28 November 2009

Constitutional crisis afoot?

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is a federal (not state) court of appeals whose jurisdiction includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawai'i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam and the Northern Marianas. The Ninth Circuit is by far the largest court of its kind, and there are 29 judges. This is the court that conservatives mock for being frequently reversed. The Ninth hears a ton of high-profile cases, so in sheer number that might be true, but by percentages they're actually not reversed more often than other circuits, less than some.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Ninth Circuit is a powerful body. If you lose your case in a federal district court within their jurisdiction, this court would hear your appeal. If you appealed their judgment, it would be to the Supreme Court of the United States. Anymore, SCOTUS justices are culled exclusively from these federal courts of appeal.
The current chief judge of the Ninth Circuit is Alex Kozinski, appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Among the several attorneys working for the chief judge is Karen Golinski, who is a married California resident who wished to add her spouse to her employer's healthcare plan. Ordinarily this would be a nonissue, some paperwork for the court's HR department. Ms Golinski executed the paperwork, but a bureaucrat within the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts kicked it back.
While most employee disputes in the federal government are decided by administrative agencies (which are part of the executive branch), federal law gives federal courts the power to settle their own employee disputes. So ten months ago, Judge Kozinski ruled the agency had erred.
In making that decision, Kozinski was faced with a conflict of law: the Defense of Marriage Act is a sweeping and categorical denial of state and federal benefits to gay citizens; however, the Federal Health Benefits Act mandates federal employers to extend health coverage to employee's spouse. When faced with such a conflict of law, the typical rule of construction is to avoid deciding a Constitutional question, and that's precisely what Kozinski did. Golinski has a legal spouse and spouses are qualified pursuant to the FHBA; ergo, there's no need to acknowledge DOMA's Constitutional elephants in the room. Thus, a quintessentially conservative ruling produced a rather progressive outcome — Ms Golinski's wife is qualified for coverage. So ordered, the agency moved to comply.
Alas, the "Fierce Advocate" once again sprang into action.
Defying a lawful court order, the Obama administration directed the federal Office of Personnel Management* to demand that Blue Cross not process Ms Golinski's paperwork.
I probably don't need to tell you that Judge Kozinski is pissed. "The Office of Personnel Management shall cease at once its interference with the jurisdiction of this tribunal." He's given the OPM 30 day to comply and says he's willing to use the powers of the court to enforce his order.
When one branch of the government attacks the powers of another, that's called a "Constitutional crisis." But apparently this is not a real Constitutional crisis, since the issue is only gay rights and therefore not terribly important and scarcely even newsworthy.
But seriously, think about this for a moment: Obama is so willing to defend the indefensible DOMA that he is subverting the rule of law just to injure one lesbian couple. Wow.
Had George W. done this, I would have been astonished.
That Barack Obama, former professor of Constitutional law and self-described "friend" of gays is doing it simply beggars description. That Obama is doing this in furtherance of a law he's says is without merit and "abhorent" is nothing short of unhinged.
Tip of the crust to Americablog Gay.
(* John Barry heads the OPM and is the highest-ranking openly gay member of the Obama Administration — which is pretty pathetic in itself. That Mr. Barry is willing to be Obama's kapo says quite a bit about him and his boss.)

25 November 2009

Carefully formulated development.

In 1787, the United States Constitution was ratified, banning — among other things — the ability of the government to issue Bills of Attainder. These bills were legal writs delivered from a legislature declaring a person (or group) "attained"; that is, presumptively guilty of a crime without a trial. Attainder voided the party's civil rights and the attained's property escheated to the sovereign. It was one of Henry VIII's favorite tools against non-compliant but propertied subjects, and one of the conspicuous excesses of the English monarchy that the Framers wished to eliminate.

Two hundred and ten years later, Susette Kelo, an EMT, bought and restored a little house in the Fort Trumball section of New Haven, Connecticut, overlooking the Long Island Sound. She painted it a cheery pink.

image from the Boston Globe
These two incidents should never have intersected, yet they did. Kelo's crime was owning property coveted by her sovereign.

How did the New London government take Kelo's and 90 other acres of nearby property for the benefit of new private corporate owners? The city council created an Economic Development Corporation which leveraged the property against its owners. That is, the EDC told the city council that the properties would generate considerably more revenue if they were someone else's property — somebody...rich. Their promise: revitalization would create 3,169 jobs and $1.2 million in tax revenue.

Pfizer was one of those prospective rich private owners. In 2001, they built the biggest office campus in the city, near Kelo's neighborhood. Pfizer got a sweetheart deal, too: they were only obligated to pay 20% of their property taxes for the first decade. Any additional development would enhance the value of the existing Pfizer campus, and now Pfizer played a key role.

Ms Kelo was subsequently informed what the city intended to pay for her property, and the date she was expected to vacate. The letter wasn't labeled "Bill of Attainder," but it sure doesn't miss by much. In 2005, the dispute ended up in the Supreme Court of the United States, and was argued as a Fifth Amendment Takings Clause case.

The Takings Clause says that the government cannot seize private property except where it's (1) for "public use," and (2) provided the owner is paid "just compensation." There was no question that the property was to be transferred from one private owner to another. Nonetheless, the majority was persuaded that the incidental tax benefit derived by the city from the promised revitalization was the requisite "public use."

...the city has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue...the Court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for the general public. - Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority
...and that was that. The court sided 5-4 with the Sovereign against the subject, in a bizarre ruling where the Court's so-called "liberals" adopted the Federalist-style argument, "who are we to question the judgment of the legislator? 'Public use' means 'any public purpose they decide.'"

Ms Kelo's land was awarded it to the corporation for their planned "urban village" development of restaurants, retail, a conference hotel, marina, riverwalk and condos. The city announced its intent to sue the remaining residents of the disputed property for five years of back rent (a cause they eventually dropped.) Ms Kelo moved across the river to Groton, Connecticut.

This month, Pfizer announced that it intended to abandon New London and transfer the 1,400 campus jobs...to Groton. The transfer will be completed within two years. Coincidentally, that's right before their 80% property tax discount corporate welfare expires.
New London officials were apparently stunned by this news, and genuinely upset that Pfizer had not consulted them, demonstrating that they are indeed as dumb and gullible as you probably already assumed.

New London will be left with a massive abandoned office complex and the bulldozed lots of what was once Ms Kelo's Fort Trumball neighborhood — empty lots that produce zero tax revenue.
image from http://yedies.blogspot.com

Yep, despite the "carefully formulated development plan," nobody bothered to actually...develop.

Pfizer paid $67 billion for Wyeth, Inc. last month.

13 November 2009

The real sin of Sodom.

Long ago the Catholic Church determined that homosexuality was such a terrible sin that their "loving" God destroyed a couple of cities over it, and it was their obligation to continue to destroy homos on their "almighty" God's behalf. Except their "all-knowing" God had already decided to destroy Sodom before the mob showed up at Lot's door, ergo the argument over what "know" means and the whole angel-raping mob story is pretty much moot according to their own book.
If that doesn't convince you that homosexuality wasn't Sodom's real sin how about this: Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. Ezekiel 16:49
So there's something especially poetic about this news: the District of Columbia City Council plans to enact an anti-discrimination ordinance and the Catholic Church is so incensed...that they're threatening to screw the poor.
The proposed ordinance doesn't have anything to do with religion. It won't require the church to perform gay weddings, hire or retain gay clergy or ministerial staff, or preach that gay people aren't child molesters or anything crazy like that. It just says that businesses and charities that do business in or with the city can't discriminate against their own gay employees.
Due to DCs prospective interference the employer/employee relationship, the Church is now threatening to break its social services contracts with the city that it currently performs through its nonprofit entity, Catholic Charities. It's probably not an idle threat, either. When Massachusetts enacted a law that said that adoption agencies couldn't categorically deny adoption because the prospective parents were gay, the Catholic Church folded up its adoption agency and left the state. Apparently it's better to deny Massachusetts orphans parents entirely.
Catholic Charities of DC claims they are:
...the area's leading provider of comprehensive human services, strengthening the lives of people in need...[serving] over 8,000 homeless people a month.
But fuck those 8,000 homeless if the city won't allow Catholic Charities discriminate against the handful gays that may lurk amongst their 800 DC area employees.
Punishing "sodomites" by committing the real sin of Sodom?

09 November 2009

Because that's my feeling.

I saw this over at Joe.My.God:
Ann Tischer makes a beautiful case, and the only response her Senator can manage is...it's his "feeling" that she doesn't deserve equality.
I'm no expert on the New York legislature, but do they swear to protect and defend their feelings?
I only wish she'd asked the logical follow-up question:
"Senator, the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees that no state can deny any US citizen the privileges and immunities of citizenship; and no state may deny any person the equal protection of the laws. The New York Constitution also says that no person shall be denied the equal protection.
Do you believe that homosexuals are not people, not citizens, or both?"

07 November 2009

My birthplace is vastly inferior to yours.

06 November 2009

The pledge.

Behold, Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri:
Fucking retard.
I really enjoyed when the camera pulled back to reveal a sea of white faces.
Racism. Yet another thing that drives us liberals crazy.

Defenders of the Family.

Hot off her triumph at the Values Voters Summit, where she assured cheering Christian Conservatives that "God chose me," America's second-favorite Model Christian™ Carrie "I am disgusted at how some people can be so intolerant" Prejean is headlining yet another hatefest:
Awesome timing, New Jersey Family Policy Council! Clearly God is on your side!
According to TMZ:
When the video started playing, Carrie's first reaction was "that's disgusting"...and Carrie denied it was her. Then, the camera angle changed...and panned up to her face. She was caught red-handed...so to speak. Carrie was rendered speechless and immediately began talking with her lawyer. We're told it took about 15 seconds for Carrie to drop her $1 million dollar demand.
I don't know when Jackie Collins began writing for TMZ, but I approve.
Anyhow, you may recall that Prejean's pre-pageant topless photos were simply a matter of her being tricked by her photographer. As a good Christian woman, she would never deliberately pose topless.
Oh stop it, Mr. Photographer. Can't you see I'm looking for my modest Christian attire?
Okay, ready now. Shoot away!
Miss California pageant contract: Have you even been photographed nude or partially nude?
Prejean: No
I wonder how she'll explain away her porno movie?
Will she be invited back to James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program? Will "Reverend" Dobson review her latest video claim to fame and once again solemnly pronounce, "you did one of the most courageous things I've seen anybody your age or anybody else do. What was going on in your mind?"
"Even though the forces of the evil and intolerant homosexual agenda in the guise of Satan tempted me into selling my body like a common whore again, I was always thinking about Jesus, Reverend, and just praising his name. 'Oh god, oh god, oh god...'"
UPDATE: They called it off. Must've been very last minute.

02 November 2009

Wow. Just, wow.

Click here to view some of the most fantastic, jawdroppingly cool photos you'll ever see.
The artist is Igor Iwanowicz, and he photographs insects.

Okay, I thought it was funny.

In a fark thread about an Ameila Earhart conspiracy theory:
I thought Amelia Earhart was the one that wrote the diary while hiding from the Nazis.
Dude, duh, that was Hellen Keller.
No, Helen Keller was the one that wouldn't get out of her bus seat for whitey.
The woman on the bus was Susan B. Anthony. Helen Keller wrote cook books.
Dude, that was Annie Oakley. Dumbass.
Annie Oakley wrote self help books. You are thinking of Annie Hall.
No Annie Hall led the prohibition movement, Julia Childs is the right name.
Julia Childs spent years in Africa, studying chimps.
wait, I thought that was Sandra Day O'Connor.
Jesus christ, that was Rosa Parks. Glad to see the American education system at work here.
Sandra Day O'Conner is the lady who made movies in the 1960's with people like Rock Hudson. Rosa Parks started the American Red Cross.
No no no, that was Harriet Tubman. Rosa Parks was the first Avon lady.
Harriet Tubman invented the mud bath. The first Avon lady was Betsy Ross.
Please allow me to correct yous. Florence Henderson started the Red Cross.

01 November 2009

Dog bites man.

In California, a legally married SkyWest Airlines* baggage handler is threatening suit against his employer because the regional carrier refuses to provide his spouse the same benefits it provides to other married employees.
Oh, did I mention the baggage handler is gay, and SkyWest is owned and operated by Mormons?
Yes, I realize "Mormons hate homosexuals" is totally a "dog bites man" story, but it does serve to illustrate the point that "separate but equal" never is.
* SkyWest operates flights for Delta Connection, United Express, and Midwest Connect. Now I'm glad I didn't book my San Diego tickets yet.