Tax" in Germany. The hearth tax, was a tax levied on each fireplace and its size. All cooking and heating were done by means of a fireplace. The idea of being taxed on the size of a house, the size and number of the windows in that house and the amount of land owned, was similar to the Hearth Tax. Most of all, it was disliked because it was for the purpose of paying for a non-existent war. The German settlers could not accept nor believe that the President would sign this tax into law. When the bill was signed, they refused to pay the tax.
Thus, the collection and purpose was a problem.  Some also argued that when apportioned, home owners would feel the brunt of the tax more than those with a lot of (often undeveloped) land. And, I think even to the degree direct taxes were used, such a tax on homes (as compared to real property in land or persons, including what was deemed at the time as "chattels," a type of personal property of a special type)  was disfavored.  So, even if the tax was proportioned, certain people had an unconstitutional burden.  The author of the standard account didn't find the constitutional argument convincing, deeming the true concern a broader belief that it was an infringement on liberty. The use of a technical constitutional argument to cover up what amounted to larger game pops up these days as well.

I'd need to know more to weigh how convincing the house v. land tax argument is, but it is likely the author is correct that the case was not really convincing or the ultimate point.  The Constitution itself favored certain types of "property" and communities by treating direct taxes this way and it would not be surprising if the net result was not really overly fair, the average homeowner being burdened more than a large landowner. After all, things are not totally balanced even today with the 16A etc.  Protestors that don't pay taxes are known today as are those who used guns to protest, but things are a bit more formal these days, things not lasting that long even then.

The details are interesting, down to a sort of "stamp tax" involved.  But, the government was ours, so things held.


* Two people did die in prison. To add to the obscure constitutional provision discussion, one link noted some protestors were charged with "high misdemeanors," a word that pops up in the impeachment section.  The term in effect means crimes against the state that are not felonies, that is, those not traditionally capital in nature. It also arose in the area of illegal slave trading, some offenses labeled "high misdemeanors." 

Book v. Film

The basic story is the same, but the film version of the novel Red Dust adds significant additional details to explain the past and its effects on the present while diminishing the role of another character. In some ways, I think the film is better, but both were worthwhile. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jane Lynch and DOMA

Rachel: We are in a moment when the politics of gay rights are rapidly, rapidly changing.

Jane: I know fast, yeah, really fast. You know it is an issue that I have not really taken personally so much. I mean, it's something that I watch on television with great interest. I have a stake in it. I've got skin in the game, as 'twere. But when the President came out and said that he supported the dignity of our families and our relationships, that really moved me. That really touched me for the first time and I realized that I'd been kind of distanced emotionally from it, but that really kind of broke it open for me.
A taste of an interview aired tonight as the Mets bullpen was blowing it, or thereabouts. [Redundant statement -- Santana started; Mets blew it one way or the other for him in all games but one.]  I watched the first episode of Glee, a show raved about by various places at the time.  Didn't really find it that exciting.  Some have noted the show went somewhat downhill since there.  I am not a viewer.  Jane Lynch also had a guest stint as Sam's somewhat unhinged mom on iCarly and is an animal lover.

She also married her partner in Massachusetts (marriage does not seem to be in cards yet for Rachel Maddow and her long time partner), the vows including "to be the very best parent I can be," in reference to her wife's daughter.  I recently noted again that Universal Life Church ministers are not treated with equal respect by New York law and darn:
Jane Lynch and Lara Embry were married Monday [in 2010] at the Blue Heron Restaurant in Sunderland, Mass. Jeannie Elias, a friend who became a Universal Life minister for the event, officiated. 
State law is rather specific there on the point; that's the link provided by a ULC link at least.  NY at least doesn't have such a sect specific approach.  Sheesh.  Anyway, DOMA has a lot more likely affect on couples there as shown by litigation pending regarding federal benefits denied, much to the chagrin of state officials.  This is the sort of thing President Obama was talking about, even if (per my earlier post), some are confused about how "inconsistent" he is to say that he believes marriage law should be a state issue as if he is not aware of Loving v. Virginia or something.  Complexity apparently went out of standard after "gut" check Bush. 

The state (like mine) authorizes same sex marriages, in part to help families like the one present for Ms Lynch and Embry (see also, a recent comment concerning a film involving the complexities of family life without proper state authorization), but federal law singles them out to deny them federal benefits. The law's first section does the opposite of someone whom "supported the dignity of our families and our relationships."  The whole section: This Act may be cited as the ``Defense of Marriage Act''.  Simply put, the purpose is to establish, by federal law, that "marriage" is "defended" by singling out same sex couples for disfavor.

The section does not merely provide a "title" to the legislation.  No.  It is in effect an establishment of bigotry.  This has a certain First Amendment feel to it -- it is akin, in a fashion, to a protection of "religion" that provides a narrow definition, like Mitt Romney's nod to our "Judeo-Christian" values, as if "religion" in this country is of a certain caliber:
America’s rise to global leadership is our Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of the goodness and possibilities of every life.
Yes, our rise to global leadership did not involve Jeffersonian deism or anything.  "Marriage" does not include Jane Lynch and Lara Embry, just as a "vision of goodness" is you know, basically "Christian," with Jews tossed in as a nice gesture and all.  The second provision of DOMA is a redundant security to an already existing public policy exception that is written in a broad way to harm some stray gays and lesbians, who might fall between the cracks without it.  The third section is what President Obama is not defending in court, in fact, is actively challenging while still executing the law as long as it is upheld in the courts. This, though it confused certain law professor types at the time, follows long precedent, including a promoted by John Roberts back when he was an advocate.

But, the first section really says it all.  Jane could knowingly say "our" with special meaning in an interview with Rachel Maddow. The word, such an important little pronoun, however has a further reach in the eyes of the President and others. It means all of us. The path to truly defending marriage continues, teaching the wisdom of an opinion written by someone with a penchant for gay clerks, even if he was clueless about so doing, claiming that he never had met a homosexual:
Even if conditions of modern society have brought about a decline in extended family households, they have not erased the accumulated wisdom of civilization, gained over the centuries and honored throughout our history, that supports a larger conception of the family.
Ah well.  The full interview is up.  Time to watch it.

Red Dust

I thought the film about the complications of South Africa justice pretty good; the book is good too, with a few differences and more of a window into the internal thoughts of the characters. The author's (white) mother was killed by a mail bomb from the government.

Valerie Plame Wilson Update

VPW continues to stay busy. She is writing spy novels, after advising the fictional Covert Affairs (like the lead actress, couldn't get into it), speaking on postpartum depression and worked on a documentary regarding nuclear proliferation.

Fair Game

I talked about Fair Game here (book here) and saw the movie again last night, but this time while listening to Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson providing commentary.  Watching your crazy (one word; another "disgusting") story get a dramatic license gloss must be a bit perverse.  No deep insights, but the re-watch was worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I think Rachel Maddow's theme is excellent but had trouble with her writing style.  One of those books that I couldn't hook on to.  Guess I'll tackle the themes via other sources. Many liked it though.

"Boxing Daria"

I enjoyed this perspective and often very funny MTV show and the recent release of the whole series on DVD led me to the final regular episode.  One of a few I missed the first time, it is quite good.  Quinn going outside like that, however, was out of character. 

“it’s not the end of a life or one’s happiness, it’s a beginning”

these ceremonies are necessary for people to move on. “Divorce is a new passage, an entrance into a new life,” he said. “In many religions a funeral is not a funeral, it’s a memorial, and the person is going on to something better.”
Good article, underlining the value of ceremonies to deal with major transitions, including those noting the limits to "death do we part."

Miguel Batista

El viejo poeta went seven last night and the Mets survived FF. A few baseball blogs sneer a bit at MB, but after a slow start, he again is a serviceable swing man. There is something to be said about being consistently average (in many places) and I'm glad he's there.

Jeff Toobin on Citizens United

I stopped reading when he exaggerated the Court's treatment of regulation in the early 20th Century, but if he's off on a key premise too (see here), I'd really pass. Still, disagree with the last comment. Liberals do support careful litigation, especially when major fact-finding is warranted. The Amazon blurb even suggests Obama is such a person. Not a big fan of Toobin overall.

ULC Weddings

Internet ministers like this might seem to be a joke to some, but when at least five NYT wedding announcements last weekend have them officiating, maybe not. Again, why exactly is there a need for NY (state) to not allow them to be officiants?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Roger Williams

The founder of Providence was the first to see that religious freedom, and separation of church and state, was intimately connected with political freedom.
Behind a firewall, but this Nation article that provides a summary of the author's book is quite interesting. The idea "separation of church and state" is just something Jefferson said in some letter alone warrants more education on this guy. See also, Liberty of Conscience.

Supreme Court Watch (Eye Glazing Edition)

Sotomayor joined the conservatives (minus Kennedy) in a Chapter 12 (farm bankruptcy) case and managed to cite legislative history without Scalia having a separate statement ("For those of us for whom it is relevant[.]") See, a 5-4 ruling not going to script!

Head, Wall, Bang

I may think that President Obama’s flip-flop on gay marriage ...
The filibuster thing is notable too. Listen, [ ], he didn't "flip-flop." I know this is hard for some people, but he left the matter open to change for years. It was not some "insincere" measure but reasonable public moderation. Society is evolving and he recognized a tipping point. Not that simply changing one's mind is exactly a bad thing.

More Cafeteria Libertarianism?

Gary Johnson: ‘I Will Continue The Ron Paul Revolution’
The revolution against abortion rights, gay rights (ridiculing Lawrence v. Texas etc.), against the separation of church and state, voting for the open-ended 2001 AUMF, etc. Paul is no ideal model.