DOMA Is Done For

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Gay Marriage, Legislation, Sexuality, Supreme Court


It always seemed destined to be overturned, but by such a narrow margin? 5 to 4? Really?

More from NPR:

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes such as Social Security survivors’ benefits, insurance benefits, immigration and tax filing.

Section 3 of the law defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and a spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” That provision had been struck down by eight lower courts before the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in United States v. Windsor.

This decision means that legally married same-sex couples are now entitled to the same federal benefits as married opposite sex couples.

Scalia’s logical twister is worth noting…

“This case is about power in several respects. It is about the power of our people to govern themselves, and the power of this Court to pronounce the law. Today’s opinion aggrandizes the latter, with the predictable consequence of diminishing the former. We have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation. The Court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseases root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.”

So the court has no power to decide that federally created legislation is unconstitutional?

Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and it’s pretty straight forward…

“DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States Code. The particular case at hand concerns the estate tax, but DOMA is more than a simple determination of what should or should not be allowed as an estate tax refund. Among the over 1,000 statutes and numerous federal regulations that DOMA controls are laws pertaining to Social Security, housing, taxes, criminal sanctions, copyright, and veterans’ benefits. DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency.

The court side-stepped Prop 8, saying it didn’t have the authority to rule on it. So I wouldn’t expect the court to make any sort of Loving v. Virginia decision any time in the near future. They clearly want to leave the same-sex marriage decisions to the states, so it’ll be a long slog for at least a couple decades before this is the law of the land. And even then, I’m sure some states could still be gay-marriage free.

Regardless, it’s a great day for equal rights!

June 26th, 2013 | Permalink| No Comments »

Boston First Responders

By donar | Related entries in Political Graffiti, Terrorism


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April 17th, 2013 | Permalink| No Comments »

Race, Religion and Terrorism in the Wake Of Boston

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Race, Religion, Terrorism


In the aftermath of the horrific situation in Boston on Monday, all eyes turn to the ultimate question: who did this?

No groups have claimed responsibility yet, so if it was a terrorist organization we probably would have known by now, especially given the number of amputations that occurred. I can’t find anything official, but the last numbers I read were between 20 and 30.

So, was this a lone wolf? Some signs seem to be pointing that way…

The devices used in the Boston Marathon attack Monday are typical of the “lone wolf:” the solo terrorist who builds a bomb on his own by following a widely available formula.

In this case, the formula seems very similar to one that al Qaeda has recommended to its supporters around the world as both crudely effective and difficult to trace. But it is also a recipe that has been adopted by extreme right-wing individuals in the United States.

The threat of the “lone wolf” alarms the intelligence community.

“This is what you worry about the most,” a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN’s Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. “No trail, no intelligence.”

Long story short, if you wanted to go out and build a device like the ones used in Boston, you could do that…today.

However, this doesn’t point away from al Qaeda. It also doesn’t point away from right-wing extremists either. The terrorist(s) used what is known as a “low-velocity improvised explosive mixture” and could be made with ingredients you find in common fireworks. Ultimately what this means is we’ll be lucky if we can find out where these components came from. There’s likely no discernible trail here.

So that leads us to the next question: if we do catch the terrorist(s)…what will be done? And that leads us into an article posted on Salon yesterday entitled “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.”

A provocative title, yes, but the essay points out a valid concern for those of us interested in making sure our “war” on terrorism produces as few collateral damage casualties as possible.

Case in point…

Though FBI data show fewer terrorist plots involving Muslims than terrorist plots involving non-Muslims, America has mobilized a full-on war effort exclusively against the prospect of Islamic terrorism. Indeed, the moniker “War on Terrorism” has come to specifically mean “War on Islamic Terrorism,” involving everything from new laws like the Patriot Act, to a new torture regime, to new federal agencies like the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security, to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to mass surveillance of Muslim communities.

By contrast, even though America has seen a consistent barrage of attacks from domestic non-Islamic terrorists, the privilege and double standards baked into our national security ideologies means those attacks have resulted in no systemic action of the scope marshaled against foreign terrorists. In fact, it has been quite the opposite — according to Darryl Johnson, the senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, the conservative movement backlash to merely reporting the rising threat of such domestic terrorism resulted in DHS seriously curtailing its initiatives against that particular threat. (Irony alert: When it comes specifically to fighting white non-Muslim domestic terrorists, the right seems to now support the very doctrine it criticized Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for articulating — the doctrine that sees fighting terrorism as primarily “an intelligence-gathering, law-enforcement, public-diplomacy effort” and not something more systemic.)

Do we, as Americans, seem to ignore the threats inside our own borders by our own citizens because those terrorists look like us, talk like us and go to the same churches as us?

Another salient point…

“White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for your group to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening or threatened with deportation,” writes author Tim Wise. “White privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Dublin. And if he’s an Italian-American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican.”

As always, your thoughts are welcome and appreciated.

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April 17th, 2013 | Permalink| 10 Comments »

Major Corporations Evade Taxes To The Tune of $100 Billion

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Money, Taxes

Every year we hear these numbers and they become increasingly hard to believe. How can all of these corporations get away with squirreling away so much money offshore and paying so little in taxes.

Take a look at GE, Bank of America, Wells Fargo…and everybody’s favorite…BP.



Tax Evaders


Want more examples? Find them over at

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April 15th, 2013 | Permalink| 1 Comment »

North Korea – made in China

By donar | Related entries in Political Graffiti


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April 3rd, 2013 | Permalink| No Comments »

SCOTUS, Prop 8, Madison and Majority Rule

By mw | Related entries in California, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Gay Marriage, News, Supreme Court

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Yesterday the Supreme Court considered the question of whether California’s Proposition 8 ban on same sex marriage was constitutional. SCOTUSblog reads the tea leaves and reviews the legal arguments:

“The case argued Tuesday — Hollingsworth v. Perry (12-144) — was only the first of two, but it is the one that had the most potential for getting to the question of who may marry.Wednesday’s argument, the case of United States v. Windsor(12-307), involves same-sex couples who are already legally married, and the issue before the Court is whether the federal government can legally deny them all of the federal benefits that go with marriage.  But a decision in that case might not resolve the basic issue of equal access to marriage…

The legal consequences of avoiding a ruling on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 would vary sharply, depending upon the route the Court chose to that outcome. If the case were dismissed on the theory that the grant of review was a mistake, that would mean that the Ninth Circuit’s California-only decision would become final and fully effective, that court would remove the temporary order blocking marriages, and same-sex couples could resume getting married in the state.

I am not a lawyer, and will not hazard a guess on how the court will rule – particularly after the surprising SCOTUS ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The original ruling that led to this case occurred in a California federal court in August of 2010. I wrote a post ruminating on the constitutional and philosophical question of a federal judge negating the wishes of a majority of California voters. Rereading it now, I think it holds up pretty well. I never did get around to posting it on the Donk, so thought I’d rectify that oversight. Since this is a three year old post, some of the links may no longer function. Proceed at your own risk.
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March 27th, 2013 | Permalink| 1 Comment »

Poll: Gay Marriage Support Rises Significantly Among All Political Affiliations

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Gay Marriage, Polls


I don’t think this is any surprise, and it certainly sets the stage for a very interesting SCOTUS case coming up.

From ABC News, via Wash Post:

The poll shows that 58 percent of Americans now believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married; 36 percent say it should be illegal. Public attitudes toward gay marriage are a mirror image of what they were a decade ago: in 2003, 37 percent favored gay nuptials, and 55 percent opposed them.

Not only that, gay marriage has made gains across all political affiliations.


And yes, a majority of Republicans aren’t in favor of it…yet. But the trend is there. I doubt we’ve ever seen numbers below 60% for keeping it illegal. Anything in the 50%s is pretty astonishing.

So why the shift?

Acceptance about why people are gay is one reason…

There has been a related movement in public opinion about homosexuality. Fully 62 percent of Americans now say being gay is just the way some people are, not something people choose to be. About 20 years ago, fewer than half of the public said so.

In the current data, about three-quarters of those who do not see homosexuality as a choice support gay marriage, with most supporting it “strongly.” More than two-thirds of those who see it as a choice oppose gay marriage, with almost all intensely against it.

Also, what’s really shocking is it really isn’t a generational thing. Because when you look at 18-49 and 50-64…the number who want it to be legal are EXACTLY THE SAME AT 73%.


Last, note how younger Republicans and Independents now favor it instead of opposing it. You’ll even see opinions in the evangelical community supporting gay marriage. So, if Republicans want to win elections in the future, there’s no way they can keep opposing this issue. They’ll look and sound like social dinosaurs.

More as it develops…

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March 18th, 2013 | Permalink| 2 Comments »

The Legend of Sequestivus and the Airing of Grievances.

By mw | Related entries in Budget, Congress, Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Obama, Republicans
It is the season of Sequestivus

The legend of the origin of Sequestivus

The great leader Obama, who was dearly loved by (52% of) the people spoke to his minions and said “Hear me! You must fear the great beast Sequester, for if it is loosed upon the land there will pestilence and famine.” And the people listened to Obama and wondered.

“Go now!” He pointed “Go to the dark castle on the Hill, where the Congress of Many Heads created the great abomination called Sequestration. Bring your pitchforks and torches! Storm the castle and kill the great beast or you will surely see sorrow, lamentations, and the rending of garments!” The great leader Obama paused, nodding his head sagely  “And if you accidently kill the Congress of Many Heads that lives in the castle on The Hill, well – you know –  collateral damage… stuff happens… I wouldn’t be too concerned about it.”

The people considered what the dear leader said and asked. “WTF? An only 2.3% decrease in the rate of spending increases? Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea what kind of cuts we’ve had to endure the last four years? And you’re saying you can’t figure out how to cut a lousy 2.3% out of this bloated federal budget?”

And the dear leader’s heart was heavy when the people did not heed his warning. Not to mention pissed. So it came to pass that the Sequestration monster was released to prey upon 48% of the people. And the great leader Obama again went to the people and said “I declare this to be the Season of Sequestivus,  A time of regret, remorse, and recrimination. Let the Airing of Grievances begin.”

And so, as a public service, permit me to offer a selection of public grievances in this first fortnight of the first season of Sequestivus.

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March 13th, 2013 | Permalink| 6 Comments »

Give me that old-timey filibuster.

By mw | Related entries in cia, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Obama, Senate, The War On Terrorism
Mr. Paul goes to Washington

Some described Rand Paul’s historic 13 hour filibuster as “libertarian porn”. Note we are talking about a CSPAN feed of a man speaking at a podium for 13 hours, yet I couldn’t stop watching. It was far more engrossing and entertaining than it had any right to be. I reluctantly tore myself away at the nine hour mark to keep an evening engagement, and was sorely disappointed to learn it was over when I returned.

Rand Paul was ostensibly using the filibuster to block a vote on John Brennan’s nomination as CIA chief, but he made it clear the nomination confirmation was not his primary reason for the filibuster. Rather it was administration evasion on a simple question – Does the President think he legally has unilateral authority to launch a drone strike on an American citizen in America? During the filibuster Rand Paul referenced and read several articles into the record. They explain the issue better than I can:

Conor Friedersdorf: Killing Americans on U.S. Soil: Eric Holder’s Evasive, Manipulative Letter

“Any thinking person can see that Holder’s letter is non-responsive, evasive, and deliberately manipulative in its sly reassurances, right down to the rhetorically powerful but substantively nonsensical invocation of 9/11 To credulously accept this sort of response, on an issue as important as this one, is behavior unfit for any citizen of a free country, where safeguarding the rule of law is a civic responsibility.”

Kevin Gosztola: Attorney General Eric Holder: US Government Has Authority to Target & Kill US Citizens on US Soil

“Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who sent three letters to CIA director nominee John Brennan requesting an answer on “whether the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil,” finally received an answer from Attorney General Eric Holder. The answer indicates the administration of President Barack Obama does, in fact, believe it has the power to assassinate US citizens on US soil with lethal force…

As interesting as the filibuster itself was the reaction from the punditocracy. Commentary on the filibuster came from across the political spectrum with the most withering criticism from his fellow Republicans.
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March 7th, 2013 | Permalink| 2 Comments »

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities still blaming Bush tax cuts for deficit even though they expired.

By mw | Related entries in Budget, Bush, Debt, Deficit, Divided Government, Fiscal Responsibility, Obama

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently updated their analysis of the underlying causes of our debt and deficit problems. Their key findings are summarized in these two charts.

Their shocking conclusion – Four years after he left office, the deficit is still all George W. Bush’s fault:

“Just two policies dating from the Bush Administration — tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — accounted for over $500 billion of the deficit in 2009 and will account for nearly $6 trillion in deficits in 2009 through 2019 (including associated debt-service costs of $1.4 trillion).  By 2019, we estimate that these two policies will account for almost half — over $8 trillion — of the $17 trillion in debt that will be owed under current policies.  (See Figure 2.)” 

In fact, the CBPP project that our debt and deficits will continue to be George W. Bush’s fault for as far as the chart can see – throughout President Obama’s second term, through the next president’s first term, to 2019 and beyond. Before we take a look under the covers, it’s worth reviewing the history of their thesis.
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March 3rd, 2013 | Permalink| 8 Comments »