Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TENNIS TUESDAY: Murray, Kvitova Win Titles; Rafa Returns; Dimitrov Poaches Fed Staff

Li Na was honored in a retirement ceremony at the China Open in Beijing

Federer's Physio Poached By "Baby Fed"
Wimbledon semifinalist and future World #1 Grigor Dimitrov has long been compared to his idol Roger Federer. Now, he has hired away Federer's longtime physical trainer Stephane Vivier. Vivier had worked with the 17-time major champion since 2009 but will be working with getting the 23-year-old Bulgarian into even better shape as he tries to improve his Top 10 ranking into a Top 5 ranking in the next year.

Murray Wins First Title Since 2013 Wimbledon, Saving 5 Match Points Against Robredo 
Andy Murray has not been the same player since he completed his life's dream to become the first British player to win Wimbledon in over 75 years. However, maybe in a sign that things are turning around for the Scot he was (finally) able to win another ATP tour title (his 29th), in Shenzhen, China by defeating Tommy Robredo. Typically, Murray did it the hard way, facing (and saving 5 match points in the second set tiebreaker) and then coming back to blitz the Spanish veteran in the 3rd set for a 5-7 7-6(9) 6-1 win.

In Wimbledon Final Reprise In Wuhan, Kvitova Dispatches Bouchard In Straight Sets Again
Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic and Genie Bouchard of Canada met in the final of the Wuhan Open, a reprise of their more famous meeting in the 2014 Wimbledon final just 2 months ago, but the result was similar. Kvitova was not as sharp in Wuhan as she was in London, but she still won 6-3 6-4 and became the fourth player to qualify for the year-end championships in Singapore.

Rafael Nadal Returns To Tour After 13-Week Absence, Bagels Gasquet In Easy Win
14-time major champion Rafael Nadal has been off the tour for 13 weeks since his stunning 4th round loss to Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon, missing the entire North American hard court season which he dominated last year. Nadal returned to competitive play at the China Open in Beijing, where he dispatched the slumping Richard Gasquet 6-4 6-0.

Serena Wins In Beijing Despite Losing First 5 Games As A 33-Year Old; Venus Gets Revenge
World #1 Serena Williams withdrew from the Wuhan Open with a viral illness last week during a match against Alize Cornet and this week started where she left off by losing 5 consecutive games to Silvia Soler-Espinosa. However, she won 12 of the next 13 games to win the match and advanced again with an easy win over Tsevatana Pironkova. Her sister Venus Williams is also playing in Beijing and got revenge against French youngster Caroline Garcia for a 3rd set tiebreak loss in Wuhan the week before.

Monday, September 29, 2014

SURVEY: 16% Of Britons Report Same-Sex Sexual Contact

Joe Jervis reports on a British sex survey conducted by The Guardian newspaper. He focuses on the report that 16% of respondents said that they had had "any sexual contact with someone of the same sex" (18% of women and 15% of men) while 92% of respondents declared that they were heterosexual (4% homosexual and 4% bisexual).

Do we have any similar research being conducted here in the United States? I wonder how the numbers would be different (and the same)? The survey was conducted in July 2014 of 1052 adults in theUnited Kingdom.

Interestingly, the survey reports that among the youngest cohorts of respondents there was more same-sex sexual contact (22% among those aged 16-24 and 26% among those aged 25-34) while a whopping 21% of the youngest cohort self-declaring themselves to be homosexual or bisexual, compared to the overall percentage of 8% in the larger sample.

Go check out the survey results yourself. I thought one of the most interesting results was that 79% of all men said they were "happy with the size of [their] penis" (which is down from 86% which was the result back in 2008!).

Do you think reults would be dramatically different in the USA?

EYE CANDY: Randall Bacon

Randall Bacon was a find by the talented blogger David Dust, who has sadly since stopped updating his blog. According to David Dust, Randall Bacon is  an actor/model in the Los Angeles area. That's about all I know since his Model Mayhem profile has been discontinued.

Regardless, I think he still qualifies as Eye Candy, don't you?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

SATURDAY POLITICS: Kamala Harris Doesn't Want To Be Holder's Replacement

California Attorney General Kamala Harris promptly took herself out of the running to be President Obama's next Attorney General this week after Eric Holder announced his resignation. Harris, 49, is running for re-election and is widely seen as a front runner for either Governor of California in 2018 when the seat will be open or she would also be competitive for either United States Senate seat.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Harris' demurrals:
Even before the White House officially announced Holder’s resignation Thursday,Harris, who is running for re-election as California’s attorney general, released a statement saying thanks, but no thanks.
“I am honored to even be mentioned, but intend to continue my work for the people of California as attorney general,” said the former San Francisco district attorney. “I am focused on key public safety issues including transnational gangs, truancy and recidivism.”
Harris, a longtime friend and early political backer of President Obama, has long been on the media’s short list of people the president would look at to become the country’s top prosecutor.
Obama made headlines last year when he referred to Harris as "by far the best-looking attorney general in the country."

Personally I think Harris would make a great Attorney General of the United States but an even better Governor. That's gonna be one tough (and crowded) Democratic primary in June 2018!

Friday, September 26, 2014

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Serena Williams Turns 33 Today!

Today is Serena Williams' 33rd birthday!

QUEER QUOTE: United Nations Adopts Resolution On the Rights of LGBT Persons

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on the rights of LGBT Persons yesterday. The measure was sponsored by Brazil, Chile Columbia and Uruguay

National Security Advisor (and former Ambassador to the United Nations) Susan Rice issued a statement in response:
Statement by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice on the Adoption of a UN Resolution on the Rights of LGBT Persons The United States applauds today's adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of a resolution in support of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. The second such resolution to be passed by the UN Human Rights Council, today's resolution reiterates that LGBT persons are entitled to the human rights and fundamental freedoms that are the birthright of all humankind, expresses grave concern regarding acts of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons, and requests the preparation of an important new report on preventing such abuses. We thank sponsors Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay for their leadership, and commend the Council for taking another historic step to reinforce the unassailable principle that LGBT rights are human rights.
The vote was 25 yes, 14 No and 7 Abstentions. Joe Jervis has the list of countries who voted on the resolution.
Voting For:  Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Macedonia, Montenegro, Peru, Philippines, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam.
Voting Against: Algeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Gabon, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates.  
Abstaining: Burkina Faso, China, Congo, India, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Sierra Leone.
Good news overall!

WATCH: New Ad About Nationwide Marriage Equality from Freedom TO Marry

A new national ad tit;ed "It's Time For the Freedom To Marry" from Freedom to Marry notes that 19 states same-sex couples but that in all the rest those same couples are denied equal rights, responsibilities and benefits of marriage. The narrator calls for a national solution to "end discrimination."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Eric Holder, 1st Black U.S. Attorney General, Announces Resignation

Eric Holder, the United States' first African American Attorney General, announced his resignation today in Washington. Holder is a staunch ally of LGBT equality, a champion for social justice and a strong supporter of civil rights.

Here is what he said today:

I come to this moment with very mixed emotions.  Proud of what the men and women of the Department of Justice have accomplished over the last six years and, at the same time, very sad that I will not be a formal part of the great things that this department and this President will accomplish over the next two. I want to thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity you gave me to serve and for giving me the greatest honor of my professional life.  We have been great colleagues, but the bonds between us are much deeper than that.  In good times and bad, in things personal and professional, you have been there for me.  I am proud to call you my friend.  I am also grateful for the support you have given me and the department as we have made real the visions that you and I have always shared.  I often think of those early talks between us and our belief that we might help to craft a more perfect Union.  Work remains to be done – but our list of accomplishments is real.  Over the last six years, our Administration has made historic gains in realizing the principles of the founding documents, and fought to protect the most sacred of American rights: the right to vote.  We have begun to realize the promise of equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters and their families.  We have begun to significantly reform our criminal justice system and reconnect those who bravely serve in law enforcement with the communities they protect.  We have kept faith with our belief in the power of the greatest judicial system the world has ever known to fairly and effectively adjudicate any cases that are brought before it, including those that involve the security of the nation we both love so dearly.  We have taken steps to protect the environment and make more fair the rules by which our commercial enterprises operate.  And we have held accountable those who would harm the American people either through violent means or the misuse of economic or political power. I have loved the Department of Justice ever since, as a young boy, I watched Robert Kennedy prove during the Civil Rights Movement how the department can – and must – always be a force for that which is right.  I hope that I have done honor to the faith you placed in me, Mr. President, and to the legacy of all those that served before me. I would also like to thank the Vice President, who I have known for so many years and in whom I have found great wisdom, unwavering support, and a shared vision of what America can, and should, be.  I want to recognize my good friend Valerie Jarrett, whom I’ve been fortunate to work with from the beginning of what started as an improbable, idealistic effort by a young senator from Illinois who we were both right to believe would achieve greatness.  I have had the opportunity to serve in your distinguished Cabinet and worked with a White House staff, ably led by Denis McDonough, that has done much to make real the promise of our democracy.  And each of the men and women who I have come to know will be lifelong friends. Whatever my accomplishments, they could not have been achieved without the love, support, and guidance of two people who are not with me today.  My parents, Eric and Miriam Holder, nurtured me and my accomplished brother William and made us believe in the value of individual effort and the greatness of this nation.
 My time in public service, which now comes to an end, would not have been possible without the sacrifices – too often unfair – made by the best three kids a father could ask for.  Thank you, Maya, Brooke, and Buddy.
 And finally I want to thank the woman who sacrificed the most and allowed me to follow my dreams.  She is the foundation of all that our family is and the basis of all that I have become.  My wife, Sharon, is the unsung hero and my life partner.  Thank you for all that you have done.  I love you. In the months ahead, I will leave the Department of Justice – but I will never leave the work.  I will continue to serve and try to find ways to make our nation even more true to its founding ideals.  I thank the dedicated public servants who form the backbone of the United States Department of Justice for their tireless work over the past six years, for the efforts they will continue, and for the progress they made that will outlast us all. And I thank you all for joining me on a journey that now moves in another direction, but that will always be guided by the pursuit of justice and aimed at the North Star.    
It will be interesting to see who replaces him to lead the Department of Justice, and how obstreperous the Republicans in the Senate will be towards any potential nominee, especially since that nomination will probably not happen until after the 2014 elections.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Air Force Agrees To Omit 'So Help Me God' From Enlistment Oath

Well, that was fast! In Last week's Godless Wednesday we discussed the plight of an unarmed airman who was bing threatened with the inability to re-enlist in November without violating his beliefs thanks to a newly enforced policy that all enlistees must not alter the enlistment oath, which incliudes the words "so help me God."

This week comes the glad tidings that the Air Force will indeed allow people to reenlist without forcing them to swear obeisance to a deity.
Following a review of the policy by the Department of Defense General Counsel, the Air Force will now permit airmen to omit the phrase, should they so choose. That change is effective immediately, according to an Air Force statement
“We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in the statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected. 
“The Air Force will be updating the instructions for both enlisted and commissioned Airmen to reflect these changes in the coming weeks, but the policy change is effective now. Airmen who choose to omit the words ‘So help me God’ from enlistment and officer appointment oaths may do so.”
It's so rare that we have good news to report on Godless Wednesday! This news that the policy has changed to increase religious freedom and acknowledge that some people who serve in the military might be godless is Good News.

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SHOCK! Serena Retires In 1st Set With Cornet For 3rd Loss Against Frenchwoman in 2014

Serena Williams retired from her 2nd round match against Alize Cornet up a service break 6-5 when she complained of dizziness and nausea on the changeover and was helped off the court by a trainer after she told the umpire she could not continue to play.

Her retirement from the match means that for the first time since 2007 Serena has lost to the same player three times in a calendar year. Earlier this year, Serena lost to Cornet in the semifinals of Dubai and then she lost to her again in the 3rd round of Wimbledon in 3 sets.

Some players just do not match-up well together and perhaps Cornet is Serena's kryptonite. Hopefully, Serena will recover from whatever ails her in time for her birthday on Friday and the China Open which begins in Beijing on Monday.

TENNIS TUESDAY: Li Na Retires, Ivanovic Wins 4th 2014 Title, Davis Cup Final Set For Lille

Li Na Retires
The big news this week (confirms the rumors from last week) is the official retirement of China's Li Na, which somewhat bizarrely, happened on the eve of the WTA holding a  $2-million tournament in her hometown of Wuhan with almost the entirety of the Top 20 making an appearance, including both Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova and many more top WTA stars.

Ivanovic Keeps Winning
Ana Ivanovic won her biggest (and fourth)  title of the year by defeating 2014 US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 7-6(2) to win the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. Ivanovic has now won 52 matches in 2014, the most of her career and one of the best records on tour this year.

Location Of Davis Cup Final
The location of the Davis Cup Final showdown between Switzerland (featuring ATP Top 5 players Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka) and France (featuring Gael Monfils, J-Wilfried Tsonga Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon) will happen in Lille, France November 21-23 in a stadium that holds 27,000 fans. The record for a Davis Cup match is the 2004 final between Spain and United States in 2004 (27,200). I suspect that record may fall!

Monday, September 22, 2014

EYE CANDY: Philip Baiano from MundoMais (black/white)

MundoMais.Com.br is one of my favorite websites for finding potential Eye Candy models. Phillip Baiano (also known as "Filipe from Bahia") has appeared here twice before (October 24, 2011 and January 23, 2012).

This week he is here again, this time in black and white. The website lists his age as 27 years old in 2013 but that's the only information I have. But I think you can see why he is definitely colírio para os olhos!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Multiple Posters For Christopher Nolan's Interstellar

Longtime followers of this blog will know that I am a big time fanboy of director Christopher Nolan. I named Inception my favorite film of 2010 and greatly enjoyed his take on the Batman mythos. The fact that he has a brand new original film coming out on November 7th starring Matthew McConnaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway and Sr Michael Caine is incredibly exciting to me and I have been blogging about developments such as the release of the first and second official trailers for the film. Interstellar is my most anticipated film release of 2014, followed by David Fincher's Gone Girl (October 3rd) and then probably The Imitation Game (November 21) followed closely by The Theory of Everything (November 7). I'm sure it's just a coincidence these last centered around the lives of heroic mathematicians!

With less than 6 weeks before the film comes out, not one but three new official posters for the film were released late last week! I have posted them above. They all look amazing, to me, although I think I have a slight preference for the one with the water. What about you?

REPORT: Lifting Ban On MSM Blood Donation Would Increase Supply By 2-4%

The Williams Institute at UCLA Law School has released a report that analyzes the impact of changing the current lifetime ban on blood donation by any man who has had sex with another man (MSM) since 1977.

In "UPDATE: Effects of Lifting Blood Donation Bans on Men who Have Sex with Men" authors Ayako Miyashita and Dr. Gary Gates estimate the number of men who would donate blood if the "gay blood ban" was relaxed at over 300,000 leading to an increase in the blood supply of 2-4%  (600,000 pints) per year which could potentially save the lives of 1.8 million people.

The way the estimate is done is that Miyashita and Gates look at three different scenarios in which the current lifetime ban is changed in three ways: removed entirely, changed to a "deferral" lasting 12-months after sexual contact with another man and changed to a 5-year deferral.
In the US, 8.5% of men (10 million) say that they have had at least one male sexual partner since age 18. GSS data show that 4.1% of men (4.8 million) have had a male sex partner in the last five years, and 3.8% of men (4.5 million men) reported having a male sex partner in the last twelve months.

If the current MSM ban were completely lifted, we estimate that an additional 360,600 men would likely donate 615,300 additional pints of blood each year. If MSM who have not had sexual contact with another man in the past twelve months were permitted to donate, we estimate that 185,800 additional men are likely to donate 317,000 additional pints of blood each year. If MSM who have not had sexual contact with another man in the past five years were permitted to donate, we estimate that 172,000 additional men would make an additional 293,400 blood donations.
To me it appears as if the report buries the lead! 8.5% of American men say they have had sex with another man since age 18 (i.e. as an adult). Does that mean that this percentage of the population is "gay"? Not really, since being gay is a complicated combination of identity, self-realization and  resistance to social stigma. However, in my mind the significance of this figure is the demonstration that same-sex sexual attraction among men is more common than is usually reported to the general public.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

SATURDAY POLITICS: Speaker Pérez Passes On Joining Huizar-Molina Race

Oh well, it would have made many Los Angeles political junkies salivate, but former Assembly Speaker John Pérez has decided not to join the Jose Huizar-Gloria Molina battle royale for the right to represent District  14 on the Los Angeles City Council.

Last weekend on Saturday Politics we got the news that the long-serving Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina had decided to challenge the incumbent instead of retiring peacefully after more than 3 decades in elective office.

It's doubtful that Pérez, who is in his mid-40s is thinking about retirement either, could he maybe be eyeing the United States Senate seat currently occupied by Barbara Boxer which could conceivably be an open seat in 2016 if the now-73-year-old junior senator decided to call it a career. Surely his cousin Antonio Villaraigosa, 2-term Mayor of Los Angeles, former Speaker of the Assembly and former 14th District Los Angeles City Councilman would have a better claim to Boxer's seat.

In another interesting twist, Huizar apparently asked Pérez for his endorsement for re-election and Pérez declined to do so.

David Zahniser of the Los Angeles Times quotes Pérez as saying:
“He wasn’t able to convince me to endorse him. He didn’t make a persuasive case,” said Pérez, adding: “I’m happy to do another meeting, with any and all of the candidates.” 
Hmmm, could it be conceivable that Pérez could endorse Molina over Huizar? The mind boggles....

Friday, September 19, 2014

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Li Na Officially Announces Retirement From Tennis

The rumors of Li Na's retirement from tennis have been confirmed when the 2-time major champion posted the following letter to Facebook on Thursday night:
My dear friends,
For close to fifteen years, we’ve been a part of each other’s lives. As a tennis player representing China on the global stage, I’ve trekked around the world playing hundreds of matches on the WTA tour, for China’s Fed Cup team, at the National Games and at several Olympic Games. You’ve always been there for me, supporting me, cheering me on, and encouraging me to reach my potential.
Representing China on the tennis court was an extraordinary privilege and a true honor. Having the unique opportunity to effectively bring more attention to the sport of tennis in China and all over Asia is something I will cherish forever. But in sport, just like in life, all great things must come to an end.
2014 has become one of the most significant years in my career and my life. This year was full of amazing highlights, which included winning my second Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open and sharing the extraordinary experience with my country, my team, my husband and my fans. It was also a year filled with difficult moments, such as having to deal with the inevitable - making the decision to end my professional tennis career.
The amazing moment in Australia was filled with joy, happiness and extraordinary sense of accomplishment. The task of finally making a decision to hang up my racquet felt a lot more difficult than winning seven matches in a row in the Australian heat. It took me several agonizing months to finally come to the decision that my chronic injuries will never again let me be the tennis player that I can be. Walking away from the sport, effective immediately, is the right decision for me and my family.
Most people in the tennis world know that my career has been marked by my troubled right knee. The black brace I wear over it when I step on the court has become my tennis birth mark. And while the brace completes my tennis look, the knee problems have at times overtaken my life.
After four knee surgeries and hundreds of shots injected into my knee weekly to alleviate swelling and pain, my body is begging me to stop the pounding. My previous three surgeries were on my right knee. My most recent knee surgery took place this July and was on my left knee. After a few weeks of post-surgery recovery, I tried to go through all the necessary steps to get back on the court.
While I’ve come back from surgery in the past, this time it felt different. One of my goals was to recover as fast as I could in order to be ready for the first WTA tournament in my hometown of Wuhan. As hard as I tried to get back to being 100%, my body kept telling me that, at 32, I will not be able to compete at the top level ever again. The sport is just too competitive, too good, to not be 100%.
Winning a Grand Slam title this year and achieving a ranking of World No.2 is the way I would like to leave competitive tennis. As hard as it’s been to come to this decision, I am at peace with it. I have no regrets. I was not supposed to be here in the first place, remember? Not many people believed in my talent and my abilities, yet I found a way to persevere, to prove them (and sometimes myself!) wrong.
I’ve succeeded on the global stage in a sport that a few years ago was in its infancy in China. What I’ve accomplished for myself is beyond my wildest dreams. What I accomplished for my country is one of my most proud achievements.
In 2008, there were two professional women’s tennis tournaments in China. Today, there are 10, one of them in Wuhan, my hometown. That to me is extraordinary! Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams – with thirty Grand Slam singles titles among them - are coming to my hometown to play tennis for the fans of China! Just as I didn’t think I could ever be a Grand Slam champion, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that some of the best female athletes in the world could play tennis in Wuhan, in my backyard.
My contributions to the growth of the sport in China are very special to me. But I don’t want to stop here. Together with IMG, my management company, we are putting together various plans on how we will continue to grow the sport of tennis in China. These plans include opening the Li Na Tennis Academy, which will provide scholarships for the future generation of Chinese tennis stars. I will also stay involved in the Right to Play, an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged children overcome challenges through sport. My philanthropic work will expand in scope as I continue to dedicate myself to helping those in need. What was once just a dream in China today is a reality.
On a personal side, I look forward to starting a new chapter of my life, hopefully having a family and reconnecting with those I did not have the luxury of spending a lot of time with while playing. I can’t wait to revisit all the amazing places I played tennis in and see the world through a new set of eyes. I look forward to slowing down and living my life at a new, slower, relaxed pace.
Tennis is an individual sport and as players, our job is to spend a lot of time focusing on ourselves. But no player can ever become a champion alone and nobody knows this better than me. There isn’t enough space here to thank everyone who has travelled on my journey with me and contributed to my success. But I must thank those that have stuck with me through the highs and the lows and have helped me become the person that I am today.

Very sad news :(

Thursday, September 18, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: Justice Ginsburg Gives Hints On How SCOTUS May Act In Pending Marriage Cases

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave some hints at apublic forum recently about how the U.S. Supreme Court may deal with the pending petitions from the 4th, 7th and 10th U.S. Circuits to resolve the question of marriage equality: Look to the 6th Circuit!

Generally, the Supreme Court resolves splits between the Circuits. If the 6th Circuit rules, like all other appellate courts that have reviewed state bans on marriage equality in the last year and  a half that these laws violate the federal constitution then there would be no split to resolve and even though it's an important question, Justice Ginsburg said the Court would feel no urgency to resolve the matter in an absence of a circuit split.

The comments Justice Ginsburg gave  at the University of Minnesota are today's Queer Quote:
Ginsburg said cases pending before the circuit covering Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee would probably play a role in the high court’s timing. She said “there will be some urgency” if that appeals court allows same-sex marriage bans to stand. Such a decision would run contrary to a legal trend favoring gay marriage and force the Supreme Court to step in sooner, she predicted. 
She said if the appeals panel falls in line with other rulings there is “no need for us to rush.”
The Sixth Circuit has heard oral arguments and observes say it could be a 2-1 decision either way. The losing side could then appeal to the full 6th Circuit which has  a majority of judges appointed by Republican presidents. If Justice Ginsburg is right and the Court will wait until the 6th Circuit finally rules, then it is possible after all for marriage equality not to be decided nationwide in the 2014-15 term.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Bobby Jindal Gives Evasive Answers To Questions On Evolution

Not sure if this belongs in Godless Wednesday category but it is something I feel like I need to blog about to alert my fellow godless heathens! Governor Bobby Jindal, currently "praying about whether he will run for President in 2016" and former Rhodes Scholar (to study biology and public policy) refused multiple opportunities from reporters to say whether he believes in evolution or not.

Instead, this is what Jindal said:
"I'm not an evolutionary biologist"
"I will tell you, as a father, I want my kids to be taught about evolution in their schools, but secondly, I think local school districts should make the decision."
"I told you what I think. I think that local school districts, not the federal government, should make the decision about how they teach science, biology, economics. I want my kids to be taught about evolution; I want my kids to be taught about other theories."
This is the same politician who exhorted his fellow Republicans to "stop being the stupid party"! Until ambitious GOP politicians like Jindal stop issuing dog-whistle messages instead of acknowledging scientific truths ("Evolution is a real biological phenomenon. The climate of the earth is being impacted by man-made activity. A blastocyst is not a human being.") they will continue to be thought of as the group of people who puts faith before fact.

And that is just stupid.

Mary Bonauto Wins 2014 MacArthur "Genius" Grant Of $625K

Mary Bonauto, one of the primary architects of the LGBT equality revolution in the courts for the last two decades in her long association with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, has been awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation "Genius" grant.
Bonauto is a civil rights lawyer whose powerful arguments and long-term legal strategies have led to historic strides in the effort to achieve marriage equality for same-sex couples across the United States. The Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) since 1990, much of her early work focused on adoption and parenting, censorship, hate crimes, and discrimination in jobs and public accommodations. 
Mindful of the risks of loss and political backlash when social reform litigation advances ahead of public understanding, Bonauto and her GLAD colleagues initially pursued an incremental, state-based strategy to secure government marriage licenses for same-sex couples in the New England states. Bonauto and Vermont colleagues formed a critical partnership in 1997, which is widely acknowledged as a pivotal time and place to challenge a state's exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage. The Vermont Supreme Court's ruling in Baker v. Vermont (1999) was the first to hold that same-sex couples must be provided all of the same protections and obligations provided to married couples, and the state legislature established the first civil union law in the nation in 2000 to comply with that ruling. GLAD's subsequent filing of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in Massachusetts, relying again on state constitutional guarantees of equality and liberty, resulted in the 2003 landmark decision that made that state the first to extend marriage equality to same-sex couples. Bonauto's constitutional arguments in Goodridge articulated the breadth of the practical and social harms imposed by the state's exclusion on real families and their children. In defending the marriage ruling from attempts to substitute civil unions, she drew on painful lessons from our nation's past, most notably the history of unjust "separate but equal" doctrines as substitutes for racial and gender equality, and the Massachusetts high court was the first to reject civil unions as a substitute for marriage. The Goodridge ruling, the transformative effect of same-sex couples marrying on the public's views, and subsequent legal (in Connecticut), legislative (in Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire), and ballot-based (in Maine) victories all provided a solid foundation and roadmap for future strategies across the nation, including at the federal level. 
In 2009, Bonauto led a team from GLAD and private law firms in the first strategic challenge to section three of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and argued that the federal government's non-recognition of the lawful and rapidly growing number of marriages unconstitutionally denied same-sex couples more than 1,000 federal protections and obligations usually available to married persons. Her case--Gill v. Office of Personnel Management--provided the first federal court wins in challenges to DOMA (in 2010 and 2012 rulings), and served as an important model for United States v. Windsor, the landmark case that ultimately resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down DOMA in 2013 and on which she served as a strategist and external coordinator of friend-of-the-court briefs. In the name of equal treatment and dignity for all people, and in concert with other litigators and advocates across the country, Bonauto is breaking down legal barriers based on sexual orientation and influencing debates about the relationship between the law and momentous social change more broadly. 
Mary L. Bonauto received a B.A. (1983) from Hamilton College and a J.D. (1987) from Northeastern University School of Law. She has been the Civil Rights Project Director at the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) since 1990. Since 2013, she has been the Shikes Fellow in Civil Liberties and Civil Rights and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.
This is amazing news. Two other openly LGBT people also won MacArthur Genius grants this year: Alison Bechdel, the creator of the comic strip "Dykes To Watch Out For" and Samuel Hunter, a playwright.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tennis Tuesday: Slow Part Of Season Ahead; Li Na Retirement Rumor

It's Tuesday so it's the day on the blog we definitely talk about Tennis. The picture associated with today's article was posted to Serena Wlliams instagram feed.

It's the slowest part of the season, when both tours go to Asia and indoor hard courts, counting down to the end-of-season finales in London (ATP) and Singapore (WTA). Serena, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep are the only players who have qualified so far, since 2014 Australian Open champion Li Na is not playing the event (and there are rumors she may be retired by then!)

There are only two ATP Masters 1000 series tournaments remaining, in Shanghai and Paris. There is only one Tier 1 tournament left on the women's side, the China Open in Beijing.

This year there is atleast some excitement that Switzerland might win the Davis Cup for the first time in its history, so Roger Federer could achieve something in tennis that he has not done before. This weekend that dream became closer when Switzerland beat Italy in the semifinal tie and will face France in the Davis Cup final in late November at a French venue on a surface to be named soon.

Monday, September 15, 2014

EYE CANDY: Rob Evans (reprise)

Rob Evans has appeared as Eye Candy once before (May 16, 2011). Since then his profile has increased dramatically with his appearance on America's Next Top Model as a judge in 2012. Evans is 26-years-old and 6-foot-3. He has an impressive presence on social media outlets: Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

2014 DAVIS CUP: Switzerland Versus France In Final Nov 21-23

For the first time in 22 years, Switzerland will be competing to take the Davis Cup home. They will face France, who is competing for its 10th Davis Cup. Switzerland has World #3 Roger Federer and World #4 Stan Wawrinka while France has 4 former (and future) Top 10 players at its disposal: Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. France beat defending champions Czech Republic 4-1 this weekend while Switzerland beat Italy 3-2 with Federer contributing two singles victories while sitting out the doubles.

The final will be played November 21-23.

Equality California's 2014 List Of LGBT-Supportive Legislation

Equality California has a list of legislation that it has been able to get passed by the California Legislature in 2014.
Modernize birth certificates: AB 1951, authored by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, modernizes California birth certificates by allowing parents to choose to self-designate as “father,” “mother” or “parent,” eliminating inaccurate designations and confusion for same-sex parents.
Provide LGBT cultural competency for health care providers: AB 496, authored by Assemblymember Rich Gordon, clarifies that existing cultural competency training for health care providers should include discussion of LGBT issues.
End the “panic” defense: AB 2501, Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, eliminates the so-called “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses, outrageous tactics used by defendants who claim their violent acts were triggered by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Encourage Respect After Death: AB 1577, the Respect After Death Act, authored by Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins and cosponsored by the Transgender Law Center, would make sure death certificates for transgender Californians accurately reflect their authentic, lived identity.
End discrimination in blood donor procedures: AJR 50, authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom, urges the President to be an agent of change so that FDA blood donation eligibility policies will be based on modern scientific research and findings rather than archaic assumptions and fears.
This is a pretty good list!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

SATURDAY POLITICS: Molina Announces Challenge To L.A. Councilman Huizar

A political earthquake is reverberating around Los Angeles with the announcement that L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina is going to challenge incumbent Los Angeles City councilman Jose Huizar in the March 2015 municipal primary election.

The Los Angeles Times reports:
With less than three months before she is termed-out after serving more than two decades as a supervisor, Molina said she isn't ready to end her work as a public servant. The 66-year-old said she was concerned about the level of city services being provided in parts of Huizar's district, which stretches from Boyle Heights to Eagle Rock. She also voiced alarm over the lack of women politicians at City Hall. 
Molina has been a major presence on the Eastside over the last 23 years, representing a district that stretches from East L.A. to Claremont. During a lunchtime interview in El Sereno, Molina said she was concerned about the financial health of the city. She also argued that parts of Huizar's district, particularly Boyle Heights, have not received enough attention from city officials. 
Huizar spokesman Rick Coca responded with a statement from the councilman touting his work in the district, which includes El Sereno, part of Highland Park and most of downtown.  
“From revitalizing Broadway and helping create thousands of jobs downtown, to building new parks, to championing groundbreaking pedestrian-, bike- and business-friendly policies that are the model for the entire city, the service to Council District 14 constituents has never been higher and I look forward to continuing to serve as their councilmember for the next four years," Huizar said.
I happen to live in the 14th City Council District so I shall be watching this election quite closely. Some political observers say it will be beneficial to the residents of the district if a competitive electoral battle to represent us at the City Council.

Friday, September 12, 2014

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Marin Cilic and Serena Williams Pose With U.S. Open Trophy

The winners of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis championship, Serena Williams and Marin Cilic are this week's celebrity friday choices. Cilic, in particular made the rounds of numerous television shows following his win over Kei Nishikori on Monday afternoon. He appeared on David Letterman and read the Top 10.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Massachusetts May Elect Two Openly Gay Statewide Candidates In November

Maura Healey and Steve Kerrigan won the Democratic nominations for Attorney General  and Lieutenant Governor in Massachusetts on Tuesday. Both Healey and Kerrigan are openly gay, and if both are elected in this dark blue state, they would make history as the first time two openly gay politicians are elected statewide simultaneously.

MassEquality, the state's LGBT political advocacy organization, said:
“Each of our endorsed candidates is a champion of LGBTQ equality and we are so proud of their hard work over these last weeks and months that led up to yesterday’s election. Martha Coakley and Maura Healey’s records of game-changing action and accomplishment across the full range of issues impacting LGBTQ people offer hope for the challenges that remain to be tackled, and their triumphs are victories for full LGBTQ equality. They stand poised to make history as the Commonwealth’s first elected female Governor and the country’s first openly gay Attorney General, and MassEquality’s tens of thousands of members will be working hard over the next eight weeks to drive Massachusetts toward these historic milestones whose time has come.”
Congratulations to Kerrigan and Healey!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SCOTUS TO Consider 7(!) Marriage Equality Appeals On Friday September 29

There are now seven(!) marriage equality cases from four different states pending before the United States Supreme Court. On September 29th the Court will likely consider how to dispose of thousands of writs of certiorari that include appeals from the 10th Circuit (Utah and Oklahoma), the 4th Circuit (Virginia) and the 7th Circuit (Indiana and Wisconsin). There currently is no circuit split, because every appellate court decision released since last year's landmark United States v Windsor decision has resulted in a win for the cause of marriage equality.

The 9th Circuit heard oral arguments in two cases on Monday (from Nevada and Idaho) and the 6th Circuit has already heard oral arguments earlier this summer and a decision from either court could be issued at any time. It is thought likely that the Supreme Court may hold over deciding any of the pending certs until the 6th and or 9th circuits release their decisions.

However, regardless it is unlikely the Court will be able to escape resolving the fundamental question of whether marriage equality is part of the United States constitution beyond the end of the 2014-15 term which ends in June.

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Air Force Insists On "So Help Me God" Pledge For Enlistees

Just in time for Godless Wednesday comes the news that the U.S. Air Force is refusing to allow an airman to re-enlist if they do not agree to abide by a pledge which includes the words "So Help Me God."

The Air Times reports that the text of the oath (which is part of DD Form 4) reads:
 “I, [insert name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
The story goes on to say that the American Humanists Association (AHA) is threatening to sue the federal government if they do not allow the airman to re-enlist before his current enlistment period expires in November 2014 with a pledge that does not violate his religious freedom. Then this happened:
The AHA said the airman crossed out the last four words in that oath, and was told Aug. 25 that the Air Force would not accept it for that reason. The airman was told his only options were to sign the religious oath section of the contract without adjustment and recite an oath concluding with “so help me God,” or leave the Air Force, the AHA said. 
 The AHA said that is unconstitutional and unacceptable and that Article VI of the Constitution prohibits requiring religious tests to hold an office or public trust.  
 The Air Force used to allow airmen to omit the phrase “so help me God” if they so chose. But an Oct. 30, 2013, update to Air Force Instruction 36-2606, which spells out the active-duty oath of enlistment, dropped that option. Since that quiet update to the AFI, airmen have been required to swear an oath to a deity when they enlist or reenlist.  
 The Air Force said last week that the change was made to bring its oath in line with the statutory requirement under Title 10 USC 502. The Air Force said it cannot change its AFI to make “so help me God” optional unless Congress changes the statute mandating the oath.
The Air Force said they are going to try and get an interpretation from the Department of Defense General Counsel to find out what position they can take. It seems pretty clear that if Title 10 USC 502 requires the swearing of an oath to a deity that it is unconstitutional on its face. The problem is that the federal judiciary tends to defer to the military and executive branch on these kinds of questions.

It is always astonishing to me that people who believe in God say that they are the oppressed group when it is clear to any impartial observer that the decks are stacked against non-believers.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tennis Tuesday: Murray Pushed Out Of World Top 10 By Cilic and Nishikori

The impact of the results of the year's last grand slam tournament are being seen in the new rankings of the WTA and ATP. Men's U.S. Open finalists Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori made big moves in the Top 10, ending up at #6 and #9, respectively. However, with players entering the Top 10 that means some players will get pushed out. Notably absent from the Top 10 is Andy Murray who fell two places to #11 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who also fell two places to reach #12. Another player who made a big jump in the rankings is Gael Monfils who is now at #18.

On the women's side, the finalists Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki spent the night after they competed against each other in the 2014 U.S Open women's final by partying together. Wozniacki is ensconced at #9 while Serena extends her run at the #1 to 205 weeks and will almost certainly surpass Martina Hingis total of 209 weeks in the next month or so. Wozniacki's return to the Top 10 pushed out Jelena Jankovic. At the very top of the rankings Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova all went up a notch while Li Na fell out of the Top 5 for the first time in over a year.

Monday, September 08, 2014

2014 US OPEN: Cilic Beats Nishikori To Win 1st Major Title

As I predicted yesterday, Marin Cilic of Croatia defeated Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3 6-3 6-3 in just under 2 hours to win the 2014 U.S. Open men's championship, the first time a player outside of the Top 10 had won a major since Pete Sampras did it as the #17 seed in 2002 (to win his 14th major).
It was the first major final for both competitors, and the first time since January 2005 Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic were not among the finalists of a grand slam. On Saturday #1 seed Djokovic and #2 Federer were both defeated (by Nishikori and Cilic, respectively) in two of the biggest upsets the sport has ever seen on the same day.

Both players will be in the Top 10 when the new ATP rankings are released, with Nishikori moving up to a career high #8 and Cilic right behind him at a career high of #9. Cilic becomes the first player from Croatia to win a major title since his coach Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon (as a wild card!) in 2001.

Cilic played incredibly well at the most crucial stage of the tournament, winning his quarterfinal, semifinal and final matches in straight sets, the first person to do that at the U.S. Open since Federer did it in 2007. Nishikori, on the other hand played, two gripping 5-sets, 4-hour matches in the 4th round (d. #5 seed Milos Raonic) and quarterfinal (d. #3 seed Stan Wawrinka) before beating #1 seed Djokovic in 4 sets and 3 hours on Saturday. As I suspected, that was simply too muvh tennis (more mentally than physically) for one person to handle and Cilic reaped the rewards today.


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