Reflections on the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled that gay couples can marry in all 50 states. I don’t talk all that much about gay rights. I’m a strong supporter of gay rights, it’s just that I don’t feel like I have much to say about it. It is so unbelievably obvious that all human beings, regardless of orientation, deserve equal rights. It is equally obvious that the only reason not to support gay rights is bigotry. It’s not like racism which has been institutionalized to the point where people don’t see what they do as racist. And it’s not like sexism where positive changes have repercussions that need to be dealt with. Being gay has no effect on anyone other than the person and their partner. Literally the only reason to treat gay people differently is bigotry.

So, why am I writing about it now?  Because there is something in this decision that I just can’t figure out.  It was 5-4.  That means that there is something wrong with four justices on the Supreme Court of the United States.  I just don’t know exactly what is wrong with them.  It is easy to say they are stupid.  But, real stupidity is rare.  The odds against four of any nine people being stupid make it unlikely.  Plus, frankly, even stupidity doesn’t explain these four.

If this were any other political body, I’d say this is easy to figure out.  Congress people and Senators and Governors and Mayors are always in need of money and support.  They either want to be reelected or elected to a higher office.  So, they will naturally support positions that they think will help with their goals or help with their fundraising.  The Supreme Court is not like that, purposely so.  The nine justices have reached the pinnacle of their profession.  There is nowhere higher for them to go.  They are all wealthy, so they don’t need money.  Money and ambition explain a ton of the bad decisions made by relatively smart people in the rest of the government, but they don’t explain this group of justices.

It seems that all that’s left is bigotry.  We have four unabashed bigots sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States.  Reading their dissents doesn’t do anything to change that perception.  I know they aren’t the first set of bigots in the position, but I find it really disturbing.  Society has progressed to the point where being openly bigoted is not tolerated.  Bigots are either marginalized or they are forced to conceal their bigotry.  Roberts was the only one of these four that even attempted to use legal reasoning as cover.  He did a horrible job, but at least he tried.  The others would have read more naturally if they had just used slurs in their dissents.  Thankfully five of the justices got it right.

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The Evil Solstice

Summer officially started today.  While I know I will probably complain a lot during the next three months, I wanted to get as much out of the way as I could at the very beginning.  So, let me count the ways in which summer is the worst season by far.  Out of four seasons, it is clearly the 419th best.

1. This one is obvious, but summer means three months of terrible weather.  It is hot and humid with a bunch of rain, thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes.  Oh, and destructive hail.  Summer is the three month stretch without a single nice day.  It’s horrible.

2. This one is also obvious, but sweating pretty much sucks.  It’s tolerable if you’re playing sports or working out or something like that.  But sweating while walking to the car is miserable.

3. And speaking of the car, driving is way worse in the summer than the rest of the year.  I know some people will try to say that driving in winter is worse, but it isn’t.  Driving in snow is pretty simple, take it slow and steady.  Plus, snow is a great excuse to not drive.  They cancel school and businesses close when it is too snowy.  No one tells you to stay home in a severe thunderstorm even though the conditions are as bad or worse than a snow storm.  Visibility is non-existent, the roads get slick and hydroplaning is always a danger.  Add to that all of the roads being under construction in the summer, burning yourself on the steering wheel when you first get in the car and getting worse gas mileage from the air conditioning and summer is definitely awful for driving.

4. Summer clothes are bad from both perspectives.  They just aren’t comfortable.  I just can’t imagine why anyone would wear sandals or flip flops.  What’s nice about always feeling like your shoes are falling off?  And the rest of the seasons, clothes are comforting.  In summer, it’s a constant battle between being cool and being comfortable, you can’t be both.  And, once you’re naked, you can’t take anything else off, and you’re still hot.  From the other side, people just don’t look as good in summer clothes.  Even bikini models shouldn’t wear bikinis.  As soon as they move out of that pose, it doesn’t look nice anymore.  And the same thing goes for men who take their shirts off.  Real people can’t spend enough time in the gym to make that look good.

5. Summer is loud.  Between the air conditioners, fans, motorcycles, powerboats, construction and fireworks, everything is just louder than it needs to be.  The noise leads to stress, which leads to unhappiness.  A week from now, I’ll want to give a few toes in exchange for some peace and quiet.

6. Ticks.  This really doesn’t need any explanation, but when was the last time you got a tick bite in winter?

7. Mosquitoes.  Stupid, evil, proof that God hates us mosquitoes.

8. Summer leisure activities really aren’t fun.  Picnics?  There just aren’t enough bugs at a normal meal, so lets take it outside.  The beach?  Nothing feels worse than sand and salt making every inch of you itch.

9. The food is worse.  All of the good foods need to be cooked in a kitchen, but it’s too hot to use the oven.  I’m sorry, even though macaroni salad is cooler, everyone would rather eat baked macaroni and cheese.

10. I can’t stand sunscreen.  It’s only slightly better than getting sunburned.

I think that’s enough for now.  I’m not completely close minded.  Baseball happens during the summer and that’s nice.  And, it is easier to get little kids in and out of their car seats.  But that’s really about all summer has going for it.  That’s a terrible trade off.  Anyone who is out of school and still claims to like summer is clearly delusional.

Longevity

I’ve been listening to a lot of B.B. King since his death.  One thing that struck me is that “The Thrill Is Gone” was released 20 years into his career.  It was not only his biggest hit, but his signature song.  After it became a hit, it was the one song you would be guaranteed to hear at every show he played.  The reason it struck me is because in the Rock world, there is a strange bias against longevity.

Anyone who knows anything about music knows that real musicians get better with experience and practice.  At some point they may decline for health/stamina reasons, but barring unusual circumstances, a 50 year old is better than a 20 year old.  Which is better, Mozart’s “Twinkle Twinkle” or his 40th symphony?  Many people think that Johnny Cash’s American Recordings are the best of his career.  Branford Marsalis is way better now than when he played with Sting and lead the Tonight Show Band.

When people start talking about Rock music, though, they act like anything done after the age of 30 is a waste of time.  People swear that U2 hasn’t done anything worthwhile since The Joshua Tree.  They think that Murmur is REM’s best album.  They want to Stones to just play the hits and stop making new music.  If those people would actually listen, they might realize that U2 is a much better band than they were 30 years ago.  All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb are probably their best overall albums.  REM had an issue with their drummer leaving the band in the mid nineties, so their sound changed.  But, Out of Time, Automatic For The People and Monster are all better than anything they did for IRS Records.  And Accelerate and Collapse Into Now are both fantastic.  And the Stones haven’t put out a bad piece of music since Dirty Work, and that was 30 years ago.

Rock ought to learn from every other style of music.  Life experience is good for art.  Give the old a fair chance and you’ll probably hear something you like.

Rooting

Before the finals started, if someone had asked me whom I was rooting for, I would have said Cleveland without hesitation. They were technically underdogs, even with the world’s greatest player. Cleveland is famous for their lack of sports success. I’ve been to Cleveland and liked it. Add to that the fact that San Francisco wins the World Series every other year, I’ve never been to San Francisco and the city is awfully braggy, and the choice is obvious.
However, as I watch the finals, I can’t help but root for Golden State. It’s weird. James is clearly the best player on the floor, but the Warriors are just more fun. They seem to enjoy the game. I keep telling myself that I’m rooting for Cleveland, but I keep finding myself rooting for Golden State.
I guess it just goes to show that Hume was right. Reason really is a slave to the passions. I’d like to see a game seven, but I’d better stop lying to myself and admit I want the Warriors to win.

Smart Protests and Silly Protests

Yesterday Hartford, CT decided to get in on the Moral Monday phenomena.  A group of protesters blocked the Hartford side of the Founder’s Bridge just before rush hour.  Their stated goal was to spread the “black lives matter” message.  This wasn’t a smart way to spread that message.

Like anything else, protests can be done well or badly.  There are a few things that are necessary to protest effectively.  First, it has to get people’s attention.  The Hartford protestors did that.  Second, it needs to be clear why they are protesting.  The Hartford protesters failed this one.  Third, the protesters need to generate sympathy.  The Hartford protesters failed this one spectacularly.

When you think of the classic protests, they all have these features.  With the lunch counter sit-ins and the Montgomery bus boycott, they were national news, they were clearly protesting the unequal treatment of blacks, and they generated lots of sympathy.  The Tiananmen Square protests were international news, they were clearly protesting the hardline communists’ success against liberal reformers, and they definitely generated lots of sympathy.  Gandhi inspired millions, he was clearly protesting British imperialism (among other things like the caste system), and he generated tons of sympathy.

The Hartford protest on Monday did get people’s attention.  Although, it only got people’s attention because it disrupted the evening commute.  It was unclear why they were protesting.  If they hadn’t told us, we wouldn’t know.  There’s no significance to the Founder’s Bridge or the date or anything else.  When Moral Monday started in North Carolina, they marched on the state house to protest the passage of unfair laws.  That is clear.  Hartford was confused.  And they didn’t generate any sympathy.  When protesters in Ferguson came out, we all felt for them.  They were suffering and the police really overreacted.  In Hartford, they made people angry by messing up rush hour.  Not one person sitting in traffic said to themselves, “You know what?  Black lives really do matter.”  They just cursed the people who made them late.

There are tons of injustices happening all the time.  I’m glad there are people willing to protest these injustices.  I just wish those people would be smart about it.

Some Thoughts On The 2015 French Open

The 2015 French Open ended today.  Unfortunately, with the six hour time difference, I wasn’t able to watch much of the tournament.  I saw most of today’s men’s final and one of Serena’s early round matches, but that’s about it.  The rest of the two weeks I had to rely on highlights.  I do still have some thoughts, though.

Serena Williams is amazing.  She won her 20th singles Grand Slam.  At this point, there’s no way around it, she is the Greatest of All Time.  She’s old for a tennis player and still dominates.  She can vomit mid-match and still dominate.  I keep waiting for one of the younger players to catch up, but it doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon.

Wawrinka just simply played better that Djokovic to win the men’s tournament.  When I started watching the match, I was rooting for Wawrinka.  For the past ten years, I have pretty much been rooting for anyone not named Federer, Nadal or Djokovic in all of the major tournaments.  As it became clear that Wawrinka was going to win, though, I started feeling bad for Djokovic.  Federer is definitely the best tennis player I have ever watched.  Many people put Nadal right behind Federer (there are even a few crazies that say Nadal is better), but I actually think Djokovic is a better all around tennis player than Nadal.  Nadal is the greatest clay court player of all time, there’s no argument there.  Djokovic is superior everywhere else, though, and it isn’t particularly close.  I thought that if Djokovic could pull out a French Open title, which would get him the career slam, it would solidify his legacy ahead of Nadal’s.  That being said, I’m happy for Wawrinka.  The sport is better when it spreads the wealth.

I am a fan of commercials in general.  But, the commercials during the French Open, and most tennis tournaments, are really off-putting.  Every time they showed a commercial, I couldn’t help but think that they don’t really want me watching.  Half the commercials are targeted specifically at officers of large corporations.  The other half of the commercials are for watches that cost more than my car, cars that cost more than those watches and investments.  I would have loved to have seen an ad for something that I might want to buy or at least something that I might be able to afford.

Doubles is really fun to watch.  They should put it on TV more often.

I really want to see some good young players.

I can’t wait for Wimbledon.

Why I Love Baseball – June 5th Edition

I got to watch the major league debut of Pat Venditte tonight.  He is a 29 year old pitcher for the Oakland A’s.  He pitched two innings against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park and pitched well.  He retired 6 of the 7 batters he faced with one strikeout and no walks or runs allowed.  The fact that he pitched well isn’t what made it fun, though.  And neither is the fact that he is 29, which is old to be making a major league debut.  The thing that made it so cool is that he is an ambidextrous pitcher.

Venditte was in the Yankees minor league system for the past seven years.  I had heard and read stories about him, but I never saw him pitch.  He always pitched well in the minors, but the Yankees aren’t really the kind of team to take a shot on an unproven anything, let alone a switch pitcher, so he toiled away in the minors and never got a shot (God do I hate the Yankees).  This spring, he signed a minor league deal with the Athletics and pitched well for them.  So, today, since the A’s are the type of team to take a shot on all kinds of unproven things, he got his first chance at the major league level.

It was so weird and fun to see him pitch from both sides.  He threw right handed against righties and left handed against lefties.  And I even got to see the Venditte rule in action (it is quite cool that he has a rule named after him).  Blake Swihart is a switch hitter.  When a switch hitter is facing a switch pitcher, the pitcher must declare which arm he will throw with and then the batter can choose which side to hit from.  Once they have made their decisions, they must stay that way throughout the plate appearance.  While it looked like Venditte and Swihart knew what was happening, the announcers and umpires all seemed confused.

So, congratulations to Pat Venditte.  Thank you for letting me see something new.  I hope you have a long and successful career.