Nel's New Day

January 4, 2014

Government, Culture – Pro & Con

This week has seen some peculiar positions on the law and cultural beliefs, both pro and con government positions.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials caused the horrifying destruction of 13 musical instruments after the agency identified them as “agricultural products.” Canadian citizen and U.S. resident Boujemaa Razgui, who was returning from visiting family in Morocco, had his luggage taken during a layover in New York on his way to Brockton (MA). When his bags were delivered to his home the following day, he was missing the flutes that he had made himself. The professional musician had intended to use the flutes in a performance in Boston. It appears he has no recourse for the loss of his livelihood.

Ohio now recognizes same-sex marriage but only after one of the couple is dead. Judge Timothy Black has ordered the state to recognize LGBT marriages on death certificates. The ruling came from a gay couple married in Maryland shortly before one of them died. Without the recognition of their marriage on the death certificate, the man who died could not be buried in the survivor’s family cemetery plot. Black said that the state cannot “discriminate against same-sex couples … simply because the majority of the voters don’t like homosexuality (or at least didn’t in 2004).” Black also wrote, “Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away.” Perhaps that will someday hold true for living same-sex couples in Ohio.

With 18 states and the District of Columbia recognizing marriage equality, Utah is in a quandary. Just two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that same-sex couples could marry in that state. The appeals went back and forth until the most recent one landed on the desk of SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She is assigned to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to handle motions such as emergency requests. She can either rule independently or refer the matter to the full court.

Same-sex couples are able to get married in Utah because acting attorney general Brian Tarbet didn’t file a pre-emptive stay against the marriages if the court found against the state’s ban on marriage equality. His failure meant that couples could marry between the time of the court’s ruling and the hearing of an appeal. The state is arguing that allowing same-sex marriage causes irreparable injury to the state and that the inability to be married in Utah causes no injury to gays and lesbians.

Yesterday, lawyers filed a request urging Justice Sotomayor to permit same-sex marriages to continue while the 10th Circuit Court considers the state’s appeal. There is no time limit in her issuing a decision. Meanwhile, same-sex couples are still marrying in Utah. During the first six days after the decision, over 900 same-sex couples received marriage licenses, including Utah State Senator Jim Dabakis.  

The argument about the Roman Catholic nuns in Colorado has gone to bizarre extents as they claim that the federal government is infringing on their freedom of religion. The crisis peaked on New Year’s Eve when Justice Sotomayor declared an injunction until the situation is settled. There’s no timeline.

The background: Little Sisters of the Poor objects to providing contraception insurance because of its religious beliefs. No problem—they don’t have to if they fill out the paperwork to say that they don’t want the insurance to include contraception.

Their current objection, however, is to completing the short form certifying their religious objections. The Affordable Care Act has already eliminated the requirement for religious groups to provide contraceptive insurance. Employers can provide a health care plan that doesn’t cover the medication, and then the employers’ insurance company creates a separate policy to cover contraception. The woman gets free contraception, and the employer is not paying for this part of health care. Paperwork from the employer, however, is required to start the process.

Even if the Little Sisters complete the form, the employees may not be insured for contraception. A district court in Colorado moved to dismiss the case, ruling that it lacks authority to require a “church plan” to provide contraception. The insurance plan is administered by the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, exempt from ACA enforcement. Thus Little Sisters filed a federal lawsuit, refuses to sign any paperwork, and has no part in any requirement to provide contraception that most other women will receive.

When I read about Justice Sotomayor placing the injunction, I wondered why it was her responsibility. Further research shows that each Supreme Court justice is assigned to a circuit court. An appeal for emergency assistance goes first to the assigned justice. If the response is unsatisfactory, an appeal can go to another justice and, as a last resort, then to the entire court. [Map of the 13 circuit courts and their assigned justices]

  • District of Columbia Circuit: John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice
  • The First Circuit: Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice
  • The Second Circuit: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice
  • The Third Circuit: Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice
  • The Fourth Circuit: John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice
  • The Fifth Circuit: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice
  • The Sixth Circuit: Elena Kagan, Associate Justice
  • The Seventh Circuit: Elena Kagan, Associate Justice
  • The Eighth Circuit: Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice
  • The Ninth Circuit: Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice
  • The Tenth Circuit: Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice
  • The Eleventh Circuit: Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice
  • The Federal Circuit: John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice

The Koch brothers, who control many GOP state legislators through ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), have decided that they can do the same to Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show. After her story about the brothers’ part in lobbying for state laws mandating drug testing for welfare recipients, they sent her a letter demanding a retraction and providing her with a script. This is Maddow’s response:

“I will not renounce or retract reporting that is true, even if the subjects of that reporting don’t like it. Being a political actor means being subject to political scrutiny. If you don’t want to be known for it, don’t do it. Don’t just complain when people accurately describe your actions. Your actions are what we are reporting on and we will do that on our own terms – as a free press. If you want to control the words that are used when your actions are discussed, then speak for yourself. I will renew my invitation now. Mr. Koch, or the other Mr. Koch, you are welcome on this show any time.”

In good news, Idaho has learned its lesson that privatized prisons don’t work: the corrections department is taking back operation of the biggest privately-run prison in the state because of the past decade’s mismanagement. This move shows that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter may be reversing his strong support for privatization after lawsuits about gang activity, contract fraud with Corrections Corporation of America, understaffing, and massive violence.

Because of a new law in California, 36-year-old Sergio C. Garcia, a Mexican immigrant without a green card, may be licensed as a lawyer. The legislature passed the law because the state Supreme Court had denied him licensing. Federal law keeps undocumented immigrants from obtaining professional licenses unless state governments denies the ban. Garcia can practice law free of charge, but the court questioned whether he could charge fees. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote:

“We conclude that the fact that an undocumented immigrant’s presence in this country violates federal statutes is not itself a sufficient or persuasive basis for denying undocumented immigrants, as a class, admission to the State Bar.”

Garcia was brought to the U.S. when he was 17 months old. He returned to Mexico with his parents when he was nine and came back to the U.S. illegally at the age of 17 with his father who has permanent resident status. His father requested his green card at that time. The federal government approved the application the next year, but Garcia has still not received the green card. After earning his law degree from Cal Northern School of Law in Chico, he passed the bar on his first attempt. He has waited four years for his law license. Two similar cases are pending in New York and Florida.

We’ll finish with an insane approach toward evaluating teachers. In 2009, Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the D.C. public schools who is still widely appearing on talk shows, announced a numerical scale to either fire teachers or give them huge salary increases. During her term, there were allegations of cheating in schools where scores increased, only to fall back after security measures were employed. Despite the problems, schools across the nation have started to use the Rhee method.

“A very small typo” in the programming code last year led to mistakes in firing one teacher, keeping three teachers from receiving bonuses, and providing inaccurate job evaluations for another 40 teachers. After discovering the problems month later, the district tried to rectify the problems. The question is how many other mistakes in programming have destroyed teachers’ careers.

Idaho and California—becoming sensible; education—needs to focus on teachers for evaluation; religious groups—should get reasonable; Customs—pay for the destruction; Ohio—value the living as the dead.

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Rethinking Before Restarting

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?


Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: