What on earth was going through Jodie Fosterâ€™s mind when she agreed to star in Flightplan? God, that was the worst movie Iâ€™ve seen in I donâ€™t know how long. It was senseless. The intricate plot to make off with $50 million dollars depended on pure chance in several key areas, hanging in particular on the odd coincidence that no one on the plane saw Jodie Fosterâ€™s daughter before the little girl was kidnapped so everyone thought Jodie was crazy. Oh, and Jodie and her daughter conveniently fell asleep so that the girl could be spirited away, and Jodie never woke up during the abduction that took place in the seat right next to her.
If you havenâ€™t seen it, donâ€™t. In the end, Jodie saves her daughter and blows up the bad guy by diving into a sealed airplane chamber and pressing a button on a bomb gizmo that she has taken from her adversary. It takes me a good five minutes to turn on a TV with a remote control Iâ€™ve never used before, but Jodie detonates a complicated explosive in a nanosecond without even looking down at the device in her hand. And how did she know she and her daughter wouldnâ€™t be killed in the chamber, which was right next to the bomb? According to the movie, sheâ€™s some kind of plane engineer, but how would she know how powerful the blast would be?
In case youâ€™re wondering how this rant is relevant to our shared concern with GLBT news, itâ€™s because Jodie is a closeted lesbian, so this is a lesbian news story. The headline might be something like â€śCan Lesbians Judge Scripts? Experts disagree on whether sexual orientation is a factor in bad films.â€ť
Hey, I never said it was major news. Itâ€™s just a soft lead. But itâ€™s weird. Jodie Foster is so intelligent and such a great actress that her decision here is inexplicable. Perhaps she is being blackmailed by a B-movie producer. Now, thereâ€™s a headline.
Did I mention that the pilot of the airplane completes a wire transfer of $50 million dollars in three minutes apparently on his own authority? Oh, letâ€™s move on, shall we?
Bush Asks High Court To Toss Citizensâ€™ Lawsuit
Hereâ€™s an interesting legal development, in my view. Apparently thereâ€™s been a long running lawsuit that Iâ€™ve paid no attention to in which a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation has been trying to sue the Bush administration over our presidentâ€™s faith-based slush fund, aka the Faith-Based and Community Initiative. You remember this raw deal, Iâ€™m sure, where the administration just threw together a bunch of money and is doling it out to church groups through the executive branch, skipping Congress in the process.
I gather from an article by the Roundtable on Religion and Social Policy that the lawsuit has been dragged down over the question of whether the members of the Freedom from Religion Foundation have standing to sue based on their status as taxpayers. Normally, paying taxes doesnâ€™t give you standing to challenge any public policy you happen to dislike. But, I read, taxpayers have historically been granted standing to contest congressional appropriations that might violate their constitutional rights. At issue here is whether that leeway also extends to the right to sue over monies spent by the executive branch.
The question has been litigated through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, where a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the Foundation, and where the full 7th Circuit court declined to review that decision. Now, Bush and company have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter. The justices should decide late this year whether to take the case.
What? You didnâ€™t think that was interesting? Listen! If we werenâ€™t totally overwhelmed by this presidentâ€™s massive foreign policy bungling that has killed thousands, ruined our international reputation, incited radical insane religious-based terrorism, destroyed any chance for peace in the Middle East and brought us to the brink of World War III, we might be paying closer attention to his outrageous extra-constitutional activities. Yes, I know. We all noticed that he spies on Americans and puts people in prison without charges, trials or representation. But he also hands out wads of federal cash to Christian organizations with no checks or balances, indirectly paying for evangelical outreach in the guise of social services.
Can we get rid of this guy one of these days?
Thou Shalt Not Honor Thy City Council
I have a few other legal stories that touch on our profound community stake in the separation of church and state. The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that the city of Boise can hold a vote on whether or not to put a Ten Commandments monument back into a city park.
The monument was removed in 2004 after the ubiquitous Fred Phelps came up with the idea to install his own marker condemning Matthew Shepard next to the Decalogue. And no, it was not at all clear why Fred decided to interfere in the civic life of the Spud State capital. Anyway, city lawyers preferred to remove the Ten Commandments rather than fight with Phelps over equal access to the park.
Subsequently, a group of Boise citizens started an initiative drive to force a vote on restoring the monument to its old spot, along with a bunch of secular plaques that would allow the display to pass constitutional muster. But the city balked and a court agreed that the decision could not be left to the public. The high court reversed, so the boys of Boise will have their say. Girls too.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Limited Public Forum
We also had a decision out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, where a three-judge panel ruled that the Montgomery County (Maryland) public school system could not refuse to distribute Christian flyers pushing the after school â€śGood News Club.â€ť
The school authorities felt that they should not be in the position of advertising the Good News Club by sending the kiddies home to mom and dad with a fistful of Christian promotional material. After a round in court, the county schools formulated an official policy that limited school sponsored flyers to materials from five groups, subject to official approval. But the appellate panel ruled nonetheless that the policy gave the school district unfettered power over the content disseminated through the flyer program, which the court implied was a limited public forum.
In case you were wondering, operators of a limited public forum can control the forumâ€™s message only under reasonable conditions that do not consist of viewpoint censorship.
I have another First Amendment case, but Iâ€™m going to skip it. Enough is enough. So letâ€™s jump from the frying pan of legal news into the fire of amendment politics.
I havenâ€™t yet added Arizona to my list of states with an amendment on the November ballot, because advocates are still challenging the proposed amendment in court on single subject grounds. The proposal defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and goes on to say that â€śno legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or its political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage.â€ť As such, it impermissibly asks voters to combine their opinions on marriage and other legal arrangements into one vote. Thatâ€™s fine for people who feel the same way on both subjects. But itâ€™s tricky for the rest of the populace.
Weâ€™ve had bad luck making this same argument in other high courts around the country. Specifically, weâ€™ve lost on this identical issue in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and possibly some other state that has slipped my mind. But you never know. Maybe the Rattle Snake State will take a stand for justice.
Meanwhile, over in Illinois, I am delighted to say that the referendum on marriage rights has failed to qualify for the ballot, although bad guys in the Windy City State have yet to give up. I gather theyâ€™ve gone crying to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, where they are whining about the â€śoverly burdensomeâ€ť state election laws. The referendum would have been a non-binding call for the legislature to take action, but symbolic or not, it still would have increased conservatives at the polls next fall. The fewer of those, the better.
Doctor Dobson on the Move
Speaking of conservatives at the polls, did you read that James Dobson is pouring the impressive resources of Focus on the Family into a voter registration and get out the vote drive in eight contested states; Maryland, Montana, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Minnesota.
I confess Iâ€™m not on top of the races in those states, but it displeases me to see this kind of effort expended on behalf of my political enemies. According to the LA Times, the program was announced in an email seeking county and church coordinators throughout these states. Oh, and of course itâ€™s a â€śnon-partisanâ€ť issue-based campaign. Otherwise, the churches involved could lose their tax-exempt status.
I wish them ill.
We Win in Cin Cin
Oh, hereâ€™s some good breaking news. According to an e-mail from People For the American Way, the attempt to repeal Cincinnatiâ€™s gay rights ordinance has failed. Petitioners barely submitted the number of names they needed, but they had so many fraudulent signatures that the initiative has been tossed by authorities. Hah!
Cin City, you may recall, is where GLBT activists finally succeeded in overturning an insidious charter amendment that preemptively banned gay rights laws. With the amendment out of the way, the city council promptly passed a non-discrimination measure, and the tenacious weasels on the other side got busy with their hapless attempt to repeal that bill. No dice, losers!
I notice that Iâ€™m losing a sense of sportsmanship about our titanic community quest for equality. Oh well. Iâ€™m also losing my news energy, and I havenâ€™t yet told you that dismissals under Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell are up in 2005 for the first time since September 11.
Speaking of Donâ€™t Ask, I was also fascinated to read that West Point selected a senior thesis condemning the ban on openly gay servicemembers for the academyâ€™s top liberal arts scholastic prize, the Brig. Gen. Carroll E Adams Award. Congratulations to Alexander Raggio, who according to the Washington Post, was inspired by a gay relative to draft the winning paper.
Left untouched on my news list as this column draws to a close are the various homophobic eruptions in the former Soviet states, a ruling out of an Iowa court banning a bunch of rabid lawmakers from intervening in Lambdaâ€™s marriage equality case, and a litany of crazy bills offered up in the Utah legislature by a certifiable nut case state senator named Chris Buttars.
Iâ€™ve also got a woman in Cleveland who has filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission because she was not considered for a job in a menâ€™s bathhouse. â€śThey wouldnâ€™t give me an application,â€ť sniffed Deborah Coleman, who wanted a position at a new facility owned by Charles Fleck. â€śI never thought I would be treated the way I was.â€ť
Please, Deborah. Gender discrimination is when an employer refuses to hire a qualified woman based on stereotype or bias. You, in turn, were rejected for a damn good reason. Mr. Fleckâ€™s clients donâ€™t want to be eyeballed by the towel girl while theyâ€™re trying to relax au naturelle. How would you feel if the health club hired a male attendant for the ladiesâ€™ locker room?
Here, however, is a very legitimate gender bias beef. I gather that the International Olympic Committee only recognizes female synchronized swimming teams, a policy that means menâ€™s teams are excluded from official meets like the World Masters Championships just held at Stanford. This reeks of stereotyping. Is grace unmanly? Is a dolphin arch beyond the ability of a male athlete? Is a flamingo? I think not.
Whatâ€™s the Beeve?
I wrote the word â€śbeefâ€ť back here, and that inspires me to make public my profound annoyance with the New York Timesâ€™ Saturday puzzle, which contained the clue â€śred meat source,â€ť which ended up being â€śbeeves.â€ť I looked it up, and indeed, beeves is a plural for beef, although I was unfamiliar with the term, much like the rest of the English-speaking world. But â€śbeefâ€ť is not a â€śsourceâ€ť for red meat. Itâ€™s red meat itself. The thing is not the source of the thing. The Saturday puzzle is hard enough without made-up words and erroneous definitions.
Mr. Shortz, I await your apology.