Friday, August 31, 2007

Craig Plunges Off the Narrow Edge


Sen. Larry Craig, Republican-Idaho, (shown in his Minneapolis mug shots) is set to resign momentarily, perhaps tomorrow. How the undeservedly privileged has fall!

Let us consider Cicero's admonition that, "So near is falsehood to truth that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge." We have seen such attempts at cleverness far too often. Of course, this arrogance can come from Democrats as well, such as a certain President Clinton. Those praised and rewarded early and often for their ability to make words mean what they want eventually begin to believe that is true.

Craig by all accounts other than his own is a bisexual or closeted homosexual man with a wife and three adult kids. If it is as it seems, he has already lived decades of deceit, likely including self-delusion.

Reading for the past few days about his dissembling following his arrest in a sting of men who cruise restrooms for homosexual sex was sleazy. Hearing the tape of his questioning by the arresting officer leaves no doubt to me that he is a professional liar. It's easier to cut him a little slack by just reading the transcript.

I have written numerous times about politicians and others, locally and nationally, who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Craig is no more appalling than many others. Yet, how curious that this trait is decidedly more concentrated on the right wing of politics, both by citizens and officials.

I had the good fortune to have my two childhood mentors — my mother and her father — raise me to tell the truth and make my lumps when necessary. That brings to mind another pertinent quote. The Washingtonian quoted U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn in 1978 as saying, "Son, always tell the truth. Then you'll never have to remember what you said the last time."

That's what it would have taken Craig in the men's room of the Minneapolis airport. Yet, that should have been his thoughts and actions when he was growing up, when he was in college, when he was single and married, and when he entered public life. True, it was harder then, but it would have prevented a life of lies and the disgrace he now owns.

I confess (if you pardon the expression) that I am pleased when a criminal comes to court saying, "I did it and am dreadfully sorry. I am here to take my punishment." Instead in violent and white-collar crimes alike, the cynical axiom How much justice can you afford? seems to hold sway. Even those caught red-handed plead innocent and try to lie and buy their way out of responsibility.

The lack of self-respect that comes with this compounded dishonesty is sad, even pathetic. In Craig's case, he can't even be called tragic. These lies were no single flaw in a noble being. This is the man who has fought vigorously for years to hold homosexuals down and deny them equality. His dishonesty ends up merely base and self-serving. He played endless games to advance and exalt himself and profit from doing so.

Alas, his duplicity and delusions have reduced him to a cartoon character. Think of Toy Story and Woody's description of Buzz Lightyear — sad, strange little man.

We can hope that he comes to and tries to live a better and an honest life. Even though he has robbed himself of honor in the process, he should not be so distraught at having his veil of deceit lifted from his sad, strange life and do himself in. Instead, he needs to atone.

We can conclude with one more from Cicero — Where is there dignity unless there is honesty?

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The Pod People on the 5th CD

In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky

Ah, the great words of Mungo Jerry from 1970 have meaning for us today. We ask whether Niki Tsongas can in fact touch the sky in the race to replace U.S. 5th CD Rep. Marty Meehan.

Disclaimer: I regret if reading that lyrics snippet puts the tune as an ear worm in your brain. I'm living with it as a result already and empathize.

It is likely, but not certain, that she can touch the sky, that is, win the Democratic primary. Of course, the winner there is almost positive to skunk the Republican in the election and take the seat.

We kicked the pending election (Tuesday, 9/4) around for an hour at our Left Ahead! weekly podcast. Dick Howe was our guest. He and his co-bloggers offer political insights regularly on RichardHowe.com. He's a long-term Lowell and state Democratic Party guy from a political family. He knows this race.

Following our conversation, he got the latest poll results, which are on his site. They still show Niki Tsongas ahead (at 40%), but Eileen Donoghue leaping from 16% to 29%.

It became obviously early on that Tsongas was the emotional favorite in this short, summer race. The timing, similarity of candidates on key issues such as getting out of Iraq, and the voters' seeming obviousness to definable substance has made this hers, unless she blows it.

Real Disclaimer: The three Left Ahead! bloggers together and each of us individually long ago endorsed Jamie Eldridge as the sole progressive candidate in this race.

In the podcast, we got a bit out there with some of the implications. Whoever wins this seat may not get too comfortable. She or he would be filling in the shortened term for Meehan and up again in 2008. The turnout then would be much larger and less predictable. Plus, the winner would not have much time to show results and thus be vulnerable to someone pitching, "I'm the candidate you're been waiting for. Thank the Representative for keeping the chair warm for me."

Also, Massachusetts is likely to lose one or two seats due to reapportionment. This could be one of those. Already whispers include that putting a woman there might keep the seat safer, as Massachusetts so rarely sends a woman to Congress, as we can't elect a woman as governor.

That per-gender argument is crap, but so much of politicking is. This is just another instance.

To the current issue, I continue to be astonished at how little experience comes into play in the polls. Clearly on paper, Tsongas is the least qualified. She's never held public office and relies on a combination of service to non-profit boards, an unrelated academic job, and maybe getting knowledge by osmosis watching her late husband in D.C.

Her opponents include a Lowell mayor and councilor (Donoghue) and three state legislators (Eldridge, Barry Finegold, and Jim Miceli). You'd have to be raw populist with blinders to think, "Oh, let's avoid lawyers and anyone with comparable experience and expertise. Let's go with the nice widow."

Tsongas does seem very nice, but she clearly is not the smartest of the bunch any more than the most experienced. Donoghue exudes competence and confidence, in contrast.

I wish I was in the district and could vote on this one.

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Iowa: Yes to Gay Marriage!

Liberty and common sense visited two states yesterday — Iowa and Maine. A district court in Iowa voided the state's DOMA law and ordered issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Also, Maine's high court ruled for a lesbian couple, and for two foster children they raised for six years, to permit adoption.

These two strongly pro-family rulings show the compassion, humanity and respect of law that has too often been lacking during the recent emotionally driven courts and legislatures recently. I can't call a trend yet, but with the sloth-like western states lumbering toward marriage equality, we may be getting a little filling in our fairness sandwich. (Block that metaphor!)

The Maine one was simple and sweet. The Cumberland County Probate Court tried to duck the same-sex-adoption issue, claiming they had no jurisdiction. In the high-court ruling, the justices unanimously said the normal adoption process applied and ordered it to continue. As an interesting sidelight, a friend of the court brief came from the state's Attorney General Steven Rowe, who argued that prohibiting this adoption would not serve the best interest of the children involved or the Maine adoption law's intent.

Iowa was not a clean. It has/had a DOMA law 595.2(1) simply stating "Only a marriage between a male and a female is valid." While that seems plain enough, it ran afoul in yesterday's decision in conflicting with and contradicting other laws. Specifically, a variety of equal-treatment laws require legal fairness.

We saw that as the basis here in Goodridge in Massachusetts, as well as in Canada, where it's Charter of Rights and Freedoms mandated fairness. In all these outcomes and others, courts and in some cases legislatures have decided that no one gets to cross out the homosexual or the woman or another other group and say except for these people.

As usual, the Leonard Link site had the fastest and best analysis. See Arthur Leonard's take here. I suggest that you, if your pardon, cruise the 63-page decision, which is here.

The decision is good reading for several reasons. Not only is it seemingly flawless in its well reasoned findings, it directly confronts underlying issues that spongier decisions in similar cases avoided. Also, the district court system in Iowa could face two levels of appeal and review.

The trial judge, Robert B. Hanson, did not do the usual timorous staying of his ruling, which was:
  1. Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and Defendant's opposing motion for summary judgment is DENIED.
  2. Iowa Code §595.2(1) is hereby nullified, severed and stricken from Iowa Code Chapter 595. ..
  3. All remaining provisions of Iowa Code Chapter 595 are to be interpreted in a gender-neutral manner so as not to exclude couples of the same sex from eligibility for a marriage license.
  4. Defendant is hereby enjoined from refusing to issue marriage licenses to Plaintiffs or any other same-sex couples who a) are otherwise eligible for said licenses pursuant to Chapter 595 as amended and interpreted by this order, and b) who properly apply for such licenses.
  5. Court costs are hereby taxed to Defendant.
That's a highly unusual form of judicial clarity. He voided the DOMA wording and ordered issuing marriage licenses. So there.

Of course, it may not be so there. The theater of courts permit but do not require appeals. The district court system (eight districts in the state) is the highest level of trial courts. Above this are two systems, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Either can consider the ruling and act on it.

My reading of the ruling suggests that Hanson left no room for claiming error. I'm not sure how effective whining by the anti-gay forces might be on an appeal. As Leonard notes, "Before plunging into the factual findings and analysis, Judge Hanson devoted several pages to explaining why he decided to disregard the opinion testimony of several individuals proposed by the defendants and the plaintiffs as 'expert witnesses.'"

For example, he did not allow generalization by Ph.D. types out of their fields. With a refreshing clarity, Hanson writes (page 7 of his decision), "The views espoused by these individuals appear to be largely personal and not based on observation supported by scientific methodology or based on empirical research in any sense. They do not meet the criteria for admission of expert testimony..." Also, the proposed witnesses who would make up conclusions about what they say might happen if homosexual couples could wed were disallowed, as were those who wanted to interject their personal religious beliefs.

This Hanson character must have gotten the courage and honor that so many other judges lack.

On paper, gay Iowans could get a license today and marry next week after the waiting paper. I certainly how some will do just that in the next few hours. Meanwhile, the Polk County recorder, who was defendant can and may well appeal. Such a request would go to the state Supreme Court, which could reject it or send it to the Court of Appeals for consideration.

Beyond this, the state requires a couple-year process to amend its constitution, similar to the Massachusetts process. Any proposed amendment must pass both houses of the legislature in two sessions (two years) before going to the voters. The state senate has already tied on this issue previously and is not likely to pass it, since becoming majority Democratic.

By the bye, the Iowa motto is Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.

Well, if this doesn't pop your corn, I don't know what would.

Afternoon Update: The AP reports that two men married in Des Moines this morning. The stereotype aspect is that it was on the front lawn of the UU minister who performed the ceremony. I had figured that folks would go through the cycle and wait the normal three business days, but Iowa State students Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan paid the $5 to a judge to accelerate the process. The Rev. Mark Stringer solemnized the marriage. He may not have completed his Toastmaster sessions; he wrapped up with, "This is a legal document and you are married." Meanwhile, Polk County Attorney John Sarcone asked Judge Hanson for a stay of his order pending an appeal. The stay hearing can't occur until after Labor Day.

In the AP/Charlie Neibergall image above, that's from left Fritz and McQuillan. Stringer wears the stole.

Update Update: Hanson didn't wait. That couple may be the only SSM for the time being. Hanson stayed the order at about 12:30 P.M. Eastern Time. No more same-sex licenses can be legally issued pending any appeal, according to a report in the Des Moines Register. Logic says the first couple should be married. Likewise, other licenses issued before Hanson's stay should have effect, but whether a resulting marriage for those would count short term would depend on an interpretation how the stay affected them.

Update Expansion: Per the Iowa City Press-Citizen, about 20 SS wedding licenses were issued before Hanson stayed his order. Polk County Recorder Julie Haggerty said she cannot issue more pending an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Des Moines Register had a short with quotes from couples who waited, some from 5:30 a.m. for licenses. It included, "Those couples will likely receive a letter next week from Polk County saying their licenses are not valid."

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Brief Blog Holiday


Off for a few days, here and at Harrumph! and Left Ahead!

Likely next up will be the bees Andy and I visited today in JP.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

New, Improved (Cycling) Mayor


The world's wrongest cliché must be that people don't change. It is the shield for the cowardly and lazy.

Yet, given my tirades against Mayor Tom Menino about being anti-bicycle (like here), believe that the piece on his change of heart and head in today's Globe astonished me.

I've wanted this for so long, I don't have to see it to believe it. However, until you get today's paper or click over to the site, I include part of a George Rizer (Globe photog) pic. (I think his seat's a little low, but we can work on that.)

I'll see if I can get comments from Da Mare, as well as congratulating him and maybe apologizing for years of criticism. If Tommy now likes bikes, things will get better for us cyclists and commuters alike. Hyde Park Avenue is big enough for both of us.

Check the story to see that:
  • He's a noob
  • He's been out at 5 a.m. (he'll need front and back lights to be legal)
  • He bought and unspecified brand of 3-speed automatic that looks like a commuting bike
  • He's been doing 45 minutes at slow speeds
  • He hasn't been on a bike in 40 years
  • His chief of planning, Michael Kineavy, apparently inspired him
He article quoted his minions joking that he'll now expand his early morning and late night calls about things that have to be done immediately to potholes. Worse things could happen.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

BostonNOW, BostonNOT, BostonNO!


Street freebie papers seem like a good idea. Great Caesar's ghost! Boston has more than its share, bumping shoulders for distribution and ad revenue.

An old hand (likely my age) in the news biz, John Wilpers marched alertly into this battle last spring, to be the new editor of BostonNOW. We met at the New England News Forum in April at UMASS/Lowell. There he spoke of his innovations in planning to integrate blog content in the handout tabloid.

He's a wispy little fellow. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture and those I see all have copyright claims, except for the accompanying Steve Garfield one that NPR used, which is under Creative Commons. (I hope this is not a trend where citizen snappers and bloggers start claiming all rights willy-nilly. I don't.)

Yet, he is more substantial than he appears. The soft-spoken and slight Wilpers carries a shield of experience. He speaks with the confidence of the competent.

After he had a successful run starting the Boston Metro — in the black within 18 months, he says — he ran the Washington Examiner. That freebie had both subway handouts and driveway deliveries. You can read his take on how that went and what he sees as the niches for freebies in a PBS article here.

Interestingly enough, it appears from a short in MediaBistro when Wilpers resigned from the Examiner, that he is not entirely above spin. He said then, "It's time for me to reconnect with my family and for me to find a work situation that is more harmonious with my personal life. I am proud of the job that has been done over the past year in transforming the three Journal Newspapers into the Washington Examiner and proud of the role that I played in that success." That's not exactly Dick Nixon declaring victory in Vietnam, but Wilpers did not have the financial success in D.C. that he did initially in Boston with the Metro, and investors can be very impatient. Here too, main guy Russel Pergament is known for wanting fast ROI.

Up in Lowell, Wilpers didn't make politician-style promises, in his presentation or directly in our conversation. He didn't even use the buzzword hyperlocal.

The idea of bloggers as per-street, per-neighborhood town criers will likely get pretty tired pretty quickly. In execution, it often involves picking up mundane pebbles or straining at cleverness. On a big scale, aggregaters like outside.in do this and hope to make a buck, and in our part of the world examples of doing this right are UniversalHub. or H2Otown. Yet, done poorly, highly local minutia has the dreadful sameness of the original blog model of my cute kitten, my cute kid and my cute girlfriend.

Instead, Wilpers hoped to augment the MSM here, who badly falter and fall on local coverage. The press and broadcast continue to slash staff, filling ad time and space counterpoints with syndicated and wire stories, or worse, press releases. Yawn.

His model was to take good bloggers' material and augment the predictable with the fun, voyeuristic and, yes, hyperlocal, if it was worthy. He said that when BostonNOW made a profit, some of that would go to small payments to bloggers. Meanwhile, they'd be unpaid stringers. They'd get a plug for their sites and expect to up their traffic...maybe. That would be great for their egos and if they used ad links, like Google Adsense, they might make a few dollars while they waited for nickels and quarters.

Maybe I'm just not the entrepreneurial or self-promoting type, but I told him I'd wait to see what the rest of BostonNOW content was over a month or two before signing up as a blogger. I did not like the start or what has happened. I had some snarky comments recently in a piece on another freebie.

Some more expansive and nastier comments appeared in this week's Media Farm in the Dig.

After Wilpers was exiled to the nebulous role of consultant last week, the Dig cited their initial interaction with him, and stated, "We can't imagine that this (the firing and the oft-dreadful paper) is how Wilpers envisioned things would turn out. When he spoke to the Dig this past spring, Wilpers was brimming with optimism and with ideas on how to save journalism."

They recall him telling them that the MSM circulation drop "has a lot to do with newspapers' irrelevancy to people's lives...There's no content that's relevant to many readers. They still think with that gatekeeper model for what belongs and what doesn't. We don't agree. We're opening up the floodgates. Look out!"

While the Media Farm liked most of Wilper's vision, but suspects that "the model he helped dream up is itself broken." There judgment is that putting snippets from local blogs next to short wire pieces does not leverage blogs' advantages and "doesn't work journalistically" (whatever that means to Dig generalizers). However, I do agree with the conclusion that "when you've got no real way of cultivating and rewarding talented writers while suppressing dreck, dreck is what you get."

In theory, it doesn't have to be that way. Smart, literate, insightful bloggers might have thrown themselves at Wilpers. In another fantasy world, walk-on players might produce a national-championship college football team. Neither is likely to happen in our lifetimes.

It seems the BostonNOW people ramped up too quickly (do impatient greed and opportunism play here?). Media Farm cites publication before reader input was enabled on the net and with no copy editor to start.

I worked down at Ft. Point Channel while this very tiny drama played. So, I'd gather freebies daily, weekly and monthly — BostonNow, Metro, BayWindows, the Herald on afternoons when it was free, Epoch Times, the Dig, the Phoenix, Exhibit A, and a few other. I went to journalism school and truly have a newspaper jones.

None of the local freebies manifests the model of making a newspaper meaningful to people tired of the insipid local dailies. There are many dozens, maybe hundreds, of local stories that the Globe and Herald are too understaffed or too arrogant to report and run each week. In one area, I've even been seeing increasing crime and accident coverage in blogs that neither covers. Great Caesar's ghost, you get better police stories from the items the BPDnews than the dailies. But translating that into a form that works in an ad-supported handout is yet to be done here.

I suspect that someone somewhere else will develop this model. It may look more like the European dailies that have quickly growing circulations and are beautifully designed.

Then once a company in San Francisco or Chicago or wherever does it, we can copy it here. I look forward to that but don't expect any of our current players to do it on their own.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Poking Vick with a Stick, Forever


How did our seesaw of society slide to schadenfreude? Newspaper editorials, op-eds and letters, as well as many blogs and speakers at public hearings, want Hell for the living.

Only the most recent example is Michael Vick. He pleaded guilty to offenses related to holding and funding dog fights, murdering dogs. The actual plea was for conspiring to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture. That reduced vicious, prolonged brutality to its federal violations. It does not include the possible Virginia animal cruelty charges that in theory could mean decades in jail (but likely won't).

Short of a few blood-sport loonies (and one confused NBA star), everyone acknowledges Vick is a criminal who deserves punishment. Yet what is astonishing includes:
  • Despite his being sure to lose his quarterback job with $130 million income, plus hundreds of millions of endorsements, that does not begin to be enough for many of us.
  • Despite his likely going to prison for 18 months to two years and losing his abilities that make him a top athlete, that does not begin to be enough for many of us.
A startling percentage of us seem to demand perpetual punishment for him, as we do for most convicted criminals. Surely if the vengeance crowd had compassion, they lost it. If they learned the concepts of paying the price, rehabilitation and second chances, they lost those.

Unpayable Debts

This allegedly is a nation of second chances, despite F. Scott Fitzgerald's melodramatic statement that "There are no second acts in American lives." Yet in the past few decades we have turned on those who need another shot the most. Our laws pretend to be reasonable and rational.

The theory is that if you are caught and convicted of (or plead guilty to) a serious crime, you pay in prison time or fines or both. Then you are supposed to live lawfully and contribute to society in taxes and otherwise.

In the large part, we are not very good at rehab. Felons don't come out of prison with new licit skills, rather with bitterness and knowledge of other criminal activities. Yet even with our warehousing mentality — and the highest percentage of our citizens in jail of any first-world country — some convicts emerge chastened and legit.

What we are seeing and doing now though shows widespread eagerness to provide non-stop and permanent punishment. Imagine if the public stocks from the Puritan times were perpetual. You are humiliated daily and forever for your sins against society. That would elevate punishment to Promethean levels, with that bird of prey eating your liver and returning to do the same with the regenerated one.

How is it that we decided that there is no way to pay a debt to society with prison time?

Worst Cases

An understandable wedge that may have contributed is child molesters and other sexual predators. We have sex-offender registries, laws and regulations on where they can live and travel, electronic anklets, and other tools to help assure the public that we are always watching them. Of course, this accepts that these people are crazy and incurable and presumes that such crazies will not act if they think the police are watching. We have many re-offender examples to disprove the latter.

The case of sex offenders illustrates the conundrum clearly, the issue that pertains to most convicted felons. The ideal is that being sent to prison is not for additional punishment, rather is the punishment, the loss of freedom, which allegedly is the great American driving force. The other part of that is while incarcerated, the prisoners get their heads on straight, receive therapeutic counseling and if they are there long enough, additional education to ensure that they emerge stable and productive. In those situations, the revitalized and wiser former criminal pays the social debt and returns to join us. We of course show compassion and welcome these citizens.

Back to sex offenders, we can't seem to re-pattern them. They go into prison with uncontrollable illegal lusts and come out with the same. We then look at various options:
  1. Change the laws to permit keeping them in jail or psychiatric hospitalization forever, and do so.
  2. Expect them to re-offend, monitor them until they slip up, and in effect do the first option. Repeat as necessary.
  3. Dog them day and night, protest in front of their homes, demand that they be tossed from their jobs and living arrangements, and make them suffer until they end up back in prison or kill themselves violently or with drugs.
  4. Devote many millions to researching behavioral or pharmaceutical cures, which is likely expensive and years away, and may even be impossible in some cases.
None of those is a great choice. Only the last one approaches the ideal of the justice system at all.

Starting Fresh

I am a baby boomer and I grew up with the ideals that our WWII parents preached. One of those ideals that recurred frequently in literature, TV and movies was paying your debt to society. In the story, there often were small-minded and unfair folk who wanted to harry the ex-con just trying to make his way. Usually a hero found support in the majority of citizens with the message of that debt has been paid.

There are other, older tales in which taking the allegedly reserved authority of a God for vengeance continues. I think of Les Misérables, even though Jean Valjean only sort of paid his debt. Five years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family and 14 years for escapes, he violated parole by not carrying his yellow ex-con ticket and telling everyone who he was. Even after a decade of exemplary life, Valjean remained the target of a relentless Inspector Javert. Author Victor Hugo makes his political statement and has his jest at justice with the ending. After Valjean saves Javert among others, the inspector kills himself when he realizes he can't stand to take Valjean in again. The vengeance monster must be fed!

How did we get to a point as nation that so many of us in the public and media can say that all former prisons deserve non-stop punishment? How did so many of us come to excuse contributing to others' suffering as a virtue and necessity?

Far too many of us seem to relish the Code of Hammurabi and the fearful vengeance of the Old Testament God. We also want to control the forces of retribution.

In a very real sense, that kind of blood lust and viciousness are far too similar to Michael Vick's crimes. A major difference is that those who cannot permit reentry into society demand continuous and continual punishment, a painful life and a long discomfort leading to a slow death.

As a good example, the leadership of the Atlanta NAACP is much more New Testament about the Vick situation. In an AP story, they agree that his deeds deserve punishment and that he has to pay his debt. However, Chapter President R.L. White said, "As a society, we should aid in his rehabilitation and welcome a new Michael Vick back into the community without a permanent loss of his career in football."

There's a balance that we can all strike. Whether it's stealing, hurting someone, or cruelly using dogs for fatal sport and profit, there are penalties for those caught and convicted. When we do not honor that, we presume to take the authority of the lawmakers, police, judges and even any God we might follow.

Who are we to do that?

A felon like Vick needs prison time. In this case, he is certain to lose more than nearly any of us could ever acquire, in reputation, money, status, relationships and almost anything else we can catalog. As with other convicted criminals, he needs a fair shake when he leaves prison.

I don't know that we have the will and compassion to pursue real rehabilitation for prisoners. We certainly should find better ways to reduce the number and percentage of Americans sent to jail. What we are doing doesn't work before, during or after prison.

Meanwhile, we have a justice system in place with penalties for offenses. The public stocks are literally gone from our towns' commons. Let us not figuratively restore them.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Truthiness Pointer (Cirignano Edition)

Click over to QueerToday for John Hosty's update and recap on the maybe trial of Catholic Citizenship's former head, Larry Cirignano. I hadn't gotten to citing the scheduled October 15th trial (a nice Monday for a trip to Worcester, eh?). Bay Windows has more on that.

By the bye, I write maybe because such slippery characters often seem to plea bargain.

John was at the December rally last year when pro-equality demonstrator Sarah Loy hit the pavement, face down. Numerous witnesses told police Cirignano shoved her from behind. In typical winger fashion, he claims innocence. He and some VoteOnMarriage folk say she was provocatively blocking the podium, while witnesses and photos show she was not and that the podium was in an open space separated by maybe 30 feet from anyone. He also says he gently guided her and she fell on her own, when those many witnesses call it what the prosecutor has, assault and battery, and violation of her right to free speech.

Read John's account and think about a journey to our second largest city.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Itty-Boo, Parvenu

Here, we allegedly have neither royalty nor a deferential society. We're 'mer'cans, after all, not Brits.

Yet, it's hard to square our feigned egalitarianism with MacMansions, with slavish attention to tawdry, self-indulgent celebrities, and with envy and worship of business types and those with inherited wealth. We somehow have overlooked the hereditary titles, as well as the requirement of decorum, but otherwise, we out-English the English.

You can lift up the lid on this cesspool of irrationality by observing media coverage of our brand of royalty. You can also consider the disparate takes on a little book by Newsweek writer Dana Thomas, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.

I am first to confess that I love alliteration more than most. That surely stems from and was ingrained by my elementary-school poetry writing. In this book's case, it illustrates the artificial cleverness that this fashion/style/culture writer employs.

Light Muckraking

That is the nature of her business as well, but be warned. Were she on the serious side of reportage, this could be yellow journalism and exposé. She draws on her visits to the workrooms, factories, offices and stores of high-end nonnecessities. She emerges with a few bits of dirt in her teeth, such as absurdly overpriced (and to my eye, very ugly) handbags being almost entirely made in poor countries before coming to Italy or France to get a buckle (and the MADE IN... tag) added. Also, foreign factory managers and workers save scraps to feed into the illegal knock-off market.

Jeeves, quickly, my smelling salts!

You can get your own sense of her cutesy, lightweight insider's writing by paying $28 or heading or to Gawker for some excerpts — handbag obsessions, underground purses, and tiny lessons from the Parada HQ. Yet, more telling is how this trivial book is garnering disparate reviews.

Get It/Don't Get It

Over at the blue-collar New York Daily News, Sherryl Connelly plays up the asininity of wasting money to look like so many others aspiring to look like some dubious ideal of privileged. As she writes:
"Perhaps because as the luxury goods industry has swelled to a $157 billion business, it's obvious in a world gone mad for designer goods that we're buying in. What are we coming away with, then, for our dollars?

According to Thomas, we're duped into purchasing 'the appearance of exclusivity,' which she considers an inferior product. Maybe it is, and in that case it's fair to ask: Hey sucker, where didja get that bag?"
Over at glam.com, the take is that the book "explores the darker side of the new luxury industry... and reveals that instead of producing the finest products that money can buy, the luxury marketplace today focuses on the single goal that the major fashion labels don't want you to know about: maximizing profits." Likewise, a review by John Stoehr in the Savannah Morning News (disclaimer, I used to work there and might not cite it otherwise) judges, "While it's not completely clear where Thomas' sympathies lie, one can tell she's genuinely troubled by the facts she has unearthed. The splendor of luxury is clearly tainted by knowing so much about it."

However, the best take is totally different. A review in the business section (!) of the Sunday New York Times by Harry Hurt III (only III?) rues the day when the really upper class could look down their long faces at hoi polloi who would drape themselves in their castoffs.

He calls it "sometimes heat-wrenching" when Thomas notes that luxury biz no longer caters to what I would call our royalty. He quotes her passage that making high-end goods available to plebes is a social tragedy. "It has become part of our social fabric. To achieve this, it has sacrificed its integrity, undermined its products, tarnished its history and hoodwinked its consumers. In order to make luxury 'accessible,' tycoons have stripped away all that has made it special."

So put in my terms, most of those who sell luxury items to make the self-defined aristocrats feel ever more special and distinct have fallen into a luxury industry. Alas, when the wealthy would easily differentiate themselves from hoi polli by what they would acquire for have done for them may be much harder. As Hurt notes, the richest will always have ways beyond means of even the wealthy to have custom goods and services. Yet, now even people who work for a living can brazenly stroll with oversized evidence of the unnecessary and overpriced.

Hurt loves Thomas' image that "Luxury wasn’t simply a product. It denoted a history of tradition, superior quality, and often a pampered buying experience. Luxury was a natural and expected element of upper-class life, like belonging to the right clubs or having the right surname. And it was produced in small quantities — often made to order — for an extremely limited and truly elite clientèle."

Horror at the Common

That may look to us as though she is writing about people who belong an a zoo or museum. Yet she and Hurt seem like minded on this.

He even pulls images of terrible consequences from this democratization of exclusivity. He cites "dire effects across the globe, and on almost every socio-economic level." Among these are sweatshops. He seems totally unaware that those have existed for centuries, are far more common for ordinary consumer goods, would not go away if all the luxury labels poof disappeared, and luxury companies don't pay their overworked laborers any more than sneaker companies do.

Our everybody-panic reviewer concludes that "merchandising luxury has taken a heavy toll on both cultural and language...one of the most dire effects has been to turn the term itself into a kind of oxymoron. After all, what's the real luxury in being a 'have' if hordes of logo-loving former have-nots can own the same product?"

Now, luxury-brand companies are rapacious capitalists seeking excess profits from rapacious consumers. They deserve each other.

On the other hand, Thomas and Hurt can split a vintage Veuve Cliquot as befits their slightly elevated status, while lamenting that the very unAmerican pseudo-royalty has to work harder to find ways to feel special. Surely, that class can hire someone to find those ways for them.

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Bike Racks and JP Cave Garages

Two non-political (except for one Menino dig) and off-topic posts are over at Harrumph! There are the under-house and hillside garages of JP's Woodbourne and the search for bike racks amidst the quasi-luxury of Chestnut Hill.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Not Quite Sox and Plying the Canals

Those familiar with my adulation of the Lowell Folk Festival and silence between July and July may be shocked to know that Lowell is open to visitors all year. There's that Lupien lady and the Howe gentleman who beat quiet drums for our fourth largest city.

Last weekend, my two youngest sons and I took in a pair of Lowell's goodies. Check out the affordable fun at the Spinners (Sox farm team) game and go to water level with industrial and union history on a canal tour.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When I Despair Over Equality

It's too easy to lose perspective in political and personal struggles. Recent conversations remind me that we are moving in good directions socially. I'm just not a patient sort and don't always keep that in mind.

Yesterday's podcast with Tom Lang centered on what's done and undone in marriage equality and GLBT struggles. We didn't really discuss, but I was remembering, that only a year and change ago, Maine was still in the fundamental struggle over basic gay rights. Voters there had repealed such legislation several times and despite strong support from the governor and full legislature for the current gay-rights wording and regulations, they were voting on an override again.

As it turned out, the electorate had progressed and defeated the repeal attempt. It was in my mind because of the proof of the power of presence. In interviews and polls before and after the vote, one citizen after another who had evolved on the issue came around to familiarity engendering compassion and a sense of fairness. This seems to have occurred because many thousands of gay Mainers made themselves known. Singled and partnered, older and younger, urban and rural, homosexuals made themselves known. By supporting repeal, voters would be taking rights from neighbors, co-workers, gym buddies, friends, bowling partners and the guy on the next bar stool.

In the end a solid majority couldn't do that, not to the thousands of everyday heroes who simply let it be known that they were homosexual.

Granted, it is a bit easier to come out than it was when I first became aware of homosexuals over 40 years ago. Back when you might be fired and maybe beaten, and knowing that the law and law enforcers would not help you, it was much harder. It's frightening still to think that in many places in the country conditions are not much better and discrimination is still not illegal.

In the 1960s, I recall the dichotomy of my gay friends and the out men and women in Greenwich Village. My friends were afraid to come out to their families and others. In the Village though, there were many gay men. They had to be careful when they went to other neighborhoods or were walking around alone after dark, but being obviously out was okay.

Ironically, the exaggerated behavior and mannerism by some of the WWII-era men was courageous theater. The stereotypes show in La Cage Aux Folles and even The Boys in the Band were not that far off. The limp-wrist, lisping mannerisms might not have played well in Des Moines or even Newark, but it was acceptable and fun on Christopher Street.

I spent a lot of time in the Village during high school and moved there after college. The clubbish and cliquish nature of particularly gay men was not all of the neighborhood, but was an important part. I recall gentle exclusions that were part of that. For example, when I moved there and visited the Limelight shortly after, a bartender and a man in full (well, outrageous) drag, advised me that I should make myself scarce soon, not for danger but for comfort of all. This was no longer the bar where Jean Shepherd used to tell his radio stories. Sure enough, other guys started arriving. There were no women and everyone other than the two bartenders was in drag. The advisers were right. It was not my world.

Then too, I recall the two older men who used to run the Café Sha Sha on Hudson. They fit the stereotypes and were good buddies on a number of rough nights with my first son.

I know many people who say their kids slept through the night from the beginning. Not mine. Until he was six or seven months, he never did, not once. It's good he was cute. That has to be nature's way of ensuring continuation of the species.

So in a West Village apartment at 1 or 2 a.m., a squalling, fretting baby is hell inside. Yet plop him an a Snugli® or stroller and he was delighted to watch the nightlife. Invariably passersby would not pass by. He loved the chatting as well.

I see that Sha Sha is still in business, but it looks fancier than I recall and it closes at midnight. I bet that the former owners, who would be in their eighties at least, are not there either.

They were funny and fine and fabulous to our baby. They called themselves fairy godmothers and were perfect companions for a sleepless tot at 2 a.m. They had the mannerisms of the time and seemed perfectly comfortable in their skins. There were few customers then and the owners had time to sit. We had figured to order some espressos and park the stroller where he could watch — quietly. But they would have none of it. They chatted with him, remarked how seldom they got to be around babies and would try various baked goods to see what would help with his teething. He laughed and they laughed back.

Well, those days are largely gone. My baby is an adult and the coded behaviors of gay men are much less common, or at least more diverse. Come to think of it, straight men and women have their own behavior norms and theater, sometimes different, but not less stereotypical.

My gay friends, some I've know from the sandbox, are much more comfortable personally and secure professionally. None hides orientation from parents. Yet, the struggle remains in far too many places. Basic gay rights are still not part of the laws and culture in far too much of America.

Rather than despair, I have to keep in mind the advances I have seen in my lifetime. The majority of Mainers support gay rights and are even talking about maybe someday allowing same-sex marriage. We have no reason to suppose there can be a reversal of such civil rights, but the effort to maintain and advance fairness is far from over.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Setting the Dem 2008 Agenda, à la Tom Lang

Anyone feeling a letdown after June's amendment victory can feel revitalized by taking it to Dem candidates for President 2008. Tom Lang at Know Thy Neighbor told us that he and co-founder Aaron Teleos have shifted to the election. He's calling for progressives and GLBT activists to contact the candidates.

Over at Left Ahead! in our weekly podcast, we had a good session with Tom as the guest. You can listen to the cast there or download it here. Tom comes in early for the hour-long session. The download is 14MB in MP3 format.

Tom is decidedly not burned out or folding his tent. He sees a lot to be done. By the bye, there are different strategies, but according to a Bay Windows interview, MassEquality's Marc Solomon says that the amendment victory does not mean his organization is going away, even after it helps the pro-marriage-equality legislators in upcoming elections.

Tom was on with the usual suspects, Ryan Adams, Lynne Lupien and me. He shared our distress that even at the LOGO/HRC forum, the leading Dem candidates for President failed to come out plainly for equal rights and marriage equality.

This shows that this is the time and that there is a real need for activists to call, write or even visit the candidates. They need to know that they can't count on GLBT or progressive voters (and he cited a 90% voting rate by GLBT citizens) if they equivocate on equality or make vague civil-union mentions.

He has little patience with Hillary Clinton's hairsplitting on portions of DOMA, instead of the obvious trash-it position. I'm with him. The leading candidates all seem to read the same polls that say the majority of Americans are already supportive of civil unions. I see the leadership position as saying the push should be for marriage equality. Only trailing candidates Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel are there already.

Checking the websites of the candidates shows scant civil rights, gay rights, marriage equality or similar positions or platforms. With over a year before the election, this is a great time to put that political energy to work.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Lang, Guest on Left Ahead!

Tom Lang, co-founder of Know Thy Neighbor is the guest on this week's Left Ahead! podcast. Unlike the majority let's-not-rile-the-Orcs liberals, Tom's group took it to the petition folk at VoteOnMarriage.

Know Thy Neighbor published the names and addresses of anti-marriage-equality voters who allegedly signed the petition to put an amendment to stop same-sex marriage on the 2008 ballot. That, of course, served to primary purposes. It announced who appeared to be on the anti-gay/anti-SSM camp. It also let people see if they were part of the massive fraud in paid signature gathering, showing up on the petitions when they had not signed.

We'll talk to Tom Tuesday — the cast starts at 2:30 p.m. and you can listen live or check Left Ahead! to listen or download the session. We'll ask what's undone from his earlier work, how the Florida effort goes, and what he sees as the issues locally and beyond.

We expect to discuss the LOGO/HRC forum of Dem Presidential candidates, plus our personal rants.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rabid Religionists Misfire on Lawmakers

I guess you shouldn't pronounce the acronym of Concerned Roman Catholics (not crock) of America. They are the winner of the latest Nemesis Award, the Chihuahua of Retribution.

Historical note: The first winner's post is here. The second is here.

Amusingly enough, they use America in their name. They are clearly as unamerican and anti-liberty as anyone. Perhaps that is just a geographic distinction or perhaps they differentiate themselves from apathetic Roman Catholics, or those who have developed with their church over the past 2,000 years.

This group has gone beyond trying to subvert democracy and institute theocracy. Their latest ploy (sadly for them, ineffectual) was to hie to this week's Knights of Columbus national gathering to demand the ouster of Massachusetts legislators who refused to help put marriage equality to a plebiscite.

Those of us who aren't Knights — and by KofC figures that would be 99.4% of us — may be a bit confused about the nature of the organization and why don't-call-them-crock folk think our legislators need to be tossed. Unfortunately for our chihuahuas, the Knights are about Jesus' work, charity, and not about punishing heretics.

As the KofC puts it (see the link above):
Thanks to the efforts of Father Michael J. McGivney, assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven and some of his parishioners, the Connecticut state legislature on March 29, 1882, officially chartered the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal benefit society. The Order is still true to its founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity.

The Knights was formed to render financial aid to members and their families. Mutual aid and assistance are offered to sick, disabled and needy members and their families. Social and intellectual fellowship is promoted among members and their families through educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief and public relief works.
Somehow, they left out the part about judging others, about taking the authority of their God and prelates for their own, and enforcing political compliance regardless of the effects on the public. No, those silly Knights are concerned with poor widows and others in need. How shortsighted they are, when the could be wielding the whip of righteousness.

You'd think that the knuckle-cracking disciplinarian Pope Benedict would help here. After all, for 25 years, he headed the doctrinal interpreter, the organization formerly known as the Roman Inquisition. Yet, he has not been about excommunicating or threatening our lawmakers.

Instead, like chihuahuas, the concerned sorts seem pretty yappy and excitable. A look at their website reveals a lack of subtlety as well as compassion. They lead with:

MORE ON GRAVE SCANDAL WITHIN THE "KNIGHTS" OF COLUMBUS- FOUR MORE ADDED TO LIST OF JUDAS KNIGHTS IN MASS.

I have just heard from John O’Gorman, the Fighting Knight of Columbus from Massachusetts, that the 170,000 signature Initiative Petition to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman was thwarted by the Legislature, meeting in joint Constitutional Convention, on Thursday, June 14 2007. The sad part is it would have passed to go on the ballot in 2008 had it not been for the votes of at least sixteen men who call themselves Knights of Columbus who voted against the Church they are supposed to be Knights of, and for the sodomites they support!

Massachusetts Speaker of the House Sal Dimasi, and House Majority Leader John Rogers.

State Reps: Garrett Bradley, Bob Deleo, Stephen Di Natale, Chris Donelan, Christopher Fallon, Kevin Honan, Charles Murphy, Angelo Puppolo and Bob Spellane, Bob Nyman, and Paul McMurtry.

State Senators: Tom McGee, Michael Knapik, and Michael Morrissey.

It only required 50 votes to bring this to the people of Massachusetts for a vote. The vote was 45 to do so. If the sixteen so called Knights had voted with the Church, and for the good of society, they would have had SIXTY ONE! God have mercy on their much compromised souls!

Seven of these Judases have PRO-CHOICE RATINGS FROM PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF MASS,, they are: The Speaker Dimasi, Bradley, Donelan, Honan, Murphy, Spellane, and McGee!

Unfortunately for the bile-filled protesters, no one seems to have noticed. The Tennessee and national papers didn't cover anything. However, our own Boston Herald did cover this today, apparently working straight off the group's sources. I have to wonder whether they had a minyan (no, that's Jewish) or a posse (no, that's frontier America) or whatever to have their anti-sodomite-supporter event. That would be unfortunate to show up in Nashville during the hottest time of the year without complaining to someone about something. Yap.

The Herald managed to get a response from the KofC, but not what the outraged ones would want to hear:
But Knights of Columbus spokesman Patrick Korten said the group has no plans to boot the Massachusetts lawmakers. Of the flap, he said: “The Knights of Columbus is a strongly pro-life organization. If there are a few members who don’t share those views, that’s unfortunate, but irrelevant.”
There's lots of "i" words for our Nemesis winner — irrelevant, irreverent, irrational, irresponsible, and irascible.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

LOGO Forum: Dearth of Leaders

This follows my initial take on the LOGO/HRC candidates' forum. What their remarks suggest is that the four front-runners lack:
  • Courage of conviction
  • Sufficient vision and direction to lead the nation
  • Understanding of equality and democratic principles
You can view a few clips for the six candidates on the LOGO site. While this was on the gay-oriented cable channel, the questions and answers range beyond GLBT issues. My very opinionated judgments and a few outtakes on each follow.

Barack Obama

Bizarrely enough, expected listeners to believe that chiding a group of anti-gay Black ministers is all the equality cred he needs.
I specifically talked about the degree to which the nation of gay marriage in Black churches has been used to divide, has been used to distract. I specifically pointed out that if there's any pastor who can point to a marriage that has been broken up as a consequence of seeing two men or two women holding hands then you should tell me, because, I haven't seen any evidence of it.
That glib speech-let brought much applause. Unfortunately, Obama followed that with appeaser lingo. For equality, "people respond as long as you don't come at people in a heavy handed way."

He's against marriage equality, while going for the separate and inherently unequal civil unions. He said, "In the Black community, there are people who recognize if we're going to talk about justice and civil rights and fairness that should apply to all people not just some."

Then he applies it to some. Huh?

This is one of the majority of candidates who does not live his stated convictions.

John Edwards

Chief among those who do not and apparently cannot get it is John Edwards. He is part of the way there, but regressive enough not to scare moderates of either major party.

While decrying double-speak, he uses it freely.

On the plus side, he stated the strongest position among the front runners on federal policy. He would get rid of all of that awful DOMA, adding that it has been wrong from the moment it was proposed. This contrasts to Hillary's revisionist lie that it fended off a federal marriage amendment. He also wants to dump the military's don't-ask/don't-tell practice.

The thumb in the eye of progressivism is, "My position on same-sex marriage has not changed...I do not support same-sex marriage." He'll join Hillary in saying "I do believe strongly in civil unions and the substantive rights that go with that." He also said, "We're past the time of double speak on this." Unfortunately, equal marriage would come with the equal rights he says he favors, in his double speaking way.

...nicest smile of the bunch though.

Dennis Kucinich

He evoked images of equality signs and hearts and equality signs in hearts and such. He muddled equality as purely an issue of all-powerful human love. Aww.

As he put it:
When you understand what real equality is, you understand that people who love each other must have the opportunity to be able to express that in a way that is meaningful. And the state should not be intervening against people. The state should be there on behalf of people.
He refused to say that comments by Obama and Edwards showed they were pandering to mainstream voters on equality.

He did say that he would issues executive orders as President to further equality. For example, he would unilaterally proclaim ENDA (employment non-discrimination acts). There was still very little indication that he could or would get Congress to do the right things.

Mike Gravel

He responded to a question about whether a plebiscite of the nation on SSM would approve it. He said, "I think so." There's little reason to suppose he's right and this is an area that requires political leadership to make happen. I would much rather have heard our Gov. Deval Patrick's position that it is wrong to vote any minority's rights or even Hillary's states-rights view.

He was not afraid to criticize the opportunistic responses of others. He said, "It's sort of ironic that we see the gay community supporting people like Hillary or Obama or Edwards, who for some reason can't get their arms around marriage."

He nailed truth after truth, such as marriage being co-opted by anti-gay folk as a religious institution. "Marriage is a commitment between two human beings in love, and if there's anything we need in this world, it's more love," he stated.

He had no equivocation on civil unions either, as in, "When people are telling you that you can't get married, what they're telling you is that there's something wrong with you. You're second-class citizens." His refreshing honesty also included, "As soon as our nation matures...in many areas of our society, we are adolescents."

Unlike the elect-me-and-I'll-do-some-good-things candidates, he also stated more vision. For example, "Leadership is the task of bringing us forward to civil maturity. And we don't have enough of this leadership at a Presidential level and we haven't has much of it for the last 50 years."

I can see a President using such terms with a sluggish Congress. It reminds me of Lyndon Johnson. He would cajole and even threaten to get good legislation. Right was right and he never downplayed duty to the nation and our citizens.

Bill Richardson

As Edwards loves to cover his duplicity on SSM by citing his journey, Richardson thinks pragmatism trumps morality and honesty. He returns non-stop to what is achievable. Apparently that means he'll support the status quo enough to win and then do little afterward.

He wants "civil unions with full rights...domestic partnership...I believe that's achievable." He even bobbled a softball about whether he'd sign a SSM bill if the New Mexico legislature gave him one. Not only is there no danger of his seeing such a document, he had the chance to have it all ways by saying that sure he would, he's all for equal rights.

As President, he would repeal DOMA and stop don't-ask/don't-tell. He'd go for stronger hate crime laws. Yet, even here, he kept saying, "We have to bring the country to a position where there is public support." If voters believe this mush mouth could sway the American public on any issue, they don't have the sense God gave lettuce.

Hillary Clinton

She danced with every question and likely changed no one's opinion. She was the other Edwards-style double speaker. Consider, "We have made it very clear in our country that we believe in equality. How we get to full equality is the debate we're having. "

Except she is not participating in a debate on this for marriage equality. Her "personal position" is that "civil unions with full equality," which of course don't exist, is fine. Same-sex marriage is not.

She returned to the always vote getting states-rights position that the feds should not start for the first time to regulate marriage. She also waved the transparent flag of her hubby's DOMA preventing a federal marriage law, which no one thought had a chance of passing.

She said as President, she'd tinker with DOMA enough to allow married or civilly joined SS couples to get benefits. Yawn.

Less than Perfect

I suppose none of us really expected big announcements or surprises. Edwards might have listened to his wife and come out for SSM, but he didn't. No one shocked anyone.

The two least likelihood of winning the primary are the only ones with progressive and honest positions. The front runners continue to sound like Republican opportunists (is that redundant?). The White woman and the Black man are squatting in the middle of the road, seemingly not to compound their perceived political drawbacks. The Hispanic, as they are wont to say in New Mexico, is not at all credible and seeming without wit or wisdom. Edwards is slick and pleasant, but still shows no leadership.

Certainly of Kucinich and Gravel, the two with the best politics and clarity of purpose, Gravel sounds like he could arrive on a January day in 2009 ready to make us a better nation. My surprise after the various debates and fora is that I can't vote for any of the pandering herd. Butt to butt on the same bench, those four hold little promise of any substantial improvement on the domestic front. I would expect and demand any of them to lead us out of Iraq, but back home, they offer scant improvement over George the Lesser.

If we consider other periods when we needed domestic leadership, we must realize that it never came from those who simply wanted to get elected or stay in office or aim for the self-limiting achievable. Think of the wavering John Kennedy, who feared pushing for civil rights. Fortunately, the old legislative knee buster Lyndon Johnson kept him focused and had the courage, vision, leadership and willingness to affect substantial change. I don't see any of those qualities in the four on the bench.

If Gravel is on my primary ballot, he has my vote.

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Two Candidates Get It at Forum

Only one Dem candidate was presidential in last evening's GLBT-oriented forum on LOGO. Unfortunately, Mike Gravel has as much chance of winning the nomination as the scallops in bacon have of surviving a trip around the Harvard Club reception.

You can see the lowlights and highlights in clips on LOGO. Also, BMG had some live blogging and will surely have more detail today. As the AP preview suggested, however, there would be no surprises. Gravel and Dennis Kucinich are actually for civil rights, including those for homosexuals. The others are about getting elected. It was as in the Phil Ochs song about the U.S. invasion of Santa Domingo — ...the wheel is spinning And the cowards and the whores are peeking through the doors to see who's winning...

Bill Richardson: At the very bottom of political, moral and leadership was the New Mexican. Even worse than John Edwards' jive line about being on a journey on marriage equality, Richardson thinks he can convince us that he will do what's achievable. If we bought that in the 20th century, we'd still have legal racial segregation or if we had in the 19th, we'd still condone slavery.

Hillary Clinton: She has no moral standing here. She is only a nudge to the left of Richardson, although she seems to have 30 IQ points on him. She has ever so slightly modified her position to include changing the parts of her husband's disgraceful DOMA to give some federal tax and benefits rights to homosexual couples in civil unions or marriages. She claims to hunger for full equality, but does not have the platform or courage to demand it — another shallow incrementalist and no leader.

John Edwards: He is slicker and more honest than Hillary, but still keeping company with the wrong crowd. He grins his cute little boy grin and admits up front that he still opposed same-sex marriage and is not likely to go beyond civil unions. However, he does want to trash both DOMA (all of it, unlike Hillary) and the military's don't-ask/don't-tell policy. He won't lead on equality either.

Barack Obama: He claims that he is straightening out anti-gay Black ministers on their hate problem. However, he still conflates civil marriage and his religious rituals. As the other top tier candidates, he mealy mouths the issue and unlike Edwards rarely addresses it except to mumble something about civil unions, even though he knows they are separate and unequal.

Dennis Kucinich: Over at Ryan's Take, he captured Denny just right — essentially, all you need is love. He went all celestial, but is right on the marriage issue. Even with the right ideas, Kucinich came off like the hippy-dippy flake he is. Nearly all of his positions are sound, but I doubt he could get anything accomplished.

Mike Gravel: He looked and sounded like a President. He was credible, bright and right. He was the only one to note clearly that "Hillary, Obama and Edwards...can't their their arms around marriage." He shows the moral and intellectual power, and the vision necessary for leadership, that all the others lack. I read that he does not have the support to stay in or win the primaries, but again, he proved to be the best of the bunch.

The next post delves a little into each candidate's remarks at the debate-like-object yesterday.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

George Taketh, But Giveth Not

Bill of Rights? Fifth Amendment? Due process?

Your President figures neither bomb toting terrorists nor Americans need such rights. If you question him, you may well be one of those whose property should be seized without recourse.

Twenty-two days ago, George the Lesser took away everyone's rights with an executive order. In the typical Save-America! terms, he called it Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq. That reads better than say, To Hell with Individual Liberties.

The executive order is far too broad to be constitutional. This is one of those that even the legislatively constipated Senate could and must gather the 60 votes to overrule. It is a terrible precedent by itself. It specifically forbids humanitarian aid. It gives gross, arbitrary power to bureaucrats with no recourse for any of us.

If you thought the no-fly lists were totalitarian, consider this order. If "the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense" decides for any reason that you deserve it, they can take everything you own — "...all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in..."

In contrast, the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution still includes the wording " No person shall be..deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..." George has told us that he and the Treasury Department determine whether you have those right, foolish American.

The ACLU's reaction was to point out in detail how this can prevent food, medicine and other life-saving necessities to get to Iraqis. We should all be concerned about the unrestricted and arbitrary power to decide who is a security risk. We have checks and balances to prevent just such paternalistic abuses of our liberties.

Although Slate published a scathing analysis, it noted that only two MSM pieces have howled about this theft of rights. The strongest is over at the San Francisco Chronicle, where editorial-page editor John Diaz lists the many flaws and risks of this second such executive order (one related to Lebanon appeared a few weeks earlier). He wrote:
The order's liberal use of the word "or" and inclusion of the highly subjective term "significant risk" are particularly troubling in the hands of a White House that has suggested that domestic war critics are emboldening U.S. enemies in Iraq.

"On its face, this is the greatest encroachment on civil liberties since the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II," said Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer who was a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration and author of an article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton.

Fein said the sanctions against suspected violators would amount to "a financial death penalty." The executive order not only calls for the freezing of assets of anyone who directly or indirectly aids our enemies in Iraq, it prohibits anyone else from providing "funds, goods or services" to a blacklisted individual. In other words, a friend or relative could have his or her assets seized for trying to help someone whose bank account is suddenly frozen. An attorney who offered legal help could risk of losing everything he or she owned.
George can claim that he only needs the tools to combat terrorism — a job at which he continues to fail miserably after many thousands of lives and billions of dollars. However, what we have seen is that he has no respect for American liberties. The very freedoms he tries to justify war and more to protect, he personally robs of us of with such orders. We don't need foreign terrorists, our own leaders can destroy us!

This is a job for Congress, while they still have the power. There are simple ways to get what he wants without stripping all of us of liberties. These executive orders cannot stand. We have never had a king running this country and this is not the time to start.

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Little Tommy Still Hates Bikes


It's not Tommy Menino's fault that he looks like a kid left in the bath too long. He is responsible for his bicycle problem though.

I'm betting he fell off bikes a lot as a kid and is squeamish about scabs and a milquetoast about pain. Da Mare hates and fears bicycles.

The latest proof
appeared in today's Boston Herald. He followed through on his illogical threat to save us from the horrifying perils of party cycles. He's perfectly willing to destroy one small business to continue his vendetta against cycling.

Like some crazed old Great-Aunt Edna, Tommy has been claiming for a year or so that Boston Pedal Party (hurry while the site is still up) was death and dismemberment (any day, any second now) disguised as safe fun. While there has never been a problem, Da Mare knew for sure and certain and real that something terrible would happen.

Our tabloid quotes the honorable hysteric as, "We don’t want anyone to get hurt. We are not going to wait for a tragedy to occur before we do something."

He even got an apparently brow-beaten minion, the commissioner of the transportation department to join the cycling phychosis. Tim Tinlin's statement was "Essentially, we spoke to the designer of the bikes and he said they are not safe for city streets. They were made for parks and college campuses, not to impede traffic on city streets. Emergency vehicles couldn’t even get around them."

It's hard to pick which deceit to pick first. Consider:
  • Width. These bikes are no wider than a car and considerably less narrow than even a UPS truck. They travel on four-lane or wider streets. The emergency-vehicle squeal is total jive.
  • Speed. They go at 12 to 15 miles per hour, without pushing it. This is a typical bicycle speed and as fast as a cruising cab or much of downtown traffic. They congest nothing.
  • Safety. These are very heavy, have extraordinary brakes and other safety equipment. They can't fall over either.
Tinlin apparently heard what Da Mare wanted him to hear or is just lying. A glance at or poring over the main U.S. website for the bikes shows and tells a very different story. For example, these are common in downtown Minneapolis, Santa Fe and St. Louis, among other cities. Perhaps we need to assume that drivers throughout the rest of the nation are smarter than our, and thus Tommy and Tim's terrors are true. (Notice Minneapolis. Maybe Tom should ask Tim to check the connection with the bridge collapse...we can't be too safe.)

The big fact instead is that these are safe and fun for those without childhood scars of cycling. As the distributor's site claims:
The Conference Bike is a revolutionary way to bring people together. The Conference Bike is pedaled by 7 riders sitting in a circle. One person steers while the other 6 pedal (or not) as the bike moves effortlessly along. More than 150 Conference Bikes are now being enjoyed by a wide variety of groups in 10 countries. It is a tour bike in Paris and New York, a tool for corporate team-building in San Diego, a way for blind people to bike in Dublin, a human-powered bus in Germany and a vehicle to convey people at theme parks in Japan and Spain. Conference Bikes are also being used to transport employees on the Amazon.com campus in California.
Let us recall that our car-bound mayor is the same fellow who eliminated the part-time office of bicycle advocate. He refuses to set up bicycle lanes, even though they work well in neighboring Cambridge. He has repeatedly stymied every bike-positive action the city could take. While we carp about too much car traffic downtown, Da Mare tells the cyclists to suck it. No safety. No lanes. No street racks.

The state laws and regulations require accommodation of both pedestrians and bicycles whenever there is new paving or rehab of streets. Da Mare could make that happen with certainty and vigor. He doesn't.

The closest we've come to accommodation has been some bicycle racks on a very limited subset of distant MBTA buses. Numerous cities, like Seattle, use them as standard bus equipment and actively encourage combo bus/bike trips to keep cars out of downtown. Their mayors must have had good pedaling experiences as kids.

We can only surmise why he has such an emotional problem with bicycles, particularly when it is where the civilized world that cares about congestion, safety and the environment is headed. He seems set in his wrinkled-boy mind though.

Related Frivolity: Over at Universal Hub, Adam has a poll on what else TM might ban.

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