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The Ennead Awards: Nine Justices, Nine Prizes

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Well, folks, before the arguments to the Supreme Court on Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are erased from your memory tapes to make room for “Thrift Shop” (clean version only, please!), we present the First-Ever Ennead Awards. There are — conveniently — nine categories, to wit:

Most Willfully Clueless Award: To Justice Antonin Scalia, for his remarks that sociologists were in disagreement about the effects of gay and lesbian parenting on children. OK, they’re not. The most one can say is that more evidence would be helpful, but this position is usually taken by those who are trying to avoid the implications of the studies that do exist — and show that kids do just fine across all measures when raised by same-sex parents. It might be that Scalia was sending out one of his increasingly high-pitched dog whistles to the far right, a sonic treat that was prominently featured during his otherwise-inexplicable excoriation of the Obama Administration for not doing enough to deal with illegal immigration. But it might also be that, once again, the opera-loving oenophile just didn’t do his homework. As Maureen Dowd pointed out, he didn’t even seem to know how many states have full marriage equality. (He might have just been posing, though.) And last year, he seemed to lament the suggestion that he should actually read the Affordable Care Act before deciding its constitutionality. Try that in your job.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Fantasy: To Chief Justice John Roberts. When the Justices agreed to hear the case, some of us hoped that they would finally take up the issue of whether discrimination based on sexual orientation should be judged by what the Court calls “heightened scrutiny.” It doesn’t look like the Court’s going to do that. In fact, I doubt they’re even going to get into the vast equal protection problems at all. And one reason for their declining to do so was voiced by the Chief Justice, who suggested that gays and lesbians don’t need the suspect classification designation that’s reserved for groups that lack political power. According to Roberts, the reason same-sex marriage laws have passed is because of our powerful lobbying. Then he added:

As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case.

OK, this is a valid point (and one I made, in a somewhat different way, in this Slate piece). But here’s the much more persuasive response of Roberta Kaplan (representing Edie Windsor, the DOMA plaintiff):

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chief Justice, is that no other group in recent history has been subjected to popular referenda to take away rights that have already been given or exclude those rights, the way gay people have. And only two of those referenda have ever lost.

[A]nd until 1990 gay people were not allowed to enter this country. So I don’t think that the political power of gay people today could possibly be seen within that framework, and certainly is analogous — I think gay people are far weaker than the women were at the time [the Court found women to be a “suspect class.”]

Just to make sure no one else might claim this award, the Chief Justice also expressed mild incredulity that the 84 Senators who voted for DOMA might have been motivated by a dislike of lesbian and gay people. Sustaining this particular fantasy requires ignoring the contribution of our next award winner…[1. Justice Roberts would also have won the “Oops!” Award if the Academy had recognized the category. At one point, he let slip the obvious point that Congress wasn’t really concerned with uniformity in enacting DOMA, but in something else: “Do you think Congress has the power to interfere with the [oops!!]…to not adopt the state definition….”]

 

Best Audiobook Reading Performance: To Justice Elena Kagan. Her sparring with Paul Clement, who was trying to defend the indefensible DOMA, was devastating. When Clement kept insisting that the real purpose of DOMA was to ensure uniformity, she confronted him:

JUSTICE KAGAN: Well, is what happened in 1996 — and I’m going to quote from the House Report here — is that “Congress decided to reflect an honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

Is that what happened in 1996?

MR. CLEMENT: Does the House Report say that? Of course, the House Report says that. And if that’s enough to invalidate the statute, then you should invalidate the statute.

Yes, it does. And yes, you should.

 

The Lactose-Intolerance Award: To Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who delivered this dairy product:

It’s — it’s — as Justice Kennedy said, 1100 statutes [that confer federal advantages], and it affects every area of life. And so he was really diminishing what the State has said is marriage. You’re saying, no, State said two kinds of marriage; the full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage.

Well, we know what she thinks of DOMA. But I don’t want to milk the point any further.

The Billy Preston (“Nothin’ from Nothin'”) Award: To Justice Stephen Breyer. Always prolix (he had more “air time” than any other Justice in both of these arguments) and often entertaining, here’s how he explored the somewhat counterintuitive claim that states that give same-sex couples all the same rights as opposite-sex couples, but without the name, have a harder time defending their exclusionary laws than states that fence gay and lesbian couples out completely:

I mean, take a state that really does nothing whatsoever. They have no benefits, no nothing, no nothing.

Anything but that!

Best Performance of 1999: Belatedly awarded to Justice Samuel Alito, who bemoaned the possibility that the Court might be able to find a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry on the ground that such marriages weren’t even as old as cell phones or the internet. After receiving the award, the Justice sped away in a Ford Granada.

 

The George Burns Award: To the woman playing the “straight man” during the arguments, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Among her most unfunny but penetrating series of exchanges involved whether any other kind of discrimination against gays and lesbians might be justified. The attorney defending Prop 8, Charles Cooper, couldn’t think of any. The exchange reflected how far the nation has moved from the Justice Scalia position, expressed in cases like Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas that discrimination against gays and lesbians is still as American as apple pie. The exchange also points up the need to identify a real harm to society from same-sex marriages. None was identified during two-plus hours of argument.

 

Most Important Player in a Dramatic Role Award: As always, to Justice Kennedy, who will almost surely be the swing vote in both cases. It looks like he’s ready to join with the four sort-of liberals on the Court to strike down DOMA — but on states’ rights grounds, rather than on the basis that DOMA denies equality under the law — which it ever so plainly does. (Windsor’s estate tax bill upon the death of her wife: $363,000; hypothetical husband’s bill: $0.) It also looks like he wants Prop 8 gone, but doesn’t know quite how to get there. Two quotes, one epigrammatic and one moving:
[To a flabbergasted Charles Cooper]: “And you might address why you think we should take and decide this case.” (Really? Now? Over at Slate, I offered a possible reading of this statement.)

[T]here is an immediate legal injury…and that’s the voice of these children. There are some 40,000 children in California, according to the Red Brief, that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?

The Marcel Marceau Lifetime Achievement Award: To Justice Clarence Thomas. ‘Nuff said.

 

John Culhane is the co-author of the new book,  Same-Sex Legal Kit for Dummies. He is a law professor who writes about various and sundry topics, including: disaster compensation; tort law; public health law; literature; science; sports; his own personal life (when he can bear the humanity); and, especially, LGBT rights and issues. He teaches at the Widener University School of Law, and is also a contributing writer for Slate.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘A Bunch of New Yorkers in Addition to George Soros’: Greg Abbott Accused of Antisemitism

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Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott is facing a challenging re-election fight against Beto O’Rourke, the popular and charismatic former U.S,. Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate who is now his party’s gubernatorial nominee.

Texas voters have had to face mismanagement of the state’s electric grid, with hundreds of Texans dying in winter after the snowstorm that sent Senator Ted Cruz to Cancun, the horrific elementary school mass shooting in Uvalde, and Abbott spending millions of taxpayer dollars on anti-immigrant programs, including bussing migrants to Democratic-controlled cities like Washington, D.C. and New York City. Not to mention his support of the vigilante abortion ban and a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, his failed promise to end rape, and the fact that Texas leads the nation in mass shootings.

But none of that has stopped the 64-year old from doubling down on his conservative bonafides.

READ MORE: ‘Ghoulish’ Greg Abbott Slammed as a ‘Monster’ for ‘Inhumane’ Response to Deaths of 50 People Locked in Tractor-Trailer

On Wednesday over at Fox News, Abbott engaged in what many are calling some old-fashioned antisemitism.

“We will explain to our fellow Texans that the Beto campaign is being aided by a bunch of New Yorkers in addition to George Soros, and that will do nothing but harm his campaign,” Abbott told Fox News host Harris Faulkner.

George Soros, who is Jewish, is a Democratic philanthropist and one of the liberals most-hated by the right, in large part because he funds left wing causes.

READ MORE:Watch: Video of Beto O’Rourke Confronting Texas GOP Governor and Lt. Gov. Goes Viral

He also donated $1 million to help elect O’Rourke governor.

Two weeks ago polls showed O’Rourke gaining ground, striking with five points of his entrenched Texas Republican rival.

And now Abbott is being blasted for what many are calling antisemitism over his Soros statement.

“In this context, ‘New Yorkers’ and ‘George Soros’ are both signifiers for the alleged Jewish elite who supposedly control the world. Abbott is peddling antisemitic conspiracy theory rhetoric,” says writer and human rights activist Leah McElrath.

READ MORE: Beto O’Rourke Video on NFL Player Protests Goes Viral – Republican Compares Him to RFK

“When they say ‘Soros’ and ‘New Yorkers,’ they mean Jews,” notes freelance writer Henry Schulman. “It’s an old dog whistle and a code all the Trump-humping Nazis and their sympathizers understand. So add a new adjective besides ‘fascist’ in front of Abbott’s name. It’s ‘anti-Semitic fascist.'”

Others were even more direct.

“Just say Jews you coward,” tweeted a columnist for The Forward, Alex גדעון בן װעלװל.

“‘The bespectacled, bagel-eating, gefilte fish-slurping, globalist intelligentsia from the Upper West Side’ is what he’s trying to say, although the specifics of who that is maddeningly unclear,” mocked Aki Pertiz, an intel and national security expert. “Also, doesn’t Soros live in NY state? Why single him out hmmmmm.”

Former Chicago Tribune editor Mark Jacob explains: “Right-wing code is pretty simple. ‘New York’ and ‘Soros’ = Jewish. ‘Chicago’ = Black people.”

Former Governor of Vermont, DNC Chair, and 2004 presidential nominee Howard Dean blasted Abbott, comparing him to the Hungarian dictator and, some say, fascist.

“Abbott has become just another GOP whack job. He sounds like victor Orban,” Dean wrote.

 

 

 

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‘Same Answer’: Trump Sat Across From the NY Attorney General and Pleaded the Fifth to Each Question For About 5 Hours

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Donald Trump arrived at the New York Attorney General’s Office early Wednesday morning, around 9 AM. At 10:04 AM posted to his Truth Social account was a lengthy statement that says, “under the advice of my counsel and for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen.”

Trump was finally forced to appear after a subpoena ordering him to give a deposition on January 7 in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into his real estate pricing practices. Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen told Congress in 2019 his former boss would increase what he claimed his properties are worth when attempting to arrange credit and decrease their value for tax purposes.

The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reported Trump “departed 28 Liberty at 3:20pm slumped in a black Secret Service SUV and peered out of the rear window as his motorcade crawled out of an underground garage past onlookers.”

READ MORE: Legal Experts: ‘Case Against Trump Became Immeasurably Stronger’ After He Says He Pleaded the Fifth

At 3:42 PM Trump posted: “Just leaving the Attorney General’s Office – A very professional meeting.”

The New York Times reports “Trump and James sat across from each other for hours as he said ‘same answer’ again and again.”

Trump “read a statement into the record in which he called the inquiry a continuation of ‘the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country’ and accused Ms. James of having ‘openly campaigned on a policy of destroying me.'”

READ MORE: Experts Call on Trump to Release Search Warrant and Inventory List as His Supporters Talk of ‘Civil War’

That statement is similar to the one posted to his Truth Social account.

Trump’s attorney, Ronald P. Fischetti, “said that over the course of about four hours, with several breaks, Mr. Trump answered only one question, about his name, toward the beginning of the interview.”

That statement Trump posted Wednesday morning attempted to merge the FBI’s Monday raid on his Mar-a-Lago home with his appearance for sworn testimony in a very different case.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Dem Congressman Posts Horrific Audio of Violent Death Threat Against Him and His Family by Caller Praising ‘Trump 2024’

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Democratic U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California on Wednesday posted audio of a violent death threat against him and his family. The Congressman is married and the couple have three children. The speaker in the audio also calls for “all Democrats” to be killed, and ends with a call for “Trump 2024.”

Swalwell is a popular target for the right. He is a former candidate for president, a very visible member of the Democratic Party, and is the Co-Chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee.

The audio is profane and gruesome. In it, a male voice can be heard hoping for decapitations of the Congressman, his wife, and their children. The language is graphic.

READ MORE: House Republicans Visited Trump After FBI Raid to Urge Him to Announce Run for President

The voice also references President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, using horrifically racist slurs, along with Back Lives Matter, immigrants, and Democrats in general.

It also attacks the state of California and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, and then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

It ends with a repeated call of “Trump 2024!”

The audio is nearly two minutes long but appears to have been edited, with at least the beginning cut off.

READ MORE: Experts Call on Trump to Release Search Warrant and Inventory List as His Supporters Talk of ‘Civil War’

“LISTEN to this death threat against my children,” Swalwell urges. “Since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump, McCarthy, and MAGA Republicans are stoking violent rhetoric against lawmakers and law enforcement. Someone is going to get killed.”

In 2019 Swalwell also posted  a death threat he received. Fox News’ Tomi Lahren mocked him on social media.

NCRM has opted to not embed the audio but it can be heard here.

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