Ohio

A Certain Shade of Gray

Detail of frame from Durarara!!!

KING 5 overstates the lede:

Washington health experts say deaths due to fentanyl have roughly doubled in the state in only a year. The drug is cut into heroin and other drugs as a cheaper alternative and often times without people knowing.

A new investigation released Wednesday by the State Department of Health, State Toxicology Laboratory, University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and Public Health Seattle & King County shows deaths from fentanyl and related drugs rose to 70 in 2016 from 28 in 2015.

The State Toxicology Lab says we can’t compare the numbers directly because halfway through the year, the lab changed its testing methods in order to detect smaller amounts of fentanyl. Had it used the old protocol, the lab would have identified 53 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016.

However, the 70 deaths account for 10 percent of all opioid-related deaths in the state.

Even still, the comparative reality isn’t exactly good news. Nor is there much comfort in not being elsewhere. WUSA, via KING 5:

Knoxville police are keeping their eyes out for a dangerous and deadly drug. It looks like a chunk of concrete, can kill with one dose, and is being called ‘Gray Death.’

So far, it’s been found in Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky, which are all states connected to Tennessee by an interstate.

According to reports, the drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine, 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, and includes an elephant tranquilizer called Carfentanil.

That tranquilizer showed up in Tennessee for the first time this year. Since then, it’s been found in five separate cases, including one in East Tennessee.

Remember: You can call it “gray death”, and someone will still want to use it.

At the same time, the joke about the nanovirus doesn’t work; the opioid epidemic is a bit more serious than video game obscurities. Still, of course they called it “gray death”.

(It’s a marketplace thing. See, back when KGB was popular as “killer green buds”, the marijuana didn’t actually kill you. Of course they called it “gray death”. Think about who we’re dealing with, here inasmuch as anyone would actually manufacture and distribute the stuff.)

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Tan, LiLi. “‘Kill pill’ intensifying opioid epidemic”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

WUSA. “New drug called ‘Gray Death’ can kill with just one dose”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

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Death and the Natural State

VIII. Adjustment.

This is the setup: The state of Arkansas wishes to execute eight people over the course of ten days in four doubleheaders of death overseen by a prisons regime that has never executed anyone at all, using drugs the state has never used before and have shown grotesquely problematic in neighboring Oklahoma, are about to expire, and, according to the manufacturers, do not appear to have been acquired legitimately. Rachel Maddow offered a six and a half minute overview last week.

That would have been Thursday evening. Friday and Saturday saw the whole plan come apart, with one execution stayed at least temporarily, and then a temporary restraining order against one of the intended execution drugs, compelling a federal court to halt all eight executions. This is Arkansas, though; NBC News brings the latest:

Lawyers for the Arkansas attorney general’s office worked feverishly on Saturday in an attempt to dismantle road blocks in the way of a historic spate of executions temporarily halted by court rulings.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson had ordered the execution of eight men over 10 days because one of the state’s lethal injection drugs was set to expire at the end of the month, but a series of court rulings Friday and early Saturday put that schedule in jeopardy.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge made it clear the state was unwilling to concede.

The former Land of Opportunity, naturally, is very much distressed that the courts should meddle with its opportunity excuse for homicidal spectacle.

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The Subcommittee (Lipstick and Laughs)

bdti-20151007-CecileRichards-composite-bw

Something about famous last words might go here, but that still doesn’t sound right. Infamous openings? Let us check in with Emma Dumain of Roll Call:

House Republicans insist their new committee to investigate Planned Parenthood won’t be political.

And if it sounds like a setup, well―

But lawmakers and aides on both sides of the aisle are raising eyebrows at the optics of GOP leaders soliciting buy-in from outside groups as they make decisions about which members will sit on the special committee.

The original plan was to convene a subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate the women’s health organization and abortion provider, which is under fire after secret film footage seemed to implicate Planned Parenthood officials with illegally selling fetal tissues, a charge the group denied.

Under that initial framework, the select committee would have drawn from in-house resources, including mostly staff. And while membership on both sides of the aisle would still be subject to appointment by their respective party leaders, the pool would be restricted to those members already sitting on Energy and Commerce.

Outside advocates and leaders in the anti-abortion community urged Republican leaders to expand the committee to lawmakers outside Energy and Commerce to include more stalwarts of their movement. GOP leadership agreed and has also listened to outside advice on exactly whom to appoint.

―yeah, this is the House of Representatives, and, yes, Speaker Boehner is, technically, still as in charge as he ever was.

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The John Kasich Show (What Counts)

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH; second from right), celebrates after signing a budget, 1 July 2013.  The controversial budget contained several anti-abortion measures intended to bureaucratically outlaw the practice.  (Detail of frame from video by Ohio Capitol Blog, via The Rachel Maddow Show.)

“I’m willing to fight all day long, but you’ve got to have a good prospect of being able to be successful. Because if you’re not successful, you shut the government down, you open it up and you haven’t achieved anything. You’re just going to have people shake their head and wonder what your thinking was.”

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH)

Remember, though, this is John Kasich we’re talking about, here. The takeaway from Jennifer Bendery’s report for Huffington Post is that Mr. Kasich is giving his colleagues sound strategic advice. That is to say, we should not let this or his recent sound bite about Kim Davis suggest he is any sort of moderate.

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More Fun with Censorship

The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona's strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents. A.R.S. §15-115 A.R.S. §15-716

Call it a lesson learned. When I was young, parents the problem was kids listening to rock music, and the solution was to put stickers on albums warning parents that their children might hear explicit words.

These days the problem is apparently smart kids learning biology, and the solution is to put stickers on textbooks warning kids that they need to talk to their parents about what the state of Arizona thinks.

True, we are not certain what lesson was actually learned, but the tale is hardly unfamiliar.

And now, the update from the one and only Laura Conaway:

The board acted at the urging of the same group that backed gay discrimination bills in Indiana, Arkansas and Louisiana, the Alliance Defending Freedom. Based in Arizona, the Alliance insisted that Gilbert’s biology books were out of compliance with an Arizona law requiring school districts to present childbirth and adoption as preferable to abortion. msnbcBut soon after the Tea Party majority decided to censor the biology books, voters in very conservative Gilbert decided to replace them with a new majority. Shortly afterward, the outgoing board reversed course and decided against going ahead with ripping pages out of biology textbooks.

From the beginning, superintendent Christina Kishimoto had warned her bosses on the board that removing information from the books would only send kids to the Internet to find out what they were missing. With the new majority taking over, Kishimoto told us late last year she would have a team of biology teachers go over the books this summer and likely put together two or three pages of information that they would include in an envelope glued to the inside back cover.

Last night, though, a local viewer emailed us Gilbert’s solution, and it turns out to be much smaller than expected.

As you can see below, teachers are adding this small sticker to the inside back cover of the honors biology textbooks.

The stickers read:The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona's strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents. (A.R.S. §15-115, A.R.S. §15-716)

The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona’s strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents.

And there is a political moral to the story. Remember that this intrusion of the moral authority of the state government of Arizona is brought to you by small-government Tea Party Republicans.

To the one it is part of a conservative notion whereby small government means using local government to tamper in people’s lives, like citing square footage in order to censor Zombie Jesus. Or, you know, TRAP laws, by which Republicans use zoning regulations to shutter businesses providing goods and services they don’t like. Women’s health care, for instance. The infamous abortibudget, for instance, in which Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich refused to use his line-item veto to strike anti-abortion provisions from the state budget. Here’s a fun one: Abortion providers must obtain transfer agreements with local hospitals. This is similar to the admitting privileges debate in other states; many abortion providers can’t get local admitting privileges because they do not admit enough patients to the hospital. But Ohio, knowing this wasn’t popular with the courts, went with another idea. A “transfer agreement”. A doctor needed a transfer agreement with a local hospital before providing abortion services. The hospitals, meanwhile, are explicitly forbidden under law from entering such an agreement. It’s no wonder Mr. Kasich didn’t want to discuss the anti-abortion law he signed, and the only real question remaining is why the Cleveland Plain Dealer tried to scrub that episode from history. One need not be a paid pundit to recognize, also, that it is always Christian supremacist moralism.

At least it’s not forcible insertion this time.

But it is using the state to deliver a moral message intended to undermine reality. And this in itself is problematic.

Which leads to the other. Only Tea Party activists in Arizona could rush to follow in the footsteps of Tipper Gore and somehow manage to screw up even worse.Parental Advisory: Explicit Content

No, really.

Come on.

At some point, we must admit the entire Tea Party brand really is that stupid.

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Benen, Steve. “Ohio’s Kasich approves sweeping restrictions on reproductive rights”. msnbc. 1 July 2013.

—————. “The gag rule Kasich doesn’t want to talk about”. msnbc. 31 October 2014.

Conaway, Laura. “Arizona town decides not to censor books, adds stickers instead”. msnbc. 14 August 2015.

Justice

People celebrate inside the Stonewall Inn, an iconic gay bar recently granted historic landmark status, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

Today.

This is our honor.

• There is, of course, the decision itself: Obergefell v. Hodges (14-556)

• Or perhaps a headline: “Gay Marriage Supporters Win Supreme Court Victory”

• The author: “Kennedy: The Gay Marriage Justice”

• Another headline, this one somewhat overstated: “Texas Pastor Says He Will Set Himself On Fire In Protest Over Gay Marriage”

• Dissents or temper tantrums? “‘Ask the nearest hippie’: The conservative SCOTUS justices’ opinions on marriage equality are hilariously bitter”

• And why not ask a hippie? “We Asked the Nearest Hippie About Scalia: It Was David Crosby”

• Unfit for duty: “To avoid marrying gay couples, some Alabama counties have stopped marrying everyone”

• GOP presidential timber, part one: “Constitutional Remedies to a Lawless Supreme Court”

• Fifty-four years, cookie dough, and Stonewall celebrations: “From Ice Cream To Ian McKellen: Reactions To Same-Sex Marriage Ruling”

• GOP presidential timber, part two: “Jindal: ‘Let’s just get rid of the court'”

• GOP presidential timber, part three: “Scott Walker calls for Constitutional amendment to let states define marriage”

• What a real President of the United States sounds like: “Remarks by the President on the Supreme Court Decision on Marriage Equality”

I would at this time raise a glass to homophobic traditionalists from Sea to Shining Sea; without your dedicated, horrifying zeal, we might never have come this far. Indeed, your own cruelty and hatred shepherded this day.

Drink up, dreamers of hatred and supremacism; you’re running dry.

Then again, we also know you’re nowhere near finished, at least in your own minds. We’re here. We will hold the line. We know you’re targeting children, now, and we will hold the line.

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Image note: People celebrate inside the Stonewall Inn, an iconic gay bar recently granted historic landmark status, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

Required Reading: Equal Protection Edition

Contemplation of Justice

This is pretty much required reading. William N. Eskridge Jr., of Yale Law School, offers an opinion in favor of Amendment XIV recognition of same-sex marriage in Ohio. The middle of the article stands out:

Justice Anthony Kennedy said: “This definition has been with us for millennia. It’s very difficult for the court to say, oh well, we know better.” Justice Samuel Alito asked: “How do you account for the fact that, as far as I’m aware, until the end of the 20th century, there never was a nation or a culture that recognized marriage between two people of the same sex?”

All of the justices and counsel addressing this point accepted the premise that no culture had ever recognized same-sex marriage. That premise is incorrect.

First- and second-century historians Suetonius and Tacitus (disapprovingly) documented official same-sex marriages in imperial Rome. Some modern historians have found plausible evidence of such marriages among Egyptians, Canaanites and Hittites and on islands in ancient Greece. So it is not right to say that the Western tradition had never entertained marriages between people of the same sex until the 20th century.

The evidence is overwhelming for non-Western cultures. In their 1951 book “Patterns of Sexual Behavior,” anthropologists Clellan Ford and Frank Beach surveyed 191 world cultures and found many examples of same-sex intimacy occurring “within the framework of courtship and marriage.” They were mainly referring to “berdache” marriages, in which a man would marry another man who performed domestic duties or a woman would marry a woman who worked outside the home. Researchers have demonstrated that a majority of Native American tribes (as well as many tribal people elsewhere in the world) have recognized such marriages at points in their histories.

Anthropologists have also documented the phenomena of “woman marriage” in African societies, in which a wealthy woman marries another woman and then secures her impregnation, thereby generating heirs. Anthropologist Denise O’Brien reports that such marriages have been recognized in more than 30 African cultures.

There are other examples (some more equivocal), but these show that there has been no universal definition of marriage that excludes same-sex couples.

To the one, it should be noted that Prof. Eskridge also authored an amicus brief in support of the Obergefell petitioners on the question of the Fourteenth. And while the interest of amici might be a bit thin, the brief still makes for excellent reading.

To the other, we should remember what is at stake: Ohio is trying to unmarry a dead man.

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Eskridge Jr., William N. “The 14th Amendment should cover same-sex marriage in Ohio”. The Washington Post. 19 June 2015.

Eskridge Jr., William N. and Ilya Shapiro. “Brief of Amici Curiae CATO Institute, William N. Eskridge Jr., and Steven Calabresi in Support of Petitioners”. Supreme Court of the United States. 6 March 2015.

The Countdown: One Week

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

We should not let it pass unmentioned that there is one week left before oral arguments in Obergefell, when marriage equality has its day before the Supreme Court. Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog offers the press some advice on covering the case, but it’s pretty much worth a read for anyone who wants to know what’s about to happen.

About the briefs. There are a lot of them. Some amount of triage is essential to get ready for the oral argument. All of the briefs are housed here on the blog (organized for each case — Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky) and on the Supreme Court’s own website.

In each of the four cases, the parties’ briefs are generally the most important. There are briefs on the merits by the plaintiffs challenging the state laws; they are known as the “petitioners” because they “petitioned” the Court to review the lower court’s decision upholding the state laws. On the other side, each set of state officials defending the laws – known as the “respondents” – filed briefs in their respective cases. The petitioners also get to file reply briefs, which are due at the Court on the afternoon of April 17.

In addition to the parties’ briefs, there are also over a hundred amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs filed by everyone from the Cleveland Choral Arts Association and Facebook – both of which filed briefs in support of the challengers – to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and an advocacy group founded by Mike Huckabee, which support the states that seek to uphold bans on same-sex marriage. The United States also filed an amicus brief supporting the challengers.

With the possible exception of the Justices’ law clerks, no one will read all of these amicus briefs – and you don’t really need to either. Each amicus brief is required to contain a “summary of argument,” which lays out the issues that the brief will cover and generally gives you enough information to decide whether you want to keep reading or instead move on to the next one. The only exception is the brief of the United States, which always receives considerable attention from the Court (and which will participate in the oral argument on the marriage question).

And that’s just part of what you need to know before the show gets started. It is worth noting that the Court is allowing a longer session for oral arguments, two and a half hours split into two parts. The first will see the Court spend ninety minutes on the basic marriage question, with Mary Bonauto arguing on behalf of the same-sex couples, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli representing the United States, and John Bursch of Michigan explaining the case for the states. Of the three, only Bonauto will have rebuttal time.

The second part will have to do with the recognition question, and in this case it really would seem rather quite clear. Nonetheless, Douglas Hallward-Driemeier will stand for the challengers; Joseph Whalen of Tennessee will represent the states.

For a look at what we’ve heard before, and perhaps a hint of what’s in store, Zack Ford of ThinkProgress offers up a serving of strangeness. And despite the absurdity of a certain amicus brief, which, it should be noted, was obsolete before it was submitted―the democratic process has already brought same-sex marriage to multiple states―the crown still goes to Paul D. Clement, arguing on behalf of House Republicans in Hollingsworth, that gay marriage was wrong because “Unintended children produced by opposite-sex relationships and raised out-of-wedlock would pose a burden on society”, and further reasoned that same-sex couples “don’t present a threat of irresponsible procreation”.

What a show.

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Howe, Amy. “A reporter’s guide to covering the same-sex marriage cases at the Supreme Court”. SCOTUSblog. 20 April 2015.

Ford, Zack. “Ten Novel, Absurd, And Irrelevant Arguments Made In Supreme Court Briefs Against Marriage Equality”. ThinkProgress. 17 April 2015.

Savage, David G. “Gay marriage opponents take unusual tack with Supreme Court”. Los Angeles Times. 26 January 2015.

One of Those Important Things

Ninamori eats a popsicle.  (Detail of FLCL episode 5, 'Brittle Bullet')

So this is how it goes: Ms. Thomas’ right to expression of conscience is at least as protected as the bigots demanding “religious freedom” in order to discriminate. Still, though, look at the outcome. Religious supremacism and the right to bully people? Apparently we need a Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect supremacism as if it was equality. But, hey, being gay? Offensive. The idea of human rights for women? Offensive. These things, apparently, need to be suppressed. You know, as a matter of freedom and equality.

When 8th grader Sophie Thomas got her class picture this year, she was shocked to see that her t-shirt had been photoshopped. The actual shirt has one hand-lettered word on it: ‘Feminist.’ The picture shows her wearing a plain black shirt.

Sophie wasn’t about to take that lying down. She posted a picture on Instagram of herself in the t-shirt, along with this message:

“HELLO EVERYBODY! I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS PICTURE ISN’T GREAT, BUT THERE IS AN ISSUE AT HAND. I WORE A SHIRT WITH THE WORD “FEMINIST” ON IT. OUR SCHOOL TOOK A PICTURE OF OUR GRADE TO HANG UP IN THE SCHOOL. TODAY, I FOUND OUT THEY BLACKED OUT MY SHIRT. I WENT TO OUR PRINCIPAL AND SHE CLAIMED IT WAS “OFFENSIVE” AND SHE “DIDN’T WANT IT IN THE PHOTO”

THIS FRIDAY, APRIL 17TH 2015, IS THE DAY MY PROTEST TAKES PLACE. EVERYONE PARTICIPATING WILL BE WEARING A SHIRT WITH A PHRASE LIKE “I DESERVE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION” OR “FEMINISM ISN’T OFFENSIVE” OR ANYTHING THAT YOU BELIEVE FITS! PLEASE MAKE A SHIRT AND JOIN US AND HELP TAKE CARE OF THIS ISSUE. PLEASE REPOST AND SPREAD EVERYWHERE USING THE HASHTAG #IDESERVEFREEDOMOFEXPRESSION THANK YOU!”

That certainly got people’s attention — not only among students in this little town of Batavia, Ohio, but also in the media- nationally and internationally.

(Montesano)

And as we are wont to say, things only go downhill from there.

But this is what it’s really about. Supremacism is not equality, and we really ought to reject any sort of community standard that would suggest otherwise.

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Image note: Eri Ninamori eats a popsicle. Details of frames from FLCL episode 5, “Brittle Bullet”.

Montesano, Deborah. “8th Grade Feminist Is The Winner In Dispute With Narrow-Minded School Officials”. Addicting Info. 17 April 2015.

Flabbergasting

Contemplation of Justice

“Inevitably, a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage will usher in an unprecedented coarsening of community moral standards, spawning an aggressive impulse to force the American people not just to tolerate all forms of sexual misbehavior, but to embrace and encourage pagan practices that threaten to ‘defile’ the land, and risk God’s judgment.”

William J. Olson

This is what it comes to.

This is what Christian supremacists are bringing to the fight.

Yes, you’re allowed to have one of those, “Holy shit!” moments.

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