Stand by for American history

The United States Supreme Court hears arguments this week in two cases involving same-sex marriage that could make civil rights history.  For those who can get beyond a knee-jerk reaction to the very idea of same-sex marriage, who are interested in the nuts and bolts of how the court operates, how this court operates, who want to be able to read the reports of the oral arguments or listen to the arguments themselves (yes, listen—the same day!) critically and develop their own insight into what’s happening and what the results may be, check out Emily Bazelon’s post in Slate today.

Tuesday and Wednesday, the Supreme Court will dive into back-to-back arguments about gay marriage. These cases that are probably the biggest of the term, and certainly the sexiest. First up is an hour of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the suit challenging the constitutionality of California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban. Next comes an hour and 50 minutes on United States v. Windsor, which takes on the definition of marriage in the federal Defense of Marriage Act. That definition—the union of a man and a woman—denies gay couples more than 1,000 federal benefits that come with marriage, relating to everything from inheritance taxes to health insurance for veterans, even when their marriages are legally recognized in the states they live in.

The arguments will feature top lawyers including Ted Olson (former Bush solicitor general, pro-gay marriage), Paul Clement (former Bush solicitor general, anti-gay marriage), Donald Verrilli Jr. (Obama solicitor general, pro-gay marriage, though the Obama administration is still enforcing DOMA), and Vicki Jackson (Harvard law professor who will argue that the Obama administration doesn’t belong in court). What should we watch for to gauge how these cases will come out? Here’s my checklist.

Meanwhile, in case you missed it, here are the stories about the amicus briefs from the White House and Bill Clinton,  now both in favor despite earlier efforts to the contrary, and from major businesses that have always tried assiduously to avoid taking sides on anything as controversial as same-sex marriage, but now argue that the ban hurts business.  Even prominent Republicans, including Clint Eastwood, are making a case in favor of same-sex marriage.  The times, they are a-changin’…we should find out in June, when the decisions are expected to be announced, just how much.

Ten years on, a partial tally of the Iraq War’s toll on American journalism

There’s no time like a brisk spring Sunday to take a minute to remember the failure of our vaunted American journalism to expose the criminality of the Bush Administration, and call to mind the more than 4000 American deaths and 32,000 American wounded it caused by creating and selling the fiction that got America into war in Iraq in 2003.

Not the entirety of either, I agree.  There were some reporters and columnists who tried to make clear to us the truth on the ground in Iraq, a truth that did not include the presence of either weapons of mass destruction or Al Qaeda.  But there were others—many others—who took the easy path of accepting the government’s word for it, who even became cheerleaders for a war that didn’t need to happen.  And certainly, not every person in a position of power and responsibility in Washington, D.C., was in on the con; but enough of them, high enough up in the administration, were complicit, that it worked.   We continue to pay the price, in lost lives, lost trust, and lost treasure.

So, thanks to Jack Shafer (@jackshafer) for this tweet:

He provides a link to a piece today by Greg Mitchell about his recent column, assigned and subsequently killed by The Washington Post.  The column is highly critical of the news media for its credulous performance covering the run-up to war, and by “highly critical” I mean it simply recalls who did what, and who didn’t do what, and when.

For awhile, back in 2003, Iraq meant never having to say you’re sorry.  The spring offensive had produced a victory in less than three weeks, with a relatively low American and Iraqi civilian death toll.  Saddam fled and George W. Bush and his team drew overwhelming praise, at least here at home.

But wait.  Where were the crowds greeting us as “liberators”?  Why were the Iraqis now shooting at each other–and blowing up our soldiers?  And where were those WMDs, bio-chem labs, and nuclear materials?  Most Americans still backed the invasion, so it still too early for mea culpas–it was more “my sad” than “my bad.”

By 2004 it was clear that Saddam’s WMDs would never be found, but with another election season at hand, sorry was still the hardest word.  But a few very limited glimmers of accountability began to appear.  So let’s begin our catalog of the art of mea culpa and Iraq here.

Take the five minutes to read the rest, and remember it the next time you pick up a paper or tune in to the broadcast echo chambers.

It’s not as hard as I thought it would be to praise Congress for doing its job

The Senate took action first, agreeing on spending authorizations to keep the government operating until the end of the fiscal year; the House did the same the next day. Thing is, they both did what needed to be done more than a week before the drop-dead-line that would have seen the government start to shut down for lack of operating funds. How uncharacteristic of them.

In the past few years the American Congress has never missed an opportunity to run right up to the brink of any fiscal catastrophe; like the Road Runner being chased by Wile E. Coyote, it safely came to a screeching standstill in a cloud of dust just on the edge of the abyss (beep beep). To what do we owe this unusual display of fiscal responsibility? I don’t know, but I’d like to order another round.

It had become too easy and too predictable for the thousands and thousands of voices online and on air and in print to chastise House and Senate, Republican and Democrat, for failing/refusing to take care of business. I’d begun to think it was ultimately ineffective as well, but maybe–just maybe–there was still some shard of humanness left deep inside our elected representatives that was tired of being ridiculed and abused, that knew that the voices raised in criticism had a point. It’s not that I’m pleased with the details of the budget the government will operate under for the next six months, but that I’m pleased “the government” got off of its ass and made a decision with something less than the usual quotient of bluster and drama…the “sound and fury” that, as is often the case in our politics, signifies nothing.

So, good on ’em for what they done (there, I said it; are you happy?). And fine, let them go ahead and propose future budgets, have debates and secret meetings and public hearings and horse-trading and try to persuade us all of the virtue of their ideas; that’s the way we’re supposed to try to come to a consensus on public issues. Just because I don’t have the heart or the stomach for this circus right now doesn’t mean the rest of you should miss out on the fun.

This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long, long time

This just popped up in my FeedDemon this morning, and it brought tears.

Just like this kid, I’m a big Billy Joel fan and dreamed of playing with him; unlike this kid, I never had the balls to ask. Michael Pollack got to live a dream, and I’m jealous as hell—-jealous that he got to play with an idol, and that he can play the piano so well. Also, good on Billy for saying yes…

So, the GOP is rethinking how it can appeal to a wider range of voters…

…and Mark Slackmeyer asks how it’s going:

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thanks, Doonesbury and GoComics.com.