North Carolina

Some Manner of Fun With Google

As fun as it might be to pop jokes about the Carolinas, there does come a point where we have to admit something seems more like juvenilia than dangerous hatred. Then again—

Jennifer Mann and Jodi McDaniel have lived together in their small home off Hilltop Farm Road for the past four years without any problems or disparaging remarks from neighbors or anyone else.

The lesbian couple didn’t expect the first nasty encounter to come from Google Maps.

“My son was on Google Maps at school when he (searched) ‘street view’ for our address and it said, “Fagits live here,'” Mann said, recalling the incident of about a month ago.

She couldn’t believe it initially, but when she checked Google Maps, the anti-gay slur was there, showing their driveway as the inappropriately named street.

“I just thought, ‘Are you kidding me?'” said Mann, 39. “I tried to contact Google, but I was put on hold forever and ever and ever. This day and time, with people and hate, you just can’t live your life.”

(Boyle)

—it probably reads a little differently when you’re the target of such childishness.

Google Maps logoFor its part, Google has struck the offensive tag and proclaimed its innocence; Kathy Hoglen of Haywood County also removed her department from the suspect list, noting that the driveway has no such registered name and asserting, “Of course we would never have approved anything like that.” And, indeed, with the “democratization” of the internet, the most likely explanation is juvenile idiocy.

And the McDaniel-Mann family seems to be taking that part in stride; despite their disgust the message seems consistent: People need to grow up.

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Boyle, John. “Lesbian couple in Canton disparaged on Google Maps”. The Citizen-Times. 19 November 2014.

Where the Tide Takes Us

The hammer drops

The application for stay presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is denied. The orders heretofore entered by Justice Kennedy are vacated.

Supreme Court of the United States

This is not an unexpected outcome. Indeed, the blunt, unsigned order refusing Idaho’s request to stay the Ninth Circuit decision striking the state’s same-sex marriage ban is pretty much exactly expected. The only strange thing about it, really, is that the order exists at all.

The point arose last week when the Court refused to hear arguments from several states after Appeals courts struck their marriage bans. As Rachel Maddow explained to viewers:

So, there are nine Supreme Court justices. Do the math. If you want to win a case at the Supreme Court, you need five votes. You need five justices on your side. You need five votes to win a case.

But it only takes four votes for the Supreme Court to decide to take a case in the first place. So, we know there are four anti-gay marriage justices on the Supreme Court—Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Thomas. If they had wanted to hear one of these cases today, if they had wanted the chance to overturn one of those pro-gay marriage cases from the lower courts, those four justices had enough votes to take the case to do it.

I mean, the anti-gay marriage side could have taken one of those cases if they want to. So, why didn’t they?

Latta is an Article IV case. The thing is that no excuse a judge might invent to try to get around Amendment XIV, the Equal Protection Clause, marriage equality runs up against the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV of the Constitution.

Given that the Supreme Court just said no to appeals in Article IV cases, one might wonder why Justice Kennedy thought to issue a stay and ask his colleagues to undertake another Article IV case.

Lyle Denniston brings us the answer:

Without explanation, the Supreme Court late Friday afternoon rejected a request by state officials in Idaho to postpone a lower-court ruling that had nullified the ban on same-sex marriage there. The two-sentence order also lifted an earlier order by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy temporarily delaying that decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

There were no noted dissents from the Court’s new order. Although it gave no reasons, the Court’s action was a further indication that the Justices are unwilling to be drawn into the constitutional controversy at this point, leaving it to lower courts to continue to explore it. Idaho officials had tried to convince the Court that their case was different from the ones that the Court had bypassed on Monday.

Certainly, it was a weak reason, but, you know, it is no big deal, right? Just making people wait for their civil rights in order to be nice to Idaho while they attempt to make an impossible argument.

Nonetheless, Idaho is go. And, you know, it was only a day. What’s another day after all these years?

Oh. Right. Obergefell. Which reminds, there is no news from the Sixth.

But there is news from North Carolina, where a District Court in Charlotte struck the Tar Heel State’s marriage ban according to Bostic v. Schaefer, a Fourth Circuit case the Supreme Court refused.

Additionally, Denniston explains the Ninth Circuit Memorandum issued Saturday, bringing a formal end to the moot Jackson v. Abercrombie in Hawai’i. It’s a happy ending.

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Supreme Court of the United States. “Order in Pending Case”. Otter v. Latta. 10 October 2014.

Maddow, Rachel. “‘Edie and Thea’ lead way to marriage equality, argle-bargle notwithstanding”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 6 October 2014.

Denniston, Lyle. “No delay on Idaho same-sex marriages”. SCOTUSblog. 10 October 2014.

Cogburn, Max O. “Memorandum of Decision and Order”. General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Resinger. United States District Court Western District of North Carolina Charlotte Division. 10 October 2014.

United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. “Memorandum”. Jackson v. Abercrombie and Bradley v. Abercrombie. 10 October 2014.

How It Goes: Recognition Edition

Last month, Emma Margolin undertook an effort to list the reasons why the Supreme Court was expected to take up marriage equality in the new term that began today. And, of course, something about today, because the msnbc reporter brings the news that we should add five states to the officially official marriage equality roster:

Marriage equality is coming to five more states – with six more on the way.

Practically, today SCOTUS recognized a right to SSM. Implausible that later it will undo marriages, absent a big change in Ct’s membership. (SCOTUSblog via Twitter)The Supreme Court on Monday rejected appeals to hear same-sex marriage cases out of Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin – all of which saw their bans fall in both federal district and appeals courts. The move immediately legalizes marriage equality in those five states, and will soon topple bans in six other states that make up the 4th, 7th, and 10th circuits. Those states include Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming, bringing the total number of states where gay and lesbian couples can wed from 19 plus the District of Columbia to 30 – more than half the nation.

With a ruling expected sometime this fall, all eyes turn to the Sixth Circuit, where it is hard to imagine the court rejecting Full Faith and Credit.

SCOTUSblog checked in with the summary reflecting the sentiments coloring the headlines:

Practically, today SCOTUS recognized a right to SSM. Implausible that later it will undo marriages, absent a big change in Ct’s membership.

And so it goes. For now.

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Margolin, Emma. “Five signs the Supreme Court will take up gay marriage”. msnbc. 29 September 2014.

—————. “Marriage equality comes to five more states”. msnbc. 6 October 2014.

SCOTUSblog. “Practically, today SCOTUS recognized a right to SSM”. Twitter. 6 October 2014.

A Toxic Troika? A Note on ‘Optics’ and ‘Metrics’

Jeb Bush, left, speaking Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C., in support of Thom Tillis, a Republican candidate for the Senate. Credit Chuck Burton/Associated Press

When studying the Castor and Pollux of politics and punditry it might help to bear in mind that many of the buzzwords are intended to sound quasi-scientific in order to hide the fact that the terms describe artistic results. A metric, for instance, is simply an abstract measurement in unknown units compared to a presupposed psychomoral idyll that may or may not be available for examination and should never be trusted in the first place, anyway. The metrics of a situation are whatever the pundit wishes to describe in order to make his or her own narrative sound that much more compelling.

But then there are the optics of a situation, and this is a fairly easy explanation. Political optics are, quite literally, nothing more than appearances within a frame described by a pundit’s metrics.

In one of his first public appearances of the 2014 campaign, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida had a vivid preview Wednesday of the challenges he would face with his party’s conservative base should he seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

Standing alongside Thom Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker and Republican Senate candidate, Mr. Bush outlined his views on two of the issues he cares most passionately about: immigration policy and education standards. But as Mr. Bush made the case for an immigration overhaul and the Common Core standards, Mr. Tillis gently put distance between himself and his guest of honor, who had flown here from Florida on a dreary day to offer his endorsement in a race that could decide which party controls the Senate.

(Martin)

Ah, optics!

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A Note on Narrative and Context: Life and Death Edition

 Henry Lee McCollum wiped tears at a hearing Tuesday in Lumberton, N.C., where a judge declared him and his half brother Leon Brown innocent and ordered them both released from prison. Credit Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer

“I feel very, very sorry for them and I’m glad to know they’re out. At least the process worked, it just took too long.”

―State Rep. Thom Tillis (R-NC98)

Context … is … everything.

At first blush, North Carolina State Speaker of the House Thom Tillis seems to have the right answer, politically speaking, to the inherent question of just what happened the now-infamous case of Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown. Mr. McCollum spent thirty years on death row, and his half-brother Leon Brown the same period under a life sentence; as the fact of their innocence echoes from sea to shining sea, the tragic tale is also boosted into the realm of the political circus, courtesy the one and only Justice Scalia:

The exoneration ends decades of legal and political battles over a case that became notorious in North Carolina and received nationwide discussion, vividly reflecting the country’s fractured views of the death penalty.

The two young defendants were prosecuted by Joe Freeman Britt, the 6-foot-6, Bible-quoting district attorney who was later profiled by “60 Minutes” as the country’s “deadliest D.A.” because he sought the death penalty so often.

For death penalty supporters, the horrifying facts of the girl’s rape and murder only emphasized the justice of applying the ultimate penalty. As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party put Mr. McCollum’s booking photograph on campaign fliers that accused a Democratic candidate of being soft on crime, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.

In 1994, when the United States Supreme Court turned down a request to review the case, Justice Antonin Scalia described Mr. McCollum’s crime as so heinous that it would be hard to argue against lethal injection. But Justice Harry A. Blackmun, in a dissent, noted that Mr. McCollum had the mental age of a 9-year-old and that “this factor alone persuades me that the death penalty in this case is unconstitutional.”

It was a spectacular line Scalia uttered; far beneath the dignity of any court in this fair land. Jonathan M. Katz and Erik Eckholm were kind enough to omit it from their New York Times article describing this week’s acquittal of McCollum and Brown, but still manage to make the point, anyway. This was just one of those cases, and in his own, inimitable way, Justice Scalia may well, by the fact of these acquittals, see what was merely crass and inflammatory rhetoric transformed into an icon of his shameful tenure on the Nation’s Highest Court.

But, yes, at first glance, it might seem Tillis has said exactly the right thing. The Devil, of course, is in the details:

Now middle aged, the two brothers have been in prison — one of them on death row — since they were teenagers, wrongfully accused of raping and murdering a child. When ThinkProgress asked Tillis if anything needs to change in light of this case, he said that because they were eventually exonerated, “It’s an example of how we have protections in our judicial system in North Carolina.”

“I feel very, very sorry for them and I’m glad to know they’re out,” he said. “At least the process worked, it just took too long.”

(Ollstein)

It’s called WYWA. The point is to answer the question you Wish You Were Asked. This is, of course, standard fare, and as much as it might annoy us, it is also true that voters respond affirmatively; if you cannot answer WYWA, you do not stand a chance.

But in this case, Tillis’ answer would seem to leave a certain issue unresolved. If the question is if anything needs to be changed, and the answer is that at least the system worked and an example of how we have protections, then what about how it just took too long?

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The V.A. Shuffle

Grieving in Columbia

“If the price tag is any indication, Sanders compromised quite a bit – the Senate bill, which passed in June on a 93-to-3 vote, had a price tag of $35 billion over 10 years. This new agreement with the GOP-led House has reduced the aid package to $15 billion, less than half the original total.”

Steve Benen

Perhaps some of us recall a recent Beltway dustup when it was discovered that the Veterans Administration was apparently failing to do its job, even going so far as to keep secret lists describing reality while devising all sorts of lies on paper to suggest everything was … well … that is the question, isn’t it?

After all, perhaps some of us also remember that the idea of the VA as a bureaucratic nightmare akin to that planet-eating monster thing in Rise of the Silver Surfer, a film that, like the 113th Congress, probably should have been shelved, or else simply never greenlit.

We all know the cycle; this is just a particularly ugly manifestation. Indeed, it seems a perpetual part of our American experience; take a noble endeavor that cannot be recorded in body counts, territorial annexations, or ledgers, and think about how a society engages those challenges.

Twenty years ago, it was schools. The “No Child Left Behind” debacle was the height of a movement idea. The schools, facing budgetary issues challenging their ability to perform their jobs, were told that they needed to show they could do the job without the extra money, and then the legislatures would consider writing the checks.

Step one? Describe the problem.

Step two? Refuse to do anything about the problem.

Step three? Tell people that if they show they can solve the problem without the legislature’s help, the legislature will consider the possibility of just maybe deciding to do something to help.

To wit, perhaps some might also conjure up a strange memory, seemingly recent, in which a sitting U.S. Senator castigated veterans support groups for failing to agree with him. (more…)

A Rush Transcript: Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D-NC49) on Women’s Health Care

A transcript of remarks delivered by North Carolina State Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, regarding the addition of an anti-abortion legislation package to an anti-Sharia bill, on July 2, 2013:

Members of the Senate, you’ve heard this in several statements tonight, but I feel like we’ve got to repeat it, and we’ve got to understand it easier: We’re treating this place as if it’s ours, to do with as we please. The fifty of us. Actually, I the thirty-three of you. And that all that matters is whether you prevail in here.

Those rules were put in place not so you could suspend them and beat us; you can beat us every day, all day—we don’t have enough votes. They were put on there because there’s a process out here where the public gets to see what we’re doing. You put a committee substitute online the night before so the public can get it. They can get it, we can get it; everybody has a chance to look at it.

Now we’re in here debating a bill that’s going to affect better than half our population, directly, and the rest of them indirectly. They haven’t had a chance to look at any of this. And I heard in the committee, and I’ve heard on this floor—well, I was told it’s my thinking. The bill was intended. This bill’s not had any scrutiny and we don’t know what it does. We’ve kind of got an idea. Y’all got an idea, and I got an idea. I’m going to give you a couple of my ideas here in a minute. But the most important thing is we got a state full of people out there that don’t even know we’re down here doing it.

And let me tell you what I think you’re doing to them. I think the provision having to do with ambulatory care centers is going to do away with health care as we know it for women who need help. And there are going to be more of them, not less of them. When you force these things into ambulatory surgical center, Planned Parenthood has four centers in the state—none of them comply. Out of business. Nobody told us that in committee. I scurried around and got that information myself.

That crowd that is going to descend on you when you get back down here is going to know it. It is a frontal attack on these facilities that offer women’s health care to women—things they need, mammograms, et cetera.

You are eliminating abortion coverage for people who may be anti-abortion but may need one later in life. Now the way I understand the way the exchanges were set up, no you can’t use government money for that procedure. But they were going to provide something for women to purchase separately, with their own money. You’re trying to cut that off, to where no woman will have abortion coverage.

What happens if her life is in danger? What happens if she’s a victim of rape and incest? What happens if it’s your daughter, or your granddaughter, and they need help? And your policy that you have doesn’t cover abortion. Alright, everybody in here can pay for it. That ain’t no problem. Well everybody out there can’t pay for it, and you have health insurance for a reason—and it’s to cover all these contingencies.

Not only are we saying that to people who might be in our health exchange, we’re saying to local governments and you can’t do it either.

Now, you all watch the news just like I do. I don’t how much you watched about Texas. We’re sitting in here tonight, and you’re going to win this debate and feel really good about yourselves, because you—all you big grown-up gray-haired men—have beat three women. I want to see what you do with about ten thousand of them, ’cause they’re coming. They’re coming. They’re not going to put up with you doing to this to them in the dark of the night, in the middle of a holiday week—

[Interjection: Mr. President, can you please tell me what time it is and is the sun still out?]

It’s eight o’clock at night, on Tuesday night. We’re back in session on a bill that wasn’t even on the calendar at six o’clock.

[Interjection: Mr. President, I want to object to third reading right now, so we can talk tomorrow, more, when the sun is out.]

I think that would be a wonderful idea when the time comes. And then by tomorrow some people in the public will know about this bill and be able to tell us what it does.

I don’t know how much more I can say. I can tell you this: You cannot keep doing this to the general public of this state. You got people already marching on this place, and that’s over how we’ve been behaving. And you start dragging up a committee meeting, no notice to the public, go down there and do a bill that disenfranchises women to this extent—and they’re not included in the debate, there’s nobody there from their side to even speak for them—and bring the bill up here; and I’m sorry if I’ve hurt your feelings. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, I meant tell the truth on this stuff, because this is bad, bad business, and this is not our place to abuse. This place deserves more respect than to do this kind of thing to the people.

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(Transcribed from video via MSNBC; h/t to Will Femia.)

Bigotry: The Next Generation

Well, now. Where to begin?

Okay, how about with an update from Winston-Salem, North Carolina:

A young demonstrator took aim at North Carolina’s Green Street United Methodist Church after its recent pledge to stop performing weddings until same-sex marriage is legalized.

The next generation of HatredAs Good As You blogger Jeremy Hooper first reported, the boy—who is not identified—stood in front of the Winston-Salem church on Easter Sunday with a placard that read, “Jesus Must Be Your Lord Or He Will Not Be Your Savior.”

“The Bible talks about the homosexuals—they’re worthy of death,” the boy proclaims, as seen in video footage of the protest which was also posted on Hooper’s site. “They’re worthy of death, and you people approve of them! That’s why you’re going to Hell without Jesus Christ. You can turn from your sin!”

He adds, “It’s time to stop sinning and follow the lord Jesus Christ!”

This is one of those good news, bad news situations. That is to say: Good news! An eleven year-old boy has awoken to his political conscience and is expressing himself! And, of course: Bad news! An eleven year-old boy has demonstrated the heritability of bigotry!

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Unexpected

Green Street UMCI used to make the joke that I would not get married, at least, until gay marriage was legal; the rationale was that I refused to take part in a discriminatory ritual. This was, ultimately, a joke, of course, with the obvious retort being to wonder who would ever marry me.

Setting that aside, though, let us check in with Meredith Bennett-Smith of Huffington Post, who offers us this lede:

A United Methodist church in Winston-Salem, N.C., has vowed to stop performing weddings until same-sex marriage is made legal.

Yes, you read that correctly.

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