Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spoofing Marriage Equality

How stupid do the anti-marriage equality folk think lawmakers and voters are? As a corollary, how stupid are some of each group?

Logic would have it that after dozens or maybe hundreds of lies and false alarms spanning many years, that that the anti folk would have no listeners or other support. One huge test of that was in the repeal of the out-of-state marriage restrictions here in Massachusetts. Another, much more significant one, will be in November on California's Proposition 8 to halt and forbid same-sex marriage there.

Clueless Cassandra

The most common recurrent theme from the anti forces is chaos. They seem to love the concept and expect it to sway the intellectually and emotionally weak — in court filings and arguments, in legislative lobbying, and most of all in fund-raising and public debate.

Wherever SSM is up for discussion or vote, we hear that legalizing or not illegalizing it will result in governmental paralysis and huge new expenses. From town clerks to civil courts, the flack and fallout from lawsuits will cripple all governing and processes.

This seems to relate in general terms to the claim that expanding the normal civil contract that is legal marriage will disrupt the religious rituals that many couples also have. The anti folk have claimed both in the strongest terms for years.

Had I been suckered into contributing to their groups or voting their way, I'd be pretty angry and insulted now. At every turn, their panicked predictions have proven to be fantasy and deceit.

In Vermont, the original civil-unions state, there was a whiff of that fear mongering. Then after the 2003 Goodridge decision mandating SSM here and before the first SS marriages, the klaxons rang non-stop. Homosexual couples would be the end of us all in the Bay State. Like an Ayn Rand tome, the predictions included that the powerful and wealthy would flee the state, leaving a desolate economy (the Bush administration was doing that just fine, needing no help, here and elsewhere). Judges would spend all their bench time adjudicating SS cases. Something terrible but unknowable would happen to different-gendered marriages...real bad and real soon.

None of that has happened. Only good has come of broadening civil contract marriage — the obvious pro-marriage stance.

So, you'd think that all the supporters of the dishonest and dishonorable anti groups would realize they'd been had. Here that seems to be largely, but not entirely, true. Instead, cynics can revel in the minority failure of their fellow humans. It also appears that such groups as Mass Family Institute and that ragtag duo over at MassResistance will continue to milk the gullible as long as they can. They've been reduced to chanting, "Just you wait!," in response to their failures of prediction and related assertions.

For the few, the foolish, their dislike or fear of homosexuals seems to overpower their observation. Perhaps they cling to this sinking little raft because they cannot accept that they had been fooled that many times for that long.

Deny, Deny

Even after the stomping solid defeats in both houses of the Massachusetts legislature, MFI holds to the pretext that repealing the set of laws that limited out-of-state couples from marrying here would "redefine marriage in other states...With that protective barrier removed, out-of-state same-sex couples who marry here will sue to seek recognition in their home states-creating a flood of costly lawsuits and further eroding the people's right to define marriage democratically."

As much as I like and am proud of Boston specifically and Massachusetts more broadly, we are at the moment insignificant in this equality process. Let us keep in mind that the big state, that one with all the people, as well as no limits on out-of-staters marrying there has legal SSM. Any fantasy that we'd impact the 48 states without SSM has to go way, way down the list of the possible.

Moreover, legally:
  1. One state's definition of marriage does not affect any others'. We may think we're swell, but we don't define marriage laws or regulations anywhere else.
  2. The smoke has long been in the air. As well as from Massachusetts, legally married SS couples from Canada and elsewhere are visiting, moving to, and working in states with laws and/or amendments forbidding SSM. There's no way to suck that smoke back into the fire. Despite the anti forces' druthers, they can't quarantine SS marrieds with big fences around Massachusetts and California.

Everybody Panic!

Here, the anti folk were unable to convince the legislature either that SSM would end life as we knew it or even that a pro-marriage structure including out-of-state couples would end life as those in other states know it. As their similar national and California groups turn to west coast voters, what are their tacks and prospects?

For one, just when you think they couldn't be more insulting and patronizing to their supporters, news comes about the Pacific Justice Institute. They are taking a path that failed miserably in Canada when wingers tried to overturn SSM there — claiming that fundamentalist and conservative clerics will find the the government forcing them to solemnize SSMs.

The Sacramento-based legal group specializes in suing left-wingers. Since the middle of June, they have been doing a scare tour for ministers around California. Even though legal experts at the state and national levels clearly assert there is no risk of any clergy being required to perform either civil marriage (signing the state license) or the religious ritual (not legal marriage at all) for any couple, that failed argument seems to be the order of the day again.

In his own circular argument, PJI President Brad Dacus told the Press-Enterprise reporter, "We wouldn't be spending time and resources on this if there was no substantive threat."

The meetings are billed as workshops, telling the ministers that they have to "take proper preemptive measures and adhere to them, they should be able to withstand a lawsuit. Most churches have not taken preemptive measures." Truth be told, that amounts to checking the church's written policy on marriages, facilities use and such. If they are so disorganized as not to have policies, they should do that immediately for any use of the church.

With Pro. 8 in four months, other agenda at the workshops will include related politicking and appeals. Specifically:
Dacus said his workshops also guide pastors who are unsure how strongly they can advocate for Prop. 8, the anti-same-sex marriage initiative. Although pastors cannot endorse political candidates from the pulpit, they can support ballot initiatives and pass out leaflets in favor of initiatives, he said. But they cannot devote a "substantial amount of church resources or facilities" to a political cause, he said.
Underlying the workshops is the marketing aspect too.

The institute is using the specter of pastors being forced to perform same-sex weddings in its fundraising appeals. If you believe, as I do, that no government should be allowed to force churches to perform marriage ceremonies that contradict God's Word, I'm asking you to say 'I do' by offering PJI a one-time, tax-deductible gift," a June 25 letter says.
Of course, that's cynical, but interest groups on all sides are always fund-raising. In fact, their best argument to the clergy might be that it would be a lot cheaper for them to kick in a few optional bucks and get what they can from the workshops. If they haven't done the reasonable groundwork for facilities use, they're in trouble anyway. For a wide variety of the public, they have to be very clear and consistent on their non-religious use policies or open themselves to legal enforcement or suits. If the PJI tells them specifically what their board has to do, it would likely be a lot cheaper than hiring an attorney to do the same.

I confess that I can't ascribe such eleemosynary motives to this group. However, they could be useful to the least well administrated churches. Over the years, quite a few ministers I have known have said they are pretty ignorant about administration and management. Those have not been key in their calling or training. Most church boards largely or entirely comprise a set of well-intentioned amateurs.

Next Windmill

The scare tactics eventually failed with Massachusetts lawmakers and voters. Out-of-thin-air assertions created a stir, but did not hold sway.

Now turning to California, we keep in mind that eight years ago, the voters made a highly emotionally charged vote changing family code to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The current argument for those favoring Prop. 8, like Protect Marriage, is that this is all voters need to know and do to pass the initiative.

Of course, quite a lot has changed:
  1. Massachusetts marriages did not produce the lawsuits, scattering of militant married SS couples looking for fights, or any of the chaos promised.
  2. Many thousands, perhaps millions, of gay individuals and couples have come out and are just plain, unscary folk.
  3. The state's highest court legalized SSM.
  4. Prop. 8 would be a constitutional amendment, not a simple and easily reversible law change.
  5. Prop. 8 would strip fellow citizens of existing rights, rights fundamental to society.
It looks good for 8 going down in flames. If the best the anti forces can do is say uphold the 2000 vote with this one, they are doomed. If their threats are ones that no one in the legal community gives any support to, far too few will buy the argument.

The two main groups fighting Prop. 8 are local — Equality for All and Equality California. There's is the good fight right now. They are up against a lot of national-level winger money and could use some more checkbook liberals on-board.

California often surprises the nation. I have long held that their initiative system is the worst and most impulsive around. So, I could be surprised. Yet, I've looked at the anti folks' literature and websites. They don't have the goods.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On Killing Progressives

That Ovid, what a sage he was! I think particularly of a widely used selection from his Letters from the Black Sea (Epistulae ex Ponto). He wrote:
Adde quod ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes
emollit mores nec sinit esse feros.
The second line is the motto of the University of South Carolina. Many others, including Napolean, used that as well. In South Carolina's case, the literal translation, (liberal education) humanizes character and does not allow it to become fierce, has a vernacular definition — we make gentlemen out of roughnecks.

Them Damned Liberals!

I'm still stunned by last weekend's murders in the Knoxville UU church. I have little to add to the commentary on air, online and in print. I did think of Ovid though in light of murder Jim David Adkisson's oral and written comments scapegoating progressivism and liberals for his sundry troubles.

One of the most frequent addle-pated clich├ęs of wingers is that college professors manufacture pinkos. That is, otherwise sensible conservative students enter the higher-education machine only to be forced through some ultra-liberal mold and emerge unfit for the Republican Party. Indeed, the truth is that while it is relative easy to find multi-degreed sorts who are conservative, higher education does tend to relate to liberal attitudes and politics.

What the wingers leave out is the high likelihood that knowledge per se fosters liberalism and acceptance of diversity. The more history, philosophy and soft sciences you learn, the more likely you are to become left-wing. The more you learn of historic and current inequities and classism, the more likely you are to favor social justice. Acceptance of and caring about others are hallmarks of deep and broad education. My position is that conservatives must be very selective in their knowledge to justify their politics.

From Nashville, blogger Sharon Cobb claims that the winger talk show types were evident in this case, turning up the boil on a very disturbed person. "The wingnuts didn't make the killer kill people, but they contribute to pushing an unstable person over the edge," she wrote.

From Seattle, David Neiwert blogs that UU churches and congregants aren't the types to cower and quit, even after a murderous assault. As he put it:
If the right wing ever does turn its anti-liberal crusade into a shooting war, it's easy to predict that the country's UU churches will be among their first targets. What's less predictable -- unless you know the people, the theology, and the history, or took careful note of everything that happened in Tennessee today -- is just how surprisingly fierce and fearless that response is likely to be.
Right now, there's a good set of comments on LeftyBlogs in the Tennessee section. Distant and national blowhards of various types in many media have their own takes, but I find greater power in those physically closest in this case.

Perhaps it's best all around that murder's weapon of choice was not one intended to kill people. He used a shot gun of the variety for hunting small animals and birds, the type of weapon widely accepted by even gun controllers. He did not sneak in and out of some gun show with a Dirty-Harry style handgun or an assault rifle. Had he flipped out such weapons from his guitar case, the death toll might have been dozens, but we can examine the deeds without the fuzzy filter of gun rights.

Attacking Do-Gooders

I'm a long-term UU, well versed in the many centuries of European and American versions. I know of those murdered for their faith in church inquisitions and by mobs. I belong to the church that James Reeb did when he was beaten to death by a segregationists carrying clubs in Selma in 1965. He died for living his faith by participating and living with protesting local blacks. It was a very UU thing.

On lower levels, I recall UUs ready to defend themselves and theirs. At the Arlington Street Church, for example, we had threats a couple of decades ago after calling and installing an openly lesbian minister, Kim Crawford Harvie. From time to time, during the business week and the Sunday service, a person or two would come in swearing about fags and dykes and liberals and communists. Sometimes, they kicked pew doors while ranting and sometimes confronted employees or parishioners.

I remember several times when (not yet Rev.) George Whitehouse or I would approach a disturbed person acting out. Of course, we wanted to protect Kim, but we also wanted to defuse the trouble. Almost always, an arm around the shoulder and a hand on the forearm was all that we needed to lead the person out of the nave and hold a calming conversation. We always were aware of possibility of serious violence by the disturbed, particularly when they went on about our liberal politics.

Picking Enemies

Many UUs are examples of that faith-in-action call. While there is a large percentage that are fairly inert checkbook liberals, UU, UCC and several other denominations have a surprising number of members who walk it like they talk it.

That can be infuriating to those who want simple answers and clear villains. As an early boomer, I recall very clearly growing up with WWII-era movies, war flicks and westerns alike, that had just such black hat/white hat clarity. When events and circumstances are overwhelming, the understandable impulse is to specify the bad guys. Then you put yourself squarely in the hero camp. That's that.

In Knoxville, the liberal and loving UUs were Adkisson's villains, his enemies, during his most disturbed moments. That's only a more extreme example of what UUs and progressives often experience.

To the demented part of the gunman. His long last note and comments from those who knew him limn a grim portrait. He was out of work with no prospects and about to lose his food stamps. He had five failed marriages. His latest ex-wife had been a member of the Knoxville UU church. While described by one acquaintance of 25 years as that he "disliked blacks, gays, anyone who was a different color or just different from him."

Somehow, particularly for the economic woes, liberalism became the toxin and liberals the spreaders of it. Were deaths and casualties not involved, that might be simply risible. Those associations and blame far more belong with the borrow-and-spend, war adventurism Bush administration. Our economy, dollar and and future are shattered by the failed White House policies. Adkisson's viscous gaze should never have fallen on the tolerant, equality promoting, and economically equitable UUs.

Instead, they are really to blame in part for various groups getting full rights and opportunities. So far, that's never been a capital offense.

Back to Ovid, his quote from that letter translates into:
Add that faithful application to the liberal arts
softens behavior and does not permit barbarism
Here the dual meaning of liberal is crucial and relevant. Broad reading and resulting knowledge fosters tolerance. They act as brakes on judgmental blaming that can lead to harming others, physically, through laws or other discrimination.

Adkisson seems to have come to church for the wrong purposes. Rather than put faith into action for a better world, he acted on his perceived otherness of the UUs. There surely would have been a place for him there, and everyone would have benefited from his exposure to the liberalism of the TVUU Church.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Throw Dirt on the Anti-Marriage Equality Crowd

tombstone death's head


Schadenfreude is surely right behind self-righteousness in unattractive human behavior. Yet, the anti-marriage equality and anti-gay forces have so richly earned disdain in their failed battles to hamper, hinder and harm others.

Today, we should have a brief celebration, but a sincere one, at their expense. I monitored the Massachusetts House's debate online this afternoon. I prepared a tiny report with the basics and with 15 seconds of the vote to repeal the set of 1913 laws preventing out-of-state homosexual couples from marrying here, I posted the results.

Now is the time for quick reflection and commentary. Over at Bay Windows, there's a pretense of detached analysis. Yet, I'm sure they were as elated as I.

What we need to keep before us and tuck in our scrapbooks is that all the nasty forces of the Mass Family Institute and Mass Resistance were unable to stop or even slow the millstone of equality from grinding. More important, with each such battle, we see:
  • Increasingly wilder, unsupported and unsupportable claims of chaos and duplicity.
  • Delusional promises of influence from these pathetic dwindling parties of fools and babblers.
I confess that my pleasure in their pain and failures comes from the certainty that their atrophy is severe. Only the smallest pouch of nasties remains to fund and encourage them.

I'm sure Bud over at MassResistance Watch will have his usual insightful analysis soon. Meanwhile, we can consider them.

MR has been mired in a muddy trough. After the Senate passage without dissent, they pretended, "Mass. House balking on "1913" Law" vote! Outrage from citizens scaring politicians!," as though their dreary and tired cries influenced anyone at all on Beacon Street. Their feature on the pending House follow-up was not to set their handful of hatefuls up for the inevitable defeat. Rather, MR wrote that contacts with lawmakers were running six-to-one in their favor, with the clear implication that they would prevail in a triumph of bigotry over equality in its own time.

Likewise, they haven't had the chance to spin this one. Instead, they stuck to their failed position with the coverage head, "Mass. House passes repeal of '1913 Law' to export same-sex 'marriage' across America," as though a law in one state overrode statues in all others. I try to imagine how dull-witted or delusional you would have to be to believe that one. However, they've hauled out and displayed that little stuffed monkey for several years.

Likewise, over at the more professional and sophisticated hate-mongers at MFI, the tack is that somehow the House and Senate together have spit on the Supreme Judicial Court. The idea is more complex than the arguments of the simple-minded folk at MR. Instead, they pretend that when the SJC did not rule in April 2007 that these laws were unconstitutional, all was settled. Of course, what the ruling really reads is that these laws were crafted well, so they couldn't dismiss these out of hand, even though the legislature should revisit them.

MFI's position, and they're sticking to it, is that even though the SJC is generally odious to them, having ruled for SSM in Goodridge, sometimes they have PR utility. In this case, a fleeting mention in the Goodridge decision that these laws were yet another safety valve is somehow key to all future considerations. In fact, we have been alone among states in unilateral anti-comity laws that protected bigotry elsewhere.

When Gov. Deval Patrick signs this long overdue bill of repeal, we won't carry this particular shame, except historically.

For this blog, I wonder when my work is done. This is a tempting terminus and I'll consider it. Surely for MR and MFI, they must have dreadful fund-raising figures. They've lost every contest and quite literally every prediction of chaos from equality and effectiveness of their efforts has proven 100% wrong. Only the saddest, strangest of followers must be left.

Perhaps they can find honest work that builds on something positive and not on harming others.

Today, dance a short but joyous dance of celebration.

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Hey, Out-of-Stater, Marry in Mass!

That nasty old set of laws from 1913 is gone. Massachusetts, the first state in nation to have legalized same-sex marriage will be the second one to permit out-of-state couples from around the nation to wed here, GLBT or otherwise.

Today, following the Senate's previous action, the House repealed the laws on a roll-call vote. The total was 118 for repeal and 35 against.

Thursday Follow-Up: One members on each side of the issue weighed in after the roll-call. The House permitted recording their votes. The final thus was 119 for repeal and 36 against. The tally by member is here.

Gov. Deval Patrick has already pledged to sign the repeal bill.

Over at Bay Windows, Laura Kiritsy ran a live-blog of the House debate.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

OMG, the Og Loses It Again

A tip of the toupee to Tony over at RichardHowe.com. He notified the larger world that grass farmer Jim Ogonowski spent his contributions (can we say like a drunken Air National Guard bureaucrat or is that reserved for drunken sailors?).

According to the Lowell Sun, the Og piddled away his cash pre-running against U.S. Senator John Kerry. He failed to get enough sigs to get on the ballot as a Republican. Yet, his $552,000 in contributions seemed to be more than he could stand to have around.

In a move that says worlds about his fiscal irresponsibility, he spent half a million and got no place. Moreover, the obvious, like his website, doesn't reflect the expenditures. Supposedly, the money went into ads and consulting fees.

In the 'nuff said class, the Sun reports:
"It's a lot of money to spend, especially if much of it was not even spent on gathering signatures, which should be priority one in the early stages of a campaign," said Rob Gray, founder of Gray Media and a Republican political consultant. "It's surprising to see spending on advertising that early when the focus should be on ballot access."
You have to hope that his wife keeps the family checkbook.


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Single-Thread Herald Fabrics

The stains on Chapter 207 of our laws is about to wash out. As soon as our House affirms the Senate vote to repeal Sections 11, 12, 13 and 50, we join California as a state that offers marriage equality to our citizens and others who want to marry here.

Over at the Boston Herald, at least one reporter, Hillary Chabot, will have to turn her sensationalist squint to other melodrama. At first scan, her Tuesday Pols mad DiMasi is forcing vote on gay marriage bill was winger pandering to most extreme anti-SSM forces. It includes the stereotypical yellow journalism stuff:
  • Shock statement from an anonymous source — repealing these laws "...is a lose-lose for anyuone facing a challenger."
  • Anonymous slur on House Speaker Sal DiMasi.
  • Inference that a couple of long-term SSM opponents' views are those of the House.
  • Silly hyperbole on a done deal — DiMasi is "...forcing a vote on a hot-button bill..."
Viewed as theater, this is typical Herald stuff. Viewed as news, well, we can't view this as news.

Unfortunately, Chabot is the latest in a line of Monday Morning Briefing columnists as well as scandal monger. Alas, we recall Kimberly Atkins, who set the standard for that political short insights feature. No one following groks it.

Back to current reality, I acknowledge that Chabot likely doesn't write and may have no input into her headlines. However, she certain writes the tortured and sneaky articles. SSM isn't her only play; this is what she does.

Others, such as Adam Reilly over at the Boston Phoenix, have hooted over some of these. For example, to drum up interest in the T general manager not taking the T, she did a prolonged pseudo-60 Minutes thingummy. As Reilly put it, "Also, while I admire the hustle displayed by Herald reporter Hillary Chabot and Herald photographer Mike Adaskaveg--who've apparently been staking out Grabauskas for seven weeks (!) to document his T non-ridership--I'm guessing that a simple phone call to Grabauskas's office would have sufficed."

Where would the multiple articles and the squeals of indignation have fit with straightforward reportage?

Chabot's heart may be in a nefarious place, but she seems an active general-assignment reporter. A Net search shows earlier pieces from the local Sun and Sentinel. She's gone down and very dirty covering the guy who smeared his feces on stall walls at the Kennedy School. She also did a lot of ordinary local political coverage in several places.

At the Herald now, she seems to specialize in non-stories or layering the nasty on the ordinary for effect. For example:
  • Today's piece on a bill for gender neutral phrases in legislation — something numerous states have done without problems or controversy — she leads with "A raging battle of he said-she said roiled the marble halls of Beacon Hill yesterday after one woman strove to put a feminine touch on Bay State laws." Whoever wrote the head used "Pol sparks battle of the sexes." Of course, there in no battle. Despite her effort to make this seem like a big deal, it would have worked better with a little humor and cracks from the alter kakers on the Hill.
  • Yesterday's Daily Briefing note, "Putting the 'fun' in fundraiser," was a typical non-story. It leads with the addled, "Rep. Robert DeLeo and lackeys Rep. Barry Finegold and Rep. James Vallee made a brief and we can only hope deliciously awkward appearance at Rep. John Rogers fundraiser at Anthony’s Pier 4 Tuesday evening." It goes on for a couple of short graphs surmising what that may have meant with no basis or conclusion.
  • Also yesterday, she had an unattributed, unprovable conjecture about Willard Mitt Romney being near the top of John McCain's VP list. This came from "a source close to" Romney. Maybe that was his barber or a gardener?
  • A week ago, one drag racing teen in Ashland who did himself in was also an instant pattern to her. As she not so subtly yet illogically put it, "A senseless fatal crash - and the release of a teen driver accused of barreling drunk down a narrow road in an alleged two-man derby - has cast new doubt on a much-touted Beacon Hill crackdown on drag-racing." The co-racer who didn't die was ordered not to drink or drive before his August 27th court date. That's all the proof of the legislature's failure she needs.
This is like Parade magazine without the glamorous pictures.

To the repeal of the 207 sections, DiMasi is fooling around, promising only that he'll put it to a vote within two weeks. My question is whether he wants to go to the trouble to make it appear unanimous or nearly so, as happened in the Senate. I don't see how the House can do anything other than repeal these.

The canard from the anti-marriage equality forces is that if we repeal our prohibitions on out-of-state couples marrying here if the SSM would not be legal in their home state(s), we are redefining marriage for the other states. Consider:
  • We small, very small, beer contrasted with California, which has legalized SSM and does not prohibit out-of-state couples from marrying.
  • Several states' residents can already marry here and next to none have.
  • There's no legal way to prevent legally wed homosexual couples from moving to other states. This has not produced the plethora of suits and legal chaos predicted from 2003 through today.
  • Our legal marriages no more redefine another state's marriage laws than our different driver's license requiements do. Marriage is still determined per state and will continue to be so.
Of course, Chabot airs that fallacy/alarm a few times in her brief article. She also writes that a repeal "renews the gay marriage debate and provides opponents with fresh fodder only months before voters decide who to send to Beacon Hill."

Maybe she didn't get the news when she was still in Lowell or she hasn't been paying attention in Beantown. SSM is the law of the commonwealth. It's settled. The last gasp was the failure to get an amendment to halt it put on the ballot. There's no extra innings, no two-out-of-three, no mulligan here.

Instead of renewing a dead debate, the long overdue repeal means another colossal failure of the MFI and MR dwindling party of anti-gay/anti-marriage equality folk. They have sworn their minions will sway the hearts and minds of the Senators, and now the Reps. Every issue they take up, testify on and lobby for, they lose worse than the previous one.

Moreover, the repeal will undercut such groups' ability to raise funds from the confused and gullible. Cynics comment that the only reason they keep up the semblance of a battle is the donations (their execs' salaries). Maybe that's so and if it is, they have a friend and PR agent in Chabot.

You'd think she should have looked at their pattern of failure and cut bait with these trash fish. I'm not at all sure they have another sensationalist issue after this one. For the Herald, that's no matter. There will be others.

Is there any way to get Kim back?

Evening Followup: The MFI folk must love Chabot. They cited and paraphrased her 1913-laws piece, down to "disgruntled" and her anonymous quotes in their email blast late yesterday. She'll move beyond MFI when they are no longer useful, but at least short term, they're BFF.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

S.C.: Who You Callin' Gay?

Amro adThey just won't stop. The South Carolina is so gay kerfuffle was giggling amusing the first four times. I wasn't about to write about it.

Please make them stop.

Cross-posting note: From Harrumph!

Now it's Stephen Colbert on the case (click his vid below). Plus, the BBC did a barely restrained interview with Chief Executive Andrew Roberts of the British travel agency who created and placed the ads.

In case you were on the beach for the past two weeks and missed the silliness, S.C. pols through Gov. Mark Sandford were shocked, shocked I tell you to find that a London ad campaign implied there was any reason for homosexuals to visit the Palmetto State.

South Carolina was just one U.S. tourist destination touted by just-north-of-London based Amro Worldwide, a huge GLBT-oriented travel agency. It placed posters in the subway station nearest the gay-pride celebrations there. Other locales include Atlanta, Boston, New Orleans and Las Vegas.





This seems to be a variation on Boston's reaction to the Lite-Brite ad campaign. Other cities took it in stride; we panicked and continue to justify the overreaction to the ridicule of everyone else. In S.C., a minor functionary in tourism lost a job, the state won't pay its roughly $5,000 contribution to the campaign. The legislators and other pols on record say, "No gays here," in their deepest voices.

It reminds a lot of folk of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking at Columbia University last year. He got hooted and booed when he made the outrageous claim, "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country."

The double hoot for the S.C. is first that South Carolina's tourism folk asked to play in the Amro campaign and approached the agency. Moreover, making a no-queers-here-no-way protest has guaranteed vastly better coverage than Amro could have bought, even with the extra $5,000.

As Roberts told the Beeb, South Carolina's economy, particularly the tourist industry needs visitors and dollars. He said the state tourism people arranged stays over four days in Charleston and elsewhere. The hotel and other folk were eager for the gay business (pink pounds as the BBC interviewer said). He attributes the squealing from Sanford not to the tourism department, rather to "behavior of their political masters."

Not surprisingly, Roberts said he had never thought of naming the state as a destination before they approached him. His company vets all locations, facilities, sights and activities before it adds it to its destinations. Yet when he visited, he was pleasantly surprised by the coast and Low Country. Charleston has the history, food and shopping. Myrtle Beach is huge, varied and not overly crowded. Hilton Head is at once quaint and cushy.There are numerous gay bars in each of the few cities in South Carolina. There are a lot of other resources and travel searches provide many options.

To the Beeb, he said, "This is never going to be a San Francisco or a Key West, but it's certainly a reasonable destination, particularly for the type of people who like to go to America and have don all the popular places."bobbert.jpg

Local note for Amro: Roberts said he was surprised at the state's nickname, that the palmetto was a cockroach. It is true that locals euphemistically refer to the big bugs there as either palmetto bugs or waterbugs, but the palm tree is the palmetto and both the states and roaches got their nicknames from that.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

November Spoiler Alert


If you blog about politics and want to continue to bloviate about November's top spot, avoid Alan Abramowitz. He's pretty damned sure who'll win and has the formula and results to support that.

The Emory University professor's electoral barometer has far exceeded any and all polls' ability to predict. Looking at this year, as my favorite Financial Times columnist Clive Crook puts it, "History suggests Mr McCain is toast."

We should well demand to know how that could be. After all, as the winger broadcasters and bloggers, and even many of the MSM types who ostensibly favor Barack Obama say otherwise. Many point to numerous polls that show a tiny difference between the two presumptive nominees.

Well, Professor Know-It-All cares little for such feeble forecasting. Instead, he uses EB=NAR+(5*GDP)-25.

His electoral-barometer score results from starting with the President's net approval rating in the Gallup Poll (that's approval minus disapproval figures). Then adding five times the annual gross domestic product growth rate. Finally, if the President's party has been in the White House for two terms or longer, subtracting 25.

For this election, the old EB gives Obama a strong win, with McCain facing what Abramowitz writes is a triple whammy — "an unpopular president, a weak economy, and a second term election." McCain's EB would factor -39 NAR, with a growth of 0.6% and Bush's party in for eight years. That's what Abramowitz figures as "a dismal -63."

The only comparable figure was in 1980, when Jimmy Carter lost his smile and the election in very similar circumstances.

We can ask why anyone should believe some academic's noodling and doodling. After all, don't financial advisers always have to advise that past performance is not predictor? Sure they do, but national politics seem different. Consider:
  • EB nails 14 of the past 15 elections from 1948
  • Its miss is the extremely narrow Hubert Humphrey loss in 1968, and even there he was up only 2% and the popular-vote difference ended up at 1%
  • EB is also a grand predictor of the margin of victory
Those who find employment or amusement in writing and speaking about polls will likely be hostile to Abramowitz' smugness. Regardless of his excellent stats, we like the agon. Pinkos as well as wingers enjoy the struggle; that's the American way. Nearly everyone wants McCain to have a decent chance and thus to provide cheap thrills over the next four months.

Moreover, as both Hillary Clinton and McCain pointed out, doesn't the first black Presidential candidate for a major party have a serious issue with white voters? Abramowitz didn't avoid that one either. He writes that even if Obama doesn't a get a mass infusion of white voters, he's still looking good. As Prof. EB put it:
With whites expected to comprise less than 80 percent of the 2008 electorate, and with a 20-1 margin among black voters and a 2-1 margin among Hispanic voters, Obama's current nine point deficit among white voters would translate into a decisive victory in November.
Without even factoring in young and new voters, that seems to be yet another passing of the guard. The national demographics continue to shift from total dominance by white voters.

The short of it is that the EB looks vastly superior to polls, particularly the summer ones. I shall continue to pretend that American voters are eager for debates on the very substantial policy differences here. I'm not so sure any more that is true, but hey, I'm American too. I like a good contest.

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Same-Sex Marrieds? I Don't See You!


Shall we forgive America its social conservatism? We are the mildly slow and poorly bred among the First World, watching without learning from the examples of our hipper siblings.

While I here have reveled in the puerile asininity of anti-gay and anti-SSM folk predicting all manner of disasters that never occur, there's more. Many segments came at SSM with the attitude that if they don't acknowledge reality, it disappears.

Consider that the U.S. Census Bureau will again redact data to ignore same-sex couples. If they don't record them, do they not exist on the federal level, despite legal marriages in two states?

The every-decade federal census is required by the Constitution. It affects many important aspects of public life, such as the number of representatives and senators each state gets in Congress. We naively figure that the bureau follows the law and really counts people.

It is to laugh.

Wives? Got 'em.

Similarly to the current closed-eyes on homosexual spouses, crawl into the WABAC machine with me. One of my many part-time jobs in 1970 when I lived in Cambridge was follow-up census. Even then, the feds had a well-established set of counting tricks.

The follow-up was for those who did not return the mailed form. White and black alike, many of these citizens had grown to adulthood with no knowledge of what the census was. Some asked what they could win if they answered my questions. Others seemed distressed to hear that they were legally required to reply. In Roxbury, neighbors in two apartment buildings warned me away from fortified doors. Those were drug dealers' establishments. I wore a federal ID with my name; one 19-year-old black guy looked it at, came two inches from my face and muttered angrily, "Your name is Ball. My name is Ball. You know that that means."

The most fascinating aspect was the polygamous families though. A few black families had one male head of household and two, three, four or five wives. They were quite open about it and the man of each house claimed he had married each wife. When I brought three of these forms on one day, my supervisor was not flustered. He told me that I should record a married couple for the husband and first wife and unrelated adults for all the others. The children went under their mother's listing.

That was dishonest and honest. It fit the most literal command of the census — to count everyone. Yet, it avoided the reality and messiness of lives. It was not the census staff's job to report bigamy. Yet, the resulting data would not reveal how many married couples were in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America. As far as my supervisor was concerned, this avoided asking his boss' boss' boss' boss to adjust the classifications to accommodate real life.

Even worse for 2010, we have a shameless pandering to the most conservative fantasies of the federal government. With the Defense of Marriage Act in place, the feds like to pretend that neither Massachusetts nor California legally marry same-sex couples. Moreover, they can't begin to wade into the more ambiguous world of civil unions. They may think the unmarried partner classification covers domestic partners in states that try to provide a separate-but-equal class.

Immediately, the People for the American Way have a petition on the Net that demands some honesty here. It reads:
I was dismayed to learn that, in taking the 2010 Census, the Bureau intends to "edit" the accurate responses of legally married same-sex couples to report them falsely as "unmarried partners." Such "editing" would not only be highly offensive, it would lead to the reporting of inaccurate demographic data, completely contrary to the Bureau's mission and goals.

Politics should have no place in the Census. Accuracy should be the only criterion.

Legally married same-sex couples who report themselves as such should be counted that way.
Historians will have a good time with such childish ignoring of reality. They can recognize that states with laws and/or amendments hoping to delay SSM locally responded viscerally to fear of change. However, with the census, such petty and irrational deceit is contemptible. It was a bureaucratic decision to deceive.

Him? He's Just a Friend.

This was a rich week for such examples of small brained and hardhearted. Consider the 118-year-late historical revisionism of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican has just decided that the Anglican Church's most famous convert can no longer lie with his beloved, another man, in the grave.

The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman will be posthumously separated from his life companion, Fr. Ambrose St. John. The Cardinal, it seems, is on the track to sainthood, and the guys in Rome would rather people not know that his final wish was that the two of them lie together until eternity in a joint grave in Birmingham, England.

On Ambrose's death in 1875, the Cardinal wrote, "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or anyone's sorrow greater, than mine."Then multiple times before his own death in 1890, he repeated such clear commands as, "I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John's grave - and I give this as my last, my imperative will. This I confirm and insist on."

The Cardinal's remains will be reinterred in a sarcophagus as the Congregation of the Saints in Rome prepares to make him a saint. In that arcane hierarchy, he has gone from Venerable and the current Pope is ready to declare him Blessed. Cardinal Newman has one miracle to his credit. One more and he's in.

The Vatican is in an awkward position of either pretending there was no relationship between the two men or that times were different and friendship had a different meaning back then. As Cardinal Newman expert Fr. Ian Ker said, "The concept of friendship has died. No one in those days would have suspected anything." He added that the church would not allow such a co-burial today.

Press Secretary for the Birmingham Oratory Peter Jennings washed his hands. He said the order came from the Vatican.

Newly Disappeared

A much more trivial deceit come from The Newlywed Game. Good As You reports that the relaunch is all ready to adjust for SSM — by forbidding it on screen.

I don't suppose we should expect gossipy game shows to rise above the lowest common denominator, but give me a break. The show's eligibility requirements have made outrageous recognition. These include, page 1, section D:
Each newlywed team of Contestants must be legally married to each other (legal marriage defined as one that is legally valid in all 50 states of the United States) and, upon Producer’s request, must be able to provide proof of marriage (i.e. a marriage certificate) that shows that Contestants are legally married to each other. As of the tape date of the Program, Contestants must still be newlyweds (which is defined as the period of two (2) years after the date of Contestants’ original marriage to each other).
That's right. No SSM on LITE TV game-show slots. Let's keep reality from interfering with wasting time and intellect.

Ostrich Stereotypes

So from the most formal to the most old fashioned to the most trivial, we have a benighted confluence of fools. The feds, the Vatican and even a disposable game show share the traits of delusion. Pretend that SSM doesn't exist and for them it doesn't, at least in 2008 and 2009.

Yup, man and a woman, that's a marriage, except for those awkward polygamous Biblical patriarchs and such. Yup, there were and are no homosexuals among Roman Catholic clergy. Yup, there's nothing wrong with being a legally married same-sex couple, except you can't humiliate yourself on game-show TV.

The census sorts are lifer bureaucrats. They take orders. The Vatican sorts are lifer bureaucrats. They take orders. The minor cable network types do anything for a buck.

The common thread is amorality and dishonesty. Don't expect any of them to apologize when times change. They were only doing their jobs, right?

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Friday, July 18, 2008

No to SSM, But...

A single opinion poll is often as moot and subject to reversal as the latest medical study. Even knowing that, we seem to have a media-fed national addiction. "See. See. That's what I've always thought," we hear ourselves saying.

Well, the latest national results from Quinnipiac University Poll might have a bunch of us humming introspectively. A pattern jumps out from 38 questions covering the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, the death penalty, and faith-based initiatives.

Specifically, even if people don't like something, they don't want a national ban on it. In general, they oppose narrowing of liberties by Constitutional amendments. That does not even conflict with the rush of state amendments prohibiting SSM that anticipated and followed our Goodridge decision in 2003.

Poll Basics: This nationwide poll was of 1,783 voters. Results have a margin of error of 2.3%. The questions seem objectively framed to me, with no obvious bias. However, they do cover a wide range of topics are enough to fatigue someone being polled.

SSM illustrates my basic conclusion. (Where figures don't add to 100%, I've excluded the don't know or no answer class.) Consider:
  • As a binary support or oppose same-sex marriage — 36% support and 55% oppose
  • Adding SSM and civil unions in contrast to no recognition for SS couples — 65% marry or union v. 29% no recognition
  • Should states recognize SSM marriages from other states — 44% yes and 50% no
  • Would you support or oppose a state law banning SSM — 45% support and 49% oppose
  • Would you support a U.S. Constitutional amendment banning SSM — 38% support and 56% oppose
Look at all the results to see both trends and demographic differences. In general terms, there are no surprises. Democrats, Independents, whites and women are more open to SSM. Republicans, men and blacks are less so. There were no age or geography breakouts.

Gun questions were similar in the sense of limiting Constitutional amendment. For example, although 54% favor stricter gun control (40% oppose), the extreme choice of an amendment banning individual handgun ownership found 17% favoring and 78% opposing.

Among the obvious patterns are:
  1. These respondents reflect many similar surveys and voting patterns. They still favor state action on and control of social issues. They want the feds off their local laws.
  2. The supposedly all-American and liberty-loving Republicans here again were the most willing to restrict freedom for homosexual couples. That seemed to be fine as a federal role. A survey high on a Constitutional ban on SSM was 56% for Republicans as opposed to 30% for Dems, 34% for Independents and 38% overall.
To an old pinko like me, these trends bode well. In the short-term for the November election, Dems should pound on the points of who fits the American ideas of justice and liberty.

I think Barack Obama blundered falling in line supporting FISA. Americans seem to have lost their taste for letting the covert agencies spy on us at will. Coupled with such disgraceful programs as our off-shore no-process imprisonment and torture is the plain-to-most-of-us fact that we are no more secure than before the feds started stripping and nibbling away our rights. The enemies from 9/11 are still out there doing their evil. We are spending billions while thousands of us die in Iraq instead of taking it to Afghanistan and the other enemy turf. George the Lesser got all the tools and cash he said he needed. In return, he built us...well nothing to brag about.

Longer term, the trends are still for gradually extending and broadening liberties. Even in SSM, for example, the trend is away from a Constitutional ban. The progression has gone from 51% opposing such a ban in March 2004 almost steadily up to 56% in this week's figures.

That likely reflects the slowly increasing national awareness that the anti-gay/anti-marriage equality predictions are invalid. Assuming Californians reject a state amendment reversing SSM there in November, a lot more Americans will get to know a lot more married SSM pairs. In this case, familiarity builds ease.

I do hope that for November Democratic politicians at both state and national level reach into the candor bag. Pull out the questions about do Americans stand for liberty and equality? Do they want these for everyone? Who will get us there?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Still Awaiting That Chaos

And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.
So predicted Anthony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

Back here in gay-marriage land, the predictions of ruin just won't stop. Even today, the shameless fear and contribution raising anti-gay and anti-marriage equality bozos were right back at it.

You can search this blog or MassResistance Watch, for the many times the Henny Penny types predicted chaos, disaster, havoc, misery, and economic decline for Massachusetts. Like true effete failures, they never accepted responsibility or apologized when they were wrong, dead wrong, totally wrong. Instead, they turned immediately to the just-you-wait-and-see posture.

Well, today, the Massachusetts Senate finally, belatedly voted to repeal the shameful 1913 law set that forbids out-of-state couples from marrying here if their home state(s) laws do not allow same-sex marriage. There's little reason to suppose that the House won't follow suit Wednesday or Thursday. Today's voice vote was with no opposition voiced.

We need look no farther than the Massachusetts Family Institute response to see what a thin garment they wear. Cynics seem to have a convincing argument that the only reason beyond their practiced bigotry that they keep at it is fund-raising for self-perpetuation.

Consider among today's comments (in italics):
  • (T)he Massachusetts Senate is inviting court challenges to the marriage laws of other states. Wolf, wolf, wolf. Not only is that not what marrying homosexual couples are about, but it hasn't happened in the past four years. Moreover, the unrestricted marriage laws of much larger California make Massachusetts small beer at this bar.

  • "The Massachusetts Senate has no right to infringe on the internal issues of how other states define marriage but that's exactly what they voted today to do," said Kris Mineau, president, Massachusetts Family Institute. Our marriage laws cannot dictate to any state what it does. Most have laws and/or amendments forbidding SSM. Our choice is not their choice and vice versa.

  • "The express purpose of the 1913 law was to create uniform marriage standards and respect states rights, but the state senate has now reneged on that principal." That's crazy talk. The aim was to placate racist states even though we allowed interracial marriage. We have been the only state unilaterally accommodating the bigotry of others. We've been a legal and marital joke for nearly a century. We saw it in spades in this century with how few states make any provision at all for our SSMs.

  • MFI expects to see an explosion of costly lawsuits causing a boon for trial lawyers if out-of-state couples come here to marry and go home to sue their state for recognition. More crying wolf here. They and others predicted the same if we legalized SSM. There are many lawyers staying wealthy -- with different-sex divorces instead. Most money being spent on suits is by anti-equality types fighting the inevitable and desirable outcomes.

  • If approved by the House, the repeal of the 1913 law would substantiate the absolute necessity for a federal marriage amendment.That could let such groups raise more money from the confused and gullible for a few more years. Even the Mineau sorts know Congress doesn't have the belly to wade into these waters, particularly to take away the right of states to regulate within their borders. I'm sure we can count on the anti-equality forces to stay as effective as they have been in stifling equality. It is to laugh.
That anyone would continue to donate to these false prophets is astonishing. It is a stark reminder how socially conservative we are among the industrialized nations. Apparently, we'll limp in, slowly, behind many other nations on this area of equality too. Yet, doesn't it seem though that the MFI and similar folk would eventually say how wrong they've been...about everything?

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Finally, 1913s Half Repealed

Land O' Goshen, the dreadful vestige of Jim Crow still on the Massachusetts books is half way to repeal. The set of four laws passed in 1913 to placate the anti-miscegenation states went down in the commonwealth's Senate this afternoon.

Tomorrow or Thursday should finish the job when the action moves to the House.

As late as noon today, one of our local bigoted, anti-gay groups, Massachusetts Family Institute was still pretending that these laws had nothing to do with any discrimination. They also continued their irrational fear mongering with a lead of :

The Massachusetts Senate is voting this afternoon on a bill that would repeal the so-called “1913” law and start the exporting of same-sex “marriage” from the Bay State to states across the nation. This repeal would create havoc the long-standing tradition of respecting the right of other states to define marriage as they choose.

More rational and compassionate Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) said, "There are very few laws on the books that I can say that I'm ashamed that they're on the books. This is a very simple law, contrived in shame, and it exists in shame and we ought to wipe it off the books."

'Nuff said.


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Monday, July 14, 2008

Shooing The Dark-Hearted Quartet


Like a four-tined fork in the tender skin of equality, the mean-spirited quartet of marriage laws has strained and stained our fabric of liberty. For 95 years, Massachusetts alone has turned comity on its head with General Laws Chapter 207, Sections 11, 12, 13 and 50.

Led by a mini-scoop from Bay Windows, the MSM have projected that these restrictions may finally get repealed this week.

I've slathered contempt on this set of laws for nearly three years. Search this blog for 1913 and comity for a sampling. In case you are not a slavish reader here, be aware:
  • This set of laws forbids marrying any out-of-state couple if the marriage could not have been legally performed in their home state(s).
  • Our previous governor and AG, Willard Mitt Romney and Tom Reilly, discovered these unenforced laws to restrict extra-commonwealth homosexual couples from taking advantage of the post-Goodridge liberty.
  • No other state likewise restricted marriages in "respect" for comity. Instead, that concept is to ensure recognition of the others' marriages and such, not to tailor your own as limits.
Despite the feeble lie that these laws have nothing to do with race, their roots decidedly burrow into racial fear and restrictions. They came into law right after black boxing champion Jack Johnson married one, than another, white woman. The 1910 Mann Act was used almost exclusively against black men and came into being with a panicked set of false claims of white women being enslaved and sold for sex. Out of this national mood came our own shameful version.

We hear the resounding echoes of such irrational panic today. In this case, like dandelion seeds, gay marriages will spread to cover the land. First from Massachusetts and now from California, Lord save us, the queers are exporting their marriages throughout the nation. They'll surely populate the major cities and sue for recognition. They'll win some cases and then...then...then...

Then, nothing.

The fantasy that these laws will restrain legally married lesbian or gay couples is absurd. They have the right to take other jobs or for any reason move about. No Massachusetts border fence, physical or legal, can exist. Moreover, there are a few states, including Rhode Island and New Mexico that do not forbid same-sex marriage. Their residents can trot here, wed and return.

The usual anti-gay folk barely seem to realize that SSM is legal here or that they can't lock couples into the commonwealth. As the Massachusetts Family Institute put it last week:

The so-called "1913 law" was enforced by then Governor Mitt Romney and then Attorney General Tom Reilly in 2004 to prevent homosexual couples from around the country from flocking to Massachusetts, getting "married," and then returning to their states and suing for recognition. On other words, the Massachusetts' problem of homosexual marriage would not be exported or forced upon other unwilling states as it had been thrust upon the Commonwealth.

The two oddities here are that these clowns continue to pretend 1) that these laws are not based in upholding bigotry and 2) that the restrictions are anything other just more attempts to hinder and harm homosexuals. Well before Deval Patrick was elected, I called for him to have these repealed as one of his first efforts. We should be about liberty and offering all our citizens the benefits of our own laws. When we import another state's restrictions, we are not true to ourselves.

Not surprisingly, some lefties and GLBT advocates have been predictably timid on calling for repeal. The tactical debates among us who want full marriage equality includes how-far and how-fast and just how. Some feel the day has come. Others point to the many laws and amendments forbidding SSM as proof of the need to go slowly.

Locally for the 1913 set, Rep. Byron Rushing has carried the flag for wrong-headed and archaic laws. In terms of results, he has blown the bugle, but hasn't gotten too many troops to follow him. Even he is cautious. He noted of these laws, "If we had found that law earlier, we probably would have been able to appeal it without any controversy at all."

Well, until Romney and Reilly acted out, the legislature didn't notice. The only naysayers to trashing the laws, outside of those two, were the anti-gay forces screaming their paranoia about couples leaving the state's borders waving their marriage certificates.

Until the court SSM victory in California, even there, many were afraid of pushing the issue in court or elsewhere. It was a modern form of the ancient Greek folk wisdom, kick not against the goads — don't pick a fight you're bound to lose.

I thought again of the gracious and polite South Carolina GLBT community facing the 2006 constitutional one-man/one-woman amendment. Perhaps bolstered by states that passed or upheld gay rights legislation or regulations, they chose to follow a similar tack. Come out. Be polite. Reason pleasantly. Smile. Model good Southern behavior.

I had brief email debates with two leaders there suggesting that this was not the time and that was not the place for supplication and just being nice. That was for a different century.

From the MSM and GLBT press coverage, the pro-equality side was nice. It lost overwhelmingly, getting only 22% of the vote. Theirs was a Blanche DuBois strategy, but depending on the kindness of both strangers and neighbors. We can't ever prove that a more confrontational approach would have beaten back the amendment, but I'm sure it couldn't have lost any worse.

The perceived wisdom seem to be the incrementalism wins eventually. That has not been an effective strategy for most causes most times.

For the life of me, I can't see the benefit of waiting this long to trash these offensive laws. I cannot believe more than a few of our legislators fail to see that these were born of bigotry and remain unseemly artifacts. That has been before the legislature for two years, since our Supreme Judicial Court refused to rule them unconstitutional. They threw it to the lawmakers to fix the statutes. Damned, passive judges!

So here we are years later, with the same messy task before us. Former leader on this, Sen. Jarrett Barrrios is gone. Fortunately, Sen. Dianne Wilkerson stepped right in and is tyring to line up enough votes this week before the law kids go home for a break.

When the obvious can become so tedious, let's keep this in mind when we hear left-wing legislature, activist judges legislating from the bench, and ultra-liberal Massachusetts.


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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lessons from FISA

FISA? As I am so fond of asking my sons, what can we learn from this?

The big lesson, the deep one, is not the most obvious. Among the detritus left in yesterday's Senate passage (69-28-3) of the bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 are:
  • Overt Congressional approval of stripping Americans of freedom and due process in our Constitution and court decisions.
  • Support for immunity for telecommunications companies and by interference White House officials who authorized spying on Americans on the secret caprice of the Executive Branch.
  • Our citizens being forced down a funnel of decreasing liberties, as narrow as the Red Scare period.
Yet, the big lesson is the complex one. The nominal Democratic majority in Congress is virtually indistinguishable from the anti-liberty party, a.k.a. the Republican one. On key political and philosophical issues, Democrats are increasingly to the right of the American public. An excellent analysis of that came with last year's huge longitudinal Pew study showing voters are increasingly in favor of Democratic Party planks, while the Congressional votes are far more right wing, anti-liberty, and well, Republican.

To his disgrace, presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama voted for FISA. Oddly enough, regular supporter of this and similar legislation, Hillary Clinton, voted against it. The obvious is that Obama is cluck-cluck terrified of being called soft on terrorism as he runs for office. I shall be fascinated to see how he spins this one. Giving the Bushies and the telcos a free pass on years of violating our essential rights is repulsive.

My conclusion has for too long been that the capons in business suits in the Congressional coop are chicken, so to write. Even Democratic members of House and Senate live in amoral fear of losing their powerful positions. To please big-money contributors, they vote right wing and parrot such lies as, "I'm trying to keep us safe from terrorism."

What we have seen since 9/11 is a steady dissolution of those liberties we pretend to strive to protect. Why should any nation — Iraq, China, Germany, any nation — believe us when we say, "Support us, emulate us, and do as we do to make the world better!"

They have all seen us spy on our own people as well as many thousands overseas. They have seen us kidnap, torture and kill without process or adherence to our own or international law. They have seen us repress at home and abroad in a perverted and totally dishonest melodrama we call In The Defense of Liberty.

Contingent on 1) the Dems taking the White House in four months and 2) substantial Dem increases in Congress, the real reform can happen. With our brood of professional cowards hiding as Democrats in Congress, new people who are not jaded, who still love liberty, and who do not live in fear of losing their stuff have to shake the old men and women awake.

An Obama administration is not likely to be anywhere near as bold as I'd like. He certainly is not anywhere as progressive as I want even now. If he follows the century-old pattern of other self-identified progressives, he won't accomplish many of the huge goals he outlined early on.

Yet, what progressives from Woodrow Wilson on have done in seminal victories is set the tone at national and state levels. They have given direction and hope those who do care about the underclass, about the protecting and restoring freedom, about justice for all, about equal opportunity, and about being the example for the developing world. It is after such elections that we have seen myriad improvements for the larger society, not just huge gifts to the already powerful and wealthy.

In such an environment, our capons might turn into humans with honor as well as hope. As the interest groups have given them permission of watch as liberties shrink, a major progressive shift could give them permission to stand up for actual American values.

At the optimum, we might be able to build on this in the next several elections. Think of more progressives entering Congress and reinforcing those principles. We have had decades now of anti-liberty Republicans and complicit Democrats. We could use eight or more years of courage and respect instead.

A very different kind of President and a flood of Congressional non-effete reinforcements could, would and should make this a very different nation. Don't think just of Obama. Think of a vastly improved culture.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cycling Hordes Heading to Sudbury


The pseudo-aristocracy here can have issues with bicycles. Some take pride in owning $2,000 to $7,000 road bikes. Others think of the bike-like objects used in spinning classes. Still others it would seem see them as nefarious and insidious class equalizers.

As absurd as the last is to those not tainted by classism, it was huge in Weston a decade ago and moderate in Sudbury as I write this.

Converting a few miles of abandoned train tracks into a public (oo, public) bike path raises irrational fears to some.

Their Henny Penny cluckings of imminent urban terror seem a lot like the anti-same-sex marriage crowd predicting unimaginable horror, a veritable societal breakdown if men can marry men and women women. Instead, in Weston, there were predictions of large numbers of gang members and criminals pedalling into their idyllic neighborhoods, stealing and even murdering.

To most of us, it's laughable. I for one try to envision a young black kid on a mountain bike riding two hours from Roxbury to Weston, breaking into a mansion and trying to manage a 42-inch plasma TV on the bike. Or maybe it would be the almost 200 kids from Boston English who have bikes riding out beyond 128 to shoot up drugs and vomit on the pristine lawns.

Translating their claims into actions is absurd. However, to the Angels and Insects sorts, reason does not trump privilege. My town, my house, my solitude, mine, mine, mine...

Among the western Boston suburbs, in 1998, conversion of the old train lines lost in Belchertown and Weston, despite passing in six neighboring towns. In the former, where it lost narrowly, it seems locals didn't understand where the trail would go and feared interference with fishing locales.

The margin in Weston was much wider — 698 to 410. "It got rather silly," said landscape designer Kate Detwiler. She said residents fantasized of rampant crime and extreme use, and wanted to "close the gates." Over in Belmont, then Rep. Anne Paulsen said it sounded like Lexington residents before they approved their section of the Minuteman bike/pedestrian path. "They were afraid there would be vandalism on the path, especially those whose backyards bordered on the path, but of course it didn't happen at all."

Westonians would have none of it. Like towns in Idaho demanding Homeland Security funds to protect their patch of heaven from the inevitable onslaught of envious terrorists, the very rich can often lose perspective. Everyone wants what they have and they can't let down for a moment, not a moment.

Last week, a similarly inane and sensational piece appears in the Boston Globe. Reporter Susan Schweitzer would have us believe that Sudbury will be the next NIMBY bunch of would-be aristocrats in a hyper-rich town. She managed to get some inflammatory comments from Carole Wolfe "Looking out at a lushly wooded area beyond a stone wall on her 100-acre estate..."

Try to share Wolfe's horror at her vision — "Instead of solitude, you'd be having people." Those pesky humans have always caused problems for the nobility, haven't they?

As it is, the cyclists will have to get off the safe path at Weston and onto public roads for that short distance. The anti-path Westonians may think this will teach them what happens if you mess with important folk. I suspect rather it teaches them the level of civility in Weston.

As it turns out, this portion of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (click map to enlarge it) doesn't have the opposition the article pretends. The Sudbury board of selectmen includes the decision on the trail in its 2009 goals.

Some opponents are pretty silly in their arguments. Some want to keep the matter from coming to a vote and likely approval for the study. Another, Marianne Maurer, has a commercial tree farm she fears would be disrupted by the trail. She has her solution — "Go to the gym that you got the membership for and that you know you're not using."

In my own extremely unscientific survey, I asked a single resident I know what she thought of the issue. She said:
I am totally for that bike trail. I took my girls on a ride on the Minuteman Bike Trail Bedford/Lexington. There weren't many riders there at all. But, it was such a great ride. I'm sure those people don't have strangers bothering their property. If you build your house near train tracks, you will get either loud trains or people. They should move!!!
There are some in Sudbury who would disagree strongly. Yet, my sense is that Sudbury residents are not so shallow as the majority of Weston ones. Some in Sudbury have made the likely hollow threat to do as my friend says, move if they get the 10-foot-wide trail. They claim that developers will buy the land and fill the town with small houses (oh, the horror). Of course, far more likely is that rich folk, rich folk who ride bicycles, will snap up any such houses that become available.

Biking Podcast Pending: Over at Left Ahead! next week, we'll host two experts from one of the few East Coast bike havens, Cara Seiderman and Ken Field represent Cambridge, Mass., government and citizens' views. We cover alternate transit, cycling safety, ped/bike/motor co-existence and how their town makes it work. We stream live Wednesday, July 16th at 3 p.m. or go to Left Ahead! later to listen or download the podcast.
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