Tennessee

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.

The Donald Trump Show (¿Paradise Lost?)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, Virginia, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

This is worth noting:

For the good of the country, Gov. Bill Haslam believes Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump should withdraw his candidacy and give way to vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.

Haslam, R-Knoxville, became the first prominent Tennessee Republican to make such a statement when he issued his comments Sunday afternoon. He joins a growing chorus of national Republicans to repudiate their party’s standard bearer in light of a 2005 video where Trump made vulgar comments that appear to condone the sexual assault of women.

“I want to emphasize that character in our leaders does matter. None of us in elected office are perfect, but the decisions that are made in the Oval Office have too many consequences to ignore the behavior we have seen,” Haslam said.

“It is time for the good of the nation and the Republican Party for Donald Trump to step aside and let Gov. Mike Pence assume the role as the party’s nominee. If he does not step aside, I will write in a Republican for the office of President.”

(Boucher)

It is easy to get caught up in narrative and moment, and thus we sometimes feel flat-footed when history blows past us and, you know, of course we could see it coming, but it’s so easy to lose oneself in high-strung, even mythopoeic history that we often instinctively caution ourselves against believing the hype.

This time, though, let us go ahead and mark the moment with Gov. Bill Haslam; the Tennessee Republican’s statement serves as a personal benchmark insofar as it is now possible for me to believe that Donald Trump might well have finally done gone an’ broke it.

Just sayin’.

Even still, doubt whispers and cynicism clamors; this can’t really be the moment, except that yes, if “vulgar comments that appear to condone the sexual assault of women”, as Dave Boucher’s report for the Tennessean puts it―and why not? it’s a reasonable description dutifullyα ducking the fact that we all know there’s no matter of mere appearances about it―are somehow insufficient to settle the matter, then there is far more wrong in these United States than merely Donald Trump.

We kind of knew that last, already, right? I mean, we’re all clear on what is going on, here?

‘Tis easy to hedge. This is going to be an interesting week, proverbially and otherwise. Consider it this way, please: Mr. Haslam denounces Mr. Trump’s misogyny, preferring instead Mr. Pence’s less felonious misogyny. This ought to be absurd enough to get us through the days.β

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α There are reasons why the reportage is not supposed to do the convicting and crucifying. This is, however, really, truly that straightforward. What seems striking is that the nod and wink, this time, would reject the good ol’ boys’ club.

β And that’s a completely meaningless sentence, isn’t it?

Image note: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, Virginia, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

Boucher, Dave. “Bill Haslam: Donald Trump needs to step aside for Mike Pence”. The Tennessean. 9 October 2016.

The Subcommittee (Lipstick and Laughs)

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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.

(more…)

Tennessee as a Comedic and Allegorical Reflection on What It Really Means to Be a Christian in the American Political Discourse (Smitastic Sanctity Mix)

The Blount County Courthouse, Blount County, Tennessee.

Okay, and then there is this:

A Tennessee county plans to take up a resolution begging God for mercy and asking that the deity not smite their community “like Sodom and Gomorrah” because of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage.Serrano, Piss Christ (detail)

The “resolution condemning judicial tyranny and petitioning God’s mercy” was written by Blount County commissioner Karen Miller and will come up for consideration at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Miller’s resolution claims the “so help me God” part of the oath taken by lawmakers means they are committed not only to upholding the U.S. Constitution but also “higher Natural Law.”

As such, the resolution calls on lawmakers throughout the state “to protect Natural Marriage, from lawless court opinions, AND THE financial schemes of the enemies of righteousness wherever the source AND defend the Moral Standards of Tennessee.”

(Mazza)

So, truth told, I really thought the religious right would have moved on by now; I have no idea what made me think that, other than maybe they saw an easy target in transgender youth, or something.

More fool me, to the one. To the other, they’re handing out rewards for public displays of piety for the sake of being seen by others, which is well and fine since these are the rewards they seek.

And Tennessee? Let us be honest; if God is going to smite the Volunteer State or not, there are plenty of things on His list before He gets around to the homophobia, and all things considered―you know, since these are allegedly Christians we’re talking about, and Christ Himself is generally absent from their hatred―it seems a dubious proposition that being terrified by queers is going to help the Volunteer State’s case for mercy.

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Mazza, Ed. “Tennessee County May Ask God To Spare Them And Smite Someone Else”. The Huffington Post. 5 October 2015.

The Perfect Sense (Tennessee Intellectual Remix)

Firestarter: Detail of frame from FLCL, episode .

Simon McCormack tries, desperately, to explain the situation, for Huffington Post:

A Tennessee judge said the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide has left him unable to determine what constitutes divorce.

A Signal Mountain couple, Thomas and Pamela Bumgardner, are still legally married even though they don’t want to be because of Hamilton County Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton’s stance, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

“The conclusion reached by this Court is that Tennesseans have been deemed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be incompetent to define and address such keystone/central institutions such as marriage, and, thereby, at minimum, contested divorces,” Atherton wrote in his decision last week.

“With the U.S. Supreme Court having defined what must be recognized as a marriage, it would appear that Tennessee’s judiciary must now await the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court last to what is not a marriage, or better stated, when a marriage is no longer a marriage,” he added.

It is true that the question occurs to wonder why conservatives are the ones so often complaining about judicial activism.

This is the pertinent question: What the hell is wrong with these people?

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McCormack, Simon. “Judge Won’t Divorce Straight Couple Because Gay Marriage Is Legal”. The Huffington Post. 3 September 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)

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.

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.

(more…)

What It Sounds Like When Bigots Cry

Lebanon dispenses wisdom and confidence.  (Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 4, 'The Ark Adrift on the Lake ...')

Matt Baume makes the obvious point―

Four states will have to defend their marriage bans before the U.S. Supreme Court this month, and all four are still scrambling to figure out exactly how they’re going to pull that off. They filed a series of briefs with the court last week that are full of weird claims and arguments that just don’t make sense. Kentucky says that its marriage ban doesn’t discriminate, since gay couples are still free to marry someone of the opposite sex. This is exactly the same argument that was used to justify bans on interracial marriage, and it’s essentially saying: “You’re free to do whatever you want, as long as you actually do something else.”

Michigan’s brief is even crazier. They say that gaining marriage equality through a court order, rather than a popular vote, would be demeaning to gay couples. So, thanks, Michigan, for your concern. Tennessee is sticking with the argument that if gay couples can get married, then straight couples will stop raising children in stable families, somehow. And Ohio says that overturning the marriage ban would cause the people who voted for it to feel isolated. Sure.

―but given that he chose Gov. Steve Beshear for the article photo, it’s probably worth reiterating that the Kentucky Democrat isn’t exactly dedicated to the argument.

And, in truth, the title of Baume’s article―“The Four Worst Anti-Gay Marriage Arguments Ever”―really is a matter of opinion. That is to say, I’m not going to knock his summary, but I’m not sure what comes out of Michigan, Ohio, or Tennessee overcomes the absurdity standard set by Paul D. Clement in Hollingsworth, when he argued, on behalf of House Republicans that heterosexual irresponsibility was a reason to ban gay marriage.

Sigh. Yes, he really said that.

And, you know, sure, what Leigh Gross Latherow came up with for Kentucky―after the Attorney General refused to argue the case―is just one of those supremely stupid arguments. We might suggest nostalgia, one last go for the homophobic trolls.

Nor did Baume exactly miss it. Rather, his focus is on the cases coming before the Supreme Court―which reminds of the problem with the word “ever”―and we already know the arguments against marriage equality are so weak that even Justice Thomas has acknowledged the inevitable outcome. What we hear from Tennessee and Michigan is straightforward stupidity. Ohio isn’t even trying. And Kentucky? Well, Ms. Latherow as achieved a new standard in stupidity.

We might have hoped that the Sutton and Cook opinion in the Sixth Circuit would be the “swan song for traditionalist heterosupremacism”, but apparently that wasn’t good enough for Ms. Latherow, who certainly wouldn’t intentionally throw the case. And the vicious excuse for an argument popular among internet trolls six or seven years ago is apparently what she found at the bottom of the barrel.

Scrape away, Ms. Latherow; you’ve certainly achieved your place in history.

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Image note: Lebanon dispenses some manner of wisdom and confidence. (Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 4, ‘The Ark Adrift on the Lake …’)

Baume, Matt. “The Four Worst Anti-Gay Marriage Arguments Ever”. The Huffington Post. 7 April 2015.

Savage, David G. “Gay marriage opponents take unusual tack with Supreme Court”. Los Angeles Times. 26 January 2013.

The Countdown: Three Weeks

Jim Obergefell, left, and John Arthur, who suffered from ALS, are married by officiant Paulette Roberts, Arthur’s aunt, on a plane on the tarmac at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport on July 11, 2013. (Glenn Hartong/AP)

Three weeks.

It was not a long marriage, just three months and 11 days — the time it took his husband, John Arthur, to struggle to say, “I thee wed,” and then die from ALS. Now their union, and the 20-year relationship that preceded it, is at the center of Obergefell v. Hodges, the title case of four consolidated appeals the Supreme Court will hear this month to decide whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

(Rosenwald)

Perhaps it would be helpful to understand not only the importance of Mr. Obergefell’s marriage, but also the terrible depths to which two judges in the Sixth Circuit stooped in hopes of calling it off.

The right of Ohio to decide which marriages to honor or not depends in part on whether the marriage is illegal for other reasons. And that’s part of what is going before the Supreme Court in three weeks. You know, because marrying your gay partner is the equivalent of other prohibited behaviors like incest, or incompetence. (See Sutton and Cook, pp. 40, 59.)

That is how low Judges Jeffrey Sutton and Deborah Cook reached in order to unmarry a dead man.

Yes, there is a reason even Justice Thomas knows it’s over. And in three weeks, Mary Bonauto will do us the honor of driving the nails.

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Rosenwald, Michael S. “How Jim Obergefell became the face of the Supreme Court gay marriage case”. The Washington Post. 6 April 2015.

Sutton, Jeffrey and Deborah Cook. “Opinion”. DeBoer v. Snyder. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 6 November 2014.

Thomas, J. Clarence. “On Application for Stay”. Strange v. Searcy. Supreme Court of the United States. 9 February 2015.