Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Alabama Supreme Court of Idiots



Weeks after a United States District Court judge in Mobile ordered a probate judge there to issue same-sex marriage licenses, the Alabama Supreme Court has ordered a halt to same-sex marriages in the state.   In a 134-page opinion, seven of the nine justices said the U.S. Constitution "does not require one definition of marriage."  The Alabama Supreme Court once again has instructed probate judges not to issue marriage licenses.

Of course the big conflict here is that a U.S. District Court judge struck down Alabama's ban on gay marriage. That was appealed, but the Supreme Court refused to put a hold on that ruling while it decides on the issue of same-sex marriage itself.  Alabama seems not to be able to understand that federal jurisdiction trumps state jurisdiction.

"As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for 'marriage' between only one man and one woman," the court wrote. "Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty."

While same-sex marriage advocates chanted "love wins" outside Alabama courthouses last month, the Alabama Supreme Court said love has little to do with legal marriage in the state. 

In probably the most appalling part of the Supreme Court's opinion, the justices stated that "Although love may be an important factor in a lasting marriage, civil marriage has no public interest in whether the people seeking a marriage license love one another."

This means that that yesterday's ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court throws the state into conflict with the federal judiciary. Remember, it was Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore who issued a similar order in February.  U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade, who struck down gay marriage in the state, has already ruled that probate judges should should follow her order, not that of the chief justice.  Now the Supreme Court of Alabama has decided to respond with an almost unanimous voice, over a case in which they have no jurisdiction.  Unlike the United States Supreme Court which does have a few instances of original jurisdiction, the Alabama Supreme Court only has appellate jurisdiction as the state's highest court of appeal.  A case must begin in a lower state court in order to be heard by the Alabama Supreme Court.

Contrary to the Alabama constitution and Judicial precedent over jurisdiction, the Alabama Supreme Court issued the order, called a writ of mandamus, that had been requested by the Alabama Policy Institute and the Alabama Citizens Action Program last month to stop the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses.

The court seemed to chide Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange for not taking a more active role in enforcing state law, sadly however for the wrong reason.  "In the wake of the federal district court's orders, Attorney General Strange has refrained from fulfilling what would otherwise have been his customary role of providing advice and guidance to public officials, including probate judges, as to whether or how their duties under the law may have been altered by the federal district court's decision," the court wrote. Strange had the legal duty to advise the probate judges to follow Judge Granade's order; however, he remained silent on the subject and let chaos ensue.

Moore actually recused himself from Tuesday's ruling, presumably, because his previous order had already been addressed by Judge Granade, but I have to wonder why Justice Tom Parker did not also recuse himself.  Parker was founding Executive Director of the Alabama Family Alliance (now the Alabama Policy Institute), which was one of the two public interest groups who asked the the Alabama Supreme Court to rule in this case as a court of original jurisdiction, which it cannot do.  One has to wonder how much in campaign contributions Parker and others justices received from the Alabama Policy Institute to make it worth their while to ignore Alabama legal precedents to even take up the issue.

Justice Greg Shaw was the lone dissenter in this case. He said that the Supreme Court should have put Granade's ruling on hold, but that it is clear that this court has no jurisdiction to take this case and that the public interest groups suing on behalf of the state have no standing.  Further, Shaw stated in his dissent that pursuant to the Alabama Constitution, Alabama's probate judges have both judicial and ministerial duties.  The Alabama Supreme Court only has jurisdiction of their judicial, not ministerial duties. Shaw pointed out that the judiciary of Alabama has no legal authority over issuing marriage licenses of any kind, therefore it is not in the jurisdiction of the Alabama Supreme Court to rule on this action of the county probate judges, just as they have no authority over the keeping of public records, driver's licenses, or automobile tags.

County probate judges are judges in mostly name only, adoption proceedings and probating of wills being their sole judicial duties. According to the Alabama Constitution, the ministerial duties of probate judges, such as record keeping, marriage licenses, and auto tags are not included in the judiciary, and thus are not subject to a state Supreme Court writ of mandamus.  The order is actually moot if the probate judges choose to follow state law.  However, I doubt that will happen, probate judges will cease issuing same-sex marriage licenses, and Alabama will be thrown into further judicial chaos.

Shaw concluded his dissent by writing:
"By overlooking this Court's normal procedures; by stretching our law and creating exceptions to it; by assuming original jurisdiction, proceeding as a trial court, and reaching out to speak on an issue that this Court cannot meaningfully impact because the Supreme Court of the United States will soon rule on it; and by taking action that will result in additional confusion and more costly federal litigation involving this State's probate judges, this Court, in my view, is venturing into unchartered waters and potentially unsettling established principles of law. Therefore, I must respectfully dissent."
"The state is going to take such a black eye on this," said University of Alabama Law Professor Ron Krotoszynski, Jr.. "I think it's going to play very badly in the national media," he said, citing shows  like Bill Maher, John Oliver and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

"They're rejecting Judge Granade's reasoning lock stock and barrel," Krotoszynski said.

Granade's reasoning is in line with more than 60 federal district judges who have ruled on the same issue since the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) in 2013, Krotoszynski said.

The next likely step is for one of the probate judges to file an emergency stay with the U.S. Supreme Court, Krotoszynski said. The situation could be "chaotic" between now and June when the U.S. Supreme Court is to rule on the issue anyway in a 6th Circuit case, he said.

Probate Judge Davis in Mobile could be in the worst position if the Alabama Supreme Court brings him under their order, which it appears they are inclined to do, Krotoszynski said. "He is between a rock and a hard place," he said.  Davis had been ordered specifically to follow Judge Granade's ruling when he initially refused to allow the Mobile County Probate Judge's office to open for business after the initial stay ended.

The Human Rights campaign blasted the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling, which it called meandering and bizarre.

"The Alabama state Supreme Court does not have the authority to interfere with a federal court order," said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "This order is outrageous and baffling, and no amount of legalese can hide the bare animus that forms the foundation of this extralegal ruling."

If you are interested in reading the ruling, you can do so by clicking the link below.  I skimmed most of it, but the dissenting opinion by Justice Shaw is obviously written by someone who cares more about the rule of law and the procedure of law then by someone who is only concerned with politics.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Underwear



Underwear
By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I didn’t get much sleep last night
thinking about underwear
Have you ever stopped to consider   
underwear in the abstract   
When you really dig into it
some shocking problems are raised   
Underwear is something   
we all have to deal with   
Everyone wears
some kind of underwear
The Pope wears underwear I hope
The Governor of Louisiana   
wears underwear
I saw him on TV
He must have had tight underwear
He squirmed a lot
Underwear can really get you in a bind
You have seen the underwear ads
for men and women
so alike but so different
Women’s underwear holds things up
Men’s underwear holds things down   
Underwear is one thing   
men and women have in common   
Underwear is all we have between us
You have seen the three-color pictures
with crotches encircled
to show the areas of extra strength
and three-way stretch
promising full freedom of action
Don’t be deceived
It’s all based on the two-party system
which doesn’t allow much freedom of choice   
the way things are set up   
America in its Underwear
struggles thru the night
Underwear controls everything in the end   
Take foundation garments for instance   
They are really fascist forms
of underground government
making people believe
something but the truth
telling you what you can or can’t do   
Did you ever try to get around a girdle   
Perhaps Non-Violent Action
is the only answer
Did Gandhi wear a girdle?
Did Lady Macbeth wear a girdle?
Was that why Macbeth murdered sleep?   
And that spot she was always rubbing—
Was it really in her underwear?
Modern anglosaxon ladies
must have huge guilt complexes
always washing and washing and washing   
Out damned spot
Underwear with spots very suspicious   
Underwear with bulges very shocking   
Underwear on clothesline a great flag of freedom   
Someone has escaped his Underwear   
May be naked somewhere
Help!
But don’t worry
Everybody’s still hung up in it
There won’t be no real revolution
And poetry still the underwear of the soul   
And underwear still covering
a multitude of faults
in the geological sense—
strange sedimentary stones, inscrutable cracks!   
If I were you I’d keep aside
an oversize pair of winter underwear   
Do not go naked into that good night   
And in the meantime
keep calm and warm and dry
No use stirring ourselves up prematurely   
‘over Nothing’
Move forward with dignity
hand in vest
Don’t get emotional
And death shall have no dominion   
There’s plenty of time my darling
Are we not still young and easy
Don’t shout


About the Poet

On March 24, 1919, Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, New York. After spending his early childhood in France, he received his BA from the University of North Carolina, an MA from Columbia University, and a PhD from the Sorbonne.

During World War II he served in the US Naval Reserve and was sent to Nagasaki shortly after it was bombed. He married in 1951 and has one daughter and one son.

In 1953, Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin began to publish City Lights magazine. They also opened the City Lights Books Shop in San Francisco to help support the magazine. In 1955, they launched City Light Publishing, a book-publishing venture. City Lights became known as the heart of the “Beat” movement, which included writers such as Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac.

Currently, Ferlinghetti writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He also continues to operate the City Lights bookstore, and he travels frequently to participate in literary conferences and poetry readings.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Google Reverses Blogger's Censorship Policy



Last Monday, Google sent an email to Blogger users who had blogs with adult content saying that there would be a change in policy on March 23, effectively banning any adult content blogs. Last Thursday,  I wrote about Blogger's new censorship policy.  Now, Google has reversed that decision, allowing people running adult blogs to continue.

On Friday, a rep from the Blogger team posted to the support page:
This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy. We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. Blog owners should continue to mark any blogs containing sexually explicit content as “adult” so that they can be placed behind an ‘adult content’ warning page.
This message was also given to bloggers who had written into the Blogger support page seeking help with what to do with their accounts. A rep for Google confirmed the change in policy to BuzzFeed News.

I thought the ban was a terrible idea — it meant that people who had devoted huge amounts of time, labor, and love into their blogs would have that taken away (adult blogs wouldn’t have been technically deleted, they’d be turned “private,” which means they’d be invisible to readers). While porn spam on Blogger may be an issue, there are myriad other types of blogs that contain adult content. Their now reversed policy was vague and left many bloggers with a lot of questions.

An early employee of Blogger, Jason Shellen, told BuzzFeed News earlier this week that he thought the new policy may have been a result of Google’s shifting priorities. The original Blogger team had staunchly believed in it as a platform for free expression, and he was disappointed to hear about the change. Ironically, former Blogger founder Ev Williams, who went on later to found Twitter and then Medium, posted on Monday about new changes on Medium that would make the platform even more blogging-friendly for users and readers.

Turning all adult blogs private would have been a devastating blow for the fabric of the internet. What was likely meant to be an anti-spam measure would’ve taken away not only people’s beloved works of art and communities of readership, but also would’ve deleted incomprehensible amounts of internet history. Google is a big company with deep pockets, and to remove who knows how many (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of the works that its users had been making for more than a decade just because of some pesky spam seemed like a massive overreaction.

I’m glad that Google listened and did the right thing by reversing this decision. I hope that whatever weird interdepartmental power struggle that led to the bad idea in the first place won’t be revisited.

Owning Blogger means being the steward of millions of people’s deepest creative thoughts and feelings and art. As that steward, Google has an ethical responsibility preserve that for the internet. This is a happy day for the internet.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Trust In The Lord



Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 
Proverbs 3:5-7

Are you happy with the way your life is now?  Often we wonder about how our lives could be different.  If we had done this or made a different decision, would our lives be different?  Would it be better?  Why did we make the decisions we made? Many of us constantly ask, "What if?"  But truthfully, that is not the question we should be asking.  Instead we should ask ourselves, "What is God's plan for us?"  We should ask, "Am I following the path of God?"  

Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding."  So we must trust in God that He knows what is best for us.  When I pray, I always ask for God to forgive me of my sins, and that He will help me to stay on the narrow path to righteousness.  In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus tells us "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."  Especially when I come to a fork in the road, a decision in life, I ask God to show me the correct path.  And though some things in my life have not gone as I wanted them to, I trust that God has a plan for me and that I am on the right path.  I trust in God to show me the correct path.

Therefore, I acknowledge that God has a plan for me and as long as I acknowledge him in the guidance of my life and in all ways, then he will lead me down the correct path.  Everything in our lives happens for a reason.  We must trust that God is that reason, and that He would not steer us in the wrong direction. We may think we have taken a wrong turn, but faith in God will show us the way.  It doesn't mean that I don't get depressed about things in my life, because I do have blue periods in my life.  Those periods are less frequent, especially when I look to God and remember my faith.

In a world where most of us get beat up to one degree or another, many people come out of these beatings with a problem in being able to trust anyone else – ever again!  Sometimes it is verbal; sometimes it is physical; and sometimes it just seems like a string of bad luck.  Many people, especially people in the LGBT community, have been so badly beaten and abused during the course of their lives, that they no longer have any ability to trust anyone – including God Himself!  However, for Christians, no matter how badly you have been beaten up in your past, the one thing that you cannot have affected is your ability to trust in Jesus and our heavenly Father.  His love will see us through all things.  

As a result of the setbacks that some of God’s people have experienced over the years, some of these people have literally lost their ability to even trust in God Himself.  It is one thing to have faith in God, to know that God exists, and that He is all-powerful and that there is nothing that He cannot do or accomplish – but it is quite another thing to be able to fully trust God with your life, and to fully trust Him to properly handle it for you, especially if people in your past or circumstances in your life have let you down in one way or another.

Therefore, trust in Him and in Him alone in all things.  Trust Him to be faithful to you.  Look to Him in all that you do and in all that you experience, even when it is difficult.  Remember, faith is only as good as the person in whom you put it.  Since we Christians serve God, our faith, our trust, will not be wasted.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Jack Falahee: Inquiring Minds Want to Know



The two hour season finale of "How to Get Away with Murder" aired last night.  There were many OMG, OMFG, WOW, and WTF moments in last night's episode.  We got to see a little bit more about Connor and Oliver's relationship, but sadly we haven't gotten any steamy sex scenes since the first half of the season.

"How to Get Away with Murder" star Jack Falahee, who’s been steaming up TV screens with his gay sex scenes as Connor Walsh, expounded further on why he’s not announcing his sexual orientation any time soon.  His approach to this question is quite interesting, and to a certain degree, I understand it.  Even though, my curiosity is up too.  Jack is incredibly sexy.

In a recent interview in Out that received lots of social media attention, he’d said it “seems reductive” to note his sexual orientation publicly, explaining that he doesn’t think it ”accomplishes anything other than quenching the thirst of curiosity," and opined that, ”no matter how I answer, someone will say, ‘No, that’s not true.’"

Speaking with me on SiriusXM Progress, Falahee, who replied “Yeah, sure,” when asked if it’s important for young LGBT people to see out actors and celebrities, further explained his thinking on why, in his case, he’s not discussing whether he’s straight, gay or bisexual.

“I was basically trying to say [in that interview], for me it’s like asking an actor who plays an alcoholic what their relationship is with alcohol,” he explained. “It’s not necessarily — I think we’re projecting onto actors in a way. I think we’re expecting them to be their characters when, at the end of the day, this is my job and I’m an actor portraying a role on a fictitious television show.”

But an actor who plays an alcoholic might be asked what he brings to the role and if he’s had that experience in his life. If people ask what an actor like Falahee, whose character, Connor Walsh, had lots of hook-up sex with various men last season, what he brings to the role of a gay man, isn’t the interviewer simply asking what he brings to the experience?

“Right, but that wasn’t the question,” Falahee replied. “The question was, ‘How do I define my sexuality?' And that’s a very different question than asking — actually we were in Atlanta, for the ATL TV Fest, and a young woman, she actually had a really great question. She said, ‘What personal experience do you bring to portray — what did she say? — a ‘manwhore’ homosexual on television?’”

“And you know, I was like, that is a great question,” he continued. “That is a different question than how do I define my sexuality. And to answer that question, I would say, well, you know, I went to NYU, and the Tisch School of Drama, and there we studied Stanislavski-based acting techniques. And while I have dabbled in the Lee Strasberg method of sense-memory and using your own experience to portray a character, I found that that was a fast track, maybe, to therapy. And so, I fell more into the Stella Adler method of acting camp, and create fictitious circumstances….I’m creating circumstances in which Conor exists to accurately portray him..I just think it’s interesting because I have a body of work before Conor Walsh that is primarily heterosexual and yet people want to ask — you know, no on asks any other man, or woman, on my show, about their sexuality, and that’s what fascinates me."

He then added, “We don’t ask the actor playing James Bond what his sexual preference is. So I don’t know what it is, really, with trying to out actors who portray gay characters on television. But it is some sort of fascination in society.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Blogger and Censorship


Google has announced a new adult content policy for Blogger.  Starting March 23, 2015, bloggers won't be able to publicly share images and videos that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger.  Google says that they will "still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit. For example, in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts."  Bloggers says that if an existing blog doesn’t have any sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video on it, that you won’t notice any changes.

If an existing blog does have sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video, the blog will be made private after March 23, 2015.  Blogger says that no content will be deleted, but private content can only be seen by the owner or administrators of the blog and the people who the owner has shared the blog with.

Several years ago when Blogger began to shut down many gay blogs, I decided to remove anything I deemed overtly sexually explicit or contained graphic nude images or videos from my blog.  At the same time, I also removed the adult content warning.  However, I do still post some nudity on my blog, but mostly only male behinds.  I never post an exposed penis, nor an erect penis.

I have several issues with Blogger's explanation of the new policy because it is too vague and ambiguous.  There needs to be a specific policy to explain what Google/Blogger will determine as what will be deemed not to "offer substantial public benefit."  Who will determine what is substantial?  The answer most likely is that it will be either google workers or some computerized search technique they will use.  I've had a few problems with Blogger in the past with their AdSense revenue sharing program.  It never produced much money, but a little here and there always hoped.  However, AdSense, even though I conformed to their policy, decided that my blog was in violation of their policy.  Though I emailed them numerous times, I was never given an explanation.  I'm afraid they will do the same with their new policy.

Some of the blogs I read daily, do contain sexual content.  Steve's "All Natural and More" is one of my favorite blogs.  I follow it and check it out each day.  I love the pictures that Steve shares, but I also love the newsworthy items that he shares on his blog.  Since I am a follower of Steve's blog, will I lose access to this blog if it is deemed "pornographic" or will I have to ask for permission to follow his blog or other blogs that are made private that I follow?  Will blogs that are converted to private still appear on my Dashboard?  These are just some of the many questions that Blogger should be answering, but is remaining silent about.

It is simple censorship.  A blog (a truncation of the expression weblog) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). Many blogs provide commentary on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries; others function more as online brand advertising of a particular individual or company. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic, sometimes those topics are sexual in nature. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of a blog.  I've met many great people through blogging.

What upsets me is that a blog is an extension of your personality.  Often bloggers are anonymous so that they can freely express a part of their personality that they may not be able to express to the public world around them.  This is especially true of closeted gay bloggers.  By censoring us, of what Google/Blogger may or may not deem to offer substantial public benefit, they are taking away a large part of what blogging is about.  I do not believe that my blog is in violation of their new policy, but if one day they deem it to be in violation, please remember my dear readers that I have a mirror blog at closetprofessor.wordpress.com.  If this blog does get caught up in Blogger's censorship campaign (I hope it won't), I will continue to post on my WordPress site.

Just as a side note, look at that picture above.  It is a picture of one of the most beautiful men that I've ever seen, yet I had to censor it to make it appropriate for this blog.  As beautiful as that man is, I do not believe it is a pornographic picture simply because he is (1) naked, (2) shows his penis, or even that (3) he has an erection.  It is a beautiful picture of a beautiful man, and to me, that makes it art and worth sharing.  Besides, I find something incredibly sexy about a man in nothing but a white dress shirt.

UPDATE:

Writing for Google's Blogger Team, Social Product Support Manager Jessica Pelegio said that users whose blogs were consistent with Blogger's existing policies (including the labeling of adult content) would not need to make any changes.

"We've had a ton of feedback," Pelegio said, "in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. So rather than implement this change, we've decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn."