Monthly Archives: March 2015

Up Too Late

I was up far past my bedtime last night getting final 9-week grades recorded and posted, so no post today.  I was just too tired to write anything of substance.

One quick note: this is my 1700th post published on this blog.

The Guitar

The Guitar
By Federico García Lorca

The weeping of the guitar
The goblets of dawn
Are smashed.
The weeping of the guitar
To silence it.
To silence it.
It weeps monotonously
As water weeps
As the wind weeps
Over snowfields.
To silence it.
It weeps for distant
Hot southern sands
Yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
Evening without morning
And the first dead bird
On the branch.
Oh, guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
By five swords.

Fifty Years Ago…Remembering Selma

It may look like a simple through arch bridge, but the Edmund Pettus Bridge is not a simple bridge.   The Edmund Pettus Bridge is a bridge that carries U.S. Route 80 across the Alabama River in Selma, Alabama.  I’ve crossed it countless times in my life, and have always been struck by the history made there. Built in 1940, it is named for Edmund Winston Pettus, a former Confederate brigadier general, Democratic Party U.S. Senator from Alabama and Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan.  The Pettus Bridge was the site of the conflict of Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when armed officers attacked civil rights demonstrators attempting to march to the state capital of Montgomery.

Saturday, marked the fiftieth anniversary of the event as thousands gathered in the small city of Selma, Alabama to hear among others, President Obama speak. Obama’s address commemorated the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” during the marches to Montgomery in 1965, but his rhetorical scope encompassed all of American history.  Obama made the case that we are not exceptional in the perfection of our virtue, but rather, exceptional in our relentless struggle to live up to our ideals:

For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

For Obama, the marchers at Selma helped set a new course for American democracy. “Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American,” he told the crowd. “Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors.” Had one of his predecessors not already taken the phrase, perhaps he would have called this a new birth of freedom.

He further noted, “We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the ’50s. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was 30 years ago. To deny this progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.”

Linking all “warriors of justice,” he invoked immigrants, slaves, and more who worked to change the U.S., he commented, “We are the gay Americans whose blood ran on the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge.”

It is often forgotten the role of LGBT Americans in the Civil Rights Movement for African-Americans.  James Baldwin was at the Selma to Montgomery March, and he wrote the first gay book I ever read, Giovanni’s Room.  Lorraine Hansberry was a lesbian, whose 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun, blazed a trail for African Americans into mainstream theatre and entertainment.  Bayard Rustin was not only dedicated to orchestrating the civil rights movement, he was also one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest advisors, and the organizer of the epic 1963 March on Washington. The Civil Rights Movement owes a debt of gratitude to the many LGBT Americans who fought for equal rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

Love Lifted Me

Love Lifted Me
By James Rowe

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.

Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me!

All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling,
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.

Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me!

Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves.
He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.

Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me!

“Love Lifted Me” is one of those great songs that not only has memorable words, but has a great melody too. For many of you, I know you are already humming these words in your head.  I can also hear you holding out the last “Love Lifted Me” in the chorus.  I always love when the music leader takes this upbeat song, and then slows it down and emphasizes those last three words of the chorus.  Can you close your eyes and picture it with me?

“Love……” – It was love, not obligation, that caused God to send His only Son (John 3:16).

“Lifted……” – It was from a state of helplessness that the Father reached down, put His arms around us, and lifted us from the miry clay (Psalm 40:2).

“Me…..” – It was me that He died for.  It was me that sinned against Him (Psalm 51:4).  But I am thankful today that Love Lifted Me and I know you are too.

Written in the early 1900’s, the author of this hymn, James Rowe, is believed to have written over 20,000 hymns.  Born in Wales, he came to America in the late 1800’s and worked in a variety of jobs – teacher, government worker, railroad worker, and as an inspector at the Hudson River Humane Society.  His real passion, however, was writing.  It is said that Mr. Rowe wrote over 20,000 hymns and poems in his lifetime.  Some other hymns written by Mr. Rowe that might be familiar to you are “God Holds the Future in His Hands, I Walk With the King, If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again.”  What may surprise you is that Mr. Rowe was a prolific writer in spite of dealing with arthritis.  His daughter remembered the times where he would battle through the pains of arthritis to put on paper the words of a poem or a melody to a hymn.  I have the mental picture of someone in awful pain writing about a love that lifted his spirit out of that place of pain.  A picture of a man who had a physical pain that was overshadowed by the feeling of love and mercy he felt from the Savior.  That is truly an up-lifting image for me, and I hope it is for you.

In I Corinthians 13, Paul describes the importance of Love and he tells us some of the things that Love does.  In verse 4-8, Paul tell us “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”  Paul pretty much had love covered here in these verses.

But this hymn reminds me that love also lifts.  I did a search for “love” and “lift” in the Bible, and came across a great Scripture in Hosea.  It is a beautiful image of what God has done for us, and I hope that it reminds you of His great love for you today.  Hosea 11:4 reads “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.”  I hope you can picture God stooping down, and lifting you up like a child and pulling you to His cheek.  What a beautiful picture of uplifting love!!!

Source:  Hymn of the Week by Jeff Mowery,

Moment of Zen: Morning Coffee 

Give Alabama the Finger…The Wedding Finger #LuvUAlabama

”Star Trek” icon George Takei is lending a hand — or, rather, a finger — to the battle for marriage equality in Alabama by helping to launch a social media effort in protest of Alabama’s recent halt on same-sex marriages.

The actor and outspoken lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activist shared a photo of himself with his husband, Brad Takei, on Instagram and Twitter calling for his followers to give Alabama “the wedding finger” in response to the state’s apparent backtracking on marriage equality.

“I’m going to say it. Alabama is really starting to piss me off,” Takei wrote in a separate Facebook post.

In an email sent to The Huffington Post, Takei said:

I was genuinely dismayed to hear that a state’s highest court would flout a federal court order, which was left to stand by both the Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. This is grandstanding at its worst, and it is extraconstitutional.
You know, 60 years ago it wasn’t considered a real marriage if a white person wanted to marry an Asian American like me. And now look, I married a white dude. Times change. Attitudes change. And for the better.
We decided to speak out in this somewhat tongue in cheek way to make an important point. It is all about love, and we, as a same-sex couple, just want the same right to have our love recognized.
We hope enough couples, gay and straight, join with us to make this point. We’ll be collecting up the pics, all tagged with the hashtag #LuvUAlabama plus each couple’s home state, to create a mosaic of support for marriage equality. We hope Alabama, too, soon joins the right side of history, as all of America one day will.

Only time will tell if the effort will have an impact in Alabama, where the battle for same-sex marriage has taken some unexpected twists in recent weeks.

In January, a federal judge found that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, while a number of probate judges promptly refused to comply with the ruling.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court refused in February to halt same-sex marriages in Alabama, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples statewide in what has been deemed “a defiant ruling” on March 3.

So let’s all give Alabama the finger…the wedding finger.

A Temporary Setback

Probate judges in Alabama’s 67 counties were caught in a tug of war between state and federal courts over the issue of same-sex marriage on Tuesday and were ordered by the state supreme court to stop issuing the licenses.

As of noon Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign had identified 42 counties it said had stopped issuing same-sex licenses as of today. Another 19 never issued the licenses and the status of six — Bullock,  Crenshaw, Lamar, Macon, Monroe,  Sumter — is unclear, the advocacy group reported.

“Because of the Alabama Supreme Court’s willingness to ignore their oath of office, all Alabama’s counties appear to be in conflict with the intent of a federal court order,” HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a press release. “This is only a temporary setback on the road to equality, but the message it sends to LGBT Alabamians is despicable.”

Same-sex couples will likely appeal up to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to block the latest state supreme court ruling, said Ben Cooper, chairman of Equality Alabama. “It’s important to understand that this is not nearly the end of this,” he said.

The federal government does not take kindly to states getting in the way of their rulings.  Attorney Shelley Bilbrey notes, “You know at some point, we end up with the George Wallace standing at the school-house door situation.”

Let’s say a probate judge wants to issue a same-sex marriage license. Let’s say they want to side with the federal court and ignore the state ruling.  Why not?

Bilbrey answers, “They would be fearful of a contempt citing.”  She’s saying probate judges could be jailed for following a federal court decision.  You can see why they may be reluctant to issue the same-sex marriage licenses, no matter their own feelings on the legality or morality of the issue.  Bilbrey adds, “Regardless of what he believes about the issue, I certainly would never want to risk a contempt citing.”  Because the ruling itself shows the state supreme court is using a lot of the powers at their disposal.  As for contempt, Bilbrey assesses, “I wouldn’t doubt that they would exercise that, since they’ve already taken this drastic measure.”

The Republicans in our state house and in our courthouses promised smaller, less intrusive government, but right now they are trying, instead, to write our marriage vows for us. And that love and cherish and sweet old fashioned notion stuff just got struck right out.  The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that love is not a factor in marriage.  Have they decided to send us back hundreds of years to arranged marriages, when we weren’t able to choose who we’d marry?  No, these perverse judges instead want to look in our underpants to make sure our parts are compatible for baby-making.  

The Alabama Supreme Court of Idiots

Weeks after a United States District Court judge in Mobile ordered a probate judge there to issue same-sex marriage licenses, the Alabama Supreme Court has ordered a halt to same-sex marriages in the state.   In a 134-page opinion, seven of the nine justices said the U.S. Constitution “does not require one definition of marriage.”  The Alabama Supreme Court once again has instructed probate judges not to issue marriage licenses.

Of course the big conflict here is that a U.S. District Court judge struck down Alabama’s ban on gay marriage. That was appealed, but the Supreme Court refused to put a hold on that ruling while it decides on the issue of same-sex marriage itself.  Alabama seems not to be able to understand that federal jurisdiction trumps state jurisdiction.

“As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” the court wrote. “Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”

While same-sex marriage advocates chanted “love wins” outside Alabama courthouses last month, the Alabama Supreme Court said love has little to do with legal marriage in the state. 

In probably the most appalling part of the Supreme Court’s opinion, the justices stated that “Although love may be an important factor in a lasting marriage, civil marriage has no public interest in whether the people seeking a marriage license love one another.”

This means that that yesterday’s ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court throws the state into conflict with the federal judiciary. Remember, it was Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore who issued a similar order in February.  U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade, who struck down gay marriage in the state, has already ruled that probate judges should should follow her order, not that of the chief justice.  Now the Supreme Court of Alabama has decided to respond with an almost unanimous voice, over a case in which they have no jurisdiction.  Unlike the United States Supreme Court which does have a few instances of original jurisdiction, the Alabama Supreme Court only has appellate jurisdiction as the state’s highest court of appeal.  A case must begin in a lower state court in order to be heard by the Alabama Supreme Court.

Contrary to the Alabama constitution and Judicial precedent over jurisdiction, the Alabama Supreme Court issued the order, called a writ of mandamus, that had been requested by the Alabama Policy Institute and the Alabama Citizens Action Program last month to stop the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses.

The court seemed to chide Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange for not taking a more active role in enforcing state law, sadly however for the wrong reason.  “In the wake of the federal district court’s orders, Attorney General Strange has refrained from fulfilling what would otherwise have been his customary role of providing advice and guidance to public officials, including probate judges, as to whether or how their duties under the law may have been altered by the federal district court’s decision,” the court wrote. Strange had the legal duty to advise the probate judges to follow Judge Granade’s order; however, he remained silent on the subject and let chaos ensue.

Moore actually recused himself from Tuesday’s ruling, presumably, because his previous order had already been addressed by Judge Granade, but I have to wonder why Justice Tom Parker did not also recuse himself.  Parker was founding Executive Director of the Alabama Family Alliance (now the Alabama Policy Institute), which was one of the two public interest groups who asked the the Alabama Supreme Court to rule in this case as a court of original jurisdiction, which it cannot do.  One has to wonder how much in campaign contributions Parker and others justices received from the Alabama Policy Institute to make it worth their while to ignore Alabama legal precedents to even take up the issue.

Justice Greg Shaw was the lone dissenter in this case. He said that the Supreme Court should have put Granade’s ruling on hold, but that it is clear that this court has no jurisdiction to take this case and that the public interest groups suing on behalf of the state have no standing.  Further, Shaw stated in his dissent that pursuant to the Alabama Constitution, Alabama’s probate judges have both judicial and ministerial duties.  The Alabama Supreme Court only has jurisdiction of their judicial, not ministerial duties. Shaw pointed out that the judiciary of Alabama has no legal authority over issuing marriage licenses of any kind, therefore it is not in the jurisdiction of the Alabama Supreme Court to rule on this action of the county probate judges, just as they have no authority over the keeping of public records, driver’s licenses, or automobile tags.

Shaw concluded:

“By overlooking this Court’s normal procedures; by stretching our law and creating exceptions to it; by assuming original jurisdiction, proceeding as a trial court, and reaching out to speak on an issue that this Court cannot meaningfully impact because the Supreme Court of the United States will soon rule on it; and by taking action that will result in additional confusion and more costly federal litigation involving this State’s probate judges, this Court, in my view, is venturing into unchartered waters and potentially unsettling established principles of law. Therefore, I must respectfully dissent.”

“The state is going to take such a black eye on this,” said University of Alabama Law Professor Ron Krotoszynski, Jr.. “I think it’s going to play very badly in the national media,” he said, citing shows  like Bill Maher, John Oliver and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

“They’re rejecting Judge Granade’s reasoning lock stock and barrel,” Krotoszynski said.

Granade’s reasoning is in line with more than 60 federal district judges who have ruled on the same issue since the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) in 2013, Krotoszynski said.

The next likely step is for one of the probate judges to file an emergency stay with the U.S. Supreme Court, Krotoszynski said. The situation could be “chaotic” between now and June when the U.S. Supreme Court is to rule on the issue anyway in a 6th Circuit case, he said.

Probate Judge Davis in Mobile could be in the worst position if the Alabama Supreme Court brings him under their order, which it appears they are inclined to do, Krotoszynski said. “He is between a rock and a hard place,” he said.  Davis had been ordered specifically to follow Judge Granade’s ruling when he initially refused to allow the Mobile County Probate Judge’s office to open for business after the initial stay ended.

The Human Rights campaign blasted the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling, which it called meandering and bizarre.

“The Alabama state Supreme Court does not have the authority to interfere with a federal court order,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “This order is outrageous and baffling, and no amount of legalese can hide the bare animus that forms the foundation of this extralegal ruling.”

If you are interested in reading the ruling, you can do so by clicking the link below.  I skimmed most of it, but the dissenting opinion by Justice Shaw is obviously written by someone who cares more about the rule of law and the procedure of law then by someone who is only concerned with politics.

Alabama Same Sex Marriage Decision


By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I didn’t get much sleep last night
thinking about underwear
Have you ever stopped to consider   
underwear in the abstract   
When you really dig into it
some shocking problems are raised   
Underwear is something   
we all have to deal with   
Everyone wears
some kind of underwear
The Pope wears underwear I hope
The Governor of Louisiana   
wears underwear
I saw him on TV
He must have had tight underwear
He squirmed a lot
Underwear can really get you in a bind
You have seen the underwear ads
for men and women
so alike but so different
Women’s underwear holds things up
Men’s underwear holds things down   
Underwear is one thing   
men and women have in common   
Underwear is all we have between us
You have seen the three-color pictures
with crotches encircled
to show the areas of extra strength
and three-way stretch
promising full freedom of action
Don’t be deceived
It’s all based on the two-party system
which doesn’t allow much freedom of choice   
the way things are set up   
America in its Underwear
struggles thru the night
Underwear controls everything in the end   
Take foundation garments for instance   
They are really fascist forms
of underground government
making people believe
something but the truth
telling you what you can or can’t do   
Did you ever try to get around a girdle   
Perhaps Non-Violent Action
is the only answer
Did Gandhi wear a girdle?
Did Lady Macbeth wear a girdle?
Was that why Macbeth murdered sleep?   
And that spot she was always rubbing—
Was it really in her underwear?
Modern anglosaxon ladies
must have huge guilt complexes
always washing and washing and washing   
Out damned spot
Underwear with spots very suspicious   
Underwear with bulges very shocking   
Underwear on clothesline a great flag of freedom   
Someone has escaped his Underwear   
May be naked somewhere
But don’t worry
Everybody’s still hung up in it
There won’t be no real revolution
And poetry still the underwear of the soul   
And underwear still covering
a multitude of faults
in the geological sense—
strange sedimentary stones, inscrutable cracks!   
If I were you I’d keep aside
an oversize pair of winter underwear   
Do not go naked into that good night   
And in the meantime
keep calm and warm and dry
No use stirring ourselves up prematurely   
‘over Nothing’
Move forward with dignity
hand in vest
Don’t get emotional
And death shall have no dominion   
There’s plenty of time my darling
Are we not still young and easy
Don’t shout

About the Poet

On March 24, 1919, Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, New York. After spending his early childhood in France, he received his BA from the University of North Carolina, an MA from Columbia University, and a PhD from the Sorbonne.

During World War II he served in the US Naval Reserve and was sent to Nagasaki shortly after it was bombed. He married in 1951 and has one daughter and one son.

In 1953, Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin began to publish City Lights magazine. They also opened the City Lights Books Shop in San Francisco to help support the magazine. In 1955, they launched City Light Publishing, a book-publishing venture. City Lights became known as the heart of the “Beat” movement, which included writers such as Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac.

Currently, Ferlinghetti writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He also continues to operate the City Lights bookstore, and he travels frequently to participate in literary conferences and poetry readings.

Google Reverses Blogger’s Censorship Policy

Last Monday, Google sent an email to Blogger users who had blogs with adult content saying that there would be a change in policy on March 23, effectively banning any adult content blogs. Last Thursday,  I wrote about Blogger’s new censorship policy.  Now, Google has reversed that decision, allowing people running adult blogs to continue.

On Friday, a rep from the Blogger team posted to the support page:

This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy. We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. Blog owners should continue to mark any blogs containing sexually explicit content as “adult” so that they can be placed behind an ‘adult content’ warning page.

This message was also given to bloggers who had written into the Blogger support page seeking help with what to do with their accounts. A rep for Google confirmed the change in policy to BuzzFeed News.

I thought the ban was a terrible idea — it meant that people who had devoted huge amounts of time, labor, and love into their blogs would have that taken away (adult blogs wouldn’t have been technically deleted, they’d be turned “private,” which means they’d be invisible to readers). While porn spam on Blogger may be an issue, there are myriad other types of blogs that contain adult content. Their now reversed policy was vague and left many bloggers with a lot of questions.

An early employee of Blogger, Jason Shellen, told BuzzFeed News earlier this week that he thought the new policy may have been a result of Google’s shifting priorities. The original Blogger team had staunchly believed in it as a platform for free expression, and he was disappointed to hear about the change. Ironically, former Blogger founder Ev Williams, who went on later to found Twitter and then Medium, posted on Monday about new changes on Medium that would make the platform even more blogging-friendly for users and readers.

Turning all adult blogs private would have been a devastating blow for the fabric of the internet. What was likely meant to be an anti-spam measure would’ve taken away not only people’s beloved works of art and communities of readership, but also would’ve deleted incomprehensible amounts of internet history. Google is a big company with deep pockets, and to remove who knows how many (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of the works that its users had been making for more than a decade just because of some pesky spam seemed like a massive overreaction.

I’m glad that Google listened and did the right thing by reversing this decision. I hope that whatever weird interdepartmental power struggle that led to the bad idea in the first place won’t be revisited.

Owning Blogger means being the steward of millions of people’s deepest creative thoughts and feelings and art. As that steward, Google has an ethical responsibility preserve that for the internet. This is a happy day for the internet.