Sunday, March 31, 2013

MIAMI 2013: Murray Snatches Win From Ferrer

As I predicted earlier, World #3 Andy Murray found a way to beat World #5 David Ferrer 2-6 6-4 7-6(1) to win the Miami Masters title at the Sony Open Tennis tournament and claim the World #2 ranking when the ATP World Tour rankings are released on Monday. The match was one of the ugliest on record, with far more errors than winners from both players. In fact, midway through the third set, the two players had combined for 80 errors and fewer than 25 winners The third set began with 6 consecutive breaks of serve. Half of the games of the second set were won by the service receiver. By the end of the nearly 3-hour match, the apparently indefatigable Ferrer appeared to cramp and be physically spent during the tie-breaker, physically and mentally defeated after failing to convert a break point and match point a few games before.

Ferrer falls to 5-7 career head-to-head against Murray and is now 0-13 in finals against Top 5 opponents. He will rise to World #4 in the rankings. Murray won his 9th ATP Masters title (9-3 in Masters series finals) and his 26th career title (26-14 in ATP tour finals). It was the first time that Murray had saved a match point in a Tour final and claimed the title.

This win bodes well for Murray as he enters the clay court season with far fewer points to defend than his rivals in the Top 4. World #1 Novak Djokovic reached the finals in Rome and Paris, while Federer won Madrid. Nadal, of course, has the most points to defend, having won titles in Rome, Monte Carlo and Paris.

Let the clay court season begin!

WATCH: New TV Ad Promoting Marriage Equality

This new television ad from the Respect for Marriage coalition was aired during today's edition of Meet The Press guest-hosted by NBC political Director Chuck Todd. There was a very interesting debate between National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown and MSNBC television host and civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton on the question(s) the Supreme Court is wrestling with in deciding the gay marriage cases before it (DOMA and Proposition 8).

It was pretty shocking to see and hear Brown claiming that he understands what civil rights are and claiming that the right to marry for same-sex couples is not a civil right but is about the "redefinition of marriage." I thought Sharpton took exactly the right tack by pointing out that what is similar about the fights to legalize same-sex marriage and interracial marriage is that in both cases it was a battle against people who thought it is their right to define what rights other people should have. Sharpton also made the point that (obviously) the fight for same-sex marriage and the right to end anti-miscegenation laws are NOT identical fights, but that one can make analogies based on race and sex. Brown parroted his typical talking points about "marriage being an institution bringing together the two distinct halves of humanity together in a union in which children are a possibility." I think it is astonishing how often heterosexual supremacists talk about gender and sex when discussing marriage but yet want to claim that bans on marriage equality are not classifications based on gender.

Even Justice Anthony Kennedy wondered about that very thing this week in the Hollingsworth v. Perry oral arguments:
JUSTICE KENNEDY: Do you believe this can be treated as a gender-based classification?
MR. COOPER: Your Honor, I --
JUSTICE KENNEDY: It's a difficult question that I've been trying to wrestle with it.
Note that Mr. Cooper then said:
MR. COOPER: We do not think it is properly viewed as a gender-based classification. Virtually every appellate court, State and Federal, with one exception, Hawaii, in a superseded opinion, has agreed that it is not a gender-based classification, but I guess it is gender-based in the sense that marriage itself is a gendered institution, a gendered term, and so in the same way that fatherhood is gendered more motherhood is gendered, it's gendered in that sense.  
When even the heterosexual supremacists are admitting marriage is gender-based how long will it be before Courts do? We are all waiting with bated breath to see whether Justice Kennedy and the High Court will agree.

MIAMI 2013: Serena Smashes Sharapova For 6th Title

As I predicted previously, Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova for the eleventh consecutive time since 2004 to win her record 6th title in Miami, at the Sony Open Tennis tournament, by the score of 4-6 6-3 6-0.

I watched the match with a friend at the (in)famous gay sports bar Nellie's in Washington, D.C. It was clear from the very beginning that Serena was not playing her best tennis. Although she won her first service game easily, she also allowed Sharapova to hold her first service game much more easily than usual, missing 3 service returns in that first game. But the problems showed up quickly in the next game. Serena started missing serves by many feet, not inches. The game ended up going to 8 or 9 deuces, with Serena eventually saving two break ponts and holding serve. However, it was a pyrrhic victory because Serena was then broken in her next service game and although she was able to break back she again lost her serve and eventually the set. Astonishingly, that was the first set of tennis that Sharapova had won versus Serena in nearly 5 years (the middle set of their quarterfinal at the Charleston clay tournament).

For the first hour of the match Sharapova was moving better than Serena, the best she has ever looked on a court. She was getting to balls that Serena thought were winners and getting them back deep into the corners of the court, catching her opponent flat-footed. With that level of play Sharapova was up a set and a break, 6-4, 3-2 when suddenly Serena started smacking the ball, breaking back at love to even the second set. She started serving better and Sharapova served worse and suddenly Serena rattled off 3 more games to win the middle set. When she got a break early in the third set, and then another you knew the match was over, but in the end it turned out to be an incredible string of 10 consecutive games to win the match 4-6 6-3 6-0. She ended the match with 34 winners compared to 29 errors, but over the last two sets she had 20 winners and 11 errors (14 winners and 18 errors in the first set that she lost).

It was Serena's record 6th title in Miami, her 48th career title. She is now 12-2 versus Sharapova and has won 11 consecutive matches against the current World #2 player. Despite the loss (her 5th in a Miami final) she showed how much she has improved and that she has an elevated level she can bring against Serena. It was also her second consecutive final, having won the Indian Wells tournament two weeks ago.

Now the clay court season begins, where Sharapova is the reigning Roland Garros champion and was clearly the best clay court competitor in 2012. Serena lost in the first round and is only trying to not repeat that horrifying performance this year.

Bring it on!

GAME OF THRONES 3: Make Your Own Sigil!

Yes, as you can see I'm psyched about Season 3 of Game of Thrones starting tonight at 9pm EDT on HBO. You can create your own sigil at In case you are wondering, my house's slogan, Cognitio est rex means "Knowledge is King."

Amazingly, apparently over 8.5 million other fans are linked to Game of Thrones through Facebook. I suspect that number will be close to 10 million by the time the season is over.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

MIAMI 2013: Murray Faces Ferrer For Title, #2 Spot

Andy Murray is 1 match win away
from the World #2 ranking
World #3 Andy Murray of Great Britain reached the final of the Miami Masters tournament for the third time by outlasting (and outplaying) a resurgent Richard Gasquet 6-7(3) 6-1 6-2. Murray will face David Ferrer who came from behind to dispatch a red-hot Tommy Haas, still basking in his stunning win over World #1 Novak Djokovic, 4-6 6-2 6-3. The two traded breaks repeatedly throughout the deciding set, with the indomitable Spaniard prevailing. Djokovic was the 2-time defending champion at the tournament, now called Sony Open Tennis, so his exit means a new champion will be crowned for the first time since 2010.

In addition to a coveted Masters shield, Murray is also playing for an even bigger prize: the #2 ranking on the ATP World Tour. If he wins the title he will return to the #2 spot (which he last held for 3 weeks in August 2009), but more importantly he will be ranked ahead of Roger Federer for the first time in his career. Murray deserves the #2 ranking, he is the only player to have been in the last 3 consecutive major finals (2012 Wimbledon final l. Federer, 2012 US Open final w. Djokovic, 2013 Australian Open final l. Djokovic). Although, if you look at the last 4 majors, both Murray and Djokovic have been in 3 of the last 4 majors. If Murray wants to be #1 in the world by the end of the year (which is a possibility) he will need to dramatically improve his clay court results, especially in the Masters Shields events in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome. Unfortunately for Murray's plans to reach #1, the King of Clay Rafael Nadal is back, and appears to be playing well.

To even have a chance at #1 he has to reach #2, and to get there Murray has to beat Ferrer in the final. The Briton has a surprisingly slight 6-5 career head-to-had advantage over. This record sounds closer than it is because 4 of the 5 losses have been on clay, where Murray has under-performed in the last few years. On hard courts Murray leads 5-1, with the one loss coming at the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals which Murray withdrew from after that match. On a (relatively fast) hard court, Murray is showing that he is at least the second best player in the world, and has been for probably more than a year. Soon his ranking will reflect that fact, since that is the surface most of the important tournaments on the tour are played on.

MadProfessah prediction: Murray.

Saturday Politics: Only 9 (D) Senators Not For Marriage Equality

Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware

Last week's Supreme Court arguments in two marriage equality cases forced a number of Democratc senators gave a number of Democratic senators the opportunity to clarify their position on support for marriage equality for same-sex couples. In addition to Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), her colleagues Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA) from red (Alaska, North Carolina, Montana) or purple states (Virginia).

There are still nine members of the Democratic caucus in the United States Senate who still have not endorsed marriage equality:

  • Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Up for reelection in 2018.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Up for reelection in 2018.
  • Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida. Up for reelection in 2018.
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Up for reelection in 2018.
  • Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware. Up for reelection in 2018.
  • Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana. Up for reelection in 2018.
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Up for reelection in 2014.
  • Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Up for reelection in 2014.
  • Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota. Won't run for reelection in 2014.
There are three Senators from blue states who have are on this list: Casey of Pennsylvania (who is anti-choice, so is known to be an outlier on social issues in the Democratic party), Nelson of Florida, and Carper of Delaware. The most curious of these is Tom Carper because not only is Delaware a blue state, but recent polls have shown that a majority of respondents in Delaware support marriage equality 54% to 37%. Two-thirds of Democratic voters nationwide support marriage equality so it is very curious why a Democratic senator from a Democratic state would not announce his support for marriage, especially when he does not have to face the voters for 5 more years?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Friday, March 29, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: Olympus Has Fallen

Sometimes you just want to go have some mindless fun at the movies. A group of co-workers decided a couple hours before to go check out the latest "patriotic disaster porn" movie by Antoine Fuqua, the director of Training DayOlympus Has Fallen has a pretty ridiculous premise, as expressed in the blurb:
When the White House (Secret Service Code: "Olympus") is captured by a terrorist mastermind and the President is kidnapped, disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped within the building. As our national security team scrambles to respond, they are forced to rely on Banning's inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President and avert an even bigger crisis.
However the film does have a stellar cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune and Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo. Butler stars as the heroic ex-Secret Service Mike Banning who tries to save the President (Eckhart), his young son and the Secretary of Defense (Leo). Basset plays the female head of the Secret Service (truth mimicking fiction!) who inexplicably is deeply involved in the decisions in the situation room at the Pentagon when the Speaker of the House (played by Freeman) becomes the acting President.

The movie chock-ful of action, and is incredibly violent. There are many, many scenes of bullets entering human bodies as terrorists successfully execute a mission which enables them to completely over-run the White House and kidnap the President of the United States in a jaw-dropping 13 minutes. This is quite an impressive and disheartening sequence. While watching how the terrorists outgun and overrun the brave men and women defending the White House as an American one is horrified at the visions of the desecration of "the nation's house."

Olympus Has Fallen is just the first (but not the last!) of the "disaster porn" movies to depict a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C. that results in imminent danger to the president and the destruction of numerous national landmarks like the White House. The producers of disaster porn are exploiting the audience's strong feelings towards national symbols to enhance the emotional resonance and entertainment impact of the film.

Regardless of the excessive violence and the relentless emotional manipulation the movie is still an entertaining experience and good mindless fun.

Title: Olympus Has Fallen.
Director: Antoine Fuqua.
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong language and violence throughout.
Release Date: March 22, 2013.
Viewing Date: March 26, 2013.

Writing: C+.
Acting: B.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: B.

Overall Grade: B (3.0/4.0).

MIAMI 2013: Serena v. Sharapova in Final!

Getty/Clive Brunskill
World #2 Maria Sharapova has been in the final of the Miami tournament four times but never claimed the title, losing to Kim Clijsters (2005), Svetlana Kuznetsova (2006), Victoria Azarenka (2011) and Agnieska Radwanska (2012). This year she will face arguably her biggest test in the final, World #1 Serena Williams. Williams easily dispatched defending champion Radwanska, the World #4 player, 6-0 6-3 in a sparking display that included 40 winners and 21 errors in just 15 games played. Williams improved to 5-0 against the Polish Wimbledon finalist.

The Miami tournament, now called Sony Open Tennis, is considered by Serena to be her hometown tournament, since she owns a house with her sister Venus in nearby Palm Beach Gardens, although nowadays she spends more of her downtime in Paris. With her win yesterday Serena broke the record of Steffi Graf for the most wins ever at this tournament, and now sports a 60-7 record here.

Sharapova is also playing well, and she beat one of her least favorite people on the tour, Jelena Jankovic, 6-1 6-3, one day after outlasting pint-size dynamo Sara Errani 7-5 7-5 in a reprise of the 2012 French Open final.

However, Serena often seems to bring her best tennis to matches against Sharapova, whom she has a career head-to-head record of 9-2, with the two losses coming within 6 months of each other in 2004. She has not lost to the 4-time champion since. In fact, she has delivered memorable beat downs to Sharapova, like a 6-0 6-1 drubbing in the 2012 London Olympics gold medal match and a 6-1 6-2 win in the 2007 Australian Open final, the latter I think is the best Serena has ever played.

I seriously doubt she wil do so on Saturday.

MadProfessah's prediction: Serena (in straight sets).

Celebrity Friday: Sen. McCaskill Supports Marriage Equality

Claire McCaskill, a Democratic United States Senator from a reliably red (Republican) state, has come out publicly in favor of marriage equality, albeit using lower profile social media venues to communicate her position.

On her Tumblr page, Sen. McCaskill says:
The question of marriage equality is a great American debate. Many people, some with strong religious faith, believe that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. Other people, many of whom also have strong religious faith, believe that our country should not limit the commitment of marriage to some, but rather all Americans, gay and straight should be allowed to fully participate in the most basic of family values.
I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love. While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry.
My views on this subject have changed over time, but as many of my gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and staff embrace long term committed relationships, I find myself unable to look them in the eye without honestly confronting this uncomfortable inequality. Supporting marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is simply the right thing to do for our country, a country founded on the principals of liberty and equality.
Hat/tip to Chris Geidner of Buzzfeed

Thursday, March 28, 2013

FOOD REVIEW: Panzano (Denver, CO)

Ciriole alla Bolognese 
(Fresh farro pasta with a classic Northern Italian ragu
made with smoked wild boar, shaved Grana Padano; $34)
Torta di Zucchero Marrone
(Brown sugar pound cake with walnuts soaked in a stout toffee sauce,
topped with vanilla gelato; $9)
Caesar Griglia 
(Grilled hearts of romaine, anchovies, garlic, parmesan; $9.5)
I attended the 16th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education in Denver and while there I had dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant called Panzano which I found using the Yelp iPad app.

Panzano's reviews seemed very impressive, and happily was located a short 5 minute walk from the hotel conference. Happily, the reality lived up to the hype/

We ordered Cavolini di Bruxelles (fried brussel sprouts tossed with apple cider reduction, pistachios, rosemary salt and sliced green apple; $10) on the advice of our waiter but they were so good (and we were so famished) that unfortunately I didn't get a picture of them. I'm usually not a fan of brussel sprouts at all, but these were frankly delicious, with none of the slightly sour aftertaste that  I associate with that vegetable.

After that we ordered the award-winning Grilled Caesar Salad (this is not a typo--it's not a grilled chicken caesar salad). It was definitely a unique experience; the reason why you have never heard of a grilled caesar salad before is that one doesn't usually grill lettuce because it becomes soggy. The salad was tasty and slightly warm but the limp lettuce is a acquired taste.

I often like ordering very simple dishes at fancy restaurants, just to see what they can do with a staple dish. With that in mind I ordered the Ciriole alla Bolognese, which is basically pasta with meat sauce. It was astoundingly good. The meat sauce was delightfully rich and flavorful (made from wild boar!) and the pasta was completely al dente and perfectly balanced by the sharp cheesiness of the Gran Padano.

Dessert was the Torta di Zucchero Marrone or brown sugar cake. It was a great way to finish a meal, with a lovely combination of different textures and flavors. It was sweet (toffee), crunchy (nuts), moist (pound cake) and refreshing (ice cream).

I would heartily recommend Panzano anytime you're in Denver!

Name: Panzano.
Location: 909 17th Street, Denver, CO 80202.
Contact: 303-296-3525.
Visit: February 22, 2013.

FOOD: A+. 

OVERALL: A/A- (3.92/4.0)

TIME Magazine: "Gay Marriage Already Won"

Time magazine is publishing two different covers for next week's issue which features two same-sex couples kissing. Just a few years ago this would have been considered unimaginable, and even now the decision is probably likely to spur protests from the heterosexual supremacist crowd.

Time editor Rick Stengel explains his decision:
"Whatever the Supreme Court decides, it seems clear that the majority of Americans feel marriage is a civil right and that denying that right to people because of their sexual orientation is a violation of equal protection under the law…. We had a long debate in our offices about this week’s cover images of two same-sex couples. Some thought they were sensationalist and too in-your-face. Others felt the images were beautiful and symbolized the love that is at the heart of the idea of marriage. I agree with the latter, and I hope you do too."
Here is some more information about the couples pictured above:
Award-winning photographer Peter Hapak shot the split-run cover portraits for TIME. Russell Hart and Eric LaBonte are the male couple featured on the cover; they are legal domestic partners living in LA and are engaged. Sarah Kate Ellis-Henderson and Kristen Ellis-Henderson are the female couple; they are legally married in New York state, and have two children.
Time is changing and times are changing! And that's a good thing.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gaytterdämmerung: Windsor Transcript Available

The written transcript and the audio for today's nearly two-hour arguments in the case United States v. Windsor heard before the United States Supreme Court about the Defense of Marriage Act are now available.

Check out Buzzfeed for a great collection of what they think are the 60 best signs at the Gaytterdämmerung rallies this week.

Gaytterdämmerung Day 2: DOMA Almost Dust

Looks like Day 2 of Gaytterdämmerung went better than Day 1 for the supporters of LGBT equality. Apparently things are not looking good for the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, because even Justice Kennedy was skeptical that the government has a rational basis for enacting and enforcing the law.

Lyle Denniston of the Peabody award-winning website SCOTUSblog says:
Justice Kennedy told Clement that there was “a real risk” that DOMA would interfere with the traditional authority of states to regulate marriage.   Kennedy also seemed troubled about the sweeping breadth of DOMA’s Section 3, noting that its ban on benefits to already married same-sex couples under 1,100 laws and programs would mean that the federal government was “intertwined with citizens’ daily lives.”   He questioned Congress’s very authority to pass such a broad law.
Moreover, Kennedy questioned Clement’s most basic argument — that Congress was only reaching for uniformity, so that federal agencies would not have to sort out who was or was not married legally in deciding who could qualify for federal marital benefits, because some states were on the verge of recognizing same-sex marriage.
Along with sharply negative comments about DOMA by the Court’s four more liberal members, Kennedy’s stance could put the law on the edge of constitutional extinction.  But, if the Court were to do that based on states’ rights premises, the final ruling might not say much at all about whether same-sex couples were any closer to gaining an equal right to marry under the Constitution.
There did not appear to be a majority of Justices willing to strike down the 1996 law based on the argument that the Obama administration and gay rights advocates have been pressing: that is, the law violates the Fifth Amendment guarantee of legal equality in general.
It would still be a great win to strike down the odious DOMA and allow legally married couples to have access to federal marriage benefits and responsibilities, but if we don't get clarity from a majority of justices on the "level of scrutiny" question than the underlying issues of equal citizenship for LGBT people in this country will not have been resolved. (Heck, even if the Court were to say that sexual orientation is a suspect class, that would still have to be operationalized on a practical level and would take years topositively impact the everyday lives of LGBT Americans.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Godless Wednesday: Which States Are Less Religious?

This is not your typical red/blue map of party affiliation or presidential preference but instead a map depicting religious affiliation. This map was produced by David Jarman of who explains it thusly:
The red states are those where the plurality of adherents are Evangelical Protestants; the blue states are home to a plurality of Catholics. Yellow are Mainline Protestants, while green states have "Other" as a plurality, which clearly means Mormon in the three states in question.
The curious aspect of the map is that Jarman decided to ignore the data of "unclaimed" persons in each state. These are people who are either non-believers (welcome, my fellow godless Americans!) or are not associated with any "organized" religion. If he had included that data, the map would look very different, but he was trying to show the correlation between evangelical belief and partisanship.

However, if you look at the actual data yourself (which is publicly available), you can see that in most states the unclaimed dominate the population, with the Top 5 "unclaimed" states being Maine (72%), Oregon(69%), Vermont (66%), Alaska (66%), and Nevada (66%).

That's today's lesson in godlessness, folks!

Gaytterdämmerung Day 2: Can DOMA Survive?

Day 1 of Gaytterdämmerung is over, with the conventional wisdom of the oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case resulting in the expectation that it is unlikely that Proposition 8 will survive it's Supreme Court review, but the hopes for a sweeping end to marriage discrimination in the United States are also diminished.
There is only one question on which it seemed five Justices might agree:  the judgment should be vacated because the petitioners lack standing.  The Chief Justice and the four more liberal members of the Court indicated their sympathy for that position.  If they vote that way, the Ninth Circuit’s decision striking down Proposition 8 will be vacated – wiped from the books – but U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s judgment invalidating Proposition 8 would remain unaffected.  That district court ruling would apply to the parties in the case.  There would be additional litigation about whether and how Proposition 8 would be applied elsewhere.  If Proposition 8 were invalidated in those cases, an appeal likely could be taken in a case in which a state or local official wanted to enforce it.  So the issue would go back to the Ninth Circuit, and potentially to the Supreme Court in a few years.
The arguments involving DOMA in United States v. Windsor that will be heard today are clearer than those that were heard for Proposition 8 on Tuesday while the stakes are even higher. Over a dozen federal courts that have examined DOMA have ruled that it violates the United States Constitution. The real question is not whether DOMA is unconstitutional, but under what jurisprudential theory.

For years, what level of judicial scrutiny should be applied to laws that classify individuals based on sexual orientation has been one of the most pressing in constitutional law. The Obama administration and Justice Department have taken the position that LGB people are what is known as a "suspect class" and thus laws that discriminate against us must receive heightened scrutiny and the government has to have a "exceedingly persuasive reason" for the classification which must further a legitimate governmental interest. However, even under the lowest level of review, where the government must merely have a "rational basis" for enacting DOMA it is unlikely that the law survives. There's simply no rational reason that the government has for enacting a law that denies the recognition of legally married same-sex couples for federal benefits.

It will be fascinating to hear how the Justices grapple with the issues involved, in 2 hours of debate.

MIAMI 2013: Haas Hands Djokovic Shock Defeat

Tommy Haas played one of the best matches of his life by defeating Novak Djokovic 6-2 6-4 in the 4th round of the Sony Open in Miami. It was the World #1's second defeat in as many tournaments, having lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the BNP Paribas Open semifinals at Indian Wells.

Haas served impeccably and was out-hitting Djokovic from the back of the court, on both wings. The 34-year-old German has one of the nicest one-handed backhands in the game and he was hitting it beautifully and powerfully tonight. The first set was over in a flash, and Haas jumped out to a quick lead in the second of 3-1 when the Serb started to come back and evened the set at 3-all and 4-all. Then Haas was able to breakthrough again and efficiently served out the match game to claim his first scalp of a World #1 player in fourteen years.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gaytterdämmerung: Oral Arguments Available Now!

The transcript of the oral arguments as well as the audio in Hollingsworth v Perry is now available!

Gaytterdamerung: Brendan speaks!

Gaytterdämmerung: These 2 Guys Hold The Key Votes

Today is Day 1 of Gaytterdämmerung, when the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the California Proposition 8 case. This is the case where the Justices could decide whether there exists a fundamental right to marry that also applies to non-heterosexual people, or simply decide that a state can not take away such a right once it has been granted, or decide that a state can not offer all the legal rights and responsibilities but deny the term marriage due to the fear of associating same-sex couples with the word. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the District Court have both ruled that Proposition 8 violates the United States Constitution. Bush Administration Solicitor-General Ted Olson and Obama Administration Solicitor-General Donald J. Verrilli will be arguing in favor of that proposition, while they will be opposed by Charles J. Cooper, who has basically argued every important anti-gay marriage case for the last twenty years (and won very many of them).

There are 9 members of the US Supreme Court (Pop Quiz: How many Can You Name?) but really the two that everyone will have their eyes (and ears) on are Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts. Kennedy has written the two most pro-gay decisions in the court's history (1996's Romer v. Evans striking down Colorado's Amendment 2 and 2003's Lawrence v. Texas striking down the country's remaining sodomy laws) so he is expected to play a major role in determining how the court will rule in Hollingsworth. Roberts is the Chief Justice, and as he showed with last year's surprising decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare) he is a consummate politician who is always trying to maintain the legitimacy of the judicial branch in our system of government. Roberts has also caused headlines because his openly lesbian cousin will be attending the oral arguments in person as a result of action by the Justice. He is the head of the conservative wing of the Court, but is thought to be pragmatic enough to not want the two biggest gay rights cases of his generation to be 5-4 decisions.

We'll know in June 2013!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bill Clinton Endorses Gruel For L.A. Mayor

The race for the mayor of Los Angeles, the nation's 2nd largest city, is flying under the radar of most political observers. Election day is exactly 8 weeks away from tomorrow (on May 21, my birthday!) and the only two names on the ballot are are Eric Garcetti (whom I have endorsed) and Wendy Greuel.

Greuel just snagged a big name endorsement: Bill Clinton.
I'm proud to support Wendy Greuel for Mayor of Los Angeles. 

Throughout her career, whether in the public or private sector, Wendy has been a smart, dedicated, and creative problem-solver. She knows how to make government work for ordinary people, and she's been doing it for decades, not only when times are good, but especially during periods of crisis.

I saw this strength of Wendy's first-hand in 1994, when she was a valued member of my administration's Department of Housing and Urban Development. When the Northridge Earthquake struck -- causing so much loss of life and destruction -- Wendy sprang into action. She helped deliver over a billion dollars in federal emergency aid to Los Angeles residents and worked around the clock to assist families who lost their homes.

In her many years of public service in Los Angeles, first in Mayor Bradley's office, through her tenure on the City Council, and now as City Controller, Wendy has personified good, honest, and effective government, improving the lives of countless Angelenos while saving millions of their tax dollars.

And she's not done yet.

Los Angeles is a great city with equally great challenges, so it's vital that Angelenos elect a proven, creative problem solver to lead them. That's Wendy Greuel. I urge you to join me in supporting her for Mayor of Los Angeles.
I suspect this endorsement is about keeping his wife's chances of being elected president in 2016 viable; it would look great if the top two cities in the country (New York and Los Angeles) both had female mayors when the first female President was elected.

Jus sayin'

MAP: States That Ban Same-Sex Marriage

Look at this map of states that ban same-sex marriage: it is a sea of blue representing the 31 states that have passed amendments prohibiting state recognition or legalization of marriage. The only states that are not in the North East corner of the country are Washington, Iowa and New Mexico. Two of those states (Washington and Iowa) have marriage equality, and New Mexico doesn't have a clear public policy position (there's no law banning it and there's no law enacting it either).

Eye Candy: Lee Constantinou

Lee Constantinou is a 23-year-old British model, personal trainer and natural bodybuilder who also blogs regularly at the GNC UK website. He is 6'1" tall and weighs 185 pounds. You can also follow him on twitter and on Facebook.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Queer Quote: Amy Pascal Chides Hollywood's Homophobia

Amy Pascal is the co-chair of Sony Pictures, one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. She gave a speech recently at a gala dinner raising money for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center where she chides her industry (hollywood) for the homophobic tropes and stereotypes. The following excerpt is today's Queer Quote:
Brokeback MountainMilkBoys Don’t CryPhiladelphiaThe Hours, Gods and Monsters, The Talented Mr. RipleyA Single ManMy Own Private IdahoCloud Atlas – in all these movies, the main character is murdered or martyred or commits suicide or just dies unhappily. And there are far more pernicious and dangerous images that confront gay kids and their parents: the lesbian murderer, the psychotic transvestite, the queen who is humiliated and sometimes tossed off a ship or a ledge. It’s a big joke. It still happens.
How many times have you heard a character imply to another that the worst thing about going to prison isn’t being locked up for the rest of your life, it’s the homosexuality? And old stereotypes still exist. The most benign stereotypes would have a gay kid believe that they will end up being the asexual, witty best friend of the pretty girl, or a drag queen, or a swishy hairdresser. The list goes on.
Now it’s time for all of us to take that step. Not every gay character needs to be defined by his or her sexuality. Can’t being gay just be one stitch in the fabric of someone’s life? Can’t we depict men and women who just so happen to be gay – perhaps a lawyer or soldier or business executive or scientist or engineer…
We need to create an atmosphere that encourages people to speak up, so we get this right.
How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot – homo – dyke – take a pencil and just cross it out. Just don’t do it.

hat/tip to Wonder Man

Game of Thrones Season 3: In 1 Week!

The second trailer for Season 3 of HBO's Game of Thrones has been released and it is pretty awesome!

Only one more week to wait until all 10 episodes will be aired over the next 3 months or so. Get excited!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Line for DOMA/Prop 8 USSC Oral Arguments Begins

The biggest gay week in the history of the United States Supreme Court is happening next week, when the Court hears oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry  and United States v. Windsor on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. These cases both involve marriage equality, and will have vast implications on the state of legal equality for LGBT Americans for the foreseeable future.

Unsurprisingly, as of Thursday the line to get in to attend the oral arguments had begun to form (as pictured above, thanks to Andy Towle). There's a young gay guy blogging and tweeting about his experience in line and why he decided to camp for 5 days to be a witness to history. Most of the people in line are apparently professional placeholders, but there are atleast a half-dozen who are just concerned citizens passionately interested in the issue of LGBT equality.

Springtime in Boston...

It's 31 degrees here on March 23rd, couple days after Spring officially began.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Queer Quote: OH Gov Flip-Flops On LGBT Equality (In 10 Hours)

John Kasich is the Republican Governor of Ohio, serving in his first term, where he has been relatively unpopular. Rob Portman, the junior U.S. Senator from Ohio, made news recently when he came out in favor of marrige equality, the first Republican Senator to do so. That statement was last week's Queer Quote, and it has spurred political reporters go around and ask other prominent Ohio politicians their views on marriage equality.

LGBT Think Progress reports what happened:

Kasich was asked if he could imagine a situation that might cause him to change his position.“I really can’t see one, I mean, I talked to Rob and encouraged him,” Kasich said. “If people want to have civil unions and have some way to transfer their resources, I’m for that. I don’t support gay marriage.”“I’ve got friends that are gay and I’ve told them ‘Look, (same sex marriage) is just not something I agree with’ and I’m not doing it out of a sense of anger or judgment, it’s just my opinion on this issue.”“I just think marriage is between a man and a woman, but if you want to have a civil union that’s fine with me,” Kasich said.

But then a mere 10 hours later, Gov. Kasich's spokesperson "clarified" Kasich's position:
The governor's position is unchanged. He opposes gay marriage and opposes changing Ohio's Constitution to allow for civil unions," said Nichols. "He's opposed to discrimination against any Ohioan and, while he may have used the term 'civil union' loosely in this instance, he recognizes the existing rights of Ohioans to enter into private contracts to manage their personal property and health care issues."
It should be noted that the Governor is up for re-election in 2014 and that Ohio's constitution bans both marriage as well as civil unions ("a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage").

This is a position opposed by the vast majority of Ohioans and Americans, with roughly two-thirds supporting some legal recognition for same-sex couples and about one-quarter banning any recognition under the law.

Colorado Civil Unions Bill Signed Into Law

Primarily as a result of the 2012 elections which resulted in Democrats winning back control of the lower House, Colorado now has a civil unions law, joining other 8 states with "everything-but-marriage" statutes that attempt to give all the state-conferred rights and responsibilities of marriage without the use of the word.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Thursday, March 21, 2013

GetEqual: History is Watching The Supreme Court

This is a pretty compelling video from the direct action group GetEqual, basically warning the individual Justices of the United States Supreme Court that they might not want to get on the wrong side of history with their rulings in the Proposition 8 and DOMA cases. GetEqual is calling for nothing short of full federal equality under the law for LGBT citizens, something the Court is unwilling to do in the cases, but substantial progress, such as marriage equality in an additional 9 states and heightened scrutiny paid to laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation  or gender identity are not unlikely results of decisions in Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor.

I'm pretty sure the voice-over is done by my friend Ben Patrick Johnson.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

I'm in Boston, MA

Attending the 25th International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Godless Wednesday: 20% of Americans Are Irreligious

A new survey shows that the rate at which Americans are claiming to have "no religion" is continuing its rapid growth, having reached a record 20% of respondents in a nationally representative poll.

A summary of the analysis of the poll includes the following points:

  • Liberals are far more likely to claim "no religion" (40 percent) than conservatives (9 percent)
  • Men are more likely than women to claim "no religion" (24 percent of men versus 16 percent of women).
  • More whites claimed "no religion" (21 percent) compared to African Americans (17 percent) and Mexican Americans (14 percent).
  • More than one-third of 18-to-24-year-olds claimed "no religion" compared to just 7 percent of those 75 and older.
  • Residents of the Midwestern and Southern states were least likely to claim "no religion" compared to respondents in the Western, Mountain and Northeastern states. But Midwesterners and Southerners are catching up, Hout said.
  • Educational differences among those claiming "no religion" are small compared to other demographic differences.
  • About one-third of Americans identify with a conservative Protestant denomination, one-quarter are Catholics (although 35 percent were raised Catholic) and 1.5 percent are Jewish.

Great news for a Godless Wednesday!

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Obama Tweets Supports For Marriage Equality

President Obama tweeted the above picture to his nearly 29 million followers:
Retweet it yourself!

1 Week Until Gay Götterdämmerung!

The United State Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case (i.e. Hollingsworth v. Perry) in exactly 7 days, March 25th. That is the 10th anniversary of oral arguments in another famous case, Lawrence v Texas, which resulted in the nation's remaining sodomy laws being ruled unconstitutional. The United States Solicitor General has been granted leave to participate in the oral arguments, even though the U.S. is not a party to the lawsuit.

The next day the court will hear oral arguments in United States v. Windsor, which will decide the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

I've been calling these two days gay götterdämmerung or Gaytterdämmerung. 7 more days, people!


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