Posted by Rojas @ 3:09 pm on February 28th 2012

Oderus Endorses!

And the pivotal Gwar vote goes to…

Posted by Rojas @ 12:25 pm on February 28th 2012

Drug Legalization…in baseball?

Charles P. Pierce contends that the Ryan Braun controversy, in which the defending NL MVP allegedly tested positive only to have his suspension overturned by an arbitrator, is indicative of baseball’s authoritarian and puritanical mindset:

It can’t have surprised anyone who’s watched the casual way constitutional safeguards have been generally tossed aside in drug cases over the past 30-odd years. It can’t have surprised anyone who’s read the revelations about how the criminal justice system has been perverted by bungling crime labs and incompetent medical examiners. (Here in Massachusetts, we are rather the home office of the latter problem.) Ultimately, in any authoritarian solution, the people with the power get lazy, and stupid, and they start making enough mistakes that people get tired of living with them. It’s one of the reasons we don’t have East Germany anymore. And baseball always has had a sweet tooth for the authoritarian solution.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:17 pm on February 28th 2012

Space Elevator!

HELLZ YEAH. I am always encouraged when, amidst economic retrenchment and worry, crazy developers continue to compete with one another to build the world’s tallest skyscraper. Now comes Obayashi Corp, a Japanese company with plans to blow everyone else out of the water by realizing the old sci-fi dream of an elevator extending a quarter of the way to the fricking moon.

Oddly, they seem to be focusing primarily on the potential for space tourism rather than on satellite payloads, which is where I’m assuming the real money would be. Still, it’s hard not to be stoked about any project this cool, even if inevitably Godzilla will wind up knocking it down.

Posted by Brad @ 10:54 am on February 28th 2012

Bobb Barr Endorses Newt Gingrich

Specifically for libertarians.

Posted by Brad @ 4:01 pm on February 24th 2012

Who Will Be The Next Ron Paul?

Reason takes a look at three members of the House who may step into his niche in the U.S. House.

I have to admit I hadn’t heard of two of them, and the #1 I literally first heard about a week ago when I caught an interview snippet of him and was kind of taken aback at how refreshing and smart he sounded for being the resident House Republican invited on a program.

One thing that I do think it’s important to factor in: a vastly underestimated part of Ron Paul being Ron Paul is his rather incredible skill at retail politics, which has given him a proven ability to win his home district again and again even when the national establishment trains their guns on him. His ability to lock down Brazos County, not only without any party support but often against the party, has gone a long way towards allowing him the incredibly long leash he has on staking out positions. It has long befuddled Washington Republicans who don’t understand how ANY Congressman could have so much trust from his constituents. But that’s the key – his constituents know him, trust him, and he’s always done right by them even as he crusades on so many other things. That’s not to be underestimated – indeed, it’s the linchpin of his career.

Posted by Brad @ 12:08 pm on February 24th 2012

DOMA Going Down

I’ve long maintained the the final fight in the marriage equality is going to be DOMA. The fact of the matter is, laws banning same sex marriage are federally unconstitutional. I don’t mean that as a moral or political judgments, I just mean a clean, objective reading of the 5th and 14th amendments, the case law surrounding separate but equal constructs, and the lack of evidence that any court has found convincing, where it exists at all, of material, quantifiable, and trumping harm caused same sex marriage that might prove a basis for a rational state interest in its banning. At the end of the day – and again, I am putting all other considerations aside, including the preferrability of, say, state discretion – the legality of laws banning same sex marriage is less a gut call and more an arithmetic problem. And the equation for banning based on justifications that satisfy constitutional requirements just doesn’t solve. This applies to state laws that run counter to state constitutions, but it also applies to state constitutional amendments that run counter to the federal constitution, and federal laws that do the same. I just don’t believe there is a way for any state, be it Massachusetts or Oklahoma to be able to ban same sex marriage in a way that is constitutional. Again, all other considerations aside.

Yesterday, a federal court came down against DOMA (the authoring judge was appointed by Bush in 2002, btw).

The Court concludes that, based on the justifications proffered by Congress for its passage of DOMA, the statute fails to satisfy heightened scrutiny and is unconstitutional as applied to Ms. Golinski.

Although the Court finds that DOMA is subject to and fails to satisfy heightened scrutiny, it notes that numerous courts have found that the statute fails even rational basis review.

Thus begins the chain of events that will lead to DOMA’s being entirely overturned, in parallel with the continued flood of judicial findings on state levels relating to marriage equality.

It is worth noting that the Obama administrations DOJ has decided to not actively defend DOMA in court any more.

It is finally worth noting that this decision came down yesterday and I only found the news in the weeds of some blogs. As blank writes:

Ten years ago, a decision like this would have been an excuse for a wave of antigay referenda. This week, it did not even rate a mention on the New York Times‘ front page. I just can’t shake my head often enough. DOMA is coming down. Here’s the only question left: Three years? Five years?

I think we get too caught up in the trees. The forest here is actually that gay rights has been the biggest civil rights breakthrough in my lifetime. And it has also been one of the most mainstream, nonviolent, and peaceful civil rights watersheds in the history of oppressed minorities breaking through. We forget that sometimes, but most shut-out groups only win their freedom with a lot of fire and bloodshed. Gay equality has come relatively easily. Not that it’s been easy, or without fire and bloodshed. But I think we lose perspective sometimes, always assuming our fights are the fightiest fights in history. On the contrary, at least when it comes to demographic civil rights, I think the human race has gotten smart very quickly this last hundred years.

In other gay marriage news, Maryland passed a marriage equality law yesterday, again to no fanfare or hub-bub. It now goes to the Governor, who is likely to veto it because only referendums count as democratic, I guess.

And, CATO has produced a fantastic video making the constitutional case for gay marriage. Watch it – I honestly have a hard time even understanding how anyone could think otherwise (again, other considerations aside).

Anyway, I am very comfortable predicting gay marriage will be legal in every state within my lifetime. Probably within the next six to ten years.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:30 pm on February 21st 2012

A gay day at Johnson campaign HQ

It seems that Christopher Barron, head of GOProud, has gotten tired of making common cause with people who want to incinerate him, and has publically endorsed Governor Johnson for the Presidency:

The Republican primary fight has become a train wreck in slow motion. Instead of talking about fundamental reform, we are left to hear fighting over contraception and gay marriage. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have waged a campaign over the last few weeks that has been shameful and politically tone deaf. The Democrats want a culture war because they can’t defend President Obama’s failed record on jobs and the economy, and it seems like the Republican Party is hell-bent on giving them a culture warrior or at least — in the case of Romney — one who plays one on TV. Well, this where I get off.

We at the Crossed Pond, of course, believe that Mr. Barron is free to get off in whatever location and manner he chooses.

EDIT: The comments thread in the linked post is worth reading if you want some insights into the views and strategies of those within the LP who oppose Johnson’s nomination.

Posted by Cameron @ 10:24 pm on February 18th 2012

De Minimis

I received a letter a few days ago from my bank which was postage due. Being a fairly young person who doesn’t correspond much through mail, this is actually the first time I’ve ever received a postage due letter. I’ve obviously heard the term and am familiar with the concept but it’s never personally affected me. And no, this isn’t going to be a story of me raising hell in my financial institution demanding that they reimburse me for the 15˘ I was forced to expend on their behalf. Instead it’s a story of time and money.

I was kind of chuckling to myself as I tossed a dime and a nickle into the brown envelope rubber banded to my letter, thinking that surely my fifteen cents is meaningless to an organization as big as the USPS. It struck me that perhaps it isn’t…you add a few hundred fifteen cent collections together and suddenly you’re talking about dozens of actual dollars. So it adds up in the end? This process has to be a useful method of ensuring profitability.

Right?

Except it isn’t. I did some googling and found that the average salary at the USPS is $48,000 but for the sake of being conservative I’ll knock ten grand off that and presume that the individuals involved in my postage due situation earned $38,000 per year. Assuming a 40 hour work week, this translates to $18.26 per hour in raw salary per employee. If you divide this down, you’ll find that just about half a penny is earned for every second of work.

This means that if any more than 30 seconds of paid effort was expended to collect 15˘ from me, the USPS spent more money in salary paying their employees than they gained from me.

They spent more than 30 seconds. The envelope itself was stamped (part of which was crossed out) and noted with the amount due. I’ll presume that this was done by a first employee who also had to spend some time simply handling my letter. My letter carrier then supplied a smallish preprinted brown envelope (cost of a few pennies?) and then spent time filling out my last name, my address, the amount due and the carrier’s name. After the envelope was all filled out, it was rubber banded to my letter and inserted into my mailbox.

Note also that my thirty second time limit is likely higher than the actual threshold due to the lack of accounting for the costs associated with employee retirement benefits, health care, taxes and other ancillary costs above and beyond pure salary.

It’s pretty clear that, in fact, when multiplied across the thousands of postage due situations that occur in an organization the size of the USPS, they are not in fact generating any extra revenue and are actually a money losing proposition each and every time they occur. Surely some postage due instances are for higher values than 15 cents, but one must also wonder how many are lower. I should hope that the USPS has pondered situations like this and doesn’t bother collecting an individual penny of extra postage. But one must wonder, why did they go after my fifteen cents? I would bet that the actual revenue positive threshold is far higher than 15 cents.

To be sure, there’s a bureaucratic mentality at work here. Fifteen cents due is fifteen cents that needs collecting. Why though? Why bother if you’re losing money in the process of collecting it? Because it’s due and you don’t want allow people to think they can rip you off? I can’t imagine that most people who send a postage due letter ever realize they’ve done so, since the burden of payment is placed upon the recipient. It’s a strange system and one that could stand a bit of cost benefit analysis.

But in the end, I rooted around in my car and found a dime and a nickle to put in the little brown envelope. I know that this was the only outgoing letter in my mailbox the next day which required my letter carrier to make an additional stop in front of my mailbox (15 seconds plus a bit of extra gas money) and I also know that the mail carrier was going to have to open up my sealed bag (2 seconds), remove the change and put it somewhere back at the Post Office, perhaps filling out a log of some sort that noted that my payment had been collected (20 seconds).

So, good job USPS! There went another 37 seconds of paid salary, amounting to just over 18˘. To collect 15˘.

Posted by Brad @ 2:56 pm on February 18th 2012

The Conservative Goalposts on What’s an Acceptable Avenue for Marriage Equality

Andrew Sullivan, as is often the case, cuts to the quick of Chris Christie’s decision to veto marriage equality as passed by the New Jersey legislature, on the grounds that it’s undemocratic.

Since the Massachussetts ruling, of course, we’ve heard for years about how undemocratic it is to have judicial bodies deciding on the constitutionality of laws (!). We also heard for years about how duly passed laws in other states can’t rightly extend across state lines, even in a case where its area of impact clearly does. We’ve had those arguments here on this blog, wherein it’s been said that marriage equality advocates ought to somehow opt out of having civil rights decided in courts. I’ve long questioned how much those arguments are in good faith, and how much it’s simply roadblock-throwing.

It now appears to be the position of the conservative intelligensia that legislative actions are also undemocratic, and that – with no precedent or even consistent rationale – the only path to civil rights is through public referendum. Anything else is cheating, I guess – although you’ll not hear that logic applied to literally anything else, unless you’re talking to Mike Gravel.

A wager: if judicial decisions come down, state laws are passed legislatively, and then finally public referendums are passed, how much do you want to bet that conservative groups challenge those referendum results in courts? Or argue that it’s a tyranny of the majority (“Marriage equality is opposed by 40% of the population, but we’re forced to accept it?!”). For dedicated marriage equality opponents, I don’t believe for one second that there is any avenue of marriage equality that they would accept as valid.

It’s always unwise to let the opposing army choose the field of battle. But it becomes almost comical when you also begin granting them do-overs whenever they find their choices not working for them.

Posted by Rojas @ 7:30 pm on February 15th 2012

Ron Paul and the Maine Caucus

Okay…as we’ve noted here during the previous election cycle, there’s a certain class of dingbat who will assert vote fraud whenever he/she doesn’t get the result he/she wants, and there’s a disconcerting clustering of said dingbats among Paulites. This led to some frankly embarrassing claims about electoral shenanigans in 2008, to the point at which we’ve more or less stopped paying attention to them.

There have, however, been some very disconcerting reports surfacing about the behavior of the state Republican party in Maine during their caucuses last weekend…those being the caucuses that prevented Mitt Romney from blowing his fourth state in a row. Note that I am not referring to the “controversy” over the failure to let Washington County vote, but to much broader and more substantive claims. This report by a Cincinnati TV station provides a summary.

Just because kooks make unwarranted claims about voter fraud doesn’t mean that it never happens. At minimum the Maine GOP ought to be embarrassed about the lack of transparency and professionalism in their vote-counting process. It seems unlikely that we will ever have any idea who won there.

Posted by Jack @ 7:27 pm on February 15th 2012

In hindsight, Bishop to Queen’s Ovaries might have been a tactical blunder

Given my own, let’s call it reactionary dislike for specious claims of moral authority interwoven with almost neanderthal levels of misogynistic control policies, I generally just rolled my eyes at the recent showdown between the administration and U.S. Catholic Bishops (as egged on by FNC and other right wing propagandists.) I thought it a minor manufactured political point scoring stunt. I was challenged on this by Catholic today, though admittedly he is not a bishop despite being an old white male with pretensions towards neutrality while maintaining a constant stream of carefully framed Obama criticisms. He viewed the contraception mandate as a serious, if not grave, threat to religious liberty. So I thought I would check my assumptions, did some googling, and found that apparently:
– 28 states have long had the same law/regulation/interpretation of the requirement for comprehensive health insurance to include contraception
– Federal policy has been around since 2000 when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled it necessary to be in compliance with the 1964 civil rights act
– A plethora of Catholic institutions, including Universities hospitals and even an actual Catholic insurance organization, have long provided contraception coverage
So this means that for 12 years or more, the right wing and Catholic Bishops have been silent on this issue, until Obama announces the completely unremarkable fact that the AHCA will also comply with these requirements.

Is there any pushback to this? Its the sort of thing that makes me think of the U.S. Catholic Bishops and their enablers in the right wing as rather enormous opportunistic douche bags. I mean, an institutionalized policy of hiding and protecting child rapists? Good to go. Acknowledgement of a 12 year old policy also enforced by separate regulations and laws in 28 states? Outrage!

Posted by Jack @ 6:56 pm on February 15th 2012

The Man-Pinniped War: First Blood

Support for conservationism drops precipitously throughout both the Latin and male worlds in the wake of the unprovoked attack on Colombia’s greatest export. There are clearly some species we can live without.

Posted by Brad @ 10:22 am on February 15th 2012

Light Posting

For no good reason, but I guess worth announcing. Aside from my 9 to 5 I’ve been off on a freelance job as well, so haven’t had any writing time. Two upcoming posts(?) I’ve been thinking of writing, but haven’t:

1. Ron Paul: Proving his Appeal and Unviablity

2. “The Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion” (Iran and Israel)

My co-bloggers – Rojas, Jack, woman, what’s-his-name, troll – likely have a lot in the hopper as well.

Posted by Brad @ 5:56 pm on February 7th 2012

Music Video of the Week

OK Go are nucking futs.

OK Go – Needing/Getting

Posted by Brad @ 3:05 pm on February 7th 2012

This Just (Still) in: Prop 8 Unconstitutional

So says a federal appeals court panel, upholding the lower court rulings.

I know Rojas and I go round-and-round on this, and to my mind there’s no question that he’s right that, from an optics and even consensus-building standpoint, legislative or referendum-based advancement of marriage equality is the preferably route. But the problem is, when a questionable law is in front of you, you have to rule on it – you can’t rightly NOT rule an unconstitutional law unconstitutional for secondary or strategic reasons. And to my mind, that Prop 8 or any law barring same sex couples from marrying is patently unconstitutional is really beyond argument. You just can’t define a set of state benefits reserved for one group of people, and not another set, without proving, to a high standard, a state interest in doing so, which in this case no defendant has ever been able to do.

To my mind, any state law that explicitly seeks to create separate but equal categories of rights is going to run afoul of their state constitutions. And any amendments to those state constitutions will run afoul to the federal constitution. And any federal legislation (i.e. DOMA) that seeks to square that circle is also going to run afoul of the federal constitution. And no matter what moral, cultural, or political questions you seek to surround the matter with, at the end of the day it really is as simple as basic arithmetic. Applying Variable X to Formula A, you can solve for it only one way.

Do you hear that, Mister Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability.

Posted by Rojas @ 7:27 pm on February 2nd 2012

Unaware

There seems to be some sort of kerfuffle in the blogosphere this week regarding the actions of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It seems that they elected to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood in reaction to their occasional financing of abortion services, irritating pro-choicers and causing all manner of celebrities and small donors to step in to make up the funding gap.

That’s all well and good, and I’m able to follow the abortion angle. The part that I don’t get is: I can’t figure out what the hell the Susan G. Komen Foundation DOES. I mean, they claim to be associated with an attempt to cure some sort of disease or other, but it’s one I’ve never heard of and I frankly kind of doubt it exists.

Perhaps if some sort of minimal effort were made to make people like me aware of this alleged health issue, things might be different, but in the absence of any such campaign I am forced to conclude that the entire operation is an elaborate scam.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:58 pm on February 1st 2012

Mitt shuts mutt in hut; mutt’s butt goes nuts redux

The 1983 Romney anecdote is in the news again, which gives us the excuse we’ve been looking for to repeat the headline.

Posted by Brad @ 11:10 am on February 1st 2012

Pretty Much

TAMPA, FL—Following a decisive win in tonight’s Florida primary, presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a moment during his victory address to reflect on the current crop of Republicans vying for the party’s nomination, telling the gathered crowd he “[had] to admit that, overall, it’s a pretty weak field.” “No question about it, you’re looking at a bunch of duds,” Romney said to his supporters, who grew silent as the former Massachusetts governor added that it was hard to imagine any of the GOP contenders, himself included, being president of the United States. “Republican voters have been dealt a crappy hand, and that’s all there is to it. It’s like the year the Democrats had Michael Dukakis and Gary Hart—maybe even worse. To be perfectly honest, our party’s in a weird, transitional phase right now. We don’t really know who we are, what we stand for, or what it is we’re even trying to do. On the other hand, in 2016, we should be stacked: Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels. Lot of great options there. This year is garbage, though, and I sincerely apologize for that. Anyway, off to Nevada.” Romney then exited the stage to zero applause, got into his car, and was driven to the airport.