Saturday, August 30, 2014

SATURDAY POLITICS: California Legislature Passes Plastic Bag Ban

Well, well, well! The California legislature has wrapped up its action for the 2014 year, sending numerous bills to the governor for his signature. One of the most closely watched bills was SB270, which would impose a statewide ban on the use of plastic bags.
Senators who had previously opposed the bill, including incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, this time supported the measure after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers. 
The bill by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies in 2015 and at convenience stores in 2016. 
It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags.
The bill had sparked one of the most contentious debates in the last weeks of the legislative session, with aggressive lobbying by environmentalists and bag manufacturers.
Glad to see my state senator Kevin de Leon finally changed his position and supported this important legislation! I hope Governor Brown signs it into law soon.

Friday, August 29, 2014

2014 US OPEN: Venus Loses Bizarre 3-Set Battle To Errani; Halep(2) Upset Also


Venus Williams lost a bizarre match to Sara Errani of Italy, 6-0 0-6 7-6(5) in the 3rd round of the 2014 US Open. The two consecutive bagel sets were strange (but not the first time this has happened to Venus in New York) but aso was the fact that she lost to this opponent, sometone she had beaten easily in their first three meetings, giving up only 12 games total previously.

In other upsets on Friday, World #2 Simona Halep lost to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in straight sets. Lucic-Baroni, who was something of a prodigy in the mid-1990s is now 32 years old and has now reached the 4th round of the uS Open.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 US OPEN: Radwanska(4), Ivanovic(8), Cibulkova(12) and Kuznetsova(20) Lose Early

Agnieska Radwanska is the highest seed on either
side of the draw to lose in the first four days of competition
The early rounds of the 2014 US Open are coming to an end and so far all the upsets have been on the women's side of the draw. The #4, #8, #12 and #20 seeds, all very good hard-court players, have been ousted from the tournament. The biggest upset in terms of seeding and popularity is probably officially the straight-sets ouster of former World #2 Agnieska Radwanska at the hands of Peng Shuai, one of the best doubles players in the world.

To my mind, the biggest upset was Ana Ivanovic losing in the 2nd round to Karolina Pliskova despite having won the most matches on tour of any active player and playing quite well during the American hard court summer season, losing the finals of Cincinnati to Serena Williams.
Another surprising loss by a player who was playing well coming into Flushing Meadows was Svetlana Kuznetsova's departure in the first round.

The upset that is getting probably the most press is 15-year-old CiCi Bellis 3-set victory over 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova. Bellis is more than 2 years younger than any other competitor in the main draw of either the men's or women's singles competition at this year's U.S. Open. She won her right to play by winning the Under-18 championships, the youngest payer to do so since Lindsay Davenport.

Serena and Venus Williams are safely through to the 3rd round. Also, 2014 French Open champion Maria Sharapova and 2014 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova did not get upset in their first two matches. Sharapova faces Sabine Lisicki in the 3rd round while Venus faces Sara Errani.

QUEER QUOTE: 7th Circuit Panel Eviscerates IND. & WIS. Arguments Against Marriage Equality


Today's Queer Quote comes from Tuesday's oral arguments before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in marriage equality cases from Wisconsin (Wolf v. Walker) and Indiana (Baskin v. Bogan) where the three judge panel, which included the eminent jurist Richard Posner, completely demolished the states' arguments for their bans on marriage equality.

Posmer is a conservative judge and the intellectual lodestar of a form of jurisprudence that combines economics and conservative legal principles. He does not countenance fools lightly, and he savaged the lawyers making post hoc arguments to defend their states' marriage bans (when everyone knows that it was animus against gender-variant behavior that is at the root of these laws).

These excerpts, provided by Professor Josh Blackman, are today's Queer Quote:
Posner: What concrete factual arguments do you have against homosexual marriage?
Samuelson: Well, we have, uh, the Burkean argument, that it’s reasonable and rational to proceed slowly.
Posner: That’s the tradition argument. It’s feeble! Look, they could have trotted out Edmund Burke in the Loving case. What’s the difference? [Note: Loving v. Virginia was a 1967 decision striking down bans on interracial marriage] . . . There was a tradition of not allowing black and whites, and, actually, other interracial couples from marrying. It was a tradition. It got swept aside. Why is this tradition better?Samuelson: The tradition is based on experience. And it’s the tradition of western culture.
Posner: What experience! It’s based on hate, isn’t it?Samuelson: No, not at all, your honor.
Posner: You don’t think there’s a history of rather savage discrimination against homosexuals?
Ouch! But, wait, there's more!
  • “These people and their adopted children are harmed by your law,” Judge Richard Posner said of gay and lesbian couples who are barred from getting married. “The question is what is the offsetting benefit of your law. Who is being helped?”
  • Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson responded that society as a whole benefited by preserving marriage as it has long been defined. Posner pressed on, asking if anyone would be harmed if same-sex couples were allowed to be married.
  • But Posner expressed skepticism of the idea that the states were trying to promote procreation. “You allow all these sterile couples to get married,” he said. “Why are you doing that if you’re so interested in procreation?”
  • Posner, who at times appeared to lecture the attorneys defending the bans, focused on the ability of same-sex couples to adopt children. He noted adopted children would benefit if their parents could claim the tax breaks and other perks of being married.
  • “These children would be better off if their parents could marry, no? It’s obvious,” Posner said.
  • “Why do you prefer heterosexual adoption to homosexual adoption?” Judge Posner, appointed to the bench by President Reagan, asked. When Fisher began responding that the marriage laws were unrelated to adoption, Posner was almost vitriolic in his response, saying of the state’s treatment of the children of same-sex couples, “You want them to be worse off.”
  • At different times, Posner referred to Fisher’s arguments as “pathetic,” “ridiculous,” and “absurd.”
  • “How can tradition be the reason?” he asked, mocking the answer by responding that saying “we’ve been doing a stupid thing” for a long time certainly wouldn’t be enough of a justification to uphold a law or practice.
 And this basically encapsulates why so many federal judges are ruling against state bans on marriage equality. There's no benefit to heterosexuals and there is clearly defined harm to same-sex couples (and their children).

Posner is described as the most cited legal theorist of the 20th century. Most observers expect a unanimous ruling from the 7th circuit upholding the lower court's judgments that state bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional under the federal constitution.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TENNIS TUESDAY: Serena (Finally) Addresses Rumors About Her Bizarre Wimbledon Behavior


Serena Williams has (finally) addressed the rumors and innuendoes circulating to try to explain her erratic demeanor on the second Tuesday of Wimbledon three days after being surprisingly ousted by Alize Cornet in 3 sets in the 3rd round.

In an interview to Sports Illustrated, the 17-time major champion says:
“I have nothing to hide,” she says. “No, I didn’t take anything. If you want to ask me if I took drugs, I didn’t take drugs. I’m not on drugs. I’ve heard it all. I’m not pregnant; I wasn’t pregnant. Although I think a baby would be great, but there’s a time and place for everything. But no, I don’t do drugs. Never did ’em. I’m scared of ’em. I’m not on that stuff.”
Word had gone around that some in the women’s locker room that day, watching her distress live on TV, were pantomiming Serena drinking. 
But, Williams says, she wasn’t drunk, either. “God, no,” she says, laughing. “I wish.”
And she goes on to give her side of the story:
Her Wimbledon explanation: After losing meekly the previous Saturday in a third-round singles match to 25th seed Alizé Cornet, Williams took to her bed for the next three days, feeling dehydrated, dizzy and feverish, “just in my room, sweating like crazy.” She was not examined by a doctor. Venus urged her repeatedly to pull out of their Tuesday doubles match. “Begged me not to play,” Serena says.
Serena also says that the anti-doping testers showed up at her room at about 7am just as she was throwing up but she let them in and they took her sample. It has been almost 6 weeks since the incident and Serna says she has not been informed of anything being amiss.

Monday, August 25, 2014

EYE CANDY: Pierre Vuala




Pierre Vuala is a 24-year-old bodybuilder, personal trainer and fitness model from Miami, Florida. According to his Model Mayhem profile, he is 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds. Vuala has his own website, at vualafit.com and is active on Facebook and Twitter.

Hat/tip to Gorgeous Sexy Guys

Sunday, August 24, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: Science Publishes Response To Image Of Transgender Sex Workers

A few weeks ago the most prestigious science journal in the world, Science, published a special issue with numerous articles about HIV/AIDS in conjunction with the 20th International AIDS Conference being held in Melbourne, Australia. The July 11th issue used a cover of "transgender sex workers in Jakarta, Indonesia" although none of the articles in the issue had anything to do with this community.

The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals NOGLSTP) wrote a letter to the editor ebuking Science for the ill-advised cover, which they published in the August 15 issue and Dr. Marcia McNutt (Science's first female editor in its 200-plus year history) responded.

Here is the text of Shelley Diamond's letter to the editor, which is today's Queer Quote:

I am Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) that encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) people in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. On behalf of NOGLSTP, an AAAS affiliate since 1994, I wish to register our indignation with the 11 July cover of Science showing transgender sex workers from Jakarta. The cover, a misguided attempt to pique interest in reading the special section on HIV/AIDS, has provoked many readers, including many members of our organization, to express their dismay at Science's lack of decorum and lack of sensitivity to a much maligned and misunderstood community. The scant attention the magazine paid to the transgender sex worker community makes these omissions all the more important. With one inappropriate picture, you have managed to stereotype all transgender women as sex workers and vectors of disease, as well as hyper-sexualize women of color in general. NOGLSTP applauds the articles presented in this issue, but we question why the cover explicitly shows transgender sex workers when there is no actual content in the articles about HIV prevention, care, or treatment efforts in these transgender communities. 
To avoid the kind of hurtful misunderstanding and atmosphere of disrespect that has been generated by this dehumanizing and insensitive decision, NOGLSTP leadership would have been happy to facilitate discussion between science and engineering leaders in the trans community and the editorial staff of Science regarding appropriate content as it relates to transgender sex workers and the struggles they face, of which HIV infection is but one. 
This incident should be used as a teachable moment to correct the prejudices of those who are insufficiently familiar with LGBTQ communities and their concerns. We exist in all cultures, ethnicities, and walks of life. We are proud scientists, engineers, mathematicians, doctors, and technologists who are part of the Science readership. The cover photo is unworthy of Science and AAAS. The LGBTQ communities, including in particular the trans community in this instance, deserve more respect than you have offered. The ethic of science demands that we regard all minds and people equally. 
Prejudice has no place in our endeavors. 
Rochelle DiamondChair, NOGLSTP Board of Directors, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA.E-mail: rd-chair@noglstp.org
And the response from the editor of Science, apologizing for using the image:
We deeply regret the harm done by the ill-considered choice of cover. Dr. Diamond, in her letter, has made constructive suggestions to help our organization prevent further misunderstandings with the LGBTQ communities, become more sensitive to their issues, and repair damaged relations. We are already in discussions on how to follow up on those recommendations. Many thanks to other leaders in the LGBTQ and other communities who have also graciously stepped forward with offers of help. 
Marcia McNuttEditor-in-Chief
I am a big fan of NOGLSTP (full disclosure: they gave me an award in 2011) and am glad to see that discussion about the image used in Science and an ackowledgement i print that LGBTQ people are part of the readership of Science. I personally was not offended by Science magazine's use of the photo to promote its special issue on AIDS but I can see how many people could have been offended and do agree that it was an "ill-considered choice."

It will be interesting to see how Dr. McNutt follows up with her letter. Perhaps some coverage of NOGLSTP's Out to Innovate summit in November 2014 or at the very least some discussion of the role of LGBTQ people in science would seem like reasonable actions.

2014 US OPEN: Federer and Serena Favorites To Win


Sadly I spent an hour or two writing a post on the analysis of the men's and women's draw for the 2014 U.S. Open but Blogger ate it! I really don't have the time or energy to try to replicate that post, but the summary is that Roger Federer and Serena Williams are the favorites to both win their 18th major title.

Friday, August 22, 2014

SCOTUS Stays Virginia Marriages, Maintains Suspense On Its Position On Marriage Equality


While I was driving from Los Angeles to Albuquerque via Tucson on Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued a stay in the Virginia marriage equality case Bostic v Schaefer, preventing same-sex marriages from happening in that state the next day. This was not a surprise, as the Court has issued stays four other times this year in other similar cases. However, these actions don't really tell us much about what the Supreme Court will ultimately rule on the marriage equality question, says noted Supreme Court expert Lyle Denniston at SCOTUS blog:
Through all of this year, from January on, the Court could not help but be aware of what was happening in the lower courts, with a string of decisions nullifying state bans on same-sex marriage.  The fact that the Court has been drawn in on five occasions has kept it in the middle of the controversy, even if it has mostly kept its own counsel about what it is thinking. 
With a little more than five weeks until the Justices assemble in their first private Conference, in advance of the new Term starting October 6, it is by no means clear that any same-sex marriage case will be ready for the Justices to consider it on September 29.  That depends, in part, on whether the Court will have cases before it one at a time, as each is ready, or in a group., when several are ready. 
The last scheduled day for distributing a case for consideration by the Justices at the September 29 meeting is September 10 — now, just three weeks away.  The pending Utah case has a fair prospect of being ready then, but there is reason to doubt at this point that the pending Oklahoma and Virginia cases will be complete.  The lawyers involved have said they were working diligently to push matters along, but the clock is against them for action by the Justices at the outset of the new Term. 
There will be plenty of time, though, to get a case before the Court for decision during the new Term.  If a case is accepted for review by sometime next January, it is almost certain to be decided before the end of the Term, late next June. 
Is a grant of review a certainty in coming months?  There is never a sufficiently strong advance signal to predict that.

So, basically even if a critical mass of marriage cases is not ready by the September 10th deadline, almost certainly enough will be ready by the January deadline that the Court will have take a position (of whether they want to decide these cases outright, or to wait for a Circuit split and then a likely ruling in an election year instead of in 2015). I suspect we'll have an answer by June 2015 and it will be one that surprises most people.

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Richard Chamberlain Discusses His Hollywood's Closet


80-year-old Richard Chamberlain has been in the public eye for well over a half-century, since he bewitched audiences with his appearance on Dr. Kildare in 1961 as doctor on the hit television series. However, even as Chamberlain became a Hollywood heart throb and all through the peak of his celebrity he maintained a secret: he was a gay man.

He eventually came out about a decade ago in his 2003 memoir Shattered Love but now Chamberlain is discussing his Hollywood career with the Bay Area Reporter from the perspective of looking back on it as an openly gay man.
"I knew I was gay at age 11 or 12, but I grew up in the 1930s and 40s, when being gay was not an option. I spent a lot of time trying to be someone else. My friends knew, but in Hollywood I was a romantic leading man, so I always lived in fear of being outed. When I started writing my book at age 65, I thought it would be a guide-to-life kind of thing, but my partner at the time and my publisher said, 'You've got to make it personal, and being gay is part of the story.' "While I was writing, it was almost as if an angel walked into the room and said, 'Richard, it's over. All this fear, this self-loathing is just stupid.' The message got right into my bones, and all the fear and self-loathing vanished."

Hat/tip Joe Jervis

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