Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Big "So What?" on SSM Vote

Although it included a mild surprise, the thrust of today's Supreme Judicial Court ruling on the same-sex marriage suit was the obvious one. The AP and Boston Globe report that there's nothing they can do legally to force the legislature to vote on a ballot initiative in Constitutional Convention.

Traveler's Apology: We're on the road. However, so far there is decent coverage and links on this news at Blue Mass Group.

The surprise is that the unanimous decision included a mention that the combined legislature is constitutionally required to vote on such amendment petitions. This is a strict interpretation of the state constitution's Article 48. Everyone agrees that its spongy wording requires that any final action on a petition must be by vote. The decision includes:
The members of the joint session have a constitutional duty to vote, by the yeas and nays, on the merits of all pending initiative amendments before recessing on January 2, 2007. With respect to legislative action on proposals for constitutional amendments introduced to the General Court by initiative petition, the language of art. 48 is not ambiguous.
That may change future such ConCon actions. However, the decision also noted that there could be no court-imposed legal remedy for inaction.

The suit was theater by our POTUS-envying outgoing governor. We rather doubt that he scored any points in his stagger toward Washington with this one. Instead, it serves to remind potential voters of Willard Mitt Romney's inability to lead in marriage equality for any side.

This was the expected result and likely seals this poison petition's nasty fate. Itty boo, Mitt.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

It's Official in New Jersey

Well, New Jersey was quick if not complete. The legislature passed a civil-union bill in under two months following a court order mandating marriage equality. Today, Governor Jon Corzine signed it into law.

This certainly was a fair leap in the right direction. Yet, it is bound to annoy many and inspire them to further action.

Garden State Equality folk want and pledge to work for full marriage. On the other side, the AP article found one group deluding itself into imagining a repeal:
''It's same-sex marriage without the title,'' said John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage. ''It uproots the cardinal values of our culture.''He said opponents would push for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex unions in New Jersey, no matter what they're called.
Fat chance, John-o. The situation in Jersey is very similar to that here, and in fact, apparently partially responding to the lack of problems following full marriage legalization in Massachusetts. In New Jersey the vast majority of voters favor marriage equality. If the legislators had had just a bit more guts, they would have gone the simpler way and expanded marriage to be gender neutral.

In the accompanying AP photo of the signing, Corzine signed the civil-union law while Garden State Equality CEO Steven Goldstein hugged Senator Loretta Weinberg.

The Northeast is shaping up to be quite a thumb in the eye of America, or at least the anti-gay portions.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Marriage Bluster Before High Court

Arguments on the suit to force the anti-same-sex-marriage amendment onto the 2008 ballot were before the Supreme Judicial Court today. Over at Blue Mass Group, David live blogged it.

The short recap is that he figures it ended up pretty well where we said it would -- the SJC doesn't have and won't try to claim the power to force the legislature to vote on it.

The Boston Globe brief coverage also stresses Assistant Attorney General Peter Sack's defense position. He suggested that the only recourse voters who favored the ballot initiative had was to organize and vote out the majority of legislators who voted to recess, likely killing the amendment. If the combined two houses do not have a quorum or otherwise do not vote on this amendment when they come out of recess on January 2nd, it will share Jacob Marley's well known status.

Our avocational governor, Willard Mitt Romney, signed onto the suit as a private citizen, for theatrical and political reasons. He seems to know that he can't be GOP candidate for POTUS in two years unless he at least tries to kick gays. He's late to the game, but is begging to come off the bench.

In all likelihood both the state-level suit and its even more absurd federal version will flame out shortly. This leads us to wonder whether Romney will get any benefit at all from such silliness. We don't see him having any real chance to be on the GOP 2008 ticket no matter how many dumb tricks he pulls.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Witness in Worcester

Unless his buds Sean Cardinal O'Malley and Ray Ex-Progressive Flynn convince him otherwise, Larry Cirignano is not likely to do the right thing. The executive director of Catholic Citizenship will be charged with simple assault in Worcester.

Observations of a witness follow in this post. The Worcester Telegram report on the complaint has victim, aggressor and police comments. Today's report says Cirignano will appear before a clerk magistrate who will decide whether there's enough evidence to try him.

Doubting Thomases, there is an item to this effect in today's Boston Globe (half way down). Victim and witness statements seemed adequate to require a summons for the misdemeanor. He will face the charge for seeking out a counter-protester in a crowd at a rally calling for passage of an anti-same-sex-marriage amendment and pushing her so that she fell to the ground.

So far, he and some of his supports use their own blogs, press releases, statements to the press and comments on left-wing blogs to slam the victim and claim Cirignano's innocence. Among this bluster is the she-was-asking-for-it defense. This is not in the she wore a red dress cliché, rather that she was not in a protesting group that had a permit, so whatever happened, just happened.

Odder seems to be Cirignano's seemingly indefensible remarks so far. First, he charged that she was crowding the podium and he was defending the speakers (pix of the rally show perhaps a 30-foot separation from the nearest [and anti-SSM] protesters and the podium). He also claims that he had a portfolio in one hand and was gently leading this misguided little woman out of his group. He says he never pushed her.

A witness from Worcester, who was at the rally, tells me:
I can't tell you whether Sarah Loy had ever been as close to the podium as some have indicated. I never saw her there, but I wasn't tracking her movements or anything. What I can speak of is where she was at the time of the assault. She was about 10-15 feet in front of me and about 80-90 feet from the podium. She was in the VoteOnMarriage half circle, but only 4 or so people deep. I saw the hands on her shoulders as she was pushed over, but due to the crowd I didn't see the face "connected" to the hands. She was pushed hard enough that the back of her head hit the ground pretty hard. When I saw Ms. Loy go down and stay down, I went to go and check on her well-being. She was awake but very upset and shaken-up. I picked her head off the ground and as I did so, I looked up to see the man that I now know as Larry Cirignano quickly making his way back towards the podium. I couldn't identify the person until he turned around and looked back at us. I saw the face, sweater, and coat which allowed me to identify Mr. Cirignano, who had spoken at the podium just before the incident. On the orders of the police, I got Ms. Loy up and escorted her out of the crowd.
Supposedly there is video by some witnesses. If taken by the VOM folk, it may or may not end up with the police and courts, particularly if what so many witnesses report is accurate.

It is easy and apt to see this metaphorically. What witnesses say Cirignano did, and even some of his defenders' apology for him, translate. Do these folk respect other humans? Do they honor and obey the law?

We learn some key behaviors early. A prime measure of civilization and civility is never raising a verbal difference to a physical level. Another is not attacking those weaker than you -- small folk, the elderly, children, and in such cases as this a large man against a small woman.

It would appear Cirignano has miscalculated on this one. While the likely penalty would be a small fine, his conviction is both unethical and will follow him and his odious organization. O'Malley and Flynn are already iffy with their other associations; they don't need this either.

A sensible Cirignano might have said that he strode those many yards into a crowd to confront Loy, found himself carried away by the moment and "guided" her more firmly than he originally intended. He might have apologized and been done with it.

That would have required someone willing to own up to his actions and a man of honor. Think. Think. Think. Would that happen here? Did it happen here?

Meanwhile, until video surfaces to convince even some of the most delusional, we have to heap scorn on Cirignano for not expressing any concern for the victim here.

The anti-SSM forces have lost the larger battle and eventually will have to face that. Until that occurs, they should dig down to what they likely learned in church and most may even have heard at home.

Concern and respect for others drives and lubricates human interaction. Self-righteousness and resulting violence are in our feral nature that we need to control and channel. Maybe that should fall to Friar O'Malley to have that discussion with his chum.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Dudley Do-right Dad Dies


With fond memories and a bit of sadness, we note the death at 81 of Chris Hayward. He worked with Jay Ward almost from the beginning, with Crusader Rabbit. He created our personal role model, Dudley Do-right.

Variety has the the show biz obit here. The one in the LA Times has more detail.

Image note: The old capture from Crusader Rabbit is floating around the Net. It may still be copyrighted. We put it here only for fair-use commentary.

As a tot, I had the good fortune to be near enough to a station that carried Crusader Rabbit. That was the beginning of cartoons as we know them. The first ones were black and white, crude, and very funny. Ward, Hayward, Bill Scott and a few other went on to develop Bullwinkle J. Moose and much of the snapper patter that we hear even today.

Hayward also co-developed the droll TV comedy The Munsters. He wrote for numerous TV shows, like 77 Sunset Strip and Barney Miller, and won several Emmy awards for it.

Groan-producing puns, integration of political jokes into cartoons, and smudging the line between slapstick and sophisticated humor were the specialty of Hayward in particular and Jay Ward Products in general. Hayward gave me a lot of yucks. Bless him.

Anti-Gay Agitator Feigns Innocence

The victim is not flipping out over this. Maybe we need to chuckle at the predictable outcropping of Catholic Citizenship's exec attacking a small woman at a Worcester anti-SSM rally.

An article in today's Boston Globe reports that by phone Larry Cirignano claims he is innocent, innocent he tells them, despite all the witnesses. As the paper puts it:
In a telephone interview last night, Cirignano acknowledged guiding the woman away from the event with his arm on her back, but said he had a portfolio in his left hand and did not knock her down.

He said he did not see her fall. "I promise you, I did not throw her to the ground."

Among things we might learn from this:
  • Some folk just will not take responsibility for what they do. They may even repeat their denial enough times that it migrates to self-delusion.
  • Some of us are ever eager to claim that anyone we know even slightly as neighbor, coworker or relative could never mug, steal, kill or whatever. It's the Jeffrey Dahmer effect, as when the murderous cannibal's neighbors attested to his certain innocence. They knew him. There's much chatter over the incident at Blue Mass Group, including this phenomenon -- "I've met Larry on a number of occasions and I cant possibly imagine him purposefully inflicting any type of physical harm on anyone else. He is very conservative, to be sure, but not a hateful or violent person." That person demands to see the video! LOL.
So, there's Larry's take on it. Hustling down from the podium, pushing 30 feet into a crowd, pushing the much smaller, unarmed and surprised woman, who fell to the ground, was no foul on his part. Even though that seems to cover the legal definitions of assault and of battery, he's innocent because he had a notebook.

Hmm. Think. Think. Think.

If you were the Worcester Police Chief, Gary J. Gemme, how would you interpret this? What would you instruct your officers and the district attorney? How would you respond if people were to write or call you at:
Police Headquarters
Lincoln Square
Worcester, MA 01608

(508) 799-8606

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Winger in Worcester Flips

Let's see what the Worcester cops are made of now. Will they arrest the creep who runs the ironically named Catholic Citizenship group for knocking a small woman to the ground in front of many dozens of witnesses? According to the Worcester Telegram, they did not immediately do so after the incident.

We initially were going to stay out of it because:
  • Bud over at MassResistanceWatch had solid initial coverage.
  • Mike at Pie and Coffee is a friend of the woman and posted pix with his commentary.
  • He even had a link to the outrageous Worcester County winger blog that tried to blame the woman for getting knocked down.
  • Plain talk about the incident came from Know Thy Neighbor's Tom Lang, who was there.
However, it gnaws on us, as it should any civilized Bay Stater.

What everyone who there saw was the infamous anti-gay head of Catholic Citizenship, Larry Cirignano eyed a protester in his let-the-people-vote/free-speech rally promoting the anti-same-sex-marriage amendment. Apparently, the hairy eyeball was not enough and certainly free speech for his people does not imply free speech for anyone else. He raced down from his podium, pushed 30 feet or so into the crowd, grabbed Sarah Loy by the shoulders and pushed her and her offending sign to the ground. Witnesses and Loy said her head hit the pavement.

The laddies in blue took his statement and hers. Whoop de ding. I feel safer.

Perhaps you also need to know the view of the Worcester County Republican Club in its blog coverage:
As a side note, I’d like to clear up the Worcester Telegram’s front page story about the rally. Catholic Citizenship’s Larry Cirignano did indeed move one of the protestors out of the way of the speaker’s podium as she was hindering our legal right to speak (we had all our city permits while the protestors did not). And yes, he moved her into the crowd, toward the area where the protestors were standing. But no, there was no assault. According to bystanders, the protestor took the fall on purpose. She was all too quick with her pat reply about “this is what happens when…” And along the way, she, in fact, assaulted one of the teenagers in the crowd, trampling on the teen before she fell.
It has a second post claiming media bias and "that the entire event was staged."

So there, you have it. Don't believe your eyes or the report of everyone there, except for the attacking thug and the emcee (who wrote the first GOP post). Not only did Loy have it coming, but she planned luring little Larry into this deed.

Well, let us be just more pinkos and quote Tom Lang:
This was not your average "heated moment." This was a premeditated, aggressive and uncalled-for assault by the President of the Catholic Citizenship on a young lady who was exercising her right to assemble, protest and voice her free speech...the key components to our American Democracy. And wasn't THAT supposed to be what this rally was organized for? Or maybe Larry Cirignano was not aware of this.
How many times have we seen this? Right wingers getting caught doing something heinous, illegal, immoral or vicious, only to hear that 1) they didn't do it, 2) oh, well, if they did it, someone else caused it, or 3) it was some left winger's fault.

So, Woosta, how many witness will it take to get Cirignano booked for assault? Also, didn't his family teach him how to treat people?

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Tricks and Treats in Massachusetts

Coming up on January 2nd and likely for sometime afterward, we are going to hear more warning sirens and fingers on the blackboard over parliamentary moves to kill the anti-same-sex-marriage amendment in Massachusetts. Even those of us who follow this intensely can benefit from the AP's Steve LeBlanc analysis.

He's written about this for months. This time, he provided the background and then went to constitutional experts to discuss what it all means right now.

This is still under discussion for several reasons. Of course, the anti-gay forces, and an unnamed current Massachusetts governor who is whoring this to advance his POTUS aspirations, want the amendment to advance and end up on the 2008 ballot. It would be bound to lose, but they are delusional enough to suppose that if they rub the state's nose in this divisive and unpopular drive for another two years that voters will reverse direction and support them.

Moreover, there are many let-the-people-vote types who confuse representative democracy with town meeting or a lynch mob. Together, both these groups are screaming about their very literal and limited interpretation of our state constitution's Article XLVIII. This is where the AP piece is useful.

As LeBlanc states, "The tussle hinges on the interpretation of a single sentence in the constitution: 'Final legislative action in the joint session upon any amendment shall be taken only by call of the yeas and nays.'"

According to that current governor, this means that the Constitutional Convention (ConCon) of both houses must absolutely vote the amendment initiative up or down. Someone with greater expertise and a broader view can describe this differently.

Specifically. Lawyers Weekly Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David L. Yas says, "That's a nicely symbolic way of making his point, but it's a little empty at the end of the day. The ballot initiative process is part our Democratic process, but so are the legislative tricks and treats."

Among concurring experts are New England School of Law constitutional-law professor Lawrence Friedman. He says that Article XLVIII "dictates the form of a vote, but does not mandate a vote." He added that even those suing to get the state or federal courts to force a vote or override the legislature by putting the amendment on the ballot could convince one of the courts that the article requires a vote, so what? He concluded, "The best the proponents could get (from the courts) is the determination that Article 48 means what they say it means, but it's very unlikely that any state or federal court would order the Legislature to take a vote."

Yas adds as many have noted that our state high court has already ruled that separation of powers does not allow it to compel votes by the legislature. He said, "They took a vote to recess and there's case law to suggest is that there's nothing wrong with that."

Yet, it remains peculiar to hear where some of the calls for an up-or-down vote on this originate. Even one of the stalwarts over at our beloved Blue Mass Group rode the let-the-people-vote pony around and around the ConCon paddock. Whether he was simply showing a strong libertarian bent or actually jumped the shark on this one remains to be seen. However, it is instructive to note that it is not only anti-SSM ranters who fall into this trap.

Governor-Elect Deval Patrick is coming in with big progressive ideas and firm principles of equality. There are likely to be other areas where he does not want to play such games with what should be rights.

He already made it plain during his campaign that the civil rights of others should never be up for a plebiscite. Sometimes progressive goals may lose or have to regroup if we rely too heavily on literal interpretations of moot parliamentary procedures and specific laws' wording. That falls into what Emerson named when he wrote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Let's all try not to go off in a pout if our narrow views miss the big picture. We can try not to cry foul or claim some slur like situation ethics if we don't get our way when we want it.

We voted in a huge majority for big change. That will require flexibility by all of us.

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Deval's Sapid Humanity

In the post-election follow-up to last March's NECN profile, the Boston Globe's Lisa Wangsness expanded slightly on the governor-elect's love of things culinary. Deval cooks, he's good at it, and it was a trump card with girls -- helping him win wife Diane.

This is not news. It is women's-service-magazine stuff. If you'd like the earlier light-weight piece from the series trying to humanize the candidates, click over to here for the transcript.

So who cares and why? Well, I do for one.

There are things I do badly or worse, like singing, dancing, playing musical instrument... I had a brief, very brief set of high-school appearances in the Even Dozen Minus Six jug band. It included five real musicians and me. I passed by playing kazoo, jug and jaw harp, as befit my talent level.

However, I can and do cook. Like Deval, I grew up cooking in a single-parent (mom) household. Unlike his were he did it to ensure decent meals, I did it because I liked it and was good at it. My older sister had none of the passion for cooking that I did. From elementary school, I could look in the pantry and fridge, and then do right by us all. Our mother worked and my love of and skill with food made evenings easier and more pleasant.

So, I think it does make a difference that our incoming leader is, as my chef friends are wont to call it, a good cookie. It's rather like Lenny Bruce used to say about presidential couples and sex -- he could imagine the Eisenhowers, but Dick and Pat Nixon? Never. Likewise, can you see the old pale peacock, Willard Romney, shopping and then doing all the dirty work to serve a houseful of hungry buddies?

So for Deval, it's more like Ms. Frizzle -- "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy." That is what cooking is about. We can see him with the creativity and organic joy in getting so basic, in pleasing guests, in sustaining his family, in making the ordinary ingredients into the social lubricants of a memorable evening.

Before we get too crazy, let's recall a few things. First, he is now a very rich lawyer married to another of the same. He has a kitchen with God's ovens and ranges, as well as the perfect tool, pot or pan for every dish. I did quite well in my early 20s with a single lidded sauce pan and one saute pan with a tiny West Village stove. I am sure he could too.

And for crying out loud in a bucket, as the Pat Greenhouse pic in today's article showed, at least for the local rag, he cooked wearing a necktie! What's with that? Ms. Frizzle wouldn't have done that. Unless he intends to wipe his hands on or blow his nose in the tie, it's trouble waiting to happen. We hope this doesn't indicate that he has so many ties that he tosses one away when it gets a splatter.

We could easily extrapolate into areas that may not be relevant at all. How many analogies could we draw between cooking and politicking?
  • Deval takes what he has gathered and finds, to make the useful from it.
  • He cleans up after himself, simultaneously creative and efficient.
  • He transforms the existing into the extraordinary.
  • Blah blah.
For now, it is enough that this is a long-overdue human governor. His cooking goes well with his attitude of listening and getting opposing parties to work together. We promise, however hard it will be, to leave the cooking analogies out of this.

If Deval wants a guided tour of the Haymarket, I'll do that. I'll swap recipes with him too (although I won't do tortured baby cows). Knowing that his love of and skill in the kitchen is not some PR stunt is very endearing. Now, I just have to get invited to his table.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Blogging -- Right Questions

You have to get some giggles out of this week's hoo-ha about bloggers and bloggers peaking next year. Let us all say it together, that's not so much the wrong conclusion as the wrong question!

Check Technorati to see the frills and fluff associated with the Gartner folk announcing this damned near meaningless and short-sighted "Predict" as they call such. Consider:
  • The BBC initiating its typical and uncritical opinion LITE.
  • Bloggers huffing and puffing about where this is true, not or partially.
Amusingly, the Gartner team came to where years of Pew reports have been, saying that most bloggers do it for awhile and quit. With typical market-researcher hyperbole, Gartner thinks it has suddenly discovered this trend that proves that blogging is on the way out.

The short version from their news release includes:
Blogging and community contributors will peak in the first half of 2007. Given the trend in the average life span of a blogger and the current growth rate of blogs, there are already more than 200 million ex-bloggers. Consequently, the peak number of bloggers will be around 100 million at some point in the first half of 2007.
If you want the detail, the best source at the moment seems to be the article on NewsFactor. Again, Gartner clearly has been reading the same Pew papers the rest of us see. It notes that bloggers tire after about three months and quit, the number of bloggers was doubling every six months and those who were likely to have done it, and even the ultra-light versions like MySpace and FaceBook have maxed out and are dropping. Gartner goes on to predict a drop to 100 million bloggers in 2007 and a core of maybe 30 million who just can't help themselves from posting.

Counterpoints come from folks like consultancy crayon that claims business blogging is just starting. So there.

With the, what, millions, of words spewed on this non-story, we're still waiting for hard research and meaningful questions. The most important is analysis of what effects the political blogs had in the past two-year election cycle.

We expect and at least hope that those studying politics have tried to measure how meaningful blogging was locally and nationally. The shameless self-promoting blogs would have us believe that we were the or at least a key factor in the Dems regaining Congress and in such local revolutions as Deval Patrick winning the governorship here.

Convince me. Show me. I gave up taking important issues on faith a long, long time ago.

Certainly the Pew type researchers can ask the public, which can give indications if not proof. If there's no money to be made in it, the Gartner sorts have no incentive to spend billable hours of consultants' time gathering and analyzing data.

Perhaps this will fall to the sloth-speed academicians. They can go where the races were tight, do content and hit analysis of the political blogs, compare blog comment with MSM articles and reader commentary, and try to find correlations between blog activity and race outcomes.

That would be several orders of magnitude more meaningful than whether America had 30 million or 100 million or 200 million bloggers. This is a quality/quantity thing. One Hummer manufacturer or Courtney Love is plenty, maybe too many. On the other hand, we in New England know we can't have too many ice-cream vendors or brew pubs.

I want to see some figures and numbers on how effective we bloggers were. Some of us can show our hit increases and where the visitors clicked in to see our stuff. We can point to how much money we raised and whether there was a meaningful attendance at a protest we promoted.

Unfortunately, having our new governor say we were important, recognizing us by face and name, and even using a couple of us as clerks in gathering ideas doesn't prove much of anything. Instead, let's hope folk are asking the right questions of enough people and looking at all the data they can to say how potent bloggers were.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Bobby Re-Speaks on Deval

It's likely we'll never know for sure. Was yesterday's swagger the real Senate President or today's conciliation?

Either way, we are surprised that Bobby Travaglini would say he misspoke when he seemed to threaten the agenda of Governor Elect Deval Patrick. Following howls from the bowels of the Bay State, the pair appeared all nice like at a State House press conference.

Today, the Boston Globe says:
"I misspoke yesterday and I want to acknowledge that publicly to you...'' Travaglini told reporters this afternoon. "The position of the senate continues to be standing ready to partner with the new administration in its efforts to demonstrate that we can conduct the people's business in their absence in a positive way and that's the reason for the visit here this afternoon.''

"The relationship between Deval and I is important not only to he and I but to everyone who resides in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and to that end we thought it appropriate to demonstrate quickly that the relationship is strong, is respectful, is professional and is ready to engage in the issues of the day," he added.

Not surprising is that Mr. Smooth, Patrick, was gracious and quick to let any affront go. His happy words included, "This is my friend and my new partner and we are looking forward to and have started on building a very strong relationship. We are going to have conversations from time to time that are private and where there are differences. But I've said before and we've said to each other -- not every difference is a controversy. We don't have any significant differences today. What we've been doing is tring to work through our respective... legislative agenda and as much as possible get on the same page from the start."

As we noted earlier, Bobby has been a verbal brawler and used to staking his turf from his City Councilor days. We suspect Trav said what he meant at breakfast and responded quickly to other legislators and advisers who asked him what the devil he thought he was doing.

Maybe he's not as dumb as he seems.

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Little Bobby Stamps His Foot

Scholars of Boston politics, and those who just consider it entertainment, revel in Bobby Travaglini's schoolyard fit yesterday. It says much about him and what passes for civics on Beacon Hill and at City Hall.

The public here voted by a huge margin for change. The stagnant government of old-politics legislature and a do-nothing, propose-nothing combination of executive and lawmaking branches didn't cut it and hadn't for over a decade. So, if the sketchy lead in today's Boston Globe is accurate, Travaglini is too dull witted to see the obvious.

Instead of stepping up to pledge to fix what's broken in Massachusetts, he apparently threatened Governor Elect Deval Patrick. If the big man doesn't bow at his feet, Travaglini will try to prevent the reforms the public demanded last month.

For some years, we've called our Senate President Robert E. (Don't Call Me Bobby Anymore) Travaglini. We knew him first as a muttering and not overly bright City Councilor out of East Boston. After 10 years in City Hall, he has been in the state senate since 1993 and speaker since 2003.

At loggerheads with cliché spouting Republican governors and a General Court with too many DINOs, Travaglini has let the ship of state drift. The old politics of projects for the home folk at the expense of the commonwealth were the order of the decade, even before he became majority whip in 1999.

When the tough calls came, like enacting a marriage-equality law after the 2003 Supreme Judicial Court mandate, Bobby must have been out having a pastry. He didn't get it done...and still hasn't. We are in the mess we are with anti-marriage-equality amendments because of him, much as our economy founders from lack of leadership.

The Globe based its lead on an unattributed quote:
According to the notes of one audience member, Travaglini said: "I told the governor-elect, if you're willing to share and you care and you prepare and are ready to deliver, then everything will work out. If not, I have senators across the state who share my vision and my approach and if forced to choose, I'm comfortable with whom they'll choose."
This came from an address to a couple hundred folk at a meeting of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties yesterday.

Given the overwhelming calls for change in the November election, a kindergartner should be able make the connection to what's next. You run the Senate, and you pledge to work with the charismatic and popular Patrick to make Massachusetts work for all of us. (Cue angelic chorus.)

Instead, the old Eastie guy reveals his nature and that of Boston politics. Insist the other guy come to you, make nice, and ask very politely for anything.

Wait, you say. Isn't the Governor more important than the Senate President? Didn't the people make it plain the legislature had failed and they wanted big changes? Didn't the voters endorse en masse the agenda Patrick so clearly set forward to them?

Yes, yes and yes, but that's beside the point in Beantown. You can take Bobby out of City Hall, but you can't take the City Council out of Bobby. He has fallen back on the rules that got him to what he called in his 2003 inaugural address "the personal and professional pinnacle of my life."

Ironically, his threat yesterday aimed at a true reform leader contrasts to his pledge to incoming Governor Willard Mitt Romney in that same 2003 address -- "The Governor-Elect will have our cooperation as he lays out his program for improving Massachusetts. The Senate stands ready to work with him and our colleagues in the House to put aside our egos, personalities, and party affiliations and focus upon the people's business."

When he was still Bobby, he watched Kevin White and other old pols play the same ego games. On paper, Boston's mayor is the real power, but the City Councilors do not acknowledge that. They have enough budget authority to push, push, push. Traditionally as a result, the mayor comes to the council chamber to address them. It is, like they might say in some gangster movie, a sign of respect.

When Ray Flynn moved from Council into the mayor's suite, he learned that. As Councilor, he had played the same schoolyard game. Yet, as Mayor Flynn, he suddenly expected the Councilors to come to his office and ask for what they wanted. He somehow didn't understand how to play the same game from the other side one floor up. That didn't work and he had to adapt to the rules he had played by before.

Now Bobby wants to bring City Council around the corner and up Beacon Street. Patrick is supposed to come hat in hand.

We're betting it won't work. If that outrageous threat is accurately quoted and really the way Bobby is thinking, he's due for a shock. If there is a choice, he's going to be standing with his back to the crowd who are listening to Patrick.

Instead, Patrick has made it clear:
  1. The public is due an active government that will fix what's broken
  2. The executive branch will do more than its part, first providing the agenda and then helping make it happen
  3. The changes will come about when for the first time in over a decade, lawmakers and the governor work together
So, if Bobby wants to play East Boston thug, he's watched the river of change flow rapidly by him. Get with the program!

Bobby Listens (To Someone Else): Trav apparently got the word quickly. See his re-evaluation.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

NJ Civil Union Backstory

An hour after the New Jersey legislature passed a civil union bill, the New York Times adds some color. It notes that many people from various sides are unhappy.

Garden State Equality pledges to push for full marriage. Anti-SSM forces in the legislature fought this bill. Senate Republicans tried to amend the civil-union bill to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Because they failed, expanding into marriage is possible without first repealing any laws.

Homosexual-rights activists in the Assembly gallery cheered at the vote. The Times also reports that they "applauded a statement in the nearly hourlong floor debate by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Princeton Democrat, that 'the distance between nothing and civil unions is greater than the distance between civil unions and marriage.'"

This sprint to satisfy the state high-court requirement stopped repeatedly to kick around the word marriage. SSM advocated failed to get it applied to all paired unions. However, "(s)ame-sex marriage supporters in the Legislature conceded that they could not have pushed through a full marriage bill by the Supreme Court’s deadline in late April."

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New Jersey Gets Civil with Almost Marriage

This afternoon, the New Jersey legislature legalized civil unions. The AP reports that the Assembly passed it 56 to 19. The Senate followed a couple of hours later, at 23 to 12 in favor. The governor says he'll sign it.

This makes New Jersey the third state, following Vermont and Connecticut to offer civil unions. Full marriage was never an option following the state high-court mandate to provide marriage equality without specifying it.

Garden State Equality promises to continue pushing for full marriage.

While the legislature there would not provide marriage, it at least acted quickly enough to prevent repeal silliness as has gone on in Massachusetts. In both states, the high courts ordered a fix within six months. New Jersey will come in under two. The Massachusetts General Court has yet to act, just let the court ruling drive reality. Codifying the new marriage rights here might well have prevented the divisive amendment drives we have seen.

Unlike the aftermath of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling nearly four years ago, New Jersey citizens were ahead of the curve.A Zogby poll pegged public support for same-sex marriage at 56% for and 39% opposed.

The most positive spin came unsurprisingly from the chief sponsor:
"Love counts," Democratic Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, a chief sponsor of the bill, said as the debate opened. "The gender of whom one loves should not matter to the state."

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U.S. Staid of the Heart

Click over to TomPaine.com for an insightful analysis of why we trail the rest of the industrialized world in marriage equality. Brandeis' heavily credentialed E.J. Graff recaps the trends and makes it plain why we are retarded here.

She states and backs up with specifics, "While you were enjoying November’s tilt away from the far right, there’s some more good news you may have missed: The world is steadily warming toward same-sex couples...But full marriage, with use of the legally powerful but contentious M word, is just the tip of the iceberg. Around the world, almost all the developed countries recognize same-sex couples under some other name." Of course, that other name can be domestic partnership, civil union or variants, and these are becoming broader and more inclusive.

She writes that we are the slowest of the First-World nations in marriage equality, because:
  • we have the largest fundamentalist voting bloc outside the Muslim world
  • unlike much of the developed world—and unlike Europe through most of history—we have “either/or” marriage systems, with no intermediate legal recognition for couples who haven’t taken formal vows
  • most important, because the U.S. isn’t a single nation (rather) 50 tightly yoked nations, with 50 different sets of marriage laws
On the last point, she adds "American states’ legal fates (and media coverage on social issues) are far more closely bound together."

She recaps domestic as well as foreign trends and predicts:
Twenty years from today, most (maybe even all) of the United States—like so many of our neighbors to the north, south, east and west—will be celebrating and recognizing same-sex marriages.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

VOM Don't Need No States Rights

Sure enough, the VoteOnMarriage folk did file that federal suit either 1) to get more attention and raise funds or 2) in some wild hope that a U.S. District Court would claim jurisdiction over our legislature.

The press release from VOM and link to the PDF of the complaint is here. The suit went to the U.S. District Court seeking relief and damages for alleged wrongs which have yet to occur. That is, the Constitutional Convention (ConCon) recessed until January 2nd, the last day it could consider matters before it, including an amendment to ban further same-sex marriages here. While this procedural move may and likely will stop the amendment from advancing, that will not have occurred until the ConCon formally adjourns.

One may well ask how what seems clearly to be a state matter and one that has not yet happened be any concern to a federal court. The answer may well lie with the lawyers involved. They are from the Alliance Defense Fund. This Arizona-based group comprises right wing, fundamental-religious sorts. As they put it:
The Alliance Defense Fund directly litigates carefully chosen, strategic cases to protect the freedom of religion, guard the sanctity of human life, and preserve marriage and traditional family values.
Massachusetts is just the current place for ADF to make a statement. When it loses here, it continues with its other symbolic efforts.

We don't know yet where Ray Flynn went on this (might he have had a moment of clarity?), but the plaintiffs in this are VOM and 10 of the original signers of the petition for this amendment. The defendants are all 109 legislators who voted to recess the ConCon.

As VOM puts the case:
The causes of action are:
  • violation of plaintiffs' rights to free speech pursuant to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution;
  • violation of plaintiffs' rights to petition the government pursuant to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution;
  • violation of plaintiffs' fundamental rights to vote pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and
  • violation of plaintiffs' rights to procedural due process pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

VoteOnMarriage.org and co-plaintiffs ask the court to:

  • declare that the defendants have violated the US Constitution as stated in the four causes of action;
  • waive the defendants' ability to oppose the initiative in the 2006 constitutional convention and rule that the votes to recess on November 9 are to be counted as votes in favor of the amendment; and
  • force the defendants to refund to VoteonMarriage.org the money expended on the campaign, plus punitive damages in an amount determined by a jury.

"The arrogance of the legislators is why we seek punitive damages," (added Glen Lavy, ADF senior VP.)

From here, this looks like asking first for civil action against thought crimes. The suit also seems to ask the feds to take over several functions of state government. Where again is that arrogance to which Lavy refers?

At the very best, the U.S. court might tell them to take this up with the commonwealth courts. Oops, that legal action is already and also underway.

Do read the suit. Its assertions are very lightly supported and connected. They lead to some very dubious conclusions about how a federal court could have authority. They also make some stretches, for example "The Defendants' repeated acts of intentionally recessing the 2006 constitutional convention without a substantive vote constitutes a constructive adjournment of the same. This constructive adjournment is the equivalent of a failure to take final action on Plaintiffs initiative petition ..."

The suit also asserts that the spongy wording of the initiative section of the amended constitution gives the courts some power to compel the ConCon to act. Our own Supreme Judicial Court has never said it or any other court can do that. It's that messy separation of powers thing. Oh, drat.

The most tenuous portions strain to get the federal court to accept the suit. For example, "The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects Plaintiffs' rights to free speech through the initiative petition process for purposes of effecting change in state government, government policy and/or state law." That is going from the general to the specific back to the general without legal basis. The suit has lot of that.

It's pretty damned flimsy and seems designed for maximum publicity and political return instead of hope for judgment.

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Nipping the Good Guys' Ankles

The ho-ho-holidays are upon us and yet we find ourselves compelled to present our second Nemesis Award.

It's embarrassingly easy and goes to the Article 8/MassResistance folk for their inane sniping at the Boston Gay Men's Chorus. You can understand how they qualify by checking their WCRB Promotes Sodomite Christmas Concert and the follow-up Shame on Sponsors of Boston Gay Men's Chorus.

We're not trying to compete with Bud's excellent coverage of the foolishness posted at MassResistanceWatch. He's so serious about this that he listens to their radio show!

Trying to bite the BGMC is like kicking the battlefield medic or claiming Dick Nixon was a statesman while denigrating Jimmy Carter. Get a grip.

The Chorus is not only a cadre of great performers, they are extremely active fund raisers for such causes as AIDS prevention. They walk it like they talk it, and like they sing it.

It's doubtful that the chihuahua's tiny readership would attend a BGMC performance, but these silly tirades are a good reminder of some of the best holiday music available in Boston.

You have two ways to enjoy them -- the big Jordan Hall concerts and the smaller and more intimate Arlington Street Church ones.

The chance to wear your dinner jacket or LBD at the four Jordan Hall Home for the Holidays ones are Friday, the 15th, Saturday, the 16th, Monday, the 18th, and Tuesday, the 19th. All are at 8 p.m. Get tickets here.

On Christmas Eve, there are two concerts at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Arlington Street Church. Those are always jammed. Be sure to arrive early and bring your seasonal joyful attitude for standing on line and chatting with companions and strangers.

We had not intended to discuss or even mention the award winners. However, this inanity and mean-spirited behavior call for it. Bah humbug, MassResistance!

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hold Breath, Turn Blue

Pre-news today is that the anti-SSM dwindling party is attacking the General Court. VoteOnMarriage.org will file a separate suit on top of the current one seeking to force legislators to advance the anti-SSM amendment.

According to the AP, the suit details come out tomorrow. Apparently, it will try to get a U.S. District Court to interfere with Massachusetts by forcing a vote and assessing damages.

Excuse us while we snort up our sleeves.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ill-Fitting Anti-Equality Suit

That quixotic suit -- joined by occasional Gov. Mitt Romney -- demanding that our high court force the anti-same-sex-marriage amendment on the ballot in 2008 is available. Get the PDF here.

Props to Kim Atkins at the Boston Herald for making us aware of the link.

The suit seeks to bypass the joint legislative session (Constitutional Convention or ConCon) because lawmakers are not passing through the amendment. The gist is that the recent procedural adjournment and subsequent stalling on voting the amendment forward for another year is only the latest in such steps. The suit seeks to breach the fabric of separated powers in the process.

Fascinating.

What They Posit

We can set aside for the moment the delicious irony of this group of righties calling on the justices to become activist. They want legislation from the bench in this exertion of force by one governmental branch over another. It is to laugh a civic laugh.

To understand their argument, consider their three questions, all of which they try to answer in the affirmative:
  1. Do the initiative amendment provisions of Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution require the Joint Session of the General Court, convened for the purpose of considering such initiative amendments, to take final action on the Marriage Initiative Amendment by a vote of the yeas and the nays before the expiration of the session on January 2, 2007?
  2. Is the President of the Senate, as the Presiding Officer of the Joint Session, required, consistent with his oath to uphold the Constitution of the Commonwealth, to bring all properly presented initiative amendments to the floor until such a vote is taken?
  3. Does this Court, consistent with its powers and duties to construe the Constitution and ensure compliance therewith, have the power or authority either (a) to declare or express the law respecting the application of Article 48;(b) to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the Presiding Officer to execute his constitutional mandate; or (c) in the event the Presiding Officer fails to bring about a vote on the Marriage Amendment on or before January 2, 2007, to direct the Secretary of the Commonwealth to take action to remediate such failure?
Check the wording of Article XLVIII here.

The Arguments

Unfortunately, their legal tower of chips lacks sufficient foundation. Anyone should be able to feel their frustration.

The anti-gay, anti-SSM forces has worked on this for years and gotten tantalizingly close to a spot on the ballot. They even managed to get a cowed court to pretend this does not violate our constitution by trying to overturn a judicial decision.

However, they are going for strict legal grounds in this last-ditch effort. When the ConCon comes out of adjournment on January 2nd, it almost surely will not vote on this amendment. That is the last day for consideration and inaction would kill it.

As Uncle Scar said in Lion King, "Life's not fair now, is it?"

For the suit, all three points are moot, despite their strong and unsupportable assertions. Does Article 48 compel a final up or down vote? That's debatable from the wording. It clearly defines how a final vote, if taken, must be taken. Yet, it does not specifically demand one or provide any penalty if not taken.

Laws and constitutions rely on specificity, not assumptions or assertions.

Instead, the suit makes two assertions that the SJC is likely to reject:
  • Its (Article 48's) plain language and the circumstances of its enactment leave no doubt that Article 48 was intended to facilitate, without legislative obstacles, access to the ballot by citizens in order to amend their constitution.
  • In the present procedural circumstances, the Presiding Officer can neither invoke procedural rules nor entertain procedural motions to avoid a vote by the yeas and the nays on the Marriage Initiative Amendment without violating Article 48.
Unfortunately, those are in the trust-me class and not supported by precedence, which even the suit notes in passing.

Also, the SJC itself has occasionally scolded ConCons and Senate Presidents for not forcing such votes, but has also ruled that it cannot compel action. There is this apparently annoying concept of separation of powers. This suit claims that in this case, the SJC has to transcend that. We believe that this would be a severe breach of our constitution, as well as legislating from the bench.

Procedures v. Pass-Through

Underlying the 64-page brief (hmm, misnomer?), is the concept that the ConCon must approve and pass through the amendment if the 50 of 200 votes are there to do so. The suit makes its most outrageous claim in this area. Specifically:
No right is more firmly embedded in the Massachusetts Constitution than the right of the people “to alter the government and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness.” Mass. Const. Preamble. The vehicle for exercising this right is enshrined as the 48th Article of Amendment, passed after early experience confirmed the necessity of reserving to the people a right and opportunity to amend the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth by popular initiative.
Here, the suit conflates and then muddles two crucial concepts. That cited right relates to the legislature as representative government. This is in opposition to the dictatorial rule of the British colonizers, a government which mingled nobles and clergy in a heavy-handed autocratic rule.

The suit jumps to claiming that the initiative petition added in 1918 was what those silly folk who led us through the Revolution and constitutional process really meant.

The brief then goes on in several places to claim that the ConCon has the absolute responsibility to pass through the amendment. It also asserts without legal basis that the ConCon and Senate President are forbidden from using procedural moves to delay or block such amendment.

Again, you can sense the frustration, but they need more than self-righteousness to prevail on this.

QED?

The suit's own wording form a fair coda to this. It demands new powers for the court over the legislature. It claims, "Unless this Court more actively intervenes, it is obvious that this misperception and the resulting pattern of legislative indifference has and will emasculate Article 48, stripping the people of a fundamental constitutional power."

It also concludes, "If this Court cannot express and clarify the law as respects the operation of Article 48 thereby promoting adherence to its significant constitutional provisions, then no one can."

Well, it can't and amen to that.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Tory Anti-SSM Balloon Pops

It was the last round-up as U.S. and Canadian cowboys might call it. To badly mix metaphors on same-sex marriage, let's just say the cows are out of the barn.

Yesterday in the Commons, the last-gasp effort to reopen the debate on legal SSM in Canada failed by 175 to 123. Wednesday's debate on it had very few attendants; canada.com reports "about 20 of 308 members" showing. Perhaps most telling, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not appear or defend mixed-gender marriage, even though he was eager to suck in the most conservative voters in the last election with his promise to call such a vote.

According to the Canoe piece on the vote, after the predictable defeat, he claimed the honor of the process (we've heard that locally recently too). The shameless comments after were, "We made a promise to have a free vote on this issue, we kept that promise, and obviously the vote was decisive and obviously we'll accept the democratic result of the people's representatives. I don't see reopening this question in the future."

As an aside, it appears that as in the U.S., Canadian right wingers don't seem to mind being manipulated, so long as they can hold forth and moralize while it's happening. What a peculiar form of self-deception that is.

Wednesday, with Harper hiding, the thankless task of defending the anti-SSM position fell into the hands and out of the mouth of Conservative House Leader Rob Nicholson. He barely bothered to argue why they should rescind SSM.

Instead, he started with ''some members may question why it's necessary to engage this House on this matter.'' Then he concentrated on that promise to debate and vote on whether to reconsider the issue. He best he could do in his spot was to say, "Given the importance of marriage in our society and its importance to Canadians, we made a commitment in the last election to ask parliamentarians whether they wished to revisit this issue."

On the Liberal side of the aisle, motives were not all the pure either. Liberal Leader Stephane Dion released his members for a free vote -- but cynically enough only after he counted and realized the numbers were strongly in his favor. Now, he can claim this is in fact the uncoerced will of Parliament. Also, this marks the six time that Commons voted in some form pro-SSM.

The aftermath may be very short and short-lived. The wrap-up in the Globe and Mail includes some vague threat from righties couched politely. The executive director the Institute for Canadian Values , Joseph Ben Ami said, "I am afraid that the Conservative Party feels that they can take social conservatives for granted in this country. Mr. Harper and the Conservatives are going to have to explain, I think, what people in our constituency are going to perceive as a certain lack of leadership surrounding this question in the last few days."

Unlike unsupportable panicked predictions of doom to follow SSM, his forecast here has some currency. As the Globe and Mail article puts it, "The loss of those voters was likely weighed by the Prime Minister in recent days. But Conservative sources have said it was his plan to dispose of the issue so he could make a more moderate pitch to middle-class voters and diffuse attempts by the Liberal Party to paint him as a socially right-wing ideologue."

The short of it is that anti-gay and anti-SSM forces had their last stand. For Canada, it's over.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tip Toes in Trenton

The New Jersey legislature seems to have angered everyone -- except themselves. They are hustling a non-marriage civil-union bill through both houses. Conservatives call it capitulation and equality advocates are furious at a new class of citizen.

This afternoon's Bergen Record carries the AP story detailing what the Assembly passed and the Senate is about to take up. Even when it is over, it's not over.

Lawmakers feared they could not meet the six-month high court deadline to provide equal marriage rights for homosexuals. They are coming in at two months...with the toss it out the back door version.

The bill emerged only slightly mangled in a 4-2 vote in favor from the Assembly committee evaluating it. Changes were small but significant. For example, the original referred to couples covered as parties in a civil union. The revised still avoided spouses but did move to civil union couples.

Honestly, boys and girls, is marriage or spouse that hard to vocalize?

The Senate Judiciary Committee gets this next Monday. If it passes it, as it is likely to do, it goes to both houses this month.

Anti-gay and anti-same-sex-marriage forces tried and failed to get let-the-people-vote bills passed to slow or derail this lukewarm measure. Some righties are calling this marriage in all but name. Some lefties reasonably ask if they're getting equal benefits as the court demands, and this is a civil matter, why not call it what it is.

As one partnered lesbian, Karen Nicholson-McFadden, with two kids put it, "The civil union bill being considered lacks the one thing I want most in marriage. That is to participate."

That apparently is not sufficient suffering for the anti-SSM folk. Consider William J. White, claiming to speak for the state Council of the Knights of Columbus. He trotted out the baseless canard of clergy forced to solemnize gay civil unions and another of radical sex education. "I don't want our children taught the techniques of homosexuality," he stated.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hateful Holidays in New Bedford

Hoping to suck in the gullible and confused, a local anti-gay and anti-same-sex-marriage group is holding rallies in three blue-collar, heavily Catholic communities. This weekend and next, the ironically named Catholic Citizenship is trying the let-the-people-vote slight of hand and fork of tongue.

The idea is to pretend that trying to advance the anti-SSM amendment is really all about democracy and not about anti-homosexual advocacy. According to South Coast Today, one of the group's public policy coordinators, Bea Martins, said that the rally in New Bedford is "not about same-sex marriage" but "standing up for democracy."

The article added:
Bev Baccelli, a member of Marriage Equality Coalition of the SouthCoast, said failure to call the event an anti-gay marriage rally was "disingenuous." "The fact is that this is all about gay marriage," said Ms. Baccelli, a lesbian who married her longtime partner in Canada a year before same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004.
The rallies will be in New Bedford (the 9th), Springfield (the 10th) and Worcester (the 16th). Speakers will be the likes of conservative Republican Philip C. Paleologos and Kris Mineau, the president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which sponsored the amendment drive.

Catholic Citizenship has its own set of nefarious links to the likes of Ray Flynn and Larry Cirignano. Democracy and fairness are not exactly what they or the organization are about.

The rally organizers say the point of the orations will be to keep the holiday spirit from muting any anger at legislators who joined to recess the Constitutional Convention until January 2nd. Fie, bah at those who would forget to harrangue those homosexuals just because of the season!


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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Love from Lowell...

...or at least from the Lowell Telecommunications Corporation.

Word comes from Richard Howe Jr. that our lieutenant governor debate last May in that fair (or fairly fair) city was worthy of praise.The secretary of the Lowell Democratic City Committee let us know that last week at it annual meeting, the LTC recognized that forum as the Outstanding Special Production of 2006.


In LTC''s Members Awards portion of the meeting, they cited GLAD, the LDCC and BlogLeft, the motley bag of us bloggers. A bunch of us elbowed each other at laptops in the studios and live blogged the event. That thread is still available on Blue Mass Group.

All political reportage should be that much fun.

On November 29, Dick Howe accepted the award for the us all. He is key in organizing and running the event, before and during. He joked that, "...maybe we should treat it like the Stanley Cup and let everyone who played a role in the forum have custody of the award on a rotating basis. "

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Rightist Plotting and Maryland Talking

Two hot links appeared -- the latest anti-gay machinations and analysis of yesterday's Maryland high-court arguments. We strongly recommend both and need to add next to nothing.

For the former, cyncooper at Talk to Action covers how "Conservative religious groups want access to government employee donation pools while reserving the right to discriminate against gays and lesbians." Speaking of an agenda, as the Dark Side often does, this one is to try to separate right-wing groups fattening at the public trough from glaringly homophobic internal practices.

For the Maryland case, Leonard Link at NYU Law reporting on that state's high court hearing on same-sex marriage. Link didn't include the link to the Court of Appeals video page. The case is docket number 44, dated 12-04-06. It requires RealPlayer. It is nearly an hour from the oyez opening.

The judges didn't tip their hands and said next to nothing.
While the ACLU lawyer for the 19 plaintiffs was more articulate and gave stronger arguments, the poster wrote:But I can't call this one, other than to predict that Judge (Dale) Cathell will vote to reverse. I don't know enough about the other judges to speculate based on their backgrounds or judicial records, and nobody else said enough to help me form an opinion.

If it were to be decided on the basis of doctrine, logic and precedent, we would win going away... but same-sex marriage cases frequently are not decided on that basis, so we will just have to wait and see what they cook up.


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Monday, December 04, 2006

Big Words, High Passion in Maryland

Today, marriage-equality forces square off against regressive government in Maryland. Its highest court, the Court of Appeals, hears arguments in Conaway v. Deane and Polyak.

References: All pertinent documents and the history on the case appear on Equality Maryland's page on the case.

The judges, legislators and voters alike have no doubt who's on what team. In particular, the anti-gay legislators are very plain about their willingness to hold down homosexual couples.

For example, one strident foe of marriage equality is Delegate Donald H. Dwyer Jr. , a Republican from Anne Arundel. He's sort of their Emile Goguen and has unsuccessfully tried three times to get the legislature to pass a ban on SSM. He'll try this coming session. As he not so subtly put it to the Washington Post, "If the state of Maryland legalizes same-sex marriage, there will be nothing to prevent it from being taught in the public schools as a normal sexual lifestyle."

In January, a Baltim0re Circuit Court justice, M. Brooke Murdock, agreed with 19 plaintiffs that limiting marriage licenses to one man and one woman was discriminatory. He suggested that this was unconstitutional.

According to an analytical article in the Baltimore Sun, everyone is wary of this fight. McDaniel College political science professor Herbert C. Smith uses the third-rail allusion. "It will be a political issue at the extremes, and the moderate cores of both parties would like it to go away. It's an issue that has costs."

Stirring the pot are money and bodies from pro-SSM and anti-SSM forces outside and inside the state. Both sides and observers seem to agree that whatever this court decides won't end the matter. The anti-forces vow to fight in the legislature for a DOMA-style amendment. Similarly a New Jersey style mush-mouth ruling -- SSM, just don't call it marriage -- won't satisfy the marriage-equality side.

The Post cites figures from the local Advocates for Children and Youth that Maryland has over 15,000 same-sex couples. Whether anti-SSM folk can continue to look away and hum little distracted songs when acting to discriminate against both homosexual couples and their kids remains to be seen. The emotional factors in this case are understandably high.

The extra wrinkle in this case is the regressive governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. He vetoed both a 2001 law banning sexual-orientation based discrimination and a life partnership law that would provide such benefits as medical decision making for SS couples. He claimed the laws undermined "the sanctity of traditional marriage."

So, in Maryland, the forces are lined up opposite each other. If the high court rules for marriage equality, even in a spongy format, the fight moves to the legislature. If it rules against equality, ahem, the fight moves to the legislature. It looks long and nasty, but SSM still has a good shot there.


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Wide-Eyed in Jersey

The Bay State legislature blew it. In the same circumstances, the Garden State one has a chance to learn from our mistakes. Yet, after their state high court-mandated marriage equality, they seem to lack the clear direction and courage to act decisively too.

A little help has arrived in the form of organizers, courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign. Otherwise, local groups and Garden State Equality are trying to inspire enabling same-sex marriage clearly and cleanly. There is about four and one-half months left to met the legislative deadline. Here, we let that pass through lack of legislative leadership and are still paying for it in the form of die-hard anti-gay. anti-SSM forces foisting amendments and division on us.

According to the Ocean County Observer
, the effort now includes grassroots organizing and numerous community meetings to pressure the politicians from the voter level. That's not as sleepy as it sounds. Garden State Equality Chair Steven Goldstein puts it, "This is being run like the most intense political campaign you can imagine. This is a tooth-and-nail fight to the death, a 24-7, get-no-sleep political campaign."

Yet, in New Jersey, even Democratic legislative leaders are as timorous as ours were. as the Observer put it:
Key lawmakers in the Democratic majority say they favor letting gay couples register in civil unions that would offer all the benefits of marriage but not the title. Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., D-Camden, has said action may be taken by the end of the year.

Goldstein predicts that regardless of the short-term solution, "There is not a doubt in my mind that New Jersey will win marriage for gay couples, 100 percent marriage and not civil unions, within two years,. We're fighting tooth and nail for marriage equality, although the odds for civil unions, which we don't want, are a bit stronger in the short run."


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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Blogging for Bucks

We knew about it, but it is disturbing to see the dollars next to the bloggers next to the related politicians. Today's New York Times' lead op-ed lists 13 bloggers and how much they took from various politicians.

The bulk of the piece is a snazzy table by graphic designer Mike Essl. It displays small; click on it to expand to legible scale. This accompanies minimal text by K. Daniel Glover, editor of National Journal's Technology Daily and author of its Beltway Blogroll.

Payments seem to vary by eyeballs and perceived influence. At the high end, MyDD and Daily Kos blogger Jerome Armstrong got $115,000+ over 15 months from Sherrod Brown and $65,000 in 12 months from Mark Warner. Others got hundreds or thousands a month. Glover got the figures from campaign disclosures.

They all wrote glowingly of their masters, apparently happily trading independence for the world of PR (or some worse term). Glover does note that nearly all revealed their campaign ties, if not the stipend. At least one, Patrick Hynes of Ankle Biting Pundits did so only when other bloggers found out and screamed.

Apparently, the campaigns sought the bloggers and not the other way around. Glover writes too:
Over the past few years, bloggers have won millions of fans by speaking truth to power — even the powers in their own parties — and presenting a fresh, outsider perspective. They are the pamphleteers of the 21st century, revolutionary “citizen journalists” motivated by personal idealism and an unwavering confidence that they can reform American politics.
Those of us who do this because it is right and righteous don't and wouldn't roll over. At the very least, the credibility of those who do is worthless. ...Larry, Darryl and Darryl, anything for a buck.

Yet, this is a capitalist culture and not everyone performs volunteer avocations. It appears that those who shill for money have created a new class of bloggers, a dirty one whose posts have dubious value.

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