Thanks, Obama!

So today President Obama signed an executive order saying that federal contractors can’t discriminate against LGBT people. This is an excellent thing. It’s made even more excellent that he did it over the objections of religious types who, citing the recent Supreme Court ruling about Hobby Lobby, opined that they should be allowed to discriminate. That’s a bullshit argument. If you want to take federal money, you have to play by federal rules. If you don’t want to play by those rules, don’t take the money. Simple.

And a Slow Sense of Sanity Returns

She vetoed it. Thank goodness.

I’d like to hope that threatening the state’s economy and trying to turn back the clock on civil rights by 50+ years will be enough to get these asshat Republicans out of office. I’d like to think that. But what will happen is that Republicans will vote for them anyhow. They will either do this because they agreed with things like SB1070 and SB1062, or they’ll do what a gay Republican friend of mine seems to be doing and simply rationalize away the problem. Also, I’ll lay down some money right now that the Arizona GOP will try to censure her for this and the Medicaid expansion. If they did it to McCain, after all…

Oh, Arizona…

There are a lot of things I love about living in Arizona. The fact that the temps have been in the low-to-mid-80s during the middle of February, for example. The low cost of living in Phoenix, the sixth-largest city in the country. The beautiful terrain.

On the other hand, our politics are unbelievably fucked-up beyond…well, beyond all belief.

We’re the sort of state where people can, and do, openly carry guns around with them. Because apparently Arizona in 2014 sometimes gets confused with Arizona in 1884. We’re the sort of state (and specifically, Phoenix is in the sort of county), where having a sheriff like Joe Arpaio is considered acceptable. We have this odd mix of local politics that, at least outside the metro areas of Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson, mixes the worst elements of extremist Republicans with the worst elements of extremist Libertarians. How fucked-up are our politics? They are so royally fucked-up that the Arizona Republican Party actually censured John McCain, a sitting, senior United States senator and former GOP candidate for the White House, for voting alongside Democrats too often. That’s how fucked-up things are here.

I had thought that was kind of the low point we’d hit with politics in this state, and then the GOP-controlled state legislature (previously noted for filing a lawsuit against our Republican governor for expanding Medicaid), passed a bill that is, essentially, the same bill the Kansas legislature killed a few days ago. You know, the one that was the subject of my latest article mocking Kansas.

Now admittedly, Arizona’s state legislature is notorious for being comedy-level stupid. This is the same group of people who manage our state’s economy so poorly that they had to sell-off parts of the state capital complex, and then lease them back, in order to make our budget. They are so incompetent that they keep cutting educational budgets to the point where the CEO of a major tech company said he’d have to reconsider doing business in this state, because he wasn’t sure he could hire a skilled and educated workforce. So the fact that this collection of ass-clowns has now passed, along party lines, of course, this latest bill is almost zero surprise.

It’s also worth noting that I’m 99% sure our governor is going to veto this. She’s someone with whom I disagree more often than not, but I doubt she’s stupid enough to sign this. If she is, of course, we can then expect several years and several million dollars to be wasted defending this bill before the courts; all the way up to the US Supreme Court which will say, “Yeah, fuck, no.” Though possibly they might dress it up a bit.

It isn’t correct to say that I’m surprised or deeply disappointed in Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature. I’m not. This is absolutely the level of stupidity I’ve come to expect from them. I would like to hope that anyone I know who is Republican in this state, and especially anyone I know who is gay and Republican, would find themselves unable to vote for the party next time around, but I know that won’t be the case. They’ll find a way to rationalize all this and set it aside. They’ll say, “the governor will veto it, so it’s a symbolic vote” (while ignoring what the symbolism represents), or they’ll point out that discrimination against gays is already legal here (you can indeed be fired for being gay, because the law doesn’t say you can’t), or they’ll simply scream, “BENGHAZI!” at you until you walk away. But I’d dearly like to hope they’ll learn from this exactly what their party is, and take that into account next time they vote.

The Last Acts of a Desperate Party?

So state legislatures have latched onto the idea of allowing people to put up “No Gays Allowed” signs. This is fucking stupid, and won’t stand up in court, but I think they know that. I think it’s basically an act of desperation from a group of people who know they are on the wrong side of history and morality and want to go down spewing more hate rather than accept reality. My thoughts pretty much echo those of Andrew Sullivan who wrote about this earlier today. Go have a look, and rejoice in the fact that, basically, we’ve won.

Seriously, What the Fuck is the Matter With Kansas?!

Fuck you, Kansas.

Fuck you, Kansas.

I’d say “word fail me”, but I plan to type nearly 500 words this, so obviously they had better not fail me. Yes, Kansas has truly gone beyond the Pale today and done something very bizarre, very immoral, and I am almost 100% certain, very illegal. They have passed a new law saying that discrimination against gay couples is perfectly legal. You can deny them food, housing, clothes, whatever. If you are a person who runs a business, but your personal religious beliefs exist in conflict with gay marriage, you can refuse service to gay couples.

It goes beyond that. Apparently if you’re a hospital administrator, you can refuse to admit people who are in gay relationships. If you’re a cop, you can refuse to help them. Anything that runs under the auspices of the Kansas government can refuse to provide services to gay couples, or even people they suspect might, at some point, be in a gay relationship. All of this is in the name of some bullshit “religious liberty” concept that holds that someone’s right to believe in their god in their way trumps basically everything else in modern civil society.

What a crock.

It does not in any way shape or form seriously impinge on someone’s religious freedom to tell them that their restaurant can’t refuse service to a gay couple. It does not impinge upon their religious freedoms any more than it does to say they can’t refuse service to black people or Jews. If someone chooses to take part in the wider society by opening a business, being a police officer or running a hospital, that person cannot then say, “I’ll do it, as long as I don’t have to wait on the gays!”

I mean, what the fuck? If you think this is a good, sound, reasonable law, substitute the word “black” or “Jew” or the words “mixed-race marriages” for “gay” and “gay marriages” through out this and tell me then it’s acceptable. And if you think it is, then fuck you, you un-American, freedom-hating asshole.

This is exactly the kind of bullshit that makes people like me truly loathe religion, and why I speak out against it whenever I can. I honestly wouldn’t mind (as much), if people were simply lying to themselves about the nature of the universe in their own homes. But to bring it out in public, and give it the force of law, that’s truly wrong.

If you want to live in a land where you can have your bigoted, intolerant attitudes backed up with the force of law, may I suggest you go live in a place like Uganda, or Russia? I suspect either of those countries would be more your speed. Either way, stop trying to ruin my country with your fucked-up ideas.

15 States (and One District), Down. One More on the Way. 34 States and 5 Territories to Go!

Blue kangs states are best!

Blue kangs states are best!

Since August, Minnesota, New Jersey and Illinois have legalized same-sex marriage. Hawaii is poised to be next. New Mexico will probably follow sometime in the next few months. At present, well over 100 million Americans (37% of the population), live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal. All of us live in a country where the federal government grants recognition to marriages legally performed in these states.

So this begs the question: when will the other 34 states and five territories get off their collective asses and legalize same-sex marriage?

The territories will likely be a mixed bunch. Guam has discussed the issue, but hasn’t moved on it. Peurto Rico is heavily Democratic, but also heavily Catholic. Pope Francis has told everyone to basically stop worrying about the gays, but it remains to see if that’s going to matter. The US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and CNMI all have their own issues as well.

As for the various states, well…look at that map. The problems are basically where you’d expect them to be. Looking at another map may be informative.


That’s what laws against mixed-race marriages were like back in the day. And by “back in the day” I mean up until the late 1960s. The Supreme Court case that struck those laws down, Loving v Virginia, was decided less than five years before I was born. We were only two years away from landing on the Moon, and yet it was still illegal for a white and black person to get married in vast parts of the country.

There are some significant overlaps in that map. The last states to have anti-miscegenation laws are also, with the exception of Delaware, all states that ban gay marriage to greater or lesser degrees. These holdout states had to be dragged, sometimes almost literally, kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

Sadly, I think that’s what it’s going to come down to again. Some currently “red on the first map” states will be pragmatic and pass gay marriage laws. I expect Michigan and Nevada to take this route, and both to do it for money. Others will gradually sober up and take their mouths off the Tea Party exhaust pipe and simply realize, with good ole fashioned Midwestern populism, that what two consenting adults do together is their own damn business. Montana, the Dakotas and possibly Kansas will go this route. Oklahoma may, especially as word gets out that some of the Indian tribes there will perform gay marriages.

But we know what the real holdouts will be; the deep south. The place where people sometimes still refer to “the war of northern aggression” and think that Richard Nixon was dangerously liberal. What they think about Lyndon B. Johnson doesn’t even bear repeating. Most people in the south aren’t racist, that’s sure. But I think we can assume that if there’s any place where one can be fairly openly racist, the deep south is that place.

Mind you, this is several decades after Loving, after Martin Luther King, Jr, after school integration and after the Civil Rights Act. So, no, I’m willing to bet that the deep southern states, except maybe Florida will keep gay marriage illegal up until the bitter end when the Supreme Court forces them to accept it.

And when will that be? Well, it depends on what happens between now and January of 2017. If Obama gets another SCOTUS nomination or two (Scalia will probably hold on until he’s dead, but Thomas might leave), then my guess is somewhere around the 2018 or 2019 term. If there’s only a couple of the Dark Side-style conservatives left, it could happen then. It could happen earlier. Roberts has been slightly impressive over the last couple of years and has proven to be very good at figuring out where the winds of change are blowing.

Even then, I don’t imagine that we will get a full-on “all states must have gay marriages” ruling. That will probably not come until sometime next decade. But a ruling that says all states have to recognize any marriages legally performed in other states? That will come sooner and will frankly make a lot of sense.

It’s only been about ten years since Massachusetts became the first state with gay marriage. Oddly, pretty much nothing the anti-gay marriage crowd has predicted has come to pass, and now we have many, many other states joining the team. Soon more will, and this imperfect experiment of American equality will take another grand step forward.

What Remains for Progressives?

Those of us on the left have won just about every fight there is. Americans are generally pro-choice, civil rights are spreading far and wide, gay marriage is more of a thing now than it was even just a few years ago, and we even have a black (more or less), president. So what’s left?

That’s what Slate asked earlier this week. With almost no effort on my part, I’ve come up with a list of ten things we on the left need to be working on. I’m sure it’s a fraction of what’s actually needed, but at least it’s a start.

1. Abolishing the death penalty nationwide. It’s useless, it’s expensive, and worse of all, there’s always the chance we might murder an innocent person. This almost certainly happened in Texas, and I’m willing to bet it’s a matter of when, rather than if, we have definitive proof someone innocent was murdered by the state. The more we learn about wrongful convictions, the more the idea of something as irrevocable as killing someone should be considered anathema.

2. Improving labor rights. Not just improving the lot of unions, though that, too, but the basic rights of the American worker. Do you know that in Australia, which has a standard of living very similar to our own, the minimum wage is nearly US $15 an hour? Imagine what it would be like in this country if we raised the minimum wage up to even just $12 an hour. Sure, businesses would scream and complain, and then they’d absorb the costs and move on. Meantime, the average worker would have more money to spend, thus helping to drive the economy.

It’s not just the minimum wage, of course. Most of the major industrialized nations have mandatory vacation time. We don’t. Most of them have mandatory sick time. We don’t. At the very least we should have mandatory sick days for any business that employees people who have to handle food. That’s just sense. Hell, it’s not even a matter of national law that employees receive break times, and oddly enough, in those states where breaks aren’t required, employees don’t usually get them. That’s not even going into the number of industries where people are specifically exempt from being paid overtime pay.

3. Gun control. Hard, heavy, gun control. It is absolutely fucking stupid that people in this country can have access to military-grade weapons. We don’t need them. As I’ve said before, I think everyone should be allowed to own one (1) each of the following: a shotgun, a pistol and a rifle. Exceptions can be made for people who work in certain fields, but for the most part, that should be all the guns you need, and that covers basically any use for a gun. I’d also want absolute mandatory background checks on all gun transfers.

4. Voting rights. Let’s secure them better than they are right now. The recent SCOTUS ruling on the Civil Rights Act was a tragedy. They said the states were basically ready to have the laws governing their behavior in elections removed, and several states instantly set out to prove them wrong. We need good, solid voting rights reform.

5. Education access and standards. Everyone should be entitled, merely by being a high school graduate, to have a full, post high school education paid for by the government, with living expenses included. This is something of a no-brainer except to those people who don’t want an educated populous. The left really needs to push this one hard.

6. Stronger separation between church and state. It’s very wrong, frankly, that any government document includes references to God. My money should not say “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance, which shouldn’t even be a thing, shouldn’t say “…under God.” Nor should our money say, “In No God Do We Trust”, and the Pledge should not say, “…under no gods.” The state must and should be completely, 100%, neutral on all religious issues. Anything else is just stupid.

7. Put an end to the growing security state. The PATRIOT Act was a travesty and remains so. The government wields way too much power in the so-called “War on Terror” and that power needs to go away. 9/11 was an aberration that was caused, at least in part, by George W and company ignoring all the signs that an attack was about to happen. What has happened since has been just awful. We’ve damaged ourselves far more than the terrorists ever did, and that needs to stop. Speaking of…

8. Charges and trials for W, Cheney and others involved in war crimes. The use of torture violates both US and international law, didn’t get us any useful information and is completely immoral. We lost the moral high ground by using it, and those involved need to pay. If we can’t give them the trials they deserve, then at the very least we need some Truth and Reconciliation committees to force us, as a nation, to face up to what was done in our name.

9. Greater action on climate change. The GOP loves, loves, fighting this one. But we’ve seen time and again that the models are correct and that global climate change is a real thing. We need to stop it from getting worse and then push on improving things. That we aren’t already doing this is a major shame.

10. True universal health care. Everyone should have access to Medicare. There. Done. That fixes every problem with employer-based health care as well as the individual mandate. I’d even be happy to pay extra in taxes to make this happen. We remain the only major country that lacks universal health care and that needs to change.

So there we go. Ten wonderful, lovely things that we on the left need to get out there and fight for.

The Scouts and the Gays


This is a bit late for me to write about, but I wanted to get my two cents in. The Boy Scouts of America recently announced they were overturning their long-standing ban on gay scouts. Hooray! That’s real progress and a sign of them entering the 1980s at long last. However they have also said that gay adults are not welcome as scout masters.

So, basically the message here to kids is that, hey, be who you are! You’re a wonderful person, welcome in our organization! But if you’re gay, fuck off once you’re 18.

I really don’t get the point of this. I’m sure this is at least partly due to the fallout over the various crimes committed by Catholic priests. People assume that gay men aren’t able to keep it in their pants and will start raping boys left and right if they’re allowed to serve openly. Pure nonsense of the first order.

It’s worth noting that the Girl Scouts let men serve as scout leaders. There’s rules that state they can’t be alone with the girls, and that’s as it should be. No one adult should be alone with any group of kids in an unsupervised environment. So if the Boy Scouts put in a policy saying that no adult, straight, gay, bi, male or female, can be alone with the boys in an unsupervised environment, that should take care of any concerns.

But of course this isn’t about rational concerns or anything like that. This is about religion. It’s about a Christian-dominated organization that’s largely controlled by the Mormon Church. It’s an organization that remains hostile and exclusionary toward atheists. It’s an organization that’s rapidly losing any kind of relevance to the modern era. That’s something of a shame. While I have some severe problems with the BSA, their overall goals are good, and I’d like to see them be more accepting. But until that happens, I fear they’re going to simply continue to slide into irrelevance.

SCOTUS and DOMA, etc


So the Supreme Court is hearing cases on California’s Proposition 8 (you know, the one that holds that the public are allowed to take away rights granted to people), and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. At stake is the future for same-sex marriage in this country. If the justices rule one way, we likely still have the current situation, with nothing really changing. If they rule the other way, we likely still have the current situation with nothing really changing. At least in the short run.

See, I don’t think this is going to be another Loving v Virginia case, or even another Lawrence v Texas. I expect that in the Prop 8 case, the court will make a very narrow ruling that applies only to California and says that the people can’t take away rights previously granted to a minority.

The DOMA case is a bit trickier. There’s no real Constitutional ground for DOMA. It’s 100% about discrimination and everyone knows it. I expect the court will overturn it, requiring that the federal government recognize gay marriages legally performed. I don’t expect that they will, at least at this point, take the next logical step and require that states recognize any legal marriage, even if they don’t perform those sorts of marriages themselves.

This case has been a long time coming, and sadly I’ve spent the last couple days buried under allergies, so I haven’t been able to pay as much attention as I’d like. Still, I think this is going to, in the short run, end up being a positive thing for gay marriage, and in the long run, it will set the stage for major, massive reforms.

Parsing the Election III: The Other Elections

Among the various bits of voting that happened last night, it’s important to remember that more than just control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate were on the line. There were also several ballot initiatives and local and statewide elections that need to be remembered. All of these are at least somewhat interesting, but there’s a few that really caught my eye.

First off, voters in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington state all voted in favor of gay marriage. In the case of Minnesota this was, as I understand it, voting against an amendment that would have outlawed it, but I do believe that in Maine, Maryland and Washington, the vote was to make gay marriage legal.

The importance of this cannot be understated. The majority agreed, however reluctantly in some cases, that the minority should be granted very basic human rights. This was the first time this happened in the case of gay marriage, and I’m glad that it finally did. Now we just move on to the inevitable court challenges which I predict will end in the Supreme Court saying that states don’t have to perform gay marriages, but they do have to recognize them when performed legally elsewhere, thus basically invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act.

We should take a moment to understand that Obama saying he supports gay marriage likely helped this issue considerably. He really is the best President we’ve ever had on gay rights, though given that the second best, Clinton, was the one who gave us Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA, that isn’t saying much. Tell me McCain would have been as good on gay rights and I’ll call you a lair to your face.

The other major thing to notice form last night is marijuana seems to have basically gone mainstream. Some states legalized medical marijuana, but that’s nothing new and not terribly interesting to me. No, the real interesting thing is that Washington state and Colorado both voted to make recreational use of marijuana legal.

Now that’s an important thing. In the case of Washington, what will happen is that, eventually, marijuana will be sold in various state-run stores, rather like liquor already is (or at least it was when I lived up there). You would be allowed to possess up to an ounce at a time, which is…I don’t know. A lot? A little? I have no idea, because I don’t use the stuff. But I’m sure it’s something that will greatly please those who do.

Of course the federal government isn’t big on this whole thing, so you can look forward to many challenges. For the Republicans out there, this brings up an interesting question. Isn’t this a states’ rights issue? The people of Washington state have decided they want to give up on the drug war and let people have their weed. Doesn’t Republican ideology mean that you have to support them in this? If there’s any intellectual consistency, of course it does, but when we’re talking about the GOP, perhaps “intellectual” is not a word that should be used.

There were many other state and local elections last night, but those were the ones that really caught my attention. I’m done, at least for now, covering what happened in election. I think I’m going to go take a nap.


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