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Diatribe: When It Comes To Marriage Equality, Leaders In Kansas, Montana and South Carolina Aren’t Following The Law.

Freedom to marryWhen I was in grade school there were about one hundred children in my class and we were separated into four “home rooms” of about twenty-five students.  We spent the day with the same group of kids throughout the school year and mingled with the other children during lunchtime, recess, assemblies, band and choir or afterschool functions.  School rules were applied evenly and fairly from one class to the next but I remember one big scandal that rocked our little junior high world.

Students were allowed quiet play time in the classroom during scheduled recess periods on days when the weather prevented us from exercising outdoors.  For the longest time, we were allowed to bring games from home, like Go Fish or Connect Four, to pass the time with classmates until one day, some rotten kid in one of the other classes ruined it for everyone.  As I recall, there was a disagreement during playtime that resulted in a fistfight, someone got hurt, parents were involved and quiet play time became an absurd stay in your seats and close your eyes and put your head down with your thumb up stupid game that everyone hated.

The powers that be had determined quiet play time on rainy days in one home room was no longer the law of the land.  Consequently, quiet play time was no longer allowed in any of the home rooms.  The law of the land had changed and everyone was expected to follow the new law.

Last week, leaders in the states of Kansas, Montana and South Carolina chose to defy the law of the land after the 10th, 9th and 4th Circuit Courts of Appeals ruled in favor of marriage equality by refusing marriage certificates to same sex couples.

KansasIn Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback has been speaking out against same-sex marriage as the state’s Supreme Court has halted the marriage process in what is clearly defiance of the 10th Circuit Court’s ruling.  Kansans in favor of so-called “traditional marriage” are hopeful that an amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage passed in 2005 will hold.  Why they might think so in light of the 10th Circuit Court’s ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent inaction on similar cases boggles the mind.

MontanaIn Montana, plaintiffs in a marriage equality case have filed a motion for summary judgment.  Montana is the only state in the Ninth Circuit without marriage equality.  It’s the only home room in this grade that’s still refusing to follow the new rules.

SCSouth Carolina still has a marriage equality case in the pipeline.  Since South Caroline is the only state remaining in the Fourth Circuit without marriage equality, lawyers argue that precedent requires immediate judgment for the plaintiffs.  South Carolina is the only homeroom in this grade that’s refusing to follow the new rules.

In grade school when someone broke the rules they went to the principal’s office.  I’m curious to see what will happen to the governors, attorneys general and even the state Supreme Court justices who act with blatant disregard of the rulings of the district courts.  These men and women are leaders in their communities … politicians who should have a superior understanding of the law and an ability to explain rulings that their constituents might find unfavorable in a way that they will understand.  Instead, they appear to be inciting unrest … whining and pouting and crying and shouting … like the big kids a home room filled with children whose quiet play time has been suddenly taken away.


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Copyright © 2014

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Ovation: Shepard Smith Explains Ebola.

Shepard Smith

Shepard Smith

I watch the local news on television each morning when I get dressed for work.  Generally, I tune in to see the weather forecast and to learn about any significant traffic issues that might interfere with my commute.  I find much of what they report to be old news that I’ve already learned about via social media or other online news sources and they rehash what they deem to be the biggest stories in thirty-minute cycles as each morning progresses.  They do their best to make each story sound important and exciting but, for me, news stops being news after you’ve heard it a few times.  And it really grates on the nerves when they desperately try to make news when there isn’t any.

Yesterday, Fox News (which I never watch) host Shepard Smith chastised his network and other news colleagues asking them to stop instigating widespread panic concerning potential Ebola cases in the United States.

Earlier this week, in an episode of CBS’s procedural drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation focused on a case involving the potential for an outbreak of deadly infectious disease resulting from the release of a weaponized virus engineered by a bio-terrorist.  It seems to me that the plot of this television show was much more plausible than the zombie apocalypse/doom and gloom scenario that many news outlets would have us believe our future holds.  Yet, the heroes on CSI were able to save the day with minimal casualties.

“We don’t have an outbreak.  We have two sick people from one dying man.  And the rest of this should stop, because it’s not productive.  And it’s not worth ratings, and it’s not worth politics, and we all need to stop it.” – Shepard Smith

Of course, while Smith is correct that people in the United States are relatives safe from the virus, it is also important to note that the situation in West Africa is getting worse.  There may not be an actual outbreak in the U.S., but the World Health Organization warns that there could be as many as 10,000 new cases per week in West Africa by December and an escalation in the number of occurrences could create serious worldwide political and economic as well as health-related consequences.

“Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and television or read the fear provoking words online.  The people who say and write hysterical things are very irresponsible.” – Shepard Smith

While Smith’s remarks may simply be a different route to win the ratings he says he doesn’t want I must agree that, despite the ramblings of conspiracy theorists nationwide, widespread panic will serve absolutely no purpose and that reporting news when there’s nothing new to report isn’t news reporting.

When all the “talking heads” are talking about Ebola it’s nice to hear one that says the others should stop.  For that I commend Shepard Smith.

Are you, honestly, worried that you will die as a result of the Ebola virus?


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Copyright © 2014

Ovation: #WakeUpCall – The New Ice Bucket Challenge.

WakeUpCall Jemima KhanSummer is over and the age of the Ice Bucket Challenge appears to be behind us.  Replacing it on social media, however, appears to be a new viral charity effort known as the #WakeUpCall campaign.

Spearheaded by UK socialite and UNICEF ambassador Jemima Khan, the campaign nominates users on social media to take a photograph of themselves when they first wake up on the morning (not looking their best with what many of us call “bed head”) and post it online before nominating others to do the same.

Much like the Ice Bucket Challenge helped to raise money and awareness for ALS, photos posted for the #WakeUpCall campaign area accompanied by a donation to UNICEF in order to aid people affected by the war in Syria, particularly the estimated 6.5 million children displaced by the conflict.

Money raised by the campaign will be earmarked for refugees in the Zaatari refugee camp near the Jordanian border, which currently houses 80,000 people fleeing from conflict areas in Syria.

WakeUpCall Stephen FryCelebrities including British TV host Stephen Fry, supermodel Naomi Campbell and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson were early participants in the campaign.

“I considered asking friends to donate money not to have to attend another dreary charity dinner, but have decided that the quickest way to raise money is through a social medial campaign – to try to replicate the astonishing success of the Ice Bucket Challenge.” – Jemima Khan in an article for the New Statesman magazine.

WakeUpCall Nigella LawsonUNICEF hopes the campaign will be as successful as the Ice Bucket Challenge which raised more than £7 million in the UK along making it, possibly, the biggest online charity campaign of all time.  Other internet campaigns such as #nomakeupselfie, wich raised millions for cancer research, have also been quite successful at raising money for charity.

#WakeUpCall, however, might be the first time we can donate to charity without having to get out of bed.

What do you think of social media charity campaigns? Will you take a #WakeUpCall selfie if you’re challenged?


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Copyright © 2014

Diatribe: Women Of Texas, Your Silence Equals Consent And Agreement.

Texas Abortion LawYesterday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the State of Texas permission to fully enforce a sweeping abortion law signed by Republican Governor Rick Perry last year that effectively closes all but seven of the remaining twenty-one abortion clinics in Texas beginning this morning.  The court decided that the law’s requirement for abortions to take place in expensive surgical centers did not impose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, even though these centers are only found in major cities.

Two years ago, Texas, the nation’s second-most populous state, had more than forty abortion facilities.  This morning there are only seven facilities that meet all of the law’s requirements all of which are concentrated around the major cities of Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth.  Many clinics had already closed under a part of the law requiring doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital admitting privileges.

Today’s change is estimated to leave as many as 750,000 women of reproductive age, many in the Rio Grande Valley, as far as 300 miles away from the nearest abortion facility.  Surely, this could result in unwanted and unplanned children who may become a burden on the state’s economy.

A spokesman for state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, called the decision a “vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women.”


I will never understand why so many people who don’t have a uterus think they get to make all the rules for the people who do have a uterus.

“Today’s ruling has gutted Texas women’s constitutional rights and access to critical reproductive health care and stands to make safe, legal abortion essentially disappear overnight.” – Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

I absolutely believe that state governments should regulate and closely monitor medical facilities and those who practice medicine within their borders regardless of the procedures that are performed.  I do not believe that politicians are qualified to make medical decisions and I am disgusted by the fact that twenty-first-century men think they know what’s best for their “womenfolk”.

Your Body Your RulesFurthermore, I think it’s preposterous that the women of Texas have allowed this to happen.  Are they living in a different time?  Are they sincerely frightened of the men?  Do they truly believe they are the weaker sex?  Have they been brainwashed into believing that the men know better?

Healthcare decisions are very personal decisions that should be carefully made under the advice of our physicians, after much reflection, conversations with loved ones and, if so inclined prayer and meditation.  Extremely emotional, and potentially morally exhausting healthcare decisions that affect one’s entire family and remain in one’s heart for a lifetime should certainly not be exacerbated by the inclusion older white career politician men.

It is my sincere hope that every woman in the state of Texas take her uterus to the polls this November to vote against each incumbent on the ballot.  Women of Texas, your silence equals consent and agreement.


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Copyright © 2014

Ovation: Are Passengers Who Don’t Wear Seat Belts Are Partly Responsible For Their Injuries In The Event Of An Accident?

Walmart MorganThis morning I woke to find an email asking me to sign a petition telling WalMart “How dare you blame the victims for the crash your driver caused”.  It made me do a lot of thinking.

You may recall that last June, actor/comedian Tracy Morgan was critically injured in a six-car pile-up on the New Jersey Turnpike when a truck driven by Walmart employee Kevin Roper collided with the rear of a limo that was carrying Morgan and four others.  A preliminary report by the National Transporation Safety Board said that Roper was traveling 20 mph over the speed limit and that he was almost at his drive time limit.  The wreck left Morgan, 45, with broken ribs, a broken nose and a broken leg.  His friend, comedian James McNair, was killed, and two others were injured.  Roper pleaded not guilty to criminal charges that include vehicular homicide and assault by auto.  The following month, Morgan filed suit against Walmart saying the company was negligent for not knowing that Roper had been awake for more than twenty-four hours at the time of the accident.

Last Monday, the company responded in a court filing by saying that the actor’s injuries were caused, in whole or in part, by his failure to wear a seat belt and that he and his friends had “acted unreasonably and in disregard of (their) own best interests.”  Walmart’s filing also noted the possibility that the injuries may have been caused by third parties over whom it had no control.

Seat Belts Save LivesFrankly, I have to agree that Morgan should shoulder some of the responsibility for his injuries if he chose to not wear a seat belt while a passenger on the New Jersey Turnpike.  (In fact, New Jersey’s Seat Belt Law (NJS 39:3-76.2f) was amended to require all occupants to buckle up regardless of their seating position in a vehicle so he may have been breaking local law.)   It seems common sense to me that we all should wear seat belts on the highways all of the time.  Seat belts save lives.

On Tuesday of this week, the company released a statement that included less legalese and appeared to be softer than the earlier court filing.

“Walmart is committed to working to resolve all of the remaining issues as a result of the accident.  As part of the ordinary course of legal proceedings, Walmart filed an initial response yesterday to the lawsuit that included facts and defenses that may impact the case moving forward.  While we were required to respond to the lawsuit, we have also taken steps to encourage settlement discussions.  Our thoughts continue to go out to everyone involved, and we remain committed to doing what’s right.”

I’m not a fan of WalMart and I haven’t been a fan of Tracy Morgan since his 2011 declaration during a Nashville stand-up performance that he would stab his son to death if he told him he was gay so I really don’t care who wins this lawsuit.  I do, however, think it’s unfair to overlook the fact that these injured parties aren’t taking any responsibility for their own lack of common sense and I’d hate to see people stop wearing seat belts because of any example Morgan might be setting.

When Misti Risner killed Clyde and Carnie Newton it was “just another traffic accident”.  Was this just an accident, too?

“I want to thank my fans for sticking with me during this difficult time. I love you all. I’m fighting hard every day to get back.” – Tracy Morgan, who has not specified the amount of damages he is seeking from Walmart, in a message to his fans.

I didn’t sign the petition this morning because I don’t think Walmart is really blaming the victims for the crash.  I think everyone can agree that they, clearly, didn’t cause the crash.  I do, however, think that Morgan and his friends should share in the responsibility for their injuries if they were not wearing seat belts.

What do you think?  Is Walmart “blaming the victim” or should the passengers who didn’t wear seat belts be held partly responsible for their injuries?


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