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Ken Ashford
Winston-Salem, NC
A Nebraska born, New Hampshire raised, Boston and New York educated, North Carolina living lawyer . . . with two dogs. Hi.
Interests: Theater, Blogging, Law & Politics, Good Conversation, Games
Recent Activity
I met Freeman Dyson in the early 80s when I dated his daughter. An extraordinary and singular man. Your father's admiration of him was well-placed, and I too read his books. I was not aware of his latest work, so thank you for the gift of that information. (And yes, please continue to avoid keeping up with the Red Sox) The Ashford Zone at Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Two contractors have come forward saying that they witnessed the Michael Brown shooting, and that Michael Brown had his hands up in the air, thus not posing a threat, when he was shot. Normally, you could discount this eyewitness testimony, coming more than one month after the shooting. Except that they are saying it.... on video... just after the shooting occurred. In other words, they hadn't had time to listen to other accounts of the shooting. Christian Science Monitor: In that light, the new video is “good evidence,” according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, because it shows an immediate reaction to what happened. The account given to CNN and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by the two contractors is also significant, legal analysts say, because neither man has any ties to the community where Brown lived (Note from KA: some news reports suggest the two contrators were white). Many other witnesses knew Brown personally and either lived in the area or were visiting family. On the other hand, the video is hardly conclusive. The two men told CNN they heard an initial shot but did not see how the confrontation started. (Police say Brown struck the officer in the face inside his patrol car, then reached for the officer’s gun.) About 30 seconds later, they said, they saw a staggering Brown turn around, put his arms up and cry, “OK, OK, OK.” The officer, they said, fired again anyway. Anyway, here's the video: Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
It's the 13th anniversary of 9/11, and you would think that we would have learned something since then about... well.... being terrorized. "Being terrorized" means being so freaked out by the bad guys what our judgment is clouded and we rush into military operations for which (1) we have no exit strategy and (2) there is no way to tell if you won, since the enemy you supposedly defeated will probably be replaced by something just as fucked up. I'm with Rachel Maddow on the necessity of having a congressional debate on ISIS strategy: We have a great and recent history of making terrible decisions. Terrible, short-sighted, poorly argued and in some cases based on false premises decisions." Also too, this: Yes, some of the U.S. aircraft that are conducting these now 153 airstrikes are drones, so there is no pilot at risk, the the other aircraft that we've got over there are fighter jets and what they describe as attack aircraft. All of those have pilots and crews. And for some reason we've decided not to call what they're doing "combat." But the people they are attacking have some capacity to shoot down aircraft that are attacking them. They've got heavy anti-aircraft weapons. So it might be politically convenient to say you support airstrikes, but not combat, or airstrikes but not "boots-on-the-ground. But there are now more than 1100 U.S. personnel in Iraq to support the airstrikes that are already happening. And god forbid if American aircraft start getting shot down by this militant group with their anti-aircraft artillery, then you better believe there are going to be boots on the grounds, and quickly... Her whole segment is worth watching. Republicans in Congress don't want to debate this. They don't want to go on record as supporting one strategy over another, because they want to be in a position to criticize the strategy when something goes amiss (as it inevitably will). But a Congressional debate is important, for just that reason. Our representatives need to take a stand -- any stand -- so that they can't kibbitz from the sidelines (surely the mostly cowardly approach). Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Well, you can't win them all. The Honorable Marty Fledman (yes, that's his name) -- a Reagan appointtee -- wrote today: Many states have democratically chosen to recognize same-sex marriage. But until recent years, it had no place at all in this nation's history and tradition. Public attitude might be becoming more diverse, but any right to same-sex marriage is not yet so entrenched as to be fundamental. See Malagon, 462 F.3d at 505. There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage. The problem with that, of course, is not the "right to same-sex marriage", but the "right to marriage" for same-sex couples. He deliberately hcnages the focus of the inquiry. I mean, one could say the same thing about interracial marriage, too. There is no "fundamental right to interracial marriage", but that wasn't the issue 50 years ago in the Loving case. In Loving, the issue was whether the right to marriage (which is a fundamental right) applies to interracial couples. Then, Feldman engaged the problematic (and in this case, silly) slippery slope: When a federal court is obliged to confront a constitutional struggle over what is marriage, a singularly pivotal issue, the consequence of outcomes, intended or otherwise, seems an equally compelling part of the equation. It seems unjust to ignore. And so, inconvenient questions persist. For example, must the states permit or recognize a marriage between an aunt and niece? Aunt and nephew? Brother/brother? Father and child? May minors marry? Must marriage be limited to only two people? What about a transgender spouse? Is such a union same-gender or male-female? All such unions would undeniably be equally committed to love and caring for one another, just like the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' counsel was unable to answer such kinds of questions; the only hesitant response given was that such unions would result in "significant societal harms" that the states could indeed regulate. But not same-gender unions. This Court is powerless to be indifferent to the unknown and possibly imprudent consequences of such a decision. A decision for which there remains the arena of democratic debate. Free and open and probing debate. Indeed, fractious debate. I think we can say that incestuous relationships would not become consititutional as a result of lifting the ban on gay marriages, if only because incest is against the law and the state as a compelling interest in regulating what are often abusive and non-consensual relationships. But, you know, the judge played the "parade of horribles" hand. A few years ago, Feldman made the news when he blocked Obama's moratorium on deep-wll drilling following the BP oil spill. Part of the reason his decision made national news was because Feldman himself held significant financial interests in oil companies when he issued his opinion. He's also on the FIAS court, which is why your phones are being tapped. Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
538 is rebooting today and the great oracle Nate Silver delivers a gut-punch: But if you’re looking for a headline, we have two. First, Republicans are favored to take the Senate, at least in our view; the FiveThirtyEight forecast model gives them a 64 percent chance of doing so. The reasons for the GOP advantage are pretty straightforward. Midterm elections are usually poor for the president’s party, and the Senate contests this year are in states where, on average, President Obama won just 46 percent of the vote in 2012. Democrats are battling a hangover effect in these states, most of which were last contested in 2008, a high-water mark for the party. On the basis of polling and the other indicators our model evaluates, Republicans are more likely than not to win the six seats they need to take over the Senate. This isn’t news, exactly; the same conditions held way back in March. An equally important theme is the high degree of uncertainty around that outcome. A large number of states remain competitive, and Democrats could easily retain the Senate. It’s also possible that the landscape could shift further in Republicans’ direction. Our model regards a true Republican wave as possible: It gives the party almost a 25 percent chance of finishing with 54 or more Senate seats once all the votes are counted. Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
We all have felt it from time to time. The urge to simply go nuclear. It's understandable. Some backwoods jihadi moron slices off an American head, or a bunch of them band together and fly hijacked airplanes into sckyscrapers, and our natural reaction is: "Fuck you. NOW you're going to see the hand of God." The problem with that is that it doesn't work. Unless you are prepared to kill every single Muslim whereever they live, and every potential ally of the Muslim, all you are going to do is further enrage the beast. Bush wanted to invade Iraq. He didn't have a strategy. Just a dream. Number One: we invade and get Saddam... which leads to... Number Two: Huge power vacuum... which leads to.... uh, peace? Of course not. It leads to even scarier fucks occupying the vacuum. Hello world, meet ISIS. And once again, we have the right wingers screaming for us to do exactly what was done before -- go in and start bombing things without regard to collateral damage (i.e., innocent civilians) and without any idea of the consequences of our actions. Obama is right in taking it slowly. He's thinking "Can we figure out a strategy that might actually work, like the air support that helped Iraqi forces break the siege of one town?" Take a breath. Figure out the complexity of the situation (which involves more than crazed Islamic radicals taking over territory and nearly genociding people). A little patience, maybe. How about getting some allies involved, since -- you know -- this affects them. And perhaps a whole bunch of American snipers. That's how we win this. But to just cowboy up and zoom in guns-ablazin'? We just did that. Made it worse. Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Maybe, maybe not. There have been seeming credible reports on the Internet that sea plankton has been found on the windows of the International Space Station, plankton that wasn't there at takeoff. So say some Russians. But not the official ones: “Results of the experiment are absolutely unique. We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further,” chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission Vladimir Solovyev told Russia’s state-ownedITAR-TASS news agency. The Russian report also seems to infer that the plankton finding and other previous surveys indicate such organisms can survive and even grow outside the space station, despite having to contend with being blasted by radiation from the sun and lacking the basic life support system found in Earth. “Results of the scope of scientific experiments which had been conducted for a quite long time were summed up in the previous year, confirming that some organisms can live on the surface of the International Space Station (ISS) for years amid factors of a space flight, such as zero gravity, temperature conditions and hard cosmic radiation. Several surveys proved that these organisms can even develop.” But all this seems to be news to NASA. “As far as we’re concerned, we haven’t heard any official reports from our Roscosmos (Russia’s space agency) colleagues that they’ve found sea plankton,” NASA spokesman Dan Huot told “What they’re actually looking for is residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements, like windows, as well as just the hull of the ship itself that will build up whenever they do thruster firings for things like re-boosts. That’s what they were taking samples for. I don’t know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from.” NASA scientists report that it’s possible the reported sea plankton could be a contaminant that hitched a ride from Earth when the space station modules were launched. Previous research has also found that certain tiny species — known as extremophiles — can survive in space and other harsh environments. Just today, new research is being published in the journal Nature that documents the discovery of microbes living beneath a half mile of Antarctic ice without any access to sun or wind. If the cosmonauts truly did discover sea plankton hanging out in space, it could have interesting new implications for how we view life’s compatibility with the rugged environment that is space; or it might just mean that plankton is a lot tougher than previously expected. So... maybe yes maybe no, but pretty amazing if yes. Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
I swear. These must be the dumbest cops alive. I mean, don't they realize the complaint against them is that they are too quick on the draw? That they are failures as cops by drawing high-powered guns on unarmed civilians? Yet, this cop goes right ahead and does it. In front of cameras. And then he points his gun at the cameramen! Fortunately he was suspended for this: A suburban St. Louis police officer who threatened to kill media members as he pointed his high-powered rifle at a group of people filming Tuesday night’s protests in Ferguson, Mo., has been suspended after video of the incident went viral Wednesday. The unidentified St. Ann, Mo. police officer, who told one man his name was “go f— yourself,” has been “relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely” for his “inappropriate” actions, the St. Louis County Police Department said in a statement to Mashable. In the minute-long video clip, the portly, bald police officer is seen pointing his semi-automatic assault rifle at crowds of people walking along a Ferguson street just before midnight Tuesday. Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
He was on my short list dead pool, but not my competitive list. But I remember him well from Season 1 of Saturday Night Live. Hard to believe he announced that show every year except one. Even after he retired to Arizona in 2006, he still did the SNL intro. Amazing. Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
... and it looks like the fatal shots were the last two, which hit him on the top of the head. Apparently, while falling forward. NOT at close range. The New York Times has the details. Meanwhile last night... another night of clashes. Although law enforcement is better (the Missouri State Police are not provoking lawlessness like the St. Louis County Police), we still see the remnants of the earlier bad law enforcement. The people don't feel like the police are there to protect and serve them. Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Kid was watching and tweeting.... Let it load... start at bottom witness to Brown killing Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
This morning, police identified Darren Wilson as the cop who fatally shot Michael Brown. They also released surveillance photos showing Michael Brown shoplifting some cigars and man-handling the store owner. This all took place hours before the shooting. I'm not sure this changes the issue (although I know for many bigots, this is all they need). Brown was an unarmed black man who shoplifted. If the eyewitness accounts are true, he was shot while disengaged from a police officer, with his hands up. UPDATE: Aaaand we learn that police officer, Darren Wilson, wasn't even aware of the robbery when he confronted and killed Brown. Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
A person from my past had issues. She was diagnosed with Bipolar I, which they don't diagnose unless you have psychotic episodes, which she claimed to have had. I never witnessed any (I don't think); in fact, what I witnessed mostly was the depressive side of her bipolarity, which included a suicide attempt or two. In that depressive state, we would often talk about her situation (sometimes, it seemed like that was all we talked about), and she would occasionally talk matter-of-factly about killing herself, listing the people who would be "better off" if she wasn't alive (including her daughter). Her rationale made no sense, but... that's the nature of the being bipolar: the perceptions of a bipolar person are usually wrong, even when (especially when) they feel so so right to the bipolar person. When you are bipolar, you can't trust how you feel. Which must be very difficult. One of arguments she liked to make was that committing suicide was a very brave thing to do. I didn't take a contrary position, although I know what she was responding to -- that old chestnut you often hear that people who commit suicide are "cowardly". They are afraid to face their difficulties, the myth goes, so they do the "cowardly" thing by ending it all. My ex's point was just the opposite: it takes chutzpah, gonads, bravery to end it all. i am reminded of those conversations now that question had been raised again in the public conscience, in light of the recent and tragic Robin Williams suicide. Was Robin Williams cowardly for "checking out"? My answer is the same as always. Of course he wasn't cowardly. But I wouldn't agree to call him brave. Not everything that happens falls on that scale. He was sick. His depression had control over him. He couldn't help it. So the answer is "neither" and the debate itself is silly. The same goes for the question of whether suicide is "selfish". Yes, of course suicide is selfish, but not in the perjorative sense that we usually mean when we say "selfish". After all, depression is selfish -- is there ever a time when a person is more self-indulgent and self-involved than when he or she is depressed? So of COURSE a person attempting suicide is selfish -- he/she is in pain. Just as much pain as if shot with a bullet. But all you can say is that they were "selfish", then you are missing the larger point. What MADE them selfish? It's NOT a character flaw, but more likely (and certainly in the case of Robin Williams), a mental illness known as depression or bipolar disorder or something along those lines. The selfishness is incidental to the illness. Calling them selfish, even if it happens to be true, only serves to malign and stigmatize those with a mental disorder. It's turning a sickness into a callous act of blaming the victim. Why do that? Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
I've withheld writing about the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. For those distracted by other news stories, Michael Brown was to start college this week. Instead, his parents are planning his funeral. On August 9th, Mr Brown was shot several times and killed by a policeman in Ferguson, a suburb near St Louis, Missouri. The police say the black 18-year-old attacked the officer and tried to grab his gun. A friend who was with Mr Brown says that on the contrary, he was unarmed and had his hands up in the air. I've withheld writing about it because for the same reason I withheld writing (for a while) about Treyvon Martin: we just don't know enough facts. Right now, we still don't know much. The FBI is investigating the Ferguson shooting, and the Justice Department is looking into the possibility that Mr Brown’s civil rights were violated. Those are good things. Another eyewitness stepped forward yesterday -- Tiffany Mitchell (age 27) -- and I found her retelling of the account to be credible and consistent. According to her, Brown was shot in cold blood, while his hands were raised. Still, we can't be sure. But the eyewitness accounts aren't the only thing we can look at. We can get a sense of the truth by looking at the context. And if the past few days are any indication, it seems that the Ferguson MO police department has a tendency to Rambo up unnecessarily. This picture fromj the Times tells it all: Yesterday, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery was reportedly arrested along with Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post for failing to exit a McDonalds. According to Lowery's Twitter account, the two were "assaulted and arrested" because "officers decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them." No charges were filed. There are also accounts and video of the Ferguson police dispensing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets at a peaceful (albeit angry) protest. Pointing high-power military rifles at peaceful protesters. Deliberate targeting of journalists with tear gas. What's going on? Well, part of the problem is bad training. This is a small town police department, not skilled in dealing with situations like this. Secondly, the police department has toys, and they are itching to use them. Since 1996, "the Department of Defense has transferred $4.3 billion in military equipment to local and state police through the 1033 program." Then the equipment was intended to help fight the war on drugs. With that much firepower in the hands of local police, it was only a matter of time before they began to be used in such obscene excess against Americans. Ex police chief Joseph McNamara addressed this dynamic in this op-ed: Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed. An emphasis on "officer safety" and paramilitary training pervades today's policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn't shoot until they were about to be shot or stabbed. Police in large cities formerly carried revolvers holding six .38-caliber rounds. Nowadays, police carry semi-automatic pistols with 16 high-caliber rounds, shotguns and military assault rifles, weapons once relegated to SWAT teams facing extraordinary circumstances. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed. Yes, police work is dangerous, and the police see a lot of violence. On the other hand, 51 officers were slain in the line of duty last year, out of some 700,000 to 800,000 American cops. That is far fewer than the police fatalities occurring when I patrolled New York's highest crime precincts, when the total number of cops in the country was half that of today. Each of these police deaths and numerous other police injuries is a tragedy and we owe support to those who protect us. On the other hand, this isn't Iraq. The need to give our officers what they require to protect themselves and us has to be balanced against the fact that the fundamental duty of the police is to protect human life and that law officers are only justified in taking a life as a last resort. "If you build it, they will use it". If the Ferguson Police department's defense is that its officers showed restraint where Michael Brown is concerned, they have just blown that argument to bits. These guys have no restraint in them, as last night showed. As the New Yorker correspondent wrote this morning: What transpired in the streets appeared to be a kind of municipal version of shock and awe; the first wave of flash grenades and tear gas had played as a prelude to the appearance of an unusually large armored vehicle, carrying a military-style rifle mounted on a tripod. The message of all of this was something beyond the mere maintenance of law and order: it’s difficult to imagine how armored officers with what looked like a mobile military sniper’s nest could quell the anxieties of a community outraged by allegations regarding the excessive use of force. It revealed itself as a raw matter of public intimidation. Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Another legend. She was 89. Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
The mental illness of depression claims another. The irony of someone so gifted in humor could be felled by depression. This is how I'll remember him: As for the nature of his death, let me borrow the thoughts of another blogger on what suicide isn't: But I felt compelled to write this article because like any mental illness-related accident or death, there by the grace of God go I. And it’s not only in poor taste to deride a man who by all accounts, was going though severe depression at the time of his death, it’s also just plain wrong. Suicide isn’t “giving up” or “giving in.” Suicide is a terrible decision made by someone whose pain is so great that they can no longer hold it, and feel they have no other option in life but to end it. It’s a decision you can’t take back, and a decision that will affect your friends and family forever. It is not taken lightly. Losing a person to suicide may feel like a waste. And I think it’s fair to react to it that way, especially in the first hard days of grief. For someone looking in, it does seem like a waste—especially in the case of Williams, who was a brilliantly funny man and a talented actor. But imagine, if you will, feeling so desperate, so desolate, so incredibly sad and hurt that you honestly cannot see a way out. The feelings leading to suicide are the darkest a human mind can fathom. It’s like being shut into a dark tunnel with no point of light to guide your way. You can hear voices on the outside, but the walls are too thick to get in. And feeling like it’s closing in, like there’s no way out—well, suicide, for that person, is a blessed release. Life, however, is never wasted. Williams did things in his life that touched people to their core. It is a sad, sad loss, but it is not a waste. Suicide is not a weak decision. It is a decision that takes an incredible amount of strength to make, actually. Someone isn’t weak if they end their life. They are desperate. There is a difference. It’s okay to feel angry at the person for dying. It’s okay to question, to rail against the forces that caused this. But it isn’t weakness. Mental illness isn’t weakness. It’s a disease, a pervasive, sometimes awful disease. The person doesn’t deserve anger and skepticism forever. They deserve compassion. Their family deserves compassion. Ending a life is incredibly, incredibly tragic. It represents a lost battle with mental illness. In that, it is no different than cancer, or diabetes, or a heart attack. Where it is different is that suicide is a choice. Whether it is the right or wrong choice for that person is solely the business of that person who commits suicide. But for the family left behind, it is devastating. Don’t rail against Robin Williams, or anyone else, for committing suicide (if indeed, that is the cause of his death). Instead, reach out. Let people know you’re there for them. Find a crisis line in your area to call if you are feeling desperate and like you want to do something you can’t take back. Support the family and friends left behind in the best way you can. Let the people you love know that you love them and that you are thinking about them. Let them know that they are not alone. Robin Williams taught me innumerable things about how to reach out to people and bring out the best in them. Through his characters, he taught me to seize the day, to make them laugh, to find everyone’s sense of humour, to be a friend. I will miss his work and his bright light in the world. I am so sorry that he felt like there was no other option. I send my love and my compassion to his family. Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Seriously, this is what you get. I guess she's a comedian now. I guess. “We believe”? Wait, I thought fast food joints, hurh. Don’t you guys think that they’re like of the Devil or somethin’ I was... Liberals, you want to send those evil employees who would dare work at a fast food joint then ya just don’t believe in, thought you wanted to, I dunno, send them to Purgatory or somethin’ so they all go VEGAN and, uh, wages and picket lines I dunno they’re not often discussed in Purgatory, are they? I dunno why are you even worried about fast food wages because ... Is she drunk? This Rambling, Incoherent Mess Of A Video Is What Conservatives Are Paying Sarah Palin To Watch Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
So... we're experiencing the deadliest outbreak of ebola in history. It's so bad that the leading ebola doctor died yesterday. Fortunately, it is all happening in Sierra Leone and other parts of Africa. But then this happens: UPDATE: They were checking out a patient who wanted to be checked out because s/he just came back from a country with infectious diseases (country and possible diseases unknown). Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Old pipes everywhere. The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said. Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
You really have to see the video to believe it, but this write up gives a fair overview: Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin ripped President Obama on Saturday, saying in order to "save the Republic" Americans must "have the guts to talk about impeachment." Palin bashed Obama on a variety of topics, including immigration and veterans services during a speech before the 2014 Western Conservative Summit in downtown Denver. "These days you hear all of these politicians, they denounce Barack Obama, saying he's a lawless imperial and ignores court orders and changes laws by fiat and refuses to enforce laws he just doesn't like," she said. "That's true. But the question is, "Hey politicians, what are you going to do about it?' " Palin said, as the crowd in the Hyatt Regency ballroom roared. The former governor of Alaska, Palin rose to prominence in 2008 when Sen. John McCain of Arizona tapped her as his running mate on the GOP ticket. When talk-radio host Dan Caplis introduced Palin, he billed her as the most influential woman in the history of the Republican Party. Line after line about Obama fired up the crowd. "If Obama won't do his job and enforce the borders, then it's not immigration, it's invasion," she said. "We're not going to dethrone God and substitute him with someone who wants to play God," she also said. I think Dave Neiwert said it best: Did Sarah Palin get into Aunty Peggy Noonan's jar of Magic Dolphin Pills before her speech in Denver this week? It does have that slightly slurry quality that so defines Noonan which is a change for Palin who has been rather crisply incoherent in the past if nothing else. But the crowd loved it. As much as we don't want to admit it, she really does speak for a large number of people in this country. Also too, Sarah now has her own online pay-TV network. What is they say about suckers born every minute? Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
The religious right continues losing their reactionary culture war, as a federal appeals court strikes down Virginia’s ban on marriage equality. And this ruling will also affect conservative bans on same-sex marriage in West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, so it’s a significant defeat for the forces of atavism. “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws,” the divided three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit in Richmond concluded. […] The 4th Circuit opinion also will affect marriage laws in other states within its jurisdiction, including West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Only Maryland has legalized same-sex marriage. Here in North Carolina, there are three cases which challenge the same-sex marriage ban. In one of them, one of the plainitiffs is medically ill, and the ACLU has asked for expedited relief. I expect the judge in that case will, in light of the Fourth Circuit decision, strike down NC's ban as well. That might not mean gay marriage is coming to North Carolina. More likely, it will be put "n hold" pending an inevitable Supreme Court decision. Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
As Israel bombs Gaza, the Palestinian death toll stands at 576. There have been 27 Israeli deaths as well. And how does Fox report it? Fox News actually just announced this re: Gaza: “So far, violence has killed over 600 people on both sides" — brendan james (@deep_beige) July 22, 2014 Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
The GOP wants to run on repealing Obamacare in the upcoming elections? How will that play at the state level? A new Department of Health and Human Services report documents the impact federal subsidies under Obamacare are having on the insurance costs of people receiving them, and the Plum Line gives the bottom line: But if subsidies were repealed, people would not lose coverage, instead seeing premiums jump from loss of the tax credit. It turns out the jump would be very high in states with contested Senate races where Republicans are running on “repeal”: – In North Carolina, 357,584 people are paying an average monthly premium of $81 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $300. – In Michigan, 272,539 people are paying an average monthly premium of $97 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $246. – In New Hampshire, 40,262 people are paying an average monthly premium of $100 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $290. – In Louisiana, 101,778 people are paying an average monthly premium of $83 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsides/cost increase of $314. – In Iowa, 29,163 people are paying an average monthly premium of $108 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $243. – In Alaska, 12,890 people are paying an average monthly premium of $94 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $413. – In Georgia, 316,543 people are paying an average monthly premium of $54 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase in premiums of $287. Let that be known. UPDATE: Apparently, the courts are doing it for the GOP. This morning, the D.C. Circuit court (the most conservative of the circuit courts) ruled in a case called Halbig v. Burwell. Here is the D.C. Circuit Halbig ruling: A federal appeals court dealt a huge blow to Obamacare on Tuesday, banning the federal exchange from providing subsidies to residents of the 36 states it serves. A divided three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the text of the Affordable Care Act restricts the provision of premium tax credits to state-run exchanges. The two Republican appointees on the panel ruled against Obamacare while the one Democratic appointee ruled for the law. "We conclude that appellants have the better of the argument: a federal Exchange is not an 'Exchange established by the State,' and section 36B does not authorize the IRS to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal Exchanges," Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote for the court in Halbig v. Burwell. His ruling was joined in a concurring opinion by George H. W. Bush-appointed Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who said it would be a "distortion" to let the federal exchange provide subsidies. "Only further legislation could accomplish the expansion the government seeks," he wrote. Carter-appointed Judge Harry T. Edwards voted to uphold the subsidies. "This case is about Appellants’ not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," Edwards wrote in his dissenting opinion. The ruling is very troubling for the Obama administration because the subsidies are critical to the success of Obamacare. The law encourages states to build their own exchange, but if they don't the federal government operates one on their behalf. The subsidies, or premium tax credits, exist to help Americans between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line buy insurance. That imperils the practicality of the individual mandate to get covered and the market regulations to protect sick people. UPDATE #2: Fourth Circuit to the rescue. A few hours after this morning's D.C. Circuit case, the also-conservative Fourth Circuit comes out with an opinion in King v. Burwell, which goes in the other direction and upholds the subsidies in Obamacare. The opinion is here. Money quote: No case stands for the proposition that literal readings should take place in a vacuum, acontextually, and untethered from other parts of the operative text; indeed, the case law indicates the opposite. National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, 551 U.S. 644, 666 (2007). So does common sense: If I ask for pizza from Pizza Hut for lunch but clarify that I would be fine with a pizza from Domino’s, and I then specify that Iwant ham and pepperoni on my pizza from Pizza Hut, my friend who returns from Domino’s with a ham and pepperoni pizza has still complied with a literal construction of my lunch order. That is this case: Congress specified that Exchanges should be established and run by the states, but the contingency provision permits federal officials to act in place of the state when it fails to establish an Exchange. The premium tax credit calculation subprovision later specifies certain conditions regarding state-run Exchanges, but that does not mean that a literal reading of that provision somehow precludes its applicability to substitute federally-run Exchanges or erases the contingency provision out of the statute. UPDATE #3: I didn't realize this before, but the DC Circuit opinion was en banc. It was not the full circuit. Therefore, the 4th Circuit "wins" out for now. The Obama administration is appealing the DC Circuit opinion to the full DC Circuit. Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2014 at The Seventh Sense
Great actor, and somewhat less important, he was in my dead pool for this year. He was 86. Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2014 at The Seventh Sense