Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Canadian SSM Posturing

Quickly into the fray, Canadian politicians started their campaign for the January 23rd elections yesterday. To wit:
  • Tory Leader Stephen Harper vowed to restore one man/one woman marriage to the nation. Apparently he knows that crap, but he sees it as a good talking point and a way to pick up extra Conservative MPs in the election.
  • His other pointy stick is the Liberal Party's recent history of misusing funds. This may provide better sound bites, as in elect Tories because "a government paralyzed by scandal cannot attend to important business." That has the wonderful irony of the Conservatives spending most of their effort to try to bring the government down instead of tending to important business.
  • The NDP wants something from everyone and anyone. Leader Jack Layton says the Liberals didn't give up enough, leading to the election. He wants to convert Liberal seats to NDP ones to get more influence.
  • Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe was more colorful, accusing Liberal PM Paul Martin of continuing to "practice patronage and camouflage." He wants to solidify the Bloc's lead in his province, thus getting more consideration.
  • Martin is playing cool for the moment, saying his party won't hit the voters hard over the holidays, "(w)hen Canadians sit down to sip hot chocolate..." he blamed the opposition for an unnecessary election — "Ambition has overwhelmed common sense."
Liberals still lead in most polls, but do not have a majority and will have to deal to keep the government. If the party wants a simple majority, it would have to improve results in Quebec.

The numbers will certainly shift. At present, there are two vacancies out of 308. Liberals have 133, Conservatives 98, Bloc 53, NDP 18 and independents 4.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Coalition, Different

Here in the lower 48, we may never get Canadian politics. Last evening, they trashed their government, to applause for winners and losers, holiday wishes all around, and anticipation of two months of turmoil and accusations.Paul Martin file pic

The 17-month Liberal coalition government lost a confidence vote 171 to 133. Leaders of both largest parties — Liberal and Conservative — got ovations from the MPs. Huh?

The vote for the new MPs and government will likely take place January 23. Loser king, PM Paul Martin (left in file pic) will set the date tomorrow.

After this follows a couple months of oratory and slander. Same-sex marriage will be a Tory tool in the rhetorical battle. It's not that they expect to reverse SSM, but it's a great peg to hang dirty linen on for the contest. A good time will be had by all.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Nasty and Nippy up North

U.S. voters disgusted with our president may look wistfully to Canada. The parliamentary confidence votes and relatively sudden swapping of those in power can seem attractive to us.

Already, journalists are promising the collapse of the Liberal coalition government today, "plunging the nation into a nasty, nippy Christmas campaign just 17 months after the last vote." This report from Sun Media notes a non-confidence motion coming to the table at 6:45 p.m.

Liberals are up against an itchy set of Tories, New Democrats and Bloc Québecois. The Conservatives are as eager as our Republicans to show everyone that only they know the truth. The others want more of their issues up front.

New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Jack Layton put the pending vote in his own subtle terms. "(W)e'll embark on a winter election because these arrogant Liberals refuse to compromise."

Both sides want to stress that the other is out of touch with Canadians. Tories and their lampreys will speak of tax cuts and crime, and Tories in particularly will play the same-sex-marriage card again and again. Liberals will parade their achievements, which as Prime Minister Paul Martin puts it, includes taking the nation from "pauper to powerhouse." Liberals too will play the out-of-touch card, noting that most Canadians favor same-sex marriage and strongly support the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Whether the Tories can carry anyone else into their fetid anti-SSM stew as part of this remains to be seen.

In the eight to ten weeks before the election, the opposition gets to do an ethics dance. Some Liberals were mired in bribery and money scandals. Former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent said, "As far as you can quantify these things, I would guess somewhere about a third to a half of the campaign" will concentrate on ethics.

Early Mud Season in Canada

Canadian Tories seem determined to bring their country down to the level of the United States, at least politically. Anti-same-sex marriage MPs are joining with private groups to make gay marriage a rallying point for efforts to get voters and topple the government.

After a long run, with profound social improvements, the Liberals are likely to lose a vote today, forcing an election in January. Both side are preparing mud slinging campaigns to vilify the other.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper apparently figures SSM is a sure bet to rally the troops. His side is even willing to overrule the famous and virtuous Charter of Rights and Freedoms to get back in office. The government has never invoked the notwithstanding clause for any purpose. This would be similar to the U.S. Congress voting to shelve our Bill of Rights to rescind some law, like permitting interracial marriage.

It promises to be a nasty and protracted fight. On the other hand, it should get the cards on the table.

The press on it started the day before our Thanksgiving. The Canadian Press profiled the Conservative allies. The background on the no-confidence bill motion appears here. The ex-Liberal MP Pat O'Brien's role is here.

Canada's reputation for freedoms and respect for each other will certainly be on the line, and maybe in the voting booth.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

BlogLeft gathering logo

Be there.

  • Saturday.
  • December 10th.
  • Worcester.
  • Tatnuck Bookseller.
  • Bloggers.
  • Lunch.
  • $25.
  • Blog talk.

Details here.


Be there.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Culling Rotten Fruit

The nits and grits of current anti-same-sex marriage ballot initiative process appear is disheartening detail in Laura Kiritsy's Bay Windows article. To us, this is yet another illustration of how abusive the ballot initiative process has become. Hiding behind a vague let-the-people-decide rubric, the narrow interests who would force their beliefs on all of us have all the advantages except for morality and truth.

Some key points of the article though include:
  • Pro-SSM/pro-inclusion forces (like the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Action Caucus) have to decide whether to challenge the fraudulent signatures and dirty process
  • Thousands of volunteer hours and many thousands of dollars would be required to examine the signatures
  • Bait-and-switch petitions (like sneaking an anti-SSM petiiton into a wine in supermarkets clipboard) are not illegal
  • Like picking through the bucket for moldy blueberries, the culling process is tedious and exacting
  • Challenges only have until January 6, 2006 to be filed
  • Even if tens of thousands of the signatures are fraudulent, getting those falsely include to be aware is a monumental task
  • With the coerced help of Roman Catholic parishes, the anti-SSM folk almost certainly would end up with enough to submit the initiative to the legislature if all the fraudulent ones went away
It is possible that there may not be 25% of the General Court willing to risk voting to strip citizens of active rights, twice. That could be very close though. It is a pity that we come to this point that the Dark Side can continue to conduct its Spite and Fright Circus. However, that's the way it is.

Long-term though, this process, coupled with the court challenges, failed initiatives, and abortive rollback bills makes one thing plain. The ballot-initiative process is badly overuse, badly abused, and controlled by special interests who have no interest in the commonweal of the commonwealth.

Whether they are pharmaceutical giants or hate groups, they are perfectly willing to pretend to represent Massachusetts citizens. They will lie, buy, and deny amorally to get their advantage by duping the public. They can cry, "Let the pubic decide!," but let the General Court, the governor and the attorney general decide that we need to limit ballot initiatives to true citizen's issues.

Left, right, apolitical...we need only examine the initiatives, their total costs and their real aims here, in California and elsewhere to see have they abuse our citizens in the falsely used name of democracy.

Kicking the Flock

Well, the Boston Globe editorial board woke up yesterday, this morning's lead piece takes Archbishop Sean O'Malley to task for his callous politicizing of the Catholic Charities fundraiser. Several of the humble bloggers here have been outraged about this already and we appreciate the new hippo waddling into the swamp.

The editorial lead is accurate enough. To wit:
BY SNUBBING the annual Christmas dinner for Catholic Charities, Archbishop Sean O'Malley seems to be saying that believers like himself must sometimes turn their backs on the common good if there is conflict with the church's strict religious tenets.

Such a narrow, polarizing view could hardly serve the city well and is especially disappointing during a season associated with tolerance and good will.
The former and disgraced Archbishop B. Law was a scarlet warning about choosing politics over congregants in general and the poor in particular. O'Malley might do well to heed the warning signs he left so widely scattered.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Adhesive Marriages

Long before the parents died and before we could claim to be elders in our families, we here in JP had a sizeable Thanksgiving. It's not over the river and there are —— not counting Arnold Arboretum —— no woods.

Instead 15 to 22 of us would create an extended family for an afternoon and evening. Kids and spouses, significant others and nebulous companions have gathered for an instant and recurring family. Our steady link is in each couple at least one member is a Southerner.

So, we eat better together than dour, parsimonious New Englanders, and the manners around the table are much more pleasant. We also get to swap Southern memories, tales of grand meals and jazz clubs, and distinctions in culture, food and dialect among the various Souths represented. And, of course, we end with the Battle of the Pies — pecan, buttermilk, pumpkin, sweet potato, and cherry.

My two solemnizations came as usual. One straight and one gay couple whose marriages I formalized, blessed under the authority of the commonwealth of Massachusetts and am still thankful for came to be part of our family. In full disclosure, I must admit that they were both a number for years before the weddings. Even so, perhaps I should give a warranty with my marriages. The two pairs are still pairs and loving it.

It must be the same with professional or amateur matchmakers. There is a reflected glory in having a hand in making a solid relationship.

There's something to be thankful for.

Over the River, Into the Street

Our beloved Romney administration has been revealed for more passive aggression on married Massachusetts same-sex couples. Yes, it was outrageous that Cap'n Brylcreem did not let clerks update birth certificates, except by scratching out the old language. Now it turns out, his folk have made no effort to allow the spouses state health benefits.

Instead, 18 months after same-sex marriage became legal here, if the Cap'n had his way, they would not get MassHealth benefits given to any other married couple. The reason is that by the present payment system, part of the money comes from the feds and part of us. Because the feds do not recognize same-sex marriage nationwide, we can't use their money.

Of course, to a reasonable administration, this is a few keystrokes to shift the accounting. That would provide the equal treatment mandated by law, and centuries of custom. If this is not done, some same-sex couples would lose their houses and everything of value if one of them has to go to a nursing home. That's what MassHealth is there for and that's why we fund it.

Instead, the Cap'n kids will force legislative action. two dozen members of the General Court are on it. My local Representative, Liz Malia, is the primary sponsor (damned Commies in JP; they'd feed the hungry if you didn't watch 'em real careful like).

"This is exactly what we're talking about for most people; the ability to live your life as a functioning citizen of the state, to take care of yourself and your significant other." Of course, the ever spiteful Kris Mineau of the Massachusetts Family Institute countered with the loving sentiment of the season, "We hope in the end that traditional marriage will once and for all be established in Massachusetts."

The feds have already accepted the bill's practice in dealing with Vermont. They pay for their version with only state dollars and George's kids are fine with that. It should cost the same to the state and its taxpayers, as it is simply moving disbursements equally.

I think we should expect a governor to watch out for us, rather us having to watch him all the time.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Clerks' Week from Hell

As many of us chill and shift gears heading for the holidays, town and city clerks throughout our commonwealth will be during the midnight monitors and going through one stick pen after another. The anti-same-sex-marriage initiative petitions hit the counters yesterday by the 5 p.m. deadline.

Read all about it here.

Clerks have one week to verify the 120,000-ish signatures. Then the certified ones go back to the gatherers for presentation to the Massachusetts Secretary of State.

Rules are that petitions must be town or city specific. Thus, clerks not set up for such massive efforts have to compare to voting rolls. As one put it, ""We're getting stacks that are 2 inches thick and it's putting an undue burden on us," said Methuen City Clerk Christina Touma-Conway."

Meanwhile, KnowThyNeighbor is geared up to broadcast the sigs to those who have signed up on its Website and to post the whole lists are they become available. The idea is that civic-minded voters can either ensure that they sig is not there fraudulently or that their anti-SSM inking is registered.

We think it's a good idea, but moot. Getting enough sigs should never have been in doubt. The real contest begins with voters and legislators.

Arch-Politician of Massachusetts

The sparkling eyes and woolly white beard give Sean O'Malley the look of a frisky goat. One wants to like him. Yet, he makes it virtually impossible.

Yesterday alone, he did a double whammy, slapping and then patronizing gays in general and his gay parishioners in particular. Two, two, two insults in one. Specifically:
  • He backed out of the Catholic Charities dinner, which is to raise funds for the poor and hono Tom Menino for his work for the underprivileged.
  • He said that the church is still opposed to gay marriage, but non-sexually active gays are still welcome (bring cash).
Unfortunately, the first act shows him at his worst.

The Catholic World News quotes the odious C.J. Doyle on the issue as calling Da Mare "relentless opposition to the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church." That head of the anti-everything-liberal and loving Cacholic Action League cannot separate Menino's good deeds from self-righteous judgments (left in the Christian faith to God, supposedly).

For himself, O'Malley again showed that he'll play politics first, even if it means hurting the needy and ignorning his Christian duty in the process. As his statement put it, "In light of the Mayor's past statements concerning abortion and same-sex marriage policies, the Archbishop regrets that he cannot attend the dinner."

History has never been kind to such hypocrisy.

At the same time, in a letter to the archdiocese's 300 parishes, our whiskered prelate tried his politics on estranged gay Catholics. The joke in saying that Catholics should not be hateful or discriminate against homosexuals is that O'Malley is trying to overturn legal same-sex marriage.

That's not hateful or discriminatory he writes: "The stand on marriage is in defense of an institution we feel is crucial for children, family life, and society." The the rest of us, it's pure politics, apparently his forte.

The letter reads in part, ''Many homosexual persons in our church lead holy lives and make an outstanding contribution to the life of the church by their service, generosity and the sharing of their spiritual gifts. We must strive to eradicate prejudices against people with a homosexual orientation."

It also iterated that sex outside of marriage is a sin. So, ha ha, if he has his way, homosexual cannot marry and any fornication on their part is mortal sin. Ha ha.

It's a pity that a mean brain is behind those pleasant eyes. He need only welcome married same-sex Catholic couples to give power to his words.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NH Panel — Down, You Gays!

The AP grabbed a sneak copy of the New Hampshire panel charged with studying marriage. According to the wire report, homosexual couples there won't get squat.

The conservative Republican majority will recommend December 1st that not only should the state legislature not even talk about same-sex marriage, but homosexual couples should receive no legal status. Ironically, the same anti-gay majority will partially justify not even talking about expanding rights because the state has no history of same-sex marriage. Huh?

A quote from the draft reads, "Same sex marriage has never been considered either a fundamental right or an essential element of society's fabric so as to constitute an essential liberty in New Hampshire history." Keep in mind that this panel was commissioned to lead in examining whether the state should consider modernizing. Leadership by inertia, hmmm, does sound like a good name for a Republican rock band.

The draft drones on, "The commission in the present situation can only suggest that rights that are contractual in nature be explored individually. To do so need not require that same gender sexual relations be recognized." The draft suggested the possibility of the very limited Hawaiian model of domestic partnership registry, with the possibility of getting health and insurance benefits and some inheritance breaks, but no joint adoption, no guardianship, no alimony or anything hinting, even smelling, of marriage.

The AP couldn't snag the minority counter-report.

The only slack for gays in the majority tramping of them is a recommendation that they can grant each other hospital visitation rights, but only so long as the patient is legally competent and not like spouses. Oh, no, no, no.

Can't Get Over It

Careering across the line separating absurd and pathetic, yet another same-sex marriage opponent publicly lets his elaborate fantasies rule his life. Often, when you need a good laugh, you can head to MassNews. Recently though, their own Captain Ahab, J. Edward Pawlick, has yielded too much to his obsession.

Warning: If you are sensitive to adults humiliating yourself, do not follow the links.

anti-DiMasi plane banner

For months, this anti-gay, anti-SSM site carried a countdown for when Sal DiMasi, Speaker of the Massachusetts House, would call for a vote to toss four of the seven Supreme Judicial Court justices. Meanwhile, in the world of touch and thought, of reality, people laughed at the absurdity of it all.

Pawlick, who always writes of himself grandiloquently as Atty., as though being a lawyer gives him gravitas and stature, seemed honestly to think he can pressure the entire General Court to his bidding. The issue was that bill of address filed by the ever dotty Rep. Emile Goguen. The latter's fantasy is enough other Massachusetts legislators would join him in removing those justices for doing their jobs in interpreting the commonwealth constitution, allowing same-sex marriage.

Rather than show even a little grace in losing, Pawlick used his Coppertone Offense again, hiring airplane banners (as above). Yeah, that'll do the trick, Eddy.

So, having dropped the countdown that never was except in Pawlick's mind, his latest bluster has the heading, Another Democratic Politician, Sal DiMasi, Breaks Solemn Promise --- But He Will Undoubtedly Change His Mind. Like a mutating virus, his delusions shift. Now, he avers that merely claiming that DiMasi is obligated to handle Goguen's lame bill exactly and on the schedule Pawlick demands, all will happen according to the addled Atty.'s plan. He never even considers that nothing like the necessary votes are there.

This one is more embarrassing than funny. It is a prolonged and more serious version of a comedian's pratfall. It goes on. He gets up and does it again. You know it's going to happen, that there is no way to prevent it, and yet you watch.

The message here is that Pawlick is different in degree but not kind from Article 8, the Christian Civic League of Maine, MassResistance and other anti-gay, anti-SSM sorts. They cannot get on with their lives. The politicians here have. The public has. The Pawlicks don't get it, won't get it, can't get it and may seek their dishonorable graves short of both compassion and wisdom.

They remain the barnacles on the hull, simultaneously unchanging, mildly destructive and insensitive to their environment.

Anti-SSM Petition Pending Today

Skulduggery aside, the forces trying to stop same-sex marriage in Massachusetts will present their petitions to the town and city clerks by 5 p.m. today for verification. Given the season, it is worth nothing that we would be much more thankful if we didn't have to endure two more years of their Fright and Spite Circus.

We have every anticipation still that they can meet the low bars —— first of under 66,000 signatures and second of a quarter of the legislators in two consecutive annual session votes. However, we wonder now about the second. More legislators see the downside to being on the losing side of this issue, particular in light of the last vote on the subject. Then, there's the unAmerican and undemocratic thingummy of trying to strip existing rights from fellow citizens to suit a minority's religious beliefs...

Meanwhile, Voldemort's People, sorry, make that VoteOnMarriage.org/Massachusetts Family Institute promise to provide plenteous petitions, double the required. With many eyes of the signature-gathering fraud, thousands of sigs will surely fail the challenge, but not half of them.

This will certainly lead to huge wastes of private and public time and money.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How Strong a Rainbow?

From one angle, the Black/Asian/Latino vote in the recent Boston election was nearly inconsequential. Together, the voters of color, as analysts and some activists are wont to call them, managed to elect just one of their own as a new City Councilor, Sam Yoon.

From another viewpoint, that B/A/L bloc was extraordinary this time, more than in many decades. To wit:

  • Virtually all office seekers sought their votes, with visits, speeches and promises.
  • Black voters in Roxbury and Dorchester gave Tom Menino his landslide, something he and future mayoral hopefuls will not forget next time and the time after that.

The Team Unity co-campaigns seem more powerful than Mel King’s Rainbow Coalition of two decades ago; it now must deliver to the traditionally poor communities it represents.

Last week’s Bay State Banner ran both an analysis of the voting patterns and a preview of the New Majority Coalition, as the B/A/L winners are sometimes known. The phrase, of course, alludes to the B/A/L population being a majority over white-identified residents. Other recaps and projections are appearing, but these two cover many of the key issues.

No one is surprised that Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans vote for people who look like them and have their names. Similarly, Latinos were strong for number two Councilor winner Felix Arroyo.

However, this has added power in Boston, where racial and cultural separation is still the norm. West Roxbury could well be named White Roxbury. That neighborhood and South Boston voted strongly for the likes of Michael Flaherty. They also have high population, many of whom vote. As the Banner put it:

Thus, the white enclaves still rule the city. While no at-large candidate can prevail in a Boston election without at least a small percentage of the West Roxbury vote, candidates like Flaherty and Stephen Murphy, who consistently finish at or near the bottom of the list in black and Latino votes can still finish at the top of the citywide vote.
This go-round, many formerly indifferent or resigned voters in Dorchester, Chinatown and Roxbury slipped the old tally sheet into the machine. That is precisely what heartens the B/A/L communities.

Wisely, Menino rejected the traditional machine-politics ploy of trying to get only identified supporters to the polls. His folk pitched a get-out-the-vote effort for everyone. This turned out well indeed for Da Mare. The previously inert folks, excited by Arroyo, Yoon and a few others, voted, and very heavily for Menino.

As pretty much pinkish-white myself, I feel I can note that the 13-member Council as well as the mayor is still damned pale. The not-too-subtle pressure on Team Unity Councilors Arroyo, Yoon, Chuck Turner and Charles Yancey is to produce the stated goals for their electorate.

Before the election, the Team agreed on goals including:

  • Revised affordable housing guidelines
  • Stronger jobs-for-teens programs and cash for them
  • Reforming CORI laws that keep ex-cons from getting jobs
  • And more BPS parent-outreach coordinators

They are going to have to deal with the pale guys. Except for Yoon, the Team has relationships with them. So, let’s watch for progressive deals.

Bittersweet Nation Holiday

Hie yourself over to The Nation for a modern-day Rockwell Thanksgiving comic. Ward Sutton has the Four Freedoms, 2005. Ward Sutton cartoon snippet

You will find your bitter chuckle coming from your nodding head. Start with his FREEDOM TO DROWN OUT FREE SPEECH. Read 'em and weep. Read 'em and laugh.

Lefty Nag: Any pinko with a buck a week should subscribe to The Nation. It has had the blog benefits of insight and guts on seminal politics since 1865.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Putting the Gee in McGee

Finley McGee wedding picture

Guilty pleasure of serial solemnizer — the New York Times "Vows," a.k.a. wedding of the week.

As with those who eat a pint of B&J's ice cream solo, I stealthily cruise this column every week. Generally it is more a corporate merger of doctor's children. This week it was camp, from the picture to the cross-regional aspect to the mixed political parties.

Alabama attorney, Carl Stanley McGee wed Boston Brahamin John Huston Finley IV. The latter is a Harvard grad, grandson of a master of Eliot House (the traidtionally gay house) and a long-time Republican. They married in Finley's family Episopal parish in Newton's Church of the Redeemer. The openly gay State Senator Jarrett T. Barrios officiated.

One twist is that Finley's parents were initially upset. After all, Stan supported Democrats, including Hilary Clinton. Well, drop my port glass.

They share a strong interest in theology and had their first date-like-meeting at a servie at the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge. McGee's college chum Jennifer Bradley noted, "Stan and John are deeply consevateive and old fashioned and traditional in every way."

Mad Dad Still Pretending

Head over to MassResistanceWatch for an excellent recap of the non-news on Lexington's Mad Dad, David Parker. Bud gives an exegesis of the latest lies on the main hate site.

As we all predicted, the Mad Dad is still running from personal responsibility. Article 8 is positioning his probation as exoneration. Cut me a thin slice, please.

Thanks, Bud.

Worms Against Menino

Picture the inchworm taut in concentration. He can flex his entire body to a task...and accomplish nothing noticable.

Thus the reactionary Faithful Voice gave a boycott and nobody came.

The alleged boycott will be of the Catholic Charities fundraiser holiday dinner because it honors Da Mare, Tom Menino. FV is rubicund with rage that Boston's honcho is inclusive for gays and pro-choice.

FV's solution? Stop giving money to CC immediately. Forget that CC does the work of Jesus in helping those in need. If it even speaks to those who do not fit FV's idea of the catechism, trash 'em.

Both local rags ran an article of the inchworm announcing its efforts to bring down the giant rasorial bird that is Catholic Charities. Bwak, bwak. It is to laugh a birdy laugh.

The Boston Globe treads lightly and gives the groupette an oddly kind respect. Instead of ignoring it or running a head about a small bunch of crackpots, its article does not ridicule the impotence of the effort. The net: one contributor may back out as a result of the harrangues.

By the bye, Faithful Voice admits up front that it is a reactionary backformation to fight the Voice of the Faithful. The wanna-be boycotters claim to number 50.

FV wants to bend CC to its will and reduce contributions to it by at least $100,000. Amusingly enough, it also demands that CC stop using Catholic in its name because it doesn't measure up to the level of FV's self-righteousness.

FV mouthpiece Carol McKinley said it is "...unacceptable...to honor someone who stands in the public square and mischaracterizes our faith." She added that FV has asked 10 donors to withdraw their tables. It also wants the KofC to join it.

Donors who spoke with the Globe were considerably more Christian in their views. CC is out helping the poor and other needy and as President Paul Grogan of The Boston Foundation put it, his group will attend and continue to plow thousands into its work. "People trying to reduce funds for the poor as a way to protest the political position of the mayor is not something we have any sympathy with," he said.

God bless him.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Rapture Raptors

At a snake pit company a lot of years ago, one co-worker maintained his equanimity better than nearly anyone. When the number one and number two guys verbally savaged folk for imagined failings, Doug would invariably grin and say, "It's a scary world." That provided his detachment, his buffer.

Now, even when we don't have to work for them, we know that loonies are out there. They want us to agree with them, to make laws to suit them, hell, even to worship how, what, when, where, and in the words they do. Pushed back on, they can always broadcast their impotent threat that we're headed to hell if we don't heel.

That's amusing, but their trying to force their will on us, the nation and the world is not.

It's a scary world.

The scripture dunces need those simple, prescribed answers. They don't do reality or ambiguity. There's that Bush character in D.C. There's that Falwell guy in Virginia. We have our own versions in Boston, Newton and Lexington.

The unlikelihood of changing their minds refocused yesterday, catalyzed by two visuals:

  • For the kids, it was time for the younger boys to see the 1960 Inherit the Wind

  • The December Vanity Fair carried a long feature on evangelical Christians ready for some Messianic air travel

The fundies, politician and minister, in the movie are as representative today as when the real Scopes trial

The VF piece, American Rapture, (not online) tours with multimillionaire apocalyptic author Tim LaHaye. He has based a series of bestsellers (there are that many archconservatives fundies) on such as 1 Thessalonians, 4:16-17:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

So, don't spit your coffee...yet. Wait until you combine that with a 2002 Time/CNN poll finding that 59% of Americans "believe the events in the book of Revelation will take place." Now spew.

I confess that we are not so trendy as to read VF regularly. For airplane reading recently, my wife bought and brought the current issue. By the bye, it also contains a solid profile of the re-invented uber-blogging queen Arianna Huffington.

It is discouraging, but essential to be aware of and think about the simple-minded, emotionally drive sorts out there fighting everything progressive, from educating immigrants to same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, they are not going away anytime soon. Nor are they likely to reason or compromise.

They have a deep need for surety, which they seem to be able to satisfy only with authoritative answers from authoritarian leaders. For them, we can listen and perhaps grunt, but under no circumstances should we try to agree with them or let them subjugate our nation to their needs.

We should keep our own Bible verses handy, including Proverbs 11:29, which inspired the movie title:

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Typers and Gawkers Welcome

All hail, Left in Lowell's Lynne!

She drove the first Massachusetts blog gathering nearly solo, from concept through all preparations. It is in Worcester on Saturday, December 10th. BlogLeft logo

(Yeah, and she designed the logo, too.)

You can read about it on her site and in the press release.

The short of it is that:
  • It is a full day for bloggers to meet, talk and plot.
  • There are break-out sessions and relevant speakers.
  • You don't have to be a blogger to attend.
  • The registration form is here.
We are not worthy, oh, Lynne.

Healey Clotheslines Herself

In the wake of revelations of the Massachusetts GOP stealthily supporting the anti-same-sex marriage petition (but only to add contributors to their lists), Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey decided it was time for political suicide.

She sabotaged her likely campaign for governor by offending everyone. She announced yesterday that 1) she supported a constitutional ban on SSM and 2) she would support civil unions.

So, in a single fit of anti-elect-me statements, she:
  • Lost liberal and pro-gay voters (a majority here by poll)
  • Spit in the faces of anti-gay conservatives (a strong minority)
  • Alienated moderates who have accepted SSM as the norm and law of the commonwealth
Perhaps next week, she'll pinch a baby and kick a puppy.

She didn't have to do any of this, at least not yet. Our Cap'n Brylcreem has not said that he is stepping down to limp toward the White House. Technically, she is also not officially running for anything. More important, the Massachusetts GOP does not have a plank calling for overturning SSM here.

Unfortunately for the addled Looey, she chose a dead-end. As she put it, she favors letting the electorate re-decide this issue. Then she would try to patch things up by enabling civil unions after the fact.

On the West Coast, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried a similar ducking of the issues by saying, "Let the courts decide." Healey is trying the variation of saying, "The courts have decided. Let the voters have another go. Then let the legislature fix it."

What a lint brain! Even Tom Reilly could outpoll her for governor.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Anti-SSM, Who the GOP?

Slapping at gays and tromping on their own, the Massachusetts Republican party is clandestinely pushing the same-sex marriage ban. This is in the grand tradition of national GOP leaders from Nixon to Rove. Lie to the pubic, ignore your own party members, and commit bucks and bodies for extremist measures.

The tale appeared first Thursday in Bay Windows by the prolific and insightful Laura Kiritsy. Today's Boston Globe expanded on it a bit (and somehow didn't credit BW until nearly the end of the article).

Turns out that starting in September, the MA GOP VIPs went on the QT (who remembers Good Morning, Vietnam?). Political Director Matt St. Hilaire sent email only to party members, as Kiritsy writes, that “the party was collecting signatures for the anti-gay-marriage petition in an effort to fortify their own database of voters.” She cites one email that included:

Our goal is to identify thousands of voters statewide on a series of issues and then share that data with our candidates next fall so they can target these voters with very specific mailings and phone calls about the issues that matter to them most
Even though many state Republicans are not in the anti-gay camp, even though the majority of Massachusetts residents favor same-sex marriage, the guys with the big, swinging trunks have no problem hiding in dark corners with the extreme right wingers. They just don't let people know it is part of their program.

By the bye, neither St. Hilaire nor party Executive Director Matt Wylie would speak to BW about it.

The Globe spun this web around our wonder governor, Mitt Romney, a.k.a. Cap'n Brylcreem.He was passive when the whole SSM issue was bubbling and when he could have staked a position. Like Senate President Bobby Travaglini, he waited for the Supreme Judicial Court to show the guts he lacks. It did and now that he pines nightly for the White House, he likes to distance himself from the whole matter.

Vintage Brylcreem ad=

His latest trick was to call in unannounced to a conference call of anti-SSM petition volunteers. He spent four minutes in intimate chat with 100 of his newly closest fellow pinheads. ''He just talked about the importance of letting the people voice their opinion at the ballot box and urged them to stay strong and keep collecting them in the final weekend here,” said Robert Willington, campaign manager for VoteonMarriage.org.

The not-necessarily so Grand Old Party may have twisted some influential noses in its quiet deception. For example, Topsfield Committeewoman Nancy Luther said, ''A unilateral decision was made. Whether the chairman did it on his own or whether he was encouraged to by the governor, I don't know. I don't think it's right to do that. There should have been a vote of the state committee to participate and use party resources, employees, etc."

An irony here is that the state party loves to moan about being in the minority in this bluest of states. Yet, here it is again marginalizing itself by excluding classes of citizens from common rights, playing patronizing papa to its members, and sleeping with the most intellectually and emotionally diseased of bedfellows.

So, why do you suppose they can't get what they want out of the legislature?

Under Tom's Thumb

Surely you haven't tired of Boston mayoral politics. The Maura fantasizers seem to have pulled their covers up over their eyes and mouths. Now comes the fun for the rest of us.

Those who would have made mouthy Maura into a super-hero are quiet now. They poured the marshmallow fluff that was Hennigan into the Mayor Action Figure mold. When it opened during the campaign, not only did she not have super-powers, she couldn't even stand on her own.

In the coming four years, by the next election for mayor, we need to find a real hero. We strongly believe that our only shot is to start looking now and evaluate regularly. Leaving it to chance will at its best promise us only what we got this time. Maura was the only one with the guts to step up, and she didn't have the stuff.Menino with ballerinas=

Fortunately, over at the Boston Phoenix, Adam Reilly of Talking Politics, has picked up the drumbeat. He joined today with Is it Menino forever? We advise grabbing the file or a Fee-Knocks as a playbill. His feature is bodacious and beautiful bull, but he lists the current key and minor characters to watch.

Reilly also handicaps them, absurd on the face of it, but necessary as a placeholder. Don't wave those figures in his face in 2009. He had the nerve to name names.

A wrinkle that we have all fallen into is Da Mare's pre-election boast that he won't rule out a fifth term. We have already predicted a few times that this is his last term and Reilly agrees. However, it is easy to understand Tom's statement as politics.

First, if he wants to leave with a couple more major accomplishments, he needs folk in Council Chambers and the General Court and Governor's office to help him. If he starts a four-year term saying that he's a lame duck, other politicians will drum their fingers when he talks, if they sit down with him at all.

It is wise to pretend that he'll go for 20 years. It would be brilliant — a huge stretch for Menino — if he picked and groomed his successor, say two to three years in the term. Then he could even get reflected glory as king maker and mentor to the next guy...as in, "He never would have done these great things if I hadn't put him in office."

So, for now, check the feature, think about the existing candidates, start figuring out what we need from a Mayor Action Figure. Reilly offers a little insight mixed with a lot of gossip and many clichés. It's enough to warm the wintery evening.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Terrible Travis Traveling

Alleged Democrat from Rehoboth, State Representative Phil Travis, is tired of fighting this and that, including same-sex marriage. He announced yesterday that he won't run for reelection. He did the old more-time-with-my-family routine.

The 12-term legislator frequently co-sponsored bills with his anti-gay chum Rep. Emile Goguen.

Travis is a lot brighter than Goguen and has actually done from decent work. He has this problem with homosexuals in general and same-sex marriage in particular, but is not impossible. As Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus Co-Chair Arline Isaacson puts it, "As stridently as we disagree (on SSM), we've always worked together very well."

It is unlikely that the Rehobothians will field an articulate and connected replacement. It's a loss for the anti-gay folk. Pity, eh?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Sincerity of Arnold

Back in early September, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had the same chance as the legislature. They took it and legalized same-sex marriage. Massachusetts West.

Arnie, however, all but said through his spokesmodel that he would veto it. He wanted to hide behind the court process rather than make law, make history, make right.

Many of us signed petitions online or on paper. Many of us, including MassMarrier, wrote him as well.

Now, over two months in the making, ta da, we received our form letter. It follows and needs no additional comment:
Subject: Re:Same Gender Marriages
From: governor@govmail.ca.gov

Thank you for emailing to express your position regarding Assembly Bill 849 (Leno). I understand the importance of this piece of legislation and the outcome it would have on our State and nation as a whole. After extensive consideration and thorough deliberation from proponents and opponents of this issue, I have decided to veto this bill.

I am proud California is a leader in recognizing and respecting domestic partnerships and the equal rights of domestic partners. I believe that lesbian and gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationships. I support current domestic partnership rights and will continue to vigorously defend and enforce these rights and as such will not support a rollback of these rights.

California Family Code Section 308.5 was enacted by an initiative statute passed by the voters as Proposition 22 in 2000. Article II, section 10 of the California Constitution prohibits the Legislature from amending this initiative statute without a vote of the people. This bill does not provide for such a vote and I do not believe the Legislature can reverse an initiative approved by the people of California.

The ultimate issue regarding the constitutionality of section 308.5 and its prohibition of same-sex marriage is currently before the Court of Appeals in San Francisco and will likely be decided by the Supreme Court. If the ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, this bill is not necessary. If the ban is constitutional, this bill is ineffective.

While I was not able to sign this bill in particular, I did sign legislation to extend the rights of domestic partners. Last legislative session I signed SB 1234 (Kuehl), the most comprehensive extension of domestic partner rights. This session I signed AB 1400 (Laird), which clarifies that marital status and sexual orientation are among the characteristics that are protected against discrimination by business establishments under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. I also signed AB 1586 (Koretz) which adds additional language to already existing anti-discrimination provision to clarify that State law prohibits insurance companies and health care service plans from discriminating on the basis of gender in the creation or maintenance of service contracts or the provision of benefits or coverage.

Thank you again for taking the time to voice your opinion. Taking the time to communicate your opinions and concern shows that California's people are engaged in issues that affect the well being and future of our State.

Sincerely,

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Massachusetts and its Anemic Neighbors

The political climate in New England is like the Caribbean weather — many similarities, but not homogeneous. Massachusetts trumped Vermont with same-sex marriages to civil unions, but the direction of this fairly liberal region in a pretty conservative nation is unsettled.

So, for trends we have:

  • The entire region has anti-discrimination laws.

  • Two states have civil unions.

  • One has same-sex marriage.

  • One has a government that says it will recognize all Massachusetts marriages

And yet, with the exception of Vermont, every New England state has its own version of that Fright and Spite Circus. Every state has anti-gay groups actively campaigning against extending rights, fighting to prevent or rescind same-sex marriage, and repeatedly and shrilly prophesying disaster for any tolerance or protection of homosexuals. Like Doomsday cults, no matter how many times they are proved totally wrong, they are only more strident and sure in their ravings.

Yet, in the mid-term, it is not hard to extrapolate inclusive Northeast and Northwest slabs sandwiching a fearful and still reactionary continental United States. Oh, yes, there is that little matter of Canada, showing daily as a nation that you can have your Charter of Rights and freedom too.

It may be a long time before Maine even considers civil unions, much less that other form. In New Hampshire, Republicans and other reactionaries will continue to do their damnedest to see that no one even talks about such matters. Vermont has settled into a comfort with civil unions and might only begin recognizing Massachusetts same-sex marriages. Rhode Island seems fairly commonsensical; it could join us in evil next.

Then there is poor Connecticut. It fetched and moaned, tossed and tripped on its way to civil unions. By the time it got there, most of its gay citizens were not interested. They can fairly smell the real thing wafting from the near North. We suspect both court and legislative efforts to make that into a same-sex marriage state.

Out West, despite the bluster, California, Oregon and Washington are all likely mid-term SSM states, by legislature or court.

The Fright and Spite ringmasters will not stop announcing their horrifying acts. Yet, pragmatic Americans seem to sway as they consider co-workers, cousins, brothers and friends, who are gay and married, partnered or in a civil union. Nothing bad happens to anyone. The myth of the raging drag queen bed bunny representing all gays gives way to the normality that the ringmasters and their clowns so fear and despise.

America will eventually welcome its own, but why is it so hard?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Fractured Bishops

Episcopals are on the lip of the chasm. They are much like 19th Century Congregational churches here in New England. From the sweeping Unitarian movement fostered by the unassuming Federal Street Church's William Ellery Channing, many of those old-line Yankee churches split on doctrine.

Unlike Roman Catholic churches, where the Pope's kids own nearly everything, the congregations owned their churches. When the majority would vote for the progressive, Jesus-as-man, non-creedal religion, the fundies left in a huff. The common rejoiner on the way out was, "We kept the faith. They kept the silver."

Now conservative Episcopal Church U.S.A. bishops have joined with some Latino, African and Anglican bishops in driving to separate from those gay-loving, pro-same-sex marriage and civil union progressives. The festering lesions erupted two years ago when the church consecrated New Hampshire priest V. Gene Robinson as a bishop.

Note: Remember that episcopal means relating to governance by bishops. They are the decision makers in these churches.

Check the national Website or any of the state ones. You'll find nothing of this, but at their conferences and convocations, the bishops speak openly and strongly. Consider:
  1. Early this month, the Massachusetts congregations chickened out and did the political two-step. They chose not to vote on a report calling for U.S. and Canadian moratoria on same-sex blessings. They called for more study instead.
  2. In contrast the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, diocese reaffirmed alignment with Anglicans in opposing ordaining openly gay clergy and that moratorium. The clergy vote was 85 to 12, nine abstaining.
Last Friday, over 2,000 Episcopal and Anglican leaders in Pittsburgh preparing for next June's general convocation spoke as though the split was just a matter of time. Basically, Caribbean, African and Asian bishops and other clergy gave notice that, come June, there had to be a reversion or they were taking their bibles and going home.

As West Indies Primate, Archibishop Drexel Wellington Gomez put it, he demands an "adequate" response to the warnings, but does not expect it. "(G)iven our present mood, the convention will most certainly be followed by some action. We have worked too hard, too long, to leave it like that." South East Asia Primate, Archbishop Datuk Yoong Ping Chung added, "We sill stand with you as long as you remain faithful, biblical, evangelican and orthodox."

A commission from the Anglican church stirred the pot by demanding an apology for consecrating Bishop Robinson. They didn't get it.

The hard line of the fundies may be most clear in the comment of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert W. Duncan — "There's no way for these two conflicted faiths to live under the same roof."

The two sides seem to view each other as misguided, as either neo-Puritans or fallen modernists.

The inclusionary folks talk that reason stuff, but the conservatives don't seem interested. President of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, Lionel Deimel said, "My preference is that we all stand together and work out our differences and in some cases accept our differences." On the other side, Archbishop Gomez was, how shall we put it, less concillatory. "Anglicanism is really now in a state of flux. . . . We are being forced into this by people who are teaching something new and something totally different. I put the blame squarely on their shoulders.''

So there.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

BBC v. BBC v. Blogging

Depending on the day, we get two or three newspapers delivered. That doesn't count what we get on the street or in the mail. In the post-print era, that must hover between an addiction and a fetish.

In our defense, both of us were newspaper reporters and magazine writers. We know no other way. Besides, we still take great pleasures – to the eye, nose and fingertips as well as the heart and mind – in print. I am considered freakish when I sit on panels judging technical manuals now if I mention how a coated stock enhances the colors or simply feels good.

TV is hardly ever on. We only recently got cable when Comcast, our Internet pusher, bundled in basic for nothing. ("Psst. Psst. The first 100 channels are free...")

Yet, we do blog and then there's radio. While those may seem to lie on opposite ends of an information spectrum, to us, they are of a piece.

BBC radio has been an important part for years. Lately, I have mused on my old favorites, and then on the program that was lately my personal Charybdis, giving me a very brief spin.

By cracky, in the old days (up till last year), my commute between 4 and 5 a.m. involved Outlook and if I delayed a bit, Off the Shelf. Those are classic BBC style. There was a couple of lengthy features riffing on hard news and some good literature, generally read by the author. For example, a current Outlook included a long report on the famine in Malawi from a Beeb talker there. The following Off the Shelf was an episode of Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy novel of a Hindu family in the throes of matchmaking.

I shall have an abiding affection for Off the Shelf's introducing me to Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies.

Since my encounter with the newish World Have Your Say, I've been comparing old-style Beeb with new and with blogs. They are the same and different.

Sked notes: Locally, you can hear Outlook and Off the Shelf on WBUR from 4:05 a.m. five days. It runs World Have Your Say from 1:05 p.m. The links above offer feeds of recent programs, plus broadcast times in less and more civilized locales.

Comparing Combs

The short of it is that World Have Your Say is more sensationalist than Outlook, even for the exact same topics. Yet, even this falls far short of the panting and slobbering typical of The Sun and other such British tabloids. Blogs, of course, can be as nice, as nasty, as intellectual, or as visceral as you'd wish

On the current French riots, for example, World Have Your Say returns daily. It deals mostly experientially, as its name implies. Folks who are there – hopeless youth, xenophobic silver hairs, and coping officials — call in or email comments and questions. It is a town hall with all the egotism and self-righteousness you'd expect. It is both exhausting and edifying to listen to it. More more than the standard news-reader style of Outlook, this program makes you filter and focus.

Returning this morning from another ritual, the Haymarket food-gathering cycle, I heard Scott Simon in that other style on Weekend Edition Saturday. It was both smarter and less exciting, or at least less tantalizing, than either Beeb show. He covered two politically and emotionally loaded topics, the French riots and the Iraq war, but tunneling down with a single source in the former case and a father/son pair in the latter.

Simon did what we bloggers typically do, keyed off on a new item, article or book. In these two stories, he had the clout to interview the original sources, but the technique was similar. Hot topic is analyzed by a keen observer and personalized in commentary.

One air piece was philosopher/journalist Bernard-Henri Levy discussing the French riots and their causes. He was quite insightful and dealt at length with the failure of the French model of integrating immigrants. In contrast to the American ideal of a melting pot (lame and inaccurate, but he was too kind to say so), he said the French version was that the day you arrived, you were no longer a whatever-French, rather simply French. He said that was fantasy and they were bearing the burden of it now.

That was a stark contrast to the chatty, personal and self-absorbed World Have Your Say speakers.

Simon's next was novelist Frederick Busch and his Marine major son discussing Iraq and adult children in harm's say. The dad has the cover essay on this in the November Harpers. This was poignant and powerful. However, at no time did either Busch criticize Bush. The personal aspects were such as the son having to cut short a phone call because of rocket explosions and the dad being speechless with joy at seeing the son meet for the first time and cuddle his one-year-old daughter on returning from his duty tour.

Who Gives What?

On a spectrum of information, you could get the most from a rigorous hour hitting blogs, then from Outlook, then from World Have Your Say, and finally from Weekend Edition Saturday. On a spectrum of combined intellectual and emotional demands, you'd typically get the lightest load from Outlook, then from blog reading, then from Weekend Edition Saturday, and most from World Have Your Say. Again, the latter makes you work the most to filter and interpret. At the end, you earn it and own it.

Simon is reserved but makes a deep impact. Outlook has a similar depth but a bit harder edge. Blog cruising is mostly what you make of it, but it is far less in your face and ears than World Have Your Say. A day including all four on the same topic could exhaust you. There would be worse things to do with your mind and feelings.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Cap'n on a Reef

Vintage Brylcreem ad=Our benighted Governor Mitt Romney did it yet again. Yesterday, he was in D.C. slamming the state and distancing himself from its citizens and government. Then he returns home and says it was just in fun or wasn't what he meant.

This time, he spoke before the arch-conservative Federalist Society. Very plainly and in context, he said that the four of seven Supreme Judicial Court justices who ruled in favor of granting marriage licenses to homosexual couples were forcing their personal, not legal, beliefs on the commonwealth. As the Globe report put it "legalizing gay marriage to please 'their like-minded friends in the communities they socialize in.'"

Attorney General Tom Reilly wants to be the next governor. He was quick to contradict our Cap'n Brylcreem. Now the Cap'n says he really wasn't implying what he said.

While Reilly has been all over the board on his SSM views, he is savvy enough not to ridicule the state and its officials in public. This time the AG got to say, "It's one thing for the governor to disagree with their interpretation and decision; it's another thing to question their motivation. He has absolutely no right to do that. I don't always agree with their decision. But I don't question their motivation."

Romney must have been giddy with the excitement being in a room with so many righties. He laughed at a joke tying our U.S. Senators with the Klan and followed it with the slurs of our highest judges.

That left Reilly with the high road. No matter how fast Mitt backs up, he is stuck in the muddy ruts.

No orator normally, Reilly got to point out the vastly disparate backgrounds of the four SJC justices. He concluded, "Four people of distinctly different backgrounds came to the same conclusion. Whether you agree with it or not, they deserve to be treated with respect."

Oh, Cap'n, I think your wig's on too tight.

Quietly into Law in Maine

Up in Augusta, Mainers are efficiently and subtly preparing to implement their civil rights protections for homosexuals. Following the failure of the ham-fisted drive to strip sexual orientation from anti-discrimination laws and regulations, folks are readying for what they predict will be an underwhelming public response.

The secretary of state, governor and human-rights commission are all doing their bit. The former has until November 28th to certify the defeat of Question 1. The governor will likely sign it within a day to make it the law of the state, 30 days after he does so. The rights commission will evaluate complaints.

The AP also has a recap in today's wires. Maine Human Rights Commission Executive Director Pat Ryan expects "business as usual" for her five member commission. She checked with other states with similar laws and projects a dozen or so complaints a year.

Its investigators recommends per case whether there are grounds for rights violations. Then the commission tries to arbitrate between the parties. Only when they cannot get agreement, do they head to court.

Clarity from Chelsea

In a fit of common sense, a former leading opponent of same-sex marriage says it is time for the state to move on. Representative Eugene O'Flaherty told Bay Windows that he is up for the real business of the legislature instead.

This is particularly significant also because he chairs the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. He said that in the likely event that legislation to outlaw same-sex marriage comes before his committee, he will recommend not passing it.

Representative O'FlahertyO'Flaherty speaks of his evolution and being influenced by constituents. Most obviously, "I want to try to dispose of this issue. It has occupied the last three years of my life: a lot of time, a lot of energy, and I'd like to apply that to healthcare. I"d like to apply that to some of the other issues that we have in front of us, that as far as I'm concerned, are much more important to our constituents at this point."

He also spoke of his constituents' influence. One was Ken Stone, a gay Charlestown activist. O'Flaherty attended his SSM last year.

Very pro-SSM Senator Jarrett Barrios notes that "Representative O'Flaherty has stature among precisely those legislators who are on the fence and can persuade them, I believe quite effectively, to oppose this ballot initiative."

We had given up on keeping the initiative off the ballot. The bar –– less than 66,000 signatures and a quarter of the legislature in two votes –– is so low. Yet, such events as O'Flaherty's awakening are heartening.

Does this belong in the ex-anti-gay record book?

If a Donkey Brays in the Wilderness...

Brylcreem adWoe to our own Captain Brylcreem, a.k.a. Governor Willard Mitt Romney. He went to D.C. and all he got was coverage in the Boston newspapers.

Speaking to the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, he let a KKK zinger in his introduction pass unchallenged. Then he made a personal attack on the four SJC justices who decided same-sex marriage here.

Clearly, our Cap'n has not abandoned his dream of parking his twin hair brushes on a White House lavoratory vanity.

Amusingly though, while he was posturing and strutting, no one outside Route 128 noticed. Both local papers here mentioned his appearance before the reactionary Federalist Society, but neither the wires, nor broadcast, nor the Times, nor even the Washington press paid any attention. Instead, at the same conference, Samuel Alito's long-term membership was news and Karl Rove's speech insulting democrats was big news.

So our Cap'n, still hungry to be POTUS, must have thought big thinks in planning his oration. What if he gave a speech and everyone was updating his PDA at the time? Did he really deliver?

Not Funny

Well, the Klan introduction made both our provincial rags. The Herald hides it on page six in KKK crack miffs Mitt's Dem foes. For some bizarre reason, the Globe led with Romney's speechlet.

That was a stupid line in Romney's intro by New York lawyer Gerald Walpin – "Today, when most of the country thinks of who controls Massachusetts. I think the modern-day KKK comes to mind, the Kennedy Kerry Klan." The insensate Cap'n and the regressive Federalist Yahoos laughed. He subsequently claimed he was cruising his notes. Right. Since then, normal humans have pointed out the unbelievable crassness of the remark and he has tried to distance himself from it. Too late.

Dissing Maggy

Our Cap'n came to the podium pandering to the Federalists by making personal slurs on the four judges who clarified the legality of same-sex marriage here. Rather than disagreeing, he went ad hominem.

If a judge substitutes his or her values for those values that were placed in the constitution, they do so at great peril to the culture of the entire land...Now my judicially, philosophically oriented liberal fiends were happy, even celebratory. What' wrong, they say, with allowing judges to expand the constitution to do what they and other intelligent people think is the right thing to do?

He added that the court has a choice – "the law or...the social proclivities of the community of thought (with) which the court associates." Cap'n speak: "Will be it the law, or will it be social congratulations?"

The justices' simple finding that the commonwealth's constitution and other laws do not have and never had enshrined discrimination. This blog has covered this many times, including here. There was no legal, no constitutional justification for denying marriage to same-sex couples. That's the law here, Cap'n. Read it and weep.

Po' POTUS Possibilities

So poor Cap'n Brylcreem insulted his commonwealth's highest judges, accusing them of putting gut over mind, liberal clique over duty. But he didn't even come home with a Federalist Society t-shirt.

Someone may point out that he and the legislature had about two years to act before the SJC got to the case. They could have tried to put discrimination on the books. They thought about it. They idled impotently.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Not in Texas, Son!

“Oh, you’re from New Jersey?” the cabbie in Columbia asked me a lot of years ago on the ride from the airport. “You'll like it here. South Carolina isn’t like Mississippi or Alabama or one of those states.”

Well, he was kind of right. South Carolina wasn’t like one of those states. It was one of them.

Likewise, Texas continues to show itself as a true yahoo capital.

In Tuesday’s vote, it looks like three out of four Alamo remembers wanted a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. So, in five years or maybe 25, when Texas comes into the warmth to join the rest of the first world in permitting SSM, it will have to go through the cumbersome and humiliating task of another amendment.

Much like the 18th and 21st amendments to the U.S. Constitution banning booze, then legalizing it, the oops factor is enormous.

Meanwhile, the remnants of the WWII and Korean War generations are dying, taking their peculiar and conservative ways with them. The Gen-X and Y folk don’t understand the fuss over SSM, in the main.

In places like that…it is the Baby Boomers who are much more like their parents in fearing change and admitting reality that does not fit with their stereotypes. So, it may take that 25 years while laws change around Texas, while other DoMA states come to their democratic senses. Even seeing that SSM harms no one and no institution does little to change emotions...in places like that.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mainers Still Against Someone

When we asked where the yipping dogs of torment will go, we already had a good idea that most Mainers were tired of legally slapping homosexuals around.

Yet, the howling started again only hours after the vote upholding the state's anti-discrimination law. The ever self-righteous minister Sandy Williams promised a DoMA amendment. Also, Mike I'm-not-a-minister-but-I-play-one-on-the-Internet Heath slimed his way to an even less credible than usual scare prediction of ensuing teen suicide.

One must admire even the clumsiest of jesters for their efforts to entertain.

Williams, head of the Coalition for Marriage (warning: Website an unofficial candidate for least useful and ugliest in the state), was disappointed that his efforts to permit everyone to discriminate freely against gays lost. His church, as all religious institutions, is exempt and can be as bigoted and hateful as they'd like, short of physical violence. He'd like everyone to experience such privilege.

Now, as he put it, "(W)e remain committed to marriage as the beautiful and loving union between a man and a woman." His related solution is to force everyone to obey his religious views as a matter of law. The obvious answer is to go beyond the state law defining marriage that way, beyond the limit in the gay-rights wording saying that it in no way permits any form of gay unions, and to enshire his view in the state's constitution.

Nice guy, eh?

The Jester in Chief, Mr. Heath of the Christian Civic League of Maine, pouted and shrieked in his blog-like object. He excused his failure to strip homosexuals of basic legal rights against discrimination. You see, it was only a matter of money and certainly not his fault. Business owners "told us then that they couldn't contribute to the campaign. They were afraid of reprisals."

Now the fact that Maine Won't Discriminate got the supporters, the contributions, and the votes seems to have no meaning to him. Surely it couldn't be because they were in the right and people recognized it.

Disclosure: We donated to Maine Won't Discriminate.

So now, Heath claims his "biggest concern" is the poor children who will suffer because people can't discriminate against gays in housing, employment, lending, education and lodging. The misguided liberal educators will now tell kids "that all their sexual urges are legitimate and moral. They sincerely believe that this will head off youth suicides. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. If we start teaching our children to go against nature we are going to reap the whirlwind socially, morally and culturally."

Vanna, Mike wants to buy some punctuation...some reasoning ability...some personal responsibility.

We can't avoid the feeling that these characters are about keeping their Fabulous Fright and Spite Circus in business. Perhaps both will start shifting their fund-raising to efforts at passing that state amendment. It worked in Texas. If they can get the dwindling anachronisms fired up about that, they can keep the dirty dollars flowing.

As the expression goes, God help them. We used to think that about Maine, but Maine seems to be able to take care of itself.

Now and Next for Beantown

The first thought of God was an angel. The first word of God was a man.
--Kahlil Gibran

Much in that vein, New Boston is still high concept. The reality is better than bad, but far from the ideal.

Yesterday’s elections were much like state and local ones are supposed to be. The incumbents won handily. Few new Lancelots, untainted by political dirt and not yet sagging from constituent services, will sit at the old table of governance.

Key players to watch in City Council are Felix Arroyo and Sam Yoon.

Thing 1

Felix is ambitious and accomplished. He also has put on the mantle of cultural hero, representing first Latinos and next others of color.

He was very hungry to be top vote getter. Instead, he came in second again to Council President Michael Flaherty, nearly 16% of the vote to his nearly 18%. While both were impressive margins in a four-for-eight preference poll, Flaherty pretty much has the presidency again, and the best shot at mayor next time.

We are betting that the region’s troubles with the strictures the commonwealth places on the city keep Menino from accomplishing enough for Boston in the next term. He’ll likely step down, old, worn, exhausted.

Felix might be able to change that in the next four years. He is at least as bright as Flaherty and with much keener vision and stronger passions and compassion. If he produces a viable program for advancing Boston as a city, while bringing along the least of its citizens, he could be the next mayor.

Let’s watch.

Thing 2

Oddly and delightfully enough, Sam Yoon followed the big kids with nearly 15% of the vote. He is the best and brightest.

For tokenism, he is the city’s first Asian-American Councilor (shame on us). It is a tad amusing and predictable that the established order is like Faulknerian inbreeding. The Irish-American, then Italian-American voters pushed the old WASPs from the Council decades ago. Voters were not interested in other subgroups until recently.

Now Arroyo has shown real stuff. Yoon is even more promising.

The two of them may not be able to wag the 13-Councilor dog. Then again, they may, together or separately.

It is far too early to predict, but Yoon appears to be the sort of politician that this, or any city, could use by the dozen.

Let’s watch. Let’s also hope that the stolid Councilors, like Jim Kelly, don’t tromp on or end run the initiatives from the Lancelots.

Numbers

The incumbents pretty much maintained status quo in the mayoral and district councilor races. Their numbers were 60% to 70%.

That doesn’t speak well of Boston voters. Not only was turnout well under 40% — shameful for such a heavily contested set of elections, but where there was a chance for real improvement, voters punked.

The most obvious was the odious Jim Kelly. He got nearly 61% to Susan Passoni’s nearly 39%. He has a long documented history of regressive politics and bigotry. He is definitely Old Boston or really Old South Boston.

In contrast, she offered progressive politics and a hopeful voice to the largely blue-collar voters. They stayed with the schlemiel.

Oddly enough, Kelly recently came around on same-sex marriage. Perhaps if he stays on Council and lives to be 137, he could become reasonable and liberal.

Finally for the Council, the tough vote was in my JP District (6). John Tobin got the incumbent’s nearly 64%. Gibran Rivera had nearly 36%.

This was not like the Kelly/Passoni fight. Rivera looks like a good guy, a very good guy. Unfortunately, he was up against a Councilor who not only has the right politics, but one who has delivered new programs, voted progressively, and provided services for the locals.

Tobin was the right choice, but Rivera deserves a spot somewhere.

Mayor Maura Maybe

In a The Onion style keeper, the Dig’s cover carries a banner head “HENNIGAN DEFEATS MENINO”. It is down to the old tabloid-newspaper style of extra editions.

Nicely done, Tak Toyoshima, Dig art director.

Pick one up and tuck it in your collectable pubs box. Only a thumbnail is online. It is, after all, their art cover.

As a sample, the sidebar reads:

BULLETIN

A group of Maura Hennigan supporters gathered on the Common late Tuesday to heave handfuls of flowers and candy, and pull down a statue of Mayor Thomas Menino before a sea of TV cameras.

“All praise due Maura!” one yelled, while hitting the felled Menino statue with his shoe.

“She is our dear leader,” another yelled, fumbling to get her shoe off, before collapsing into a heap and ululating until police helped her up.

However sincere those gathered appeared to be, police were skeptical.

“I don’t think I remember seeing a Menino statue on the Common,” one said. “I think they might have actually brought it with them.”

Word, Mainers!

The Potato People done good. With 86% of the precincts in, they defeated the mean-spirited repeal of gay rights effort. The vote is likely 55 or 56% in favor of keeping sexual-orientation protections in housing, employment and the like.

More will follow as the results are final. However, let it be said that Maine is not a liberal, Democratic hotbed of political correctness and all like that. In a long, difficult campaign, Mainers turned a corner and headed for the light. After knocking down gay-rights protections twice previously in the past seven years, they decided that being fair to fellow citizens was the way life should be.

We can hold off to see how the CCL and the handful of fundy ministers react. We predict it will be an "Ever downward, Christian soldiers!" battlecry of continued bigotry. Let's see.

Just Enough, Too Late

Perhaps the Massachusetts Senate has its heart and head right on the petition fraud in gathering signatures to advance the anti-same-sex marriage ballot initiative. In voting to criminalize bait-and-switch in the petition process, it moved forward a long-overdue step that should benefit everyone.

On the other hand, it is very likely that the damage has already been done. Thousands of fraudulent signatures will pass through the process. For future such initiatives, regardless leftish or rightsish, this is the right thing to have on the books. The new bill in the senate form would make deceiving someone into signing a petiton they would not intend to punishable by $1,000 per offense.

Of course, the House needs to pass it too.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Live Stifled, Then Die

The Republican-dominated marriage panel in New Hampshire is only a few weeks away from a disgraceful avoidance of duty. During their final meeting, they voted against considering Vermont-style civil unions. The final report is due to the legislature December first.

Ironically, while conservatives and regressives nationwide scream, "Let the people decide!," this panel is ignoring the dozens of statewide hearings. There, the people said let the legislature discuss same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnership. Instead, this group of hacks is pushing a DoMA agenda, for the heterosexual lifestyle, as it were.

As the very conservative panel chair, Republican Representative Tony Soltani chose to put it, "Society has to be prepared to agree to accept something before we shove it down their throat. If we adopt this, it'll be no more than an experiment that we inflict on our children."

So, the legislature isn't even supposed to talk about any of the topics. Leadership means hiding behind pretending that you can't even discuss something until the public has a groundswell in favor of it.

Pathetic.

Check the full AP coverage of the last meeting here.

Mayoral Heir Air

Sing a song of Boston mayors. It almost always goes like this:
  • Neighborhood good guy (or rarely good gal) elected to City Council
  • After a couple of terms and much politicking, elected Council President
  • Mayor finally decides to step down
  • Council President elected mayor
Let us keep this in mind for today's balloting. Let us get involved more actively in finding one or two great candidates for the next election, in 2009 or sooner if Menino steps down, dies or gets abducted by aliens.

Goodness, it is, as Yoda might say. A mayor should have governmental experience and the Council is a logical place.

On the other hand, Councilors and Mayors alike invariably carp that the Mayor is too little power, because he is beholden to the state, can't tax the many state and federal operations, and sees the city's money go to support the rest of the state. Likewise, they complain that what power there is in government here all goes to the Mayor, that the Council is almost impotent.

So, we sit at a table illustrating the state of the city politic. One candidate has done a pretty good job as long-term mayor but is neither Cicero nor Caesar, not the orator nor the great leader. The other is like a football player at the end of her career. She wants a Super Bowl ring before she goes out. Yet, she lacks a vision or a plan to turn a good team into a championship one.

It is a less than satisfying meal. On the voter, media and blogger side, we have most of us going for Menino. He's the devil we know, he's accomplished a lot, and Hennigan has planned this for four years and couldn't come up with a program for the city. The Phoenix and the bloggers who have endorsed Hennigan seem to have unreasonable, but understandable, hopes that somehow once she got in office, the Vision Fairy would come to her new office, touch her forehead with a wand, and good things would rain upon us while she reigned.

So, our job as do-gooder pinkos is to look at the current field, consider them, and look ahead to the mayor we deserve.

President Michael Flaherty has the traditional lead for 2010. Yet, he has a folk hero, Felix Arroyo, a leader and voter favorite in Council. If Sam Yoon get an at-large seat, he may wow us too and come from behind. Although, in Boston terms, four years is scant tenure.

Flaherty is in the old mold, and not nearly populist enough for me. Arroyo is very promising and has not let his pragmatism overrule his compassion.

Is there someone else we need to look at? Is our champion among those three?

Wednesday, let the auditions begin!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Number 1-2-3-4 with a Bullet

Tuesday’s at-large councilor vote in Boston has some of us weighing bullet voting again. Do you vote for fewer than the maximum allowable candidates, to give your favorite(s) a better shot in a smaller number of total votes cast?

Mathematicians don’t favor it. Then again, they and some policy wonks often favor preference voting to cumulative voting. However, we do not have that option.

A search for bullet voting offers too many choices. Fortunately, a Dorchester blog learning strategies not only discusses the key issues, but it also plugs in the names of the local candidates.

Come Tuesday at 7 a.m., Boston voters can choose up to four of eight at-large candidates. Of course, most vote for four, even if they only feel strongly in favor to one or two.

By the bye, in case you have forgotten, the two that you need to feel strongly about are Felix Arroyo and Sam Yoon.

As Larry Davidson at learning strategies notes, whether you vote for one, two, three or four candidates depends mathematically on how you think the rest of the electorate views the race.
  1. If you think a favorite is on the edge of winning or losing by a few votes, a single bullet vote for that candidate will least dilute the outcome and may make the difference.

  2. On the other hand, if a favorite is very likely to lose, a bullet vote might rob your second or third choice of enough votes to beat someone you don’t like.
Note: Start with the blog post and check the Bayesian probabilities link if you want to see the stats to back up the concepts.

In this case, I am betting that my two favorites have high enough profiles and enough endorsements to win. I still have to decide whether I feel strongly enough about other candidates to try to make sure no one climbs a ladder run because of my behavior. Think. Think. Think.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Peers Peering at Polls

The Freakonomics guys ask Why Vote in today's NY Times maggy. That link should be good for a week. The supporting research is on the Freakonomics site, but unfortunately, they route you to the Times expiro-link for the article.

The short of it includes:
  • Every vote counts is a cliché without legs. In over 56,000 national and state legislative races since 1898, there were pitifully few close elections.
  • When it counts the most, the voters don't decide. Remember five conservative Supremes handing George the Lesser the 2000 election.
Oddly enough, Switzerland figured it had the solution when its voters stopped clogging the polls. While they used to vote at every toot of the alpenhorn, they participated measurably less. The country instituted vote-by-mail for all registered voters in all 26 cantons, phased by years. They would get ballots by mail and return the completed ones.

Turnout decreased, more so in small cantons and the smaller communities.

This led the Freakonomics folk to surmise that we may vote because we are expected to, because of peer pressure. If neighbors see us at the poll, they know we have done our socially acceptable duty. If not, tsk, tsk. As they concluded:
In other words, we do vote out of self-interest - a conclusion that will satisfy economists - but not necessarily the same self-interest as indicated by our actual ballot choice. For all the talk of how people "vote their pocketbooks," the Swiss study suggests that we may be driven to vote less by a financial incentive than a social one. It may be that the most valuable payoff of voting is simply being seen at the polling place by your friends or co-workers.
Locally and regionally, on the other hand, we have issues that I am wired about. I wish I could vote against the Maine initiative to rescind gay rights on Tuesday. I sure am going to try to get my guys in City Council. I don't care whether you see me at the polls.

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