“It has been a long time since Ozzie and Harriet provided the marriage template in Florida”

Fred Grimm, who eschews subtlety and grace with excellent timing, hits Pam Bondi hard for her decision to fight last week’s decision by the Monroe County circuit court judge finding Florida’s 2008 marriage amendment unconstitutional. He reminds the attorney general that her primary challenger impugned her morals:

Besides, the notion of the superiority of the heterosexual family seems ever more absurd with each awful revelation about the Florida Department of Children and Families’ failures to safeguard children in overwrought foster homes or troubled “traditional” family settings. It has been a long time since Ozzie and Harriet provided the marriage template in Florida.

John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, was riled by Garcia’s ruling. “Every domestic partnership, every single civil union, every couple that cohabitates,” he insisted, “dilute and devalue marriage.”

That was the same Stemberger who attacked Bondi back back in 2011, when she was running in the Republican primary for attorney general. He said, “Personally, she has no children and lives with her 60-year-old eye doctor boyfriend.”

Bondi’s still childless, still living with her ophthalmologist boyfriend. And the notion that their relationship “dilutes and devalues marriage” is just as mean and mindless and outmoded as her own defense of the ban on gay marriage.

But events move swiftly. The Third District Court of Appeal refused to invalidate the stay triggered by Bondi’s decision to appeal.

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Report: seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep

Friends know I hate bed. Room is for sleeping. I don’t return to it until 11 p.m. About seven hours is fine with me, as the latest research shows:

Several sleep studies have found that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep—not eight, as was long believed—when it comes to certain cognitive and health markers, although many doctors question that conclusion.

Other recent research has shown that skimping on a full night’s sleep, even by 20 minutes, impairs performance and memory the next day. And getting too much sleep—not just too little of it—is associated with health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and with higher rates of death, studies show.

“The lowest mortality and morbidity is with seven hours,” said Shawn Youngstedt, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University Phoenix. “Eight hours or more has consistently been shown to be hazardous,” says Dr. Youngstedt, who researches the effects of oversleeping.

On those nights I’m up late I pay for it: eve if I go to bed a 3 a.m. I’ll rise at seven, to the displeasure of my body for the rest of the day.

My favorite statistic: “Pajamas are worn by 73% of people and 12% sleep with nothing on.”

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The quiet craft of Walter Hill

Film fans need Walter Hill profiles. The director of The Warriors, The Driver (remade as Drive in 2011), The Long Riders, Southern Comfort, Extreme Prejudice and the uneven but fine Wild Bill hasn’t gotten his due because this filmography also includes Brewster’s Millions, Crossroads Another 48 Hours, and Last Man Standing and the studios putting up money for movies that in lesser hands than Hill’s would turn into B films have instead concentrated on “indie” divisions responsible for Oscar-worthy vehicles and the Michael Bay productions which pay for them. Like Anthony Mann’s Jimmy Stewart westerns and Don Siegel, Hill injected subtlety into OK scripts. The Long Riders and Southern Comfort in particular are austere, beautifully composed studies of male companionship; in many ways Southern Comfort‘s understanding of the shifting tectonics of masculinity in crisis surpasses Deliverance‘s. And I’m willing to bet that 1984′s Streets of Fire, which I’d dismissed about a decade ago as a thirdhand translation of the MTV ethos as a Mad Max fantasia, looks better now.

In The Guardian‘s recent profile, Hill says:

“We see now,” he says, “60 and 70 years later, that John Ford and Howard Hawks are beyond genres. Even so, I always felt that genre film-making was going to be my home, but I also understood that you couldn’t go on making them the way they used to do – there’s no challenge. If you were just gonna go at it the way the old guys did, then you were going to run up against the fact that they did it better than you ever could – not surprising, since they had invented the genres themselves. My generation found you had to use the old genres in new ways, pull them inside out.”

Is Steven Soderbergh the only genre experimentalist refusing to work as a cult artist? I shudder.

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The modern GOP: “the most effective and successful minority party in history”

In the wake of today’s split court decisions on the Affordable Care Act, among other things, Digby theories that the GOP doesn’t need to win the presidency or the Senate to win:

With one gerrymandered House of congress willing to do whatever it takes and a hardcore ideological majority on the Supreme Court they can enact their agenda regardless of what the majority of this country desires. After all, what they really care about is making government dysfunctional. This furthers their political and ideological aims.

And while one might think they would like to have the presidency in order to control the Commander in Chief function, which they love, they don’t really need that either. The Deep State is always in control and neither party is going to do anything to upset it beyond the very outside margins. (Actually, I think the Cheney administration actually did try to change things — for the worse — and it scared them a little.) And anyway, the GOP enjoys carping from the outside, portraying the Democrats as feckless, effeminate fops who are unable to run the world’s only Superpower even as there are almost no real differences among them. It’s all good.

The Republican Party run by the modern conservative movement is the most effective and successful minority party in history. They fully exploit every flaw in our system for their own advantage and then skillfully demonize their opponents if they try to use the same techniques. They are well funded by billionaires with a strong interest in paralyzing democracy and have a bunch of followers whose worldview is organized around discontent and hatred of “the other” which makes a government system full of veto points a perfect vehicle for their agenda.

Now the 2016 race can strike a new note of hysteria. The counterpoint: more and more people sign up for the ACA.

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For the ‘plus ça change” file

As easily as it is to list the differences between a liberal and a conservative in 2014 — it’s easier than ever — channeling the energy into the matrix of party politics is no problem for the GOP and, as we say, a challenge for the Dems. Charles Pierce with dispiriting news from a weekend at Netroots Nation:

Anyway, the entire weekend was cracked in its foundations by an unsubtle feeling that sides were being chosen for the 2016 presidential race already, and those cracks were widened by the widespread denial that this was going on at all. The signs of an Anybody-But-Hillary movement, however small and ineffective it might be, were everywhere, and this wasn’t helped at all by the fact that very few major Democrats felt compelled to show up. (The absence of Martin O’Malley continues to mystify me.) Again, having attended both CPAC and Netroots this year, the difference between the power of the two gatherings over the respective political parties to which they generally gravitate was more startling this year than ever before. Certainly, there was loud rumbling of internal discontent at CPAC, too, but there wasn’t a prominent Republican in the country that dared not show up. (And there were several panels about the severe mistreatment of the Keystone pipeline by environmental extremists, wah-dee-doo-dah.) CPAC was loud and noisy and fun. Netroots was simply dead-assed. One convention felt like a movement. The other felt like a trade show. If you are a Democratic politician, and you’re hoping just to ride out the 2014 midterms, this is not a hopeful thing.

It could be Netroots 2004 or the Democratic Leadership Council in 1994. Ugh.

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Scalia: A justice of one

As the final act of A Court of One approaches and events that happened a short time ago trigger easier recall, Bruce Allen Murphy stumbles. The accumulation of Dahlia Lithwick and Linda Greenhouse columns and allusions to the New York Times editorial board’s doing its shaking-their-sad-heads are tedious enough, but Murphy commits a fatal mistake. 2004′s Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, in which a majority of the Court supported the detention of enemy combatants even if they were American citizens so long as the federal government didn’t deny them due process, marked one of the few times in the last two decades when Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia protested the executive branch’s exertion of its war powers. Suspend habeas corpus and hold them indefinitely, he argued, but don’t hold these Americans in legal limbo:

Many think it not only inevitable but entirely proper that liberty give way to security in times of national crisis–that, at the extremes of military exigency, inter arma silent leges. Whatever the general merits of the view that war silences law or modulates its voice, that view has no place in the interpretation and application of a Constitution designed precisely to confront war and, in a manner that accords with democratic principles, to accommodate it. Because the Court has proceeded to meet the current emergency in a manner the Constitution does not envision, I respectfully dissent.

And again:

It is difficult to imagine situations in which security is so seriously threatened as to justify indefinite imprisonment without trial, and yet the constitutional conditions of rebellion or invasion are not met.

Given his career of assaulting the integrity of his colleagues, I found the penultimate adverb in the first excerpt a delicious stroke. Written in muscular English like few legal opinions are, this dissent could not be clearer about what was at stake. Murphy, however, comes to the opposite conclusion:

Based on his originalist understanding of an all-powerful chief executive during times of crisis, and his unwillingness to have the federal courts second-guess the military during wartime, Scalia argued in dissent in favor of a “blank check” on behalf of total presidential power.

Insofar as Scalia believes in a “blank check” the executive branch needs to write and sign it first. As I indicated, this cripples Murphy’s tome, casting doubt on his scholarship and of course, just as grievous, represents a triumph to which Scalia’s claque can point and gloat. See? He does study the Constitution and reach decisions that offend his personal ethics. This could not have been Murphy’s intention.

To have erred like this in the smart phone age is an example of the cunning of history, for a biographer to wag a finger at a Supreme Court as technophobic as this (he shares tidbits about justices learning to play violent video games after arguments for Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association to understand the case) must surely know the proofreading must be unassailable. A shame. Otherwise the first two-thirds of A Court of One posit that Scalia’s purported fidelity to the Constitution as ratified in 1789 — a “dead Constitution” he says with glee — has had far-reaching consequences that reach into the Court itself. “We are all Keynesians now,” Richard Nixon is said to have said. With retired justices David Souter larding even “living” Constitution endorsements with historical references and John Paul Stevens countering Scalia’s trove through eighteenth century ratification documents with his own allusive dissent in Heller v. District of Columbia, we are all formalists now. In a career-long attempt to be the last constitutionalist standing, Scalia has devoted hundreds of thousands of words to distinguishing his approach from Robert Bork’s; with Bork dead two years, Scalia has absorbed his position. Starting as a conservator of executive power in the Nixon and Ford Justice Departments and defining himself as a “faint-hearted originalist” for most of his tenure on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, he eschewed legislative intent and stuck to the words on the page. That this approach produces results which cramp rights and privileges to people whom the Framers didn’t recognize and coincides with most conservative positions on privacy, access to safe and legal abortions, and gay rights should surprise no one in 2014, although it produces the odd blow for free speech such as striking down a statute criminalizing flag burning in Texas v. Johnson and the recent dissent in the DNA case Maryland v. King (he was also once strong on search and seizure cases.

Murphy’s assembling oral arguments, opinions, and his own commentary is impressive; it shrivels Joan Biskupic’s 2009 Scalia biography into pedantic on-the-one/on-the-other-hand journalism. But about a hundred pages devoted to whether he should have recused himself from this or that case because of his off-court antics amount to “well, it’s not wrong but it looks bad,” an invitation for more scoffing from Scalia’s fervent cult. As suggested above, Dahlia Lithwick is a delicious observer, but Murphy reduces her to a person who collapses on a fainting couch whenever Nino whips out his pen (Richard Posner’s recent criticism is discussed at length though). Then the copy editing errors multiply, like mushrooms on a lawn: repetitions on slang and introductory phrases separated by a couple of paragraphs, typos like “the the” (Matt Johnson would have no standing). The many good things in A Court of One

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“People talk about things that they shouldn’t have done as if it’s no big deal because nobody expects any consequences.”

A couple days ago The Guardian published the transcript of an interview with Edward Snowden. The way in which he summarizes fourteen months of revelations is itself a resource from which we’ll be quoting for years. Included is this reminder for those critics who still insist he should have followed the chain of command:

I was a private contractor as opposed to a direct employee of the National Security Agency. And that meant that what few whistleblower protections we have in the United States did not apply to me. I could have been fired and [would have] had no recourse against the retaliation. I could have been imprisoned. And everybody who works for these agencies, they’re all aware of that.

Thomas Drake, an American who exposed widespread lawlessness … [he was a senior NSA employee who raised concerns about agency programs and their impact on privacy] … rather than having those claims investigated, rather than having the wrongdoing remediated, they launched an investigation against him and … all of his co-workers.

And the sharing of sexually explicit material by twenty-year-old dudes who get off on sharing nudie pics with the full knowledge that the people on whom they’re spying will never know and their own superiors won’t care:

It’s never reported, nobody ever knows about it, because the auditing of these systems is incredibly weak. Now while people may say that it’s an innocent harm, this person doesn’t even know that their image was viewed, it represents a fundamental principle, which is that we don’t have to see individual instances of abuse. The mere seizure of that communication by itself was an abuse. The fact that your private images, records of your private lives, records of your intimate moments have been taken from your private communication stream, from the intended recipient, and given to the government without any specific authorisation, without any specific need, is itself a violation of your rights. Why is that in the government database?

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