Dipshit of the day: More on the Kentucky clerk

A Kentucky county clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite this summer’s Supreme Court ruling that such marriages are a civil right is now asking the high court to cut her a break.

Attorneys for Rowan County clerk Kim Davis are petitioning the Supreme Court for an emergency order protecting her from being fired until her lawsuit against Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is resolved. Earlier Friday, the Rowan County Attorney formally requested that the state government charge Davis with misconduct, the first step in ousting her from her post.

Davis’ core argument is that granting a marriage license to a same-sex couple would violate her religious beliefs. Since this summer’s high court ruling on marriage makes it illegal to grant licenses to heterosexual couples while denying them to same-sex couples, Davis is simply refusing to issue them to anyone — and appealing every court decision that goes against her, perhaps in hopes of putting her religious liberty argument before the country’s ultimate legal arbiter.

Hours after the court’s June decision in Obergefell that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as heterosexual ones, Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses entirely. Multiple same-sex couples who were denied licenses by Davis’ across-the-board licensing freeze have sued her, and she has appealed initial defeats in those cases. After Beshear ordered her to either issue licenses to both hetero and same-sex couples or resign her post, Davis sued the governor’s office in hopes of persuading the courts that even playing a small bureaucratic role in facilitating same-sex weddings would violate her right to religious freedom.

Specifically, Davis points to Kentucky law’s requirement that marriage licenses bear the signature of the county clerk — and therefore make her an active participant in bringing a same-sex marriage into being. Davis appears to consider such participation irredeemably sinful: “If it happened, there is no absolution or correction that any earthly court can provide to rectify,” SCOTUSBlog quotes her complaint as saying.

Davis is making a novel argument in seeking the emergency order from the nation’s top judges. She is employed by the people of Kentucky, and one of the duties her job exists to perform is the granting of marriage licenses to qualified couples. Davis is apparently arguing that her civil rights protect her from being terminated for misconduct over her nonperformance of a key duty of the job for which she is paid.

In previous lower court rulings, Davis has suggested that same-sex couples can either go to a neighboring county or seek the signature of a different Rowan County official. She has also suggested that the state could change the law about marriage license signatures, removing the requirement that she sign her name to couples she finds sinful. The lower-court judge has rejected all three arguments.

As an elected official, Davis is difficult to fire. Friday’s request for misdemeanor official misconduct charges against her by the Attorney General begins a slow process that could only actually kick her out of office if the state legislature votes to impeach her. She has also risked contempt charges by continuing to refuse to issue licenses in defiance of a court order. If the Supreme Court grants her request from Friday night, it would keep her in office until her suit against Beshear is ultimately resolved — potentially even by The Nine themselves.

I find it interesting she is asking for protection from the same kind of laws that she is refusing to comply with. George Takei had an interesting point what if she refused to issue a license to people not the same race? Would she have so much support then?

Demand more money for a “living wage”…….. Then work less hours in return

Wal-Mart, in the midst of spending $1 billion to raise employees’ wages and give them extra training, has been cutting the number of hours some of them work in a bid to keep costs in check.

Regional executives told store managers at the retailer’s annual holiday planning meeting this month to rein in expenses by cutting worker hours they’ve added beyond those allocated to them based on sales projections.

The request has resulted in some stores trimming hours from their schedules, asking employees to leave shifts early or telling them to take longer lunches, according to more than three dozen employees from around the U.S. The reductions started in the past several weeks, even as many stores enter the busy back-to-school shopping period.

Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon is trying to balance a desire to improve service — partly through increased spending on his workforce — against investors’ pressure to keep profit growing. Labor costs, which rose after Wal-Mart increased its minimum wage to $9 an hour in April, have weighed on earnings, which missed analysts’ expectations last quarter. At the same time, Wal-Mart is trying to maintain low prices to fend off rivals.

The reduction in hours is taking place only in locations where managers have overscheduled workers, staffing the store for more time than they’ve been alloted, said Kory Lundberg, a spokesman for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart. The reductions won’t affect efforts to better staff stores, shorten checkout lines, and improve cleanliness and stocking, he said.

Dual Goals

Greg Foran, the head of Wal-Mart’s U.S. operations, has said the retailer has dual goals of containing expenses and spending more to improve its stores.

“Amid the investment, we’re focused on growing sales and controlling costs, as you would expect from Wal-Mart,” Foran said earlier this month after the company announced disappointing earnings. “We are staying true to our roots. However, we are committed to improving the customer experience and we will protect the investments necessary to achieve this goal.”

Striking that right balance is proving challenging for the world’s biggest retailer, according to accounts from some employees.

A Wal-Mart employee at a location near Houston, who asked not to be identified because she didn’t have permission to talk to the media, said her store had to cut more than 200 hours a week. To make the adjustment, the employee’s store manager started asking people to go home early two weeks ago, she said. On Aug. 19, at least eight people had been sent home by late afternoon, including sales-floor associates and department managers.

Long Waits

The employee said she’s covering an area once staffed by multiple people at one of the busiest times of the year — the back-to-school season. On a recent weekday, she had a customer who had to wait 30 minutes for an employee to unlock a product the shopper wanted to purchase, she said. In e-mails, interviews and social-media posts, employees in a range of positions across the country shared similar stories of hours being cut.

The staff at a location in Fort Worth, Texas, were told that the store needed to cut 1,500 hours, according to a worker who asked not to be named for fear of being reprimanded. After being asked to stay late to help with extra work earlier in the week, some were told to take two-hour lunch breaks to make up for the additional hours they’d clocked, the employee said.

Senior Workers

McMillon’s move to raise Wal-Mart’s minimum wage to $9 an hour in April has stirred other frustrations. Some of the chain’s more senior employees have criticized the increase, saying it mostly benefited newer workers and that more experienced staff shouldn’t be making at or near what new hires are paid.

Wal-Mart has said it anticipated some employees being disappointed about not getting raises and is trying to create more opportunities for workers to advance within the company. It also has a new scheduling system.

By cutting hours, Wal-Mart now risks losing some of its best employees to competitors that can provide more stable schedules, said Burt Flickinger, managing director at Strategic Resource Group LLC. The company also may alienate customers if the staffing levels result in poorer customer service and products not getting on store shelves, he said.

Wal-Mart has made strides during the past year in addressing customers’ complaints of barren shelves, dirty stores and long check-out lines, Flickinger said. But some locations still aren’t staffed well enough during peak times, he said.

“Wal-Mart risks a talent drain at a time when McMillon has made meaningful improvements in the company,” Flickinger said. “All these competitors will take Wal-Mart workers to make themselves strong and help make a major competitor weaker.”

If you live your life trying to live off of others and their generosity you are going to constantly live at their mercy. Quit whining and go out a make a life for yourself and take control.

Ranking the five most dysfunctional NFL teams

Ranking the five most dysfunctional NFL teams

The drama between Jay Gruden and Robert Griffin III is just one reason the Washington Redskins are a disaster. The Washington Post/Getty Images

The point of professional sports is to put a winning product on the field, yet there are some NFL teams that are making a hot mess out of the attempt.

With the 2015 NFL season fast-approaching, it’s time to take a look at the teams that have been set up to fail.

These upcoming franchises represent the most dysfunctional teams in the NFL right now.

5. Cincinnati Bengals

This isn’t a “bad” football team from year to year, but there are some funky things stuck in the woodworks in Cincinnati.

Marvin Lewis is one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the league. In fact, only New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been in charge longer than Lewis, who is sandwiched between “The Hoodie” and New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin.

One must ask why the Bengals continue plugging along with Lewis at the helm, however. Since taking over for Dick LeBeau in 2002, Lewis has managed to lose all six of the playoff games the Bengals have reached (all wild-card games).

Further evidence of dysfunction is the franchise’s undying loyalty to quarterback Andy Dalton, who must be one of the worst playoff quarterbacks in league history for someone who has played in more than one game.

In four playoff contests, Dalton has completed just 55.7 percent of his passes for 873 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions for a passer rating of 57.8. These numbers are abominably putrid, yet Cincinnati continues to stick with Dalton for reasons that defy explanation.

4. San Francisco 49ers

If not for the fact that San Francisco is just one year into its current state of dysfunction, the 49ers would be higher (or is it lower?) on this list.

The front office got tired of Jim Harbaugh’s relentless need to push the team, as did his players. This led to an abysmal 2014 campaign during which everybody knew Harbaugh was on his way out. And, rather than bring in another big name like Mike Shanahan or Mike Holmgren, the 49ers chose to promote defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.

Tomsula may end up being just what the doctor ordered for this franchise, but then again, the upcoming season could end up being an unmitigated fiasco.

But that’s not the point.

Trent Baalke, for better or worse, runs this franchise with an iron fist. Anyone standing in the way of his vision will be crushed underfoot.

And, under his guidance, the 49ers have become a league poster boy for off-field problems with 12 arrests since 2012. Ray McDonald and Aldon Smith—both cornerstone defenders—were jettisoned after multiple arrests, and Ahmad Brooks appears to be following suit after being indicted on sexual battery charges.

Should Brooks be cut, then that means the 49ers will have lost 11 starters from last year’s team that went 8-8. This kind of brutal turnover, along with the circumstances surrounding many of the departures, could be disastrous for San Francisco in 2015.

3. New York Jets

New York is a mess, despite the crazy talent the team features on defense.

In addition to the transition from being a Rex Ryan-coached team to Todd Bowles, who has never before had a head-coaching gig, the Jets have one of the worst quarterback situations in the league.

This isn’t a new problem, either.

Since Mark Sanchez “led” the team to the AFC championship game two years in a row, New York’s offense has been nothing short of embarrassing.

After Sanchez left, the Jets drafted Geno Smith, who has actually been a downgrade at the position. And, now that Smith is sidelined with a broken jaw suffered at the hand of former teammate IK Enemkpali, it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick’s turn to suck behind center for the Jets.

Throw in a volatile Brandon Marshall, who has sparked controversy wherever he goes, and this burning pyre could soon get an injection of jet fuel.

The worst part for Jets fans?

New York’s defense will probably be good enough to keep this franchise from having a chance at landing a top quarterback in the draft for the next few seasons, meaning the offense will continue dragging the team down for years to come.

2. Cleveland Browns

Speaking of quarterback problems

You can cross out Johnny Manziel and add Josh McCown to this travesty of a jersey, which represents the unbelievable run of bad choices made by Cleveland’s brass at the quarterback position over the past two decades.

And, just to prove how much the football gods are against Cleveland ever winning again, Manziel is now dealing with chronic elbow issues stemming from an unorthodox throwing motion. He’s missing the final two preseason games this year due to the issue, meaning McCown is completely in charge of the offense this year unless/until he gets hurt.

It’s been two decades since Cleveland won a playoff game, and the way things are going, it might be another two before this curse is lifted.

Making matters worse, the front office of the Browns isn’t exactly on the level. Ray Farmer won’t be attending the first four games of the upcoming season because he was texting plays to the coaching staff last year.

Maybe just let the coaches coach this time around, eh?

1. Washington football team

There isn’t a team in the league with more long-term dysfunction and chaos than the one owned by Daniel Snyder in Washington.

Currently, the franchise is a complete, abject disaster.

Head coach Jay Gruden has, up until now, had his hands tied behind his back when it comes to Robert Griffin III as the starter. Perhaps out of spite, or perhaps because he wanted to see if RG3 could work his way out of a funk, Gruden left his “star” quarterback in the game against Detroit to be brutalized in Week 2 of the preseason.

Not surprisingly, Griffin sustained a concussion in the game after being sacked three times. He was then declared ready to go just days after, and the team said he’d be ready to play in Week 3. Then, on Friday, it was announced that an independent neurologist ruled him out for one-two weeks because of his concussion.

And this is where the story gets really weird.

After rumors came out that Kirk Cousins would not only start in Week 3 of the preseason but also in Week 1 of the regular season, another report emerged that shows just how dysfunctional this franchise is at this time.

Dipshits of the day: Immigrants sue Texas over state’s denial of birth certificates

Hiram Ramirez didn’t expect problems this week when she went to get a birth certificate for her newborn daughter, Dulce.

Ramirez, 28, a native of neighboring Reynosa, Mexico, crossed the border illegally and has lived in the Rio Grande Valley for years. Her two older daughters, ages 3 and 14, were U.S.-born, and she easily obtained birth certificates for them using her Mexican voter registration and consular identification card. She relied on the birth certificates to register her girls for school, Medicaid and other government services.

But when the stay-at-home mother arrived at the downtown vital statistics office Thursday, she discovered the rules had changed. Without a U.S. driver’s license, visa or Mexican electoral card, she could not obtain a birth certificate for her child.

Though children born in the United States are entitled by law to U.S. citizenship regardless of the immigration status of their parents, Texas authorities have begun placing significant barriers to undocumented immigrants seeking to obtain birth certificates for their U.S.-born children.

Hundreds of immigrant parents along the southern Texas border have been denied birth certificates for U.S.-born children since 2013, immigrant advocates say, as state authorities have made it more difficult to use alternative identification documents from parents who have no access to U.S.-issued papers.

The denials have happened in the past but stepped up significantly after the Obama administration in 2012 expanded its efforts to protect millions of immigrants from deportation, according to lawyers who have filed a lawsuit arguing that the Texas policy is unconstitutional. A second program, proposed by the White House in 2014, would extend deportation protection in some cases to parents of children born in the U.S. a result of this situation, hundreds, and possibly thousands, of parents from Mexico and Central America have recently been denied birth certificates for their Texas-born children,” said the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Austin.

State officials say they have always been reluctant to use identity documents that are not backed up with reliable forms of identification.

“We monitor local registrars for compliance. If we encounter a local registrar that is accepting identification that doesn’t qualify, we’ll let them know,” said Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Department of State Health Services, which supervises the roughly 400 local registrars around the state that issue birth certificates.

At issue is a state policy, which immigrant advocates say has been enforced with greater vigor since 2013, declaring that state registrars cannot accept the identification cards, popularly known as matriculas, issued to foreign nationals by their local consulates.

Another lawsuit by people using more services of our country that they do not want to accept as their own and prefer to stay here illegally. Is that even legal for them to do?

Pooping for a cause……..

It’s the middle of the day for Eric, a 24-year-old research assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and nature is calling.

Eric leaves his job and hops a train. Then a bus. Then he walks some more. He passes countless toilets, and he needs to use them, but he doesn’t.

Eventually, Eric arrives at a nondescript men’s room 30 minutes away from MIT. A partition separates two toilets. There’s a square-tiled floor like in any public restroom. It’s unremarkable in every way, with one exception: A pit stop here can save lives.

Eric hangs a plastic collection bucket down inside the toilet bowl and does his business. When he’s finished, he puts a lid on the container, bags it up and walks his stool a few doors down the hall to OpenBiome, a small laboratory northwest of Boston that has developed a way to turn poop from extremely healthy people into medicine for really sick patients.

A lab technician weighs Eric’s “sample.” Over the past 2½ months, Eric has generated 10.6 pounds of poop over 29 visits, enough feces to produce 133 treatments for patients suffering from Clostridium difficile, an infection that kills 15,000 Americans a year and sickens half a million.

To donate, Eric had to pass a 109-point clinical assessment. There is a laundry list of factors that would disqualify a donor: obesity, illicit drug use, antibiotic use, travel to regions with high risk of contracting diseases, even recent tattoos. His stools and blood also had to clear a battery of laboratory screenings to make sure he didn’t have any infections.

After all that screening, only 3% of prospective donors are healthy enough to give. “I had no idea,” he says about his poop. “It turns out that it’s fairly close to perfect.”

And that, unlike most people’s poop, makes Eric’s worth money. OpenBiome pays its 22 active donors $40 per sample. They’re encouraged to donate often, every day if they can. Eric has earned about $1,000.

“It takes us a lot of time and effort to find these donors,” says OpenBiome’s research director, Mark Smith. “When we do find them, we want to keep them as engaged as possible and really want to compensate them for their time.”

Why is Eric’s poop so valuable?

A hundred trillion bacteria live inside your gut, some good, some bad. When patients take antibiotics for infections, sometimes they fail to work; good bacteria gets killed off while bad bacteria — C. difficile — grows unchecked.

The life-saving bacteria from the guts of people like Eric can help. When their healthy microbes are placed inside the intestines of a sick person they can chase out harmful C. difficile bacteria. It’s called a fecal transplant. The treatments are administered bottom-up, through a colonoscopy, or top-down, through a tube in the nose.

OpenBiome’s poop donors have created about 5,000 treatments, and the organization says the results have been stunning. Stinky human waste is an astonishingly simple cure: 90% of the patients get better.

“They’ll actually have this really transformational experience where they’ll be going to the bathroom 20 times a day and then have normal bowel movements sort of immediately or the next day,” Smith says.

The organization’s fecal transplants cost $385 to purchase and are providing a treatment to more than 350 hospitals in 47 states.

At OpenBiome’s lab, technician Christina Kim, working under a fume hood that sucks up odors, pulls the lid off Eric’s collection bucket and demonstrates how she turns poop into the life-saving treatment.

“It’s nice that this room is actually closed off because this is where the smelly part happens,” she says.

She examines the consistency of today’s offering. A nearby chart has descriptions and illustrations for seven types of stools. It was developed by a hospital in Bristol, England, as a visual guide.

Not all poop is acceptable.

Types one or two, defined by the Bristol Stool Chart as “like nuts” or “lumpy,” are too dry to process into a treatment.

If a donor’s stool is “mushy” or “watery” — that’s a type six or seven — then it can’t be used because it could be a sign the donor has a gastrointestinal infection.

The perfect poop is type three, which is “like a sausage but with cracks on its surface;” type four, which is “like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft;” or type five, “soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).”

“It’s actually an established medical chart,” Kim says with a chuckle. “It’s very important.”

Maybe it was the hot sauce he used on his quinoa and cheddar cheese casserole last night, or the banana and peanut butter he ate with a bowl of bran flakes and almond milk for breakfast, but Eric’s stool is type five, just barely acceptable for processing.

Kim scoops the feces into a clear plastic bag and adds a saline solution. For two minutes the bag sloshes around inside a machine called the “jumbo mix.” The fiber in Eric’s stool is filtered out, and what’s left behind is a liquid teaming with helpful bacteria.

With a pipette, Kim transfers the watery remnants of Eric’s poop into 250 ml plastic bottles. On average, one stool donation fills four, but today Eric’s impressive half-pound sample fills seven. One bottle equals one treatment.

The 133 treatments Eric has provided won’t be distributed until he’s passed a secondary healthy screening. For now, they sit frozen in quarantine inside a giant freezer.

Most donors head on their way after handing over their sample, but during today’s visit Eric asks if he can see the treatments he helped create.

Cool air blasts his face as Kim opens the freezer. His jaw drops at the sight of his icy brown bottles, which look like frozen chocolate milkshakes. The bacteria inside them is still alive, cryogenically preserved at -112°F.

“That’s fantastic! Holy cow!” Eric says, beaming. “It’s unreal. I never thought I would be staring at my poop frozen in a freezer destined to help people across the country. It’s really cool.”

But did he do it for the money? The ridiculously easy money?

“Not at all,” he says. “It’s a nice perk, of course.”

If you’re inspired to donate like Eric, you have to live in the Boston area. And you may have to wait. Some 6,000 people have already signed up. OpenBiome usually invites about 50 people for interviews every week.

“It’s easier to get into MIT and Harvard than it is to get enrolled as one of our donors,” Smith says. “A lot of our donors are pretty excited to take something they do every day otherwise and save people’s lives with it.”

I guess this falls in the “thank you for sharing” category…….

Not all people in the world have the “GREED” factor

Want to attend college for free? It can happen if you learn German.

All German universities are now free to Americans and all other international students. The last German state to charge tuition at its universities struck down the fees this week.

Even before Germany abolished college tuition for all students, the price was a steal. Typically semester fees were around $630. What’s more, German students receive many perks including discounts for food, clothing and events, as well as inexpensive or even free transportation.

In explaining why Germany made this move, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a Hamburg senator, called tuition fees “unjust” and added that “they discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”

Actually, German universities were free up until 2006 when they started charging tuition. That triggered such a crush of criticism that German states began phasing out this policy. Lower Saxony was the last holdout.

It’s too bad that politicians in the U.S. don’t feel that a college education is worth supporting appropriately. State aid to the nation’s public universities took a nosedive during the 2008 recession and education funding remains well below those levels. The average state is spending 23 percent less per student than before the recession, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Actually, state support has been declining for public universities for a quarter of a century. Using an interactive tool from The Chronicle of Higher Education, you can see how state government subsidies have cratered at individual institutions.

With the average undergrad borrower now leaving school with more than $29,000 in debt, the free ride in Germany can look awfully tempting.

How to handle the language barrier

German is not an easy language to learn. Fortunately, however, there are international language programs in Germany, which have become very popular with international students before they tackle obtaining a degree in a different language.

What’s more, an increasing number of German universities are offering degrees in English. These are often called international studies programs or in some other way have the word international in their title.

There are other countries like Denmark that do this too, when will the greedy Americans learn the real value of an education and what it means to our future.