Monday, October 31, 2005

Boston Candidates, Check

In next Tuesday's Boston election, we are strongly for at-large councilor candidates:
Neither of the former mayors' kids, Flynn or White, is worth a vote.

And writing of mayors, we favor Menino, but for quirky reasoning. Hennigan has shown no stuff — no plan, no vision, no reason to take a chance on her. Yet, she wants 30% of the vote or more, so that she can obstruct Menino and have a better chance in four years. We say, rubbish. Trounce her, so that a stronger candidate must emerge for the next mayoral election.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Maine Mostly OK

A week and change before the anti-gay showdown in Maine, it still looks like our potato buddies have gotten their commonsense and compassion together. After rejecting gay-rights legislation several times in the recent past, they look (56% to 42%) likely to uphold the legislated legal protections on November 8th.

Turnout is still key, of course. If every homophobe old enough to vote shows and all the Unitarians and their ilk sit with their New York Timeses and lattes, the vote could flip. However, the spiteful and dishonest campaign against basic sexual-orientation in housing, lending, employment and public accommodation seems to have overplayed. Most Mainers seem to know hate and spite when they see it now.

In that survey of 607 likely voters from 1,800 adults, SurveyUSA reports that only 2% were undecided. Among their findings were:
  • Men — slightly anti-rights (51%); Women — very pro rights (64%)
  • Older meant more pro rights (18-34 were 53% for; 35-45 were 47%; 50-64 were 62%; 65 and up were 63%)
  • Republicans were Stone Age (68% against rights); Democrat were very pro (78%); Independents were solidly pro (61%)
  • More education mean more pro rights (no college, 44%; some college, 51%; degree, 59%; grad degree, 70%)
  • Urban/suburban/rural had little difference, pro by 59%/59%/53%
Other predictable self-reporting was the more liberal the voters, the more pro and the more frequently they attended churches the more anti.

You can find a visual of the total on Believe in Maine, replete with Old Glory colors, here.

So, in the main in Maine, if there were surprises, they were in the increased pro votes as people aged. Although, you have to wonder what the later Baby Boomers are thinking in leaning slightly anti. Also, the stereotype would be that the rural, basically upstaters would be much more conservative. The numbers don't show that.

It looks like the Dark Side will lose this one at the ballot after losing it in the legislature. They can't move to Canada with its charter of rights nor to Massachusetts where same-sex marriage is legal. Maybe they can get up a wagon train for some Plains state.

Bike Ped 3: To School

Can you and should you get Boston kids to ride their bikes to school? According to Donna Smallwood, MassRIDES' special projects coordinator, that's an enthusiastic yes, with many caveats.

At the Moving Together conference his month, she thumped for the Safe Routes to Schools (SRS) program. The aim is to the kids' butts in the saddle instead of the van. They get healthier, schools don't need lots for kids' cars, and parents don't use gas and clog the streets with their vehicles. Life is good.

Downsides include that many adult cyclists and parents are aware that the streets to school are dangerous. Part of this is that so many parents drive their kids to school — the vicious cycle for cycles. In suburban and exurban areas, schools have been increasingly regional too. So they are too far from home for practical commuting by bike.

Where practical, some parents have walking school buses, basically a cordon of kids and parents together walking to school. This works best where there are true neighborhood schools within two mile of home.

An extra wrinkle in Boston is the exam-school system, equivalent to the regional schools. For us, Latin is nearly five miles away with some dangerous streets, and Latin Academy is three and one-half over very dangerous roads (Blue Hill Avenue and Washington Street.

In addition, the current version of the SRS has grants for elementary and middle-schools. So this does nothing for the kids most capable of claiming lanes nor does it help in limiting students' driving to school

Hey, it's a start though.

And Bike Paths

Boston's silly and inadequate bike paths are filled with frost heaves, don't go to important destinations and are often riddled with glass shards. Today's Globe carries an alternate vision by a Colombian. When Enrique Peñalosa spoke to 100 Orchard Gardens School kids, he didn't brag about being former mayor of Bogotá or candidate for his country's presidency. He talked politics and MIT and crossed the river to talk bikes in Roxbury.

He called the lack of bike paths and routes in Boston and other supposedly sophisticated cities "human rights abuse." Basically, if ordinary folk can't get to work and elsewhere without being able to afford to own, operate and park cars, they are marginalized.

He wowed the kids with pix and words of bicycle garages and bridges he built. Also, Bogotá bans cars from downtown twice weekly. On his initiative, the city has over 100 miles of new bike paths.

After his talk and plea for biking to school, Lisa Evans, the teacher who invited him, saw several of her students biking in, on a rainy Monday. She said, "I was so proud. This was the ultimate goal. I didn't realize it would happen so quickly."

Now, what do you suppose it will take to get Tommy Menino righteous on this?

Also see Bike Ped 1 and Bike Ped 2 for related coverage and rants.

Cycling Posts

10/25/5 Bike Ped 1: Fog Lines
10/26/5 Bike Ped 2: Fat Chance
10/30/5 Bike Ped 3: To School
3/7/6 Boston's Bad Biking
4/12/6 Forest Hills' Gaping Hole
4/13/6 The Un-Lieberman Visits JP
4/18/6 That Big Hole at Forest Hills
4/24/6 Charlie in Limbo

Saturday, October 29, 2005

No Blah in Blogs

The word is that Massachusetts and its local political parties have little respect for or interest in blogs. While individual candidates treat bloggers like reporters, the party structures are peopled with neo-Luddites.

Sweetly, they may have to join this century with pressure from top and bottom. From the bottom, we see 1) blogs scooping traditional media, 2) some of the big blogs getting millions of hits a month -- more eyes to prize and surprise, and 3) print, online and broadcast media quoting bloggers, cross-linking with them, and citing them as sources. From the top, national parties and politicians have been savvy in their communication with and use of bloggers.

Now the Christian Science Monitor has put the Beltway spin on the state of this free-lance knighthood. It says everyone (except for the burned Trent Lott) is "wooing blogs." Even Dan Rather, also with his bad blog burn history, notes that blogs "aren't just reacting to the news: they're making it," the Monitor reports. This was very evident recently in IP traffic that helped scuttle Harriet Miers' Supreme Court bid.

Now politician want to engage or otherwise use them. For example, House Republicans selected a dozen of their staff's favorite political bloggers for the first Capitol Hill Blog Row last week. It was sodas, snacks, high-speed wireless, and GOP machers for half a day.

Among the aftereffects was:
As a follow-up, Speaker Hastert is launching his own blog. "Blogging is the new talk radio," says Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean. "People listen to talk radio because the mainstream media is too liberal for them. It makes sense for the Speaker to get the Republican message out to them."
The heavy-hitting blogs catalyze much of this interest. The Daily Kos is the prime example, with 3.4 million visitors in January growing to 4.8 million in July.

Both Democrats and Republicans feed stories (often ones the mainstream media don't know what to do with) and otherwise engage bloggers. Likewise, the candidates as well party officials get tips from their staffs, many of whom are avid blog readers.

Beam Him Out, Scotty

Sulu in uniformSame-sex marriage helped bring Sulu out of the closet.

At 68, George Takeai, a.k.a. Star Trek's Helmsman Hikaru Sulu, has come out. He told the Frontiers magazine, "The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay.The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young."

Note: This link should be good for until mid-November.

He has been with his partner Brad Altman for 18 years.

Takei has been a civil-rights activist in California for many years. As a young child (4 to 8), he was one of thousands of Americans of Japanese descent kept in concentration camps (or in the santitized lingo of the time internment centers) and stripped of their possessions during World War II. There he says, "I used to begin school every morning pledging allegiance to the flag, and I could see the barbed-wire fence out there, and the guard towers, saying, 'With liberty and justice for all,' without being aware of the irony of those words. But when we came out of camp, that’s when I first realized that being in camp, that being Japanese-American, was something shameful."

Thus, he grew up somewhat ashamed of both his ethnicity and later his sexuality. Yet after he met his partner at an LA gay running club, he slowly shifted from shame. He saw himself as normal. As he put it, "This is who I am. And by gum, I’m not going to let it be a constraint! In the same way that I’m not going to let the fact that I am a Japanese-American, who was unjustly incarcerated and grew up with that, be a constraint."

He concluded hopefully with:
I do think society will eventually change. I mean, it’s changed incredibly from the time I was a teenager to today, both in terms of Asian-Americans in the theater and television and films, but also for gays and our self-image, and the ability to move in our society. We still have the archreactionary conservatives. It’s that mentality, the Bible-thumpers, “We have the whole truth, and by gum we’re going to impose it on everybody.” It’s that same mentality that had segregation in the south: Blacks and whites can never mix. And the segregationists had the truth. The Bible-thumping religiosos are not the holders of the truth, and yet they are the ones who want to impose their truth—and I respect their truth, if they find it for their strength and their guidance through life—but for them to impose that on the rest of society, the rest of America, I think is just as corrupt as the segregationists trying to impose racial segregation in the South.
By gum, indeed.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Foot Crushing Crosiers

According to the word (or is that Word?) from the Vatican, bishops worldwide are free to humiliate their politician communicants —— perhaps condemning their souls while they are at it —— for voting the wrong way. Do it if you want, say the bishops from the Roman Catholic synod last week.

The American issue, as it is known by the mitered ones, has a clear resolution. If one of your guys or gals votes in the legislature against your understanding of church doctrine, you can deny communion. There was no comment about whether the bishops should take their ball and go home.

To phrase it as the synod vote did, offending politicians are those who show "no coherence when they support laws that run counter to the human good, to justice and to natural law."

As bizarre and regressive as that might seem, at least one pro-gay Catholic activist calls it "a step in the right direction" for the church. This takes the matter from being a Papal directive to letting reasonable bishops think for themselves, according to Francis DeBernardo, executive director, New Ways Ministry. On the other hand, he added, "I do think the danger of this is it becomes a political decision for the bishops and not a theological decision.

Debbie Weill, executive director, Dignity USA, was not quite a generous. She noted, "The church is really using the sacrament in a way that (it) was never intended to be used. The sacrament is an expression of God's love and a person's faith."

Yet Another Closet

Boy, that's a toughy. You come out to family, friends and maybe coworkers. Then you testify to the University of Southern Maine's Center for the Prevention of Hate and Violence, revealing the vicious anti-gay discrimination in the how-life-should-be state.

Now the leading liberal columnist in the state says, "Come on out!" In a piece Gay rights law needs a few heroes, the Portland Press-Herald's Bill Nemitz calls for the anonymous gays to stick their necks out again and farther. His logic is good; the emotion is hard and jagged.

The pseudo-minister Mike Heath (he calls his Christian Civic League Website and lobbying efforts his ministry) has publicly and inanely cited the discrimination study as a sham. He has said the 48 who testified are fictitious and that their firings, getting tossed from housing and other blatant hate acts never happened.

Nemitz writes:
They should come forward. They should drop their anonymity like a piece of excess baggage, stand shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the microphones and explain, once and for all, what it's like to live in a state where your sexual orientation can indeed get you fired or evicted or . . . worse.

And in doing so, these 48 brave souls just might knock the evangelical wind out of (Heath).

Well, knock the wind out of him and there'll be nothing left. Hmmm.

Yet, that is a lot to ask from those who have already been heroic. While some would deny the record and try to further humiliate the victims, we have to ask how much more must the 48 pay. Nemitz has his answer. Come out of yet another closet.

They would be even greater heroes were they to do it. We who are so much more fortunate in not having suffered as they already have will understand if they do not.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I Was a One-Minute Slut for the BBC

The omphaloskepsis inherent in blogging has struck here. Do not proceed if you are annoyed by self-absorption.

Over at Left in Lowell, the frenetically enthusiastic Lynne has been understandably pleased at her local celebrity. She is queen of her niche. She represents the good pinkos on radio, standing up to the ravers and naysayers of regression and otherwise waving the flag for the rest of us.

This blog, on the other hand, has had only a few moments in the spotlight when CNN sited and quoted us (honest to God, holding a laptop up with Marry in Massachusetts on screen and reading the post — a very kindergarten routine). No local media come begging for our opinions.

Yet even in the face of press neglect, we have never stopped navel gazing nor expecting the media fairies to appear at the bedstead. Like the other egotists in the blogosphere, we are always ready for the recognition sure to come in acknowledgement of our wit and wisdom, albeit self-published. In that framework, we can be neither shy nor humble.

Real celebrities make themselves newsworthy or gossip-worthy by revealing or inventing peccadilloes, fetishes and foibles. Yet here, we can offer not a criminal past nor marital infidelity nor even remarkable neuroses.

So, it was real delight when the Beeb emailed, then called. The charming, yea even mellifluous, Rabiya Parekh sent a note a few days ago. She was speaking for some fortunate beadle there in the BBC World section who spends his days (on salary!) cruising the blogs for goodies fit to air. It must be like cable TV, with so many radio and TV times to fill with something, anything with a theme

As it turns out, an off-subject post on blogging, not on marriage in our quirky and sometimes benighted commonwealth, caught his eye. For a new BBC radio feature, they were doing a segment on blogging. They Googled reaction to the Wired announcement that companies were blocking blog browsing during work. Mine was one, and I was likely the first to respond to an email request for a contact so they could call from Bush House, London.

The call from Rabiya to set up a phone input (and likely to make sure I did not have any serious speech impediment) was pleasant but humbling. She wanted my comment following a very serious discussion from Syrian and other Middle-East bloggers who were fined, jailed and beaten for expressing their criticisms of repressive regimes.

They would tape it all and broadcast it later in the week as part of a new series, World Have Your Say. Yes, Miss, whatever you want. Sit? Beg? Roll over?

I had a couple of hours before the show called for taping. She and I had spoken about the relative impunity of expression in America, even under Homeland Security and the Republican juggernaut. Here, I can get sued or have my sites shut down if I'm too extreme, but there is no prison cell waiting, much less 100 strokes with a cane.

Yet, I was the slut of the hour and fully prepared. I had notes on repressive trends here, on how the mass media shuck and jive, then run the same damned stories with slight variations. I had analogies and metaphors of the Wild West with us shooting with our sites instead of pistols. Blah, blah.

So, 13 minutes before I was on, Bush House was on the phone, plumping my ego...and making sure I was there and sober. In the headset, I overheard the awful, grave recounting of oppressive censorship and penalties for those who dared to do what we do with such abandon. I was quite ashamed of my privilege.

Those in the Arab world told their high drama and I was ready, right after the break.

Then it was time for what turned out to be Donkey Man. It was much like the Monty Python interview that parodies the Beeb so well, telling a child offhandedly to go out a find a cure for some terrible disease. Jolly good.

Questions to me were short, very narrow, very controlled and very LITE. I was an American blogger from Massachusetts, identified by name only and damn it, not by URL.

Some company was selling software to let companies block employees' looking at blogs. What did I think? After a minute or so of braying about managers being silly in blocking blogging just because they could, I was gone. I noted that employees should not be expected to work 8 or 10 hours straight, and if they were not taking time off cruising a blog or two, they would be in the kitchenette tossing back the caffeine and tossing out the prattle.

That was it. Thank you and good-bye. The Donkey Man was off and away.

That is not a tale to tell the grandchildren, if I ever have any. So, keep it to yourself.

The Sunday the Music Died

Glory to God...often through music as worship. Yet, at St. Gabriel's in Brighton, the lobbyists disguised as Roman Catholic priests will have to do a quick scramble to replace their cantor and organist, both victims of Sean O'Malley's politics.

Despite the Herald's love of scoop and concentration on its Catholic readership, the Boston Globe struck first on this one. Its coverage of the dustup in the nave is here.

The short of it is that under orders from the bishops, most compliant priests in Massachusetts have been shilling for the political and politically charged petition to put a vote on the 2008 ballot to rescind same-sex marriage. They announce and plead from the pulpit and have petitions available in the sanctuary to increase the peer pressure to sign.

When they performed this act Sunday, October 8th, the organist, Patrick Kilduff, had had enough. Despite his 28-year tenure, he chose to leave his instrument rather than play the closing hymn. The cantor, Colleen Bryant, had an American moment, choosing liberty and free thought over obeisance. She spoke to the congregation, saying that they did not have to sign the petition.

In the spirit Christian love and forgiveness...no, wrong script. The pastor, Rev. Justinian Manning, canned the cantor and the organist quit in higher dudgeon.

Recalling it to the Globe, Kilduff said he told the priests, "I'm done. I can't believe what you guys have done."

No one I know has ever claimed that the RC church is a democracy, but it's anti-democratic tack here seems to surprise parishioners and employees alike. The open politicization of the pulpit has been too much for some. As Kilduff puts it, "Deal with (political statements) at the rectory, at the school, not during church, not during a holy service."

Manning won't talk, but Sean O'Malley's talker, spokesman Terrence Donilon, will. "Any place and time we could reasonably expect a priest to promote those issues that are central to the mission of the church" is fine with the archbishop.

Kilduff had warned Bryant that he would protest the politics. She was inspired by his walk-off to speak out. Before singing two versions of "Now Thank We All Our God" a capella, she recalls saying, "that by no means should anyone feel obligated to sign this petition, especially those of us who, like myself, may believe or may think that politics do not belong in this house of worship."

She exhibits the class that O'Malley and Manning lack.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bike Ped 2: Fat Chance

Media faddism, or this this case fatty faddism, was obvious at the Moving Together Conference last week in downtown Boston. In each set of four concurrent sessions, at least one of the three presentations drew (if you pardon) heavily on the current obesity mantra.

This meme is fascinating. Except in its extremes — eating disorders and iatrogenics from crazed doctors — it is not all that harmful. However, as the newest and most resilient bugbear, it has saturated the American psyche and is taken as much as absolute truth as Reagonomics.

If you would like a more reasoned view, start with one of Paul Campos' books. Click here. He looks at real indicators of health, not just scams like BMI.

Regardless, it was amusing to hear one speaker after another hang her (almost always her) presentation on an obesity hook. Shaming kids and scaring parents is the ploy du jour.

Fat hooks included presentations entitled:
  • Building Healthier Communities: The Health Impacts of Transportation and the Built Environment
  • Encouraging Active Kids through School Walking/Bicycling with MassRIDES
  • Springfield Walks: A Collaborative Community Effort to Promote Physical Activity and Health
  • CYCLE Kids: Addressing Obesity and Overweight in Children Through Community Youth Cycling and Learning Experiences
You can get overviews of each, and the other workshops, with their speaker IDs here.

The obesity thingummy did not destroy the presentations, but it was a distraction. If the reaction to newspaper and magaazine coverage is indicative, any effort to focus on more substantial issues would be met with faddish horror — "Oh, Lord. This is such an epidemic! Think of the children!"

The substantial issues include helping ensure cardio-vascular fitness, regardless of somatotype. Truth is, the skinniest people die the earliest and chunky folk can be as fit or fitter than scrawny ones. The aim should be fitness through activity and not moralizing.

Also see Bike Ped 1 and Bike Pet 3 for related coverage and rants.

Catholic Connecting in Connecticut

Putting the catholic in Catholic, the priest of a Windsor Locks, Connecticut, church says he is the town's only cleric willing to perform civil unions. Rev. Mickey Danyluk is pastor of the American Ecumenical Catholic Church there.

He has also officiated at Massachusetts same-sex weddings. He says, "Those of us who support civil unions and same sex marriage have not traded spirituality for sexuality...We are for equality and justice across the board." How refreshing.

His church operates independently of the Vatican. Yet it is clear in its statements of adhering to traditional Catholic creed and liturgy. It is part of the Independent Catholic Movement, which began in Europe in the 1870s, when its clerics did not accept papal infallibility.

Other clerics in the area disagree with his statement that "(c)ivil unions are not about being lustful, but the total giving of self." Of course, the Roman Catholic priest quoted is one. Others include protestants like Pastor David Bergen of the Cavalry Baptist Church, who said, "We at this church will not perform civil unions of same-sex couples because it would be un-Biblical to do so."

Ironically, this underscores the rationale of the Massachusetts court decision that legalized marriage here. Marriages here (any legal type) and marriages and civil unions in Connecticut share a distinction. They are civil ceremonies. The participants have the option of a religious overlay, but that is not necessary.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Graceless Granite, with Color

The Concord Monitor has now published its account of the dysfunctional marriage commission meetings. The earlier post here has the basics; the Monitor provides the gore. It is a long article, worth reading.

Half the flavor comes from the hidebound members, mostly Republicans, who refuse to lead and want to stifle anything that smells of same-sex marriage or civil unions. The other half is the personal sniping more suited to a tree-house club than a governor's commission.

In arguing against a motion that the commission's report recommend SSM, Chairman Rep. Tony Soltani pulled the non-leadership lever. "There's got to be public acceptance" before the commission can support same-sex marriage, he said, ignoring the months of testimony and role of the commission to suggest direction.

One commissioner said the quick no votes suggests that the body is a sham. An alternate, Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, circulated a letter saying Soltani made homophobic remarks about the gay members. Soltani said, "I'm not going to apologize for something I didn't do."

A proposal for a Hawaiian-style domestic-partnership registry failed by only two votes. Soltani thought that model might appear in the final report in some form.

The posturing and pouting evident in the meetings suggests that the final report, due by the end of the year may have majority and minority versions.

Bike Ped 1:Fog Lines

Part one on cycling issues. Some of the argot is obvious (bike/ped) and others not so (fog line). My second year of attending the Moving Together conference for bikes, walkers and motor vehicles was yet again education. A few related posts will follow. None, zip, nada has any relation to marriage in Massachusetts.

Last year's one-day meeting was in Worcester. This one was in Boston's theater district. It was an exhibit and series of presentations on topics to this incestuous little community. Warning-sign vendors, bike lobbyists, the head-injury lady, road designers and bureaucrats nestled in non-contentious information exchange.

highway fog linesLet us consider those fog lines. Those are the painted stripes on the outside of a paved road, separating the lane from the shoulder. They are also known as end lines.

They are worth mentioning because they might be down-and-dirty cycling safety within the reach of both urban and rural areas. Who'd a thunk it?

In the unlikely setting of the presentation on the almost-released Massachusetts Highway Design Manual, fog lines emerged as such a quick fix. The short of it that if you repaint the line 2 or 2.5 feet into the lane, cars still have lots of room and bikes suddenly have enough shoulder to pedal safely. Tradition and inertia have conspired to prevent such commonsense solutions.

Note: The manual should be ready for public presentation starting in a few weeks.

Most of us have not been aware that the state is trying to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, including road and crossing design. It has mandated for a couple of years that any rebuilt highway or street has to have safe room for all three modes of travel.

Whining and wailing sometimes accompany this rule. In the sticks, it's, "Oh, no. You want to demolish this 321-year-old historic stone wall by making us widen the highway for the two cyclists a week passing this way. " In the city, it's, "We gotta move the trucks and cars to keep Massachusetts working. Do you want to destroy our economy for bicycles?"

Meanwhile, Boston (as we cyclists can tell you in graphic verbiage) sucketh mightily for biking. The main drags in Cambridge at least have narrow bike lanes, which delivery trucks routinely consider FREE PARKING, but still offering a modicum of refuge in transit.

Boston has only a few miles of cycling paths from no place in particular to kind of where it is useful to go (Jamaica Pond to Fenway, Forest Hills to Northeastern). It hired a very part-time bicycle advocate (laughingly referred to as the bike czar) and Tom Menino had him canned at the first budget squeeze. While I always found him (Paul Schimek) to have been far too mild and obsequious, others disagree. One cycling advocate at the recent conference said that Paul irritated City Hall in his advocacy and was cut because he pushed the wrong buttons.

At the highway-manual presentation, word was that where exurban communities cannot afford to widen roads, they can generally just repaint the fog lines when they resurface. Voilà, a shoulder/bike lane suddenly appears! While it is half as wide as national recommendations for safe cycling lanes, it is adequate and cyclists would welcome it. Meanwhile, the rural governments are delighted at a cheap fix and some extra protection against lawsuits.

So, could that work in Beantown? Of course. A few gallons of paint would put the triangles and bike symbols in the lane. Boston could get the phone number of the suppliers from Cambridge.

Apparently, Boston's City Hall has some NIH problems on top of its resistance to change. Many other communities may simply not know yet that they can do the right thing for free. It is beholden to us cyclists to talk it up.

Read additional rants and coverage at Bike Ped 2 and Bike Pet 3.

Graceless Granite

New Hampshire's commission to study marriage/SSM/civil unions tromped (10 to 2) on a motion to permit gay unions of one sort of another. This is in addition to previously recommending a DoMA amendment.

The local papers have ignored it, running parochial snippets. However, the AP has a decent report, covered here by ABC news.

Openly gay commission member Ed Butler made a motion to permit same-sex marriage. The 10-to-2 vote effectively urged the legislature not to do that, not to recognize out-of-state (which is to say, Massachusetts marriages or Vermont civil unions) and not to set up a domestic partnership registry.

Vindictiveness and schadenfreude, thy names are Republican.

In making his motion, Butler said, "My hope is before I die I will be able to approach a justice of the peace in the state of New Hampshire and be legally married." The commission, in effect, returned a huge, "Who cares?"

The color in the AP article illustrates the emotional drive to prevent SSM:

Many of the New Hampshire panel's meetings have been marked by conflict, and Monday's was no different, with an argument between the chairman and another member escalating into a shouting match.

The dispute was sparked when the member accused the chairman of using homophobic slurs against an openly gay panelist.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Blog, Bad, Grunt

Managerial Neanderthals have a new way to torment their underlings — blocking blog access. According to a news item in Wired, the anti-blog policy has become the industry norm among the nation's 20 largest banks.

Employees are not to blog nor even to read blogs. The logic is:
Keith Crosley, director of corporate communications at censorware company Proofpoint, says there's no anti-blog conspiracy at work, but that some companies have higher security, privacy and regulatory needs that require greater diligence over what companies can and cannot do. In particular, companies worry that employees might leak sensitive material -- perhaps inadvertently -- while posting comments to blog message boards. In a survey of over 300 large businesses conducted in conjunction with Forrester, Proofpoint found 57.2 percent of respondents were concerned with employees exposing sensitive material in blogs. That's higher than the portion concerned with the risks of P2P networks.

At its coarsest level, corporate firewalls block any URL containing the string blog. Proofpoint has a product in beta that scans blog comment posts and other HTTP traffic for such material. Formally, blogs and even HTTP-based email got a free pass from Big Brother.

One bank employee, IDed with the pseudonym Robert Mason in the item, snorted at the idea that companies were about protecting intellectual propertity. "Sites are blocked more for reasons of productivity than security," he said.

This Scrooge-like behavior comes up commonly in this pending holiday period. Many companies forbid and try to block employees from shopping online. Shoulder to the wheel and all that...

Disclaimer: I used to work for a company that made both mail content management and Web filtering software. Some companies were reasonable, knowing that if they let employees goof off moderately and at lunchtime, they would not face real lost time from long trips to the mall or downtown to buy tchotchkes for their family and friends. Likewise, no sane person works 8 or 10 hours straight. A bit of blog reading is no less productive than chatting over coffee in the kitchenette.

Toying with the Constitution

Just when we asked what the jackals would do in defeat, the Lowell Sun offers us some clues. Their Evan Lehmann in D.C. reports a renewed effort by the most regressive Congressional conservatives to amend the U.S. Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage.

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

Cynics will quickly point out that Kansas Senator Sam Brownback is considering a run for POTUS. His playing to anti-gay and anti-same-sex-marriage emotions and thoughts might be sincere, or more likely is effort to line up support. Regardless of whether this amendment goes though the years of trekking to become part of the Constitution, he gets to claim ownership and gain visibility.

As Georgetown University Law Professor Louis Michael Seidman commented last year in a panel discussion, "My fear is that even that the people who proposed the amendment don't intend it to pass, and that the amendment process is being used for political purposes that have nothing to do with whether the amendment passes or not."

Among the anti folk testifying last week at U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was Boston College Law Professor Scott FitzGibbon. He is sure Massachusetts' legalization of SSM will have dreadful effects. He dragged in the range of unsupported scare claim, to wit:
  • "As it filters through the schools it suppresses and chills debate and discussion."
  • "(A) situation of tension and adversity between teachers and school officials," a la Lexington's mad dad.
  • "Deconstruction of the Intellectual and Social Definition of Marriage." He laments that there is no immutable, proscriptive definition of marriage, that it might actually evolve (oh, the horror!).
  • "Degradation and Destabilization of Marriage." Again, if marriage does not have a narrow definition, he figures co-habitation will rule.
  • "Degradation and Destabilization of the Family." Somehow he then jumps to a trend that suggests that co-habitating couples split frequently and the children suffer.
Those wheezy and unsupported alarmist tactics have become more prevalent. The same groups and experts were predicting immediate chaos and descent into hell if Massachusetts married homosexuals. When none of that occurred, their tack has shifted to sky-doesn't-fall-in-a-day and you-just-wait.

Seidman and Vanderibilt University pediatrics assistant professor Christopher E. Harris, M.D. , in contrast, presented reasoned arguments against what Seidman calls the "sloppily written" amendment containing "poor lawyering." In addition to unnecessary and certainly disruptive usurping of states' powers, he pointed out the paradox of denying gays the right to marry in a state where the highest court has ruled that both gays and straights must receive equal treatment. He said that denying homosexuals marriage denies it to heterosexuals. "The amendment has the remarkable, and no doubt unintended, effect of abolishing marriage in the state of Massachusetts," he concluded.

The Kansas City InfoZine has coverage of the contrast between the two views of the amendment.

Chicken Little Fatigue

Could it be that voters and legislators alike are tired of anti-same-sex-marriage bluster? Or as State Rep. Richard Ross (Republican) said, "The bullet's out of the barrel now. There's no stuffing it back in."

The Stoughton Journal offered a microcosm that may well extrapolate to other areas of the state. They checked in with the area legislators on how they stand on the new ballot initiative to put an amendment on the 2008 ballot to rescind SSM.

Not surprisingly, they found that the lawmakers reflect the feeling of their voters. Nearly all the senators and representatives want to vote no if the initiative comes to them for approval in each of the next two sessions of General Court.

As a refresher, the circulating petition must get enough signatures, and receive 50 or more votes out of 200 total legislators twice in the identical form to get on the ballot. While that seems a very low bar, perhaps they will not get even that.

Sen. James Timilty (D-Sharon) was one who found human interaction outweighed the hysterics screaming about the pending horrors of SSM. He visited a gay family and "saw a clear lack of evidence that there was any harm to the commonwealth. Instead, I saw the benefits of children growing up in a two-parent household."

Democratic Rep. Bill Galvin (Canton) commented, "I feel (the judges) made a ruling that said under our Constitution everybody is created equal and we should all share the same freedoms, and I agree with that. The Constitution is document that has been in effect for a long time and I take it very seriously before making a change. To change the Constitution to take away someone's rights, I don't agree with that."

Several other lawmakers noted the distinction between civil marriage and a church blessing. Sen. Marion Walsh, for one, said that was the deciding factor in her decision to oppose the amendment.

One who is in that distinct minority favoring a let-the-people-decide stance is House Majority Leader John Rogers, a Democrat. It is ironic that his position here or California only seems to come into play when some voters want to lower their taxes or take away rights from a minority. We must watch Rogers to see whether he holds that position as lobbying and chamber debate press on him.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

How About Outing an Anti?

Hop back in a Newtonian sense to observe this little world. From there, the sexual orientation of anyone should not matter at all. One can consider only whether people are decent, whether they obey the only real law of human interaction — if something is hateful to you, do not do it to another.

Yet grinding in the nits and grits of same-sex marriage and sexual-orientation-related politics and polemics, does that abrasion 1) make you curious about what drives someone's homophobia, or 2) make you willing to see an anti outed as gay?

Two popular bloggers joined to call for information about nine noted anti-gay, anti-same-sex-marriage black ministers. The bloggers are black and gay, one male and one female.

Apparently they have no evidence yet that any of the nine is a practicing or sublimated homosexual. However, they ask the questions based in sound and repeatable scientific research, which has bled over into stereotype and cliché. Does the guy who screams the loudest about how disgusting and immoral gays are have a homosexual past or present? Is his distancing himself from homosexuals a form of self-loathing?

Of course, you can be a racist or homophobe or any type of xenophobe without being the object of your hate and derision. And yet...

The bloggers are Keith Boykin and Jasmyne Cannick. Neither is particularly subtle and both seem out of patience with any man of the cloth who would be so unChristian as to damn homosexual congregants and try to punish them with laws and amendments.

The pair picked the most outrageous bigots. (Boston's own Bishop Gilbert Thompson does not fall to the level of the Gang of Nine.) The nasty nonet includes:
  • Bishop T.D. Jakes, Potter's House, South Dallas
  • The Rev. Willie Wilson, Union Temple Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
  • The Rev. Gregory Daniels, Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago
  • Bishop Charles Blake, West Angeles Church Of God In Christ, Los Angeles
  • The Rev. Jess Lee Peterson, Los Angeles' Brotherhood Organization for a New Destiny (BOND)
  • Bishop Eddie Long, New Birth Baptist Ministry, Atlanta
  • Bishop Noel Jones, City of Refuge Church, Gardena (outside Los Angeles)
  • Bishop Paul Morton, Full Gospel Baptist Church, New Orleans
  • Donnie McClurkin, Perfecting Faith Church, New York
You can see their qualifications of hateful comments in a Bay Windows article here. You can pick one from the bloggers' work to see not only their nature, but the many pages of responses. Check the T.D. Jakes profile. Be sure to page down to the comments.

So, if they are hateful hypocrites, would it be meaningful or useful to know whether they are gay? Judging from fundy and extreme right-wing reactions to exposed gay homophobes and moralizing adulterers that seem common in Reagan/Bushville, they would not lose many supporters politically.

Yet you must wonder what that would do to their very lucrative ministries. Would the amens and other responses stop and would the collections dwindle if that venality were known?

Friday, October 21, 2005

California SSM 2006 Bye

In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter, the speaker of the California lower house said that same-sex marriage will be a legislative agendum in 2007, not next year. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-LA) told the paper, "2007 is what we are looking at right now on reintroducing the marriage bill."

Both houses passed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed last month. They did not have enough votes to override.

A co-sponsor of the bill, Nunez cited a full plate, with four key issues next year:
  1. Universal healthcare for anyone under the age of 18
  2. Raising the state's minimum wage by a $1 to $7.75
  3. Infrastructure investment in levees, and transportation networks
  4. Universal pre-school
However, he pledged, "I am in the Legislature until 2008. One of the things I am committed to before I leave is we need to do right by offering people the civil rights they deserve. I think we are going to do it. It is going to happen."

Whither the Harriers?

While the pro and anti folk engage seemingly everywhere, we too seldom raise our eyes for the longer view.

Let us consider and project:
  • Same-sex marriage is a worldwide trend that is almost certain to continue.
  • Church attendance and membership levels do not determine how progressive a nation's legislative branch is.
  • Leading nations, like Canada, are those with the strongest commitments to human rights.
  • Trailing nations, like the United States, apparently need to see a progressive stance work before adopting it.
We can already see the traditional pattern of the coasts leading, the South screaming (but likely to capitulate) and the middle dug in against change. Then short- and mid-term, we might expect:
  • Legalization by state courts or legislatures of SSM or civil unions in Oregon, California, New York and New Jersey.
  • With Massachusetts and Connecticut legal now, that produces a pretty big lab for what the anti-folk like to call an experiment.
Longer term, we can look to a few states, like Rhode Island extending the traditional interstate full faith and credit to other states' types of marriage and civil union. That can have two interesting effects — exactly what the anti-gay, anti-SSM forces fear — legally married homosexual couples and families will live amongst them and voting citizens see that gay couples are not evil, troublesome or poor parents.

So, where that that leave us? First, we cannot know how long any of that will take, other than that the New York and New Jersey decisions should come down in months.

For the most virulent of the fearful fundies, what do they do as they continue to lose supporters and battles? They had a big, temporary boost with all the DoMA rules in the past couple of years. Yet, that seems to be as far as they can go.

There is a very good chance that they will get slapped down next month in Massachusetts trying to repeal SSM and in Maine trying to rescind anti-sexual-orientation-discrimination laws. Can we for a moment imagine that they will slink away when their the-people-are-with-us card goes in the trash?

They will surely try to sew up opposition stronghold states. Simultaneously, they will just as surely pick states to file suits and one ballot initiative after another.

While it is almost certain that when the WWII and Korean era folk are dead, the younger generations will legal SSM and forever wonder what the fuss was all about, we may not have to wait that long. The Baby Boomers are really two generations, as sociologists are quick to note. The earlier ones (like George the Lesser) tend to be less conservative than their parents, but more so than their youngest siblings.

As Americans learned and still learn from exposure, people who are different are not so different. The xenophobia directed against those from different countries, those of different religions, those of different skin tones have come and largely gone here. Exposure to homosexual families will continue to go through this same cycle.

We can try to keep that history and future in mind amidst the Chicken Little screams about the effects of legalizing same-sex marriage. It is tough to do so in the noise.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pop Goes the Mad Dad

As his lawyer announced yesterday, Lexington's mad dad, avoided taking responsibility for sitting in at the local school. They struck a deal in which he does not have to admit to breaking the law (or to acting stupidly), in exchange for a year's probation.

Watch the fundy sites for claims that this proves his innocence!

This is typical of drunken teenagerS charged with dumb crimes, like tipping a tombstone. The charges go away after that year, so long as he does not repeat such actions or otherwise get in trouble with the law. They can weasel out of paying the price for breaking the law.

According to the news flash on Boston.com, "Jeffrey Denner, said his client was pleased to reach an agreement that included no admission of guilt."

Nonetheless, the restraining order the mad dad has keeping him from school grounds remains in effect. He must request special permission to go on any Lexington school property as a result of his sit-in.

For someone wont to brag how he controls this situation, that will take a hard spin. Here's betting his supporters ignore that aspect in claiming his innocence.

Is it over?

Warning: Personal rumination follows.

My least active avocation, or certainly the least frequently consummated one, is solemnization. I have spent more time careering on roller blades than addressing my dearly beloved for a wedding...and I'm not much of a skater.

Is two my limit? A brace of couples, one straight, one gay, is not insignificant. Yet, this year retreats into early evenings with none clamoring for my services.

solemnization certificate sealMassachusetts alone permits the non-justices-of-the-peace and non-ministers, plain adult citizens, to officiate at a wedding. For reasons yet to be revealed, it restricts such one-day designations of solemnization to one per year. Perhaps that is a sop to the JPs and clergy who earn well from the ceremonies born of hope, lust and affection.

In 2003 and 2004, I threw myself into the events. That is not surprising, as both couples were long-term friends. Blessing the legalization of loved ones is worthy of fuss.

And as a minister friend of mine recently asked, is that legal? Yes, but only in this commonwealth, where marriages were from colonial days into the constitution and beyond civil contracts. I sign the license, they file it with the city, and their marriage is as valid as if a JP, Sean O'Malley or Mitt Romney (also empowered by the commonwealth to marry and not restricted to one per year) had done the deed.

That surely is no odder than my own marriage imprimatur. By the power invested in him as a notary public by the state of South Carolina, Arthur Horne (also chairman of the Beaufort County Council, president of the Citizen's Loan, and friend to us both) pronounced us married.

Perhaps by the Christmas season, I shall have resigned myself to knowing that my solemnization streak ended at two.

Mad Dad's Two Minutes

They are loving it at the anti-gay sites. Their poster boy, David Parker, got the two-minutes human-interest segment on last night's ABC evening news. Article 8, for one, posted a press release touting the interest of that network and a Los Angeles Times reporter.

They will have to spin the results of mad-dad coverage a bit though. Both reports point out his intransigence and contrast it with the reasoned response of the school system. You can see a preview of the spin even before today's trial date on trespassing; "Lexington Superintendent Paul Ash repeated the canard - which Parker has consistently denied -- that Parker intended that the schools silence kids in their conversations."

The silly trial may never occur. The mad dad's lawyers say they have cut a deal with the Middlesex DA Martha Coakly to drop charges, without Parker admitting guilt. Coakly's office would not comment to the Globe before today's scheduled trial.

We can certainly understand why the commonwealth would tire of such a pissant charge eating up a prosecutor's time. However, Lexington superintendent of schools, Paul Ash, also does not like the idea of encouraging any parent to stage sit-ins at a school when he could not control the content of lessons.

The tenor of both the LA Times and ABC reports were similar. Both accurately note that the mad dad forced his arrest by refusing to leave the school and chose to spend a night in jail rather than post a $40 bail. His proponents like to claim that he was arrested and jailed for defending his religious principles, when in fact, the simple trespassing charge for which he insists on an expensive jury trial was solely by his choice. He wanted the drama but does not want to take responsibility for this disruption.

The LA Times concludes with:
Because their dispute became public, the Parkers said they felt they had to tell their older son about homosexuality much earlier than they would have liked. They told him he should never make fun of anyone. But they made clear that they believed a family with two moms or two dads was wrong.

They say they will keep fighting to make sure that's the only message their son hears.
Indeed, that remains the central issue. As the TV report asked, "How much control should parents have over what happens in the classroom? Should five-year-olds be learning about same-sex marriage?"

ABC quoted a parent on the diversity side as noting that in a state where same-sex marriage is legal and increasingly common, not mentioning that it exists in discussions of families is unfair to all. This leads to what the ABC report (aptly titled Culture Wars) called two main issues:
  1. Is teaching Kids about gays and lesbians tolerance or propaganda, and
  2. How much control do parents have over what their children are taught.
Superintendent Ash commented, "We will work with parents. We cannot assure what a child is going to say and that we can immediately stop a discussion that you find objectionable." Such is the nature of public education, one might add.

In contrast, Article 8's Brian Camenker did a cameo and commented, "This is sort of lunacy to have same-sex partners discussed in a first grade or kindergarten." So, he and the mad dad stand on the concepts-themselves-are-dangerous-unless-tightly-controlled camp.

The mom representing Lexington CARES and supporting teaching kids about diversity may have had it right when she commented, "I don't see a middle ground."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bad Mad Dad Sad

Let us extend our sympathy to our mad dad in Lexington, David Parker. Upon reading his apology of himself, we know how aggrieved he must be not to be able to control this situation in which he has placed himself. This must be wrenching.

For those many of us who recall our religious and moral teachings from youth, honesty and personal responsibility are constants. How very sad that his speech reflects so little of either. However, it likely presages his defense in court on his trespassing charge, rescheduled to tomorrow, October 20.

Do read the whole speech. Let it be a caution.

To recap the actual events briefly:
  • Dad became mad when his kindergartener brought home a picture book about families that included drawings of both straight and gay families. The latter included two dads in the kitchen, one cleaning, one helping with homework, and two mom's in the yard, one playing with the child and one washing the dog.
  • He or his wife had been at school meetings where they learned the diversity packet was coming, could preview it, could refuse to let their son get it, and could have rejected it when it came home (before their son saw it).
  • Instead, the parents asked for and got a meeting with teachers and school officials.
  • The wife left after he did not get special permission to have teachers send his son from the room if any mention, no matter how casual, of any homosexuals arose in the classroom.
  • He stayed and refused requests and pleas from school officials, and then police, for many hours.
  • He forced his arrest by not leaving school grounds. He staged a sit-in.
  • He refused to post a token bail, so that he ended up spending the night in jail.
  • He insists on a jury trial and fighting his civil penalty for his protest (likely a $50 fine).
  • As a parent accused of a crime on school grounds, he has to request permission in advance to enter the school, until this matter is settled. He would rather continuing martyring himself than do that.
There, whew. He is quite the drama queen.

Set aside that he seems to believe that a cartoon of a gay-headed family or any mention of lesbian is sexual. His speech is not a tissue, rather a fat quilt, of lies and distortions. For one example:
I was arrested on April 27th when my wife and I went into a scheduled meeting at Estabrook Elementary School, here in Lexington. We asked for advanced notification when issues of transgenderism, homosexuality, and gay-headed relationships were going to be discussed with my six year old son, when adults within the school were involved in those discussions. The principal and director of education were informed by e-mail that we would be insisting on this notification. I did not dictate anything to anyone - I was very happy to see what I thought were good faith efforts at some form of accommodation.

But instead, at the last hour, they decided to not accommodate to any degree and decided that I was trespassing. They kept hope alive in that meeting and I hung on to that hope. Instead, they had me arrested and taken to the Lexington jail where I spent the night stripped of my shoes, my belt, my wedding ring, and my parental rights. I did not insist on being arrested. I insisted on some form of accommodation for just my child.
It goes on in that vein, both veing dishonest and avoiding personal responsibility for willful acts.

He could have been a hero to many, and a crackpot to some. He could have been a contender (no, different story). If only he had said at the Lexington lockup that this was so important to him that he was willing to be arrested and pay his fine to make his point, he would not have marginalized himself and his cause so severely. We are certain that many more of his neighbors would have considered his point of view and his request, coming as they would have from an honest and principled parent.

He has taken another path. We know he is very wrong, but let us feel for him in the way in which he must live and the situation in which he has placed himself.

Noise Flash!: ABC news will include a snippet on our mad dad in its Wednesday, October 19th, broadcast probably near the end of its 6:30 p.m. broadcast. that's channel 5 locally.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Y'all Vote, Ya Hear?

Tomorrow is the last day to register to vote in the November 8th City Council election in Boston. No excuses. Do it or you don't have the right to complain.

You can trot down to City Hall, suss some nomadic registration table, or go to the Election Department's Web page. If the latter, you need to grab the form. (It is a PDF.)

Then print and complete the form. You must get it a postmark of October 19th or earlier for it to count. Mail it to:

City of Boston Election Department
City Hall, Room 241
Boston, MA 02201


While you're there, grab the two-page PDF candidate list. It will make actual voting easier to see where your candidates are first.

If you have moved, changed your name or otherwise might expect that you won't be on the rolls at your polling place, you can go to the same places to register and make sure you'll be able to vote.

Mad Dad Coming Soon to Your TV

MassResistanceWatch has all the updates on Lexington's mad dad. Click right in to find:
  • His network TV news coverage!
  • His court appearance!
  • His fundraiser!
Hurry, hurry, hurry.

Don't forget to click on the link in the last paragraph. It goes to a very amusing dissection of the mess.

Connecticut Housekeeping

The partial measure of civil unions in Connecticut highlights the risk in a divided nation. Connecticut has none of the clarity of same-sex marriage. Instead, its citizens and business face the complications of aligning rights and benefits of spouses, domestic partners and civil-union partners.

An analysis on conntact.com covers the major issues thoroughly. Basically:
  • Companies which have extended benefits to unmarried, non-civil-union partners have to revisit their programs and decide whether to require marriage or civil unions, thus stripping some existing benefits.
  • Alternately, they can tee off many employees simultaneously by stopping spousal-type benefits for everyone. (Not gonna happen.)
  • Instead, they can extend benefits to every form of spousal equivalent. (Makes sense, but will cost more for them.)
  • They must be even handed, while recognizing civil unions as equal to marriage for benefits. Otherwise, they are discriminating by law.
Now, anti-gay, anti-civil-union and anti-same-sex marriage folk can scream, "See. We told you this would be chaotic. Repeal!" At the same time, pro-same-sex-marriage groups can say, "Look how clean and easy it is in Massachusetts. Legalize gay marriage!"

Surrogate Mouths for Menino

The vortex of mayoral campaign ads continues to suck us deeper, deeper. Perhaps this post will be the last.

Today's Boston papers made us do it. The Globe has a bright about how the sculptor of the ducklings in the Public Garden has her nose out of joint about Hennigan using the kiddy icons she herself used. The Herald describes Menino's new cable ads.

Da Mare gets to take the high road, in contrast to Maura Hennigan's funny, but LITE ads. His are not as funny, but they have a good punch line.

We cannot find them on the Net yet, but the Herald recaps with:
In the ads, a beaming Menino presides over a rapid-fire repeat of feel-good accomplishments such as cleaner neighborhoods, lower crime and a good biotech industry, all rattled off by what appear to be happy citizens.
"Hey, I'd say it myself, but I can't talk that fast,'' Menino says, poking fun at his notoriously tangled tongue.
They stress his incremental improvements. In contrast, Hennigan's campaign and ads tend to be whiny and do not develop any vision she might have for Boston. His are so-so. Hers are so what?

He is in the luxurious position of being the long-reigning mayor, in effect, the champ. He would have had to be a total incompetent not to have successes he can highlight, devoted constituents and trends he can claim are his own doing. He is in a much better position than a city councilor to affect major policy areas.

So, Maura would have to blind us with brilliance. Piling on the B.S. and throwing a handful of mixed valid and lame criticisms have not cut it, nor should they. Unfortunately, even after starting a radio and TV attack campaign against him, she stays down low with her response to Menino's response with, "He twists it so the poor people in this city, he says something and they just think it's true, but he's taking the city backwards. All you have to do is look at our educational test scores that go down, our crime rate goes up, we live in the most expensive city to live in, our constituent services are failing and we have major corporations leaving right and left."

Unfortunately for her, each of those talking points is moot and out of context, such as the tenuous connection between Menino's administration and realty prices. We remain disappointed that she has neither a solid replacement program for Boston nor a cohesive critique of Menino's failed policy. Of course, if she had developed the latter, she would have had a good basis for the vision she has never demonstrated. Even Joan of Arc knew she had to talk it up to manifest her vision.

Menino's ads start today on cable and like Hennigan's run into election day, November 8th. They came from Steve Murphy, media consultant to Democrats (and no relation to the city councilor of that name).

Monday, October 17, 2005

Winds from Maine

As Patrick Henry did not quite say, the next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of Ted Meara and Mike Heath. Unfortunately, Maine PBS does not stream broadcasts. So, the second of three debates on efforts to repeal gay-rights there will not resound.

Fortunately, the Bangor News reported on the 30-minute rehash of the previous confrontation. Basically, Meara, representing Maine Won't Discriminate, was all reason, logic and compassion. Mike Heath, the front guy for the anti-gay forces, continued to try to twist the debate with a fear-mongering claim that if you leave anti-discrimination laws on the books, same-sex marriage will follow almost immediately.

He also pretends that there is virtually no discrimination against gays now. He both denies proven and recorded instances and on his unintentionally amusing blog writes such contradictory drivel as:
Oh sure, you know people who say harsh things about others. You probably know people who get in fights, and you know people who object to homosexuality. I guarantee, however, that you don't know anybody who lives to make sure "gays" don't have a job, house, food or credit. Those people never existed and they never will.
Perhaps he could put it plainer, a little hate, violence and discrimination is all in good fun, eh, Mainers?

If this initiative passes repealing anti-discrimination based on sexual orientation passed, Maine would be the only state in the region without such civil rights for gays. The public seems to have lost its taste for such schadenfreude, after many tussles. In 1995, there was a solid majority to repeal gay rights legislation. Then in 1998 and 2000, forms of repeal barely passed. Polls show now that the voters have matured since then and are both tired of the struggle and do not want to discriminate against gays. This initiative is likely to do well in the most rural sections and fail statewide.

2+2 = Miller

Salon has a nice analysis of the Judy Miller mess, minus hysteria. While many journalists and others are huffing and puffing in what appears largely theatrical professional jealousy, Farhad Manjoo writes crisply of where she and her editors blundered and what the likely fallout will be for her and for Scotter Libby.

We particularly like this, partially because it agrees with some of our comments here and here. Specifically, he writes:
The Times account shows that senior management did not press Miller on her sources and what the sources had revealed to her about Plame, before backing her stance in public and in numerous editorials. It's hard to imagine why they didn't make sure she wasn't being used by officials in the Bush administration who may have been breaking the law. Then there's the matter of Miller's own unethical actions: The Times' report showed she lied to her editors about her involvement in the case, and maybe more disturbing, she agreed to allow Libby to hide his motives from readers by identifying him in two different ways. Why is she still working at the paper? (Unconfirmed reports say she's taken a leave of absence, but there's no word of any disciplinary action against her.)
He distances himself from the obvious emphasis on her WMD duplicity and cuts to the central issues. She so loved the intrigue and insider advantages that she stiffed her fellow reporters, her editors and her readers. While the editors and publisher should have stood up for her claim of confidentially, they were ethically and professionally obligated to wring the truth from their investigative goddess first. It was a gross failure of morals and will all around, roiling the First Amendment waters.

Salon quotes NYU journalism professor and blogger Jay Rosen's analysis as well. He predicts Miller is on the street in weeks or a month without writing more for the Times. The grounds would be either or both that 1) she lied to the paper's Washington bureau chief about the Plame matter, or 2) in agreeing with Libby to shift to citing him as a "former Hill staffer" she violated the Times' policy about never lying about sources.

As Rosen concludes, "If you look at that anecdote carefully, you have to ask yourself, How far away from her mind are the readers? The readers aren't even in her universe. She's so far gone into this world of secrets and hidden information that representing readers is only a technicality to her."

Scant Solemnization Records

Apologies in advance for the pending solemnization reports...

After much hoo-ha, we can get a few results. Most have already been destroyed, there is no legal requirement to keep such records longer than one year, and nobody up on the Hill cares.

After frustrating efforts to get either a count of the trends in requests for one-day solemnization designation authority from the governor's office or one for certificates issues, I got a call back from someone Friday. In response to my letter of three weeks ago, Mary Sbardella from the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office said she could provide some of what I want.

It will cost $15 to get an annual count from 2001. Older records are gone. I am lucky that they had not already trashed those beyond one year.

So, it may take another, what three weeks? The figures will be scant, but damn it, our keeper of public records will make these records public.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

2¢ Plame #2

Church, lunch, retrieve a stalled car, and a blustery bike ride after a week hiding from the sodden, soaked roads, all together steeled me for a reread of the New York Times coverage of Judith Miller. There are fascinating implications that have nothing to do with sleazy White House types and everything to do with the Times in particular and journalism in general.

Sources

The main piece is here. The sketch of it is in a post here. The main piece is well worth reading for nuance as well as facts. The Miller Case: A Notebook, A Cause, a Jail Cell and a Deal (odd capitalization courtesy of the Times) was by staffers Don Van Natta Jr., Adam Liptak and Clifford J. Levy. They don't hide the dissatisfaction of the reporters and ex-editors.

The feds will or will not get indictments out of this whole mess. Regardless, George the Lesser's administration seems headed for history as another Harding, scandal-ridden fetid heap. Judy Miller's notebooks and 85 days on a detention-center concrete floor will maybe remain visible as a footnote.

Almost any TV show or movie with reporters has a ham-handed caricature of them. They steal the deceased's only portrait photo from the recent widow's mantle. They tromp through the flowers of the parents of the kidnapped child. They...well, whatever; you know the sensationalist view of the press.

Unfortunately, the bungling of this reporter and her editors and maybe even her publisher obscure real problems with the Old Gray Lady and other newspapers.

Rusty Judy

Miller actually had a very strong case for claiming privilege with a confidential source. Likewise, Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Executive Editor Bill Keller (as well as the editorial board) have had a long-held, well-grounded stake in a federal shield law. If Miller was not so rusty with the oxides of pimping for the Bush administration, their arguments would have had the self-righteous zeal of a John Peter Zenger case or a Lou Grant episode. We who went to J-school and were reporters before becoming mere mortals still have those First Amendment corpuscles carrying ethics and honor to our brains.

Instead, as today's main Miller megillah reveals, she came with a lot of baggage and people confuse the issues in the smell of her leavings. For example, there was a reek of:
  • Sulzberger and Executive Editor Bill Keller let her keep a position apart and above other writers, even other investigative reporters
  • They probably let her bypass her editor for story approval
  • She put them in an extremely undesirable position of knowing much about her work that they had to keep from other Times staffers
  • She wove in and out of government security clearances as an embedded war reporter, confusing what her editors could ask and sources could reveal
  • She was arrogant even compared with a newsroom of egotistic NYT reporters, enough to alienate colleagues
  • She announced that she could do whatever she wanted, which was probably accurate
  • She was by how she described her grand-jury testimony a very sloppy reporter (no attribution to important notes and forgetting which of several sources provided this or that name)
So, instead of playing Lancelot, the Times has to defend even its most reasoned and reasonable editorials. Its reporting pool sees the Washington Post and other papers scoop it repeatedly on Miller's story. Veteran reporters and editors are torn between the obvious need for shield laws and the venality of their editors and publisher's treatment of a dilettante.

The Times Conundrum

This may be Jayson Blair redux. The Times is even more incestuous, nepotistic and aristocratic than most major dailies. They dub their reporters as the best-of-the-best and pretend that they all have the ethics of a saint, the wisdom of Athena, the reasoning of Socrates, and the insight of a psychic. In fact, most of them are private-school and ivy-league twits who are pretty good at what they do, but used to inordinate praise and latitude from the playpen onward.

Granted, this is an usually ethical profession. Contrasted with lawyers, pipefitters, managers, programmers or physicians, reporters are unusual in that considering ethical implications is part of their training and daily lives.

So, how does a Judith Miller fit and what does a New York Times do about it all?

Miller's muddled involvement and self-absoption is unfortunate for many reasons. The worst is that she confuses the issue because of her moral sloppiness.

We cannot be her parents and teach her to play nice and respect others now. However, combined with the Blair fiasco, the Times and other media giants can consider a few key changes.

It is not enough that reporters think ethics. The editors and publisher have to beat on the rich kiddies who churn out their articles of record for the newspapers of record. Clearly Sulzberger, Keller and their peers have to monitor, manage and direct them. Trusting them without reservation is inane and delusional.

The same top dogs need to deal with the PR issue. The public, legislators and even many bloggers reflexively dump on reporters and newspaper editors. Many see our media as the rednecks, wetbacks or whatever other cruel stereotype you can insert (think Archie Bunker-speak).

All sides love to quote our most brilliant president, Thomas Jefferson. In office, he distrusted newspaper reports that were unfavorable. Yet, before and after being our chief executive, he would say, "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."

That is true enough and it is a deep pity, perhaps a tragedy even, that a case such as Miller's so muddles the related issues.

Yes, she was a trollop with her Iraqi coverage. Yet, her jailing for contempt remains separately another of many cases that screams for a federal shield law. In this era of Homeland Security, invasive government and control of what we read, hear and see, a free press has never, ever been more vital.

Damn you, Judith Miller, for being so dirty on Iraqi coverage. Wake up, Times management, for allowing out-of-control reporters. Bless you all for standing up when it counts most.

Now fix the broken stuff.

Menino Attack Ad Available

Menino duckingThe Make Way for Menino attack ad we described by Maura Hennigan's crew is online here. It's a Windows Media file. about 32 seconds, 2.3MB.

quacking duckIt's not bad. There's little content, but the illustrations in the style of Make Way for Ducklings are well done. By the bye, they didn't bother drawing the mayor's face, but for satiric effect, we see a lot of his escaping pants seat.

I am with those who say she needs to produce a real platform instead of picking a handful of examples to suggest that Menino needs to go. Yet, this is likely as effective as the radio spots. Blue Star Media does a good down-and-dirty attack ad. People will pay attention and it is bound to get her some votes.

Maura duckUnfortunately, Maura has always looked a bit cartoonish herself — particularly before she learned how to ease off on the make-up. Now, in this context, when she emerges from a drawing at the end, poof, she looks a bit like barnyard fowl herself.

2¢ Plame

Let us bow our heads and speak briefly of Judith Miller. Nah, we can shout like everyone else.

The New York Times finally interviewed its ex-con reporter, Judith Miller. Its long report appeared today here. Her article on what she learned and what she told the grand jury is here. Also a mind-clarifying timeline of the whole mess is here.

Note: These links should be free for a week. Then if you aren't a subscriber or don't want to pay, you can probably search the Web and find them for free.

Our prejudice from a house of ex-newspaper reporters is that no matter how dirty she was on reporting WMD, this is another matter entirely. Many, such as BlueMassGroup, have had another view from the beginning.

Amusingly now, both Robert Novak and Matt Cooper should fess up about their grand jury appearances. Novak has been far dirtier than Miller for decades of shilling for government officials. Cooper just seems gormless. One would hope that those who have been unable to cut Miller any slack turn their attention equally to those clowns.

Regardless, the Times' main article sums it up best with the selection:

The Times said it believes that attempts by prosecutors to force reporters to reveal confidential information must be resisted. Otherwise, it argues, the public would be deprived of important information about the government and other powerful institutions.

The fact that Ms. Miller's judgment had been questioned in the past did not affect its stance. "The default position in a case like that is you support the reporter," Mr. Keller said.

It was in these early days that Mr. Keller and Mr. Sulzberger learned Mr. Libby's identity. Neither man asked Ms. Miller detailed questions about her conversations with him.

Both said they viewed the case as a matter of principle, which made the particulars less important. "I didn't interrogate her about the details of the interview," Mr. Keller said. "I didn't ask to see her notes. And I really didn't feel the need to do that."

Still, Mr. Keller said the case was not ideal: "I wish it had been a clear-cut whistle-blower case. I wish it had been a reporter who came with less public baggage."

Miller's own account is consistent with what she has been saying all along, a mindset that befuddles and divides the newsroom between supporters and those who can never forgive her for MWD stupidity.

Her version also suggests that she is a sloppy and distracted reporter. She can't remember where marginal notes came from, a real no-no. Then again, she was quite the pampered dilettante and loved playing investigative goddess.

Whether her case ends up helping the crying need for a federal shield law is debatable. It certainly raised the issue's profile and got the big shot journalists choosing sides.

More Maura/Menino

Re-Warning: Still off topic.

Menino and ducklingsToday's Boston papers are rife with riffs on the mayoral race. This is a promising sign of coverage right into election day (Tuesday, November 8th; do it!).

The Herald continues its new-found disdain for their former darling contender. However, the Globe has detailed coverage of Hennigan's new TV spots and columnist Eileen McNamara reads like she is on Maura's payroll.

Until this week, the normally anti-Menino Herald took every chance to slam him and elevate her. The lack of a plan for Boston and her poor showing before college students and on a radio tallk show seem to have shifted the tab's editors.

Today's article, which I don't see on the Net, headlines 'Whiner' label menances Hennigan. Buried on page 16, it hits her with the complaints we have made. Former Councilor Peggy Davis-Mullen said, "The clock is ticking. Maura should talk about what she's going to do...don't attack him, don't be perceived as someone who's just a whiner."

The article noted that while she speaks frequently on if-only-he'd-debate-me-oh-boy, her other press conferences have been 1) bragging that she had a hybrid SUV before Tommy, 2) she mortgaged her extensive realty for campaign cash, 3) niggling about power outages in big storms, and 4) pitching long school days.

Her best promises to the Herald were that she'd return an elected school committee and knock Menino for major companies' merging and leaving town for the bigger HQ.

She fares much better in the Globe. McNamara, always a Tommy hater, does a better job than Hennigan slamming in Menino. She uses the same few out-of-context examples that Maura does, but she is far more articulate. Whether you believe that those create a picture of poor mayoral performance in general, Maura could look at how a personal attack should be done by reading this column.

On the news side, a long article in the city/region section praises and covers in detail Hennigan's TV ads. We haven't seen them yet — starting on air tomorrow — but this piece makes us want to watch.

The 950 Make Way for Menino spots cost her $26,000 and have started running on cable TV. Granted, she limits her audience with these bargain buys, but it looks like people will talk about these clever attacks.

Tom likes to be with his voters, including the annual Make Way for Ducklings ceremonies. That gave the Hennigan crew lots of promising pictures, along with the theme that he's ducking issues again.

It looks like good fun, childish perhaps, but still fun in a pretty dull campaign so far. The main points are the same few she has been kicking around the block until they are ragged, but in a memorable set of spots, she does not have to show much substance.

The only dash of reality in the humorous preview came from former Councilor Michael McCormack. He said "Hennigan was better off running postiive ads about herself. 'What she needs to do from here on out is tell the voters how she is going to be a better mayor than Tom Menino.'"

Tom's newly thickened skin will surely be tested. Perhaps we can heat city hall with the steam from his ears.

After-post: That attack ad is available now for your viewing pleasure.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Mayoral Meanness

Disclaimer: Having started the off-topic mayoral-race comments, I can't seem to stop.

Chihuahua photoBefore I bring in the papers and shake the incessant rain off their bags, I reflect on last night's debate-like radio appearance by Mayor Tom Menino and City Councilor Maura Hennigan. They were on WBZ from 8 to 9 p.m. on the Paul Sullivan show. There is no indication that BZ will stream it. You heard it or you didn't.

The hour was irritating. She did her best Chihuahua and he was pretty much Droopy the dog. If you were for one or the other, you could have reinforced your affection, but little presented would have changed minds.

Unfortunately for me, I was unaware until I got into the hour that I was still hoping that Maura would emerge as something she is not and will never be, an insightful, charismatic visionary. Expecting that of her is utterly unfair. They are both pretty good politicians who have accomplished some okay things. They have known each other politically for 22 years. They have a history as the cliché would have it.

Ever on the attack, Maura nipped Tom fairly, then unfairly. She made a good point and then offset the advantage with utter drivel and obvious B.S.

To his credit, Sullivan interjected fair better and more pointed questions than the callers. The best example was when he asked what Menino should have harped on months ago. If Maura has been in office 24 years and voted for all these aspects of the city that she claims are bad, isn't she as much to blame as Tom or anyone? Meanwhile, she was returning to the argument that she would bring in fresh ideas and a detachment that Tom cannot. Sullivan quietly noted that she had been there even longer than Tom and couldn't expect anyone to think of her as a clean outsider.

The tone of the evening was like a The Onion send-up. Maura stopped short of calling our long rainy spell Tom's fault, but everything else was laid at his feet. Anything bad with the schools, the (not-true) blip in the murder rate, realty prices, and even the police-caused death of the Emerson College student Victoria Snelgrove. Anything on Menino's watch, as Hennigan put it, was his fault.

Not only did that scattershot approach make her look desperate and discursive, she disproved repeatedly what she claimed was her superior personality. While sniping and barking at Tom, she said he didn't know how to reconcile people. She (insert sniping and nagging and niggling) would bring the feminine touch that helped people get along. Huh?

Droopy cartoonShe left far too many openings for Tom. He continued his Droopy -- Wellllllllll -- reaction most time. However, he didn't have to act too fast or too strongly. She played very loose with the facts, often making them up (numbers of police academy students, whether they were from out of the area, and accusing Menino of an out-of-town playoff trip he didn't take, for example). Also, instead of picking a vulnerable area, such as schools, and following through with a reasoned argument, she took the smallest indicator and tried to jump to the general with it. Honey, it didn't work in Logic 101 and didn't play last night.

Likewise, it was Sullivan and not Menino who asked Maura (very polite that Mr. Sullivan was) how she would fund all the extra programs she proposed. Not only was she willing to spend the whole of the city's surplus, she did not seem to see a problem with committing to recurring budget increases with a fixed surplus. Likewise, a small portion of the 9 or 10-hour school days with after-school she wants would fall under a grant, but she could not point to any revenue source for the rest.

Tom's best moment unquestionably seemed to be when she dragged out the Snelgrove corpse and put it figuratively before Tom. He was quick to point out that it was cheap politics and very insensitive. Maura is likely the only person in town who might disagree. At that moment, she sounded as sleazy as any politician we have ever had.

In the main, it was torture to listen to them. The hour was certainly more like a real debate than anything so far. It also convinced us that a formal debate between them would waste everyone's time. Poor Maura wants this so badly, but picking a few isolated facts does not make a cohesive argument. She must be brighter than she sounds, but she just can't seem to translate her passions into either a program or a campaign.

Now to the papers:

The Globe had the show coverage at the bottom of the local section and as the lead editorial. The Herald seems to be distancing itself from the stumbling Hennigan. Theirs is on page 6, not featured on their Website's front page, and carries the Tommy-favorable head Menino takes the offensive.

Similarly, the Globe's editorial is MENINO REGAINS GROUND. It points out quite accurately that Maura's behavior gave one opening after another for him to highlight his administration's accomplishments, the opposite of what she wanted. No matter how Menino-ish Tom was in his presentation, he plodded back repeatedly after Hennigan's rambling, disconnected attacks. He got to say with good effect, "That's incorrect," repeatedly.

Hennigan was loose with the facts and figures, both papers note. The Globe also mentions that while Hennigan stated incorrectly that Menino, not the unions, delayed negotiations before the Democratic Convention, and she claimed that Menino gave away far too much to the unions, she was out protesting for higher wages on the union picket line. Pots and kettles.

This was Tommy's night. You really have to goof up to hand him the decision on an hour-long one-against-one. Maura managed to shoot herself more frequently than she hit Tom. Buy that woman some glasses and a scope...and rent her a campaign advisor who can provide talking points that make a pattern. Maura is throwing paint at the canvas and not making a recognizable picture. A dozen dots are not a portrait, not even a decent stick figure..

He's been mayor for 12 years and involved in hundreds of major efforts across the entire spectrum of a major city. You would think that any high-school junior could spend a day or two researching his record, and then come up with cohesive (that word again) criticisms that stand the light of day and the best counterarguments Droopy could return. Maura's had a couple of chances in public fora and failed at them.

It is probably far too late for a real vision with a program to implement it. She certainly seems to lack the debating ability and knowledge to prove Tom incompetent. Was she really the best competition available?

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