Jan 092015
 
This entry is part 17 of 35 in the series Gay Marriage

Boy oh boy, did I get a surprise phone call Monday. I live in Tampa, just south of Pasco County, and Monday morning I faxed a letter to Paula O’Neil, Pasco Clerk of Court about their discontinuing performing marriage ceremonies in deference to the bigotry of some of her assistant clerks. You can read the letter here.

About 3PM, I got a phone call from Ms. O’Neil. My letter had raised concerns with her, and of course, she started with the “misquoted and out of context meme,” and asked if she could elaborate. I was impressed that she called, and that we spent 45 minutes discussing the issue.

First, I will concede that the article, as is often the case, did publish some comments of Ms O’Neil out of context…big surprise, but she did, after some prodding admit that, while dropping this service had been under consideration for a few years because of budget cuts, it was the gay marriage issue, and the concerns of some of her staff (who came to her “in tears saying they just couldn’t do it”).

Paula O'Neil, Pasco Clerk and Comptroller

Paula O’Neil, Pasco Clerk and Comptroller

I put it to her this way, “Ms. O’Neil, if one or more of your assistant clerks ever came to you and said they just couldn’t conduct a ceremony for an interracial couple, that it just went against their personal beliefs, would you condone that or accommodate it in any way…would you have stopped performing all ceremonies because of that?” She said no, of course not. I asked her to explain to me the difference, from a civil and constitutional rights perspective, the difference between an interracial marriage and a same-sex marriage. After some sidestepping, and then a long pause she said, “I can’t, and now that you’ve presented it that way, I can see why this is a problem and why people would see it as discrimination.” She said she never meant to discriminate, but I explained there was no way it could be viewed as anything else. I really didn’t let her off the hook, and she really didn’t argue or try to make excuses.

I reminded her of the story  of the southern cities that filled in municipal pools rather than allow African-American Children to swim in them, and said, “Whether you meant to or not, you just backed up the cement truck and hit the dump lever, and that will be your legacy and that of Pasco County 100 years from now.

To her credit, I think she now understands the harm and damage she’s done, and has since gotten permission to waive the three-day waiting period, and had notaries and judges available at the Courthouse those first days to handle anyone wanting to be married there. It was the best we could come up with to try to mitigate the damage.

I have to give Ms O’Neil credit for being willing to have a very civil discussion, present her side, and listen fully to my side, and try to arrive at a reasonable remedy.

So I call that a good day.

The Zimmerman Trial

 Crime, Featured, Legislature, Media, Politics, Society  Comments Off on The Zimmerman Trial
Jul 152013
 

I couldn’t let the George Zimmerman case go by without commenting. I think the main issues in the case are being overrun by our desire to make the main issue one of race. The case certainly has two points of race running through it, but the primary issues here are Florida’s draconian self-defense laws, and our concealed-carry law.

Let’s get the racial issues out-of-the-way first. I certainly believe race played a role in this case. Zimmerman clearly, based on the 911 call, profiled Trayvon Martin because he was a young black man. Now there certainly had been some crimes in his neighborhood involving young black men, but you go profiling, this is what happens. Despite Zimmerman’s impression, Martin “belonged” in the neighborhood. It was his neighborhood, and he was merely walking through. Would Zimmerman have called in a report of white teenager walking through the neighborhood? I don’t know, but suspect it would be unlikely.

The other racial undertone has to do with the actions of the response of the Sanford police officers. They were going to accept, unchallenged, Zimmerman’s invoking of Florida’s stand your ground law (more on that in a minute). I have to wonder if the tables had been turned. George Zimmerman had pursued and confronted this young man who was doing nothing wrong or illegal. He was carrying a gun. I would consider him a threat in that situation, and under Florida’s stand your ground law, I would have a right to use deadly force, as did Trayvon Martin. Let’s say that Martin had managed to wrestle Zimmerman’s gun away from him, and had, fearing for his life (he would have had a gun drawn on him after all), shot George Zimmerman? It’s only speculation, but I suspect the Sanford police would have used a higher standard for a stand your ground defense if proffered by Martin. I suspect he would have arrested and charged on the spot.

Did Zimmerman set out to find a black person to shoot that day? I seriously doubt it. Did he take the opportunity to shoot a black person when he came across one? I doubt that too. For that reason I’m hard pressed to consider this a crime of bias, but, as I said, there are certainly racial overtones to this situation.

I think they are overshadowed by a number of other issues which point directly to the absolutely insane Republicans running state government here in Florida. Let’s look at those issues in more detail.

First is the concept of “concealed carry.” If the idea of being able to carry one’s gun is for protection, then the concept of concealed carry is silly on its face, and in the case, deadly. What do I mean by this. My preference would be to avoid being involved in a crime at all. So if I carried a gun, it would be for the purpose of convincing you that I’m not your best choice as a potential target for a mugging. That means I need you to see my gun. I don’t want it concealed…I’d want to carry it loud proud. It is again speculation, but if Martin had seen a gun on Zimmerman as he approached, he might have turned tail and ran. I’d like to think Zimmerman wouldn’t have shot a fleeing person in the back. I believe concealed carry contributed to this situation.

Then we come to silly statutes in Florida that allow one to defend themselves. People who legitimately find themselves in life threatening situations have an absolute right to defend themselves. However, these are the kinds of situation that will happen in states with such broad self-defense and stand your ground laws. First, there was nearly never any accountability whatsoever because of stand your ground. While the outcome of the trial was not what many people believe served justice, at least there was a trial. Had it not been for the public pressure, Zimmerman’s invoking of stand your ground would have eliminated even a reasoned examination of the facts of the case, and the law in deliberately crafted to subvert such an airing of facts.

The self-defense law is so broad here in Florida that I would walk up to someone on the street, punch them in the face, and once they start kicking the shit out of me, I could pull out my concealed weapon to shoot and kill the person I originally attacked. Silly you’d think, but not so with our illustrious Florida Republicans, and this case is the result. I think that once you either instigate or pursue, you forfeit any claim to self-defense. At that point, you’re no longer defending yourself, you just got yourself into a fight.

The jury is getting a lot of flack, but I think it is undeserved. The jury is required to be finders of fact, and appliers of the law, and in this case, as unfortunate as it is, they did just that. There is really no significant forensic evidence, no complete and significant eyewitness testimony…there seems to only be a case of “he said / he said.” The only problem, there’s only one of the he’s available. I do not want juries to try to make law, or find violations of law where there is none. That’s not for juries to do. I want us to preserve the presumption of innocence, and I want the prosecution to have a very high bar to prove their case. In this situation, they were unable to hurdle the bar, but that’s largely because the Florida Legislature stacked the supports unreasonably high.

I think the jury decided the case before them rightly based on the law and the evidence. Now, does that bring any justice for Trayvon Martin and his family. No it certainly does not. The largest part of the blame is on George Zimmerman. This is a situation of his creation, and I hope the Martin sues his pants off, and I hope they win. They deserve nothing less. However, there’s plenty of blame to go around, and THE main reason justice could not be found in a criminal courtroom is because the Florida legislature has essentially legalized vigilantism. Direct your complaints and protests towards the Capital Building in Tallahassee.

As I said, I hope the Martin family brings a civil suit. There is no doubt about the basic facts of the case. George Zimmerman created a hostile situation in which Trayvon Martin exercised his right to stand his ground. Unfortunately, he lost because he brought only a pack of skittles to an unplanned gun fight.

As for a federal prosecution under civil rights laws, I’m not much of a fan. Those have their place, but again, I think that must be a high bar. Do I think Zimmerman committed a hate crime? I really don’t. I think he committed a crime of stupidity. The best place for the rest of this case is a civil courtroom. Let Trayvon and his family now have their day in court.That will be best found there. For the rest of us, we need to demand sanity from our legislators.

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Protects Forced Child Marriage

 Congress, Crime, Featured, Politics, Society  Comments Off on Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Protects Forced Child Marriage
Dec 202010
 

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) behind the perfect podium

You will be thrilled to know that Florida now has a member of Congress who supports forced child marriages. Incoming House Foreign Affairs chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) defeated a bill Thursday evening that would have committed the United States to combating forced child marriages abroad, by invoking concerns about the legislation’s cost and that funds could be used to promote abortion.

You should know that there is template language in all such bills which prevents the funds being used for abortion. Her concerns about spending are knowingly false, but you know, who wants to spend protecting children anyways? Here’s the letter I wrote her:

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
2206 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515-0918

Dear Rep. Ros-Lehtinen:

Congratulations. Once again you’ve acted to further advance the opinion of the rest of the world that Florida is backwards “hick” riddled state.

We’re already viewed as people who can’t count votes, and inbred bumpkins who marry our cousins, and now here you go opposing a bill to help stop forced child marriages around the world?

You claimed the bill would cost $108m over five years, but the CBO estimates an outlay of only $67m, and you were aware of this. You claim to have offered a “less expensive bill” (because really, who wants to spend money protecting children anyways), but your bill lacks implementation procedures, and you knew that too.

So all I can do is ask, “Why do you support forced child marriages, or do you just hate children?”

I look forward to your answer.

Fax number of her Washington, D.C. office is 202-225-5620

Quran Burning and The Silliness That's Florida

 Featured, Religion, Right Wingnuts  Comments Off on Quran Burning and The Silliness That's Florida
Sep 112010
 

Apparently Terry Jones (I refuse to use the Reverend honorific for a person like this) of the Dove World Center in Gainesville has flown to New York, and won’t be burning in Quran’s. In the process, he finally got his 15 minutes of fame for he and the loser that is his Associate Paster, and created even more division in America…but hey, he managed to get what he wanted…attention.

In our country, people have a right to be assholes and idiots, and this guy certainly took advantage of that right. We have the right to burn our own flag, to burn books of all types, and to insult other people…even entire groups of people. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Let someone burn a Bible, and this guy and his cult followers would go crazy. So why wouldn’t they have the same problem burning the Holy Book of another religion.

I think he never intended to burn a Quran. This guy is a ego-maniac, and was using this as a way to get attention. I came to realize in watching two clips I saw, each one showing him walking out to speak to the press. Now let’s remember this is a man who pastors a church of about 50 people. But each time he came to speak to the press, it look the President walking out with the usual contingent. Here’s the “tell.” The man walked out in his shirtsleeves (not uncommon giving it’s Summer in Florida), but was followed each time, along with others, by a woman carrying his coat. After walking to the spot where the microphones were, he’d stop and she’d hold his coat up for him to put it on, then he’d step up to the microphones.

Jones and his entourage taking questions from the press. The lady in the back on the left is the official coat carrier.

In the second, later clip, he was followed by a woman wearing a gun, and his associate pastor was on one of the news shows, in his suit, also “packing heat.” This guy gained his 15 minutes in an earlier Youtube video going off on every other Church and minister in Gainesville because they wouldn’t join his church in condemning the gay person running for Mayor of Gainesville. In those videos, he was wearing a t-shirt.

This is clearly all just theater, and the press was right there to oblige. Secretary of State Clinton had the best solution to all this. If the press would go away, this would be a non-story.  This is all Jones wanted, and the press willingly gave it to him.

During all this I keep hearing about the “Islamization” of America. What an amazing joke. The number of Muslims in America in miniscule, yet we are running in fear. What a bunch of small and frightened people we’ve become.

Whitest Beaches in The World?

 Environment, Gulf Oil Spill  Comments Off on Whitest Beaches in The World?
Jun 252010
 

This is a video posted on YouTube by Michael McLean. You start out seeing what’s been called the whitest beaches in the world, but ominously, in the background, you see the people in white jumpsuits and the crime scene tape. Indeed it is a crime scene as the videographer makes his way closer to the water line and you seen the puddles of oil and the black stained seaweed washed up on Pensacola Beach. What BP has done is criminal, but their officers will spend not day in jail, and will not pay one penny in penalties. The CEO is still off racing his Yacht, when federal marshals should have already confiscated it.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtGLBgTP8r4]

Beware of the Power of HypnObama-May Result in Educational Diligence

 Education, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Society  Comments Off on Beware of the Power of HypnObama-May Result in Educational Diligence
Sep 082009
 
See the full HypnObama at<a title="Click to visit Zaius Nation and see the full HypnObama." href=

See the full HypnObama at Zaius Nation (but beware).

It is just astonishing to me the complete crap that has been stirred up over the President of the United States offering an address to school students at the beginning of the school year to encourage to stay in school and work hard. Really, does it get any more anti-American than that? Well, if you’re are a conservative Republican it doesn’t, but there really is logic to the Republicans taking the position they have.

Facts are facts, and the fact is that, statistically speaking, the less education a person has, the more likely they are to vote Republican. The states with highest teen pregnancy rates, the highest dropout rates and lowest performing schools, statistically, are considered Red states. Given that, this tactic makes perfect sense. Why would the Republicans want children to succeed in school?

Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, one of the idiots leading the charge is giant hypocrite and leader of the Florida Republican Party, Jim Greer. Greer issued a statement claiming, among other things:

“indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda.” He added that Obama “has turned to American’s children to spread his liberal lies.” Greer’s hysterical press release said the very idea of a political figure taking a political message to school children is “infuriating” and “an invasive abuse of power.”

I guess Mr. Greer isn’t savvy enough to know about Lexus searches and the like. Unfortunately for Mr. Hypocrite Greer, the Orlando Sentinel did a little digging, and here’s what they found:

There once was a political operative who loved to tell crowds he had a simple way of explaining to children the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

“Republicans get up and go to work,” he would tell his son. “Democrats get up and go down to the mailbox to get their checks.”

This man not only talked to his son about Republican values, he went into public-school classrooms and talked about them as well.

One Seminole County mother, Barbara Wells, remembers the day Greer spoke to her son’s sixth-grade class. “My son said he made some sort of Hillary Clinton joke,” she recalled.

So when asked if had run his pro-Republican message by parents and school officials before he talked to school kids, you most likely won’t be surprise by his answer,”That was different,” Greer said.

Never mind that In 1988, Ronald Reagan pushed his anti-government, low-tax ideology in a speech broadcast to classrooms nationwide, adding that he had supported “Negro” educational institutions. Here’s excerpts:

[flv]/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Great_Indoctrinator.flv[/flv]

Hat Tip to Daily Kos

The deranged ranting just defies belief.

The great grand irony here is that, as all know when it comes to kids, all the fuss around this means the kids are going to go on-line and make absolutely sure they see what it was all about…so I find it great fun that kids are going to be going on-line to watch a video about doing good in school.

As a public service, to do my part to advance the cause of communism/facism/nazism/name your evil ‘ism, here’s the text the President’s speech from today. Continue reading »

Crazy Is In The Air

 Congress, Featured, Politics, Society  Comments Off on Crazy Is In The Air
Sep 052009
 

The crazy’s were certainly out in full force this week.

Let’s just go ahead and get started right here at home in good ole Florida. Jim Greer, head of the Republican Party here in Florida has gone out fuming about Obama giving a speech to school children about such anti-American activities as: working hard; setting goals; and being good students. Now you think this all sounds crazy, but this is a real strategy for Republicans. It is an academically researched fact that Republicans do better in the less – educated demographics. So of course they wouldn’t want children indoctrinated into the well-educated classes of this country.

But if you listen to Mr. Greer, he apparently thinks that if kids play Obama’s speech backwards, he convinces that socialism is the best thing for them. Let’s see, I think Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush did something similar, and wasn’t George W. Bush sitting in a classroom right here in Florida when the planes hit the WTC?

Booking Photo of Roger Stephens

Booking Photo of Roger Stephens

Mr. Stephens here gets the award for craziest. It seems that Mr. Stephens was shopping in a Walmart in Stone Mountain, GA. When he’d had enough of a crying baby, and after having already threatened the mother, he decided to slap the baby around a little to make it stop crying, and this was a stranger. Stupid thing to do, but, I admit to their having been a few times in public places when I wanted to slap a parent or two.

The tea-baggers just can’t allow there to a civil discussion on health care reform in this country. Rep. Frank Pallone tried to host a town hall meeting in his New Jersey district. The crowd could only shout that his mother should have had an abortion instead of having him. Disgusting as it is on the surface…how stupid when one of the the complaints of the tea-baggers is that the reform plan might pay for abortions. They’re stupid and dumb.

But it went beyond just childish and silly at Rep. Pallone’s meeting when the crowd shouted down a woman in a wheel chair who wanted to ask legitimate questions.

The woman, Marianne Hoynes, described how the forum was invaded by organized teabaggers from New York, “so this wasn’t even their town-hall meeting.”

Hoynes: There was a large group of people who showed up that night for the purpose of making sure that questions couldn’t be asked, and we couldn’t hear information. I don’t know how to describe it any other way.

… You know, you could tell that they were very organized. They came in groups, they had signs ready, which — outside they were chanting, but as time went on, and certainly by the time we got into that room, which held about 500 people, they got more and more verbally violent — I don’t know how else to describe it.

They began by just screaming and yelling at Congressman Pallone that he should have been aborted, and that his mother should have had an abortion, that he was a domestic terrorist.

… What they did was completely un-democratic. I wanted to learn more about this health-care system. We were allowed to either ask a question or make a statement, and I wanted to share with Congressman Pallone what it was like to be sick in America today. And I had that right, I thought. They really tried to scream me down — and everybody else, too, not just me. And I felt bullied, and I was not gonna take it. I was going to finish what I had to say, and it was very upsetting. It was very un-democratic, and very un-American.

Town-hall meetings are supposed to be exercises in democracy. But the teabaggers are turning them into exercises in para-fascist intimidation, eliminationism, and general thuggery.

Then another tea-bagger got his finger bitten off outside a town hall…and guess what? He relied to Medicare (you know…guvmet run health care) to get his injury taken care of…the very thing he there to protest. I wonder how many died of irony over that one?

And then there’s Michelle Bachmann. Congressman Bachmann is always good for a few laughs, and she obliged this week in a radio interview. Apparently she’s come to the conclusion that the Democrats all hate her and want to sabotage her because she might someday become President. (Please God, no!)

Nothing Wrong With a Little Hating in Ponce De Leon

 Featured, Gay Issues, Religion, Right Wingnuts, Society  Comments Off on Nothing Wrong With a Little Hating in Ponce De Leon
Aug 262008
 

Some months back, a high school senior in Holmes County, Florida (up in the Pan Handle) went to her high school principal to report that she was being harassed by some other students. Now, most of us would expect the principal to take some action against the young lady’s tormentors, no? Well, that would not be the correct assumption in Holmes County.

An AP story on TBO.com tells a different story. Principal David Davis got severely reprimanded by a federal judge for conducting a “witch hunt” against gays. Davis was demoted, and school employees must now go through sensitivity training. And the school district had to pay a little over $300k in legal fees. It seems that Davis, rather than offering help to the young woman told her homosexuality was wrong, outed her to her parents, and then, when some supportive students started wearing gay pride t-shirts and rainbow clothing, Davis’ head apparently exploded.

Good ole Principal Davis started questioning them about their sexuality, questioning if they associated with gay people, and even suspended some of them. One of the girls Davis harassed in this way told her mother, who, to set the proper example, contacted the ACLU. The ACLU brought the suit resulting in Davis’ admonishment by the court.

One might also think that, having brought such disrepute on the school, Davis might be sent packing. Up in the pan handle, one would be wrong again. Steve Griffin, Holmes County’s school superintendent, who keeps a Bible on his desk and framed Scriptures on his office walls said, “We are a small, rural district in the Bible Belt with strong Christian beliefs and feel like homosexuality is wrong.” So, Davis was just demoted, and is still teaching at the school.

Many in the community there are on Davis side. According to one 73 year old resident, “David Davis is a fine man and good principal, and we are a gentle, peaceful, Christian, family-oriented community. We aren’t out to tar and feather anyone.” of course the mother who filed the complaint might have a different perspective about the tar and feather thing. A Wal-Mart worker yelled at her, accusing her of trying to “bankrupt” the school district. One of her friends has refused to talk to her because the lawsuit conflicted with the woman’s religious beliefs.

Good gentle, peaceful, Christian, Family-oriented values.

Weekly Weirdness for July 4th, 2008

 Congress, Crime, General, Places, Politics, Society, Tampa  Comments Off on Weekly Weirdness for July 4th, 2008
Jul 052008
 

Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela Can Now Travel to the U.S. (From the BBC)
I didn’t know this, but apparently our illustrious Department of Homeland Stupidity classes Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. It seems DHS classed everyone ever in the African National Congress (ANC) a terrorist. Fortunately, Congress and the President passed special legislation that will allow him to visit the U.N. Headquarters in New York without a special waiver from the Secretary of State. I’m sure glad we got around to clearing that up.

Pot Grower Puts House on Market
TBO.com is reporting that Evarista Ruiz-Ortiz, 36, of 1741 W. Powhatan had 39 pot plants growing in her house. The article doesn’t say how the police found out, but she’d tapped directly into the overhead line for power, and had the house listed for sale. Maybe not he brightest person on the planet. But then again, times are tough, you gotta get gas money somehow.

Naked Man in Downtown Palmetto
There’s a report from the Sarasota Herald Tribune of a nake man run amok in downtown Palmetto. It appears he disrobed in front of some woman in a store while she was in the restroom (I didn’t quite understand that). The lady ran out and the store manager confronted the guy. Apparently, he calmly walked out of the store to the street, where the spectacle promptly caused a couple of traffice accidents. The most interesting part of the story is that the police drugs and alcohol didn’t appear to be involved.

The Day After – Gay Marriage

 Election, Featured, Gay Issues, Politics, Society, The Courts  Comments Off on The Day After – Gay Marriage
Jun 192008
 

Well, it’s the day after the first full day that gay marriage was legal in California, and gosh darn it, the sun came up, birds still sang, children were born, people died, there were even some heterosexual marriages, and I still had to go to work. In other words, if God is mad about it, he sure missed that wrath thing by taking it out on the mid-west. 

We’ve seen the pictures of the two lesbians in San Francisco being one of the first couples married after being a couple for over 50 years. We’ve also seen the completely idiotic protestors. Always with the god made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Please, hire a gay man and get a little creative.

So what’s next for California? It is possible this could all be short lived as there is a ballot measure to be voted on in November that could write discrimination into their state constitution. No one is sure exactly what that would mean for the marriages already performed, as this was obviously not anticipated by the proponents of the amendment since no language was included that would officially address the current situation. For my part, I don’t see how the state could undo something that was fully legal at the time it was done. Let’s say murder was not illegal (insert O.J. joke here), so I killed someone. Then next year they make it illegal. I don’t think it would be legal or right to then charge me for a crime.

As for the amendment itself, I see two possibilities. The marriages will have been going on for nearly six months. So long as there is no major earthquake in California between now and November (for Pat Robertson to use as evidence of God’s displeasure), I think the dust will have settled, and a lot of people will see that it just really hasn’t made any difference. I mean, come on, this argument that somehow straight people will suddenly decide they’re not getting married because Adam and Steve are is just utter bullshit. That’s the best case. The concern is that straight people who are in favor of equal rights, and even gay people will relax a little too much in the afterglow, and let their guard down. Unfortunately, in California only a simple majority is required to pass a constitutional amendment…a foolish thing if you ask me.

VoteNo Does it make a difference here in Florida? There are two things to think about. The most obvious is what impact it might have on our anti-gay marriage amendment. I’ve written briefly about this before. The concern I have is that this does play into the primary argument that marriage opponents always stress…that “activist judges” will overturn the existing state laws against gay marriage, so it has to be put into the Constitution. There are a lot of places in Florida where that argument sells, and it could spark a few people to show up who might not otherwise vote.  Continue reading »

A Rambling Blog

 Election, Featured, Politics, Technology, Travel  Comments Off on A Rambling Blog
Jun 142008
 

I don’t get a ton of traffic on this site, and have always been disappointed with the lack of comments. I get a few, but I know I have opinionated friends, and would expect a little more from them. I suspect one of the reasons is that this blog is so far ranging in the topics I write about.

I’ve read some good articles lately on blogging, and most say to narrow the focus of your blog. The people writing these articles do have very widely read blogs, so one must give them their props. I can’t say I disagree with them, but one of the things I notice is that most of them maintain multiple blogs, and each blog is for a different topic. So, like me, they write on a wide range of topics, but do so on a multitude of blogs.     Continue reading »