Monthly Archives: August 2010

Why A Civil Society Extends Unemployment Benefits

Throughout this entire recession, I've heard the same thing repeated over and over again by conservatives.  It used to be a mantra that you only heard from the ignorant fringe; now it is as mainstream conservative as apple pie.  It's this:

If you give unemployment benefits to the unemployed, they won't look for work.

…or some variation on this.

This sentiment goes back to the Reagan era (and probably before).  I remember Reagan talking to the nation about some black Chicago welfare mom who would drive around in her Cadillac while collecting unemployment checks.

Great story, makes his point, but total bullshit.  It's now often cited for the proposition that conservatives often conform facts to their beliefs, even if they have to fabricate the facts in their own head.

Anyway, the notion that unemployment benefits prevent unemployed people from looking for work, is also bullshit.  Oh, sure, I'm sure that somewhere in this country, there are examples of that, but the truth is that most people who are unemployed are quite unhappy being unemployed.  Plus, looking for work is a pre-condition of receiving unemployment benefits.

But that doesn't stop even mainstream conservatives from perpetuating the myth.

Which is why I am glad Robert Reich gave a little pushback, on both the moral and factual fronts:

Tonight it was Harvard Professor Robert Barro, who opined in today's Wall Street Journal that America's high rate of long-term unemployment is the consequence rather than the cause of today's extended unemployment insurance benefits.

In theory, Barro is correct. If people who lose their jobs receive generous unemployment benefits they might stay unemployed longer than if they got nothing. But that's hardly a reason to jettison unemployment benefits or turn our backs on millions of Americans who through no fault of their own remain jobless in the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Yet moral hazard lurks in every conservative brain. It's also true that if we got rid of lifeguards and let more swimmers drown, fewer people would venture into the water. And if we got rid of fire departments and more houses burnt to the ground, fewer people would use stoves. A civil society is not based on the principle of tough love.

In point of fact, most states provide unemployment benefits that are only a fraction of the wages and benefits people lost when their jobs disappeared. Indeed, fewer than 40 percent of the unemployed in most states are even eligible for benefits, because states require applicants have been in full-time jobs for at least three to five years. This often rules out a majority of those who are jobless – because they've moved from job to job, or have held a number of part-time jobs.

So it's hard to make the case that many of the unemployed have chosen to remain jobless and collect unemployment benefits rather than work.


The Majority Of Republicans Is Stark Raving Mad

Well, what other conclusion can you reach when you read this:

A majority of Republicans believe that President Barack Obama "sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world," according to a survey released on Monday.

That figure, buried at the very end of a newly released Newsweek public opinion poll, reflects the extent to which a shocking bit of smear and misinformation has managed to become nearly commonplace within the GOP tent.

(Read the full poll results here.)

A full 14 percent of Republicans said that it was "definitely true" that Obama sympathized with the fundamentalists and wanted to impose Islamic law across the globe. An additional 38 percent said that it was probably true — bringing the total percentage of believers to 52 percent. Only 33 percent of Republicans said that the "allegation" (as Newsweek put it) was "probably not true." Seven percent said it was "definitely not true." The rest (eight percent) either didn't know the answer or didn't read the question.

Oh, and that question wasn't the only one showing that a majority of Republicans must be eating paste or something….

Fifty-nine percent of Republicans, for instance, said they believed the president favored "the interests of Muslims over other groups of Americans"….

Look, it's one thing to dislike Obama…. but to actually believe this crap, that is an embarrassment to the not only the GOP, but the entire country.

Not Sweatin’ Earl

Unless it veers westward, I don't expect Earl to be much of a force in the Piedmont, even though it might be a Category 4 (or even 5!).  Some rain, that's it.  In fact, it look my family in New England is likely to see far worse from Earl than I will.


I’ll Drink To That

It's been reported for years that moderate drinking (1 to 3 drinks per day) – especially including red wines – is thought to improve heart circulation in some small way.

But now we learn something new.  Specifically, failure to drink moderately may actually increase your risk of dying:

new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that — for reasons that aren't entirely clear — abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one's risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers' mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers.

What?  Really?

Of course, if you dig deeper into the article, you see what's going on.  It's not that alcohol serves as some sort of life-giving tonic or anything like that.  It's because alcohol lubricates your sociability, which causes you to meet people better, and having that support network reduces stress, which causes you to live longer.

Um, okay.  Not really the science I was hoping for.  Theoretically, I suppose, the same logic could be used with marijuana.  Just sayin'.


It’s Over

With the 5-3 loss against the Blue Rays last night, I'm giving up on The Red Sox's chance at the playoffs.  Nope, not even a wild card position.  We're one month out and 6.5 games behind.  And half the starting team is on the DL list.

Wait'll next year…. again.

A Real Movement

Steve Benen encapsulates my thoughts:

MOVEMENTS ARE ABOUT SOMETHING REAL…. I tried to keep up on today's festivities at the Lincoln Memorial, but as the dust settles, I find myself confused.

For a year and a half, we've seen rallies and town-hall shouting and attack ads and Fox News special reports. But I still haven't the foggiest idea what these folks actually want, other than to see like-minded Republicans winning elections. To be sure, I admire their passion, and I applaud their willingness to get involved in public affairs. If more Americans chose to take a more active role in the political process, the country would be better off and our democracy would be more vibrant.

But that doesn't actually tell us what these throngs of Americans are fighting for, exactly. I'm not oblivious to their cries; I'm at a loss to appreciate those cries on anything more than a superficial level.

This is about "freedom."

Well, I'm certainly pro-freedom, and as far as I can tell, the anti-freedom crowd struggles to win votes on Election Day. But can they be a little more specific? How about the freedom for same-sex couples to get married? No, we're told, not that kind of freedom.

This is about a fight for American "liberties."

That sounds great, too. Who's against American "liberties"? But I'm still looking for some details. Might this include law-abiding American Muslims exercising their liberties and converting a closed-down clothing store into a community center? No, we're told, not those kinds of liberties.

This is about giving Americans who work hard and play by the rules more opportunities.

I'm all for that, too. But would these opportunities include the chance for hard-working Americans to bring their kids to the doctor if they get sick, even if the family can't afford insurance? No, we're told, not those kinds of opportunities.

This is about the values of the Founding Fathers.

I'm a big fan of the framers' generation, who created an extraordinary nation. But if we're honoring their values, would this include their steadfast commitment to the separation of church and state? No, we're told, not those values.

This is about patriotic Americans willing to make sacrifices for the good of their country.

That sounds reasonable; sacrifices can be honorable. But if we're talking about patriots willing to sacrifice, does that mean millionaires and billionaires can go back to paying '90s-era tax rates (you know, when the economy was strong)? No, we're told, not those kinds of sacrifices.

This is about a public that, at long last, wants to hear the truth from those who speak in their name.

What a great idea. Maybe that means we can hear the truth about global warming? About the fact that health care reform wasn't a socialized government takeover? About Social Security not going bankrupt? About how every court ruling conservatives don't like doesn't necessarily constitute "liberal judicial activism"? No, we're told, not those truths.

Movements — real movements that make a difference and stand the test of time — are about more than buzz words, television personalities, and self-aggrandizement. Change — transformational change that sets nations on new courses — is more than vague, shallow promises about "freedom."

Labor unions created a movement. Women's suffrage was a movement. The fight for civil rights is a movement. The ongoing struggle for equality for gays and lesbians is a movement. In each case, the grievance was as clear as the solution. There was no mystery as to what these patriots were fighting for. Their struggles and successes made the nation stronger, better, and more perfect.

The folks who gathered in D.C. today were awfully excited about something. The fact that it's not altogether obvious what that might be probably isn't a good sign.

One of my particular objections is to the whole Glenn Beck/Tea Party phenom — which Benen's pieces suggests although he doesn't say it — is the underlying and unspoken premise that only Becksters and Tea Partiers have these particular goals in mind — you know, "freedom", "civil rights", etc.  As if the rest of us don't?

Anyway, here's something related….

Also related…. a fun juxtaposition:

(1) Glenn Beck, speaking on Friday at the Kennedy Center prior to the Beckfest: "We are 12 hours away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."

(2) Sarah Palin, speaking at the Beckfest: "We must not fundamentally transform America, as some would want."


Also… David Cross….

A FINAL THOUGHT… the huge Beckfest was entitled "Restoring Honor".  Now, I can see how that slogan would have made sense to conservatives in 1999, when we had the Clinton sex scandals.  But my question to tea partiers is this: Even if you oppose — strongly oppose Obama's policies, what has Obama done to bring DIShonor?

My conclusion is that the only thing a person could find "dishonorable" about an Obama presidency is the very fact that a black man is occupying a position typically held by white men.  And that says more about the person holding that view, than it does about Obama.

Exercises In “Fair and Balanced”

Personally, I don't care all that much that Ken Mehlman, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, is gay.  I think it is relevant, considering that when Mehlman was Bush's chief campaign strategist in 2004, he was instrumental in the plan to thrust DOMA into the limelight in order to motivate the (homophobic) Republican base.

So Mehlman's revelation is news.

But not to Fox News, who ignored the story.


School Elections In Mississippi

Does your kid want to run for class officer at Nettleton Middle School in Mississippi?  Cool.

Just so you know, they have some, uh, interesting qualifications.  For example, the student must have a “B” average and a good attendance record.  Oh, and depending on the office, there are other qualifications:


Apparently, this is not a hoax.

My Predictions For Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” Rally & Circus In DC This Weekend

Beck (1)  Fox News will cover it wall-to-wall.

(2)  You won't see a lot of non-white faces there in the crowd.  I should note that the Tea Party groups going to the event are giving out "advice" about how to deal with the multi-cultural DC residents, as evidenced by this, from the website of a Tea Party group in Maine:

Safety and Mores

DC's population includes refugees from every country, as the families of embassy staffs of third world countries tend to stay in DC whenever a revolution in their homeland means that anyone in their family would be in danger if they went back. Most taxi drivers and many waiters/waitresses (especially in local coffee shops like the Bread and Chocolate chain) are immigrants, frequently from east Africa or Arab countries. As a rule, African immigrants do not like for you to assume they are African Americans and especially do not like for you to guess they are from a neighboring country (e.g. Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia) with whom they may have political or military tensions. It's rare to meet anyone who gets really offended, but you can still be aware of the issue.


Many parts of DC are safe beyond the areas I will list here, but why chance it if you don't know where you are?


(3) Because it will take place at the Lincoln Memorial, on the anniversary of MLK's March on Washington, both Lincoln and MLK's name will be evoked often from the podium.  The crowd will react with a tepid response.

(4)  Many of the attendees will use the socialist Washington DC Transit system to get around, completely incognizant of the irony.

(5)  Honor will definitely NOT be restored.

UPDATE: By the way, Beck isn't being very humble about this:

Beck: I think this is an opportunity to gather God's people together and wake people up. And I just have this feeling that this is the beginning of something gigantic in this country, that it is spiritual awakening.

What's going to happen there will raise the hair on your arms. What;s going to happen there you will never, ever forget and I promise you, then next day when you read about it – if the press covers it – you will say "oh my gosh, I wish I would have been there." This will go into the history book.

This is Divine Providence. This is the Lord's hand at work. This is a miracle.


Muslim Cabbie Attacked in NYC

The poison of the rightwing anti-Muslim bigotry of the past few weeks has ripened in the Big Apple:

A city cab driver is in the hospital after being stabbed by a passenger who allegedly asked if he was Muslim, police tell NY1.

Investigators with the New York City Police Department say it all began Monday night when a 21-year-old man hailed a cab at 24th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan.

Police say the passenger asked the driver, “Are you Muslim?” When the driver said yes the passenger pulled a knife and slashed him in the throat, arm and lip.

The 43-year-old driver was able to lock the passenger in the back of the cab and call 911.

Both the driver and the passenger were taken to Bellevue Hospital.

I’m sure this guy wasn’t a Fox News watcher or a Rush Limbaugh listener, right?  Right?

TPM has more:

According to Detective Marc Nell, at 6:14 pm last night, the driver picked up Michael Enright, 21, of Brewster, NY, at the intersection of 24th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. The cab proceeded to drive north, and Enright asked the driver, who Nell identified as a 43-year-old Asian male, if he was Muslim. After the driver responded that he was, Enright allegedly stabbed him repeatedly with a Leatherman tool, according to police.

“[Enright] stabbed the driver in the throat, right arm, left forearm, right thumb and upper lip,” Nell said.

According to police, the driver called 911, and stopped the cab on 3rd Avenue between 40th and 41st streets, managing to lock Enright inside until police arrived.

Nell told TPM that the cab driver is in stable condition, and that Enright has been charged with “attempted murder two as a hate crime, assault with a weapon as a hate crime, aggravated harassment second degree because of race and religion, and criminal possession of a weapon.”


The man accused of stabbing a Muslim NYC cab driver hardly has the background one might expect from someone charged with a hate crime committed in a drunken rage.

Michale Enright is a film student at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and has been working at Intersection International, a multifaith and multicultural effort which seeks to promote justice and peace. The project’s website is strongly supportive of the Codoba House project in lower Manhattan and videos of its leader, Imam Faisel Rauf, are posted on their website.

The 21-year-old aspiring filmmaker had been to Afghanistan recently, working on a documentary on a high school buddy of his who enlisted in the Marines. His efforts to embed with his friend were the subject of a profile in the local paper.

The documentary he was working on was “completely nonpolitical,” Enright said. “It’s just showing the young people who are spearheading our foreign policy. They’re doing what I don’t have to do.”

Could this be a hoax by the cabbie?

NEXT DAY UPDATE:  Nope.  Clearly Michael Enright was anti-Muslim.  Among things found on him were a notebook full of anti-Muslim screeds.

And there’s definitely more anti-Muslim sentiment on the rise.

Where Did The Spilled Gulf Oil Go?

Now that the well is capped, there seems to be relatively little effect on the environment — at least as not as much as anticipated.

I'm not complaining, of course…. but one wonders why the environmental effects aren't devastating.

The answer, possibly, is this:

A newly discovered type of oil-eating microbe suddenly is flourishing in the Gulf of Mexico and  gobbling up the BP spill at a much faster rate than expected, scientists reported Tuesday.

Scientists discovered the new microbe while studying the underwater dispersion of millions of gallons of oil spilled since the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Also, the microbe works without significantly depleting oxygen in the water, researchers reported in the online journal Sciencexpress.

"Our findings … suggest that a great potential for intrinsic bioremediation of oil plumes exists in the deep-sea," lead researcher Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in Berkeley, California, said in a statement.

The data is also the first ever on microbial activity from a deep-water dispersed oil plume, Hazen said.

Now, this is clearly good news, but it strikes me as a little oddly convenient.  There have been massive oil spills before — why hasn't this microbe appeared then?


E Coli Conservatism

"E Coli conservatism", a phrase coined by Rick Perlstein several years ago, speaks to the call by conservatives to streamline or cut away at government services, and the consequences of such efforts.

We're experienceing e coli conservatism now, in the most literal sense of the phrase.

You've likely heard about the egg recall that's currently underway, in the wake of at least 1,300 salmonella-related illnesses spanning 22 states over the summer.  A midwest producer shipped tainted eggs to supermarkets across the country, causing more than 1,300 known infections — with more, possibly, to come. The company ran the kind of factory farming operation that, experts have long warned, made salmonella infection more likely. Its owner had previously paid millions in fines for violating labor and safety regulations. But nobody had inspected the plant and, as a result, nobody knew about the contamination until after people started getting sick.

But Jonathan Cohn reminds us:

This is not a story that begins with the administration of George W. Bush. It begins, instead, with the administration of Ronald Reagan. Convinced that excessive regulation was stifling American innovation and imposing unnecessary costs on the public, Reagan's team changed the way government makes rules.

Prior to the 1980s, agencies like the FDA had authority to finalize regulations on their own. Reagan changed that, forcing agencies to submit all regulations to the Office of Management and Budget, which cast a more skeptical eye on anything that would require the government or business to spend more money. The regulatory process slowed down and, in many cases, the people in charge of it became more skittish.

Clinton didn’t share Reagan's antipathy to regulation. Prodded by consumer advocates and more liberal Democrats, his administration announced its intention to impose new safety requirements on the egg industry. But that happened in 1999, a year before Clinton left office. When George W. Bush succeeded him, the administration’s posture reverted to its 1980s version.

Like Reagan, Bush was skeptical of government interference in the market. And, like Reagan, he appointed officials sympathetic to businesses that wanted to avoid the cost of complying with new federal rules. It was not until 2004, five years after Clinton had proposed the new egg rules, that the Bush Administration issued actual regulatory language. And by 2009, when Bush left office, the administration still had not finalized the rule.

William Hubbard, who was associate FDA commissioner from 1991 until 2005 and now advises the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, tells TNR that the delay was not accidental:

The FDA simply couldn’t get through to the White House. They were very hostile to regulation. … I was told that each time FDA tried to get the rule cleared through OMB, the response was that there were "not enough bodies in the street," — that the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths did not rise to the level to justify greater regulation of egg producers. Obviously, public health officials felt strongly that there was a strong justification, but the prevailing attitude at the time within the Administration was that regulation was an evil that should be avoided unless there was a compelling argument for government action.

The salmonella outbreak ought to remind many that the Republican crusade against government has its drawbacks.  Only government has the power to regulate and enforce businesses from the nefarious practices that led to this outbreak.  

In addition, the New York Times today has a piece on how the United States, suffering from deregulation fever, refused to vaccinate hens of the very same disease.  Smart, huh?

Sadly, I think the message will be lost.

Fox News = Terrorist Funder

Yesterday morning on Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Dan Senor observed that The Kingdom Foundation, whose chairman is Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, is a funder for the Cordoba House Initiative. 

“The Kingdom Foundation, so you know, is this Saudi organization, headed up by the guy that tried to give Rudy Giuliani $10 million after 9/11 that was sent back, funds radical madrassas all over the world,” Senor said. “And he funds this imam,” Fox host Brian Kilmeade chimed in. 

Okay, so Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Tanel is a bad guy because he chairs an organization which funds the Cordoba House Initiative (aka "the Ground Zero mosque").

But guess what else is significant about Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Tanel?

Outside of the Rupert Murdoch family…. he's the largest shareholder of News Corp (the corporate owner of Fox News). Why, there's even a picture of him published today meeting with News Corp executives to strengthen ties between his Arab news conglomerate and News Corp.

That's right.  Even though they didn't come right out and say his name, Fox News accused a person who owns 7% of Fox News…. of funding terrorist organizations.

Fox News wants Americans to believe Al-Waleed bin Talal is responsible for funding Islamic radicalism. Fox News doesn't want Americans to know that Al-Waleed bin Talal is also responsible for funding Fox News.

Well, what must be do about that?  Stop watching Fox News.  Jon Stewart explains:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Although poking fun, Stewart actually asks a relevant question: When talking about this terrorist funding Saudi prince, did Fox News correspondents not know he was a major shareholder… or were they being evil by intentionally not mentioning his name?

Velcro Parents and the First Day of College

I enjoyed this New York Times article about how colleges are dealing with parents who, when dropping their freshman child off for the first day of college, just won't… you know… go.  

There's some obvious things colleges do, like have mass student orientation in large halls with signs outside saying "for students only".  Other times they arrange events so that the university president is addressing the freshmen student body… with his back to the parents.  (Get the hint?)

All to avoid this uncomfortable scenario:

Moving their students in usually takes a few hours. Moving on? Most deans can tell stories of parents who lingered around campus for days. At Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., a mother and father once went to their daughter’s classes on the first day of the semester and trouped to the registrar’s office to change her schedule, recalled Beverly Low, the dean of first-year students.

Improv Anywhere Goes To The Beach — A Black Tie Event

Several hundred “agents” from Improv Anywhere went to the beach this weekend dressed to the nines, much to the surprise of onlookers.

From their website:


– Agent Scott’s set (165 photos)
– Agent Sokoler’s set (146 photos)
– Agent Fountain’s set (89 photos)

For those of you who were not there – we had several hundred agents spend a day at the beach at Coney Island / Brighton Beach wearing black tie attire. We covered a mile-long stretch of beach with a diverse group of people of all ages (from babies to sixty-somethings) laying out, playing games, and swimming in the ocean, all in formal wear. 

The mostly Russian crowd of beachgoers appeared to have a blast watching the spectacle unfold, laughing, taking photos, and asking questions. (Brighton Beach has a huge Russian population.) My personal highlight involved a group of ten middle-aged Russian people chanting “Swim! Swim! Swim!” to me, not letting up until I belly flopped in the water in my tux. One of them then waded out in the water to take a photo of me, not for himself, but so he could email it to me.

Thanks again to everyone who participated!



And this is one of my favorite photos from the event….

Interesting Twist On Keeping An On-Line Journal

OhLife is an email-based private online journal site, where you can keep, well, your private online journal.

Once you sign up, every night OhLife emails you the question "How did your day go?" Just reply with your entry and it's saved instantly.

What's the interesting twist?  After you have accumulated a backlog of journal entries, OhLife will start to send them back to you randomly, so that you can reflect on them.  Like this:


Pretty interesting idea.

Find out more at OhLife.

The Reviews Are In

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

Actors' fine work brings to life the tests of baseball and its parallel with life


Published: August 22, 2010

Actors Ken Ashford and Scott Stevens hit over-the-wall home runs with their performances in Rounding Third. The play, written by Richard Dresser and directed by Nathan Adam Sullivan, opened Friday night at Theatre Alliance.

The play debuted in Chicago, appeared off-Broadway and has enjoyed more than 100 productions. Jamie Lawson, Theatre Alliance's artistic director, saw it about a year ago in Greensboro at The Open Space Café Theatre. He liked it so much he invited the director and actors to bring it to Winston-Salem. 

Ashford and Stevens play two grown men, trying to be good fathers while still struggling with some of life's hardest lessons themselves. They meet on the baseball field, coaching a Little League team. Ashford is true to the role of Don, the blue-collar clipboard-toting veteran of the game. Stevens is his perfect opposite as Michael, the eager corporate executive whose only sporting experience is curling.

Don and Michael display hilariously different approaches to the game of baseball.

"How do we have fun in baseball?" Don shouts. "Winning. Losing sucks." On the other hand, soft-spoken Michael wants to "create a safe and nurturing atmosphere" in which the boys will learn to be "proud captains of their own little ships."

Trying desperately to make friends despite their differences, Michael arrives with a cup of mocha latte for the beer-swilling coach.

"This isn't the ladies sewing club," Don spits out. He throws the cup in the metal trash can with the telling comment, "I like plain old American coffee."

While Ashford and Scott are the only actors on stage, they do a remarkable job of bringing to life the kid who constantly trips over his untied shoelaces, the one who keeps losing his glasses and the coach's son, Jimmy, who breaks his father's heart by trading the pitcher's mound for a role in Brigadoon.

One of the most heartfelt moments comes near the end of the show with Stevens' eyes-raised-to-heaven monologue. The action freezes as he prays that God will let his son, Frankie, finally catch the ball.

But it took all Ashford's trashcan-kicking and red-in-the-face rage to get our hearts open enough to feel.

And when Stevens yells the line, "Don't slow down when you're rounding third," we're all right there with him, win or lose.

Theatre Alliance presents Rounding Third today at 2 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26-28, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14, $12 for students and seniors. The theater is at 1047 W. Northwest Blvd. To purchase tickets, call 800-838-3006 or go to

Sensitivity Training

Don't tell me the anti-mosque crusade isn't about bigotry and racism.  Sure, the anti-mosque-eteers might give some lip to service to their notion that a "mosque" "at" Ground Zero offends the 9/11 families, but it doesn't take much to see that what's going on is more sinister: they don't want the mosque because they just don't like olive-skinned people.  Read this excerpt all the way through [source]:

Sunday's crowd included representatives of the conservative Tea Party movement, some of them wearing anti-tax T-shirts that had nothing to do with Ground Zero, Islam or terrorism.

"We must take a stand and we must say no," shouted rally organizer Pamela Geller as the crowd roared approval. Moments later, another keynote speaker, Robert Spencer, sparked more cheers when he asked, "Are you tired of being lied to?"

Spencer, however, did not explain precisely what lies he was referring to.

Many protesters held American flags. Many carried signs.

"A Mosque at Ground Zero Spits on the Graves of 9/11," one placard proclaimed. Another sign depicted a toilet, with this message: "This is a Mosque. Do You Want it Built at Ground Zero?"

At one point, a portion of the crowd menacingly surrounded two Egyptian men who were speaking Arabic and were thought to be Muslims.

"Go home," several shouted from the crowd.

"Get out," others shouted.

In fact, the two men – Joseph Nassralla and Karam El Masry — were not Muslims at all. They turned out to be Egyptian Coptic Christians who work for a California-based Christian satellite TV station called "The Way." Both said they had come to protest the mosque.

"I'm a Christian," Nassralla shouted to the crowd, his eyes bulging and beads of sweat rolling down his face.

But it was no use. The protesters had become so angry at what they thought were Muslims that New York City police officers had to rush in and pull Nassralla and El Masry to safety.

"I flew nine hours in an airplane to come here," a frustrated Nassralla said afterward.


Truth Gets Its Boots On

The Associated Press sent out a memo today to its writers and editors advising that they should no longer use the phrase "Ground Zero mosque" to describe the controversial Islamic cultural center and former Burlington Coat Center store, located in lower Manhattan two blocks (and out of view) from Ground Zero.

While I applaud the Associated Press for its stance, this would have been even more helpful a few weeks ago, before so many Americans became enraged by a proposal that doesn't exist and got fed a steady stream of misinformation.

Actually, even calling it just a "mosque" is a misnomer.  It's a cultural center.  It has a "prayer room" in it, but that isn't a mosque.

By the way, you know what else has a "prayer room" where Muslims go and pray every single day?  The Pentagon.

It's not like the Pentagon was attacked on 9/11 and people died there, right?

On Obama’s Sagging Approval Ratings

"Democrats in Washington are divided and somewhat puzzled over President Obama's fading popularity", writes Matt Bai at The New York Times today.  He then goes on to explain why he thinks Obama's popularity is lackluster in the middle of his first term: because Obama has too much of a legislator — trying to pass health care, the stimulus, etc.

You know, I don't have a degree in political science, but it seems to me that the simplest explanations of Obama's low numbers are the best explanations.  So here it is, in a nutshell.

(1)  Obama's ratings are not all that low.  Clinton, Carter and Reagan were between 39 percent and 41 percent approval rating at this point in their presidencies.   Obama is at 44 percent.  In other words, barring some cataclysmic nationally unifying event, all presidents experience a huge drop in their popularity in the middle of their first term.  Only two presidents since 1900 didn't lose House seats during the midterm election of their first term — FDR during the height of the depression, and George Bush after 9/11.  Every other president? Their party lost seats.

So obviously what is driving down Obama's numbers are larger political issues that go beyond what Obama has or hasn't done as a president.  His numbers are down because that always happens in the middle of a president's first term.

(2)  It's the economy, stupid.  Does anyone think that there would be discussion about Obama's "low" approval rating if the unemployment rate was at 7% and falling?  Now, to be sure, some of Obama's "low" approval rating could be attributed to his failure to turn the economy around (so far), but it is a bad economy that he inherited in the first place.  At some point, the recovery will kick in, and his numbers will go up.

But it seems to me rather silly to try to pin Obama's lackluster approval ratings solely on his policies.

Mission Accomplished

So with the last combat troops leaving Iraq, I guess now is a good time to reflect on the war itself.  Did the War in Iraq accomplish its goals?

Get Saddam? Check.

Return Iraq to a stable region, thus stabilizing the Middle East? *Ahem* well, actually… uh….

Find those weapons of mass destruction?  Uh, heh… *cough*… hey, is that a rainbow?

At least Cheney accomplished this:

Halliburton Co. said on Wednesday that it has gotten a letter of intent from Shell Iraq Petroleum Development BV that would make Halliburton the project manager for developing the Majnoon field in southern Iraq.

Halliburton said it wold be working with Nabors Drilling and the Iraq Drilling Company. The contract needs final approval by Iraqi authorities, Halliburton said.

Iraq reached a deal with Shell in January to develop the mammoth oil field, along with partner Petronas, Malaysia's state-run oil company. Shell and Petronas plan to raise production in the field from the current 45,900 barrels per day to 1.8 million barrels per day over 10 years.

Halliburton shares rose 9 cents to close at $28.79 on Wednesday.

So I guess that was worth 4,415 American soldiers' lives….

Outrage Over Plans To Build Library Next To Sarah Palin

Our British friends laugh at us:

PLANS to build a state-of-the-art library next to Republican catastrophe Sarah Palin are causing outrage across mainstream America.

Campaigners have described the project as insensitive and a deliberate act of provocation by people with brains.

The issue is forming a dividing line in advance of November's mid-term congressional elections with candidates being forced to declare whether they have ever been to a library or spoken to someone who has books in their home.

Meanwhile President Obama has caused unease within his own Democratic party by endorsing the library and claiming that not everyone who reads books is responsible for calling Mrs Palin a fuckwit nutjob nightmare of a human being.

Read the whole thing.

Star Wars Uncut Is Finished

The Star Wars Uncut project, in which fans recreated the entire film Star Wars: A New Hope in 15 second chunks, is all edited and finished. They're still tying up some legal loose-ends before it's officially released, but the entire film is available on their website to watch.

Kathleen Parker On Why The “Mosque” Should Be Built

She's a conservative, and she's making sense.

This is why plans for the mosque near Ground Zero should be allowed to proceed, if that's what these Muslims want. We teach tolerance by being tolerant. We can't insist that our freedom of speech allows us to draw cartoons or produce plays that Muslims find offensive and then demand that they be more sensitive to our feelings.

More to the point, the tolerance we urge the Muslim world to embrace as we exercise our right to free expression, and revel in the glory and the gift of irreverence, is the same we must embrace when Muslims seek to express themselves peacefully.

Nobody ever said freedom would be easy. We are challenged every day to reconcile what is allowable and what is acceptable. Compromise, though sometimes maddening, is part of the bargain. We let the Ku Klux Klan march, not because we agree with them but because they have a right to display their hideous ignorance.

Ultimately, when sensitivity becomes a cudgel against lawful expressions of speech or religious belief — or disbelief — we all lose.

War In Iraq Is Over

Final U.S. combat brigade pulls out of Iraq.

By the end of this month, the United States will have six brigades in Iraq, by far its smallest footprint since the 2003 invasion. Those that remain are conventional combat brigades reconfigured slightly and rebranded "advise and assist brigades." The primary mission of those units and the roughly 4,500 U.S. special operations forces that will stay behind will be to train Iraqi troops. Under a bilateral agreement, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.


Faith-Hinkley1 4,415 U.S. soldiers dead. That number includes Spc. Faith R. Hinkley, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who died on Aug. 7 in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked her unit in Iskandariya, Iraq. She was assigned to the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. 

She was 16 when the war started.

31,907 wounded.


Who won?

UPDATE — John McCain has an interesting perspective on who deserves credit…


How To Get A Soldout House


Wow.  The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Jacksonville?  That's a 3,000 seat venue.  And she's packing the place, I assume… wait, what?  (Hold on please…..)


I see.  Ahem.

Slow ticket sales have bumped Sarah Palin's appearance next week in Jacksonville to a smaller venue.

"An Evening of Hope with Sarah Palin" was moved from the 2,936-seat Moran Theatre to the 609-seat Terry Theatre…..

Mark Nelson, Florida director for Heroic Media, said the event was moved to the Terry Theatre because there weren't enough tickets sold to hold it in the larger Moran.

"We would rather have a packed theater than a theater that's not so packed," Nelson said.

Sure.  Makes sense.

By the way, Palin's endorsements?  Not necessarily a good thing.  She's 2-for-8 so far this primary season.

The Web Is Dead: Wired

Of course, the World Wide Web isn't dead, but it's fast becoming a thing of the past.

This might come as a surprise to many, but the opening paragraph of this Wired column explains:

You wake up and check your email on your bedside iPad — that’s one app. During breakfast you browse Facebook, Twitter, and The New York Times — three more apps. On the way to the office, you listen to a podcast on your smartphone. Another app. At work, you scroll through RSS feeds in a reader and have Skype and IM conversations. More apps. At the end of the day, you come home, make dinner while listening to Pandora, play some games on Xbox Live, and watch a movie on Netflix’s streaming service.

You’ve spent the day on the Internet — but not on the Web.

That's how it's coming about.  We're spending less and less time on web browsers scouring the Internet for information, preferring instead to get our information from apps, which automatically get what we want and bring it back to us.

Put another way: the web is AM radio, the app is FM radio.  The web is broadcast; the app is digital transmission.

It's kind of hard to imagine the browser as not being central to the way we experience the Internet, but it's kind of true.

Anyway, read up on the Wired story.

What A Shame

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who just couldn't refrain from using the N-word eleven times on her radio show last week (in order to make, according to her, a "philosophical point") is retiring from her radio show.

In tribute to "Doctor" Laura, I offer the Sorkin treatment… a classic scene from The West Wing in which the President does a drop-in at a gathering of AM deejays and confronts a very Dr. Laura-like radio show hostess.

UPDATE: Palin weighs in:

Yeah… um…. the Constitution (or obstruction thereof) had nothing to do with Dr. Laura leaving her job.  Moron.  This wasn't a First Amendment issue, because the government didn't prohibit her from speaking.

Put another way, the "free" in "free speech" means “free from government interference,” not “free from consequences.”


Dr. Laura on Palin in 2008 (via):

I’m stunned – couldn’t the Republican Party find one competent female with adult children to run for Vice President with McCain? I realize his advisors probably didn’t want a “mature” woman, as the Democrats keep harping on his age. But really, what kind of role model is a woman whose fifth child was recently born with a serious issue, Down Syndrome, and then goes back to the job of Governor within days of the birth?

Muslims Everywhere

I wonder how those who oppose the wildly mis-named "Ground Zero Mosque" would feel if they knew that the second-largest owner of Fox News' parent corporation, News Corp., was this guy:


Hallowed Ground?


In most cities, including Washington, 13 stories constitute a very tall building. But in the environment of Lower Manhattan, Cordoba House will be just another structure—which is not exactly consistent with the view that it is a Towering Monument to Jihad. In short, people are overestimating the extent to which this building will interact with, or be noticeable from, the World Trade Center site.

Says blogger Daryl Lang:

Look at the photos. This neighborhood is not hallowed. The people who live and work here are not obsessed with 9/11. The blocks around Ground Zero are like every other hard-working neighborhood in New York, where Muslims are just another thread of the city fabric.

At this point the only argument against this project is fear, specifically fear of Muslims, and that’s a bigoted, cowardly and completely indefensible position.

Couldn't agree more.

By the way, guess what is hallowed?  The Constitution.  Lots of people died preserving that thing.

I echo what John Cole writes:

I’m honestly baffled by the entire “mosque at ground zero” nonsense. I find it completely insane. Aside from the fact that it is actually a community center in Manhattan and not a mosque at ground zero, I simply don’t understand why anyone outside of that three-four block radius of NYC gives two hoots in hell. Even if they were actually building a mosque at ground zero, and it was funded by Al Qaeda radicals and not some moderate group, I can’t think of one way in which it would have an impact on my life. Hell, if anything, it would make it easy for theFBI to keep track of Al Qaeda, because the Fox News camera live broadcasting 24/7 would have everyone on tape.

Not Getting It

Ed Whalen gives it the old college try.  I've taken out his cites.  You can (and should) read the whole thing here:

As I’ve outlined, Judge Walker somehow failed to identify the opposite-sex character of marriage as one of the core characteristics of marriage throughout American history.  In their stay motion to the Ninth Circuit, Prop 8 proponents restate some of the record evidence and other authority that they presented to Walker—and that he simply ignored and claimed didn’t exist.  The rest of this post…  is excerpted from the stay motion.  “DIX” references are to defendants’ trial exhibits.  (I’ve deleted some citations and changed the “all caps” punctuation in others.)

In the words of highly respected anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, “the family—based on a union, more or less durable, but socially approved, of two individuals of opposite sexes who establish a household and bear and raise children—appears to be a practically universal phenomenon, present in every type of society.” The View from Afar 40-41 (1985) (Trial Exhibit DIX63); see also G. Robina Quale, A History of Marriage Systems 2 (1988) (DIX79) (“Marriage, as the socially recognized linking of a specific man to a specific woman and her offspring can be found in all societies.”).

The opposite-sex character of marriage has always been understood to be a central and defining feature of this institution, as uniformly reflected in dictionaries throughout the ages. Samuel Johnson, for example, defined marriage as the “act of uniting a man and woman for life.” A Dictionary of the English Language (1755). Subsequent dictionaries have consistently defined marriage in the same way, including the first edition of Noah Webster’s, and prominent dictionaries from the time of the framing and ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.  [citations omitted]

Nor can this understanding plausibly be dismissed, as the court below did, as nothing more than an “artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage.” Rather, it reflects the undeniable biological reality that opposite-sex unions—and only such unions—can produce children. Marriage, thus, is “a social institution with a biological foundation.” Levi-Strauss, “Introduction,” in Andre Burguiere, et al. (eds.), 1 A History of the Family: Distant Worlds, Ancient Worlds 5 (1996). Indeed, an overriding purpose of marriage in every society is, and has always been, to approve and regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society. In particular, through the institution of marriage, societies have sought to increase the likelihood that children will be born and raised in stable and enduring family units by the mothers and fathers who brought them into this world.

I emphasize those final sentences because that's where he runs into problems.

Look, there's no question that society has traditionally, for centuries, viewed marriages as between a man and woman, and the opposite-sexed-ness has always been a core component of marriage.  Point conceded.

But guess what happens when gays are allowed to marry?  People will still view marriages as taking place between a man and a woman.  The only difference is that, in the back of our minds, we will also know that same-sex couples can also get married.  An opposite-sex marriage will always be a "traditional marriage".  So what's the problem?

And the argument that "the purpose of marriage in every society… is to approve and regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society"?  I'll even concede that for the purposes of argument (although in truth, society approves and honor hetero marriages without regard to whether the couples intend to procreate).

But concede as I do, guess what happens to that argument when gays are allowed to marry?  Society will still approve of marriages between men and women.  That's right, kids — even after same-sex marriage becomes legalized, opposite-sex marriage will still have a unique procreative capacity.

You see, here's the thing these conservatives don't get: The institution of marriage is not a zero-sum game.  We can recognize and honor same-sex marriages without changing even slightly the recognition and honor we give to hetero marriages and their "unique procreative capacity". Permitting gay marriage does not diminish hetero marriages, just as permitting interracial or interfaith marriages didn't diminish marriages of those of the same race or religion.

We all end up better off when we allow everyone to form stable, lifelong marriages that are honored and cherished.  

So you can make the argument that marriage among opposite-sex people is important and valued, and point to all kinds of historical data to back up that proposition.  But even that doesn't provide rationale for banning same-sex marriage.  Why is that so hard to understand?

Fortunately, people are starting to get it.


I mean, even Glenn Beck is starting to get it:

O'REILLY: Do you believe — do you believe that gay marriage is a threat to the country in any way?

BECK: A threat to the country?

O'REILLY: Yeah, it going to harm the country?

BECK: No, I don't. Will the gays come and get us?

O'REILLY: OK. Is it going to harm the country in any way?

BECK: I believe — I believe what Thomas Jefferson said. If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?

O'REILLY: OK, so you don't. That's interesting. 

UPDATE:  I see Ross Douthat has made the same error.  His argument is a bit weedy, even in context, but here it is:

The interplay of fertility, reproductive impulses and gender differences in heterosexual relationships is, for want of a better word, “thick.” All straight relationships are intimately affected by this interplay in ways that gay relationships are not. (And I do mean all straight relationships. Because they’ve grown up and fallen in love as heterosexuals, the infertile straight couple will experience their inability to have children very differently than a same-sex couple does. Similarly, even two eighty-nine-year-old straights, falling in love in the nursing home, will be following relational patterns — and carrying baggage, no doubt, after eighty-nine years of heterosexual life! — laid down by the male-female reproductive difference.) This interplay’s existence is what makes it possible to generalize about the particular challenges of heterosexual relationships, and their particular promise as well. And the fact that this interplay determines how and when and whether the vast majority of new human beings come into the world is what makes it possible to argue — not necessarily convincingly, but at least plausibly! — that both state and society have a stronger interest in the mating rituals of heterosexuals than in those of gays and lesbians.

Douthat is arguing that there is, and always has been within society, a strong interplay between fertility and reproductive impulses, and that interplay exists in heterosexual relationships — even before we heterosexuals get married.  Okay, fine.  And where does he go off the rails?  At the end…. "both state and society have a stronger interest in the mating rituals of heterosexuals than in those of gays and lesbians".

And we're back to the zero-sum game.  Even if society has a stronger interest in the mating rituals of homosexuals (even barren ones, as Douthat argues), so what?  Must we pick only one thing we are interested in as a society?  If I have an interest in the New York Giants, does that mean I can't have an interest in the Boston Red Sox, particularly when they're not even playing the same game?

Eat Pray Love And Send Me A 2.5 Hour-Long Postcard

I guess there's some chick flick coming out today.  And while men will be going to see something else, women will be watching some self-indulgent woman take a year-long journey of self-discovery and navel-contemplating, which, I'm guessing, is probably much more fun to actually do than it is to watch someone else do it for two-and-a-half-hours.

Now, in all honesty, it's not fair to lump up one genre of film like that, as if all "chick flicks" appeal to all women.  Each chick flick appeals to a certain kind of woman.  And thankfully, via Flavorwire, we can now match up the "chick flick" with the type of "chick" who likes it:

Sex and the City
Midwestern career girls saving up to buy Manolos

Sex and the City 2
Culturally insensitive Midwestern career girls saving up to buy fake Manolos

Confessions of a Shopaholic
Women who thought there were too few pretty dresses in SATC

A League of Their Own
Third-wave feminists

Love Actually
Women who get overly excited about poppy movie soundtracks

The Joy Luck Club
White women who believe that all Asian women are quiet, strong, and wise

Dudes who didn’t realize Titanic was going to be a chick flick but aren’t going to front — they kinda teared up a little at the end

Hip, quirky, retro circle skirt-wearing ladies who will call you sexist if you even try to insinuate that Waitress was a chick flick

Sense and Sensibility
People who prefer the term “period drama” to “chick flick”

Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
Women who have regrets about/don’t remember their teen years

Thelma and Louise
Women you might want to start worrying about

Gay men who have dressed up as Bette Midler… or at least fantasized about it

The Bridges of Madison County
Women who think Clint Eastwood is “still really hot”

The First Wives Club
Cougars who would not be comfortable calling themselves cougars

How Stella Got Her Groove Back
Cougars who totally “own” the title

Steel Magnolias
Rootless urban women who romanticize sturdy, earthy Southern gals and the loyalty they feel toward one another

Waiting to Exhale
Women who identified with Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, God rest her soul

The Devil Wears Prada
Women who feel for Andy now but will be Miranda in 20 years

The Twilight Saga
Every tween girl in the world and the mother who secretly raids her DVD collection

Pretty Woman
Women with a foggy understanding of sex work

Maid in Manhattan
Women who aren’t bothered by retrograde class stereotypes and expectations

When Harry Met Sally
Women who make a lot of noise in restaurants and the Billy Crystal-fan men who love them

Valley of the Dolls
Women with a healthy appreciation for camp and their gay best friends

My Best Friend’s Wedding
Women who secretly wish Julia Roberts could just marry the gay best friend, sexual orientation be damned

My Big Fat Greek Wedding
People who like to remind you that it is an “indie film”

Gone with the Wind
Women whose impossibly high romantic standards are, frankly, destroying their lives

Valentine’s Day
Women who appreciate seasonally appropriate marketing

Bride Wars
Masochistic always-the-bridesmaid types

Sleepless in Seattle
Women who secretly hope to be proposed to live on The Today Show

Must Love Dogs
Women whose pets will be part of their wedding party

Boys on the Side
Hey, lesbians need chick flicks, too

Bridget Jones’ Diary
Women who keep witty journals they secretly hope someone will read

Postcards from the Edge
Former wild children who have moved to the suburbs

Dirty Dancing
Girls who spend time pondering whether there’s a male term for “shiksa”

Women who say, “I’m gonna be naughty” before reaching for a truffle

He’s Just Not That Into You
That friend who’s always trying to give you relationship advice, despite the fact that you’re engaged and she called you crying last weekend about her fourth break-up of the year

The Standing Issue Of The Prop 8 Appeal

Hi.  Welcome to Civil Procedure for Laymen 101.

Today we're going to talk about an interesting case going on right now called Perry v. Schwarzenegger, also known as the California Prop 8 same-sex marriage case.  As you know, a federal judge last week struck down California's ban on same-sex marriages, which was passed by a thin majority in a public referendum known as Proposition 8.  

The case is an important civil rights case, and goes well beyond the borders of California.  After all, it was in federal court, involving the interpretation of the federal Constitution.  The Perry court held, in a nutshell, that when a state does not permit same-sex couples to marry, the state violates guarantees of Equal Protection which are in the U.S. Constitution.  Now, that ruling of unconstitutionality would apply to any state (because all states, not just California, must be in line with the U.S. Constitution).  It's not automatically binding, but being the only federal court to pass on the issue, it carries some value as precedent.  That's why the ruling is so important — it affects the entire country.

So everyone assumed, given the controversial subject matter, that whoever lost the Perry case would appeal it, and it would go all the way to the Supreme Court.

But very few paid attention to a little snag, that legal scholars are now taking up.

It's the "standing" issue.

"Standing" is a legal term.  It basically means "who has the right to bring a case in court".  The general rule is that only injured parties can bring a lawsuit.  You have to show some injury.  In Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the person who brought the lawsuit (Perry) has a claimed injury.  She was a lesbian woman who couldn't get married (there were other plaintiffs as well, but essentially, the whole list is truncated to the first plaintiff).  So Perry had standing.  

She sued the State of California, which you typically do by naming the government officials involved (they are being sued in the official capacity, not as individuals).  So that's why Governor Schwarzenegger is the named defendant, as well as the California Attorney General and others.

So far, so good.

But the problem now is… who has standing on appeal?  The state of California lost the case, as we know, but the governor and the attorney general were against Prop 8 to being with!  They didn't want to win.  And they get to decide if they will appeal.

Wait, wait, wait, you say.  If the officials of the State of California didn't want to win, then who defended the case in court?

Well, in federal and state courts, third parties are allowed to enter cases as "intervenors".  These are people who have a stake in the outcome, but aren't necessarily injured.  The Perry case had several intervenors on the defendant's side — e.g., several individuals and organizations (like "") who were all proponents of the Prop 8 initiative.  The defendant-intervenors were the ones who argued against same-sex marriage in court.  (The plaintiffs also had an intervenor, the City of San Francisco).

So can the losing defendant-intervenors appeal?  The answer is "no".  They still don't have standing.  Judge Walker never ruled that the defendant-intervenors would be injured-in-fact by the strike down of Prop 8.  They weren't actually injured by losing the case at trial (other than, I suppose, ego, but that doesn't count).

So now there is an open question as to whether the Perry case, which everyone assumed would climb all the way to the Supreme Court, can even make it to the next rung on the ladder. 

Possible outcomes to this dilemna?

(1)  Someone may urge the actual defendant (the State of California) to appeal it anyway, in the interests of fairness or justice or reaching a resolution

(2)  The appellate court (the Ninth Circuit) may agree to take the case with a provisional understanding that the defendant-intervenors must show that they have standing

(3)  Nothing.  The case stops here and, under federal law, gay couple have the constitutional right to marry in every state.

I suspect #2 will happen.  But if it does, there's a very good chance that the Ninth Circuit will affirm the lower court's ruling — not on the merits of the case, but because the defendant-intervenors lacked standing to appeal.

Then — if I had to guess — that decision will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court will find on behalf of the defendant-intervenors ("Perry I") and send the case back down with instructions to the lower courts to make a decision on the merits rather than the standing issue.  Then that decision (in "Perry II"), whatever the outcome, will work it's way back up to the U.S. Supreme Court — sometime in 2012, I'd say.

UPDATE:  Wonkette muses about the standing dilemna –

The anti-gay-marriage side of the court case does want to appeal, of course, because every time someone gets gay married God gets gayer, but the objection they raised involves the weird legal limbo that these gay marriages might end up in if the decision is ultimately overturned. Judge Walker had this to say on that point:

The ban’s backers “point to harm resulting from a ‘cloud of uncertainty’ surrounding the validity of marriages performed after judgment is entered but before proponents’ appeal is resolved,” he said. “Proponents have not, however, argued that any of them seek to wed a same-sex spouse.”

Ha ha, the legal complications are delicious. Will the gay marriage opponents need to claim they totally want to marry each other now, hoping that the Supreme Court will overturn the decision, saving them from gayness? What if they lose? Will they be forced to consummate their gay love for each other in the Supreme Court’s chambers, with Anthony Kennedy presiding? So romantical!

About Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth-warren  You may have seen her on The Daily Show or Real Time with Bill Maher or the Sunday chat shows already.  If you have, you know that Elizabeth Warren is a force to be reckoned with.  She's not a ballbuster — that's not what makes her a strong force — she's just extremely smart and competent.  (I had her as a bankruptcy professor at NYU when she was a visiting professor).

She's going to be an important part of your life for a while, assuming she gets appointed to be the head of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, a newly-created federal agency designed to prevent future happenings of the financial shenanigans that lead to our recent economic downfall.  Well-suited for the job, you ask?  Dude, the woman was born for the job.

There's a concerted effort by conservatives to paint her as dangerous and/or incompetent.  But that's because she will do her job protecting consumers, and that is something that Republican backers — the high-money interests on Wall Street — don't want.

Anyway, if you don't know anything about Elizabeth Warren, the Washington Post has an excellent profile today.



[I]ntroducing Voice Actions for Android. Voice Actions are a series of spoken commands that let you control your phone using your voice. Call businesses and contacts, send texts and email, listen to music, browse the web, and complete common tasks, all just by speaking into your phone.

Now I won't even have to use my fingers anymore.

Unfortunately, it requires Android 2.2 (Froyo) and my phone hasn't updated to the new operating system yet.

But it will… oh yes, it will.

Apple users will have this capability, too.  Of course they'll have to shell out a few hundred for the new iphone 5!  (Suckers!)

“I Mean, Come On” Clause Of the Constitution

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) chatted with National Review this week, and shared his thoughts on the proposed Cordoba House a couple of blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. Cantor gave the kind of thoughtful, well-reasoned response we've come to expect from the GOP leader.

"Everybody knows America's built on the rights of free expression, the rights to practice your faith, but come on. The World Trade Centers were brought down by Islamic extremists, uh, radicals who were bent on killing Americans and accomplished that in unimaginable ways. I think it is the height of insensitivity, uh, and unreasonableness to allow for the construction of a mosque on the site of the World Trade Center bombings.

"I mean, come on."

So basically, this country was certain principles such as freedom of religion and expression, but we can throw them out the window when "I mean, come on" comes on?

Good to know.

The Tax Plans Explained Graphically

So Bush got tax cuts in 2003, set to expire this year.  What those tax cuts gave us was lots of deficits.  Oh sure, there was tons of economic growth, but the people who enjoyed that were generally the most wealthy.

Anyway, Bush's tax cuts are set to expire and Republicans want to extend them.

Obama wants tax cut's too, but not Bush's tax cuts.

So what's the difference in their plans?  Cue cool graph:

As you can see, for most people who make under $500,000, there's not much difference.   But when you get to people making over half a mill — and over one million — wow.

Republicans sure do like them rich people.

Of course, they'll also complain about how the deficit is destroying America.  So what's one way to reduce the deficit?  Don't give huge tax breaks to those with high incomes.


The Mosque Controversy: Partly Ginned Up, Partly Bigotry of the Worst Kind

Adam Serwer's link-o-riffic piece is right on the money, mostly:

The New York Times has a new piece up on Faisal Rauf and Daisy Khan, the couple behind the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero that has brought rank Islamophobia into the Republican mainstream:

"Daisy Khan, who immigrated, also as a teenager, to Jericho, on Long Island, from Kashmir, married Imam Feisal in 1997. They founded a Sufi organization advocating melding Islamic observance with women’s rights and modernity. After 9/11 they raised their profile, renaming the group the American Society for Muslim Advancement and focusing on connecting Muslims and wider American society. They spoke out against religious violence; the imam advised the F.B.I.; his wife joined the board of the 9/11 memorial and museum."

These are the people whom Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney smeared as "connected to terrorism" and having "dubious ties to radical Islamist organizations," whom National Review falsely portrayed as unwilling to give a "full throated denunciation of terrorism" and Newt Gingrich, with his faulty understanding of history, accused of "Islamist triumphalism."

The Times report, however, descends into a kind of "liberal" media known-nothingism when it comes to how this became a controversy, suggesting that " a combination of arguable naïveté, public-relations missteps and a national political climate in which perhaps no preparation could have headed off controversy." This is a remarkable formula that manages to place the blame everywhere except where it belongs — on a right-wing smear machine that went into overdrive in an effort to portray Rauf and Khan as terrorist sympathizers, an experience no one outside of contemporary partisan politics could have possibly been prepared for. The conservative media lied about the location of the project, they lied about Rauf's background, they lied about the project's funding, they lied about when the project would be built, and they lied about Rauf's political beliefs. And it would have been one thing if it had just been a small group of people lying, but they had an entire cable news station to lie for them, and politicians who were willing to amplify their smears. This controversy isn't about the "political climate." It's the fruit of a conscious, deliberate, and sustained effort.

I'm sure that the intensity of emotion shared by some of the projects' opponents are sincere. But where they hold Muslims collectively responsible for the actions of a few extremists, they are mistaken, and where their feelings are the result of falsehoods spread by the conservative media, they are misguided, and where they believe the First Amendment does not extend to American Muslims, they are simply wrong. 

The reason this became a national controversy is because Republicans see a political advantage in harnessing anti-Muslim sentiment, particularly if that forces Democrats to defend an unpopular minority group.

That's certainly true.  I suspect a lot of the mosque controversy is political, with the goal trying to create a wedge issue.  

But some of it is based on pure good-ol-fashioned racism and hatred — i.e., ignorance.  Case in point, Bryan Fischer, head of the American Family Association, who just this morning upped the ante by declaring:

Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero. This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government. 

That's right.  No mosques….anywhere.

How's that for religious freedom and tolerance?