Three Actions A Day Can Stop Trump

By Andrew Hendricks

We used to ridicule Donald Trump’s supporters for their belief that outspoken online Trump advocates were representative of the country as a whole. We thought that their tendency to provide “meme magic” as a surface-level (often conspiratorial or trolling-type) of content was a ridiculous, facile, and even asinine way to engage in politics.  

We were wrong. And they were more organized and motivated than we ever gave them credit for.  

One social media activity Trump supporters engaged in that was more influential than anyone could have predicted was discussed on a recent episode of the NPR podcast/radio show This American Life:  

And when Trump's campaign was at its lowest point, after the Access Hollywood tape came out and Republican leaders were abandoning him, the deplorables swooped in to the rescue. Some of the most popular trolls on Twitter came up with this MAGA3X hashtag. That's Make America Great Again three times. Do three Trump things every day. Hold pro-Trump flash mobs. Get three Trump supporters to the polls. Retweet three Trump-related memes.

We need to do the same, but better. Create your own meme, but when you post it, source to a real news article backing up the point of your meme. Write your own article and source it to real news, not unattributed blogs. CALL YOUR HOUSE AND SENATE REPRESENTATIVES AND LET THEM KNOW THAT YOU’RE NOT HAPPY.  If you’re not sure who represents you, here’s a handy little tool to help you find out. All you need to do is plug in your address, and it will show you who represents you on the national and state level, as well as their contact information.  

Do three things a day. If all you can bring yourself to do is retweet a well-done story or comment on a news article to argue with someone spreading disinformation, sure, do that. But we all know that upvoting a story on reddit or downvoting someone literally spreading Russian propaganda (whether a Russian shill or a gullible American) is the laziest kind of slacktivism, and not enough to counteract the keyboard warriors fighting on the opposite side of American values. So when you can do more, do more.

Conventional wisdom used to say that no government could stand if as little as 5% of the population opposed it. That thought is heartening in itself, but new research has shown that the threshold is actually much lower. In fact, it takes only 3.5% of the population (about 11 million people in the US) mobilized against a government to dismantle it.

We need to be vigilant in how anti-Trump we are. We need to be smarter than “meme magicians,” but also fight fire with fire. Write an article. Create a meme. Call or write your Congressional representatives. Do these three things every day. If abuses of power go without consequence, the abuser will never stop.  

A certain reassuring Martin Luther King Jr. quote has become popular lately. You know, the one that says, “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.” Obama was fond of quoting this hopeful message, with the caveat that MLK was not merely saying all will be well. He meant that, with a motivated populace, we can create our moral history. As Jon Favreau, Obama’s former Director of Speechwriting, recalled on his own Trump-watch podcast, Pod Save America, “you’ve gotta put your hands on the beams and do some bending yourself.”

Three actions a day, every day. Call a Representative. Call a Senator. Write a letter. Make a donation to someone anti-Trump running in 2018. Do your part, three times a day. Attend a town hall. Create a town hall and invite your Representative and the media!   

The opposition is acting, so must we. Do your part. Do something substantive. And do it three times a day.  

Desensitized to Insanity: How has Trump Made it this Far?

By Dia Ascenzi

In the midst of one of the most unusual presidential elections in U.S. history, many are worried that the former businessman and reality TV star, Donald J. Trump, may actually become the President of the United States. He has done a fine job of dominating the media, and everything he has said and done since the start of his campaign has been put under a magnifying glass. Even in the final stages of a presidential election, he is as much a TV star as he ever was.

Despite the juicy details of some of his more recent antics, Trump has a lot of history many millennials aren’t familiar with. Donald Trump was a well-known figure long before The Apprentice. His endeavors have ranged from investing in and forming countless businesses, to guest-starring in movies and televisions shows, to owning most of the Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants. He even appeared in several World Wrestling Entertainment events, and was eventually inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. His television presence is no doubt a factor in his success in the current presidential campaign.

Trump’s racist tendencies weren’t always as obvious as they are now, but it is frightening how many people still don’t see a problem with some (most) of the stuff he says. Perhaps one of the most notable comments was made by Trump at his presidential announcement speech. You’ve heard it a dozen or more times:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

At first, many people wondered if Trump really believed the outrageous things he says, or was simply pandering to a right-wing audience. Yet, as the convention comes closer for the presumptive nominee, the rhetoric is getting more realistic, and frankly, frightening. And what’s worse, he has made no effort to apologize or refute any of these statements.

Trump has made very clear what he thinks about the Mexican border and illegal immigration, but has a very blurred idea of what illegal immigration is. In the recent hearing in the lawsuit against Trump University, Trump claimed that Judge Gonzalo Curiel was giving him unfair rulings because he was “Mexican,” and was therefore against Trump. Judge Curiel is an American citizen. He was born in Indiana. The fact that he is the son of Mexican immigrants is the entire basis for Trumps accusations. Therefore, they are false. So does that mean that, because Trump is misogynistic and wants to ban Muslims, that a woman or Muslim judge might not be able to judge him fairly either?

Over half a year ago, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” based on assumptions that Muslims are associated with terrorism. Since the flak he got for it, Trump has since stated that everything was just a suggestion, and not necessarily a serious policy proposal. However, after the terrorist attack in Orlando this June, he has added an addendum to this proposal, vowing to “suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe, or our allies.” This close to the election, a claim like this can’t be taken lightly, or shrugged off as a “suggestion.” Now that it’s politically expedient to demagogue muslims, it is becoming clear that it was a serious policy proposal all along. However, he said the ban would only be temporary, or “until we fully understand how to end these threats.” But the kid wasn’t an immigrant. He was a U.S. citizen. So where is the line drawn on this so-called temporary ban? Is it to be retroactively implemented as far back as 30 years? At what point are we supposed to ban 1.6 billion people, and for how long?

It doesn’t stop with race or religion, though. At a rally, Trump obviously mocked a New York Times reporter who suffers from a joint condition that prevented him from moving his arms. A spokesman for the NY Times has since said “We think it's outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters,” and his actions have been called “despicable” by ESPN reporter Don Van Natta Jr. Is this really the kind of gross and immature behavior you would want the President of the United States to show? If you caught your child doing something like that, you would smack them sideways.

Trump has fixated on looks more than once, and this isn’t the only time he’s mocked others based on their appearance. In a Twitter tantrum with Elizabeth Warren, Trump Called her “Goofy Elizabeth Warren.” In reference to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, Trump stated “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her—wherever.”

Rolling Stones’ Paul Solotaroff writes that Trump stated, in reference to Carly Fiorina: “‘Look at that face!’ he cries. ‘Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!’ The laughter grows halting and faint behind him. ‘I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?’”

Okay, so shitty personality aside, Trump has still said some questionable things. When asked by George Stephanopoulos if he would authorize torture, he said “I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding. And believe me, it will be effective. If we need information, George, you have our enemy cutting heads off of Christians and plenty of others, by the hundreds, by the thousands.” The possible next President of the United States just endorsed a war crime. He goes on to say at a campaign rally: “… and if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway for what they do to us.” At least the Bush Administration had the humanity and legal knowledge to call it “enhanced interrogation.”

And that’s not the only war crime that Trump has claimed to support. On Fox and Friends, Trump stated, “I would knock the hell out of ISIS… [and] when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.” Does he really mean targeting and killing relatives of suspected terrorists (not as collateral damage—actively seeking them out and killing them)? Of course, he later denied this statement, telling Anderson Cooper “I didn’t say kill. We have to go after them.” Couldn’t that still mean the same thing?  

And if all his nuclear loose talk doesn’t scare the hell out of you, I don’t know what will. Trump has no problem shaking up our nuclear alliances. He has even mentioned being comfortable with certain countries like Japan—countries we have treaties with—getting nukes, and has mused about a first-strike nuke (who the heck are we supposed to be nuking?).

Underneath all of Trump’s sexist, offensive, dangerous, irrational claims, he isn’t even that knowledgeable of the law. He once mentioned judges signing bills… And, time after time, he has challenged the very rule of law. He has talked about his desire to “open up” libel laws. You heard that right. Trump wants to impede freedom of speech, and freedom of press. Loosening libel laws? This is America. That shit cray.

There you have it. He’s your sexist, racist, immature ex-TV host. He wants to bring back torture “beyond waterboarding.” He wants to build a wall on the Mexican border, make them pay for it, ban all Muslims, and deport U.S. citizens. Any one of these aspects of his campaign would be disqualifying to any other candidate, yet, we’ve become desensitized to the insanity Trump has spewed. We’ve become used to it, and now he’s the Republican nominee. He’s The Donald.

 

 

Jackson Out, Tubman in on $20 Bill

By Rae Avery

 

Andrew Jackson is to be replaced by a woman on the twenty dollar bill. And it's about freaking time.

When Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Alexander Hamilton would be replaced with a woman on the $10 bill last year, the public outcry was immediate and widespread. The ridiculously popular Hamilton musical had recently brought the beloved president back into the spotlight, and reminded many of us why we loved him in the first place. Hamilton fought to abolish slavery, and championed the cause for a strong national bank, as well as a hands-on government system of facilitating economic change. That a woman needed representation on our country's currency was without doubt, but Hamilton? Really? History buffs everywhere knew who truly needed to get the boot: Andrew Jackson will officially be replaced by Harriet Tubman on the twenty dollar bill.

Since 1929, Andrew Jackson, our seventh United States president, has graced the front of the twenty dollar bill. While he was indeed a war hero, he was also an elitist slave owner whose terrible decisions would lead to a near-genocide of the Native American people. In 1814, at the battle of Horseshoe Bend, the aid of 500 Native American allies saved Jackson's military command and his life. Nevertheless, a mere sixteen years later Jackson orchestrated the Indian Removal Act. Defying the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of the Cherokee Nation, Jackson paved the way for the Trail of Tears which resulted in the brutal deaths of 4,000 Native Americans.

If this weren't enough, Jackson didn't approve of paper money in the first place. He deeply distrusted banks. After being elected in 1832, he waged war against the bank of the United States, which until that time had provided some economic stability to the nation. Furthermore, Jackson's financial policies were the dominoes that set into motion the Panic of 1837, one of the worst economic depressions in United States history. Jackson wasn't even in office anymore, but his influence was still felt as unemployment rose, and banks refused to honor paper notes as actual money. It is more than ironic that this is the man we chose to immortalize on our currency.

In light of all this, we welcome the news that Harriet Tubman will lend her image to the front of our United States twenty dollar bill, replacing Andrew Jackson. While various female American heroes have been honored on special coins here and there in the past, this will be the first time in over 100 years that a woman will be featured on our paper bank notes.

The sawbuck will also see a change, as will the fiver. Alexander Hamilton will remain on the front of the ten dollar bill, and Lincoln on the five dollar bill, but the backs will showcase a myriad of women who were crucial to the civil rights movement, abolitionism, and women’s suffrage as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in 1920. Obviously, this means the new bill will be officially debuted in 2020

Being the new face of the twenty dollar bill, Harriet Tubman represents the struggle for racial and gender equality. Online group Women on 20s, which campaigned hard for this monetary change, held an internet poll to see who the public would most like to see depicted on the new bill. Runner-ups included former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, civil rights figure Rosa Parks, and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller, but renowned abolitionist Harriet Tubman was the clear winner, and the decision has now been made official.

The prospect of a woman finally being honored on United States paper currency is an exciting one, but don't be looking for our hero of the hour anytime soon. The twenty dollar bank note featuring Tubman won’t be officially redesigned until 2020, and won’t be distributed until closer to 2030.

Denmark Leads the Way in Wind Power Production

 

By Dia Ascenzi

 

Last year, Denmark broke the world record for generated wind power. For the year of 2015, 42% of Denmark’s electricity was produced from wind turbines alone. The previous year, they produced 39%, which itself was the world record at the time. The country generated so much power from wind energy that even after meeting their own domestic energy demands, they had enough power left over to export some to Norway, Germany, and Sweden. To be fair, last year was a significantly windy year for Denmark, but this is serving as a real eye-opener regarding the value of wind energy.

On September 2, 2015, Denmark was able to operate fully powered by wind and solar power, local power plants, and neighboring exports. This means they did not have to use any central power stations, which were not turned on at all that day. The country proved that it is indeed possible to produce massive amounts of electricity from wind energy. Denmark’s goal is to regularly produce half of all of their electricity using wind energy by 2020, and to be completely off of fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and gas by 2050. “These figures show that we are now at a level where wind integration can be the backbone of electricity systems in advanced economies,” says Kristian Ruby, chief policy officer of the European Wind Energy Association.

A large part of what made this possible is Denmark’s growth of wind power capacity, specifically in the increased installation of wind farms. Energinet.dk, Denmark’s power grid operator, is able to handle a massive amount of harnessed energy and effectively move it around to satisfy supply and demand. It is because of this that so much energy can be easily harnessed from wind turbines, and power can be imported and exported between neighboring countries. Despite budget cuts in Denmark’s green energy department, they are still very much in the lead with green and clean energy production.

With a surplus of power supplied by wind energy, Denmark has found their solution for energy production, and can also benefit from selling energy to neighboring countries, as they have in the past. These countries in turn benefit from Denmark’s surplus of energy. This new record proves that many countries underestimate how beneficial wind energy can be. They are setting a great example for other fuel-dependent countries to embrace the sheer potential of wind energy, and all green energy, for that matter.

Since this impressive accomplishment in wind energy production, other countries have begun to show similar action. Germany has taken the lead in offshore wind energy growth in Europe, jumping ahead of the UK. The UK, however, has not been idle, and has projected that they will have too much electricity this summer, thanks to wind energy among other factors. This is causing slight complications with how to manage an excess of electricity, and will likely result in them having to pay power plants to switch off during times of low energy demand, or when they are unable to effectively transport excess electricity. Even with these complications, having too much electricity through use of green energy is a heck of a lot better than not having enough, and still having to resort to the burning of fossil fuels. Furthermore, they may want to take a page out of Denmark’s book in how to effectively channel this electricity around to avoid wasting energy. The European Wind Energy Association has even rebranded themselves as WindEurope, in recognition of the industry’s growth in the past few decades.

These exciting new steps in wind energy production may be directly linked to Denmark’s leading example, or maybe these countries are just becoming equally aware of the value of wind power. Either way, you can expect this growth in the use of green energy to urge more countries to follow suit.

 

End the Tampon Tax

By Kayla Robbins

Although many states have sales tax exemptions on “necessities” that can range from groceries to medical care products, tampons and other feminine care products are overwhelmingly not exempt in the U.S.

In 40 out of 50 states, tampons and other menstrual supplies are subject to sales tax, in some cases adding to upwards of 9 percent. Women in California pay an average of $7 on these supplies per month, every month, for 30 to 40 years. After a lifetime, that trivial percentage can really add up, and it garners the state of California more than $20 million in tax revenue each year.

At this point, you may be wondering what the problem is. Sure, taxes may be a little annoying, but they’re not likely to make or break anyone’s budget. Sales tax is just a part of life. No matter what you buy, a portion goes to Uncle Sam, right?

Well, not exactly. You see, many states have special tax breaks in place that allow certain products to be purchased tax-free. California, the state making a tidy profit off of its tampon tax, has provisions in place that make certain medical goods like walkers, ID tags, bandages, and even Viagra completely free of sales tax. Most states shelter items like prescription medicine, groceries, and many even have laws on the books to make a variety of toiletries exempt from sales tax. In light of all of this information, you have to wonder, if all these things are considered necessary, how is it that tampons aren’t?

The prevalence and unavoidability of their use can not be reasonably denied (although one commenter on this delightful article passionately suggests that women who can’t afford tampons or pads instead use cheap “fabrics” like their ancestors did for hundreds of years. Really? This Paleo thing has finally gone too far). More than half of the world’s population needs to use them one week out of every month for a huge chunk of their lifetime. How could something this glaringly obvious be overlooked as a necessity when state tax codes were being formed? Maybe the fact that the vast majority of politics is dominated by men has something to do with this serious oversight.

Unfortunately, even when attention has been brought to the issue, lawmakers remain reluctant to make changes. They talk about waning treasuries and the vast complications of the tax code, but when the tax law of a state is codified in such a way that certain products are considered “essentials” and exempted from tax, while feminine hygiene products are not included on that list, the implicit message about how little they care about women and “their issues” is pretty clear. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I expect an elected official actively participating in my governance to be able to puzzle out a bit of tricky tax code without acting like he’s diffusing a live bomb or something. These excuses are paper thin.

The fact is, there is not a single men’s-only necessity item for sale that is subject to sales tax. Not one. This simple realization is enough to take this from a simple tax on tampons to a more sinister tax on women. It is also eye-opening to consider that state government buildings all over the country are dominated by men who have voted not to eliminate a tax that they would never have to pay themselves. During a meeting on the subject in the UK, most of the men present couldn’t even bring themselves to SAY the word “tampon.

It’s time to end the tax on tampons and on the women who are unfairly affected by it, once and for all. We’re not settling for politicians’ canned excuses any longer. When they say it’s too complex or it can’t be done, we hear what they really mean: “I don’t care enough to try.”

The precedent is already there. Most states recognize that it is better for everyone if certain goods are not taxed. These essentials already include groceries and medical devices, so including tampons and other feminine hygiene products is a natural step forward. Anyone who’s ever had to use them knows that they’re certainly not a “luxury item” as some lawmakers would have us believe. Tampons and other feminine hygiene products are every bit as necessary as the other essential items exempted from state sales tax, and even more so than many. It’s time that necessity status was reflected in the tax code.

China's Orwellian "Social Credit" System to be Mandatory by 2020

By Rae Avery

In a move likened to an "Orwellian Citizen Score," by the ACLU China has begun voluntary partnership with an app that ranks users based on their behavior and loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Participation in this system will be mandatory by 2020.

In the United States, like many other countries, your credit score is calculated based on your past payment history – the likelihood that you'll repay any future credit, based on whether you’ve repaid any past credit (a mortgage, credit card bill), if you've paid on time, etc. If you've ever tried to rent an apartment or take out a loan, you know what I'm talking about.

China is working on plans to introduce a “credit system” to its citizens that is much more complex and comprehensive than the credit system we use; your score or ranking is determined by factors like criminal record, social media activity and even who your friends are. It is more of a social credit system than a financial one, yet it still affects things like how easily you can rent a car, take out a loan, or even get a job.

The CCP has announced that by the year 2020, this Chinese social credit system will be mandatory. In a move some are likening to a a prologue to dystopia, every adult citizen will have a government-issued ID and “trustworthiness” score derived from a massive database containing personal information on everyone – education, employment history, friends, behavioral patterns based on social media involvement and online shopping, and more.

As part of a trial run, eight prominent Chinese companies have been given “state approved” projects that introduce the system to the public. Alibaba and Tencent introduced part of the new system this past summer. Alibaba is responsible for the world's biggest online shopping platform, boasting 400 million users, and monitors those purchases with its payment system, Alipay. Tencent is China's internet portal giant, which oversees virtually all of Chinese social media. This type of information gathering is at the core of their part in the new credit system.

It's called “Sesame Credit,” and for now it's optional, albeit hard to avoid. Each person who downloads the app is evaluated and then assigned a rank or credit score between 350 and 950. Those with a high score are entitled to various tiered benefits such as renting a car without a cash deposit, and getting a travel visa to Luxembourg without extra documents. Users of the rating system are actually encouraged to share their score with family and friends, and many have posted their score on social media. The system has already pervaded the culture to the point where a high score is used to attract a mate. China's biggest matchmaking service, “Baihe” (who has partnered with Sesame Credit), encourage their users to post their score in their profile, and give those with the highest scores a distinguished  place on their website.

Part of the rank is based on past purchases – and not simply whether you paid off the item, but on what the item actually is. For example, buying something like diapers is seen as “responsible” and will improve your score, while things like video games are seen as idle and irresponsible, and will bring your score down. The taxi service Didi Kuaidi has also partnered with Sesame Credit to report whether any passengers stiff a driver on the taxi fee, so things like that factor in as well. Other things that could cause a score to diminish are what you talk about or post online politically, like publishing a political opinion without permission, posting unofficial, albeit accurate news, or a history other than the official one.

Perhaps the most startling aspect is that your score also goes up or down based on interaction with friends who have a higher or lower score than you. Meaning, if a friend is given a low score and therefore deemed “less trustworthy,” you would be urged to spend less time with that person for your own score's sake, thus slowly isolating anyone the government disapproves of. Among the official tips users are given to improve their score is to unfriend those who do not use their real name online, as many do to protect their identities when speaking freely and honestly on the internet. The credit rating system creates a creepy hierarchy where blind patriotism is valued above friendship and community. If you fall in line, you are rewarded, but any independent thinkers who disagree with China's official opinion will be slowly shut out of society, crafting a generation of citizens loyal to the government only.

The social credit system is an interesting idea, and there are definitely aspects of it that can have positive effects. It can compel countless people to live more responsible lives. It makes people more accountable for their actions. However, it also singles out anyone who is viewed as untrustworthy, and makes them stand out like a sore thumb. The long-term effects of this system will determine whether it is actually a good idea, or if it is truly just “Big Brother” watching.

The Super Tuesday Cement

By Kayla Robbins

Super Tuesday’s results are in, and while nothing is truly set in stone until July’s National Conventions, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have come out on top as this election’s current forerunners. On the Republican side, Trump championed 7 states, and gained 252 delegates, making his total 458 (runner-up Ted Cruz won in 3 states, and now has a total of 359 delegates).

 

While Bernie Sanders won in 4 states, he came out of Super Tuesday with just 571 delegates, which pales in comparison to Clinton’s total of 7 states and 1,221 delegates. Sanders and Clinton were close in the popular vote, but Clinton was singled out due to what are known as “superdelegates,” unique to the Democratic party, who can switch candidates to vote for whomever they choose.

 

Super Tuesday is a good time to stop, take a step back, and evaluate the ever-changing political landscape of this election cycle. Let’s take a closer look at why the “Super Tuesday” phenomenon even exists.

What’s so great about Super Tuesday?

This multi-state voting frenzy has been part of the election year calendar since 1984, with both Republicans and Democrats in a significant number of states organizing their primary voting on the same day in February or early March. It is structured this way in order to keep up voter engagement, and the drive and energy of candidates who do well in primaries and caucuses in the first four states- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Super Tuesday is also designed to have one candidate from each party emerge above the others as the presumptive nominee. The diverse states involved- from Alabama to Vermont, usually frame a pretty accurate picture of the front runner in each party, allowing that candidate the confidence and security to focus their attention and campaign money on the general election.

 

12 states, Democrats abroad, and the territory of American Samoa voted in Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses across the nation on March 1st.

The stakes

More states cast their votes on Super Tuesday than on any other single day leading up to the general election. The results of Super Tuesday are often considered a turning point of a presidential election. They determine not only who gets to make vague claims about “momentum” and celebrate with staffers, but a fairly large number of delegates are handed out as well, which are the lifeblood of any presidential hopeful. This year, there were a total of 661 Republican delegates and 865 Democratic delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday alone. Not exactly chump change when you consider the number of delegates needed to secure each nomination (1,237 and 2,382, respectively). That’s more than half of the delegates needed to claim a majority for Republicans and about a third of the number needed for Democrats.

The players

At this point, the major players have become clear. On the Republican side there is Donald Trump and Ted Cruz leading, with Marco Rubio and John Kasich trailing behind. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders compete for the nomination. Several other contenders have entered the race but dropped out before Super Tuesday, including Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chaffee, and Jim Webb. Despite the large number of candidates who have already dropped out, many experts say that the Republican race remains bloated and overcrowded, with votes being split between too many candidates.

Scoring

At this stage of the game, it is not “winner-take-all.” For Democratic primaries, delegates are awarded proportionately with the amount of votes a candidate receives in a state. Republicans use more of a “winner-takes-most” system wherein delegates are distributed to candidates who secure a number of votes above a certain threshold, with the top candidate receiving a disproportionately larger amount of delegates. Each state makes its own rules on this, so the details can get a bit fuzzy for the casual observer.

Trump runs away with a shocking 319 delegates, while Cruz and Rubio struggle to keep pace. 

The results

While many votes have been cast, official results won’t be determined until summer. In this way, primary results are often significantly front-loaded, with states that vote earlier in the spring having a greater influence than those who vote later. Because of this, though, it is also easy to see trends emerging, and the candidates who come up on top during the March primaries frequently go on to secure their party’s official nomination, which is why the results from Super Tuesday are so important.

Clinton has earned 577 delegates excluding superdelegates who are free to change their minds, but are most likely to side with the popular vote.

Post Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday can give us a good look at where the candidates stand, and who will likely be representing each political party. More importantly though, it gives us a chance to consider our own position, what we believe, who we are supporting and why. This introspection will be crucial as we help choose who will potentially lead us as a nation for the next four years.  

Since Super Tuesday Trump has won Hawaii, Michigan, and Minnesota with Cruz taking only Idaho. Democrats had only Michigan and Mississippi on the March 8th primary, with Bernie Sanders Winning Michigan and Hillary Clinton taking Mississippi. 

 

 

 

Apple Refuses Court Order to Create iPhone Backdoor

By Andrew Hendricks

In a decision that has gained the support of a whole host of industry leaders, Apple has decided to fight a lawful court order ruling in support of the FBI’s demand that Apple create a backdoor in the iPhone, removing current best practices in smartphone security. Following a tragic shooting by a married couple in San Bernardino, California, the locked iPhone of one of the attackers has caused a political firestorm among U.S. law enforcement, privacy advocates, and smartphone owners everywhere. While older iOS versions are easily “crackable,” Apple has lauded the fact that iOS is now so secure, without rewriting their security software, even Apple employees cannot get access to data inside the phone while the phone is still locked. Interestingly, the cloud is a different issue—had law officials not immediately tried to reset the account’s cloud password, Apple has claimed that they could have provided the phone’s backups as they synced, preventing the need for a worrisome “backdoor” in the first place.

After more than two months of attempts, the FBI has still not been able to unlock the iPhone through conventional methods, even with the aid of iPhone engineers. They cannot attempt a “brute force” method of hacking through multiple-guess for fear that after too many false guesses the data will be wiped, a precaution that would have been easy for the phone’s owner to install. Tim Cook explained their decision on Apple’s website in a post titled A Message to Our Customers. In it, he lays out the need for encryption, and the dangerous precedent their compliance would set in an internationally digital world where data security is more important than ever.

Tim Cook also goes on at length to emphasize that Apple is only rejecting complying with a request to create such vulnerable software—they are not rejecting assistance with the federal government in turning over digital and cloud available to them. “When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it,” writes Cook. However, Cook reminds readers, “the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software - which does not exist today - would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

ArsTechnica has published the court order online, highlighting the section of the order which quite literally demands Apple build what is essentially a master-key function for unlocking iPhones.

Read the full story at lovefone.co.uk

The Ebola Aftermath

By Rae Avery

Just a few short weeks since West Africa was declared officially Ebola free, the World Health Organization has confirmed a second new case in Sierra Leone. The first victim was 22-year-old student Mariatu Jalloh, who died of the illness on January 12th. The aunt who provided care for her has just been diagnosed.

Skilled healthcare workers will be vital in the coming weeks, as more people who cared for Marie Jalloh, who have been under observation in quarantine, begin to show symptoms.

While it may be tempting for westerners to dismiss the deadly Ebola outbreak as being nothing more than a terrifying memory, the plight for the local healthcare workers who dealt with the epidemic head-on has not ended. Many who provided care for the sick last year have yet to be paid for that work. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, a renowned Boston University doctor and infectious disease expert, saw the bravery of these men and women firsthand when she opted to go join the fight against Ebola in person. "They are trying to make ends meet at all times,” says Dr. Bhadelia, “and they were going to work every day risking their lives and not getting paid for it."

These were not volunteers, though they soldiered on without pay, in the face of a brutal epidemic, to help however they could. The work they signed on for was indeed dangerous. In fact, the CDC reported that Kenema District (the very area in Sierra Leone where Dr. Bhadelia had been working) had the highest percentage of Ebola-stricken healthcare workers in the country. These local nurses were promised “hazard pay,” as well as protective gear – two things they would often end up having to go without.

Nurses known to have treated Ebola patients have been driven out of villages and kicked out of their homes, often with no notice. Many attempted to go back to previous employment only to be told never to return. Still more have been shunned by friends and family.

Stigma surrounding Ebola and its level of infectiousness stem from a lack of public knowledge and education about the disease. Since it is so contagious and so deadly, Ebola workers are feared almost as much as the disease itself. Such “Ebola shaming” occurs globally, not just in West Africa, but also here in the United States. After returning to the US, Kaci Hickox, a  returning nurse from Doctors Without Borders, found herself under a quarantine in New Jersey imposed by Governor Chris Christie despite testing negative for ebola and against medical opinions. After much harassment and media attention this woman, Hickox asked the public to “stop calling me the ebola nurse,” which is reasonable, considering she never had ebola in the first place. Hickox is now suing for civil liberties violations surrounding her unlawful quarantine.

Despite all, these heroic nurses continue to risk their lives to provide care for others. Dr. Bhadelia is inspired by their commitment to such work in the face of unwarranted persecution, watching friends and colleagues perish from the disease, the very real possibility of contracting it themselves, and not knowing if or when their paycheck will come to compensate them for this work. Says Bhadelia, “If that is not a testament to the heroism of these workers, I am not sure what is.”

Dr. Bhadelia, moved by the plight of these brave healthcare workers with no other way to support their families, decided to take matters into her own hands. On June 19th of this year, she set up a fundraising webpage called Ebola Workers with the goal of raising $50,000. Only seven months later, they have raised over $42,600.

The newest cases of Ebola have prompted health officials to reopen Ebola treatment centers, and return to screening measures, including highway checkpoints.

 

Flint, MI: The Water Crisis and Leadership Scandal

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By Rae Avery

Flint, Michigan residents have been grappling for over a year with a dangerously contaminated water supply. When officials made the switch from Lake Huron water to water from the local Flint River, residents noticed a drastic difference in water quality, as well as their children's health. After over a year of trying to get answers out of a misleading local government, citizens are wondering how long their officials knew of the danger, the degree to which emergency management failed them, how to cope with new health issues, and how they can get clean water both now and in the future.

Facing dire economic straits, the city of Flint, Michigan found themselves under “emergency management” with all real power vested in their “emergency planner” reporting to the auspices of the state government. This means that the democratically elected officials basically have no decision-making power, and the emergency manager is the only representative with any actual authority. On June 26, 2013, Flint's emergency planner approved a plan to use the Flint River as the city's primary drinking water source in order to save money, rather than re-negotiate with the Detroit water system, which uses the Great Lakes as its source, and which Flint had been successfully using for over 50 years. A year later, water from the river was pumped into homes all across Flint.

The water in the Flint River, which had a reputation for being notoriously filthy, was also incredibly high in salt, iron, and other contaminants, making it 19 times more corrosive than the previous source, Lake Huron. According to federal law, the water should have been treated with an anti-corrosive agent, which would have cleared up 90% of Flint's water problems, and would've cost about $100 a day. The law was not followed however, and the water went untreated. When the iron-rich water began to flow through the city's lead water mains, the pipes corroded and lead began to leach directly into the public water supply.

In what should have been an immediate call for action, General Motors rejected the switch to Flint water in April for their manufacturing plant, fearing the water “too corrosive.” Said an assistant chief engineer at the Flint GM plant: “Because of all the metal [...] you don’t want the higher chloride water [to result in] corrosion. We noticed it some time ago [and] the discussions have been going on for some time.” Too corrosive for cleaning car parts, but not human consumption?

Citizens of Flint noticed the change immediately in the color, odor, and taste of their tap water, saying it had a murky quality, a light yellowish-brown color, and smelled of sewage. Concerned parents began to report emerging health problems in their children — everything from diarrhea to skin rashes, yet officials kept insisting the water met state standards and was safe to use.

In August 2015, Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech, did some digging in public records and discovered a 2015 memo that outlined the elevated levels of lead in the Flint children's blood. This discovery prompted Edwards to conduct his own study of Flint's water and found that the lead levels were a staggering 900 times higher than the EPA deems safe to consume. Officials dismissed Edwards' findings and touted them as less accurate than their own data, which claimed the water was fine.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Pediatrics Program Director at Hurley Medical Center, found that lead levels in Flint toddlers had doubled, and in certain cases even tripled, after the switch to Flint River water. However, officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality continued to deny there was any danger, and falsely stated that there was no spike in blood lead levels among Flint's children.

Lead is a neurotoxin, and causes learning disabilities, lower IQ, developmental issues, and irreversible brain damage in children exposed to it. Declaring a state of emergency and citing the need for Governor Snyder’s support in her declaration, Mayor Karen Weaver reminded the media that treating the thousands of children in Flint for their mental and physical health problems will require federal resources, which can only be made available if a state of emergency were to be declared in the city.

In October, Flint made the switch back to water from Lake Huron, but they aren't out of the woods just yet. Lead levels in the tap water are lower than before, but still too high to safely consume, and residents are urged not to drink or bathe in it. The Flint water crisis has many asking who is to blame, and several lawsuits are pending against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, among others.

President Obama declared Flint to be under an official state of emergency on December 14, 2015, which ensures the people of Flint $5 million in aid, but it's not nearly as much as Gov. Rick Snyder thinks they'll need. With his estimation of Flint needing about $95 million over a year, as he has appealed to the President's office to reconsider giving them, it'll likely be a long road to recovery.

 

 

Denali Officially Drops McKinley from Mountain

By Dia Ascenzi

 

North America’s tallest mountain, measuring 20,310 feet above sea-level, is located in Alaska. It’s the third tallest of the mountains on each of the seven continents, otherwise known as the  Seven Summits,  and may actually be the third tallest mountain in the world. What you may find surprising about this national and global landmark, is that for roughly a century there has been an ongoing feud regarding its rightful name. As of August 30th, 2015, Mount McKinley has officially be renamed “Denali.”

In the Koyukon Athabascan language, Denali means “The Great One” which actually was the mountain’s original name, given by the people of the surrounding areas. Then, in 1896, it was given the name Mount McKinley, named after the not-yet-elected president of the United States. In August of 2015, with the support of President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, announced that the mountain would once again be given its original name. An article from the New York Times states that Obama did this in order to “restore an Alaska Native name with deep cultural significance to the tallest mountain in North America.”

Many are happy with this change, especially the Alaskan natives who have always referred to the mountain as Denali anyway. However, many representatives of the Republican Party are furious about this bold move by President Obama. In fact, until the recent renaming of Mount McKinley, the name dispute was visited by Congress almost on a yearly basis. Bob Gibbs, a congressman from President McKinley’s hometown of Ohio, tweeted about the matter, calling it a “constitutional overreach.” Several consecutive tweets from fellow Ohio Congressman Rob Portman parallel Gibbs feelings as he writes that he is “disappointed,” and calls the instance  “another example of the President going around Congress.” Many republicans and Ohioans see this act as an insult to McKinley’s memory, and all of his deeds as President of the United States.

So, besides the name, what else ties this mountain to William McKinley? Interestingly enough, nothing. When it was named in 1896, McKinley had not even been elected yet, and was only a nominee. A gold prospector named William Dickey claimed that he chose to name it after the then governor of Ohio because of McKinley’s stance on the gold standard. This was done regardless of the fact that Dickey had no authority to do so, and the mountain already had a name that was centuries old. It wasn’t until 1917--more than 20 years later and 16 years after McKinley’s assassination--that the mountain was officially named Mount McKinley by the U.S. Government. For what it’s worth, at no point in his life did William McKinley visit the famous mountain, or even Alaska, for that matter.

The Real Story of the McDonald's "Hot Coffee" Lawsuit

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By Angela Hallinan

Nearly 20 years after the initial verdict, the case of Stella Liebeck vs. McDonald’s “Hot Coffee” has turned into the poster child for tort reform. The case is synonymous with the overly-litigious nature of Americans who need warning labels on washcloths. Suing for a cup of coffee being too hot is the very definition of a “frivolous” lawsuit. Or is it?

The story was featured in Retro Report, an organization whose mission is to reveal the truth about major cases that have been misrepresented by the media. The magnitude of this case had devastating consequences that would affect future plaintiffs.

Stella Liebeck, 79, was seated in a parked Ford Probe at McDonald’s on February 27th, 1992. She had ordered a coffee along with her breakfast and her grandson, who was driving at the time, parked the car for Stella to put some cream and sugar in the coffee. As was common 20 years ago, the car lacked a cup holder. She had placed the cup of coffee between her legs to remove the lid, and it spilled in the process. The seat design for Probe’s was a “bucket seat,” and when the coffee spilled, she literally sat in a puddle of scalding hot coffee. The burns covered 16% of her lower half, 6% were third degree burns and she had to receive skin grafts from her thighs.

The burns she sustained in the incident were so severe, her doctors and surgeons were unsure whether or not she’d live. Her initial request to McDonald’s suggested that they cover the $10,000 in medical bills. That amount was  decided on before she had received the skin grafts. McDonald’s offered Liebeck $800 in response to her request for the damages. Stella decided to seek counsel after receiving their offer and hired Kenneth Wagner, who had been previously represented another victim who had been burned by McDonald’s coffee. They filed suit against McDonald’s for “Gross Negligence”.

In the trial, it had been brought to light that McDonald’s had received over 700 previous complaints from coffee burn victims. McDonald’s stated that their coffee holding temperature was the industry standard of 180-190 degree Fahrenheit. Dr. David Arredondo, Liebeck’s surgeon, stated that “180 degrees or hotter in contact with skin for more than a few seconds will produce burns. If you’re lucky only second degree burns, if you get third degree, that will require skin grafts.” Graphic photos of Liebeck’s burns were produced as evidence in the trial.

A twelve-person jury initially awarded Stella Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages, and $2.7 million in punitive damages. Judge Robert Scott reduced the compensatory damages to $160,000 based on the fact she was found 20% at fault, and the punitive damages to $480,000 stating “I think that there was evidence and argument about the Defendant’s knowledge that the coffee could cause serious, third degree, full tissue burns. The Defendant McDonald’s knew that the coffee, at the time it was served, was too hot for human consumption.”

Both parties appealed in December and it was finally settled out of court for less than $600,000. The amount awarded for punitive damages was based upon the two days worth of coffee sales. The jurors wanted to send a message to McDonald’s using the punitive damages to have them rethink the severity of turning a blind eye to 700 burn victims prior to Stella Liebeck. A section found in a publication of U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics supports that decision: “Punitive damages are not awarded for the purpose of compensating injured plaintiffs, but are almost exclusively reserved for civil claims in which the defendant’s conduct was considered grossly negligent or intentional. Punitive damages are intended to serve as a means for punishing the defendant and deterring others from committing similar actions.” Although the punitive damages were reduced by the judge, he did state that McDonald’s engaged in “willful, wanton, and reckless behavior.”

The “Hot Coffee” lawsuit has been the punchline for late night comedians like Jay Leno, David Letterman, and was even the subject of an extended joke in an episode of Seinfeld. Pro-tort reform politicians waged a media battle against an individual and won. Consequently, conservative republicans who were taking aggressive political action against “frivolous lawsuits” saw this case as an opportunity to rally a campaign in their favor, since a majority of Americans believed Stella Liebeck was solely after the money.

The misrepresented version of events spread like wildfire, fueled both by political interests and a campaign of deliberate misinformation by McDonald's. What began as an injured old lady merely trying to get her medical bills paid for became one of the most widely referenced and mocked civil court cases in American history.

 

How Bill Gates Beat Ebola In Nigeria

By Rae Avery

In what may be the first good news in weeks regarding the tragic series of Ebola outbreaks world-wide, the quick thinking and emergency-preparedness of Nigerian clinics have effectively stopped the virus from spreading in that country. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation expanded medical staff and initiated solid training, in addition to giving much-needed technical support. They also gave huge financial donations to retrofit polio clinics in the country, which were equipped and ready when the Ebola outbreak hit, and whose decisive doctors and quick actions have now eradicated the deadly virus in Nigeria.

“Children are going back to school in Nigeria,” reported Ameen Awalii, for USA Today, “and there’s a sense of cautious optimism, as Africa’s most populous country is declared Ebola free.”

With some countries teetering on the edge of panic, and some in actual crisis regarding the emerging Ebola outbreak, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sees Nigeria’s success as a ray of hope. “For those who say it’s hopeless, this is an antidote – you can control Ebola.” Indeed, risk of the virus has decreased in Nigeria so much that as of October 7th, the CDC has officially downgraded Nigeria’s risk level from Level 2, Alert to Level 1, Watch.

No new cases of Ebola have been reported in Nigeria since August 31st. Currently, all Ebola patients are either deceased or fully recovered, with an astonishing 60% recovery rate and equally surprising, only eight deaths reported.

Health officials in Nigeria took specific measures very early in the outbreak to safeguard its citizens, and stem potential risk. These included government-funded educational materials for the public regarding Ebola and hygiene, in which they learned to wash their hands with ashes if one does not own soap, in a country where many cannot afford it. Nigerian hospitals also improved quarantined isolation wards, having just undergone renovation. Also, health officials were posted on standby at every port, outfitted with thermometers to check travelers’ temperatures for risk of the virus.

Dr. Faisal Shuaib, overseer of Nigeria’s emergency operations center, remarked in a recent CNN interview, “Mobilizing swiftly, human, material, and financial resources were required to contain the outbreak.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation gave large financial donations to Nigeria to benefit and retrofit their healthcare systems in July and August, and after the sudden Ebola outbreak in September, pledged to give an additional $50 million. This preparedness was essential to stopping the spread of the illness. Nigeria’s “extensive response to a single case of Ebola shows that control is possible with rapid focused interventions,” Dr. Frieden said in an interview.

With the United States and Spain now each dealing with the Ebola crisis, the CDC is sending medical researchers to Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, to learn more about how we might use their specific techniques to aid in the eradication of this illness.

While some countries have failed entirely to provide adequate response to the disease, and others merely hope to avoid an incident, the lessons from this success story are clear: the only way to beat Ebola is with a direct, head-on approach. Nigeria was lucky to have the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in their corner. The rest of the world would be wise to learn from their success.

SCOTUS Sides Against Student/ACLU in “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Banner Ruling

By Andrew Hendricks

First Amendment advocacy groups and students shared outrage seven years ago over Morse V Frederick, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of a high school principal who suspended a student for his “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner.

The battle between Joseph Frederick, then 18, and the principal of Juneau-Douglas High School in Juneau, Alaska, ignited in 2002 during a school field trip to see the Olympic torch pass through their small town.

As television cameras panned, Frederick and his friend unfurled a 15-foot banner with duct-taped letters reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.”

The principal, Deborah Morse, quickly rushed to confiscate the banner. She suspended Frederick for five days. This punishment later turned into 10 days after Frederick refused to name the friends who assisted him.

Frederick said that the punishment also came when he quoted Thomas Jefferson about freedom of speech and Morse became annoyed. And for many, that’s what this issue has turned into.

Frederick claimed it was his Constitutional right to express this message. He fought Morse’s ruling and the subsequent school board ruling that backed her. The debate raged all the way to the Supreme Court, where the ruling went against Frederick.

The Court’s 6-3 vote caused an outpouring of criticism that claimed this decision infringed on students’ freedom of speech.

“The First Amendment requires a greater amount of care than the court gave today,” said David Greene, Executive Director of The First Amendment Project, a free speech advocacy group.

Other freedom of speech organizations were more concerned with the general direction in which the courts seemed to be heading, as opposed to just this one case.

“It used to be if there’s some doubt of freedom of speech, the mentality was to give speech the benefit of the doubt,” said Terry Francke, General Counsel for Californians Aware, another freedom of speech advocacy organization. “But the courts say even though the message is cryptic, they had enough justification because of a reference to marijuana.”

High school administrators greeted the ruling happily, and were grateful for the Supreme Court’s continued backing of principals staying in control of their schools.

“The Supreme Court has routinely ruled that we may make these kind judgment calls,” said James Bushman, Principal of University High on the Fresno State campus.

Students gained their first real taste of political freedom of speech in 1969. In the case of Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the Court ruled that students may wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. Bushman said that since the 1969 ruling however, there’s always been a history of rulings in favor of high school administrators.

“To me, it’s just one more ruling,” said Bushman.

Bushman also did not feel the “Bong hits 4 Jesus” banner made a strong First Amendment argument because of the student’s purpose.

“It’s not like it was a T-shirt,” Bushman said. “It was a 14-foot banner designed to be inflammatory. He even said he did it to bother his principal.

Even one of Frederick’s relatives sided with the school administration to some extent.

In an e-mail to The Signature, Frederick’s cousin, Patti Steele-Jorgensen, said: “I’m proud that my cousin took a stand for his rights, but I don’t disagree with the ruling. There are certain things that have no place in the schools. And promoting illegal activity is one of those things.”

Many students disagreed, siding with First Amendment advocacy groups.

“I think it’s kind of sad,” said Leonard Torres, 17, Associate Editor of Highlights, the Sanger High School paper. “It’s really damaging to freedom in schools. Administrators have too much power to censor students and this ruling only gives them more.”

The fact that a drug reference in the banner specifically bothered the administration does little to diminish the anger students feel over the debate.

“It shouldn’t matter that the banner references an illegal substance. He should still be protected by freedom of speech,” said Alex Kent, 18, a journalism student at Lincoln High School, Stockton.

While the message the Supreme Court ruling sends certainly upset First Amendment organizations, advocates with legal knowledge aren’t too worried specifically for California students.

“On the other hand, this ruling is no real threat to Californians because of the Student Bill of Rights California has,” said Francke of California Aware.

The Supreme Court ruling does not permit high school administrators to punish students whose speech mentions illegal activity. The court only said the Constitution does not specifically forbid it.

California does forbid it.

California’s Student Bill of Rights states that administrators may not restrict students’ speech, even if illegal activity is mentioned, provided it does not overtly incite violence of uncontrollable disruption.

When asked if the ruling could affect California high school administrator’s perception of their limits, Francke said:

“The only thing it might change is the actions of [administrators] who are ignorant of the law. They have no more authority over free speech in California based on this ruling.”

A careful read of California’s Constitution may give high school students a sigh of relief.

Not so elsewhere.

“Students from other states without such state-level protection are left vulnerable when it comes to free speech,” said Francke.

Some students, including high school journalism student Kent, feel more angered at what they view as hypocrisy by high school administrations.

“It’s ridiculous that the place we’re learning about freedom of speech is the place we’re not encouraged to practice it,” Kent said.

SF Celebrates Supreme Court Marriage Rulings

By Andrew Hendricks 

 With positive outcomes in the recent back-to-back Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, San Francisco's City Hall lights up in rainbow colors in celebration.

Both cases were seen as landmark victories by civil rights defenders. First, by striking down DOMA, the court has ruled that gay marriage does not exist in the vacuum of a state, and that all homosexual and heterosexual married couples alike are entitled to the federal benefits that come with marriage. Prop 8 had been recently ruled as unconstitutional by a California court. 

Contrary to some reporting, the Supreme Court did not actually rule in the case of the overturning of Prop 8. In that case, Proposition 8 was a 2008 ballot measure to repeal same sex marriage. With a flurry of outside spending, a huge percentage of it from the Mormon Church, Prop 8. passed.

The outcome of that legislation was bizarre, to say the least. There were just over 10,000 gay couples in San Francisco who had married in the time between gay marriage being ruled legal by the courts, and voted illegal by the people of California. The language in Prop. 8 had no legal ability to un-marry the already legally wed gay couples in California, so thus, there were two separate but unequal legal statuses for homosexuals in California. One set had no ability to wed and receive all associated benefits, and another had all of these benefits, but only with the partner they were already wed to, and could theoretically never receive the benefits with another person in the future.

California courts recognized the bizarre nature of having regular gays and super gays (according to legal status), and a California court of appeals found the Proposition unconstitutional. However, with such an issue, and the supporters of Prop. 8 having appealed the California court's ruling, marriages would not be allowed to continue until the Supreme Court ruled on the issue.  

And rather than issue an actual verdict with detailed opinions to help us sort out the future of the legality of homosexual marriage in the United States (something you'd think the Supreme Court would be more willing to do), the Supreme Court overturned the case on the very reasonable predicate that never before has a law been brought to the Supreme Court to be upheld after being overturned by a lower court, because the law was being defended by an outside group of people unaffiliated with the state government.

So while the specific rulings on DOMA, designating that it served no purpose but to purposely discriminate against a group of Americans, is a nice thing, it is interesting to note how the Supreme Court sidestepped the most interesting outcome of their ruling. What does interstate commerce even mean, related to marriage across the country?

It is great, and about time that gays married in progressive states (and Iowa) are entitled to federal benefits after being legally wed. However, a legally wed couple in one state, moving to Kentucky--what happens to them? Gay marriage is not legally recognized in Kentucky. Are they still going to receive federal benefits, but not state benefits? Are they magically un-wed by the social conservative force field that surrounds the state? To my knowledge, crossing state borders has no legal basis for dissolving legal contracts and unions. Kentucky has no such power. But you can be sure lots of states are going to be claiming they do in the very near future.

Of course, the Supreme Court know this. Antonin Scalia has appeared absolutely apoplectic about issuing any rulings on these issues, because he understands that each ruling does not exist in a vacuum. He has said in so many words that you can't say it's illegal to discriminate against gays, and then keep all these things he's in favor of that discriminate against gays.

So basically, now we wait. It is a state that the homosexual community is used to--and luckily now with results to make the waiting a little easier. The writing is on the wall, and liberals know it. The liberal Justices of the Supreme Courts know it. Even the conservative Justices on the Supreme Court knows it. These two rulings have nudged the door just far enough open that it will never be closed again. We now wait to see which couples or states will be the next one, two, or three cases brought before the Supreme Court to point out the absurdity that is a result of the DOMA decision. We wait, curious and fascinated by the legal route this civil rights journey will take. However, like watching a remake of an old classic film, we all know the outcome.