Monday, March 31, 2014

Los Angeles County Exceeds 10 Million Residents

Los Angeles is the largest county in the United States by population, officially exceeding 10 million residents according to the United States Census on July 1, 2013. According to Bloomberg news, the population of L.A. is greater than that of 43 states! Yet, the executive and legislative branches of Los Angeles county government are controlled by 5 people (no wonder they are called the "The Five Kings").

In fact, Los Angeles is bigger than the sum of the second and third largest counties (Cook: Chicago metro and Harris: Dallas Houston metro) combined. New York City consists of 5 mega-counties in close proximity, but no single one of them gets into the Top 5, although King County (Manhattan) and Queens County (Queens) are 8th and 10th, respectively.

Southern California has the 1st, 5th and 6th largest counties in the United States (Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange).

However, if you measure metro area population, the New York City area is still the largest, approaching 20 million, while Los Angeles metro exceeds 13 million (when you combine Los Angeles and Orange County).
Metro area Population  
1. New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa. 19,949,502  
2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif. 13,131,431  
3. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Ill.-Ind.-Wis. 9,537,289  
4. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas 6,810,913  
5. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas 6,313,158  
6. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md. 6,034,678  
7. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va. 5,949,859  
8. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Fla. 5,828,191  
9. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. 5,522,942 
10. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.-N.H. 4,684,299 
Interesting list. Curious that Phoenix (Maricopa County) is not in the Top 10, and that even though Houston is the largest city in Texas, Dallas metro is the largest metro area in the Longhorn Lone Star State.

EYE CANDY: Jacob Sumana (black and white)

Jacob Sumana has appeared as Eye Candy once before, relatively recently (December 30, 2013). He is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound, 23-year-old fitness model from Denmark! That's a whole lotta man to ogle. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 KEY BISCAYNE: Nole Wins Djokovic-Nadal XL, 43rd ATP Title

As I predicted on Friday, World #2 Novak Djokovic denied World #1 Rafael Nadal his chance to finally win the Miami Masters, by besting him 6-3 6-3 in a match that was never close after Djokovic survived his first (and only) breakpoint in the first game. This was the record 40th meeting between the 6-time major champion and 13-time major champion, with Nadal now leading the head-to-head 22-18 but with Djokovic having won their last three meetings and he is ahead 11-9 in finals and 14-7 on hard courts. The Djokovic-Nadal rivalry is starting to outclass (and outlast) the more celebrated Federer-Nadal rivalry since Nadal is dominating that one 23-10.

Djokovic won Indian Wells two weeks ago (by coming back from behind to nip Roger Federer in a  3rd set tiebreak) and becomes the second man to win the Indian Wells-Key Biscayne double twice in his career, following in the footsteps of  Federer who accomplished the task in 2005 and 2006. Djokovic has now done it in 2011 and 2014. In fact,  Djokovic is on  20-match winning streak at ATP Masters events, having won his last four Masters events: Shanghai 2013, Paris 2013, Indian Wells 2014 and Key Biscayne 2014. (He also won the Year-Ending World Tour Finals in 2013 and 2012 as well.) He has now won 43 ATP tour titles (out of 64 finals) and is now in 3rd place on the all-time list with 18 Masters shields, behind Federer (21) and Nadal (26). He has won Miami 4 times while Nadal has lost in the final 4 times.

The 4000-point lead Nadal had over World #2 Djokovic is going to be less than 1200 points starting on Monday and Nadal will have more points than Djokovic to defend for the rest of the year. The previous times someone one the Indian Wells-Miami double, that player ended the year at World #1.

Incredibly, either Nadal or Djokovic is now the reigning champion in all 9 of the top tier ATP Masters shield events, with Djokovic holding 5 crowns (Indian Wells, Miami, Shanghai, Paris and Monte Carlo) and Nadal 4 crowns (Madrid, Rome, Cincinnati and Canada).

Now the action switches to clay court tennis. I strongly believe this will be the year that Djokovic will finally complete the career slam by winning Roland Garros, whether he has to play Nadal or not!

The Walking Dead Season 4 Finale Tonight!

It's become a tradition of Spring! The season finale of The Walking Dead airs tonight and then next week my absolute favorite show Game of Thrones returns with new episodes! It's a wonderful time of the year. Also, The Good Wife continues to kick butt as well, making Sunday nights at 9pm a very tough time slot!

What are you looking forward to seeing? Almost certainly a major character will be killed off again on The Walking Dead. My odds are on Beth. Last year's casualty in the Season 3 finale was Andrea. Here's a preview:

Season 4 of The Walking Dead has not been as good as previous seasons but I think there is still a lot of material to be covered and interesting stories to be told with these characters. Here's looking forward to Season 5!

CHESS: Anand Wins Right To Rematch With World Champ Carlsen In 2014

Former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand showed that he is still a force to be reckoned with by easily winning the 2014 FIDE Candidates tournament (with a  round to spare), earning him the right to a rematch for the World Chess Championship with the man who took his title last year, Magnus Carlsen.

Anand drew his 13th round game, and is currently at +3 (3 more wins than losses) for the tournament while his nearest competitors are at +0, which means there is no way they can exceed his point total regardless of the outcome of the 14th round.

44-year-old Anand will play 23-year-old Carlsen for the World Champion title in November 2014.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Marriage Equality Begins In England and Wales!

Marriages have begun in England and Wales as of midnight on March 29th. Prime Minister David Cameron celebrates by writing in the nation's preeminent LGBT periodical, Pink News:
This weekend is an important moment for our country. For the first time, the couples getting married won’t just include men and women – but men and men; and women and women. After all the campaigning – not least by readers of PinkNews – we will at last have equal marriage in our country. Put simply, in Britain it will no longer matter whether you are straight or gay – the State will recognise your relationship as equal. 
This is something that has been very important to me. I have been so lucky to find the most incredible lifelong partner in Sam and our marriage has been a very special part of the commitment we have made to each other. Of course any marriage takes work, requires patience and understanding, give and take – but what it gives back in terms of love, support, stability and happiness is immeasurable. That is not something that the State should ever deny someone on the basis of their sexuality. When people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change. 
The introduction of same-sex civil marriage says something about the sort of country we are. It says we are a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth. It also sends a powerful message to young people growing up who are uncertain about their sexuality. It clearly says ‘you are equal’ whether straight or gay. That is so important in trying to create an environment where people are no longer bullied because of their sexuality – and where they can realise their potential, whether as a great mathematician like Alan Turing, a star of stage and screen like Sir Ian McKellen or a wonderful journalist and presenter like Clare Balding.
Congratulations, Britannia!

2014 KEY BISCAYNE: Serena Wins 7th Miami Title, 59th Overall

As expected, World #1 Serena Williams was able to find a way to win her record 7th title in Miami by defeating World #2 Li Na 7-5 6-1 on Saturday. Despite the straight sets score line, Serena was down a double break at 2-5 when she suddenly rattled off 6 consecutive games to win the first set. Serena continued her dominance over Li Na, now having won 10 consecutive matches against the Chinese 2-time major champ.

Serena has now appeared in the Miami final 9 times, winning 7 titles and played in her home tournament 16 times.

Friday, March 28, 2014

2014 KEY BISCAYNE: Finals Are Serena-Li Na and Djokovic-Nadal XL

The finals of the 2014 Sony Open are set. On the men's side World #1 Rafael Nadal will face World #2 Novak Djokovic. Last week, Djokovic won the 2014 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Bizarrely, the men's final is taking place with neither player having played a semifinal. Nadal was scheduled to play Tomas Berdych, but the Czech player withdrew with a stomach virus. And after dispatching Roger Federer and David Ferrer in subsequent rounds, Kei Nishikori withdrew from his semifinal with Djokovic with a left groin injury. Nadal and Djokovic will meet for a record 40th time on Sunday, with the Spaniard leading their head-to-head 22-17.

On the women's side, World #1 Serena Williams will face World #2 Li Na after beating Maria Sharapova for the fifteenth(!) consecutive time. Li Na escaped a 1-3 deficit in the final set against Dominika Cibulkova to reach her first final in this mandatory WTA event by escaping 7-5 2-6 6-3. Williams has won this tournament 6 times (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2013) and reached the final 2 other times (1999, 2009). Andre Agassi is the only player to have won the tournament 6 times.

MadProfessah's prediction: Serena and Djokovic.

Attorney General Holder Announces U.S. Will Recognize Michigan Same-Sex Marriages


WASHINGTON—Attorney General Eric Holder issued the following statement today on the status of same-sex marriages performed in the state of Michigan:

“I have determined that the same-sex marriages performed last Saturday in Michigan will be recognized by the federal government.  These families will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages. The Governor of Michigan has made clear that the marriages that took place on Saturday were lawful and valid when entered into, although Michigan will not extend state rights and benefits tied to these marriages pending further legal proceedings.  For purposes of federal law, as I announced in January with respect to similarly situated same-sex couples in Utah, these Michigan couples will not be asked to wait for further resolution in the courts before they may seek federal benefits to which they are entitled.  

“Last June’s decision by the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor was a victory for equal protection under the law and a historic step toward equality for all American families.  The Department of Justice continues to work with its federal partners to implement this decision across the government.  And we will remain steadfast in our commitment to realizing our country’s founding ideals of equality, opportunity, and justice for all.”


BOOK REVIEW: Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton

Peter F. Hamilton is one of my favorite expositors of modern "hard" science fiction, and he is widely regarded as one of the best (and best-selling) authors in this particular genre. Other names which you may be familiar with are Neal Asher, Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks and Richard K. Morgan. Bizarrely, all these authors are British!

The only American speculative fiction author I have read recently is John Scalzi, who is also well-known for his popular blog Whatever and for being the president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the people who put on the Hugo awards.

Hamilton is known for his dense intricate plots, often with a central mystery and a character who neither the audience or the other characters realizes is someone (or something) very different from what they appear to be. He also is known for his intense action scenes and extremely long and satisfying novels.

His most recent book is Great North Road, which is a stand-alone murder mystery cum alien hunt ç. The official synopsis of the book is:
When attending a Newcastle murder scene, Detective Sidney Hurst finds a dead North family clone. Yet none have been reported missing. And in 2122, twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire was horrifically murdered in the same manner on the tropical planet of St Libra. So, if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? She never wavered under interrogation, claiming she alone survived an alien attack. 
Investigating this potential alien threat now becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. St Libran bio-fuel is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. A vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and experts are dispatched to the planet – with Angela Tramelo, grudgingly released from prison. But the expedition is cut off deep within St Libra’s rainforests, and the murders begin. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t sure. Did she see an alien, or does she have other reasons for being on St Libra?
I still count science fiction as my favorite genre, with mystery a close second so I was very happy to hear that Hamilton was combining the two genres in Great North Road.

The results are pretty great, although as a mystery set in 2143, the best parts of the book for me were the science fiction aspects. One feature of Hamilton's writing is that he includes many of the "little" details in how regular people live in a technologically advanced future that we can barely imagine. This allows one to really get a sense of what life could be like in the far future and allows one to identify with the characters whose daily routines we learn the details of.

In Great North Road Hamilton focuses his attention on the familiar police procedures involved in solving a murder mystery when a dead body is found. It would seem this would be an easy task in an era where electronic surveillance is ubiquitous but what we discover is that some of the sensors have "malfunctioned" and the problem becomes one of data analysis. Hamilton is also a master at depicting the internecine politics of human organizations and he does so again here to great effect. Our character Sidney Hurst is a mid-level member of the police department and he is hoping to use his success in investigating this high profile murder case to get ahead professionally.

The other main character is Angela Tramelo, and her story plays out on the planet of St. Libra like something from Predator or Aliens. However, as the expedition proceeds dead bodies start appearing with increasing regularity and the suspense slowly starts to ratchet it up to intense levels, especially after an extensive flashback reveals a lot more about Angela's backstory.

The combination of the two stories (the thrilling alien adventure story and the futuristic police procedural) makes Great North Road a compelling read that will appeal to readers who love various genres.

Title: Great North Road.
 Peter F. Hamilton.
Paperback: 976 pages.
 Del Rey.
Date: January 1, 2013.

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Important 9th Circuit Gay Rights Ruling May Not Be Permanent

Uh-oh! Although the date passed on March 7, 2014  by which the parties involved could appeal the 9th Circuit's important ruling in SmithKlinBeacham v Abbott in which the federal appellate court ruled earlier this year that sexual orientation must receive heightened scrutiny when laws are being analyzed for equal protection purposes, now comes word that the ruling may not be final and that an en banc hearing on the case may be in the works.
"A sua sponte en banc call having been made, the parties are instructed to filewithin 21 days of the filing date of this order simultaneous briefs setting forth theirrespective positions on whether the case should be reheard en banc. See G.O.5.4c(3). An original and fifty copies shall be filed. See Ninth Cir. R. 35-4(b)."

The court published an order today (excerpted above) which gives interested parties 21 days to file briefs as to why or why not a panel of 11 judges should hear the case, and possibly reverse it. What happens now is that after 21 days the entire 9th Circuit (which has something like 26 judges) will vote as to whether an en banc hearing should occur. If a majority votes in favor, then there is a possibility that a randomly selected 11-judge panel or the U.S. Supreme Court could reverse the ruling.  The current 3-judge panel that issued the unanimous ruling has some of the most liberal members of the circuit on it (Berzon, Reinhardt and Schroeder).

SmithKline is incredibly important ruling and the question of whether marriage equality will come sooner or later to atleast two states in the 9th Circuit's jurisdiction (namely Nevada and Oregon) depends on whether the idea that sexual orientation is indeed a suspect class, which is a key corolary of the SmithKline Beacham decision.

MadProfessah will be watching developments in this case very closely!

Hat/tip to Equality on Trial

2014 KEY BISCAYNE: Djokovic beats Murray, Nishikori beats Federer

Kei Nishikori outlasted his idol Roger Federer i the quarterfinals of the Sony Open Tennis tournament, an ATP Masters 1000 event in Key Biscayne which was won last year by Andy Murray over David Ferrer on his way to the World #2 ranking. Murray lost to Novak Djokovic in their quarterfinal after he lost his cool and the first set when Djokovic was allowed to win a point despite breaking the rule of hitting a ball on the wrong side of the net. Murray ended up losing 7-5 6-3.

The Federer-Nishikori was a more exciting affair, with Federer up a set and a break multiple times in the second set but could not consolidate the break and eventually lost 3-6 7-5 6-4 to the Japanese 24-year-old. Nishikori had survived 4 match points against World #4 Ferrer in the round before and the Federer win was his second consecutive Top 5 win. He now has a 2-1 head-to-head lead against the 17-time major champion and will face Djokovic who he has a 1-1 split against.

In today's quarterfinals, Rafael Nadal will face Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych will face Aleksandr Dolgopolov.

2014 KEY BISCAYNE: Serena-Sharapova, Cibulkova-Li semifinals

The semifinals of the Sony Open Tennis tournament in Key Biscayne are set and they are too corkers. A reprise of last year's final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova is the first semifinal, to be followed by a reprise of this year's first major final of the year between Li Na and Dominika Cibulkova.

Although the match-ups sound interesting on paper the previous results in these rivalries have really been quite one-sided. For example, Li Na has never lost to Cibulkova despite playing the high-energy, diminutive Slovak six times, and beat her again last week in Indian Wells, although this time it was a tough 3-setter. Sharapov and Serena have meet nearly 3 times more often, but Serena leads her Russian rival 15-2 head-to-head and has not lost to the 4-time major champion since 2004(!), nearly a decade of unparalleled dominance of a fellow champion. Last year's match up at this tournament showed a Sharapova who was moving better and seemed determined to make the eventual breakthrough, but after going up a set and a break, Serena roared back and won the last 10 games to win the match and earn her 6th title in what she considers her hometown tournament. I still think at some point Sharapova will find Serena on a bad day and earn another win, but I don't think that day is today.

MadProfessah's pick: Serena-Li final.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

6th Circuit Issues Stay On Michigan Marriage Equality Decision

Bad news but not surprising. The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the state of Michigan's request for a stay on last Friday's federal district court ruling in DeBoer v. Snyder that struck down the state's ban on marriage equality.

Equality on Trial reports:

The three-judge panel pointed to the Supreme Court’s recent stay in Kitchen v. Herbert, the challenge to Utah’s same-sex marriage ban:
In light of the Supreme Court’s issuance of a stay in a similar case, Herbert v. Kitchen, 134 S. Ct. 893 (2014), a stay of the district court’s order is warranted.
The judges who decided on the motion are Judge John Rogers, appointed by President George W. Bush, Judge Helene White, who was first nominated by President Bill Clinton and later by President George W. Bush when the Senate declined to act on her nomination, and District Court Judge Karen Caldwell, who’s also an appointee of President George W. Bush, sitting by designation.
The decision to halt marriages was 2-1: Judge White dissented, writing that “Michigan has not made the requisite showing” that a stay is warranted, and that the stay in Kitchen provides little guidance here.
It is not surprising that the 6th Circuit issued a stay in the case but it is disappointing. Almost a dozen federal judges in multiple states (Virginia, Michigan, Texas and Oklahoma) have ruled that state marriage laws violate federal constitutional principles since last June's landmark United States v. Windsor ruling. However, marriage equality has not gone into effect as a result of any of those rulings yet. Not yet.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Opponents Of CA Trans Student Bill File Suit To Get On 2014 Ballot

A group seeking to overturn California’s law allowing transgender students access to programs and facilities based on the gender they identify as, rather than the sex they were born into, is continuing the fight by serving Secretary of State Debra Bowen and other officials, the group announced Tuesday. 
“We have served the Secretary of State with another legal action asking her to qualify the referendum and we have served county officials across the state with a demand for the documents to prove the abuse of discretion in rejecting more than 131,000 signatures,” Gina Gleason, director of faith and public policy at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, wrote in a press release issued Tuesday morning. 
Gleason is one of the proponents listed on a proposed referendum that would repeal Assembly Bill 1266, which was signed into law last September by Gov. Jerry Brown, and took effect on Jan. 1. 
Opponents say the law will allow curious teens to ogle members of the opposite sex while at their most vulnerable, and for male students to game the system by dominating female sports teams. But officials in school districts where such policies have already been in effect — including Los Angeles and San Francisco unified school districts — have said those issues haven’t emerged in practice.
I'm glad the article notes that Los Angeles and San Francisco already have the transgender-inclusive policies of AB 1266 in effect regardless of the legislation, and would continue to have them regardless of whether a ballot measure repealed AB 1266.  In addition, New York City just issued guidelines recently about how it is adopting its transgender-inclusive policies in schools.

But this is not about "privacy" and "safety" for students. This is about a group that has specific ideas about the way that all people should display and conduct their gender identity, in a way that only conforms to a heterosexist ideal. Since they know they are losing badly in the kulturkampf on marriage equality and civil rights based on sexual orientation they are trying to make progress on an issue which has less salience with the public: transgender issues.

Hopefully Attorney General Kamala Harris will defend the state of California and point out that 504, 760 valid signatures means 504, 760 valid signatures, not 484,484!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Eye Candy: Lucien Laviscount

Lucien Laviscount is a 21-year-old British celebrity I had never heard of until I cam across these stunning pictures over at Gorgeous Sexy Guys. According to his Wikipedia page, he is most well-known for appearing in the 2011 edition of Celebrity Big Brother in the United Kingdom. He has more than 167,000 followers on Twitter. I can't seem to find his official stats so I don't know his weight or height but as you can tell from these pictures he's pretty fit!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: Openly Gay Speaker Of RI House Resigns Post After FBI Raid

The openly gay, multiracial Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives announced in a written statement that he would be resigning his leadership position and would not seek re-election this year, following a raid of his home and office by federal law enforcement officials. The Speaker brokered a controversial civil unions compromise in 2011 and is currently one of five people who are openly LGBT and head a state legislative chamber in the United States.

The New York Times reports:
Agents from the F.B.I., the Internal Revenue Service, the United States attorney’s office and the state police conducted the searches. 

Mr. Fox, 52, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1992 and had been speaker since February 2010. He had said he planned to stand for re-election this fall and hoped to keep his position as speaker. 

Mr. Fox, who is gay, was instrumental in pushing through the legislation last May that legalized same-sex marriage in Rhode Island. And at the bill signing ceremony on the steps of the State House he spoke emotionally about his relationship with his longtime partner, Marcus LaFond. 

The couple were married last year in Mr. Fox’s legislative office. 
Mr. Fox said Saturday that he planned to complete the rest of his two-year term, which ends in December.
Fox's resignation letter is today's Queer Quote:
“The Rhode Island House of Representatives is an institution that I deeply respect and serving my constituents has been a major part of my life for the past 22 years. I will not let yesterday’s events distract my colleagues from addressing the challenges facing Rhode Island.”  
“Because of the respect I have for all members of the House of Representatives, I am resigning as Speaker. The process of governing must continue and the transition of leadership must be conducted in an orderly manner.”   
“I want to thank my colleagues and loyal staff for all that we were able to accomplish together. I will continue to serve out the remainder of my term and represent my neighbors and constituents in District 4. That said, I do not intend to seek another term in the House.”
“My personal focus going forward will be on my family and dealing with the investigation. Because of the nature of this matter, I will not be commenting further.” 
I'm sad that it looks like this openly gay man's political career is over.

WATCH: Trailer #4 For Season 4 of Game of Thrones

The new season of HBO's Game of Thrones begins in 2 weeks, on Sunday April April 6! Watch the 4th trailer that has been released, or check out the other trailers (Trailer #3, Trailer #2 and Trailer #1).

This season should be great!!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Legal Bills Of Proposition 8 Federal Case Exceeded $6.4 Million

The Washington Blade reports that according to tax records, the federal lawsuit to eliminate California's Proposition 8 resulted in some $6.4 million going to the high-powered law firms of Ted Olson and David Boies. Olson and Boies were the unlikely due behind the Perry v. Schwarzenegger lawsuit in May 2009 that eventually became the successful Hollingsworth v. Perry win at the United States Supreme Court in June 2013.

The lawsuit was sponsored by the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) which was created by Chad Griffin at the time the suit was filed. According to the same records, AFER has raised nearly $15 million dollars since its inception and March 31, 2013.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights between 2009 and 2013 paid more than $6.4 million to two law firms that successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8.
Tax filings indicate former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson’s law firm – Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP – received $1,691,714 from AFER for “legal and ancillary legal expenses”between April 23, 2009, and March 31, 2010. The organization paid the law firm $958,655between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, and another $2,758,352 between April 1, 2011, through March 31, 2012.
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP received $537,939 from AFER between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013. The organization also paid David Boies’ law firm – Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP – $468,089 for “legal and ancillary legal expenses” between April 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011.
Some  have questioned why such prominent lawyers did not work on this seminal civil rights lawsuit pro bono, which has generally been the custom in other movements. Others point out that the $15 million raised (and presumably spent) by AFER is much less than a ballot measure campaign to overturn Proposition 8 would have cost. And you may remember in 2009 there were very many people (vocally opposed by  a coalition of groups that included yours truly) who wanted to go to the ballot as soon as possible. Also, no LGBT legal minds thought that a federal challenge to Proposition 8 would succeed and were strongly opposed to the Olson-Boies lawsuit at the time.

Another reason why this is useful information is that AFER is now involved in another federal lawsuit, Bostic v. Rainey, in which they are suing to have Virginia's ban on same-sex marriages invalidated. On Valentine's Day, a federal judge struck down that ban and put a stay on her decision pending a resolution on appeal to the 4th Circuit or above. Lambda Legal and the ACLU have successfully petitioned to intervene in that case, which was opposed by AFER.

There is currently a race to see which federal lawsuit will get to the Supreme Court. Even though a dozen U.S. district courts have struck down marriage bans, no U.S. circuit courts have (yet). Oral argument in the Utah case (Kitchen v. Hebert) before the 10th Circuit and in the Nevada case (Sevcik v Sandoval) in the 9th Circuit are scheduled for April. It will be interesting to see if AFER's profile or reputation will be negatively impacted by these revelations despite their winning track record on restoring marriage to California on a timeline faster than the LGBT establishment expected.

SATURDAY POLITICS: L.A. County Democrats Endorse Kuehl, Solis, Prang

The Los Angeles County Democratic Party has issued their endorsements in a series of high profile country races.

The LACDP has endorsed two openly LGBT candidates for two important positions: Sheila James Kuehl for County Supervisor (District 3) and Jeffrey Prang (Los Angeles County Assessor). They also endorsed progressive Hilda Solis (and former Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration) for County Supervisor in District 1 (the district I live in).

The County Supervisor positions are incredibly powerful. There are only 5 such positions representing the concerns of more than 10 million Los Angeles County residents, so they have more constituents than all Congresspeople and some United States Senators! Thanks to term limits, two slots are opening up, with the forced retirements of Gloria Molina (District 1) and Zev Yaroslavsky (District 3).

MadProfessah has also endorsed Solis and Kuehl in these races already.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Federal Judge Strikes Down Michigan Ban On Marriage Equality!

By now it has become routine, but today yet another federal judge, this time in Michigan, struck down a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, saying that it violates the United States Constitution. Victory in Michigan was especially sweet for LGBT advocates because the judge actually insisted that a trial of the facts occur, the first time this has happened since openly gay judge Vaughn Walker insisted on a trial of the facts in the 2009 federal lawsuit against California's Proposition 8.
Michigan's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, a federal judge said Friday as he struck down a law that was widely embraced by voters a decade ago — the latest in a recent series of decisions overturning similar laws across the country.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman announced his ruling after a rare two-week trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children.
There was no indication that the judge was suspending his decision. Attorney General Bill Schuette said he was immediately filing a request with a federal appeals court to suspend Friedman's decision and prevent same-sex couples from immediately marrying. The decision was released shortly after 5 p.m., when most county clerk offices in Michigan were closed. Clerks issue marriage licenses.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriage. Since December, bans on gay marriage have been overturned in Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but appeals have put those cases on hold.
Two Detroit-area nurses, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, want to get married, but the original purpose of their 2012 lawsuit was to overturn Michigan's ban on joint adoptions by same-sex couples.
The case is DeBoer v. Snyder. Freedom To Marry released the following press statement:
“The discriminatory ban is untrue to Michigan’s – and America’s – values, and the judge was right to strike it down. It’s time that all committed couples in Michigan be treated with respect and dignity under the law, fully able to share in the freedom to marry and the responsibilities and protections marriage brings. Today’s win comes after a full trial -- complete with prosecutors and defendants, witness cross-examinations, and testimony from family experts on the well-being of children -- which showed that opponents have nothing more than the same bogus claims they have recycled for decades. They were simply unable to provide a single legitimate reason why committed same-sex couples should be excluded from marriage. Michigan, like all of America, is ready for the freedom to marry.” 
Michigan’s DeBoer v. Snyder is only the third full trial on the freedom to marry in history, following trials in Hawaii and California. Wolfson served as co-counsel in Hawaii’s Baehr v. Miike, the first-ever trial on the freedom to marry and the first case in the world to win a ruling in favor of the freedom to marry. 
54% of Michigan residents support the freedom to marry, according to a 2014 Michigan State University poll.

Game Of Thrones Makes Cover Of Vanity Fair!

With the fourth season of HBO's Game of Thrones now only two weeks away the marketing machine is revving into high gear. Thus there is a fascinating story in Vanity Fair, which includes amazing photographs by Annie Liebovitz and an important interview with George R.R. Martin where he discusses how the story being told in the television series and the one in the books may coincide.
The season that’s about to debut covers the second half of the third book. The third book [A Storm of Swords] was so long that it had to be split into two. But there are two more books beyond that, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. A Dance with Dragons is itself a book that’s as big as A Storm of Swords. So there’s potentially three more seasons there, between Feast and Dance, if they split into two the way they did [with Storms]. Now, Feast and Dance take place simultaneously. So you can’t do Feast and then Dance the way I did. You can combine them and do it chronologically. And it’s my hope that they’ll do it that way and then, long before they catch up with me, I’ll have published The Winds of Winter, which’ll give me another couple years. It might be tight on the last book, A Dream of Spring, as they juggernaut forward.
To me it would be very sad if the show caught up with the books. I seriously hope tha Mr. Martin squeezes out The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Murray and Lendl End Coaching Relationship

It was announced today that Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl will no longer be working together as player and coach.

The statement on reads:
The partnership between Murray and Lendl brought an Olympic Gold Medal, US Open title and Wimbledon Championship.
“Working with Andy over the last two years has been a fantastic experience for me”, said Lendl. “He is a first class guy. Having helped him achieve his goal of winning major titles, I feel like it is time for me to concentrate on some of my own projects moving forward including playing more events around the world which I am really enjoying. I will always be in Andy’s corner and wish him nothing but great success as he too goes into a new phase of his career.”
Murray, who is returning from back surgery and preparing to defend his title in Miami, said “I’m eternally grateful to Ivan for all his hard work over the past two years, the most successful of my career so far. As a team, we’ve learned a lot and it will definitely be of benefit in the future. I’ll take some time with the team to consider the next steps and how we progress from here”.
Andy will lead Great Britain in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup next month against Italy.
It's a somewhat curious time for this coaching change and also seems unusual in that other players like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have started working with former tennis greats (Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker, respectively) since the Murray-Lendl partnership started just over two years ago and brought Murray his two major wins (2013 Wimbledon and 2012 US Open).

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Bill Maher calls God "Psychotic Mass Murderer"

Bill Maher lambasted the new movie Noah on his show last Friday, in the process ridiculing the people who believe in the literal truth of the biblical story of Noah.

Here's a transcript of an excerpt from his closing show rant (via Daily Kos):
Now, I don't know about the elephants on Noah's Ark, but the elephant in the room in 2014 is that we are now a full four centuries removed from the scientific revolution.  Four centuries after Copernicus, after the time humans realized that through science, we could actually get a real answer to almost every question about our world, like where does the sun go at night?  And why does disease spread so quickly on a cruise ship?  (audience laughter)
And speaking of cruise ships, you know I don't mind that the Noah story is impossibly childish.  OK, I do mind.  What am I saying?  I mind very much.  I mean, seriously people?  You believe a man Noah lived to be 900 years old — that's what the Bible says — and when he was 500, he decided to have three kids, just like Clint Eastwood.  (audience laughter)
And when he was 600, he and his three 100-year-old sons built a boat onto which in one day, they loaded over 3 million animals, all of which were apparently indigenous to within 5 miles of the boat.  (audience laughter)
But get this.  What the Christians who are now protesting this movie are upset about is that it doesn't take the Biblical story literally enough.  They're mad because this made up story doesn't stay true to their made up story.
But the thing that's really disturbing about Noah isn't the silly.  It's that's it's immoral.  It's about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God. 
I think it is very useful to confront people who believe that every word in the Bible is true with the implications of that belief and to point out how at odds it is with everything science tells us. It literally does not make any sense and much of the stuff in the Bible is really a collection of "old Jewish fairy tales."

QUEER QUOTE: Oregon AG Declares Marriage Ban Serves "No Rational Purpose"

The Attorney General of Oregon has followed through on her conclusion that the marriage laws of her state are discriminatory and has filed a brief to that effect.

This excerpt from the conclusion of the state's brief in support of marriage equality is today's Queer Quote.
Instead of living in a climate in which same-sex couples are feared and citizens look to their government to protect children from those couples, we now live in a state that recognizes and values same-sex couples and their families. Given what we know today, the state defendants in this case recognize that the ban on same-sex marriage serves no rational purpose and harms Oregon citizens.  
This case presents that rare case in which there simply is no legal argument to be made in support of a state law. If this Court determines that Oregon’s prohibition on same-sex marriage violates plaintiffs’ rights under the federal constitution, the state is prepared to implement that ruling. The state defendants ask for a declaration limited to the specific issue presented in these cases:that Oregon’s marriage laws violate the federal constitution to the extent they do not permit the State to issue marriage licenses solely on the ground that both parties requesting the license are of the same sex or to recognize a valid marriage from another jurisdiction solely because both parties to the marriage are of the same sex. Similarly, the state defendants ask for a limited injunction prohibiting Oregon from enforcing those laws only to the extent that the state denies same-sex couples the right to marry on the same terms as opposite-sex couples.
Looks like marriage will be coming to Oregon sooner rather than later!

CA State Senate Abandons Attempt To Restore Race-Conscious College Admissions

Bad news today out of the Democratic state senate, where a state constitutional amendment that would place a partial repeal of Proposition 209 on the November 2014 ballot has been tabled. Proposition 209 passed in 1996 and banned the use of race, ethnicity or gender in public education, public contracts or public employment. The state senate had passed SCA 5 by a vote of 27 to 9 on January 30, 2014.

Speaker John Perez (and State Controller candidate) announced today that the Assembly would not consider the measure. According to the San Jose Mercury-News Asian-American state senators switched from support to opposition due to pressure from the community.
Last week, saying they had received thousands of calls and emails from constituents, senators Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; and Carol Liu, D-La Cañada/Flintridge asked Assembly Speaker John Perez to stop the bill. 
"As lifelong advocates for the Asian-American and other communities, we would never support a policy that we believed would negatively impact our children," they wrote in a letter to Perez. 
In 1996, California became the first state to outlaw affirmative action in public university admissions and state hiring, a policy that took effect in 1998. The amendment would have allowed voters to lift that ban, either this fall or in 2016. 
Hernandez and others have said that misinformation about what affirmative action would mean -- such as racial quotas for new freshmen -- spread quickly, stoking parents' fears about their children's chances of getting into UC, the state's public research university system. 
Using racial quotas in admissions would be unconstitutional; recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have strictly limited consideration of race in public university admissions. UC officials last week said any suggestion of quotas is irresponsible: "We have never done that, and we never would," said Nina Robinson, UC's associate president and chief policy adviser.
 Hopefully the legislature will realize that it is important to be able to use race as a factor in college admissions.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

TENNIS TUESDAY: Federer Returns To World #5

In the new ATP World Tour rankings, the two biggest movers are Roger Federer up 3 places to #5 and John Isner, way back up to World #10, leapfrogging Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Milos Raonic and Tommy Haas. Djokovic has narrowed Rafael Nadal's lead at the top to a mere 2230 points, which is about half of what the lead was a month ago. Federer's only 100 points behind World #4 David Ferrer and 600 points behind World #3 Stanislas Wawrinka so if he does well in Miami he should make up some solid ground.

On the women's side Simona Halep made history by reaching World #5 on the WTA, the first Romanian woman to reach that high.

Monday, March 17, 2014

2014 INDIAN WELLS: Pennetta and Djokovic Earn Surprise Wins

Despite my predictions to the contrary, Novak Djokovic and Flavia Pennetta won the 2014 Indian Wells titles. The 33rd meeting between Roger Federer and Djokovic was a squeaker, with the younger player pulling out the victory in a 3rd set tiebreak, 3-6 6-3 7-6(3), after being easily outmatched in the first set. Federer's 11-match winning streak came to an end with his loss but he still leads his overall head-to-head with Djokovic 17-16.

The women's final was disappointing because a clearly injured Agnieska Radwanska was not able to put up much resistance to allow Pennetta to win the biggest title of her career. Djokovic won his 42nd career ATP Tour title and 17th ATP Masters shield.

Pennetta will rise to #12 in the rankings and Federer will return to #5.


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