30 November 2012

How kitty spends his day.

Family mounts camera to kitty's collar to see what he does all day. The results are...unexpected.

Please to enjoy:


01 August 2012

Today in religious hypocrisy.

29 June 2012

How the Grinch meant to steal the ACA.

Scalia writes in the Obamacare dissent:
The striking case of Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U. S. 111 (1942), which held that the economic activity of growing wheat, even for one’s own consumption, affected commerce sufficiently that it could be regulated, always has been regarded as the ne plus ultra of expansive Commerce Clause jurisprudence. To go beyond that, and to say the failure to grow wheat (which is not an economic activity, or any activity at all) nonetheless affects commerce and therefore can be federally regulated, is to make mere breathing in and out the basis for federal prescription and to extend federal power to virtually all human activity.
- National Federation of Independent Business v Sebelius, 567 U.S. ___ (2012) (Scalia, joined by Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, dissenting)
The "ne plus ultra of expansive Commerce Clause jurisprudence"? Damn. Nicely done.

Also, Justice Scalia, here you make a very fair and valid point.

Yes, you heard me right.

Indeed, Wickard is an atrocity. The way it gleefully traipses past the bounds of rationality and then wind-sprints into a conclusion of the purist lunacy still has the power to shock me every time I read it. As you suggest, Wickard is truly the zenith of federal legislative and regulatory narcissism, and the real how-to manual for drawing spurious legal opinions.

So in 2004 — when Gonzales v Raich presented you the opportunity to overturn Wickard — why didn't you even bother to try?

Why? Scalia Claus...why?

Indeed, who was the hardline conservative who joined the moderates that time? That was you. You all relied on what you now concede is Wickard's idiotic reasoning to reach the idiotic conclusion that NOT buying marijuana on the black market somehow constitutes "interstate commerce."

Thus, you ruined a couple of women who weren't bothering anybody, and just using some homegrown for therapeutic purposes on doctor's orders and pursuant to California state law.

So I guess that was fun.

Since you insisted in Gonzales v Raich that not buying pot from a California drug dealers is indeed interstate commerce subject to federal regulation, then it is at least as true that not buying insurance is interstate commerce subject to federal regulation.

The reasoning is shit, but it's all yours, Nino. Own it.

Having been hoist on his own petard, Scalia stamps his foot and insists:
Raich is no precedent for what Congress has done here. That case’s prohibition of growing and of possession did not represent the expansion of the federal power to direct into a broad new field.
Oh, really...?

Well please direct me to clause in the U.S. Constitution that expressly grants Congress the power to regulate recreational intoxicants, pharmaceuticals or medical treatments. The fact that it doesn't exist certainly didn't prevent Congress from entering into such a "broad new field" by enacting the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act  a breathtakingly expensive and expansive act of law-enforcement futility known colloquially as "The War on Drugs."

Hell, "war" isn't even a euphemistic term. This law legitimized becoming actively embroiled in hot wars and/or paramilitary conflicts all over the globe since the 1970s, and caused a massive expansion of the federal bureaucracy. Perversely, this law even provided the justification for federal agencies to actively participate in organized crime and drug trafficking. With respect to the public, the law features utterly irrational criminal penalties that include ruinous fines and lengthy incarcerations for even minor infractions and is the direct reason we have the worlds highest incarceration rate. By a mile.

Perhaps worst of all, in its haste to endorse and enforce draconian federal drug laws, SCOTUS and the rest of the federal judiciary has invented so many ludicrous loopholes, doctrines and exceptions to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments the Bill of Rights is now approaching a legal nullity.

As the longest-serving member of the Court, and the one most likely to back a cop and smack down a drug user, once again this is on you, Justice Scalia.

My point here is that, by any measure, the Affordable Care Act looks like Bambi next to the uncontrollably destructive Godzilla that is the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. So let's all have a little perspective here.

And while everyone is free to believe it's all staggeringly stupid government policy, by Scalia's logic both acts of Congress must be Constitutionally valid exercises of federal power, or neither can be.
Moreover, Raich is far different from the Individual Mandate in another respect. The Court’s opinion in Raich pointed out that the growing and possession prohibitions were the only practicable way of enabling the prohibition of interstate traffic in marijuana to be effectively enforced.
"Far different"? Howso?

Elsewhere you concede, "the goal of the Act is to provide near-universal medical coverage."And to the purpose of achieving that goal, in conference, deliberation and debate, the insurance industry insisted, and Congress finally agreed that the only practicable way to effectively enforce this Act was to prevent insurers from limiting their insurance pools to cherry-picked low-risk individuals. Thus Congress required everyone capable of paying into the pool to do so, enabling the public-health benefit costs to be apportioned generally across the public, with failure to do so subject to penalty.

Y'know — kinda the way taxes work.

Justice Scalia then goes on to fantasize about other ways he thinks the law could, or rather should, be effectively enforced to achieve its policy goal, attempting to substitute his notions of sensible policy for Congress' — precisely the "judicial activism"he otherwise fucking lives to mock.

Having utterly lost his way, Scalia now heads straight into the weeds:
[W]e must, if “fairly possible,” construe the provision to be a tax rather than a mandate-with-penalty, since that would render it constitutional rather than un-constitutional (ut res magis valeat quam pereat)*. But we cannot rewrite the statute to be what it is not.
The mere fact that Congress terms a penalty a tax, or terms a tax a penalty, or calls a surcharge an antelope is at best a semantic issue, not a legal one. Regardless of whether it's called a tax, penalty, or surcharge, Congress can enact a law which — irrespective of the verbiage — functionally taxes, penalizes, or surcharges. No, the Court may not rewrite a statute, but ferchrissakes you also may not just fucking void a law because its diction doesn't meet your lofty editorial standards.

Stop jerking off over the dictionary and cut the formalistic shit. Nonissue. Move along.
[O]ur cases have long held that the [federal] power to attach conditions to grants to the States has limits.
Well your jurisprudence, Justice Scalia, hasn't so far respected any such limits.

Indeed the landmark and controlling case you keep citing in this section is Dole v South Dakota, where you were in the majority that decided the feds are indeed free to penalize any state that failed to comply with the provisions of Congress' National Minimum Drinking Age Act through withholding 10% of highway funds. The Twenty-First Amendment expressly delegates to the states the power to regulate intoxicating liquors. But Justice Scalia, you thought it was okay for the feds to intrude on that express right and strongarm states into toeing the federal line on booze under threat of withdrawing money to construct roads and bridges — a matter utterly unrelated to drinking. Also, you may recall that in Gonzales v Raich you didn't exactly feel compelled to champion state sovereignty on California's behalf when it asserted its right to regulate cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

Every state already voluntarily participates in the federal Medicaid program on the terms the federal government determines, and Medicaid's purpose has ever been to provide medical care to the poor with qualifications indexed to the Federal Poverty Line. The ACA merely adjusts the index. Medicaid always covered poor people, and now it now covers more poor people.

That's not in any conceivable way some radical restructuring of the program.  If you blow up a balloon, it's still a balloon. If you blow in one more breath, you cannot argue it's not the same balloon, or longer even a balloon at all. And let's be real here: how can any sane American be genuinely surprised when government programs expand? It's like feigning shock and outrage the cute little puppy you bought last year turned into a dog. Really, spare me.

Then Scalia whips out the calculator to mathematically quantify the difference between "mild encouragement" and "coercion." Science! 
Withholding $614.7 million [10% of federal highway funds], equaling only 0.19% of all state expenditures combined, is aptly characterized as “relatively mild encouragement,” but threatening to withhold $233 billion [100% of medicaid funds], equaling 21.86% of all state expenditures combined, is a different matter. 
These figures are imaginative, to say the least. In Dole, the other 49 states weren't refusing to comply, and his belief that all 50 states might rebel against a Medicaid expansion is absurd in the extreme. Indeed, to apply the fact pattern in Dole, the feds would have to threaten to slash federal highway subsidies to states that resisted the ACA's Medicaid expansion. But the federal government has every right to regulate the terms by which states participate in a federal program that disburses federal funds to states, and the states retain every right to accept the terms and take the money, or not. Nothing has changed.

Once again, Scalia, judicial activist, simply substitutes his policy judgement for Congress'.

 Look, we all understand that the Affordable Care Act's Democratic pedigree renders it incapable of surviving your legal scrutiny. But doesn't the obviousness of your political-policy motivated, outcome-based legal reasoning ever give you a moment's pause?

Indeed, since you're so much better at writing laws than Congress, won't you please just resign from the bench and run for Congress? I'm sure you'd be a real hit.

* LegalLatin for "so the thing might have effect rather than be destroyed."

28 June 2012

Poor Mitt is troubled.

“And perhaps most troubling of all, ‘Obamacare’ puts the federal government between you and your doctor.”

This is bad.

Unless "you" are a woman, and the "doctor" is her ob/gyn.

A new "Switch in Time"?

So the 'bastard's favorite bon vivant, Brian, and favorite economist, Robert Reich, predicted the Obamacare outcome — but could anyone have predicted the justices would bring up broccoli 12 goddam times?

Reich predicted it'd go 6-3. It actually went 5-4, but that sorta reinforces his underlying argument.
"Chief Justice John Roberts is — or should be — concerned about the steadily-declining standing of the Court in the public’s mind, along with the growing perception that the justices decide according to partisan politics rather than according to legal principle. The 5-4 decision in Citizen’s United, for example, looked to all the world like a political rather than a legal outcome...Or consider the Court’s notorious decision in Bush v. Gore
The Supreme Court can’t afford to lose public trust....Another 5-4 decision overturning a piece of legislation as important as Obamacare would further erode that trust....
...what better way to show the Court’s impartiality than to affirm the constitutionality of legislation that may be unpopular but is within the authority of the other two branches to enact?"
The first time I read that I though "interesting argument, but if Chief Justice Roberts gave a damn about the appearance of judicial impartiality he wouldn't constantly vote in such an obviously partisan manner."

Reich also predicted the Commerce Clause would justify the individual mandate. It didn't. The majority allowed it on the Tax and Spend Clause. Nonetheless, anticipating Roberts would cross the aisle means Reich got more right than he didn't.

For what it's worth, I correctly put Kennedy with the conservative hardliners and nailed their dissenting arguments.

What's fascinating is Ed Wheelan's suggestion that Scalia's joint dissent was actually composed as the opinion that addressed a Ginsburg-authored dissent because Scalia scarcely addresses the actual opinion authored by Roberts. That does seem to imply things were very far from settled at the eleventh-hour.

Considering Reich's "Chief Justice Roberts chose to save the court" argument, this more than somewhat resembles The Switch In Time That Saved Nine where a different conservative Justice Roberts crossed the aisle to white-knight a different Democratic president's sweeping reforms during a different economic depression.*

It was Dorothy Parker who said, "It isn't true that life is one damn thing after another. It's one damn thing over and over."

* UPDATE: Noticed that Robert Reich made the very same observation in his most recent blog post. Don't know which of us published first, but I swear I didn't plagiarize him. (Actually, feeling a bit puffed up we could arrive at the same conclusion independently. Whoo-hoo!)

27 June 2012

Dusting off the crusty 8-ball.

Tomorrow SCOTUS issues its landmark decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare."

To make the bold prediction, you need to consider:

A. The judge's voting histories, and

B. The issues presented.

So let's have at it, shall we?

A. If anything approaches a certainty,  it is that the decision will not be unanimous, or even close.

Like knowing the sun will rise tomorrow in the east, the conservative RATS (Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia) will vote as a bloc. The four moderates* (Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan), who do not routinely vote as a bloc to the extent the RATS do, in this case are very likely to vote together. 

That means — as with most controversial cases — the Supreme Court is really just one judge: Anthony Kennedy.** 

Justice Kennedy is a staunch conservative, but not an extremist ideologue like the RATS. That means he is, very occasionally, willing to cross the aisle and find some wisdom there. Indeed, upon the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Kennedy assumed her mantle as the Court's "swing voter." 

Which is all very nice and reassuring...until you put it in context. 

O'Connor was and is an Arizona Republican. (I think we all have a pretty good idea of what that means anymore). She was a party official before she was appointed by Reagan and once on the bench, she almost always voted alongside the odious archconservative Justice Rehnquist. Even so, O'Connor was ever painted as the court's "moderate" during the period that Kennedy was a reliable part of the Rehnquist Court's solid conservative majority. 

In short, Kennedy isn't any more a "moderate" than O'Connor was. Indeed, he's actually less of a moderate. 

He almost always votes with the RATS on the landmarks. I expect he will again.

B. There are four major issues the Court will decide:
1. Is the expansion of Medicaid congruent with American federalism?
2. Does Congress have the power to require the individual mandate under threat of penalty?
3. Must we wait until the individual mandate penalty is imposed before we decide if it's permissible?
4. If the mandate is impermissible, is the entire law void?
1. Conservatives are deeply, deeply besotted with anti-federalism and "state's rights" — unless and until a state is doing something progressive, like permitting medical marijuana, or assisted suicide for the suffering terminally ill, or trying to stop corporations from stealthily buying legislatures. Conservatives also find something uniquely repellant about spending public money on the public — they think public money is better spent on making Iraq safe for Chinese petrochemical interests, covering the losses racked up during their Wall Street friend's periodic gambling benders, subsidizing profitable multinational corporations, and Jesus.

2. Can Congress act in response to a completely manufactured public health financial crisis? Well...duh. Of course Congress can require the individual mandate. But this one really makes conservative heads asplode. They'll invent some shit about the framer's intent that the poor be sacrificed or further impoverished in the interest of health industry profiteering, and Scalia will, no doubt, provide some historical fiction to back up this fanciful notion. I expect this to be the bitterly comedic high point.

3. In reality, they probably ought to postpone on the doctrine of ripeness. But I expect they'll make the point that the penalty is so meager that it's not functionally a penalty at all, and they'll assume as a certainty that many good and righteous godfearing Americans will defy the mandate and take the penalty so they can sue the government while they imagine they're a modern Thomas Goddam Paine. Not that that's a good argument, but they need to get to the place where they can kill the mandate, so they will somehow.

4. The Affordable Care Act doesn't have a severability clause by omission or design. That means if they kill the mandate, the whole thing can collapse like a wet taco. Would the conservative majority invent a severability clause to save any of it? Unlikely in the extreme.

So my crusty prediction is that Obamacare dies tomorrow, but the Court wishes all you uninsured sick people the best of luck, and don't forget to drop by and say "hi" when you're in federal bankruptcy court if you survive. w00t.

I hope I'm wrong. I really do.

America's current laissez-faire, invisible-hand, libertarian objectivist I-got-mine-so-fuck-you approach to heathcare is as immoral as it is economically unsustainable.

Given that the self-styled public servants within our Congress and judiciary feel entitled to participate in reliable, affordable, publicly subsidized healthcare for their entire lifetimes, I cannot fathom how they can also believe the public they serve should just do without, or that we should fend for ourselves against corporations who have every incentive to squeeze us until the money runs out, then walk away leaving us fucked.

If unhealthy Americans got the same level of political concern conservatives provide to nonexistent, unwanted, nonviable fetuses, we could solve our healthcare crisis in a couple of years.

But we won't. And that's what's really sick.

* While "liberal" is the literal opposite of "conservative," our Supreme Court is comprised of political conservatives and moderates, not liberals. It would be impossible to make a serious argument that even the most liberal member of the court (probably Justice Ginsburg) reflects and embodies the values of America's progressive social liberals in the same way any of the court's conservatives profoundly reflect and embody the values of America's very hardline conservatives. She just doesn't. Ginsburg is middle-of-the road at best. America's actual liberals have no representation or voice on America's Supreme Court.

** It also means essentially half of the court is, as usual, completely, utterly wrong. How fully half of such an erudite, elite panel of jurists can be so relentlessly, inexorably incorrect despite having essentially the same legal credentials and viewing the same fact pattern is a mystery I leave for you to untangle, dear reader.

26 June 2012

SCOTUS keeps bringing the derp.

Conceding their state's history of political corruption at the hands of corporations, in 1912, the Montana legislature enacted the Corrupt Practices Act, barring corporations from making "an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party."

In short, Montana's law barred fictitious entities who cannot vote from using money to affect the outcome of an election.

The Corrupt Practices Act was challenged in the wake of Citizens United v FEC, 558 U.S. ___(2010), where the conservative majority simply reframed the issue into a baseball-and-apple-pie discussion of whether associations of citizens have a First Amendment right to political speech.

Yeah. Because huge multinational conglomerates are just simple citizen-collectives, and buying national elections and officials is just their way of expressing their political views.

See? No biggie.

The American Tradition Partnership Inc. is a self-described,“no-compromise grassroots organization dedicated to fighting the radical environmentalist agenda.” They insist, “If you decide to support the program, no politician, no bureaucrat and no radical environmentalist will ever know you helped make this program possible.”*

American Tradition Partnership Inc. (in its previous incarnation as Western Tradition Partnership) challenged the Corrupt Practices Act on the basis Montana's political contribution limitations were invalid subsequent to Citizens United. The Supreme Court of Montana noted the corporation's admitted, undisputed function was to allow donors to make unlimited, secret political contributions. Providing abundant evidence of the corrupting influence of such expenditures in Montana prior to enacting the Corrupt Practices Act, the court drew the distinction between the state law at issue and the McCain-Feingold Act overturned in Citizen's United and upheld their state law as an appropriately measured response to address the real problem of political corruption in Montana.

American Tradition Partnership Inc. v Bullock, 567 U.S. ___ (2012) provided the SCOTUS conservative majority's Dr. Frankenstein its chance to kill its Super-PAC "social welfare" abominations, and some small opportunity for redemption, given they're so utterly, blissfully, willfully out-of-touch with reality they were willing to choose to believe as a matter of faith that:
"independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy." (Citizen's United v FEC, 558 U.S. ___, 2010)

It is important to note that every one of their colleagues joined the American Tradition Partnership, Inc. dissent that pointedly noted:
"Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so." 
However, rather far from choosing to redeem themselves, the nimrods used their per curium** holding in American Tradition Partnership, Inc. to make that Citizens United crap binding on the states.

I would attempt to summarize their argument and analysis — but there isn't one.

The stunningly meager 146 word opinion simply states that the reversal of Montana's highest court is justified because "there can be no serious doubt" the issue was entirely and conclusively settled by Citizen's United. 

So...yeah, their substantive opinion amounts to "we already told you once." Wow. Those kinds of opinions have been exceedingly rare, are reserved for uncontroversial cases where the entire panel is pretty much all on the same page.

Which is very much not this.

Given that states have always had the power to control their own elections, how do you suppose these conservatives would approach the issue of a state that's deliberately creating laws that encroach and override a power that has always been federal? You'd think they'd slap that uppity state down with a quickness, wouldn't you?

Well, you'd be wrong. The conservatives who think Montana legislators and judges can't reasonably regulate political spending in Montana, insist — as long as they don't racially profile — Arizona cops who suspect Mexicans of being illegal should be permitted to detain said Mexicans to until proof of legal residence is established.

In support of Arizona's "Papers, Please" law the majority would draw your attention to a federal law that requires foreign nationals to carry proof of legal residency. Super. But I don't really care about how this law affects illegals. I care deeply how this law affects Americans — some of whom are ethnically Mexican or appear to be otherwise..."foreign." Cops have never had the right or power to detain us until we establish our citizenship to their satisfaction.

Now the court is cool with this — as long as the cops are not open and obvious about the racist reasons why they stopped you in the first place.

After all, Americans have elected a black president so we're totes not racist anymore.

God knows nobody would think anything as stupid as "this guy seems suspiciously African. Let's harass him with demands for proof of citizenship, for like, the billionth time."

No siree. Can't happen here.

* What a relief. Someone needs to keep Montana safe for rampant mine-and-dash operations where industry exploits bankruptcy law to transfer its toxic cleanup obligations the taxpayer. That's some conservative-approved bootstrappy personal responsibility free enterprise there, for sure.

** Per curium is legalspeak for "nobody will claim the turd."

21 June 2012

In today's fucking legal news.

SCOTUS held unconstitutional, 8-0, the FCC regulation making broadcast licensees responsible for "fleeting expletives" spoken on-air.

"This is really, really fucking brilliant."
- Bono 

So yeah, that was the bridge-too-far 2003 Golden Globes acceptance exclamation that put the FCC's verbal hygiene enforcement squad into a tizzy.

The net effect of this ruling is that FCC must now restrict its old-fartitude to telling kids at the bus station to put away their goldanged phone and pull up their flippin' pants.

Reached for comment, the FCC stared for a minute and said, "I used to stack fucks like you five feet high in Korea."

27 April 2012

So cute your head will asplode.

Dad, Jason Lee, takes best children's photos, evah.

Please to enjoy http://www.boredpanda.com/creative-kids-photography-jason-lee/


23 April 2012

Today's rambling diatribe.

Beloved took me to see Rachel Maddow speak at the Uptown Theater yesterday in support of Maddow's new book Drift: The Unmooring Of American Military Power.

Hell, I'm reasonably impressed when someone can regularly speak in full, well-composed sentences using a halfway decent vocabulary. Maddow speaks in full, well-composed paragraphs. Seriously, she can extemporize for several minutes on issues of profound complexity without a single "um" or "uh." Amazing.

Oddly enough, she claimed to find writing painful.

Maybe she should "write" by free-associating into a recorder, and let somebody else type it up. That unedited transcript would probably be better composed than most of today's polemics that have no doubt been tortured by multiple drafts, then rigorously edited for publication.

Anyway, one of the extraordinary points Maddow made was military contracting (in the form of private businesses performing all the military's support functions, e.g. building roads, peeling potatoes, washing uniforms, etc.) was sold to Congress and the Brass under little more than faith in the conservative dogma that the private sector can always do everything cheaper than the government.

This, of course, is almost never the case.

It's a super-complicated issue that's difficult to comprehend by laypeople and factotums ignorant of the finer points of business enterprise and management, but it has to do with the fact (and, dear reader, please do try to keep up here) that private companies always add costs to everything for the purpose of making what is known among the business cognoscenti as "profits."

I know! Like Congress, it's probably the first you've heard of this "profits" term, too. Amirite? Anyway, I would make the point that these "profits" are ultimately the reason why the government should not be run like a business, and also why it's safe to assume that anyone who believes otherwise is an intellectually facile dumbass.

But I digress.

Maddow then went on to say that waaaay back in 2007, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both campaigned for the presidency on getting rid of these sorts of military contractors. Having been stricken by the amnesia that is commonly the side-effect of extraordinary power, in the ensuing years, neither President Obama nor Secretary Clinton has demonstrated the slightest interest in even discussing the critical national security question of whether the United States government should remain dependent on private contractors to the extent that some private company might actually be able to decide whether or not the US military could logistically wage a war. And obviously, no Republican has any interest in revisiting the issue, since this cock-up was their brainchild. I've certainly never heard a Republican acknowledge this might be a problem.

So there's yet another critical issue where there is no daylight between the Democrats and Republicans, meaning that you cannot cast a vote for a candidate of either major party to express your view that, as a matter of public policy, you reject the ongoing privatization of the military.

Then, following Maddow, I made the mistake of watching 60 Minutes. Steve Kroft interviewed former US Attorney Anton Volukas, assigned by a federal bankruptcy judge to examine the cause of Lehman Brother's Investment Bank bankruptcy, a bankruptcy that caused the global economic collapse.

In the 60 Minutes segment, Volukas cogently explains Lehman's deliberate fraud. You can read the text of Volukas' report to the US Congress' House Committee on Financial Services here. His Congressional report distills into a mere 16 pages the 2,209 page report Volukas provided to the bankruptcy court. Despite the overwhelming evidence of fraud that Volukas compiled from 150 interviews and 35 million pages of documents, evidence he provided to the government two years ago, the government has steadfastly refused to prosecute any of the perpetrators of Lehman's astonishingly colossal financial fraud.

But come November, you can express your displeasure with this "hands-off the financial sector" public policy by choosing to vote for a presidential candidate from a major political party who will not tolerate titanic levels of economy crippling financial fraud abetted by lackadaisical SEC oversight.

Oh no, wait. You can't.

But should you have a mind to use your vote to register your dissatisfaction with our nation's cheerfully bipartisan and utterly catastrophic public policies relating to the financial sector, war-waging, national security, civil rights, health care, domestic surveillance, corporate immunity, wages, unions, foreign trade, foreign aid, regulatory oversight, pharmaceutical and prohibited drug policy, ad nauseam, ad infinitum, then your only choice is to vote against the status quo by voting third-party.

However, our Two-Party Duopoly has a plan for that, too.

That is why they politicize some bullshit issue like assault weapons bans or access to reproductive healthcare — to create the illusion that voting for a third-party is actually voting against your own interests. It isn't. The fact that either party would cheerfully deprive you of (to apply the examples above) your right to self-defense or your right to reproductive self-determination shouldn't inspire loyalty towards either party.

It should inspire revulsion towards both.

11 April 2012

Art appreciation.

Please to enjoy the brilliant Nina Katchadourian's Seat Assignment: Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style.

Why yes, it is indeed self-portraiture in airplane bathrooms using available paper products.

I am in awe.

10 April 2012

The demographic least likely to divorce is...

According to UK's Office of National Statistics, the couple least likely to split within four years after making it official is composed of:

A. One man, one woman
B. Two women
C. Two men

I'll just scroll down a good bit to preserve the surprise.

There. That should do it.

The answer is C.

And here's the thing: it's not even CLOSE. Heterosexuals married in 2005 were more than twice as likely to split up than gay male couples who entered the UK's separate-but-nearly-equal civil unions. Here's the ONS figures:

Heterosexuals: 5.5%
Lesbians: 3.3%
Gay men: 1.6%

I cannot mock the antigay "marriage defenders" more thoroughly than they make a mockery of themselves and their so-called "principles." Even so, they continue to viciously attack and erode the rights of gay people in the United States for no legally valid reason and to accomplish no legally valid purpose.

Witness the upcoming referenda in North Carolina and Minnesota where heterosexuals will once again decide whether they wish to retain special rights, privileges, and benefits for themselves, at the expense of a minority.

As usual, straight people will overwhelmingly decide, "I do."

04 March 2012

That'll buff out.

Saw this today while hiking in a nature preserve.
How I imagine it played out:

"Um, I think the truck's stuck."

"Meh, we'll come back for it later."

"Good idea."

29 February 2012

Who's "revolutionary" now?

The national government of the United Kingdom officially recognizes same-sex relationships. However, these UK relationships are a "separate-but-equal" arrangement called "civil partnerships." UK CP's ostensibly have all the legal incidents of true marriage, rendering them legally a distinction without a difference.*

The difference arises from certain straight people's compulsion to relegate gay people into a second-class status that marks them as quantifiably different and thus unworthy of sharing a truly equivalent legal status. Thus, this "separate-but-equal" distinction — while perhaps legally negligible — is in reality, profound.

The profundity of that distinction was noted by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954's landmark Brown v. Board of Education, and has likewise not escaped notice by a swath of intelligent people throughout UK. Witness this exchange from a British news program:

The speakers are James Max and Carole Malone. Given the current state of American politics, you'd be forgiven for assuming Max and Malone are a couple of bleeding-heart liberal ivory-tower intellectuals, if not a couple of gay activists.

That is not the case: Max is a pro-banker business journalist and Malone is a right-wing commentator.

Can you imagine an analogous conversation happening in the United States — a nation with actual Constitutional guarantees of legal equality and longstanding doctrinal (if not Constitutionally mandated) separation of church and state?

Me either.

(* This effect is dramatically different from a "civil union" or "domestic partnership" or another of these other "not-marriage" creatures invented by a few states in the United States. A couple CP'd under English law remains CP'd as they travel the length and breadth of their country, while a couple "unioned" under Illinois law revert to legal strangers the moment they cross the state border. A couple CP'd under English law have testimonial privilege, equal rights under immigration law, tax law, probate law, and full access to the other's pensions and survivor's benefits, while individuals bound in a state "not-marriage" get none of this due to a federal law called The Defense of Marriage Act, a law President Obama bizarrely believes to be both unconstitutional and enforceable.)

09 February 2012

Do Mormons ever stop lying?

Naturally, the Mormon church is absolutely crushed by yesterday's holding from the Ninth Circuit that California's Prop 8 was unconstitutional — seeing as they worked so hard on behalf of discrimination.

Here's the statement the Mormon church issued via mormonnewsroom.com ("the official resource for news media, opinion leaders and the public"). The first paragraph is absolutely priceless:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today’s decision. California voters have twice determined in a general election that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We have always had that view. Courts should not alter that definition, especially when the people of California have spoken so clearly on the subject. [emphasis mine]
Mormons have always had the view that marriage is between a man and a woman?

This bogus "religion" was founded by convicted fraud and confabulist Joseph Smith, a man who swore that an angel actually held him at swordpoint and forced him, on pain of damnation, to marry multiple women.
The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it, and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. We have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction. [emphasis mine]
- Prophet Joseph Smith, Contributor, Vol. 5, p. 259
Eventually Smith would marry at least 33 women and girls; among them 10 teenagers (between 14 and 19) and 5 sets of sisters — one pair that were his foster daughters. Some of the adult women this lecherous scumbag wed were already married to some of his followers.

Not to be outdone, Smith's successor, Brigham Young, married 55 women and girls; among them 10 teenagers (between 14 and 19) and this pig didn't mind marrying some other poor dumbshit's wife either.

Even for the era, this was all very, very bizarre and creepy. Polygamy was already illegal in every state when the Mormons started doing it, and the average age of a woman during her first marriage in 1890 was 22*. Marrying a 14-year-old back then was about as fucked up as it is today.

Mormons finally abandoned the "eternal principle" of multiple marriage when they were force to concede that courts actually do have the power to legally alter their definition of marriage.

And speaking of courts, the dissent in the Prop 8 case came from Judge N. Randy Smith who thought it perfectly rational and Constitutionally valid for Californians to vote gays out the US Constitution.

Judge Smith is a graduate of Brigham Young University.

(*During Shakespeare's time the average age was 27, during the American Revolution 25.1, and currently it's 25.3 — the point being this average is rather more consistent that one might expect, and certainly older that you've probably been led to believe.)

26 January 2012

Governor Privilege Denying Dude.

24 January 2012

Rorschach test.

By request.

Of course it's scissors.

Why? What did you see?

20 January 2012

Jamie Kilstein tells his gay rights joke.

Just saw this on The Green Room with Paul Provenza. As hilarious as it is NSFW.

Please to enjoy.


19 January 2012

Screw as I say, not as I screw.

I wish I knew who did this boss caricature.
"I think you can write a psychological profile of me that says I found a way to immerse my insecurities in a cause large enough to justify whatever I wanted it to."
- Newt Gingrich, in an interview with Gail Sheehy
A former staffer named Anne Manning seems to be the earliest claimant to an affair with the creepy and odious Newt Gingrich. She says he limited their encounters to her servicing him orally "so he could say he had not slept with me."

How gallant. Also, please note the "eatin' ain't cheatin'" foreshadowing.

A few years later, Newt Gingrich attempted to get his first wife, Jackie Battley, to agree to his terms for the divorce while she was in the hospital, semi-anesthetized, recovering from uterine cancer surgery. According to Newt's former campaign treasurer, Newt said of Jackie "She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer."

First wife: He married Jackie Battley, his former teacher, in 1962 when he was 19 years old and she was 26. They had two daughters, Kathy and Jackie
Well, you're not exactly Brad Pitt yourself. Or president.
Jackie was Newt's high-school geometry teacher, who he began surreptitiously dating when he was a mere lad of 16.

Please note the horny schoolboy foreshadowing.

It should surprise you not at all to learn Newt ended up being a real hard case about the division of marital assets accumulated over 18 years, to the point the mother of his two daughters had to seek a court order to pay the utilities.

It seems likely that Marianne Ginther, 16 years younger than Jackie, was — shall we say — already "on deck," as she and Newt were married in 1981, a mere six months after his divorce from Jackie was final.

Please note that "how soon looks hasty?" and "trade in for younger model" foreshadowing.

Second wife: Mr Gingrich married Marianne Ginther in 1981, six months after his divorce with his previous spouse was finalised
Just you wait.                            Backatcha.
In 1983, Newt became Congress' moral crusader, making the Congressional Page sex scandal his cause célèbre, to the point of demanding Congress expel his colleagues Representatives Gerry Studds (D) and Daniel Crane (R).
Representative Newt Gingrich, Republican of Georgia, took the floor of the House and told his colleagues that no teacher in any school system would be allowed to continue teaching if he or she had sexual relations with a student. ''The two Congressmen, like a teacher, must be fired,'' Mr. Gingrich said. (New York Times, 19 July 1983) 
Or, y'know...married. They ended up censured. But again, note the cannibalistic foreshadowing.

In 1993, Newt started having an affair with Callista Bisek, a self-described "devout Catholic" and semiprofessional botox abuser. Callista was a Congressional staffer a mere 23 years his junior.

I will eat your soul.
In 1996, House Speaker Gingrich sponsored the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," because "marriage is between a man and a woman."

Foreshadowing, etc.

In 1998, Speaker Gingrich initiated impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton over blowjobs performed by White House intern Monica Lewinsky. When asked if there might have been some hypocrisy involved, Newt thought not. In a 2007 interview with the odious hate group Focus on the Family (which I refuse to link to, for obvious reasons), Newt explained:
I drew a line in my mind that said, "Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept...perjury in your highest officials."
Wow. Have you ever seen more ego and narcissism packed into such a small space?

Naturally, Newt — modestly styling himself a "leader of the government" — isn't judging (heaven forfend!), he's merely fulfilling his duty to be the noble arm of justice. It wasn't the moral failure of adultery (that we were both guilty of) — it was the crime of perjury (that only Clinton was guilty of)!

Except that, at the time, adultery was indeed a crime in the District of Columbia.

Moreover, Gingrich himself ended up racking up 84 charges of ethics violations as House Speaker, including an official reprimand for (wait for it) "making false statements," (perjury that isn't performed front of a judge) which effectively led to Newt slinking out of office under a cloud of shame and suspicion. Without the smallest trace of irony, Newt explained:
"I'm willing to lead, but I'm not willing to preside over people who are cannibals." (New York Times, 8 November 1998)
Says the corrupt jackass whose actions cost fellow Republican Rep. Daniel Crane his seat, and whose idiotic bomb-throwing political style damn near lost the Republicans their majority in the House in one of the biggest upsets in recent political history.

The latest bombshell is that Newt once attempted to...shall we say "redefine marriage" by making it between 1 man and 2 women. Marianne said Newt insisted St. Callista was cool with the idea of "sharing" him.

Marianne declined Newt's offer to be so generous with himself, and sometime later became the second Mrs. Gingrich to get a shattering medical diagnosis — MS. Eight months later, on Mother's Day 1999, Newt dialed her up at her mom's house where she was visiting to ask for a divorce, which was finalized in April 2000.

Newt subsequently converted to Catholicism (the faith of his longtime paramour Callista), then requested and received annulments for both of his previous marriages from the Archdiocese of Atlanta, which allowed the two Godly traditionalists a white wedding inside the confines of Holy Mother Church, where their sacred vows could be properly solemnized.

A mere four months after Newt's second divorce was finalized.

But none of this matters, and here's why; because in Newt's twisted megalomaniacal psyche, his message is so unique, profound and important, nothing he can do can nullify that message. As he explained to Marianne, who asked him how he could rationalize making "family values" speeches during the day, then skulking off to fuck his mistress that night:
It doesn't matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter how I live.
When it comes to a job where your judgment can affect the world, yeah...it kinda does.

18 January 2012

Getting lapped by third-world countries.

Cuba has announced that this year it will consider allowing gay couples civil union recognition.

Yes, "we're thinking about giving you homos second-class legal status," is totally fucking lame, until you consider the bastion of freedom and equality — the United States — isn't even close to considering the possibility of thinking about maybe conferring even second-class legal status to gays.

At a federal level, our country is still busying ourselves with deciding whether we should belt-and-suspenders amend our Constitution in addition to the Act of Congress that ensures gay people cannot claim any of the constellation of rights, benefits, privileges and obligations of marriage.

The Republican party makes political purity determinations based on how much a candidate is willing to punish gay Americans for their identity, and even our relatively hip, young mixed-race Democratic president believes gays aren't entitled to equal rights because Jesus — but he's "evolving," which evidently means "I'm still kinda a homophobe, but I'm politically savvy enough to hedge my bets, and am definitely content to lead from behind on this issue, what do the polls say?"

So — just in our hemisphere — we now find ourselves waaaay behind Canada, and also behind Mexico (!), Aruba, Dutch Antillies, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil.

And now Cuba. We are now less socially progressive than Cuba, ferchrissakes!

What are we aiming for, here — Haiti?