Friday, October 31, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: Apple CEO Tim Cook Comes Out Publicly

Tim Cook, the chief executive officer of Apple, has finally publicly acknowledged what many people have known for quite awhile: he is an openly gay man. In a first-person essay published today in Bloomberg Businessweek Cook says:

 Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.
With openly gay Cook as its head Apple has been quite successful, and has flirted with becoming the largest market capitalization of any US corporation in recent years.

Congratulations, Mr. Cook!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Oklahoma's Ten Commandments Monument Destroyed By Vandal

This news story about the destruction of a monument of the Ten Commandments at the Oklahoma State Capitol caught my eye. There are multiple interesting aspects of the story, in my opinion. The very first was: Oklahoma has a monument to the Ten Commandments on state property? How is that legal? The second one was, "Good for you, vandal, for ending this violation of church-state separation, although I do not approve of your methods." Third was, I wonder who did it?"

It turns out the person who did it is not a godless heathen, but a different kind of crazy person. According to KFOR:
OKLAHOMA CITY – A man has been taken in for mental evaluation after allegedly vandalizing the Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma State Capitol. 
U.S. Secret Service Agents say it all started after a man walked into the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City Friday morning making strange threats against the President and Federal Government.
Agents say he then admitted to them that he crashed his car into the Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol, then left his damaged car and walked to the Federal Building.
The Secret Service says the man told them that Satan made him crash his car into the statue.
He also told agents that Satan told him to urinate on the statue.
According to investigators, the man says he is bipolar and had been off his medication for quite some time.
Interestingly the ACLU and the Satanists both condemned the man's actions, with the ACLU saying it was "outraged at this apparent act of vandalism" while the Satanic Temple says it still wants a monument next to the Ten Commandments one,"we want it to compliment and contrast the Ten Commandments, with both standing unmolested as a testament to American religious freedom and tolerance."

Wouldn't it just be easier if we followed the law and legal principle that the state shall not endorse or promote any religion by refusing to enact monuments with clear religious meanings on state property maintained by taxpayer funds? I'm jus' saying...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

TENNIS TUESDAY: Serena, Federer, Murray Win Titles; Ivanovic To Rise To World #5

Long May She Reign
Serena Williams ended her 2014 like she did the last three years: she won the last major of the year (the US Open) and also won the season-ending championships. This year she beat Simona Halep 6-3 6-0 to confirm her status as the #1 player in the world for 2014, surprisingly, she has only achieved the year-end #1 ranking three times before: 2002, 2009 and 2013. It's pretty incredible that at age 33 Serena is playing some of her best tennis and 2015 look like it could be a great year. (I expect her to win at least two majors).

Ivanovic Ends Year Ranked World #5; Most Wins On Tour With 58
While Serena is not exactly dominating the WTA Tour one thing that makes the women's tennis interesting to watch is the changing cast of characters who keep trying to challenge for the top of the game: Victoria Azarenka (injured), Li Na (retired), Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Genie Bouchard, Simona Halep and now Ana Ivanovic. Ivanovic had a fantastic 2014, winning more matches on tour than anyone else (58), six more than Serena. She will be rewarded by ending the year at #5 in the World, her first time in the true elite of women's tennis since 2009. If she has solved her issues with mental toughness then Ivanovic has the game to challenge for majors in 2015.

Federer Wins Basel For 6th Time And Has World #1 In Sight
Federer played in his 11th final in his home town of Basel Switzerland this weekend and won his 6th title there, easily beating David Goffin 6-2 6-2. It was only Goffin's 3rd loss in his last 46 matches played (generally at smaller events on tour). The title was Federer's 82nd tour title, placing him 3rd on the all time list, behind Ivan Lendl's 94 (which I think Federer has a pretty good chance of reaching if he retires in 2016) and Jimmy Connors' incredible 109. He has an overall record of 82-41 in tour finals. More importantly, Djokovic is defending 2500 points in the next two tournaments. Federer has to earn 500 more points than Djokovic to become #1, that would probably entail beating him in atleast one of those finals, or Djokovic failing to reach one of the finals.

Murray Wins Match After Saving 5 Match Points Against Robredo. Again!
Andy Murray basically secured his place at the ATP World Tour Finals in London by winning his second title in as many weeks by defeating a Spanish dirtballer. The Scot won his 31st career titles (out of 45 finals) by coming back from 5 match points down to beat Tommy Robredo in one of the best matches of the year 3-6 7-6(7) 7-6(8). With Nadal's season over and Murray currently at #5 on the list he is almost certain to qualify for London as long as he wins a match at the Paris Masters this week. This was Robredo's reaction at the net when the match was over:

Monday, October 27, 2014

EYE CANDY: Kyle Goffney

Kyle Goffney is a 25-year-old model living in Los Angeles who is 6-feet tall and weighs 175 pounds, according to his ModelMayhem profile page. There he also discusses his racial background, claiming to be "3/4 African-American and 1/4 Thai." He has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Kyle has been a Man Crush Model of the Day. I think you all can see why!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

2014 WTA YEC: Serena Routs Halep To Win 3rd Consecutive YEC; 5th Of Career

Serena Williams got quick revenge for her bad loss earlier in the week to Simona Halep by winning the 2014 WTA Year-Ending Championship final 6-3 6-0. Serena's win means that she has won the year-ending championship three consecutive years and five times in her career (2001 d. Lindsay Davenport (walkover), 2009 d. Venus Williams, 2012 d. Maria Sharapova, 2013 d. Li Na and 2014). She is now tied with Stefi Graf with the number of year-ending championships but is behind Martina Navratilova's eight. She also matches Monica Seles' feat of winning three consecutive year-ending championships. It is Serena's 64th career title.

Serena ends the year 52-8, a surprisingly large number of losses for the World #1, including an improbable 3 losses this year to Alize Cornet, but notably none to World #2 Maria Sharapova (whom she has not lost to in over a decade) or last year's rival Victoria Azarenka.

However, the most important aspect of her tennis year was that she won another major, her 18th at the US Open in September, tying her with Chris Evert and Navratilova. 2015 will be all about breaking that tie and trying to reach Graf's seemingly unsurmountable 22 majors before she retires.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nadal Loses To 17-Year-Old Coric; Ends Season; Will Miss Paris and London

Well, well, well! We first mentioned 17-year-old Croatian Borna Coric's name here a few weeks ago as a potential heir to the throne of "hottest guy on ATP Tour" but I had no idea we would be discussing him again so soon. With his stunning defeat of Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the Swiss Indoors in Basel, Coric gave Nadal the final push out the door to end his injury-plagued season. Nadal lost 6-2 7-6(4) and then announced he had scheduled his delayed appendicitis surgery for November 3rd and would be skipping the ATP Paris Masters and the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
'It's the day to say goodbye to the season,'' Nadal said. ''It's been a very hard year for me, mentally and physically. I'm not going to play Paris and London, I'm not competitive enough for that. I need to do the surgery for my appendix and I need to work on my back.''I need five weeks of rest and I want to have one month to try to work as much as I can to be ready for 2015. The only way to work on being fit is to be healthy. I need to fix all the things in my body first.''
Although 2014 was a mediocre year overall for Nadal he still won a major (his record 9th French Open) so there's no reason to shed any tears for him! Nadal's departure from the tour should turn the focus on the battle between father of four Roger Federer and brand-new dad Novak Djokovic for the year-end #1 ranking. If Federer beats David Goffin tomorrow in the finals of Basel he will be a mere 500 points behind the World #1 as they both play the Paris and London tournaments.  Nadal's departure also means that it is more likely Andy Murray will qualify for the big show in London, and possible re-enter the conversation at the top of men's tennis.

Things could get interesting down the final stretch of the tennis season!

Friday, October 24, 2014

2014 WTA YEC: Serena Clinches #1 When Sharapova Misses Semis

World #1 Serena Williams clinched the year-end top ranking today when World #2 Maria Sharapova failed to win her match against Agnieska Radwanska in straight sets (despite being a set and 5-1 up!) and therefore failed to exit the round-robin of the ETA Tour Finals in Singapore. Williams is the defending champion and although she, Ana Ivanovic and Simona Halep all won 2 matches and lost 1 in their group, only Halep and Williams advanced. In the other group, Caroline Wozniacki is the only undefeated player and despite losing to Sharapova, Radwanska qualified for the semifinals.

The results mean that Serena will play Wozniacki in a reprise of the 2014 US Open final (won by Serena) and Radwanska will play Halep. I suspect we will see a Williams-Halep final, although I would not be surprised to see a Wozniacki-Halep final (or even Wozniacki-Radwanska) instead. Serena having clinched the #1 ranking probably does not care too much about winning her 3rd consecutive year-ending championship. If Serena does make it past Wozniacki (which is more likely than not, then I suspect her match with Halep will be very different from the 0-6 2-6 drubbing she received earlier this week).

The surprise of the tournament was that the power hitters of Petra Kvitova and Sharapova failed to make it through the round robin section to the semifinals..

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Novak Djokovic's Son Stefan Is Born

Novak Djokovic managed to time the birth of his son Stefan to minimize the impact on his quest to earn the #1 ATP Ranking for 2014. Djokovic's wife Jelena gave birth to their son on Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: Obama Says Right To Same-Sex Marriage Exists In Federal Constitution

Ptersident Barack Obama gave an interview with The New Yorker where he expresses his belief explicitly that the United States Constitution's Equal Protection clause guarantees marriage equality for same-sex couples.

This excerpt from his conversation with Jeffrey Toobin is today's Queer Quote:
“Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states. But, as you know, courts have always been strategic. There have been times where the stars were aligned and the Court, like a thunderbolt, issues a ruling like Brown v. Board of Education, but that’s pretty rare. And, given the direction of society, for the Court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting.”
Obama also named the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to refuse to hear appeals from three appellate circuits on Monday October 6th and effectively causing marriage equality to go into effect in roughly 35 states as the "the best Supreme Court decision of his tenure."
“In some ways, the decision that was just handed down to not do anything about what states are doing on same-sex marriage may end up being as consequential—from my perspective, a positive sense—as anything that’s been done. Because I think it really signals that although the Court was not quite ready—it didn’t have sufficient votes to follow Loving v. Virginia and go ahead and indicate an equal-protection right across the board—it was a consequential and powerful signal of the changes that have taken place in society and that the law is having to catch up.”
Elections have consequences, people!

2014 WTA YEC: SHOCK! Serena Loses 8th Bagel Set Of Career To Halep In 6-0 6-2 Defeat

Well, well, well! The question of how Serena Williams would do at this year's WTA Tour Championships were front and center when she was put in the same round-robin section as the three "It" girls of 2014 (Ana Ivanovic, Simona Halep and Genie Bouchard) was answered on Wednesday. The 18-time major champion won the fewest number of games in a professional match in 16 years, i.e. since she was just starting on the tour. Against Halep, every part of Serena's game was off and she quickly lost the first set 0-6, only the 8th bagel set of her career (managing to win only 7 points). She then lost the second set 6-2, ending her 16 match winning streak at the Year-Ending Championships.

The loss by Serena means that it is very likely that Sharapova could end the year at #1. If Serena fails to make it out of the round-robin group (in order to do so she needs to beat Genie Bouchard in straight sets) then Sharapova will only need to reach the final to become the new #1 ranked player in the world.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Now There Are 32! Wyoming Becomes Marriage Equality State

Just a few days after Arizona became the 31st state with marriage equality, another red state has joined the throng of marriage equality states today when Wyoming abandoned its fruitless legal battle in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's October 6 decision to not hear an appeal of two appellate circuits (the 4th and the 10th)  rulings that the federal constitution requires marriage equality.

What this means is that in 32 states (see map), same-sex couples can get married while there are three more states (Kansas, Montana and South Carolina) where federal appellate court rulings indicate that laws banning marriage equality are presumed unconstitutional, since a federal appellate court has said so about a sister state's laws in the same circuit.

This also means that there are for more states where same-sex couples can get married than where there are LGBT-based civil rights laws. This means that a couple can get married, and if their boss finds out about it, they can be fired from their job due to their sexual orientation and there is no state or federal legal recourse.

I suspect that this dispute will be the next phase of the LGBT equality movement, but it will take an affirmative change in public policy in a lot of these states where same-sex couples are brave enough to take advantage of their right to marry has been recognized by federal judges to change the state's laws.

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

Monday, October 20, 2014

EYE CANDY: Ajay King

According to his Model Mayhem profile, Ajay King is a 31-year-old male model who is 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds. He is from Los Angeles.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

2014 WTA YEC: Serena and Sharapova Drawn Into Separate Groups

The Year-End Championships of the WTA tour is starting Monday in Singapore. World #1 Serena Williams won the title the last two years (d. Li Na in 2013 and d. Maria Sharapova in 2012). In order for Serena to end 2014 as #1 she will need to win at least 460 points more than Sharapova, which means that she either has to win the tournament for the fourth consecutive time she has played it, or Sharapova has to not reach the semifinal stage.

The draw has Serena in the Red Group which also includes Simona Halep, Genie Bouchard and Ana Ivanovic. Sharapova is in the White Group, which includes: Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova and Agnieska Radwanska.

The tournament should be very compelling, because it will feature match-ups for the first time this year between Serena and the two breakout stars of 2014: Wimbledon finalist Bouchard and Roland Garros finalist Halep. On the other side of the draw, Sharapova will definitely play 2-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova and US Open finalist Wozniacki.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Politics: SCOTUS Allows Texas' Unabashedly Racist Voter Suppression Law To Go Into Effect

As I discussed last Saturday, the politics of who will vote is becoming increasingly salient as Election Day 2014 approaches. Today, the bad guys won a big one when the Supreme Court in a 6-3 vote (boys against girls) decided to allow Texas's new voter suppression identification law go into effect for the 2014 election while the federal courts consider the law on its merits, even though a federal judge has already declared that the 2011 law intentionally has a disparate impact on minorities.
A divided Supreme Court handed a big defeat to the Obama administration and numerous civil rights groups early Saturday morning when it ruled that Texas can enforce its 2011 voter ID law in November that some have called the strictest in the country. Three justices dissented from the ruling that rejected an emergency request that had been filed by the Justice Department and civil rights groups. 
The decision appears to mark “the first time since 1982 that the Court has allowed a law restricting voters’ rights to be enforced after a federal court had ruled it to be unconstitutional,” notes Scotus Blog’s Lyle Denniston. A federal judge had struck down the law last week, saying that some 600,000 voters—mostly black or Latino—would face difficulties at the polls due to a lack of proper identification. The law, which was approved in 2011 but only came in effect in 2013 lays out seven approved forms of identification—a list many have questioned for including concealed handgun licenses but not college IDs, notes the Associated Press. 
This marked the fourth time over the last few weeks that the Supreme Court has been forced to decide whether voter ID laws passed by Republican state legislatures can be used in November. The justices voted to allow changes in Ohio and North Carolina and stopped a new law in Wisconsin. 
An article in Slate magazine by Jamelle Bouie questions whether voter identification laws are based in partisanship or racism and comes out in favor of partisanship. Regardless, the effect and impact of the enactment of voter "identification" laws is negatively impact the voting power of racial minorities.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Arizona Becomes 31st State With Marriage Equality!

Arizona joined the growing number of states (31) that allow same-sex couples to get married when a federal judge struck down the Grand Canyon state's ban on marriage equality today. The judge based his decision on the 9th Circuit's ruling last week striking down Nevada's and Idaho's bans on marriage equality and refused to put a stay on its effect.

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Neil Patrick Harris Will Host The 2015 Oscars

Well, well, well! Last year's host of the Oscars was openly gay Ellen Degeneres. Ellen is a hard act to follow, but openly gay Neil Patrick Harris will have that opportunity on February 22, 2015. Harris, who has previously hosted the Emmys and the Tonys was announced as the next host of the Oscars:
Oscar hosting is considered a primo gig, but it isn’t easy. The host needs to maintain the show’s energy, both for the audience inside the Dolby Theatre and for the millions of TV viewers. There is always a guessing game on hosts, but there are a limited number of individuals who have shown their talent in such a role. Ellen DeGeneres was successful at the March 2 rites, but apparently was reluctant even then to do it, and didn’t want to do it for the 2015 ceremony.  
The March 2 ceremonies attracted the biggest Oscar viewership in 14 years, according to the Academy. It drew an average audience of 45.4 million total viewers, delivering a 13.7 rating among adults 18–49 (Live+7). 
Harris is currently co-starring in the current hit movie Gone Girl which may have a significant presence at the 2015 Oscars. He is the winner of 5 Oscars (3 for hosting various award ceremonies).
Maybe he will win one more for hosting the Oscars? Also, now all he is missing is the opportunity to host the Grammys and he will have achieved the EGOT of hosting.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

TENNIS TUESDAY: Resurgent Federer Reclaims World #2 Ranking; Post-Williams Era Beginning?

Federer Returns To World #2 And Aims Higher
After winning his fourth title of 2014 at the Shanghai Masters, Roger Federer is making an improbable run for the ATP Tour World #1 ranking by returning to #2 and is now only 990 points behind Novak Djokovic for year-to-date points, with the World #1 having to defend a whole bunch more points than Federer does in the final stretch of the year. With Rafael Nadal contending with appendicitis for the rest of the season, it should make life that much easier for the 17-time major champion to reach the World #1 ranking again, which he has already held for a record 302 weeks.

Has The Post-Williams Era Of American Tennis Begun?
Since Melanie Oudin won a title in 2012 the only American players who had won titles on the WTA Tour have been named Williams until this year when Madison Keys won her first title in Eastbourne (on grass). American Ali Riske won her first title at the Tianjin Open this weekend and earlier this summer Coco Vandeweghe also won her first title. Is this what the post-Williams era will look like?

Serena Reaches 210 Weeks At #1, Surpasses Hingis, Now #4 Behind Graf, Navratilova, Evert
Not so fast to dismiss the William sisters! The current World #1 has now been in that spot for 87 consecutive weeks, racking up 210 career weeks at #1, and this means that she has surpassed Martin Hingis. She is now (only!) 50 weeks behind Chris Evert's 260 weeks.

Could Sharapova Be The Next World #1?
Interestingly, Serena's arch-nemesis Maria Sharapova who has not been able beat her for over a decade (and 15 tries) may actually end the year at #1 if (as expected) Serena does not play the WTA Year-End Championships in Singapore starting next weekend. Serena is the defending champion but because she is only 566 points ahead of Sharapova for the year-to-date if she loses all those points all Sharapova would have to do is reach the semifinals and she would clinch the year-end #1. It's interesting that both Federer and Sharapova are in similar positions at #2 challenging for the World #1 at the end of the year. I'm sure that for Serena staying healthy enough to win Slam #19 is more important than the Year-End #1.

There's Always Someone Younger and Hotter
Looks like Grigor Dimitrov's days as the hottest player on tour (figuratively and literally) may be numbered. Check out this picture of 17-year-old Borna Coric on the cover of Croatia's Men's Health.

Monday, October 13, 2014

EYE CANDY: Ron K. Williams

Ron K. Williams is a Black male model from San Jose, California. According to his Model Mayhem profile he is 26-years-old, 6-feet tall and weighs 170 pounds. I think his best feature is his smooth, chocolate-hued skin. What do you think?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

2014 SHANGHAI: Federer Wins 23rd Masters Shield, 81st ATP Title

One day after outplaying World #1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the 2014 Shanghai Masters 6-4 6-4, Roger Federer defeated Gilles Simon to win his 81st career title and 23rd ATP Masters Shield. It was the first time Federer has won the tournament in Shanghai, which is generally rated by the players as their favorite tournament on the tour. Djokovic was nursing a 28-match winning streak on Chinese soil but this was ended by his loss to Federer, who maintains his edge in their overall head-to-head 19-17 now.

It was Federer's 4th title of 2014 and demonstrates the difference between this year and next for the Greatest Player Of All Time. In 2013 he only won one title (at Halle on grass) only reached three finals and ended the year ranked #6. With this win, Federer will return to #2 in the rankings and he has been in 9 finals this year, including the Wimbledon Final (l. Djokovic) and he has won two masters shields (Cincinnati and Shanghai), Halle (for the 7th time in 9 finals) and Dubai. He lost in the finals of three Masters tournaments: Indian Wells (l. Djokovic), Toronto (l. Tsonga) and Monte Carlo (l. Wawrinka).

Now There Are 30!! Federal Judge Strikes Down Alaska Ban On Marriage Equality!

According to Freedom to Marry, on Friday October 10 there were 29 states (not 27, as I declared in a blog post published that day) where same-sex couples can get married. Then, Freedom to Marry summarized the state of play thusly:
In 29 states - CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IA, IL, IN, ME, MD, MA, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV and WI, plus Washington, D.C. - same-sex couples have the freedom to marry.  
In an additional six states - AK, AZ, KS, MT, SC, and WY - federal appellate rulings have set a binding precedent in favor of the freedom to marry, meaning the path is cleared for the freedom to marry there.

As of Sunday evening, even that number (29) is out of date, since Alaska's ban on same-sex marriages was struck down by a federal judge in Hamby v. Parnell just hours ago. As Joe Jervis notes, that brings the number of marriage equality states to 30. Last week at this time the number was 19!

The judge demolishes the state's arguments in his written opinion and delivers  the coup de grace to all heterosexual supremacists with this quote:
In sum, any relationship between Alaska’s same-sex marriage laws and the government interests asserted by Defendants is either nonexistent or purely speculative. Alaska’s same-sex marriage laws are a prime example of how “the varying treatment of different groups or persons is so unrelated to the achievement of any combination of legitimate purposes that we can only conclude that the legislature’s actions were irrational.” Refusing the rights and responsibilities afforded by legal marriage sends the public a government-sponsored message that same-sex couples and their familial relationships do not warrant the status, benefits, and dignity given to couples of the opposite sex. This Court finds that Alaska’s same-sex marriage laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment because no state interest provides “exceedingly persuasive justification” for the significant infringement of rights that they inflict upon homosexual individuals.
Bizarrely, Gov. Sean Parnell (R-Alaska) announced that he is going to appeal this ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which just announced on Tuesday that it was striking down Idaho's and Nevada's bans on marriage equality. Isn't insanity doing the same thing over and over again and hoping to hey a different result? Then again, Parnell is running for re-election so maybe he feels like he needs to appear as if he is "defending marriage."

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Politics: Voting Rights Becomes Salient Issue As Election Day Approaches

The fight to exercise the right to vote has become more salient as Election Day gets closer and closer. Republicans are generally trying to make voting more difficult while Democrats are trying to make sure that everyone can vote. Legislatures in red states where Republicans have full control have passed multiple measures reducing early voting days, enacting voter identification laws in the name of "reducing voter fraud."

In the past week there have been important court actions from federal judges (including the U.S. Supreme Court) involving voting rights in states like Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina and Ohio.

Prominent Election Law expert Rick Hasen describes these actions in an article for Slate magazine:
As I explained in a recent Slate column, ultimately at issue in the Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas cases is how broadly courts are going to intervene to protect voting rights in states where Republican legislatures have made it harder to register and to vote. All the cases raise claims under the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Ultimately, the Supreme Court could well side with the conservative judges in the courts below who have read these protections narrowly and not worried too much about the risk of voter disenfranchisement, rather than siding with the more liberal judges who have blocked restrictive laws for hurting minority voters, poor voters, and others. 
But none of these cases so far reached (or will reach) the Supreme Court as fully formed final cases. Instead, they have come up on emergency requests to block lower court orders that were put into effect just weeks before the election. The rulings have had election officials scrambling in Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin to comply with new, and sometimes conflicting, court orders.
Meanwhile, in Illinois progressives have an opportunity to go on the offensive in the "War on Voting" this November when voters will decide whether to include a voting rights amendment to their state constitution.

The Illinois Right To Vote amendment reads:
No person shall be denied the right to register to vote or to cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or income.
It may come as a surprise but there is no official right to vote in the United States Constitution. It seems to me that getting such language in as many states as possible is a necessary (but not sufficient!) step to insure that our democracy remains functional.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Federer-Djokovic XXXVI: 2014 Shanghai Semifinals

For the 36th time in their professional tennis careers, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will meet on ATP tour. The two have met four times in 2014 and they have split the meetings, but Djokovic won their most important meeting this year, in the 2014 Wimbledon final, eventually winning 6-4 in the 5th set. Overall, Federer (barely) leads their head-to-head 18-17 while Djokovic leads 6-4 in finals.

Djokovic is on an incredible 29-match winning streak in the continent of Asia, a run which stretches all the way back to the 2010 Shanghai Masters semifinal where he was beaten 7-5 6-4 by Federer. Can lightning strike twice? I hope (and believe) that it can. Federer is playing with borrowed time since he saved five(!) match points against Leonardo Mayer to clinch the #2 ranking on Wednesday while Djokovic has struggled somewhat, dropping a set against Mikhail Kukushkin on Thursday.

Regardless of what happens in the match, due to Rafael Nadal's losing his last two matches played (to lefties Martin Klizan and Feliciano Lopez), Federer will return to World #2 on Monday. With Nadal currently experiencing appendicitis but refusing to get surgery until he finishes off the season by playing the Paris Masters and the World Tour Finals it is possible that Federer could end the 2014 year at World #2.

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: 17-Year-Old Malala Wins 2014 Nobel Peace Prize!

Well, this news warms my feminist heart! Malala, the Pakistani girl who somehow survived despite being shot in head two years ago by the Taliban for advocating that girls be given access to education has now won the Nobel Peace Prize!
At the age of just 17, Malala is the youngest ever recipient of the prize. 
The teenager was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in October 2012 for campaigning for girls' education. She now lives in Birmingham in the UK. 
Malala said she was "honoured" to receive the award, saying it made her feel "more powerful and courageous". 
She revealed she found out the news after being called out of her chemistry class at her school in Birmingham. 
"I'm really happy to be sharing this award with a person from India," she said at a news conference, before joking that she couldn't pronounce Mr Satyarthi's surname. 
The Nobel committee praised the pair's "struggle against the suppression of children and young people".

27 States Now Have Marriage Equality!

The march to a  nation of marriage equality made another huge step today when  Nevada and West Virginia became the 26th and 27th states where same-sex couples can get legally married.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

NGLTF Changes Its Name To National LGBTQ Task Force

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the nation's oldest political advocacy organization devoted to LGBT equality announced on Wednesday that it was changing its name to "the National LGBTQ Task Force" and rebranding itself in multiple ways.

According to the press release announcing the change:

The organization’s new name is the National LGBTQ Task Force, its tagline is “Be you,” and its vision is a society that values and respects the diversity of human expression and identity and achieves freedom and equity for all.
The new more inclusive name adds bisexual, transgender and queer to lesbian and gay in the form of LGBTQ. The new tagline “Be You” speaks to the desire for freedom to be yourself in a just society — and also points to the remaining barriers that still exist for LGBTQ people and their families in experiencing real freedom. The evolved brand, with a new logo, color palette and website is designed to put forth the organization’s values, mission and strategic direction.
It's interesting that they included the "Q" as the more typical acronym for "the sexual minority community" is the LGBT community. What do you think?

BOOK REVIEW: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie's debut novel Ancillary Justice is the most celebrated work of science fiction of the year, perhaps the most heralded science fiction debut of all time. In 2014 Ancillary Justice won the Nebula, Hugo, British Science Fiction, Locus and Arthur C. Clarke awards. Happily, the sequel, Ancillary Sword was just released on October 7th.

With such a distinguished pedigree I was very anxious to read the book and placed it on the top of my priority list for my birthday wishlist on However, I think due to the ongoing battle between Amazon and Hachette Book Group, the book my husband ordered did not show up on my birthday but instead was delayed in transit several weeks. Several weeks? Yipes! So, I took measures into my own hands and found a copy of the book sitting at the Los Angeles Public Library, which is the copy I read to write this review.

Here is the blurb on the back of the book that describes Ancillary Justice:
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. 
Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. 
Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
Ancillary Justice is definitely an intriguing and well-written book. But is it an enjoyable and "good" book? I'm not completely sure. I do think it is an important book and I am happy that it has won so many awards. However, as an example of my preferred science fiction genre of thrilling space opera it is not as successful. This is not a defect that should cause very many readers to reject the book, but I point it out to let the reader know where I am coming from in my review of this acclaimed work. It should be obvious, but I am making this position explicit: no piece of work resonates with everyone who encounters it.

That being said, there are some extremely compelling aspects of Ancillary Justice which should make it a must-read for almost anyone who is interested in what is generally considered the best work of speculative fiction released in the last year.

The first thing that most reviewers discuss when they talk about Ancillary Justice (after they recount its amazing sweep at the awards) is the way that gender is performed and presented in the book. The cultural milieu in which the book is set is the Radch, which is a galaxy-spanning empire ruled by Anaander Minaai, Lord of the Radch. But the Radch do not understand gender as we do, so theirn cultural practice is to describe all human being as female and to use feminine pronouns (him and her) regardless of what the actual sex is of the person they are referring to. As a committed feminist myself I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book. It is not as disconcerting as one would expect. More disorienting, or conscience-altering is the other main feature of the book, and that is that the main character, Breq, used to be a consciousness that controlled an entire warship and literally thousands of "ancillaries" (humans or humanoids who were harvested from planets colonized and controlled by the Radch who have had their consciousness wiped and replaced with that of controlling entity). To me, this was a much more interesting feature of the book than its treatment of gender, which made the world-building even more compelling.

The primary weakness for me (besides the truly ridiculous name of the villain, Anaander Minaai) was the outrageous complexity of the plot. Others may find this aspect a strength, but I think it was convoluted to the point of confusion. That being said, the story was still quite thrilling, and there is a lot of suspense and action which definitely makes Ancillary Justice an interesting and memorable reading experience.

Is it the best science fiction book of all time? Not in my opinion, but, hey, maybe your opinion will differ. It is DEFINITELY worth a look.

Title: Ancillary Justice.
Ann Leckie.
Paperback: 416 pages.
Date Published: October 1, 2013.
Date Read: July 1, 2014.

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Trooper Accused Of Proselytizing During Traffic Stop

What kind of hubris does it take for a cop to think that it is acceptable to ask a stopped motorist whether they have a "home church"? Well, Indiana State Police Trooper Brian Hamilton apparently thought so, and now he is getting sued by the ACLU.

[Ellen] Bogan and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana have filed a lawsuit in federal court against Hamilton. The lawsuit alleges he violated Bogan's First and Fourth Amendment rights when he probed into her religious background and handed her a church pamphlet that asks the reader "to acknowledge that she is a sinner."
Bogan, who lives in Huntington, said Hamilton asked her about her faith multiple times during the traffic stop. Because he was a trooper and his police car was still parked behind hers, she said she felt she could not leave or refuse questioning.  
"The whole time, his lights were on," Bogan said. "I had no reason to believe I could just pull away at that point, even though I had my warning." Bogan's complaint also claims that Hamilton asked if he could give her something and that he went to his car to retrieve a pamphlet from First Baptist Church in Cambridge City.
This is such an astonishing (and infuriating) story! It is just amazing to me how many times it is just assumed that everyone believes in God and religion should permeate all aspects of life. Asked about your religion at a traffic stop??!!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

9th U.S. Circuit Strikes Down Marriage Bans In Nevada and Idaho, Citing Heightened Scrutiny

Well, that was fast! Just one day after the Supreme Court denied appeals from the 4th, 7th and 10th circuits, essentially opening up marriage equality to 5 states immediately and to 6 more eventually, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals chimed in and immediately struck down same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho, and almost certainly leading to the addition of three more states in short order. That would bring the total number of states with marriage equality up from 19 last week and the 30 as a result of yesterday's actions to a stunning total of 35 when the dust rom all the legal skirmishes settles.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Latta v. Otter and Sevcik v. Sandoval that the heightened scrutiny that laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation must survive to be deemed constitutional leads to the conclusion that state bans on same-sex marriage are null and void under interpretations of equal protection under the federal constitution.

Equality on Trial highlights this excerpt from today's ruling:
We hold that the Idaho and Nevada laws at issue violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they deny lesbians and gays who wish to marry persons of the same sex a right they afford to individuals who wish to marry persons of the opposite sex, and do not satisfy the heightened scrutiny standard we adopted in SmithKline.
Today's ruling from the 9th Circuit was the fourth appellate court to rule in favor of marriage equality this year in the last three months and was a unanimous 3-0. Somewhat surprisingly, a mandate from the court has already been issued, putting it into effect, which should allow couples to immediately get married in Nevada and Idaho if no appeals are filed. The Governor of Nevada has agreed not to appeal so marriage equality has gone into effect in the Silver State. Couples will be able to get marriage licenses in Las Vegas starting at 2pm on Wednesday.

An interesting feature of the 9th Circuit's ruling is that although it was unanimous two of the judges wrote separately to say that they would have struck down the marriage bans on other grounds. Judge Stephen Reinhard said that he would have used the Due Process Clause to say that the bans violate the fundamental right to marry of same-sex couples and Judge Marsha Berzon wrote to sat that she would have used the idea that bans on marriage equality are based in unconstitutional sex discrimination. Sadly, neither judge signed on to the other's separate ruling so neither of these ideas have the force of law in the 9th Circuit, although I would agree with BOTH of them.

Monday, October 06, 2014

SCOTUS Refuses To Hear Marriage Equality Appeals From 4th, 7th and 10th Circuits!

Wow! The Supreme Court today surprised almost all legal observers by refusing to hear ("called denying certiorari") appeals from five states of decisions in three federal appellate circuits that said that bans on marriage equality violated the federal constitution. The nearly immediate effect of the Supreme Court action means that the fight for marriage equality in those states (Oklahoma, Indiana, Utah, Wisconsin and Virginia) is over. Once final orders are issued from the corresponding U.S. appellate circuits (which usually takes a month) same-sex couples will be able to get married in those states. Effectively, it means that as of today there are now 24 states that "have" marriage equality.

Very soon after those orders go into effect the number of states with marriage equality will include the other six states within the 4th, 7th and 10th circuits covered by the previously issued rulings in those marriage equality cases: Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Evan Wolfson Founder and President of Freedom to Marry issued the following statement:
Today’s decision by the Supreme Court leaves in force five favorable marriage rulings reached in three federal appellate courts, ensuring the freedom to marry for millions more Americans around the country. The Court’s letting stand these victories means that gay couples will soon share in the freedom to marry in 30 states, representing 60% of the American people. But we are one country, with one Constitution, and the Court’s delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination and the harms and indignity that the denial of marriage still inflicts on too many couples in too many places. As waves of freedom to marry litigation continue to surge, we will continue to press the urgency and make the case that America – all of America -- is ready for the freedom to marry, and the Supreme Court should finish the job.
I wonder if this surprising result is an example of the Posner effect, i.e. Judge Richard Posner's evisceration of the arguments against marriage equality in oral arguments and then eloquently in his written decision (upheld today by the Supreme Court) overturning Indiana's and Wisconsin's bans on marriage equality.

Woo hoo!


Joe Neil is a bodybuilder and a model. According to an old profile on Mr. Neil was 5'10" and 205 pounds with 6% body fat. He currently works as a trainer in the DC Metro area and has the website Most of the pictures above were taken from a set taken by photographer Don Harris.

I hope Mr. Neil takes more photos soon. I'm sure it will help promote his physical training business if more clients could see the results of his work firsthand!


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