Saturday, January 17, 2015

70% now live in marriage-equality states. SCOTUS to decide whether it's 100%

With the addition of Florida, the number of people living in states where same-sex couples can legally marry has now reached 

That was the big news three days ago.   Yesterday, the U. S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear the four cases leading to a 2 to 1 decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals for Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan that upheld those states' bans on same-sex marriage.

In every other case that has reached the U. S. Circuit Court level, the bans have been struck down.   So this gives SCOTUS the first chance to hear a case in which there was a different decision.    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tried to tell us that last year in her cryptic way.

This suggests that the court is ready to make a definite decision -- one way or the other.

Or not.  Of course, in its inscrutable way, SCOTUS doesn't tip its hand.  And maybe even they don't know yet.   It will likely come down to a 5-4 or a 6-3 decision, with Kennedy and Roberts being the decisive votes.

Or, if Justice Scalia votes on principle, based on his dire prediction in his scathing dissent in Windson -- it could be 7-2.

Or they may punt again.   But that's unlikely, given that 70% of the American people now have that freedom to marry a same-sex partner if they choose -- and thousands of marriages would be thrown into a legal limbo.

Arguments will be this spring with a decision expected by the end of June.


Friday, January 16, 2015

New Yorkers disapprove of police disrespecting Mayor de Blasio by huge margin

In a Quinnipiac poll, New Yorkers disapprove -- 77% to 17% -- of comments that "That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor."    Those comments were made by Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association concerning the murder of two police officers by a man with a grievance against police because of the killing of Michale Brown and Eric Garner.

It was not only the comments made in December but the fact that the mayor's attempts to work through the tension has met with cool disdain and a 'we'll see' comments from Lynch, as though the mayor has to jump through some more hoops before he's forgiven.

Of course, many didn't think the mayor had anything to be forgiven for.    He did speak publically, after Garner's death and the acquittal of the officer who killed him, about the plight of young black men and his worry for his own mixed race son.   Yet he also made quite supportive comments about the difficult job police officers have.

Also by a huge margin -- 69% to 27% -- voters disapprove of the decision by police officers to turn their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio twice, when he was speaking at the two funerals of the slain officers.

Reportedly, there was a fiery confrontation at a meeting of the police unions yesterday that devolved into a shouting match.   One objective fact is known:    Lynch now apparently faces some opposition for re-election to his job as president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

In his often-replayed press conference speech, Lynch comes across as arrogant, belligerent and uncompromising.   It's Lynch, not the mayor, who needs to apologize, in my opinion And the police need to do their job and not disrespect the mayor they work for.  It's good to see that the people of New York think so too.


"Meh on Mitt"

That was the headline that captured the general reaction to a Romney 3.0 candidacy at a meeting of conservative Republicans at the Heritage Foundation.  Here's how entrepreneur Robert W. Ellis put it to The Huffington Post:
"I’m sure he would make a great president. He knows math and he understands economics. And he’s a hundred percent honest.  But the public doesn’t get moved by him. He doesn’t stir their hearts. We need somebody who will light the fire."
I'm not sure he would make a great president, although he certainly wouldn't be the worst of those who are supposedly running.   Unfortunately, the other part of this opinion is all too true.    Maybe when you get to know him, up close and personal, something else comes through.   But Mitt just does not evoke compassion or passion . . . or much of anything.

It's sad, but the two things that will be remembered about him are (1) the dog in its cage, strapped on the roof of the car for a family vacation trip and (2) "the 47%".



Thursday, January 15, 2015

My pride in my school was premature

In today's instant news spread by social networks, you may have seen that the decision, that gave me such pride in my alma mater for fostering an inclusion of its Muslim students by having the Friday call to prayer service sung from the Duke Chapel tower, has been reversed.

The vice president for public affairs issued this terse statement:
Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students.  However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”

I am shocked and embarrassed.   Not shocked that it won't happen.   I never expected it and was very happily surprised when I read about it last night.   Nor am I shocked to realize that the school is not as liberal as it seemed in 1950 to this boy from middle Georgia, steeped in the Southern fundamentalist wing of the Methodist church;  because through the years I have often been shocked at the conservatism I read in letters in the Alumni magazine any time Duke tries to do something liberal -- like hold the first gay wedding in the chapel.   This is, after all, North Carolina, which has been overtaken by conservative Republicans in recent years.

What I am shocked by is that this has been handled so badly -- and it makes me wonder how high up the clearance for this went and what powerful forces must have reversed the decision, if it had been cleared at the level of the university board of trustees, which it should have been.

The only explanation I have found so far is that Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham and himself the head of the global aid non-profit Samantha's Purse, posted a scathing criticism on Facebook post that went viral.  In it, his often-expressed anti-Islamic vehemence led him to say some ugly things;  and he urged Duke alumni to withhold any further donations to the school.

Surely, if it had been cleared by the Trustees, they would not be swayed by the notoriously bigoted Franklin Graham (not a good chip off the old block).    Some very powerful alumni money must be involved.  Perhaps other wealthy donors as well.

To my Muslim friends, I apologize and have to tell you that I am embarrassed at this turn of events.   It does not change my feelings about my friends or my respect for the admirable parts of your religion.   What it changes is my feelings about Duke.


Duke University chapel to include Muslim call to weekly prayer service

A general view of the Duke University Chapel on campus of Duke University on October 26, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

In the midst of growing anti-Islamic fervor in Europe and the confusion of a religion with the radical behavior of a small group of violent extremists, I feel a great deal of pride in my own alma materDuke University.

The center of the main campus is the interdenominational chapel with its imposing bell tower.   This carefully planned set of linking quadrangles was designed to place the chapel at the center of campus life -- although it is not known primarily as a religious school.

The Muslim call to prayer will now be heard from the bell tower, echoed by members of the Muslim Students Association, to announce the weekly Jummah prayer service, held each Friday in a suitable space within the chapel.

According to the associate dean for religious life, "This opportunity represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke's mission.   Omid Safi, director of Duke's Islamic Studies Center, told the Huffington Post that the response to the decision has been "overwhelmingly positive."

He continued:  "We have over 700 Muslim members of the Duke community . . . .  There is room at Duke for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, atheists, agnostics ... people of every faith and no faith."

Imam Adeel Zeb, a Muslim chaplain and director for Muslim Life at Duke, seconded those feelings during a phone call with HuffPost.  "Personally, I'm thrilled that the Duke administration has facilitated such a wonderful opportunity for the Muslim students to feel welcome and uplifted, and feel that the campus is as much theirs as any other student on campus," he said. "It's a blessing. It's hard to explain in words how [grateful the students are]; how much the administration and people who are hearing about it across the U.S. and the Muslim community, have been so excited that Duke is a welcoming place for them." 

This makes Duke one of the first U. S. private universities to give such a prominence to the call to the weekly prayer servicefrom the chapel's tower at the very center of the campus.

Sixty-two years ago, as a Duke sophomore, I took a course in comparative world religions and learned about Islam, along with Judaism, Christianity, and the eastern religions.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Obama's strong speach on values

President Obama just gave a strong State of the Union speech that was about progressive values and policy vision to help Americans.

You would never guess that his party had just been walloped in the November elections.   He is undaunted by facing Republican majorities in both houses of congress.   It was a call to come together to solve problems.

Whether he intended it or not, the speech was also a push for Hillary Clinton to adopt the same policy agenda.

Good job, Mr. President.


Religion, mockery, and violence -- ? explained by sociobiologists ?

Eric Roston, editor and science writer for Bloomberg Business Week, has summarized some important social science research that sheds light on the recent retaliatory attacks in Paris for satire felt to be insulting to Islam and the Prophet.  Quoting from Roston's article:

"Many thousands of generations ago, the alpha male in a roaming band of pre-humans felt threatened by a beta male. He picked up a heavy stone to warn the beta away from his fresh kill. Then he turned his back to feast on the carcass.

"The beta mocked the warning gesture to his companions, earning laughs, and then a fatal stone to [his] skull. In that moment, we became people. 

"The coldblooded slaughter at the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris this week—now compounded by slain hostages and reports of more hostage-taking—wasn’t as surprising as it was repulsive. We’ve seen such responses to satire before, and we know the fascist impulse to murder free thought when we see it.

"It wasn’t surprising, but of course it should be. And as these attacks increase, they raise a basic but compelling question:

"Why would anybody actually kill anybody over mockery?

"The easy answer is that the killer is violent, self-aggrandizing, depraved. All true, but it skirts the question. The reality goes much deeper.

"There are three basic traits involved here, which transcend nationality and ideology and touch the very core of who we all are: violence, religion, and satire.

"Violence was baked in at the beginning. Similar murderous impulses in humans and chimpanzees suggest that exterminating other bands to protect territory or food supply is an old instinct common to both. . . .

"As for religion, the sociobiologists make a compelling case that faith has been central to human survival. Not because one or another faith holds the secrets to the universe, but because religion bound individuals together into tribes and communities against external threats, raising everybody’s chance of survival to child-rearing age. . . . 

"If reverence is essential to our evolution, how did irreverence come to play such a powerful role in the way we relate to one another?

"We’re told we respond to threats in one of two ways: fight or flight. There is a third response: the laughter reflex. That’s our way of standing down without running away, or of standing up without really fighting. Greece had Aristophanes. Kings had their fools. France has Charlie Hebdo

"Charlie Hebdo does satire, and satire is weaponized humor. It’s an evolutionary tool that people who are neither in power nor armed can use to reduce the stature of the mighty—or, like radical Islam, the grandiose. It identifies something undignified, corrupt, or otherwise low-status about the powerful or sacred, says Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard and the author of several popular science books. 

"As soon as that happens, laughter automatically ripples through those in the crowd who agree. Simply by hearing and reflexively understanding the joke, a listener acknowledges that the satirist’s target is asking for it.

"And that laughter doesn’t mean just that the listeners understand the satire, Pinker says. It means they understand that everyone else understands it.

"So it’s an epiphany, instantly transforming the common knowledge that holds communities together, the foundation of social order. In a blink, the emperor has no clothes. . . ."

* * *
There's a lot more, and I agree with much of it.   What the writer does not cover, however, is the effect on the object of the satire, the butt of the joke.    Not only do all the listeners understand the joke, so do the objects of the joke.    They get it and they are insulted and, often, humiliatedSo a response is demanded.    The butts of jokes usually do not answer in kind with another joke but, more likely, with true violence.   And often great violence.    Unless it involves a powerful person or group who can respond immediately with great destruction, the response will often be delayed and well planned for surprise.    This is just the situation they are dealing with now in Paris, as we did in New York on 9/11.

Rather than cartoons humiliating their Prophet, our life style offends their ideology.   That does not excuse them, nor blame us.   But it might help us to understand their motives.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Muslim man was the hero of the Paris kosher grocery store siege

Thanks to Barbara Morrill of Daily Kos for this:

"The next time someone blames all Muslims for the actions of terrorists, please point them to this:

"Lassana Bathily, a Muslim employee at Paris Kosher grocery store Hyper Cacher, saved several people by hiding them in a walk-in freezer when a gunman laid siege to his workplace on Friday.

"Amedy Coulibaly burst into the market and opened fire, killing 4 people. He took several shoppers hostage and threatened to kill them if police stormed the printing shop where Cherif and Said Kouachi, who killed 12 people in an attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier in the week, were holed up in a village to the north. 

"Bathily, identified by French media as a "Malian Muslim," helped several customers to safety as the chaos unfolded. 'I went down to the freezer, I opened the door, there were several people who went in with me. I turned off the light and the freezer,' Bathily, 24, told French network BFMTV. 'I brought them inside and I told them to stay calm here, I'm going to go out. When they got out, they thanked me.'"

* * *
Of course.    Muslims that I know personally are gentle, considerate, hospitable, lovely people.   It's always the extremists who are held up as the stereotypes, whether its the ultra-feminine gay men, the butch lesbians, the thuggish hypersexual black man, or the violent Muslim.    

Stereotypes are the scourge of diversity.    Breaking down those generalizations through knowing individual people is the antidote.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Read this . . . if you believe that black men get equal treatment from by the police.

I found this on the blog DailyKos and thought it a good example of the different kind of way police treat different people.

"We've been told repeatedly that if only Eric Garner hadn't resisted, or been so fat, the medical examiner wouldn't have found that his death was a homicide due to asphyxiation.   We've been told that if only Michael Brown hadn't been a vicious cigarillo thug he wouldn't have received a bullet wound in his arm that either came from the back while he was running away, or from the front while he hands were up . . . .   We've been told that if only Jonathan Crawford had dropped the toy air-rifle he picked up from the shelves at Walmart within two seconds, that if only Tamir Rice had dropped his BB Gun within one second, and if only Darrien Hunt hadn't been running away as police shot him in the back for "brandishing" an unsharpened Katana Sword, all three of these people would still be alive today.

"So then why exactly is this person still alive after going on a violent shooting spree, including pointing her gun at officers while wearing body armor? . . .  "

The article then goes on to describe a 45 year old woman who drove around a Chattanooga neighborhood dressed in body armor, randomly shooting into other vehicles, "leading police on a chace chase, and pointing her gun at an officer."    The most shocking thing of all, in light of the recent killing of unarmed black men, is that she "was taken into custody without incident of injury and charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, seven counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, felony evading arrest, and felony reckless endangerment."

Don't get me wrong:   the outcome in Chattanooga is exactly what we would hope for.   But consider the offenses:   multiple actual gunshots fired, attempts at actual murder, a police chase, pointing a gun at an officer.

Compare the offenses of the young black men in the paragraph above:   resisting arrest, walking down the middle of the street, stealing cigarillos, selling tax-free cigarettes, a 12 yetr old playing with a BB gun in a park, another man simply holding an unloaded gun he was considering buying in a Walmart store.    Not a one had a gun wih live bullets.   Ye everyone dead within a matter of seconds at the hands of the police.

Get the point?


Sunday, January 11, 2015

How many arrests for violence does it take for them to take away George Zimmerman's guns?

George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who stalked and then killed the unarmed Trayvon Martin in 2013, has now for the third time been arrested for aggravated assault with a weapon in a domestic violence situation.

At his pretrial hearing in court yesterday, he was ordered to "surrender any weapons."   But, according to the CNN website, he is only required to surrender the weapons "to a relative or a third party."   How well is that going to work?    Sounds pretty temporary to me.

It's true, he was acquitted of murder charges, but it was never in doubt that he did actually kill Trayvon Martin.   He got off by claiming self-defense in a case that was handled very poorly by the prosecutors.

So he is not, in fact, a convicted felon and has not lost his right to bear arms.

But it seems wrong and dangerous to allow this man, who has already killed one man and who has such obvious problems of impulse control to continue to own and carry guns -- and just wait until he kills someone else.