Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hepatitis C Deaths Now Outpace HIV/AIDS Deaths

Well, this is somewhat surprising news. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced recently that in 2007 there were more Americans who died as a result of complications due to Hepatitis C than who died as a result of complications of AIDS/HIV.
In a study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine (abstract here), U.S. Centers for Disease Control researchers analyzed causes of death on more than 21.8 million U.S. death certificates filed between 1999 and 2007. Rates of death related to hepatitis C, a viral infection that causes chronic liver disease, rose at an average rate of .18 deaths per 100,000 persons per year. More than 15,000 people died from hepatitis C in 2007. HIV-related death rates declined .21 deaths per 100,000 people per year — 12,734 people died from HIV in 2007. Rates of death related to a third infection, hepatitis B, remained more or less constant over the study period, falling .02 deaths per 100,000 people per year to just more than 1,800 deaths in 2007.
Reuters provides some more details about this development.
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a virus of the same name that is usually passed through contact with infected blood. An estimated 75 to 85 percent of infections become chronic, which can eventually cause serious diseases like cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. 

Of the estimated 3.2 million Americans with chronic hepatitis infection, about half of them don't know it, according to the CDC.

That's because the initial infection causes no symptoms in most cases. Instead, the virus silently damages the liver over the years, and people may only discover they are infected when they develop irreversible liver cirrhosis.
Happily, though, with Hepatitis C, there is a cure available. Get tested, especially if you were born between 1945 and 1964.

LGBT Friendly Apple Worth Over $500,000,000,000!

The largest company (by stock market valuation) in the world is Apple, which also happens to be one of the most LGBT-supportive companies in the world. For example, it's CEO is Tim Cook, who is an openly gay man. It is now worth nearly half-a-trillion dollars, according to the Los Angeles Times:
The company's market value passed the rarefied half trillion mark in trading Wednesday, as its stock bumped up more than 1%, or nearly $6, to put its value at closer to $504 billion.  The stock jump came a day after the company sent invitations to members of the media for an event next Wednesday in which it is expected to release its third generation iPad
Apple is currently the world's most valuable company by market value -- a measure of the total combined value of all of its outstanding shares of stock.  For much of last year, Apple was neck and neck with Exxon Mobil Corp. for that title, but over the last month Apple has catapulted nearly $100 billion past Exxon, which is now worth about $407 billion.
Interestingly, Apple's rival for the top spot, Exxon-Mobil is one of the most anti-LGBT companies in the Fortune 500, infamous for eliminating policies like domestic partnership benefits and sexual orientation nondiscrimination when it merged with Mobil. It is the only company ever to get a negative rating on HRC"s Corporate Equality Index.

POLL: Openly Gay RI Congressman Likely To Lose Seat

There is very bad news for the re-election prospects of Freshman Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, the fourth openly gay member of the 112th Congress in a new poll released by WPRI.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Congressman David Cicilline is headed for a double-digit defeat at the hands of Republican Brendan Doherty unless he finds a way to win back a large number of voters by November, according to an exclusive WPRI 12 poll released Monday evening.
The new survey of 250 registered voters in Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District shows Doherty, a former state police superintendent, would defeat Cicilline 49% to 34%, with 16% of voters undecided. Doherty's lead over Cicilline has grown by two points since the last WPRI 12 poll in May.
It's not clear that the sexual orientation of Cicilline is what is causing his political difficulties. He seems to be instead suffering an extreme backlash from a scandal which occurred when he was the Mayor of Providence, R.I.

Analysis of Field Poll Showing 59% Support Marriage Equality

The latest Field Poll is out and it has some encouraging news for supporters of marriage equality in California. By a margin of 25 points, 59% to 34%, California registered voters support "same-sex marriage," a jump of 7  points in support from the last Field poll taken in July 2010 which had the margin at a mere 9 points, 51% to 42%. The margin of error of these polls is ±4.5 percentage points.

Although this is very good news that the most respected polling outfit in California is showing support for marriage equality well above the majority position, it should be noted that 1) Field has a history of overstating supporting for the pro-equality side and 2) this is a poll of registered voters, which means it is essentially meaningless in predicting the outcome of a voter initiative on the measure.

First I will elaborate on my first point (Field has overestimated marriage equality support in the past). In 2008, during the fight to defeat Proposition 8 and defend California marriage equality from June 15 to November 4 (173 days) the Field poll issued 3 polls, all of which had the NO side ahead, often by significant margins. On September 19, 2008 Field said Proposition 8 was losing 55% No, 38% Yes among likely voters, On August 29, 2008 the Field Poll said Proposition 8 was losing 54% No to 40% Yes among likely voters and on its first poll on the issue on July 19, 2008 Field said that Proposition 8 was losing 51% No to 42% among likely voters. According to David Flesicher's exhaustive (and definitive) analysis of the campaign published in The Prop 8 Report, the internal polls of the No On 8 campaign NEVER had the No side above 48% of support, although their daily tracking polling did sometimes have the No side slightly ahead of the Yes side when the Undecided number would get larger. Once the "Princes" ad ran on California television for 10 days without a response Proposition 8 was ahead outside the margin of error. Field has never explained why their polling was so off on the Proposition 8 question, which ultimately passed by a margin of Yes 52.3%, No 47.7%.

My second point is to note that this is a poll of registered voters, not likely voters. It is true that it does not make sense to even speak about likely voters at this point, more than 8 months before the general election, but I want to clarify that there is always a difference between polling the set of all possible voters, and the results created when the subset of voters who actually go to the polls (or return their absentee ballots) and vote. However, the fact that we finally have one data point where majority support for marriage equality has been reached OUTSIDE the margin of error, bring us closer to the pre-conditions for when I would support an attempt to place a ballot measure to repeal Proposition 8.

I repeat those conditions here, for completeness:
  1. multiple polls separated in time of weeks or months indicating clear majority support for marriage equality among registered voters;
  2. at least one million dollars in the bank to begin a campaign; and 
  3. a clearly delineated, consensus-driven model of a campaign structure that is responsive to and supported by all (or nearly all) the various segments of the California LGBT  and progressive activist communities.
I would also note that the two putative (and abortive) attempts by Love Honor Cherish to repeal Proposition 8 (in 2009 and in 2011) by ballot measure did not meet ANY of these above three conditions. In fact, only one of these conditions has ever been met (Condition 2), briefly by Equality California. I suspect that by November 2012 Condition 1 will have been met.

Then again, it is not clear that a campaign to repeal Proposition 8 is necessary, thanks to the federal court case of Perry v Brown, which has declared that measure as violative of the United States Constitution and has been struck down by the two courts which have examined it, on August 4, 2010 and on February 7, 2012. Proposition 8 is currently only in effect due to a stay issued by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on August 16, 2010 as the heterosexual supremacists who are defending it ask for an 11-member en banc panel of that court to consider their appeal, and after that they can also appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

More comment about the new Field poll. They also ask the question about what kind of legal recognition should same-sex couples have and here the response is that now 51% support marriage equality, with another 29% supporting civil unions (or comprehensive domestic partnerships, which is what California law is right now) and a mere 15% support no legal recognition for same-sex couples (See Table 3, below). Note, this 51% is not a majority position when the margin of error is considered. It's curious what the difference is between the 59% who support "allowing same- sex couples to marry and having regular marriage laws apply to them" and the 51% who think that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry  (when given the option of civil unions and no recognition whatsoever).

This is all great news for supporters of marriage equality and just more evidence that the heterosexual supremacists are fighting a battle that they will lose; it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

An interesting poll would to also ask specifically about a Proposition 8 re-do which Field last asked in March 2009 and the results were 48% Support Repeal, 47% Support Prop 8. But this was before even the California Supreme Court had upheld Prop 8 and two federal courts had struck it down. I wonder what the Proposition 8 re-do poll numbers are now? Inquiring minds want to know.

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: All Dead Mormons Are Gay

Ha-ha! I have to admit then when I saw this headline at Joe.My.God's website I had to giggle. In a clever parody of the controversial Mormon practice of baptizing the "souls" of dead people, some clever wag has decided to create a website where dead Mormons can be declared gay.
Sadly, many Mormons throughout history have died without having known the joys of homosexuality. With your help, these poor souls can be saved. 
Simply enter the name of your favorite dead Mormon* in the form below and click Convert! Presto, they're gay for eternity. There is no undo. 
Don't know any dead Mormons? Click the "Choose-a-Mormon" button and we'll find one for you. You're welcome! 
*Holocaust victims are not eligible for conversion.
If it is not wrong to baptize someone into a faith they did not believe in when they were alive after they are dead, how can it be wrong to declare someone dead to be gay?

Of course, my position is that once you're dead, you're dead. You no longer have a sexual orientation or a religion!

And that's today's Godless Wednesday, folks!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

India Gov't Accepts Sodomy Legalization Ruling

The long strange story of India's sodomy law appears to be coming to a close with the demise of the colonial-era prohibition on gay male sexual acts appearing to be nigh. Today the Government of India clarified that it supports the previous decision by the Delhi High Court to decriminalize sodomy, despite a declaration before the Supreme Court last week that the Government felt that gay sex is "highly immoral" which was quickly officially denied.

The Associated Press has the story:
NEW DELHI (AP) — The Indian government Tuesday clarified to the Supreme Court that it accepts a recent ruling legalizing gay sex in the country.
A lawyer told the Supreme Court that the government would not challenge a 2009 order by the Delhi High Court striking down a colonial-era law that made gay sex a crime.
The order was appealed by conservative groups and the Supreme Court is now hearing opinions from those groups as well as gay rights activists.
The latest statement comes days after another government lawyer told the court that gay sex was "highly immoral" and should be banned. The government quickly denied that lawyer's statement, prompting confusion about its stance on the law.
On Tuesday, a Supreme Court justice asked the government's lawyers to file an affidavit to reconcile the two divergent positions heard in court. Neither lawyer explained Thursday's confusion.
The 2009 high court order had said that treating consensual gay sex between adults as a crime was a violation of fundamental rights protected by India's constitution.
If this decision gets confirmed it will be the single most significant advance in LGBT rights that will positively impact the most number of homosexuals in the world. India has a population which is estimated at 1.2 billion people.

Nominations for 2011 Nebula Awards

According to Scalzi, the nominations for the Nebula Awards are out. I'm always interested in the nominees for Best Novel. Last year, Connie Willis won the Hugo and the Nebula for her diptych Blackout/All-Clear (which I loved).

This year the group of nominees does not look very promising:

  • Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)
  • Embassytown, China Miéville (Macmillan UK; Del Rey; Subterranean Press)
  • Firebird, Jack McDevitt (Ace Books)
  • God’s War, Kameron Hurley (Night Shade Books)
  • Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, Genevieve Valentine (Prime Books)
  • The Kingdom of Gods, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Nebula Awards are awards in speculative fiction by writers of that genre. (As opposed to the Hugo Awards which are awards in speculative fiction voted on by fans of that genre.) Repeat nominees from last year's list include N.K. Jemisin and Jack McDevitt. I found Jemisin's debut novel (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) annoying enough that I did not finish it or review it for the blog. I have never read any McDevitt, but he does seem to be up my alley (hard science fiction) This year's nominee Firebird and last year's Echo are entries in his popular Alex Benedict series which I gather is a mystery series about an antiques dealer set 10,000 years in the future. An earlier work by McDevitt, Seeker won the 2005 Nebula Award for Best Novel. I have a vague recollection of trying to read Seeker (but it may have been Polaris)and giving up for some reason. I think I will try and give McDevitt a try in the near future.

Anyway, of the nominees this year, the only one I have read is China Miéville's Embassytown (which I did NOT love). It is built around an astonishing idea, and written in the British writer's signature "weird" style, so I would not be surprised if he won.

I'm more interested to see what the Hugo Award nominations are, they should be out in about a month.

Monday, February 27, 2012

POLL: Iowa Voters Oppose Marriage Equality Repeal

A new poll from the Des Moines Register  illustrates that even if Iowan voters were given the opportunity to vote on the legality of their fellow citizens' marriages (which is unlikely to happen) a majority of them would oppose a ban on same-sex marriage being added to the state constitution.

According to the poll 56% oppose the same-sex marriage ban while 38% support it.

The poll also asks about the unanimous Iowa State Supreme Court decision Varnum v. Brien which legalized marriage equality in April 2009. On that front the results are less supportive of equality with 30% favoring the decision and 36% opposing it while a full 33% of the respondents "don't care much" either way.
The poll was taken February 12-15 and has a margin of error of 3.5 points.

Because the Democrats control the Iowa State Senate (by a slim majority of one vote!), there is no way that a constitutional amendment will be presented to the Iowa voters before 2015 (a constitutional amendment has to be passed by two consecutive sessions of the Iowa Legislature before it can appear before voters).

Welcome Home, Gay Marine!

The above pictures of U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Brandon Morgan kissing his partner Dalan Wells on his homecoming in Hawaii have gone viral in the last 24 hours.

According to Steve Rothaus of Gay South Florida, on learning of his new-found fame, Brandon is quoted as saying:
I'm glad I can be an inspiration to someone. Thank you so very much for sharing my story

Read more here:

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God and Gay South Florida

Eye Candy: Daniel Louisy (reprise)

Daniel Louisy is a smoking hot Black British model who first appeared as Eye Candy on December 19, 2011.

I thought you all might like to see more of Daniel for Black History Month. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

2012 OSCARS: The Winners!

  • Best Picture: The Artist
  • Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help
  • Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
  • Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne & Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants

Looks like I got 7 of 8 correct in my predictions. I would have been happy with either Viola Davis or Meryl Streep winning, but I'm very happy with the result. I'm pretty sure Viola will have another chance to win. Meryl will get more nominations but never win another.

The Artist and Hugo tied with 5 Oscars each, with The Artist winning the big prizes (Picture, Director, Actor, Score, Costume) with Hugo winning technical awards (Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects).

SUCCULENT SUNDAY: Mammillaria pectinifera

Even if you limit yourself to the most seductive cacti from genus Mammillaria, you still have dozens of strange and wonderful plants to choose from. Mammillaria pectinifera (Latin for "comb-bearing") has such minute, harmless spines that they appear like legs on tiny bugs—reminiscent of the spines on Mammillaria hernandezii (profiled previously). The spine beds are elongated vertically, like so many miniature millipedes marching in tight formation.

Surprisingly, Mammillaria pectinifera is closely related to M. carmenae (which looks completely different & is also profiled on Sentient Meat), M. glassii, M. picta, M. plumosa, and M. prolifera. Together these species plants form a clade, a group of types likely descending from a common ancestor. They differ markedly from each other in size, spines, and other features.

Mammillaria pectinifera, endangered miniature cactus native to Puebla, Oaxaca. Plant grown and photographed by Mr Sentient Meat
My plant is just over an inch in diameter. This is its first bloom under my care. The flowers are an elegant pale pink. Overall the plant is neat and understated in appearance.

Mammillaria pectinifera, same plant viewed close up, plant grown and photographed by Mr Sentient Meat
Mammillaria pectinifera's appeal may be its downfall. It is reported to be nearly extinct due to over-collection within its native Puebla, Oaxaca, Mexico. Consequently, it's protected under CITES I, the most stringent protocol of international protection.

Conservative Federal Judge Strikes Down DOMA

Karen Golinksi legally married her partner Amy in 2008 and literally
 made a federal case of getting health benefits for her spouse
Wow! Clearly, the days for which the so-called Defense of Marriage Act will remain viable in the United States Code are numbered, and appears to be decreasing rapidly. Recall that two weeks ago the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Proposition 8. This week, a federal judge named Jeffrey White appointed by Republican president George W. Bush issued an opinion in Golinski v Office of Personnel Management in which he summarily strikes down Section 3 of DOMA as violating Karen Golinski's constitutional right to receive federal benefits based on her legal marriage to her wife Amy.

The case involves Karen Golinski, who married her longtime partner in California in 2008 when same-sex marriage was legal between June and November. She has been an employee of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for decades and so when she got married she asked that her employer put her spouse on her health benefits plan like her heterosexual co-workers have been able to do. As a federal employee, but of the Judicial Branch, her case raised a host of interesting constitutional issues. Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit, Alex Kosinski, twice issued orders to the Office of Personnel Management (in the Executive Branch) to process Golinski's request, which were ignored.

Golinski was represented by MadProfessah friend Tara Borelli of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and pro bono by Morrison Foster. Amazingly, the judge ruled based just on the briefing on motions  for summary judgment (from the good guys) and motion for dismissal (from the bad guys represented by Paul Clement and the House Republican majority led by Speaker John Boehner).

U.S. District Court Judge White's opinion is remarkable for many things, as Ari Ezra Waldman notes at TowleRoad:
First, Judge White declared that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation merits heightened scrutiny in an equal protection analysis. 
Second, the court distinguished old and outdated precedent that Judge Randy Smith recently used in his dissent in Perry v. Brown, highlighting the doctrinal vacuum that is denial of gay rights. 
Third, in dismantling the proffered and any conceivable justification for DOMA Section 3, the court authoritatively rejected House Republican attempts to buttress DOMA with recourse to certain conceptions of morality. 
Fourth, Judge White's reliance on the other DOMA cases and Ninth Circuit precedent in other gay rights cases emphasizes the primacy of a federal litigation approach in our quest for marriage recognition.
I encourage you to read the rest of Ari's insightful analysis as well as Chris Geidner's at Poliglot. What is not becoming remarkable is the sight of federal judges ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional. Judge White of the 9th Circuit follows Judge Joseph Tauro of the 1st Circuit who struck down DOMA in July 2010. The decision in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management is still on appeal before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

2012 OSCARS: Final Predictions!

Here are my final predictions for the 2012 Oscars, which are basically identical to my previous post from two weeks ago except for Original Screenplay, which I think Woody Allen will win. I am pretty sure that Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer from The Help have wrapped up their Oscar campaigns with a victory, and that  The Artist will come out on top, with  Hugo  close behind. If there's any surprises in the Top 6 categories, it will be in Actress or Actor.

I would be so happy if there was a tie in the race for the Best Actress Oscar between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis!

Best Picture 
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Tree of Life
War Horse

SHOULD WIN: The Artist
WILL WIN: The Artist

Best Director
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Terrence Malick, Tree of Life
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese,  Hugo
SHOULD WIN: Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist
WILL WIN: Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist

Best Actress
SHOULD WIN: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
WILL WIN: Viola Davis, The Help

Best Actor
SHOULD WIN: Jean Dujardins, The Artist
WILL WIN: Jean Dujardins, The Artist

Best Supporting Actress
  • Berenice BejoThe Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help
SHOULD WIN: Berenice BejoThe Artist
WILL WIN: Olivia Spencer, The Help

Best Supporting Actor
  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
  • Jonah Hill,  Moneyball
  • Nick Nolte, Warrior
  • Christopher Plummer,  Beginners
  • Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
SHOULD WIN: Christopher Plummer,  Beginners
WILL WIN:  Christopher Plummer,  Beginners

Best Original Screenplay
  • Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids
  • J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
SHOULD WIN: Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
WILL WIN:  Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris 

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton and Jim Rash, The Descendants
  • John Logan,  Hugo
  • Aaron Sorkin, Steve Zaillian, and Stan Chervin, Moneyball
  • George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
  • Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan,  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
SHOULD WIN: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan,  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
WILL WIN: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton and Jim Rash, The Descendants

I think   The Artist  will end up with the most Oscars, with  Hugo close behind (probably 6 and 5 respectively).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Celebrity Friday: Paris Barclay, A Gay, Black A-list Director

Paris Barclay is a highly acclaimed, openly gay television director who has worked on many high-profile television series such as Lost, Glee, ER, House, Sons of Anarchy, The West Wing and Smash, among others. He is the most prominent openly gay, African-American person in Hollywood.

Karen Ocamb has posted an incredible profile of Barclay at her LGBTPOV blog:
But what makes Barclay so notable – more so than being prolific and fiscally reliable – is his determined, smart passion for justice and equality. That Glee Emmy nomination was for a Nov. 11, 2009 episode called “Wheels” that won him a DGA Award, a Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting and the Visionary Leadership Award at the 2010 Shane’s Inspiration Gala for highlighting the abilities of people with disabilities. Glee creator Ryan Murphy called it “the turning point for the show.” And TV Guide named the “Hearts and Souls” episode of NYPD Blue (where Jimmy Smit’s character dies) and the “Three Stories” episode of House in their 100 Best Episodes of All Time.
But Paris Barclay doesn’t just integrate his passion for justice and equality in his craft: he lives it. In the Los Angeles LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, he is known for his long commitment to improving the lives of others. He has raised funds for the Van Ness Recovery House, for Project Angel Food during the harrowing 1990s and the Black AIDS Institute, founded by his cousin, longtime HIV/AIDS activist Phill Wilson, among other HIV/AIDS and LGBT organizations. When Project Angel Food honored him with their Founders Award in 1998, Barclay said: “I consider my work for this organization my highest accomplishment….What’s the point of any success if you don’t give something back?”
That's why Paris Barclay is today's Celebrity Friday.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

MD: Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill 25-22!

Woo hoo! The Maryland State Senate completed work on  HB 438, the Civil Marriage Protection Act, by passing the legislation on a 25-22 vote, sending the measure to Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley who has promised to sign it into law.

NGLTF's Executive Director Rea Carey made a statement:
“Maryland and marriage equality will certainly make a lovely couple. Maryland is the Free State, after all. To be able to share and celebrate one's love and commitment both publicly and legally is a lifelong dream for thousands of same-sex couples and their families. It’s thrilling that Maryland is poised to make this a reality by becoming the latest state to treat its families fairly. This has been a long journey of changing hearts and minds, of breaking down walls, of shining a spotlight on our common humanity. Congratulations to Equality Maryland, Marylanders for Marriage Equality and all those who have been part of the journey leading to this victory.”
By this action Maryland will likely become the 8th state to legalize marriage equality. However, as I noted earlier in a blog post, it is not clear if the law will actually go into effect January 1, 2013 due to the referendum process in Maryland.

Heterosexual supremacists have until May 31st to gather 55,736 signatures to put the measure up for a vote on the November 6, 2012 ballot. Whether same-sex couples will be able to get married will depend on the outcome of the vote.

FOOD REVIEW: brgr:shack (Arlington, VA)

It just turns out that my quest to experience the best burger joints in the Washington, D.C. area was made a lot easier because one of the leading contenders happens to be a 5-minute walk from where I am currently working in Arlington, Virginia. brgr:shack is a gourmet burger joint which serves "100% All Natural Grass Fed Beef Burgers." It is also literally across the street from the Ballston-MU metro stop on the Orange line.
So, there's no excuse for District-dwellers to venture into the 'burbs to experience the fast food ecstasy which is eating at brgr:shack.

Although the date on my review says that I ate at the establishment on February 7, 2012, I have actually been there almost half a dozen times since I moved to the area in August 2011. There's a reason; I am pretty confident that brgr:shack has the best burgers in the Washington, D.C. area. I have had several items from the menu, such as the {melt:brgr} (caramelized onions, red wine sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, shack sauce; $8), the {m:brgr} (lettuce, tomatoes, fresh onion, pickles, American cheese, shack sauce; $7) and designed my own {brgr} (lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, cheddar, applewood smoked bacon; $8). Every single burger was sublime, perfectly cooked (medium-rare), extremely tasty and awesomely filling.

In addition to excellent burgers, the brgr:shack also pays attention to the sides. One of the failings of other pretenders to the throne of burger primacy is their lack of attention to the things you eat with the burger. (This is not the case at the best burger place in New York City: Burger Joint, I hasten to add, or at  brgr:shack.) I'm looking at you, Ray's Hell Burger , Wiinky's and Five Guys!  On the contrary,  brgr:shack  has astonishingly good onion rings as well as fries which perfectly match the high quality of the burgers. If you do not walk in to the joint absolutely starving I defy you to finish a burger-and-fries combination (which can generally be had for $10-$12 with a free soda thrown in for good measure). So, not only is the food quite good, but it's also cheap! Why are you not making your plans to eat there right now? Even more incredibly, on Mondays the burgers are all only $5. I'm seriously trying to stop myself from eating there every week!

But, wait, there's more! Usually in this kind of review you would hear me talk about the rustic but simple nature of the decor and ambiance, with a comment that its good to see that they are focusing their attention on the food instead of where you eat it. But in the case of brgr:shack the ambiance is a definite highlight of the eating experience. It is in a small but airy space, with large glass windows and very high ceilings. There is ultra-chic, modern furniture, with lots of chrome and polished hardwood.

Get thee to brgr:shack, you won't be sorry that you did (unless you show up not hungry, but don't say I didn't warn you!)

Namebrgr: shack.
Location: 4215 Fairfax Drive Arlington, VA 22203.
Contact: 703-647-9191.
Visit: February 7, 2012.

FOOD: A+. 

OVERALL: A/A+ (4.083/4.0)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

REPORT: Aussie Marriage Equality Worth $161M

The Williams Institute at UCLA Law School released a report analyzing the fiscal impact of Australia legalizing marriage equality and came up with a big number: at least $161,000,000 over 3 years.

This is a conservative estimate, as the executive summary states:
Extending marriage to Australian same-sex couples would boost the country’s economy by $161 million over three years. This estimate is based on a projection that 54 percent (or 17,820) of Australia’s approximately 33,000 same-sex couples would marry. Tasmania, in particular, stands to claim a large share of that $161 million should it become the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry. In addition to marriages by Tasmanian couples, an estimated 15,236 couples would travel from out-of-state to marry in Tasmania, resulting in an economic gain of $96 million or more for the state. The figures in the report draw upon recent surveys, estimating the total number of Australian same-sex couples and the number of same-sex couples interested in marriage. Notably, the estimates in the report are conservative compared to other estimates because they only include spending by resident couples.  They do not include spending by wedding guests, or wedding or tourism spending by couples traveling to Australia to marry. One recent study that took this additional spending into account estimated an economic boost of $742 million.
Come on, Australia! Don't you want 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur to be able to legally marry her girlfriend?

Prop 8 Proponents Want En Banc Re-Hearing

As expected, the heterosexual supremacists defending Proposition 8 in federal court (who have now lost twice, at the federal District Court level on August 4, 2010 and before a 3-judge panel on February 7, 2012) have applied for an en banc re-hearing by a randomly selected 11-member subset of the 29-member 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A majority of the activie judges on the Court of Appeals must vote to agree to hear the case, and then an en banc panel of 11 judges consisting of Chief Judge Alex Kosinski and 10 randomly selected other judges will hear the case, probably issuing a ruling (if no further briefs are requested!) by the end of the summer. According to Wikipedia, at 64%, the 9th Circuit has the highest proportion of judges appointed by Democratic presidents, and is thus considered the most liberal.

Whoever loses at the en banc level can appeal to the 9-member United States Supreme Court level, where it takes 4 votes to agree to hear a case, but 5 votes to decide it. A final ruling by that court would probably not happen before June 27, 2013.

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: "God Is An Imaginary Friend For Grown Ups"

Look at the above image very carefully. It is not just a stunning tattoo. It also contains a significant message, specifically "God Is An Imaginary Friend For Grown Ups." Do you agree? I do!

Hat/tip to Sentient Meat.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Mexico DOMA Dead

New Mexico is like the Goldilocks of marriage equality. It's statewide public policy is neither "too hot" nor "too cold" on this issue. It is one of the rare states in the Union which not does not have a law or constitutional amendment banning (or allowing) same-sex couples from entering into marriage.

However, recently a Republican legislator named David Chavez had proposed an amendment to the state constitution which would have restricted marriages in New Mexico to opposite sex couples only. Happily, the New Mexico legislature adjourned last week without taking action on the measure, effectively killing it.

Interestingly, on January 4, 2011 State Attorney General Garry King issued an advisory opinion that same-sex couples who marry in jurisdictions where it is legal should have those marriages recognized in New Mexico.

Republican Hypocrite Of The Week: Paul Babeu

If it's Tuesday then there must be another news story about a conservative Republican caught up living his or her life privately very differently from the image and ideology he or she is promoting in public.

The latest Republican Hypocrite of the Week is Paul Babeu a 43-year-old conservative Republican who had some national renown in political circles as the elected Sheriff of Pinal County, AZ and who is a declared candidate for the 4th Congressional District of Arizona. He is also apparently a closeted gay man who while maintaining a sexual relationship with a Mexican immigrant has repeatedly aligned himself with Pima County Sherriff Joe Arpaio and the racist, xenophobic nutjobs that fueled passage of Arizona's virulently anti-immigrant legislation SB 1070 into law.

With the astonishing title of "Paul Babeu's Mexican Ex-Lover Says Sheriff's Attorney Threatened Him With Deportation" the Phoenix New Times revealed the house of cards which was Babeu's private, public and political lives on Saturday February 18:
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu — who became the face of Arizona border security nationally after he started stridently opposing illegal immigration — threatened his Mexican ex-lover with deportation when the man refused to promise never to disclose their years-long relationship, the former boyfriend and his lawyer tell New Times.

The latest of the alleged threats were made through Babeu's personal attorney, who's also running the sheriff's campaign for Congress in District 4, the ex-lover says.
He says lawyer Chris DeRose demanded he sign an agreement that he would never breathe a word about the affair. But Jose (New Times is withholding his last name because Babeu and his attorney have challenged his legal status) refused.
Babeu immediately resigned as co-chair of Mitt Romney's Arizona presidential campaign and held a press conference where he confirmed he was gay but denied all the other allegations in the New Times article. Other papers and political outlets have taken up the story, it was even repeated on NPR's Morning Edition today as a "distraction" for Romney as he tries to concentrate on winning the upcoming Arizona and Michigan Republican primaries.

In fact, the next Republican Presidential candidates debate is on Thursday in Phoenix, AZ! I wonder if Sherriff Babeu will show up? (And will he delete his adam4adam profile "studboi1" now?)

I will take the time to reiterate that I am boycotting the entire state of Arizona while SB 1070 is on the books. The United States Supreme Court should rule on Arizona v. United States by the end of June, resolving the constitutionality of the measure.

I have just two things to say about the entire story: hot mess!

UPDATE 02/21/2012 09:26AM PST
The full name and face of Paul Babeu's ex-boyfriend has been revealed by an Arizona television station. It is Jose Orozco and he is 34 years old and apparently NOT an undocumented immigrant.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God.


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