Archive | April 2015

Same-Sex Marriage, Urban Discontent, and American Values


This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case related to laws banning gay marriage in about two-thirds of the 13 states who still do not allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

These are maps showing the states that had and had not legalized gay marriage late in 2009 and early in 2015:

Same-Sex Marriage by the Map 2009

Same-sex marriage laws

I am very certain that the Supreme Court decision matters a great deal to gay and lesbian couples in those states whose laws are under review in this case. But, in terms of national policy, it now seems very clearly more a matter of not whether but when gay and lesbian couples will be able to marry anywhere in the United States.

Most of the news media has, however, been treating this case as if it were pivotal to whether gay marriage will be legally accepted across the United States, and that is…

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President Obama’s Bucket List and Anger Translator


This is a transcript of President Obama’s remarks at last night’s White House Correspondents Dinner.


Good evening, everybody.

Welcome to the White House Correspondents’ dinner. A night when Washington celebrates itself. Somebody’s got to do it. And welcome to the fourth quarter of my presidency. It’s true — that’s Michelle cheering.

The fact is I feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Joe Biden shoulder massages — they’re like magic. You should try one. Oh, you have.

I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left. After the midterm elections, my advisors asked me “Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?”  And I said, “Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.”

Take executive action on immigration. Bucket.

New climate regulations. Bucket. It’s the right thing to do.

My new attitude is paying off. Look at my Cuba policy. The Castro brothers…

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Cecily Strong’s Best Jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner


As culled by The Hill and the Washington Post:


– On her ambiguous ethnicity: “I’m sort of a mashup of all the people in Hillary Clinton’s announcement video.”

– “Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I’m gonna go easy on you people. I’m gonna go easy on you people because my brain is smaller.”

– “Last year’s host Joe McHale proves that speaking at this dinner is an amazing opportunity that can take you from starring in a show on NBC all the way to starring in the same show on Yahoo.”

– “Since I’m only a comedian, I’m not going to tell you politicians how to do politics or whatever. That’s not my job. That’d be like you guys telling me what to do with my body. Can you even imagine?”

– “I love Hobby Lobby. I went there this morning and bought this cute little…

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Making Safe Schools a Priority


Item 1 Marking the National Rifle Association’s 2015 Freedom Festival in Nashville

To direct school staff on how to respond to a visitor who is carrying a visible firearm, a school district in Michigan has distributed the following flow chart:

Flow Chart for Responding to School Visitor w a Gun

I would like to be able to say that one cannot help but feel certain that the school staff now feel very adequately prepared to meet all eventualities, that those parents whose children are enrolled at the school are now very confident that all the measures that might be taken to insure the safety of their children have been taken, and that, if the flow chart has been posted for easy reference around the school, the school children themselves must feel very secure simply by having the opportunity to gaze upon it.

I would like to be able to say all or even any of that, but the idea that…

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Narratives Told and Ignored


Item 2 Marking the National Rifle Association’s 2015 Freedom Festival in Nashville

In 2013, 17 states and the District of Columbia, gun-related deaths exceeded traffic-related deaths:

  1. Alaska: 144 gun deaths, 66 motor vehicle deaths
  2. Arizona: 941 gun deaths, 863 motor vehicle deaths
  3. Colorado: 619 gun deaths, 514 motor vehicle deaths
  4. District of Columbia: 71 gun deaths, 30 motor vehicle deaths
  5. Indiana: 857 gun deaths, 840 motor vehicle deaths
  6. Louisiana: 886 gun deaths, 767 motor vehicle deaths
  7. Maryland: 578 gun deaths, 531 motor vehicle deaths
  8. Michigan: 1,190 gun deaths, 1,063 motor vehicle deaths
  9. Missouri: 880 gun deaths, 781 motor vehicle deaths
  10. Nevada: 395 gun deaths, 281 motor vehicle deaths
  11. Ohio: 1,289 gun deaths, 1,144 motor vehicle deaths
  12. Oregon: 462 gun deaths, 363 motor vehicle deaths
  13. Pennsylvania: 1,451 gun deaths, 1,340 motor vehicle deaths
  14. Tennessee: 1,030 gun deaths, 1,027 motor vehicle deaths
  15. Utah: 339 gun deaths, 234 motor vehicle deaths
  16. Virginia: 864…

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Emblematic Narratives Are Hard to Find


Item 3 Marking the National Rifle Association’s 2015 Freedom Festival in Nashville

Yesterday, the U.S. Capitol was locked down because a gunshot was fired immediately outside its walls. Initial reports indicated only that the gunman had been “neutralized” by a “self-inflicted fatal gunshot.”

Putting aside the very odd language that authorities used to summarize what had occurred, once it was clear that this shooting was “only a suicide,” the story received very little further attention.

But if you consider the statistics that I presented in the second in this series of four posts, perhaps this story should have received much more attention—since almost two-thirds of the gun-related deaths that occur each year are suicides, and here was someone tragically illustrating that reality almost literally on the steps of the Capitol.

By the way, if one adds in the murder victims in murder-suicides, the number of gun-related deaths related to suicides…

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Why a Holster Is Not Simply an Accessory


Item 4 Marking the National Rifle Association’s 2015 Freedom Festival in Nashville

Some truisms, even about guns, turn out to be true.

In January 2013, a security guard in Trinidad and Tobago accidentally shot off his penis with an illegal gun.

The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reported that the 33-year-old man was carrying a .38 caliber handgun in his pocket when it went off, shooting him in the groin.

Police responding to a report of a gunshot coming from a parked car in the town of Rio Claro found the guard slumped over the wheel and bleeding from his groin. The man had a .38 caliber gun and had four rounds of ammunition in his pocket.

The guard was then transported to San Fernando General Hospital where he remained under police supervision. At the hospital police discovered the guard did not have an ownership license. Adding insult to already unpleasant injury…

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You Cannot Cite Data That Does Not Exist


This past week, Bill O’Reilly cited, for the second time, statistics that supposedly show that more Whites than African-Americans are killed by police. Although he framed the discussion of these statistics by stating that he was in no way condoning the recent police shooting of an unarmed African-American man in North Charleston, South Carolina, he was nonetheless arguing that the assertions that Black men are disproportionately victims of police brutality is some sort of lie being disseminated by Liberal activists and Liberal media.

Putting aside for a moment that the study that O’Reilly cited has been described as limited, somewhat dated, and something of a statistical outlier, one does not need a degree in mathematics to challenge O’Reilly’s assertions on several levels.

First, since White Americans outnumber African-Americans by a four-to-one to five-to-one margin, it is possible that more Whites than African-Americans are killed by police. But unless Whites are…

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Gay Marriage Religious Freedom, and the Public Discourse


The discussion of the “religious freedom” laws in Indiana, Arkansas, and elsewhere has been seriously skewed by a failure to look very much, if at all, beyond the specific examples offered to justify the laws. This issue is not really about Christian fundamentalist florists or restaurant owners having to provide services to gay couples who are being married; it is, instead, about using those very narrow examples to justify a much more far-reaching legalized bias against LGBT individuals. It is a way to undermine, locally, the seemingly inevitable national extension of the right to marry to LGBT couples.

The most salient example of this skewing of the discussion is the media’s focus—and the Far Right media’s obsession with–the pizza shop whose owners said that they would serve gays but not cater gay weddings. Responding to reported death threats against the owners that have forced them to close the pizza shop…

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Drivers’ Licenses, Voter Registration, and Presidential Possibilities


This past week the Oregon legislature passed and the governor of that state signed legislation that would automatically register to vote every citizen with a driver’s license issued by the state.

I was going to write a post contrasting that law with a late amendment to Ohio’s transportation bill that would have required people from out-of-state to obtain an Ohio driver’s license and to register their vehicle with the state within 30 days to establish residency and thus be able to register to vote.

This measure, inserted by Senate Republicans just prior to passage of the bill, appeared to be designed to create barriers that would discourage out-of-state college students from voting in Ohio in the 2016 elections. Media reports estimated that as many as 100,000 students would have been affected.

If you recall, ahead of the 2014 elections, a similarly designed bill was introduced in the Ohio legislature to…

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