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Furthermore …

Thomas
Associated Press

A decade’s worth of progress toward tolerance

What Gov. Jan Brewer did this week in Arizona is worth noting for several reasons. What is pertinent here is that it shows as clearly as anything how quickly public opinion is changing on the matter of civil rights for gay people.

The bill she vetoed is described as “controversial.” “Radioactive” is more like it. The bill would have authorized business owners to cite religious freedom in discriminating against gay people, not in their church, not in their private lives, but in the public marketplace. As we all know, when the Arizona legislature sent the bill to the governor, the roof caved in. Businesses, both of the state’s U.S. senators and even three legislators who voted for the bill all urged a veto.

Brewer’s office fielded more than 40,000 calls.

The point is, Republicans can no longer use gay people as a dependable wedge issue. Had this bill been legislated a decade ago, the story might have been different.

We say “a decade ago” because it was 10 years ago this week that President George W. Bush called for a constitutional amendment that would have forbidden states to recognize unions of gay people as marriage.

“The marriage of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution … honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith,” the president said. Democrats yelped in anger – not because they favored gay marriage but because they didn’t think the U.S. needed a constitutional amendment.

The move was a cynical election year ploy to stir up social conservatives. It had no chance of getting 67 votes in the Senate, and Bush pretty much let the matter drop after he was re-elected.

Now, as the vetoed legislation in red state Arizona shows, stupid efforts that are discriminatory on their face will elicit a profound political reaction.

Let that be a lesson to politicians and public officials everywhere.

What it takes to protect and serve

It was an important story. City and then county police surrounded a building in Arcola with somebody of interest inside. They later found him dead.

Cops have tough jobs. They make split-second decisions, and if the decision is wrong, there is hell to pay. And generally, that’s a good thing. Accountability is crucial to an effective police force, one that is trusted by the people it protects.

What most people don’t think about is the rest of police work. For example:

•Police, among others, are investigating the death of an infant 3 months old. How many deaths, criminal or not, are as dispiriting as the death of a child?

•A 21-year-old was charged with holding up a gas station on North Coldwater Road. He was charged not only with robbery but also with possessing a firearm as a serious violent felon.

•A 33-year-old was caught with a stolen handgun, ammo, oxycodone and marijuana.

•Police chased down a 23-year-old who had left his car (after throwing out a stolen handgun). He was charged with resisting law enforcement, possession by a felon of a handgun and receiving stolen property, among other crimes.

All that is not glamorous. But it is essential.

A rock-solid business no more

Business is about as sentimental as a stone. Indiana Limestone Co. filed for bankruptcy last week. Its workforce of 166 in Bloomington and Oolitic will be laid off.

The story is more than that, however. According to the Associated Press, the company produced limestone for 35 state capitals, the Empire State Building, the Pentagon and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Although the company was itself not part of the movie “Breaking Away,” the limestone industry was the backdrop for the famous, made-in-Bloomington film, in which so-called cutters and their relationship with Indiana University students was the running theme. And the Empire State Building has been the site of movie reunions and love stories.

But business is business, feel-good movies notwithstanding. And Indiana Limestone listed debts of $50 million to $100 million.

A venture capital company in Cleveland, Reliance Capital Partners, owns Indiana Limestone.

David Fell, who owns a smaller rival firm, told the Indianapolis Star that if the company is not sold, its employees will probably find work at other quarries.

“It’s a skilled labor force. I don’t think those people will be out of work long,” he said.

A long, uncomfortable silence

Justice Clarence Thomas marked a dubious milestone recently: Eight years without raising a question in a Supreme Court oral argument.

Longtime court observer Jeffrey Toobin, writing for the New Yorker, concedes that Thomas cracked a joke from the bench last year but characterizes the justice’s behavior as moving “from curious to bizarre to downright embarrassing, for himself and for the institution he represents.”

Toobin contrasts Thomas’ current demeanor with his approach shortly after his memorable 1991 confirmation hearings, when he would at least whisper comments to Justices Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy.

“These days, Thomas only reclines; his leather chair is pitched so that he can stare at the ceiling, which he does at length. He strokes his chin. His eyelids look heavy. Every schoolteacher knows this look. It’s called ‘not paying attention.’ ”

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