Monday, June 30, 2014

2014 WIMBLEDON: Women's Quarterfinals Preview (Part 1)

Here are my predictions for the first half of the women's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2014. Last year I correctly predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals. Because of rain delays, only two quarterfinals will be played along with two round of 16 matches on Tuesday. Then, hopefully all the men's quarterfinals and the two remaining  women's quarterfinals will be played on Wednesday.

Angelique Kerber (GER) [9] vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS) [5]. Sharapova leads their head-to-head 4-1 but the two have never met on grass. On paper Sharapova should win this match but for some reason I think Kerber is going to make this one very tough. If it is played indoors under the roof I give a decided edge to the Russian but if it is played in muggy, outdoor conditions I think the German can make things interesting. With Serena Wiliams suddenly out of the tournament Sharapova must realize that she has an amazing opportunity to win another major, and that pressure could complicate things as well. If anyone can put pressure on Sharapova it is Kerber. I am still predicting Sharapova to come through and win this match, but would not be surprised (or displeased) if Kerber did instead. PREDICTION: Sharapova.

Simona Halep (ROU) [3] vs. Zarina Diyas (KAZ) . I follow both women's and men's tennis pretty closely and I have never even heard of Zarina Diyas before. Halep has had very difficulty getting through her three previous round and should be full of confidence as the highest remaining seed in the tournament for the second consecutive major. Diyas dispatched 2-time major finalists Vera Zvonareva in 3 sets in theround before so she must have some game. But still, expect Halep to continue to play to her seeding heree. PREDICTION: Halep.

Lucie Safarova (CZE) [23]  vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4] Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [22]. This should be an insanely tight match, most likely very ugly. The two are even in their head-to-head. They are both leftys and leftys hate playing other leftys. This is the farthest either has ever reached in a major tournament, although both players have delivered major upsets in major tournaments, with Makrova having beaten both Williams sisters in Australia (in different years). Safarova is well-known as a bit of a wild card, while Makarova is considered a strong, solid player who can be dangerous to higher ranked opponents if they are having abad day. Safarova is always dangerous, but if you weather the storm she usually flames out. In this contest, I think slow and steady will win the race. PREDICTIONMakarova

Petra Kvitova (CZE) [6] vs. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) [16] Barbara Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) .  Kvitova has already played the best match of the tournament so far in her 3rd round win over 5-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams. The 2011 Wimbledon champion has  won 19 of her last 21 matches played at this tournament. Happily for her, she is facing one of her three countrywomen who are in the final eight remaining players in the tournament, a player whom she has only lost to once before in four meetings, and should not have much trouble defeating again,on her best surface. I saw Strycova play close up in person at Indian Wells and she is a very good ballstriker so her upset of Wozniacki was not a surprise to me. But there's a reason why she is in her first major quarterfinal and her opponent has reached five consecutive quarterfinals at this tournament.  PREDICTION: Kvitova. 

EYE CANDY: Phil from MundoMais

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I am a big fan of Brazilian guys, and that a good source of pictures of scantily clad, muscular Brazilian guys is MundoMais.Com.Br. Several previous Eye Candy models have come from there, such as Filipe (January 23, 2012), Flavio (March 19, 2012), Gabriel (May 4, 2012) and Xandy (July 30, 2012).

I recently went back to the site and found this new guy, called "Phil."According to the info on the site, Phil is 22-year-old, 1.90m (~6' 3") and 87kg (191 pounds). Enjoy!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

GRAPHIC: 43.6% Of America Has Marriage Equality; Another 21.5% Would Except For Judicial Stay

This is a useful graphic illustrating what I mentioned yesterday when discussing a stay on Indiana's marriage equality: there are numerous states that would have marriage equality but those judicial rulings are on hold due to the order of a court. It turns out that is about 21.5% of the U.S. population. Almost twice that number, 43.6% of the American populace lives in a jurisdiction with marriage equality. The rest of America (34.9%) lives where their ban on marriage equality is currently under legal challenge but has not been decided yet.

Any guesses on when marriage equality will hit 50% of the population? 100%? I think we'll be at more than 50% by the end of the year, but 100% won't happen until June 2015 at the earliest.

2014 WIMBLEDON: Serena Upset By Alize Cornet In 3rd Round; Venus Lost Thriller To Kvitova

World #1 Serena Williams  was upset by Alize Cornet of France in the 3rd round of Wimbledon, 1-6 6-3 6-4. Cornet becomes the first player since Nadia Petrova to win two consecutive meetings with Serena, having beaten her earlier this year in the semifinals of Dubai. This is Serena's earliest exist at the all-England Club where she is a 5-time champion since way back in 2005 (although she has lost in the 4th Round to 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli in 2011 and Sabine Lisicki in 2013). More importantly, after winning 17 majors, Serena has now not reached the quarterfinals in 4 of the last 5 tournaments she has played, a troubling dry spell for the current World #1. This year she lost in the 4th round to Ana Ivanovic in Melbourne and to Garbine Muguruza in the 2nd Round of the French Open.

Her sister Venus Williams lost her 3rd round match also, in one of the best matches on the women's tour all year, 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitovabeat the other 5-time Wimbledon champion named Williams  5-7 7-6(2) 7-5. The Williams sisters are still playing doubles but I doubt that will continue as neither are in the singles draw any longer.

Friday, June 27, 2014

7th Circuit Grants Stay To Suspend Marriage Equality In Indiana

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's request for a stay of Wednesday's district court ruling that had brought marriage equality to the Hoosier State. The action means that the number of states where same-sex couples can get legally married returns to 19. In the most recent cases, federal judges have not issued stays on their ruling but thanks to the Supreme Court precedent in the Utah case of Kitchen v Herbert where the High Court did issue a stay in the lower court ruling from going into effect during the appeals process, many judges are placing stays on their orders after a brief period in which couples can get married. This happened in Wisconsin just a few weeks ago.

That being said, the states of Indiana, Oklahoma, Idaho, Utah, Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, Arkansas and Kansas all have had their bans on marriage equality struck down and those ruling are not going into effect due to judicially ordered stays. If the Supreme Court upholds or decides not to rule on the pending appellate cases that are in our favor, there's gonna be a whole bunch of jurisdictions where same-sex couples can suddenly get married when those stays are suddenly dissolved!

Already some jurisdictions are using the fact that the 10th U.S. Circuit has ruled in favor of marriage equality to issue marriage licenses even though that appellate ruling is officially stayed pending appeal.

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Tomas Berdych and Venus Williams Are Naked In ESPN Magazine

2010 Wimbledon finalists and perennial Top 5 player Tomas Berdych and 7-time major champion Venus Williams are gracing the "Body" issue of ESPN The Magazine, both being photographed au naturel (without clothes). This is the same magazine which featured a nude John Isner last year and Serna Williams was on the cover of the inaugural issue in 2009.

There are interesting interview with Venus and Tomas in the magazine. Check it out!

2014 WIMBLEDON: Rafa,Raja,Nole,Murray,Serena,Venus,Li,Sharapova All Into RD3

All the favorites in this year's Wimbledon are through to the 3rd round with the only (mild) upset being the departure of former World #1 Victoria Azarenka in the 2nd round. (Jelena Jankovic is also out of the tournament early.) Current World #1 Rafael Nadal survived a rematch with Lukas Rosol, who beat him in the 2nd Round here in 2012 in 5 thrilling sets. Today, Rosol started off well, racing to a 6-4 4-2 lead but then it slipped away and he lost the second set on a double fault in the tiebreak. From then on, it was all Nadal and the 2-time Wimbledon champion ended up winning 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 6-4.

Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Li Na, Maria Sharapova are all through to the 3rd round. Venus has a tough 3rd round match against 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, and Serena plays Alize Cornet who beat her earlier this year, but the 17-time champion looks like she is a woman on a mission and will take this rematch seriously. Other players to watch are Madison Keys and Ana Ivanovic, who could play each other in the 4th round if they get past Yarolslav Shvedova and Sabine Lisicki, respectively.

Roger Federer has yet to drop a set, and Andy Murray dropped 2 games in his last match. Novak Djokovic had to get through a very determined Radek Stepanek in 4 tough sets to reach the 3rd round, but he did so and will face Gille Simon and possibly Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the round after that. Tsonga survived a second consecutive 5-set match, outlasting Sam Querrey 14-12 in the final set. The Frenchman has never lost a 5th set at Wimbledon!  The result of the day involved another Frenchman, it was Richard Gasquet's loss to 19-year-old Aussie Nick Kyrgios despite having 9 match points, 10-8 in the 5th. The french veteran had the advantage of serving first so that every breakpoint he had on the youngster's serve was basically a match point but Gasquet was unable to close and eventually he lost his own serve and the Aussie served it out. John Isner finally got to the 3rd round of Wimbledon, but he had to play a marathon to do it. This time, however it was just a marathon tiebreak which he won 19-17 against Jarko Nieminen.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) Endorses Marriage Equality; 4th Sitting GOP Senator To Do So

Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins became the fourth sitting Republican Senator to endorse marriage equality on Wednesday. Collin, Republican of maine, joins her colleagues Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Collins told the Portland Press-Herald:
On Wednesday, however, her campaign issued a statement that many in the gay-rights community had expected much earlier from a lawmaker who is viewed as one of Congress’ friendliest Republicans on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. 
“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins said in the statement. “Today, same-sex couples can be legally married in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 44% of Americans live in a state where same-sex couples can be legally married, and I believe this number will only continue to grow.” 
Earlier Wednesday, Collins was endorsed once again by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization.
Many Democratic LGBT observers (like myself) are dismayed that HRC is endorsing a Republican who had not endorsed marriage equality yet when her opponent is someone who was a champion for marriage equality in Maine as head of the local chapter of the ACLU. Shana Bellows issued a statement in response to the news of the endorsement:
"I've been proud and very privileged to be a leader in the LGBT equality movement for many years. As executive director of the ACLU of Maine, I spent every day bringing Republicans and Democrats together to expand civil liberties and strengthen equal protection under the law. I believe in taking strong stances in favor of Constitutional protections and equal rights even when they're unpopular. Remaining silent on some of the biggest civil rights issues of our generation, even after the voters have spoken, isn't leadership, and it isn't how Maine became one of the most inclusive states in the country for LGBT rights. 
"My opponent, Republican Susan Collins, had the chance to speak up in favor of marriage equality in 2012 or any time in the previous decade. Two years after her constituents made their feelings known at the ballot box, she has refused to break her silence. I believe Mainers need, want and deserve more proactive representation on equal rights -- on allowing LGBT students to learn without fear of bullying, on applying for jobs and going to work without fear of discrimination, and on much more. I'm running for Senate to provide that proactive representation and to expand Constitutional protections for our LGBT community.
I understand that HRC feels like it needs to endorse Republican incumbents over Democratic challengers, but I disagree with the lack of political principle involved. The largest LGBT political organization in the country should make its endorsements based on which candidate actually has the best pro-LGBT record. By endorsing a Republican, HRC is endorsing someone who will vote for Mitch McConnell to be Senate Majority Leader, which will mean absolutely no legislative progress on LGBT rights while Republicans control the Senate.

9th Circuit Refuses To Reconsider Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ruling

Big news from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals! The now fully staffed court has denied a sua ponte request to reconsider their important ruling in SmithKline Beecham. That case is the about juror discrimination where the 9th Circuit ruled that sexual orientation is not a valid characteristic for removing a potential juror, by declaring that sexual orientation is a suspect classification that requires heightened scrutiny. A majority of judges on the 26-member court agreed that an en banc hearing was not warranted, while the three most conservative members of the court signed on to a 10-page decision dissenting in the decision of the court. Neither of the parties in the underlying dispute had asked the court to review the question of what standard of review sexual orientation should receive, that was instigated by an anonymous member of the 9th Circuit. The fact that the decision is now final means that in order to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in the 9th Circuit's jurisdictional area, an exceedingly persuasive reason has to be given. As  Joe Jervis says, this will almost certainly lead to marriage equality in the states of the 9th Circuit which do not have it yet: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

SCOTUS Blog also discusses the implications of the permanence of SmithKline:
 Of the twelve federal appeals courts to confront the issue, ten have taken the position that challenges to laws which allegedly discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation should be analyzed only by the least-demanding standard — that is, “rational basis” review.   Using that standard, at least some courts have upheld bans on same-sex marriage. 
In the cases now awaiting Ninth Circuit review, state officials are attempting to defend same-sex marriage bans only in the Idaho case.  State officials in Oregon and Nevada have given up the defense of such bans, and Hawaii has moved on its own to allow such marriages.   Because the panel’s decision in the SmithKline decision is now binding in that circuit, in the wake of denial of en banc review, it sets the standard for judging the state bans throughout the geographic region included in the Ninth Circuit.
The other appellate court to decide sexual orientation should receive heightened scrutiny is the 2nd U.S. Circuit, which did so in their ruling which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v United States, a decision the Supreme Court upheld last year (but did not address the level of review question).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

10th Circuit Upholds Ruling Striking Down Utah's Ban On Marriage Equality!

Now, this is a very big deal. The 10th U.S. Circuit has become the first appellate court to uphold one of the very many district court rulings striking down a state's ban on marriage equality. The court heard oral arguments in April. The same panel has a pending ruling in the case of Oklahoma's ban on marriage equality it heard on the same day. The case today is Kitchen v Herbert on appeal from Utah' of the December 20th district court ruling striking down that state's Amendment 3. The 3-judge panel ruled 2-1 in favor of upholding the lower court ruling invalidating Utah's ban on same-sex marriages.

Chris Geidner reports on the case:
In detailing the reasoning, he wrote, “Consistent with our constitutional tradition of recognizing the liberty of those previously excluded, we conclude that plaintiffs possess a fundamental right to marry and to have their marriages recognized.”   
Importantly, however, at the end of the opinion, the court also stated that because the Supreme Court stayed the trial court’s ruling in the Utah case pending the 10th Circuit appeal that it should stay its mandate of the appellate ruling “pending the disposition of any subsequently filed petition for writ of certiorari” to the Supreme Court.
Judge Paul Kelly wrote a 21-page dissent, countering Lucero’s 65-page majority opinion. Judge Jermoe Holmes joined the majority opinion.
The 10th Circuit’s decision, which cites heavily from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor, was issued one day before the one-year anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision. 
The lawyer for the Utah same-sex couples who brought the lawsuit, Peggy Tomsic, said in a statement, “Today’s decision by the Tenth Circuit affirms the fundamental principles of equality and fairness and the common humanity of gay and lesbian people. As the Court recognized, these families are part of Utah’s community, and equal protection requires that they be given the same legal protections and respect as other families in this state. The Court’s ruling is a victory not only for the courageous couples who brought this case, but for our entire state and every state within the Tenth Circuit.”
Woo hoo!

30 Years Ago: Prince's Purple Rain Released!

30 years ago today the album Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution was released.

We Have #20! Indiana Ban On Marriage Equality Struck Down; Couples Getting Married Now

In what has become a regular occurrence for the last 12 months, a federal judge has struck down a state ban on marriage equality. This is the 21st consecutive time it has happened, and the setting was Indiana, where federal judge Richard L. Young ruled that:
The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue. In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions – laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love. In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage – not a same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.
The judge refused to issue a stay on his ruling and same-sex couples have already been married in the Hoosier state.

Indiana becomes the 20th state where same-sex couples can get married right now. However, since it is a red state like Wisconsin, one would expect the attorney general and the governor to file emergency appeals to place the effect of the ruling on hold until an appellate court and/or the Supreme Court can decide this question once and for all.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: ACLU Urges Wisconsin To Decide Marriage Equality Appeal Soon

The ACLU of Wisconsin is managing the lawsuit Wolf v. Walker for marriage equality which led to a federal judge striking down the ban on same-sex marriage (and then issued a stay on her order enjoining the state from enforcing her ruling). The state of Wisconsin has 30 days from the date of the judge's ruling (issued 11 days ago) to file its appeal to the 7th U.S. Appellate Circuit, which by my count would be Sunday July 6.

The ACLU has issued a public letter to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asking him to make  a decision earlier so that the marriage equality question can be resolved sooner than later and same-sex couples will know whether their marriages will stand or not.
Our clients and other same-sex couples in Wisconsin are faced with the continuing indignity of seeing their families denigrated by the state’s refusal to allow them to marry or to recognize their marriages entered elsewhere... Even if you [Van Hollen] believe you will win, please file your appeal promptly to resolve the uncertainty that same-sex couples, their children, as well as employers and other businesses and government offices who interact with same-sex couples are facing until the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s ban on marriage is resolved.
 Van Hollen is not running for re-election this year, but Republican Governor Scott Walker is. Fellow Republican Governor Tom Corbett (who is also running for re-election but is unlikely to win) earlier this year made his state the 19th state to have permanent marriage equality when he didn't appeal a marriage equality ruling.

2014 WIMBLEDON: Venus,Vika,Li, Aggie,Masha,Andy,Nole,Raja,Rafa Through Round 1

Wimbledon has begun! The first round usually takes several days to complete but after all of Day 1 and about half of Day 2 there are some important results. Venus Williams won her first round match despite splitting the first two sets 6-4 4-6 6-2 against a Spanish player. Victoria Azarenka won her first match since she injured her foot in January. Other players to watch who have won their first round match are 2014 French Open champion Maria Sharapova and 2014 Australian Open champion Li Na along with previous Wimbledon finalists Agnieska Radwanska and Sabine Lisicki.

On the men's side both of last year's Wimbledon finalists (Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic) won their first round match, as did 17-time major champion Roger Federer and 14-time major champion Rafael Nadal. Other players to watch like Grigor Dimitrov, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Feliciano Lopez all wontheir first round match as well.

Monday, June 23, 2014

WATCH: Trailer for "Kidnapped For Christ"; Airs On Showtime July 10

Here's what the Showtime documentary Kidnapped for Christ is about, according to a press release:
Los Angeles, CA – On Thursday, July 10th at 7:30pm ET/PT, SHOWTIME will premiere KIDNAPPED FOR CHRIST, a powerful, award-winning documentary that chronicles the shocking truth behind Escuela Caribe, a controversial Christian behavior modification program in the Dominican Republic for “troubled” U.S. teenagers.  Initially hoping to document the positive effects a boarding school like this could have on struggling youth, evangelical filmmaker Kate Logan is granted unprecedented access and allowed to live on campus for the summer.  Once there, Logan’s eyes are opened to the truth beneath the sunny façade of this remote reform school—kids being taken by force in the middle of the night, rumors of physical abuse, and staff imposing arbitrary and degrading punishments on the young students—and encounters students who change her life.
 In the 85-minute documentary, Logan meets David, a 17-year-old honor student from Colorado, sent to the program shortly after coming out to his parents; Beth, a 15-year-old from Michigan suffering from debilitating panic attacks; and Tai, a 16-year-old Haitian-American girl from Boston experimenting with drugs to cope with childhood trauma.  With mounting evidence that this so-called “therapeutic boarding school” is no more than a crude brainwashing camp, Logan is determined to help at least one student escape.  The struggles she faces to secure the child's freedom reveal just how far Escuela Caribe will go to prevent their students from leaving, becoming a journey that tests Logan's faith in ways she could never imagine.
I'm hoping to get a sneak preview of the documentary from the producers and if so I intend to review the film for this blog. Regardless, tune in to Showtime on July 10th and watch this important documentary.

EYE CANDY: Roshun Wynne, Jr.

Roshun Wynne, Jr. is another find from the Another Guy Blog. He is 25-years-old and 6-foot-2, according to his Model Management page. He has accounts on Instagram and Facebook.

He looks like the typical "dude from around the way" that just happens to be really handsome and hot! I ain't mad, are you?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gender Neutral Pronouns: "Xe Didn't Like Xyr Look And Told Xem"

Can you understand the meaning of the title of this blog post? "Xe," "Xyr" and "Xem" are all proposed gender-neutral pronouns that can be used in place of "she/he," "hers/his" and "her/him." The school board in Vancouver, Canada has recently approved  a policy for the use of these pronouns in schools:
VANCOUVER -- Grammar teachers may need to amend their lesson plans after the Vancouver school board approved Monday a policy change that welcomes a brand-new string of pronouns into Vancouver public schools: “xe, xem, and xyr.”
The pronouns are touted as alternatives to he/she, him/her, and his/hers, and come as last-minute amendments to the board’s new policy aimed at better accommodating transgender students in schools.
The vote came after a brief debate that sparked unrest among opponents of the policy who shouted “dictator” and “liar” at trustees, as security guards and police officers watched from their posts at council doors. But supporters waved pink and blue-coloured flags and drowned out the detractors with their cheers once the policy passed. Three previous public meetings were similarly rowdy.
The vote may be the knockout blow in a bitter and protracted fight over the controversial plan to put gender-neutral washrooms in schools and support students in expressing their preferred gender identities.
What I find so interesting about this is that this pronoun scheme was invented in the early 1970s but is only now getting traction, according to the Business Insider
In 1789, William H. Marshall recorded the existence of the gender-neutral pronoun “ou.” “Ou will” meant “he will,” “she will,” or “it will,” according to Dennis Baron’s “Grammar and Gender.” “Ou” stems from the Middle English epicene “a,” used in the 14th century by writers for “he,” “she,” “it,” they,” and even “I.”
From there, Don Rickter is the most widely accepted inventor of “xe,” xem,” and “xyr” in 1973.
Another modern version of gender-neutral language are the Spivak pronouns. By dropping the “th” from “they,” “them, and “their,” mathematician Michael Spivak created “ey,” “em,” “eir,” widely used by LGBTQ advocates.
Would you be able to use these pronouns appropriately if the need arose? I think I could.

African-American Teenager Madison Keys Wins 1st WTA Title (At Eastbourne)

Madison Keys is a name fans of American tennis have been hearing for awhile. The 19-year-old American is the youngest player in the WTA Top 50 and lived up to her potential by winning her first career title at the prestigious Wimbledon warm-up tournament, the Aegon International at Eastbourne. Playing in her very first tour final, Keys beat World #9 Angelique Kerber, 6-3 3-6 7-5 in just under 2 hours. By doing so, she became the first teenager to win a Premier-level tournament since Caroline Wozniacki did it in New Haven in 2009. Keys blasted 60 winners (including 17 aces) compared to 48 unforced errors, winning 14 of 19 points at the net.

Keys plays fellow youngster Monica Puig in the first round of Wimbledon next week.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

SATURDAY POLITICS: Yee (Currently) Leads Pérez BY 659 Votes

Last week's Saturday Politics discussed the insanely close vote count between Democrats Betty Yee and John Pérez for the #2 slot in the California State Controller race. Last week, Pérez had a lead but in the latest update on Friday evening by the Secretary of State, Yee now leads by 659 votes (out of well more than 4 million votes cast in this race) over her Democratic rival, with a total of 876,670 compared to 876,011. The two are basically tied with 21.7% of the vote while a Republican is currently well ahead for the #1 run-off spot with 24.8%.

Regardless of who is declared to be the winner, it is very likely there will be a recount, and also likely that a Democrat will end up winning the general election. (After all, if you add up the Republican-leaning votes in the current tally, it only totals 45.8% of the vote.)

Friday, June 20, 2014

2014 WIMBLEDON: The Draw Is Released: Nadal-Federer, Murray-Djokovic Semis Possible

The 2014 Wimbledon Championships start on Monday and the draw was released today. Wimbledon uses a seeding system which rewards results on grass, so even though he is ranked World #2, Novak Djokovic is seeded #1 (since he made the final last year, something #2 seed and World #1 Rafael Nadal has not done since 2011). If he thought winning the Wimbledon title was hard, how will #3 seed Andy Murray defend it, especially since he has not won a tournament since and after his break after surgery, has not even reached a final this year. And there's still 32-year-old 7-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, playing quite well this year, and Raja is usually up to bringing his best to the grass courts (last year's 2nd round upset notwithstanding). The bad news for Federer is that he is in Nadal's half of the draw and he has not beaten Nadal in a major tournament in over 5 years, including 3 straight losses on the hard courts of Australia. Of course, the last time they played in 2008 Nadal won what most people call the "greatest tennis match of all time." Nadal actually likes the grass and the 5 times he played this tournament from 2006 to 2011 he reached 5 consecutive finals in a row, but only won 2 titles.

However, will Nadal even reach the final this year? He just won his 9th French Open title and has 14 majors now, but he lost in the first round in 2013 (to Steve Darcis) and in the 2nd round in 2012 (to Lukas Rosol). He also last week in his 1st grass court match to Dustin Brown so his confidence on the surface can not be high. Nadal has  a tricky draw overall starting with lefty Martin Klizan and then could face a rematch with Rosol in round 2 and after that Ivo Karlovic looms. Milos Raonic or Kei Nishikori are also possible threats. Federer has a much kinder draw with only his 2nd round match with Julian Benneteau (who came within 2 points of beating him in 2012) potentially causing any agitation. Jerzy Janowicz and Stan Wawrinka are in his half of the draw but both are slumping this year. Djokovic has an okay draw, although he faces always-dangerous-on-grass Radek Stepanek in Round 2 and possibly Jo-Wilfried Tsonga later, but the Frenchman would do well to reach the 4th round with Nole. Ogf the Top 4, Murray was blessed with easiest draw, since the only other top seed in his half of the draw is David Ferrer who is not at 100% fitness right now. I believe Murray will repeat in the final, and I suspect Federer or perhaps someone surprising will face him there (possibly Raonic or Nishikori), but I would not be surprised if it is Nadal.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Luxembourg Becomes 17th Country To Enact Marriage Equality Nationwide

The small European country of The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has overwhelmingly passed legislation 56-4 that will allow same-sex couples to marry and also adopt children together. Luxembourg elected an openly gay Prime Minister last year and has a population of just over a half-million people.

Freedom to Marry reports:
The bill faces one final vote, largely seen as a formality. The Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, said that he expected the government to approve of the marriage bill before the end of 2014. The first marriages could take place as early as January 2015, since the bill will take effect six months after a final vote. 
Luxembourg will become the 17th country with the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide, joining The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, Uruguay, Brazil, France, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (including England, Wales and Scotland). Two others have taken regional steps to allow same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry in parts of the country: Mexico and the United States.
Felicitations, Luxembourg!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: What Others See When Christians Pray At Public Events

Hemant Mehta points out this story of yet another Christian feeling "their God" compels them to flout the law about praying at public graduation ceremonies.

What [Fox News's Todd] Starnes and [Christian student Marcus] Hamby don’t understand is that there are times when it’s inappropriate to talk all about your personal beliefs regarding crispy, crunchy, delicious Jesus. When you’re at a public school function attended by students and their family members who aren’t all Christian, talking about how correct your faith is isn’t kind or gentle. 
It’s just a combination of ego and martyr-complex. 
(Plus, you *know* the same crowd applauding Hamby would’ve lost their [censored] if anyone gave a speech about Islam or atheism.) 
Just to be clear, what he did wasn’t courageous. Not even close. You don’t need to be brave to make references to Christianity when the majority of the audience already agrees with you. 
It does, however, take maturity to realize that there are others out there who disagree with you — and a graduation ought to be a time to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments instead of opening up about your personal theological views.
That's today's post on godlessness!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Black Lesbian and Gay Federal Judicial Nominees Confirmed By U.S. Senate!

Wow! I didn't see this one coming. An openly lesbian, African-American woman named Staci Michelle Yandle, survived a cloture vote on Monday June 16th (55-37) and was confirmed by the United States Senate today by a vote of 52-44! President Barack Obama nominated Yandle to be a U.S. District Court judge in the Southern District of Illinois.

Bizarrely, Republican Illinois Senator Mark Kirk (who has been outed as gay himself) voted against the confirmation of Yandle, while Illinois' other U.S. senator, Dick Durbin votes yes.

In addition to Yandle, the nomination of Darrin Gayles to become the first openly gay, Black man in the federal judiciary was less controversial. His confirmation vote was 98-0.

Two openly LGBT Black federal judges confirmed in one day. Thanks, President Obama!

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

Happy 34th Birthday, Venus Williams!

Venus Williams was born on June 17, 1980. Happy 34th birthday, Venus!

TENNIS TUESDAY: Federer, Ivanovic, Dimitrov Win Grass Court Titles

Roger Federer won his 79th career ATP title (14th grass court title) by winning his 7th title in 9 finals in Halle Germany by defeating Colombian lefty Alejandro Falla 7-6(2) 7-6(3). Federer has also won the grass court major tournament, i.e. Wimbledon 7 times as well. It was Federer's 957 tour win, 3rd on the all-time list. He is only behind Ivan Lendl at #2 (1071) and Jimmy Connors at #1 (1253). Federer is 79 and 39 in tour finals. His nemesis Rafael Nadal was defeated by Dustin Brown in the round of 16 in Halle just days after winning his 9th French Open over Novak Djokovic.

Grigor Dimitrov won his 4th career title at the Aegon Championships in thrilling fashion over Feliciano Lopez 6-7(8), 7-6(1), 7-6(6), saving match point in the 12th game of the second set. Dimitrov is highly touted as a future #1, in the new crop of players born after 1990 that will win majors after the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic-Murray era is over. He is now 4-1 in tour finals, quite an impressive start for the 23-year-old and has won titles on clay (in Bucharest over Lukas Rosol), hard courts (in Acapulco over Kevin Anderson) and now grass this year.

Ana Ivanovic continues her excellent play this year by winning the Wimbledon tune-up tournament in Birmingham, without dropping a set. She is the only player to beat 2-time French Open champion Maria Sharapova on clay this year, doing it in straight sets on clay in the Rome qurterfinals. Ivanovic has won the most matches on tour this year but this was her first title of the year and 14th of her career.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Eye Candy: Rodney Razor (reprise)

Rodney Razor, Jr. is a 30-year-old natural bodybuilder whose fine physique has been displayed here before as Eye Candy (April 14, 2014) previously. According to Facebook, he competes regularly in bodybuilder competition and has his own website at where you can find even more pictures of this hunk!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Game of Thrones (S4E09): "The Watchers on the Wall"

Episode 9 of Season 4 of Game of Thrones is titled "The Watchers on The Wall." Even though I am currently on vacation in Utah, I was able to watch the episode in one of its repeat airings on HBO in my hotel room in Provo and thus write up my thoughts about this season's 9th episode before tonight's Season 4 finale.

 In the first three seasons, the 9th episode has been the episode when epic things have occurred. In 2011, the episode (S1E09) was titled "Baelor" and Lord Eddard Stark was suddenly beheaded, killing off what to that point seemed to be one of the main protagonists of the show. In 2012, the episode (S2E09) was titled "Blackwater" and was the first time the show did not switch locales, but concentrated on "The Battle of the Blackwater" in King's Landing, with much pyrotechnics, both figurative and literal. In 2013, the episode (S3E09) was titled "The Rains of Castamere" after the theme song of the Lannister clan, and was the episode in which the Red Wedding occurred, one of the most harrowing 5 minutes in television history. Season 4 of Game of Thrones has already had (S4E02) "The Lion and the Rose" where Kin Joffrey Barratheon is murdered and (S4E08) "The Mountain and the Viper" with the shock ending of the trial by combat between Ser Sandor Clegane (i.e. The Mountain) and Prince Oberyn Martell (i.e. The Viper). So there was much anticipation about producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had in store for S4E09, which is clearly about one of the epic moments in A Song Of Ice and Fire, when the Night's Watch has to try and defend the Wall from the massive Wildling Army led by Mance Ryder, a former member of their order.

For only the second time in its 39-episode history, the show spends an entire episode at one location, this time it is at The Wall.

There were many highlights of this episode
  • Kiss Between Sam and Gilly! This is a very large change from the books. In the books, Sam and Gilly are continually linked as Sam assigns himself the task of protecting Gilly and her baby, even if it requires that he leave his comfort zone of The Wall. However, there is never any sense of a romantic relationship between the two, even though there are hints that both parties would be receptive to the idea. Their unresolved romance is one of the key plots of the story.
  • Jon Snow DOES Know Something After All. To me Ygritte was always something of an annoying character and her repeated recitations of "You know nothing, Jon Snow" became annoying rather quickly. I also think that either the actor or director were not clear in communicating to the audience what her motivations are: Does she hate or love Jon Snow? A bit of both? Instead of indecision, I think uncertainty and mixed messages were often the result. Anyway, her death scene with Jon and Jon's prowess at commanding the Brothers of the Night's Watch as well as his keen fighting kills were a high point of the episode for me.
  • They Grow Them Big Out There! The other main highlight of the episode was the appearance of giants and mammoths. The visual effects here were extremely effective and the audience really got the impression that there was no way the Night's Watch could defend against such powerful beings. The mismatch was clear, but so was the fact that they are defending from a position of near impregnable strength since they are on top of a 600-foot wall of ice.
Nothing is perfect; even this classic episode had some  flaws.  The ones I think worth mentioning is:
  • Where Was Stannis? In the books, Stannis Barratheon saves the day by showing up at the darkest moment of the battle for The Wall, serving as a hero for defending The Wall from the Wildling army and bolstering his claim to be worthy to sit on the Iron Throne by defending his subjects from the existential threat provided by The White Walkers and worse from North of the Wall instead of appearing to play the Game of Thrones. Many book readers were livid that Stannis did not make in appearance in this episode, giving more credence to the idea that Stannis' storyline has been deemphasized in the television adaptation. I'm agnostic about that position but I do think it would have been stronger to have Stannis appear now than in Episode 10 which will presumably be packed with other plot developments for our main characters.

Grade: 8/10 (B).
S4E09 basically failed to live up to its hype in comparison to the three previous seasons ninth episodes, although overall it was a fairly strong episode which contained some important plot developments for those characters whose arcs intersect with The Wall: Mainly Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly & Gilly.

MadProfessah at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

These are some pics from last nights sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, Utah.

WISCONSIN: Federal Judge Issues Stay and Injunction Halting Marriage Equality

Bad news out of Wisconsin! Federal judge Barbara Crabb finally issued a final order implementing her previously issued decision in the same-sex marriage case of Wolf v Walker in favor of marriage equality from last week and included a stay and injunction that makes it clear that no marriage licenses should be issued to same-sex couples while the matter is appealed to the U.S. 7th Circuit.

This means that the multiple counties and big cities like Madison and Milwaukee where same-sex couples were being issued marriage licenses have to stop doing so immediately.

The judge wrote in her final order that the Supreme Court's previous decision this past January to issue a stay in the case of whether Kitchen v. Herbert striking down Utah's ban on marriage equality should go into effect compelled her to do the same since the two cases are indistinguishable from each other. All this year federal judges in various jurisdictions have been striking down laws banning marriage equality in several states (Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia, and many others) usually issuing stays automatically preventing marriages from going into effect.

In some jurisdictions, notably Oregon and Pennsylvania, the state officials agreed with the ruling and thus did not appeal it, causing marriage equality to go into effect immediately in those states. However, in others, like Wisconsin, politicians have continued to battle in court to uphold their discriminatory marriage laws and are appealing to the appropriate federal appellate circuit. The 4th and 10th appellate circuits have heard oral arguments in their marriage equality cases and could issue decisions at any time, although most observers do not expect one to do so until much later this year at the earliest.

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis


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