Test your skills: catch the errors in this USNews article, win a prize

Timothy Kincaid

December 12th, 2012

It’s rare that I read an article so inaccurate – so horribly insanely pound your head on the wall and eventually just laugh your ass off inaccurate – that it becomes a work of art in its own right. Brad Bannon writing in the US News has such an article.

If it weren’t so earnest, I’d think it was satire. I’ll copy it in its entirety, assuming that it will change (normally I would never quote an entire article; fair use rules don’t generally stretch that far. But as I expect some revisions to be made it is necessary for the competition).

Special bonus points for who can catch the most errors.

Why the Supreme Court Will Rule in Favor of Gay Marriage

The justices read the election returns, or so goes the legal proverb about the Supreme Court. In this case they might have also looked at the Election Day national exit poll which showed that a plurality (49 percent to 46 percent) of voters favored gay marriage. Maine, Washington, and Maryland became the first states where voters legalized gay marriage themselves.

Friday, the Supreme Court decided to hear two cases on gay marriage. The first case comes from Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of appeals sitting in San Francisco. This case concerns the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a voter initiative in California that banned gay marriage. The other case is from the Second U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City. This case focuses on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, which became federal law in 1995.

The opponents of Prop 8 believe the law is unconstitutional because the ban treats gay couples unfairly, which is a violation of the Equal Protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The Equal Protection clause states, “Nor shall any state… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The defenders of Prop 8 believe that the federal government doesn’t have the constitutional power to interfere with the state ban because the Constitution does not give the feds the power to regulate marriage. Under the 10th Amendment, powers that the federal government doesn’t have are reserved for the states.

Many observers believe that the Court will overrule the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that went into effect in 1996. DOMA expressly states that the United States government does not recognize the legality of gay marriage. In the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the plaintiff Edith Windsor, a widow legally married to another woman argues that DOMA violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because the Internal Revenue Service sanctions more favorable tax rules for heterosexual couples than it does for same sex couples. The Justice Department under President Obama feels DOMA is unconstitutional and has declined to defend the law. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft who represents the supporters of DOMA argues that the Supreme Court should be hesitant overruling a law approved by the other two branches of the United States government.

Even though both cases concern gay marriage, the issues for each differ. In the Prop 8 case, nullification of the California law would effectively nullify the state laws in 41 states that ban gay marriages. If the court nullifies DOMA, the ruling would only apply in the states that permit gay marriage and would give the gay married couples in those states the same kind of tax and healthcare benefits under federal law that heterosexual couples enjoy. It would be easier politically for the court to nullify a federal law that is relevant in a few states than it would be to end state laws in 41 states. But the nullification of both the state and federal statutes is the only way to ensure the freedom that all Americans should enjoy without the government poking into their personal lives.

The prospects for giving gay couples equal rights under the law are there. On the Supreme Court, there are obvious blocks of four liberal and four conservative justices. The ninth justice, Anthony Kennedy is the swing vote. Supporters of gay marriage note that in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, Justice Kennedy ruled to nullify a state law which discriminated against gay couples. If Kennedy and the four liberal justices rule that DOMA is unconstitutional, the court will do what it did in the Lawrence case which is to give gay couples the same rights that heterosexual couples enjoy.

Support for gay marriage will only grow over time. Demography and history suggest that it is just a matter of time until gay Americans can shake off the stigma of second class citizenship.

Thomas Jefferson believed that political equality was an unstoppable force in a democracy. History supports Jefferson’s theory. In 1896, most Americans accepted send class citizenship for blacks as the natural order of things. So did the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that year that the agency that ran the trolley cars in New Orleans did not violate the equal protection clause when it arrested a black person, Homer Plessy for riding in a car reserved for whites. By 1954, the public turned against segregation and so did the Supreme Court in Brown et al v. the Topeka Kansas Board of Education. In Brown, the court ruled that Linda Brown, a black elementary school student, had the constitutional right to attend the all white school in her neighborhood. The Equal Protection clause in the 14th Amendment didn’t change between 1896 and 1954 but the justices and public attitudes did.

The ruling in Brown paved the way to blacks to start the long journey from second to first class citizenship. It took blacks years for black Americans to enjoy their right to equal protection under the law. Hopefully, Edith Wilson will enjoy her day in the sun like Linda Brown. Conservatives and Republicans can slow the train of freedom but they can’t stop it.

In their book, Millennial Makeover, Morley Winograd and Mike Haas noted that a large majority of adult Americans under 30 years of age were very supportive of gay marriage while seniors strongly opposed the idea. So it’s just a matter of time until gay Americans shake the shackle of second class citizenship.

UPDATE: What do you win? Whoever catches the most errors wins BTB crap!!

Yes we sell logo crap – or, more exactly, Cafe Press sells fine quality products with a BTB Logo. We don’t push it on you, but it’s there for those who want to proudly show your local coffee klatch, your gym buddies, or your nosy neighbors that you read the musings of Jim and Rob and the gang (you have permission to pretend that you skip right over mine).

So if you win, I will buy you your choice of: a BTB Mousepad, a BTB large mug (I have them, they are great coffee cups), or (drumroll please) a BTB tote bag which is great for trips to the beach or slogging home groceries from environmentally conscious overpriced organic-only co-op neighborhood hippy-chick avocado stands (don’t mock – they make the best guacamole).

One week from today, I’ll announce the winner (which should be pretty damn obvious anyway).

Ben In Oakland

December 12th, 2012

The paragraph beginning with this sentence– Even though both cases concern gay marriage, the issues for each differ– is almost entirely wrong. There are 4.

He calls windsor wilson at one point. 5.

“Supporters of gay marriage note that in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, Justice Kennedy ruled to nullify a state law which discriminated against gay couples.” not strictly true. 6.

“This case focuses on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, which became federal law in 1995” Also not stirctly true, and he later says 1996. I’ll count it as 8.

“Former Attorney General John Ashcroft who represents the supporters of DOMA argues that the Supreme Court should be hesitant overruling a law approved by the other two branches of the United States government.” I can’t imagine he said that. Even ashcroft isn’t that stupid. And I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t represent the uspporters of DOMA. I’ll take two for 10 on that one.

I’m sure there are morem but it might just be bad writing rather than errors.

OK, what do I win? And it better not be another toaster oven. I’ve recruited so many heterosexuals that our garage is just full of them.

Timothy Kincaid

December 12th, 2012

Sorry, Ben. I left off the best part.

I’m giving away a Major Award.

Jim Burroway

December 12th, 2012

I love it! Maybe I’ll find some time this weekend to rebrand the store “BTB Crap!”

Ben in Oakland

December 12th, 2012

Well, I found a few more. Dammit, it want that mug.

Washington and Maryland did not have the voters legalize it. The legislature legalized it, and the voters voted against an attempt to counter that via referendum. That’s two more.

The sentence beginning with “the defenders of prop. 8” is also incorrect. They believe the voters have the ultimate say. The Feds can of course nullify an unconstitutional law, which means the sentence re the q10th amendment is also incorrect. That’s 2 more.

Thelawrence case did not give gay couples the same rights that heterosexual couples enjoy. It had nothing to do with couples, but acts, and at least four of the states that still had sodomy laws on the books appliedhemto heterosexuals as well. That’s two more.

The “ruling in Brown” was not the beginning of that long road. The 14th amendment was log before that, and military desegregation came at least four years before that. There’s 1 more.

Brown v. BOE. Nominally Oliver brown, not Linda brown, plus 13 other sets of parents. I’ll count that as two more. Linda was Oliver’s daughter, not the plaintiff. BTW is a plaintiff the same thing as a commonquarrel?

So that’s 9 more on top of my previous total.



December 12th, 2012

On my own, here are the factual errors I found:

-Doma became law in 1996.
-That’s not the prop 8 defense at all.
-Ashcroft does not represent DOMA supporters, and that was not his argument at all (probably because it doesn’t even make sense).
-Nullification in California would likely be on very narrow grounds that would only affect California.
-Way more than tax and healthcare: immigration, burial rights, etc.
-The Lawrence v Texas decision was decided on privacy basis, not discrimination, though the note about Kennedy is important.
-Justice Kennedy didn’t just “rule” that way, he wrote the opinion.
-Calling Plessy a black person is a stretch by today’s standards, since he was 7/8th caucasian.
-Plessy was in a railway car, not a trolly car.
-Plessy was not arrested by the company, but by a private detective hired specifically to arrest him, in order to create a test case.
-Public opinion on segragation had not turned by 1954.
-“Edith Wilson” should be “Edith Windsor”
-“Mike Hais”, not “Mike Haas”

Also, a grammar mistake: “It took blacks years for black Americans to…”.

Ben in Oakland

December 13th, 2012

Nicholas, I’m going to get that mug. I can knock one of yours off. Please was considered black because he had negro blood in any amount. Tats the way the laws were written then. You can’t apply today’s standards to it.


December 13th, 2012

I didn’t know you had BTB coffee cups! After I recouperate from Christmas I’m going to buy myself one!


December 13th, 2012

Ben and Nicholas, you both missed “DOMA expressly states that the United States government does not recognize the legality of gay marriage.” DOMA does no such thing. it expressly (literally) states that only a marriage between one man and one woman will be recognized by the federal government. It implicitly states say marriage is not recognized with the literal(express) wording. I have a hang up with “literally”and by extension “expressly” so that one jumped out at me.

Ben in Oakland

December 13th, 2012

I suppose you’re right, but I’m still ahead.

Precioussssssss. Precioussssss.

Ben in Oakland

December 14th, 2012

I believe I won the contest.

Timothy Kincaid

December 14th, 2012

There are a few more days left.

Ben in Oakland

December 14th, 2012

Preciousssssss. Precioussssss.

Timothy Kincaid

January 23rd, 2013


You’re the winner. (Sorry, I got caught up in the holidays and the marriage rush and forgot to announce you or send your Major Award).

Email me your address and a beautiful BTB mug is on its way.

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