Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wake Up, Voters!


LEAP DAY, 2012, Boston, MA — Over the weekend, I was in the Northwest corner of Connecticut. Knowing I'd be mingling at a non-political fund raiser in Salisbury, I did bring a prop. I wore my HICKS FOR ELIZABETH button.

Sure, Elizabeth Warren is running for U.S. Senate from MA, not CT. On the other hand, she has been in the news regularly since last summer and on and off for several years. TV, newspaper, radio, cable, internet, Colbert and Stewart, and on and on. You'd really have to be, well, ignorant, not to know of her.

The educated rich folk of Litchfield County did not. A few asked about the button and kind of clicked when I spoke a bit about her. Most who said anything claimed never to have heard of her.

OK, boys and girls, we have elections in MA this year. Next Tuesday is the POTUS/party committee folk primary. There's a Dem convention in June that sets the roster for the September party-based primary. Then, there's the final in November.

Are voters in my Boston and beyond going to show and going to know the candidates and issues?

Granted, I am unabashedly a political critter. I go far beyond looking at flyers I get in the mail or under the door, like:
  • We subscribe to three newspapers 
  • I follow hundreds of pols as FB friend or subscriber
  • I follow many on twitter
  • I attend campaign stops, rallies, debates and other functions
  • I interview candidates on Left Ahead
  • I bring my concerns and the occasional legislation request to City Councilors and MA Reps and Senators
  • Then of course, on election days, I am a poll worker, in recent ones warden at a polling place. 
My shortcoming is TV. I watch next to none, so I miss many campaign ads and only get them on the internet. Likewise, I watch political specials after the fact on the net.

I grew up in a home where my mother absolutely never missed voting. We got multiple newspapers and watched what was then in the days of Cronkite and Mudd real news on TV. We also spoke of the issues and pols at the dinner table and in the living room.

Those many I meet who have political and news umbrellas astonish me. The debates, themes, issues big and small, and most of all assertions drip off their news shields and fall away without ever wetting or whetting them.

Maybe if Elizabeth Warren gets the Dem nomination in June (if she's the only candidate with at least 15% of delegates) or September in the primary, more voters will pay minimal attention. At the very least, they're likely to view and hear repeated ads from both Warren and incumbent Scott Brown sources. Something has to sink in, doesn't it?

I fear it may not.

The big plus is that both huge parties will push their POTUS picks. That won't inform people directly on the Senate candidates. However, having worked polls in previous Presidential-election years, I expect a substantial turnout...by asthenic U.S. standards. Other countries may have 80 percent voting. The last election, which brought Barack Obama into power, was 56.8%, very good by our record.

In Boston and MA elections with 13% or 18% turnouts, I have to keep up the snappy patter and encourage lots of breaks to keep my inspectors and clerk focused and jolly. We carp at the 50-something percent, because it's largely non-stop and lots of self-important voters make it plain they are irritated when they have to wait at all.. Yet, the poll workers are proud at the end of a 15-hour day when we've handled the big one.

Here, Brown just started. I fear he'll rely on high huge chest of money to deliver nasty ads. For many months, Warren and the other Dem candidates have been going everywhere. They do living rooms, debate-like objects in the forum category, rallies, and many stump speeches and standouts.

As always, the states's largest paper, the Globe, was slow to provide real coverage. Likewise, they still are ignoring the two announced candidates for Boston Mayor in the 2013 election. The Globe plays Pulitzer games, concentrating on tiny salacious angles they fancy are exclusives. There must be business sorts at work urging cost/benefit justifications for reportage. Yet coming after the Dem convention, they are likely to provide decent amounts of information, thus shaming other MA media into doing the same.

Still I fear that come September and even November, many registered voters won't bother. Many who do show are likely to say they don't know anything about the candidates below President.

"For crying out loud in a bucket!," as my late mother used to say when she was frustrated with folk. There will be no excuse for ignorance this fall. The reasons may be laziness or lack of civic responsibility, but no excuses are allowed.

As a warden, I may neither give advice on candidates nor scold the dunces. That is very difficult in widely publicized and generally very important elections.

Yet by the time voters are at the check-in table to exercise their rights and perform the rite of democracy, it's really too late. They either know or do not. They either make informed choices or we can hope that the ignorant will offset each other by the law of averages.


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Monday, February 27, 2012

What Makes Lefties?


A recurring message sure seemed like a flat-out lie, but the toxic-professor one strikes me now as a delusion.

The idea is simple enough, that U.S. universities intentionally churn out lefties. This long-term recurring theme has advocates among winger entertainers — the Limbaugh/Coulter/O'Reilly sorts, as well as columnists and bloggers, and pols.

It is safe, even expected for them to make unsupported and unsupportable assertions that some massive, possibly coordinated conspiracy of pinkos poisons college students' minds and hearts. And yet, saying something many times and at increasing volume does not make you right. It makes you loud and repetitive only.

It terms of evidence, what nearly everyone can likely agree is that the college educated tend to be more left-leaning than others. How they get that way can be the simple and understandable or attributed without basis to nefarious and complex plotting.

As examples, the winger position is so common, but for the moment, stick with just very recent Rick Santorum variations on this:
  • Speaking to fellow no-facts guy Glenn Beck, "I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely," he said. "The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country."
  • To 1,000 conservative activists in Michigan, "You talk to most kids who go to college who are conservatives, and you are singled out, you are ridiculed, you are — I can tell you personally.?.?. I went through a process where I was docked for my conservative views. This is sort of a regular routine. You know the statistic .?.?. that 62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it. This is not a neutral setting."
Some seemingly paranoid pols and pundits try to apply a little reason veneer. In general though, such bald, baseless assertions are in groups of the like-minded who do not challenge them. When any of us relies on it's-only-common-sense, it's-obvious, don't-reinvent-the-wheel claims, alas, it shows only that we have nothing. It's more like a geometry theorem where we advance unsupported statements and build on them.

Libertarians and pure Randists can go nuts when they hear or read wild assertions. They expect folk to start with a solid foundation to build anything.

Let's get real on this, wingers.The baseless, paranoid chant that left-wing professors create left-wing students in some great conspiracy has simpler, testable truth behind it. Go with Occam's razor, look for the simplest explanation that fit the known facts. That brings us to the more you know, the more likely you are to be liberal and compassionate.

Sure, there are some arch conservatives who are well educated, but the vast majority of those with a wide and deep background in history and economics are left-leaning. That comes from what they know of how humans have treated each other over time.

How about, the more you know, the more likely you are to question? If you see the worst of autocrats — monarchs and robber barons alike — you are not likely to idealize the wealthy, to speak in B.S. like "job creators," or to see only the positive aspects of capitalism. You know that unions were not some devious plot by foreign commies, rather reasonable reactions to abuses of poorly regulated cartels and company owners. You look beyond the repeated lies and say, "Wait a minute. What about..."

Knowledge breeds liberalism, sure enough, but not as any conspiracy. Do you want your reality straight for sugared with fantasy?.


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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Merry in Maryland Over Equality

Somehow, I didn't believe it, but there you have it. The bicameral approved same-sex marriage bill passed the Maryland legislature and is on the desk of Gov. Martin O'Malley. He has pledged to sign it quickly.

This is a great counterpoint to NJ Gov. Chris Christie, who vetoed his legislature's marriage equality. His political ambition has him wearing the black cloak of anti-gay everything. If there's a Hell, he'll be on the express escalator.

After failing to pass last year by a narrow margin, the bill got through the House last week by 72 to 67.  This evening's Senate margin was 25 to 22.

Yeah, yeah, the anti-equality forces vow a state plebiscite on these enacted civil rights. (When will the high court put a stop to this vitriol?) The new law will take effect next January, meaning that a referendum could nullify it as it did in Maine. Those who live to hamper, hinder and harm homosexuals apparently will do anything to delay the inevitability of equality for them here.

Regardless, this past week's triple of House, Senate, Governor being reasonable and compassionate is cause for celebration.

I have finally become totally convinced that SCOTUS rulings on marriage equality and the comity of recognizing states' marriages is essential. First, find that equal protection applies. Second, require honoring marriage laws as naturally as drivers' licenses and other contracts. Third, make it plain that no referendum or ballot initiative shall put up the civil rights of any group for plebiscite.

We have representative democracy for many reasons in America. Not the least of these is leading on doing the right things for the greatest number of us and also the least protected of us. We seriously need to stop goofing it up.


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No Quarter for the Nice Lady

The toxic trio of hate-all-progressives at the Boston Herald teamed for the trite. Dem. candidate for US Senate from MA Elizabeth Warren got the how-dare-she-talk-to-rich people treatment.

It would seem that GOP incumbent Sen. Scott Brown gets a pass on the trifecta of 1) coming from plain folk, 2) getting rich, and 3) taking contributions from the really rich. The three foot stompers at the new fancy Herald digs allow her nothing.

An entire childhood in a family struggling to keep its humble house and pay for food? Hah! Brown's mother needed welfare for a brief period; that surely must trump decades of troubles.

Earning her way through public universities, aided by having worked a decade to get a debating scholarship eventually? Hah again! Noble Brown needed financial aid and got a sports stipend to go to Tufts, one of the most expensive private schools anywhere; that Tufts is nearly 5% lower in prestige than Harvard, where Warren earned her way into teaching law shows his humble start, eh?


Broad support mostly from plain, middle class folk, but also a few large donations from wealthy liberals? Triple hah! She's a hypocrite for even talking to rich people, particularly yicky out-of-state types, much less taking contributions; Brown's gigantic bags of money, double plus what she got, and far vastly more concentrated in financial-industry types shows his appeal, at least to swells.

She and her hubby working four decades to end up with six-figure incomes? What evil and greed; Brown having comparable income is merely proof that he really does work hard!

I was about to finger for a Cirque du Soleil trope, but this is nothing so grand. The winger types are much more like pubescent sorts trying to break dance. They'll twist and flop, strain to get upright again, fall often, but hop up at the end grinning with pride at their self-perceived skills. Such pride in cleverness is theater on its own.

Honestly, this anti-Warren routine reminds me of the elite-hick moment she and I had on her Left Ahead show last fall. She and I do share OK as birth state. That always stops conversations in MA. People here just don't have enough clichés to keep rolling with that fact. In her case, being a braniac and highly accomplished in both academia and government, she faces a no-win.

Heavily criticized for being an out-of-state hick, she's also called elite for teaching at Harvard coming up on 20 years. So winger types at joints like FoxNews, RedMassGroup, and such have no problem running Warren down from every angle simultaneously.

Listening to or reading the snipes and screeds against her and other progressive sorts, I have to say that as a hick myself I have a word that covers them all — lying.


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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Patriarchal Agents


The cruel craziness in Virginia, that is the very latest of it, brings women voters to the fore yet again. How are they collectively going to deal with reactionary men in power making arbitrary and malicious decisions about women's bodies?

In VA, it's new in-vagina law. You want to consider an abortion? Well now (insert your choice of demeaning sexist slur), your GYN or OB must give you and you may not refuse a vaginal probe for an internal ultrasound. Oh, don't call it big intrusive (in all senses) government raping you. Hush. Hush. It's for your own good.

Nationwide, GOP would-be POTUS types are figuratively elbowing and kicking each other out of the way. Each wants to say the most oppressive and regressive to women pledges and statements. Abortion is always wrong. Birth control is sinful and shameful.

I'm waiting for one of them to claim that life begins with a couple thinks about sex. Forget non-viable tiny fetuses or pre-fetal groups of cells, Personhood begins when Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney says it does.

Of course, the practical and political corollaries become:

  • Let government determine what goes on in a woman's body
  • Try to outlaw all abortion
  • Try to outlaw all birth control
  • Short of those or on the way to those, make women fund their own damn pills and procedures

These and related lies about churches having to obey laws for their non-religious operations are ubiquitous. Find papers, TV or radio news, or internet coverage. Then if you are not a women, project a bit.

What would you feel and think if those winger governors and GOP candidates got their way? What if huge, intrusive government dictated what you could get for health care and what you employer would pay for?

It's all too obvious that the current incarnation of the Republican Party is the antithesis of what they used to claim. They don't care a whit about personal liberty, except maybe gun ownership.

So consider the women voters. they are not only numerically a majority of registered voters, they also show up at the polls more than men. In theory, they are to bless and to blame for every governor, president and more.

Of course, no more than any ethnic group or other subset you can pick, they don't vote as a bloc...generally. Many are fairly conservative politically and have trouble with even as tepid a liberal as Barack Obama. Yet they can still sway any election, given incentive.

Consider too that well over 9 of 10 adult women use birth control in their reproductive lifetimes. What incentive will it be to vote against would-be POTUS sorts who want to deny them access or make it prohibitively expensive by precluding it from health benefits?

I bet a lot.

American women have the power at the polls...if they want it and take it. At the state and national level, GOP men seem determined to push them too far.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Populism Poison


NJ Gov. Chris Christie squatted into place among the most regressive of the wingers with his call for a plebiscite on marriage equality. After spitting on representative democracy by vetoing the same-sex marriage bill as he had threatened, he iterated his assertion that lawmakers had no business making laws about the matter.

As so many cowardly anti-gay sorts before him, he hides behind (beneath?) ballot measures for minority rights. His statement was predictable and included, "An issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide."

Let us be plain, boys and girls, when Americans are asked to change anything and to duplicate their rights for minorities, they almost invariably deny them to others. Historical polls and votes show we would have turned down the rights of Chinese to earn citizenship, for any two races to intermarry, for African Americans to vote, attend school with white or for homosexuals to be protected from overt discrimination in jobs, housing, credit and more. 

The Christie game is doubly cowardly because of its facade of populism. Pretending that the let-the-people-vote solution is anything other than a desperate effort to keep gay couples down is disgraceful.

Fair Origins


Half of our states have laws allowing ballot initiatives and/or referenda that can reverse laws. Those had honorable origins at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries, but are in serious need of revision. When the Populist Party (1890) and Progressive Party (1912) and such pushed for such plebiscites, those where to protect people from corrupt legislatures and governors who abused the public and disdained equality and civil rights. I have ranted about the Flamethrower of Populism for quite awhile.The bad guys have taken hold of this weapon and use it against the people.

Unlike our Colonial and early nationhood eras, we don't have our town government system except in the smallest population centers. We can't make major decisions on a city, state or national level by popular vote. Issues are generally too complex, we are too populous, and moneyed or other special interest groups can skew votes so there is not even a wisp of popular wisdom involved.

Moreover, the votes of the type Christie, the National Organization for Marriage, and other anti-gay folk want are sneaky in the worst way. In town meeting, if you vote to deny fellow citizens something, say a zoning variance or a new elementary school bond issue, you do it to their faces. They know who is mean, cruel, self-interested or vindictive.

In the dark


The plebiscites on others' rights are chicken. Like state and national elections, they are secret, Australian ballot votes. Behind the polling station partition or curtain, the worst is more likely to arise than the best. What the cliché — character is who you are in the dark?

Well, we already know who Christie is. He would delay marriage equality as long as possible. He would put the rights of groups he does not belong to up for secret votes. He would harm homosexuals for no purpose other than harming them.

The people of New Jersey poll strongly in favor of gay rights, including equal marriage. Now the legislature has just short of two years to get up to a two-thirds majority in the elected legislature to override his mean-spirited veto. This is a call to battle for equal rights. I am sure the pro-equality forces are up to it.

It's pathetic that one ambitious anti-gay guy can cause such division and bring such a waste of effort to turn back his hate. Here's hoping his plebiscite call fails badly and that the lawmakers care about what's right for their constituents (as well as what will get them reelected). Christie needs to get slapped down by the voters and legislators.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bigotry...yours?


The cartoon life goes beyond Pixar and even beyond the Republicans who would be POTUS. The grinning, lying clowns on the right just can't stop.

We're back now to the wearisome lies in what can only be described as stupid efforts to rationalize the craziest of the winger arguments against same-sex marriage, against even funding contraceptives, against...well, all reason. I listen. I read. I remain wondering whether they are ignorant, stupid, malicious or each in various measures.

Moreover, lately I recall Boris Badenov. He reveled in schadenfreude and was wont to ask, "My, what a magnificent catastrophe you got there. Is it yours?"

Pic note: The full image from which this came is copyright of Jay Ward Productions. He's dead so can't mind, but I claim fair use of this outtake.

The winger catastrophe that has been playing for several years and increasing in this POTUS campaign uses recurrent, fiendish themes. The most recent craziness has been claims that the reason to deny birth control is to protect religious freedom. GOP candidates, Congressmen, governors, our own Sen. Scott Brown and others have made terrific shows of defending something not under attack.

Nothing has so splendidly regurgitated the worst of this as a column by the Christian Civic League of Maine's Carroll Conley Jr. muddling same-sex marriage with myriad persecutions of (not by) self-defined Christians. In his Joe marrying Joe will make Christians unequal, he does seem stupidly oblivious to the reality that his organization is one of those who took away legislated marriage rights from homosexuals, ahem, assuring inequality in Maine.

His list of alleged proofs is:


Do you want some examples of religious freedoms already lost because people, churches, companies and organizations stood publicly for natural marriage?
  • Ask the adoption agencies and foster care providers in Massachusetts and Illinois who closed their doors rather than being forced to provide services to same-sex couples.
  • Ask the town clerks in New York who refused to grant marriage licenses based upon their religious beliefs (deputy clerks could have still provided licenses and protected the rights of both parties).
  • Ask the New Jersey Christian camp ground who refused to rent their facilities for a same-sex civil union?
  • What about the florist or the organist who objects on religious grounds?
  • What about public educators that have been suspended or fired for stating their opinions regarding same-sex marriage?
We can leave aside for the moment the loaded irrationality of "natural marriage." His sort has so denigrated sterile couples, adoptive parents, and those who choose not to have children. In other words, the vast majority of us are not worthy at a given moment of a true marriage by his standards. Breed or burn seems to be the thought.

However, to this list, each and every one is a red herring.

First, Catholic Charities and other groups providing adoption and foster-care services  decided, cruelly and financially based, to stop these primary functions. Like every other agency providing these services paid for by federal and state funds, they had to follow non-discrimination rules to get the extra money. Not only are those services not the religious operations protected by First Amendment and state statutes, if they had any scruples and sincerity and duty to their clients, they would have fully funded these service on their own and continued them. Instead, they took the opportunity to wash their hands, Pilate-like, of the tedious work of serving couples and children. Shame on them.

For town clerks who were distraught beyond functioning by issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, that is as clear as possible proof of the nature of bigotry and failure of duty. As in the early to middle part of the past century when clerks would not do the same for couples of different races, they need to know they are not clerics free to choose whom to bless. They are government employees and marriage is a civil contract, not a church ritual. Couple can choose to have and combine both, but that's none of the clerks' concern. They are hired and paid to do government work. Live it or live with it.

The Methodist owned beach camp that refused to allow homosexual couple to have commitment ceremonies in their publicly available for rental pavilion, well wake up. The public accommodation is open to all and falls under the state equal-rights laws. The pavilion is a for-profit business. You can't have it all ways. It is not a church.

Similarly with the florist, that is a not a religiously protected institution. It is a public business that is not allowed to discriminate. No matter how narrow minded and uncompassionate the owner is, we have many decades of law and practice that forbid choosing whom you'll sell to based on bigoted decisions. Too damn bad. Think queers are going to wilt all your flowers if they come in the shop?

And teachers who feel compelled to "educate" their students and parents on the immorality of homosexuals are also in the wrong business. Each of these groups needs to take their discrimination and hatred to protected places. Churches can openly discriminate in hiring, rituals and on and on. Many do. That's been protected from our Colonial era into our Bill of Rights and both state and case law. You can be as nasty as you like short of physical violence and overt harassment outside your church's property.

That is impossible to defend morally, but it's our legal system and with good reason. Religion has been protected here from the beginning, as have people been protected from theocracy. It's what we do in America.

Just don't pretend that religious protections cross over into public accommodations, into for-profit side businesses, and into services funded by state and federal funds. You're welcome to go off into the corner and feel as self-righteous as you want. The rest of us will get on with real life.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Anti-democracy and anti-marriage


Let's call the badly misnamed pro-family and pro-marriage groups on their shenanigans — a.k.a. hypocrisy, lies, bigotry and worse. Let's call them on those regularly and re-apply as needed.

We learned that the full New Jersey legislature enacted same-sex marriage today. You know, that's representative democracy, the hallmark of American politics and the epitome of states' rights.

The highly ambitious governor, Chris Christie, has sworn a quick veto. The unaccomplished reactionary who would be Mitt Romney's VP nominee is deep in that morass of more-conservative-than-thou stupidity. At the moment, the legislature in the Garden State does not have votes in either house for the two-thirds veto override majorities. On the other hand, they have until the end of 2013 to assemble those honorable and compassionate men and women from among the scalawags and cowards midst them.

Meanwhile, over in Washington State, another Chris (Gregoire) signed her legislature's SSM bill into law and spoke of her personal journey that brought her to embrace civil rights in the form of marriage equality. She has offered to discuss the issue with Christie as a Catholic who separated doctrine and policy.

Yet even in her state, the anti-LGBT/anti-equality forces want to put a repeal measure on the November ballot to rip away the rights. That's what we can learn from the status of this process. The anti-gay sorts don't give a tinker's dam for democratic process, separation of powers, representative democracy, or even marriage. All they want is to harm, hurt and hinder homosexuals.

As we have seen in numerous states, when the co-equal courts declare a conflict between forbidding SSM and equal rights, the anti people go elsewhere. They demand a referendum on rights or a bill from the legislature.

When the legislature passes SSM, as in CA or WA, they look to the courts or a ballot initiative or both. However marriage expands slightly to include homosexual couples, the plug nasties will turn elsewhere. Not only do they not want more people married, they can't tolerate that messy, evolving process of democracy.

Now we see that our own Cap'n Brylcreem, Mitt Romney is trying to separate himself  from his Massachusetts-ism by saying every state needs a plebiscite on SSM. That is so cowardly knowing how the anti-gay crowds have rallied to retract gay rights of any type at every chance. You'd like to think he'd be ashamed, but then again, he's a career-long politician masquerading as a business type, and one who grew up filthy rich and privileged. He's likely incapable of shame or compassion.

The facts are that marriage equality is coming and coming faster than anyone had predicted. The hateful types are not ready to be, if you pardon the expression, Christian about it. If courts decide for marriage equality, they'll look elsewhere. If legislatures enact it, they look elsewhere. If they are in the half of states with ballot initiatives, they'll try that when other impediments fail.

We need to let them know that most of us live in an America of democratic process and one with three co-equal branches of government.

At the very least, these sleazy and cruel tricks should reinforce the truth that the populism of the early 20th century that led to ballot initiatives needs fine-tuning. Putting any identifiable group's rights up to plebiscite is, say it plainly, anti-American.

Dunces to the Corner!


That serenity prayer so precious to AA and others has political variants. The original, God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference, understandably is solid to being widely useful.

Now imagine how great it would be if we went onto something harder, along the line of Let me know my limits but neither lose aspiration nor fail to do right.

Instead what we hear in the GOP POTUS stagger to the finish and the tone-deaf, crazy winger governors and legislators is malice to many. The candidates and officials are so high on the possibility of living their worst political and policy fantasies that they have lost all sense of limits. They can only have a hard crash, each and all.

This madness is widespread. Virginia passed a mandated sexual violation of any woman considering abortion (1:42 into the clip). Various GOP candidates, most harshly Rick Santorum, want to outlaw contraception. Roman Catholic bishops have doubled down on claims having to obey secular laws on their non-religious operations is unacceptable. On the U.S. Senate side, even our own Scott Brown joined in the cruel Roy Blunt blunder of limiting existing health care. It would be easy to go on and on in that vein. It's madness, it's reactionary, it's anti-American in government control not seen since the Colonial era's British occupations, it's atavistic in treating women like chattel and fools, and the daisy chain of loving among the most extreme right wing pols and clerics keeps us awake with its noises and smells.

The surprising theme here is that these groups would appear on the surface to be far apart. In what they do for a living, in their stated philosophies, in their known politics, each has a well defined niche or rather groove. Yet in the election year, here they are smooching it up.

More significantly, they are each and all overreaching. They peek over their walls at the others, apparently thinking, "Well, if they can get by with it, so can I. In fact, I can go them one or two better."

It was surprising enough when the deck of jokers that is the GOP candidate pack started imitating each other. Like so many frat boys at a bash, they have been figurative outdrinking and outlying each other. Anything you can do, I can do, if not better, at least more so.

Suddenly it isn't enough to say you respect life. Candidates have gone from pro-life to anti-choice to anti-Roe-v.-Wade to anti-abortion to life is an unimplanted egg and sperm to contraception is murder.

Somehow in this irrational frenzy, they lost political pragmatism as well as awareness of reality. They do not recognize their limits.

Ahem, would-be Presidents and Vice Presidents, the guidelines have changed, starting a few thousand years ago. In Genesis, as 9:7, it was And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein. We can note that those were days of high infant mortality, short life expectancy, and a need for many farm and herd laborers.

Today, nearly all women use birth control in their fertile years. In Western society, we rarely know families with a dozen kids. There is no endless post-WWII growth spiral. Women in general do not perceive their lot to be the property of men and useful as breed animals.

So here we have men running for President, other allegedly celibate men in dresses, and state-level pols trying to out-right wing each other in being anti-gay, anti-marriage equality, anti-choice, and well, anti-woman. This can only end badly for them...as they deserve.

It has really only been two generations, but politically that's several lifetimes, since the current mishigas was OK. Women, families and most men are not about to return to the regressive repression of yesteryear. Birth control is the norm. Abortions are awful, but if necessary, they are, as the accurate expression goes, a choice.

The Colonialists who moved to this continent to escape religious domination and the theocracy of 17th Century England set the tone for the nation and its Constitution. Yeah, they were pretty conservative by today's standards, but they knew that the church had no role in governing our actions and thought, those were also choices.

So, the burlesque, the variety show that is right wingers on stage and in state government does not know when to shut up. They do not know when they have gone too far.
The voters will tell them.

Smart money on SSM

As await the melodrama of New Jersey passing same-sex marriage and Gov. Chris Christie vetoing it, the business undercurrents of SSM flow relentlessly. In today's Financial Times, columnist Michael Skapinker judges that companies are smart to support marriage equality. (FT requires free registration for a limited number of articles a month.)

He mildly ridicules Ford's constipated yes/no/yes/no/mumbled and qualified yes support. He says savvy companies and top execs do more than take care of their employees internally. They openly support gay rights and SSM legislation. That includes the likes of Microsoft, Starbucks, Nike and now Goldman Sachs. This goes beyond national and state poll results showing solid and growing support for equality.

He notes that such companies want to attract and retain the best employees, including homosexual ones. Moreover, there are fairness and ethics — "If you work with people every day, it doesn't seem right that some of their partners benefit from their health and pension plans whole others don't."

Among Skapinker's conclusions, "That companies are prepared to be bolder than presidential candidates in turning this tide should be a matter of pride. Sometimes, after weighing up the rights of the company’s customers, shareholders and staff, you just have to do the right thing."


Monday, February 13, 2012

SSM Warrior Reflects


Anti-LGBT desperate mythology includes a chant of votes against marriage equality, or as they would have it "gay 'marriage'" with marriage always in quotes.

True enough that in anticipation of and following MA's Goodridge decision most state legislatures passed DOMA-style one-man/one-woman marriage laws and/or amendments. The latter sometime required plebiscites. True enough that in the Mass. hysteria, as we should call it, popular votes on marriage equality nearly always had and have gone against equal rights for homosexual couples.

Checking in with a warrior for same-sex marriage can be refreshing. My wife and I did that yesterday morning as we joined a packed parlor before the sermon at the UU church in Needham where Rev. John Buehrens recapped the state of the states on marriage equality.

The former president of the UUA is not only retiring from active ministry but is finishing his service to Freedom to Marry after nine years on the board. As the first cleric and first heterosexual to join that board, he's long been plain about his clarity that marriage equality is a civil rights issue.

Podcast note: I chatted up Buehrens at yesterday and he said he'd come on Left Ahead to discuss this. I'll post in both places on when we get that arranged....and 2/14 update, the Rev. Buehrens will join Left Ahead on Wednesday, 3/7 at 2:30 PM Eastern.

Buehrens is no Pollyanna. He obviously is in the make-your-own-future mold. Yet he started off his status of marriage equality lecture including the most pleasant delight for Freedom to Marry and its 30 related groups. As he put it, "Three years ago it became apparent we were making more progress than we ever thougth possible."

The consensus goal of marriage equality groups has been 10/10/20 — 10 states with legal same-sex marriage and 10 with "all but marriage" by 2020. Already there are seven SSM states and the District of Columbia. That includes Washington State, where the governor said she'll sign the recently passed marriage-equality law. Moreover, he sees low-hanging fruit, such as Maine and New Jersey ready to re-institute or pass SSM.

Beyond this, "We believe there will be a sense of momentum that even the Supreme Court, which does read newspapers, cannot ignore," he said. Some states' electorates still oppose SSM, but more and more have solid majorities in favor of equality. Also in terms of momentum, he noted that there are over 100 U.S. mayors who have joined in support of SSM and there are even groups such as conservatives for equal marriage, this latter being the more libertarian feathers of the right wing.

His recap included:
  • Iowa — pro-SSM groups expect to protect equality there against any repeal effort
  • Minnesota and Illinois — are getting public education and could pass SSM in a couple of years
  • New Hampshire — he's "reasonably confident" of defeating any SSM repeal. Gov. John Lynch said he would veto repeal by the new 80%-GOP legislature, and many of those lawmakers lean away from government intrusion in marriage.
  • Maine — despite Tea-Party-supported Gov. Paul LePage's anti-gay stances, Buehrens believes a pending ballot question pushed by pro-SSM groups to reverse the overturning of SSM there can win. As such it would the first such plebiscite won by marriage-equality forces. Not long ago that happened too when Maine voters instituted gay-rights protections by ballot. It is one of the states where polls favor equality.
  • Rhode Island — may be stuck in civil unions for awhile. The openly gay Speaker of the House, Gordon Fox, chickened out in bringing SSM to vote, or as Buehrens put it, "Sometimes your friends let you down."
  • Washington State — We're still a little worried about," he said. Gov. Chris Gregoire had a change of mind and heart, favoring SSM, but polls are close, much of the Eastern part of the state is conservative to reactionary (my wording), and they are among the half of states that can overturn laws by ballot questions.
  • Ohio — also does not have enough popular support. "We ain't going anywhere in Ohio for awhile."
  • Maryland — another state where the polls are still anti-marriage-equality. While SSM came within four votes of passage in the last session, "Maryland ain't ready," Buehrens said, adding that "the polls look lousy." He noted that the lack of support is from the wealthier suburbs, including those with large black population and not the city of Baltimore. He said the the suburban black middle class "has morphed into the black prosperity gospel church. Jesus wants you to be rich." He said Freedom to Marry "reluctantly had to say" that Maryland "is not our priority, not this year."
  • New Jersey — Gov. Chris Christie has been strongly anti-SSM in public remarks. However, his state polls heavily in favor of SSM, which mean this very ambitious pol may not veto a bill. If he does, there may be enough support to override him.
Other Opinions: Boston Globe runs its version of states' status.

At the national level, he figures DOMA cannot stand. If the Supreme Court has to rule, he thinks it would lose on two Constitutional bases. First, it would violate Article I, section 10, clause 1, which forbids any "Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts" (as in not recognizing another state's SSM) and 14th Amendment (due process and equal protection under law).

He believes the Ninth U.S. Circuit decision upholding the rejection of Prop. 8 will go to the Supreme Court. (He and I disagree on this; I lean toward that panel's finding being too state-specific to snag the Supremes.) As he put it, "This thing is going forward and let us pray!" He sees Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote on this and as Kennedy has been sensitive to the related issues, Buehrens can see a 5-to-4 pro-marriage-equality ruling.

He noted that Freedom to Marry was not in favor of pushing this issue to the SCOTUS already. He added that leaders and "strategy shops" such as that organization can't have total control of their movements. Even the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. found that, he said.

For President Barack Obama, Buehrens said that "We have deliberately been not pressing him on this." In a related aspect, with this being a Presidential election year, there's a limit to resources for fund-raising and volunteer support. He also cited "gay political donor fatigue" for groups that dip too often in that well.

Overall, he is not stepping down from Freedom to Marry's board disheartened. Buehrens returned to the delight in seeing the 10/10/20 goal easy to surpass.



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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hard Time Plays for Senate


She can out-hick as well as out-debate him. There's a long, messy matter of a Dem campaign, convention and likely primary, but the fun should begin in September.

Today's Boston Globe has more on Elizabeth Warren's upbringing. They don't contrast it with incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's. He's opened himself to plenty of comeuppance on his own.

The latest Warren upbringing profile has a 7-minute vid of her walking and driving around Oklahoma with a reporter. She's wrong commenting that none of that is of any interest to anyone.

What's amusing is that Brown had been claiming rough times as a youth. Hers was much, much tougher and his much, much more privileged. If he wants to pull the identify-with-me card, he'll have to play it with prep school, high-end private university grads. She came up raw.

Both ended up in good situations and financially secure. He followed in his auto-exec/sometimes politician father's tassel loafers. She came up through the lower end of the middle class, with a disabled dad and working mom, an earned debating scholarship to public university, and working her way through Rutgers law school with a young child.

Brown has been tone-deaf enough to say he didn't go to Harvard, which is where Warren and her second husband ended up teaching after long personal struggles to get to the top of the academic mountain. Ahem, Brown went to Tufts, which is in the same price and prestige range as Harvard.

He pretends struggles and cites a short period where is mother got public assistance. Yet his parents were in far better financial straits than hers.

Warren did marry and mother young (19), but went straight ahead, got her degrees while working for them, raised her kids, and continued to advance herself incrementally — you know, the American dream. Her second marriage has been long and successful in every sense. Both teach at Harvard law. They are by all account the rewards from hard work and a bit of luck success story, a story the GOP would love to claim for one of their candidates.

Brown's tale is not so tough. His parents switched partners several times. If I read the available factoids right, there was some dickering over spousal and dependent payments along the way and maybe some poor money handling, but Brown was not like Warren with a father disabled by a heart attack and a mother working at Sears to pay the mortgage.

In his initial campaign against MA Attorney General Martha Coakley for the Senate seat, he played up costume trappings of a rural life. That would be the like of a barn coat and a pickup truck.Turns out one was a high-end gift from a daughter, which she claims to have bought at a fashion outlet. He doesn't do manual labor and his barn coat is like those Weston and Dover SUVs that never leave the road or get mud on them. Likewise, the pickup's use seemed to be largely for hauling tack and hay for his daughter's horse — not real work, rather gentleman farmer's play.

Brown has never seemed particularly smart when he's spoken. Only Coakley's stolid stiffness humanized him so you looked past his limited messages. Yet, if he has savvy advisers, they'll tell him not to try to pretend to deprivations that he never felt. He lied baldly during the special election campaign with impunity. He's not likely to get by with it if he faces a much smarter candidate who was a debating champion.

What was it that George Bush the Lesser said — Bring it on!?


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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Joy and Roiled Waters on the Left Coast

Smart and good-hearted Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire can hardly wait to sign the marriage equality bill that passed the legislature yesterday. She's long been big on civil rights and LGBT friendly.

The elation from Olympia to Seattle and around is terrific.

The soon-to-be law passed largely on party lines. You can figure out for yourself which side the Republicans were on in the 55 to 43 House and 28 to 21 Senate votes.

This law will overrule the state's DOMA one-man/one-woman marriage law, but the plug-nasties haven't given up. Public polls favor SSM, as do such huge employers as Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks. Moreover, a referendum to overturn the domestic partnership law in 2009 was the first such plebiscite in the nation to lose, when the voters affirmed equality.

Unfortunately the anti-SSM/anti-homosexual forces are making a double stand. They'll try to get two measures on the next ballot, one overturning the new marriage-equality law and the other reaffirming the DOMA-style definition of marriage. The confusing and somewhat contradictory possible initiatives raise the question about whether SSM opponents are befuddled or simply hoping to addle voters.

At the least, if either or both end up on the ballot, Equal Rights Washington and other groups will have to go from celebration to yet more education.


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

King, DeFranco Mix It Up Politely


Two Dem candidates for US Senate from MA brought their traveling show to Boston Latin School last week. By Marisa DeFanco's count, she's been in 9 fora, most with John King. They showed, while much higher profile candidate Elizabeth Warren did not. DeFranco figures Warren has been to only two of these and may show at one on Cape Cod.

That dynamic was subject during the forum and at the student meet-and-greet before it started formally. DeFranco and King clearly played off of each other's rhythm after so much time on stage together. Both are accomplished lawyers and highly confident and both share the frustration of fighting the ghost opponent who seems to many to have turned them into the shades. That seems galling for two who don't need self-esteem courses.

While both at the forum put themselves on the left wing, they are not me-too types. There are similarities, starting with incumbent Scott Brown as not representative of the MA electorate, but enough differences for contrast.

Consider:
  • DeFranco says at every one of these events, "I'm the only true progressive in the race." I heard her do that when there were seven Dem candidates as well, and she definitely wants to include Warren in that difference.
  • She also says she is the only candidate of any party who has a real jobs program. Hers closes corporate tax loopholes, and uses half the assumed $100 billion annual savings for two to five years to create two to five millions permanent green jobs, a leafy FDR as it were.
  • King has also has a full platform on his site, each plank blending law, history and economics into his politics. For example, he wants the U.S. military out of Afghanistan immediately. He cites the failures going back to the Roman Empire of such military operations. As he framed it, "Anytime we use guns and bullets to build a nation state, we're making a big mistake."
  • Both bill themselves as entrepreneurial business types, she an immigration attorney working with both companies and individuals, he moving from years in the DOJ's antitrust operations to founding and building a law firm from 2 attorneys to 40 (with 65 employees). Both say they understand the bottom line, the middle class, and creating employment.
  • Both see the U.S. immigration policy as a failure. DeFranco traces it back to NAFTA, leading to us exporting cheap corn to Mexico and putting a couple million farmers out of business, hence increasing illegal immigration. "You have to talk about trade reform" to fix immigration, she says. King would deport only violent criminals, saying otherwise, "I do not favor deportation. It does not work and costs more." He'd fine technical violators and provide a path to stay here legally.
  • Neither takes PAC, superPAC or special-interest funds. With derision, he said, "Both Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren have raised a bundle of money and that's good for them." He wants them to report how much is from out-of-MA and linked to what businesses. She would prefer public funding of campaigns. 
  • In that vein, both oppose the Citizens United unlimited superPAC funding — "grossly wrong," he says. She added that an amendment to reverse the effect of that decision would not be a panacea. Before the ruling, "it was gross and now it's obscene. We don't want to go back to gross."
  • On the Occupy movement, DeFranco was "very supportive" and visited here six or seven times. King favored their aims, but questioned the efficacy. "Good for them, but I think there's a better way" than public protest. He wants to prosecute financial types who cause the recession and housing problems.
  • Both favor LGBT rights, including marriage equality. DeFranco was stronger, calling for expansion of same-sex marriage to all states. King favors SSM "unless there's an overriding governmental purpose."
Overall, King seemed more conservative in contrast to DeFranco. He certainly wouldn't fall on the right wing otherwise. After his years as DOJ trial attorney, he always seem to have the enforcement and prosecution aspects of an issue in the mix. In contrast, DeFranco spoke often in absolutes ("100% pro-choice" and SOPA/PIPA are "complete overreaching"), while King brought in history and some qualifications. For example, on SOPA/PIPA, he said, "I oppose restraints on the use of the internet," but added that intellectual property had to be protected.

King arrived first and had to leave for another appointment before DeFranco. He concudes that his experience and expertise, and his understanding of history, the historical process, the economy and tax laws made him the Brown replacement. DeFranco got to bring in her other big ideas, including single-payer health care, high-speed rail, and reducing military spending (eliminating "weapons that don't work") while increasing military salaries. She plugged herself as someone who fixes real-world problems daily, making her clients' lives better. 

"I don't spin," she said. "I don't go shooting my mouth off. When I say something, I mean it."

That latter idea was one that both used, in the sense they claim they are in at least until the party convention in June. There, candidates who get at least 15% of delegates advance to a September primary. Both swear they're headed for that.

CA No-Resolution Resolution


Yes, damn it, yesterday's two-to-one 9th US Circuit Court ruling declaring Prop. 8 unconstitutional is sweet. On the other hand, it not the end of anything. The plug-ugly hating types are still at it there and elsewhere.

It did definitively say that you can't pull that crap...in California. The Prop. 8 ballot vote that reversed the legislature's legalization of marriage equality serves no purpose other than harming homosexual couples, the justices ruled. Hence, it's unconstitutional.

If the meanies would admit defeat (as likely as you or I levitating at will), that would be that. In 21 days, same-sex marriages would resume there. Any appeal to the whole Court would basically delay the works for another year. An appeal to the SCOTUS would in effect do the same.

I see an excellent chance that the Supremes would not take this case. The original finding in the next court down that ruled Prop. 8 unconstitutional included federal issues. Yesterday's in contrast was so state-specific that the SCOTUS would be hard pressed to justify hearing it.

The SF Chronicle has the history of CA SSM, as well as reaction to the new ruling here. The LA Times covers the dissenting justice's pretty lame waffling on why there maybe could be a sort of justification for forbidding SSM.

I don't have access to the whole ruling yet, but papers do and are quoting the majority opinion by Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt to include:
There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted...All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation ‘marriage,’...Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California.
Just so.

I bet the anti-gay/anti-marriage equality sorts appeal to the larger 9th-Circuit Court and delay the inevitable. The only amusement with it is that the narrow Prop. 8 win would not happen today. Voters poll strongly in favor of SSM. The nasties lose this one sooner or later.


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iPlod Posting

I apologize to anyone expecting the Marisa DeFranco/Jim King forum coverage. My iPad, not my dog, ate it.

I'll reconstruct it when I have the heart.

On a trip to Florida, I took our iPad, with the intention of pushing Publish on the lengthy post already written. Logging onto Blogger and opening the post, I was astonished to see it disappear without my touching any keys. restoring the draft or exiting without saving did nothing. It was yet another dirty Apple trick.

I see that numerous bloggers on various platforms have had trouble with iPads and HTML-based programs. I am chastened and accept that I am punished for not staying all Apple all the time. In the future, I'll use a non-proprietary OS laptop or just wait.

Perhaps I'll write shorter in the redo.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Death March to the Ballot


Two of the three candidates for the Dem shot at the US Senate from MA showed at the Boston Latin School forum this week. Jim King arrived on time and had to leave first for another appointment. Marisa DeFranco took a few more questions.

Of particular interest was commentary (a bit of a rant really) about the process of getting on the ballot here in MA. That inspired me to ask the savvy and funny chairman of the MA Democratic Party, John Walsh, to join us on Left Ahead to discuss this. He agreed to do so and will be on Tuesday, February 21st at 2:30 PM Eastern.

The path, using this US Senate contest as an example does in fact sound like a Greek society initiation process. There's an onerous signature-gathering process that dovetails with party caucuses and convention. It certainly doesn't fit the stereotype of anyone-can-run-for-office here.

The major state law is Ch. 53 §6 for the process. It requires candidates to get at least 10,000 signatures of registered Democrats in a 10-week window, this year between February 14th and May 8th.

The party has its own process and requirements, in this case with the effect of law in limiting candidates. At ward caucuses throughout MA, party activists (and a few newcomers, very few) put in their bids to be delegates to the party convention, the first weekend in June, in Springfield this year. The delegates say they want to be a delegate for (candidate) and those elected go. They are not legally bound to vote that way, but that is the norm.

At the convention, there is a single ballot for office. Candidates that get at least 15% of the delegates go on to a primary. That is about 750 delegates. If only one candidate has at least 15%, that slot is not contested in the primary.

That has all the appearance of an insider's game. In its defense, one might say that candidates who have built strong ground organizations, a.k.a. the guys and gals most popular on the political playground, get to advance. That speaks less to ideas and ideals than to pure politicking.

Regardless, John tells me that this process predates his chairmanship of the party, but he knows the way it works. We'll start on that and maybe he can make me smart, at least about this.

If you can't listen to the show live then, go back to that URL, to Left Ahead, or our iTunes page to hear it on-demand.


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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Campaign Caution or Cowardice?


It must be close to impossible for a progressive sort not to like Elizabeth Warren's candidacy for U.S. Senate. Think of John Stewart playing off her charm long before the race when she was pitching the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on his show (8:08 in). To her enthusiastic argument, he said, "When you explain it like that, I know your husband's backstage, but I still want to make out with you."

The other two candidates still in the contest for the Democratic nomination are not so charmed. In particular, as they take their small budgets and big ideas from one public event to another, she is absent but always a force. When there were seven and now the three, her campaign cancelled or blew off one group appearance after another. Assuming she shows for one on Cape Cod next month, that will be the only one before the party convention in June in Springfield.

That attitude is understandable, expedient, and to Jim King and Marisa DeFranco, infuriating. I heard that clearly two days ago at the candidate forum at Boston Latin School run by the Help Youth Vote! Coalition there. They showed while Warren's campaign was unable to attend so far has yet to come up with alternative dates.

At the student meet-and-greet lines and semicircles before the formal event, each candidate noted they were there, they believed in democracy, they were willing to debate their platforms.


The Why Not




Conventional political wisdom has it not to waste time and risk blunders unnecessarily. Warren has gotten tote bags full of endorsements. Her contributions are in the millions while King and DeFranco's are in the thousands of dollars.

All three candidates have jobs with important, productive tasks to perform. Yet two of them manage to schedule themselves so they can appear at these quasi-debate thingummies at colleges, high schools and other public places.

To them, Warren is being cowardly and disrespectful of the democratic process. I surmise that her campaign figures it's smart politicking.

DeFranco is bluntest about it. Her website splash opens with a press release headlined U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE MARISA DEFRANCO CALLS ON PROFESSOR WARREN TO STOP DUCKING DEBATES AND FORUMS.

The release details cancelled appearances. It reads in part:
Public debate is a critical part of the electoral process. Debates provide voters with the opportunity to see their potential nominees in an unscripted setting. They also require candidates to address issues beyond sound bites and talking points. And they give voters a chance to see how well candidates perform under pressure.
We can set aside first that these short-answer fora are not true debates (as well as the cutesy Professor Warren in the headline). Yet I am pretty sure that even big fans would prefer that Warren overruled her handlers here.

She's doing a lot of appearances, but as the solo act. She lets those work with her media and advertising. That's safe and has gotten correspondingly boring.

In that vein, both King and DeFranco had views on the role of money in positioning for the race. She is a big supporter of public financing of campaigns. He questions out-of-state contributions. Both are aghast at the Citizens United SCOTUS decision legalizing unlimited, secret campaign contributions and expenditures, euphemistically billed as free speech. Also, both said they did not and would not take super-PAC and special interest donations, while Warren did.

He said that "Both Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren have raised a bundle of money...and that's good for them." He called for an accounting of how much was out of state and how much tied to businesses.

DeFranco remained both confident and defiant. As she put it, "Money does not win elections." She cited her higher poll numbers when there were seven in the race and she was outspent 10:1 or 100:1. "Make your decision on the candidate who can actually beat Scott Brown on ideas and that's me."

Nonetheless, Warren is likely to appear on a dais only one more time with King and DeFranco. That seems like an odd attitude for someone who presents so well, who is a champion orator going back to high school, and who has thought about virtually every important idea big or wee related to this campaign.

Yet trying to pin the coward label on candidates doesn't often get traction. Here in Boston, I think of Maura Hennigan's attack ad against Mayor Tom Menino in 2005. She went after him for ducking her during the campaign. As true as that may have been, she still got skunked.

Surely if Warren becomes the Dem nominee, with or without a primary, she and Brown will go head-to-head more than once before November. Having seen her in action as well as on TV and had her on Left Ahead, I'd put my money on her without question.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder whether mixing it up with King and DeFranco now might not be good practice.

Others have suggested that one or both of them might not get the 10,000 signatures in about 10 weeks required by state law to advance to the convention. In Spingfield, they'd each have to receive the vote of 15% of the delegates (around 750) to advance to the primary at the beginning of September. Before those occur, would appearing with them give them more legitimacy than not doing so?

Regardless, everyone but Warren's camp is likely to agree this smells bad.

Promise and Problems for Transgender Child


I'm tempted to call it the magic headband. From the day the 8-year-old transgender student wore it to class, there was a transformation. The angry, screaming child who would flip over desks suddenly became a happy scholar.

Who could find problems with that?
ID note: To respect the privacy of all involved as this unfolds, this identifies the child only by first name, does not reveal the locale or school, and cites the grandmother as GM and mother as Mommy. 
Source note: My j-school/newspaper background normally has me going to multiple sources. This draws almost entirely on the candid conversation with GM. Future updates may include lawyers, the therapist, the principal or others, but there's plenty in the experiences from her view.
The principal of the school was among those who has not yet learned to deal with John presenting as Jen. In particular, she'd like Mommy and GM to punish Jen for using the girls restroom and apparently claims Jen will do so "over my dead body." Unfortunately, in New Hampshire, the legislature rejected the bill that would add legal protections to transgender children and adults. The other New England states prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

Acknowledged transgender is not common. Estimates run from 3% down to a quarter of 1%. Yet it's real when it's real, and denial, anger and other irrational responses help no one and change nothing.

Revealing Jen


This child's background is not so simple as many of our lives and goes far below gender identity. For starters, a single mom with a daughter found out and met the brother and sister five and three year olds who had been in foster care for years. She decided to bring them into her home and begin the adoption process.

That's remarkable enough. In what would have dissuaded most prospective parents, the boy, John, was deemed severely autistic, low verbal, prone to outbreaks, and not toilet trained at five. GM reports that her daughter asked her, "Do you think I can do this?" She replied, "If anyone can do this, you can."

The adoption took a year, but two years ago, the pair legally came to Mommy. He had already been toilet trained as soon as they came into the home, as GM put it, "in two weeks...with love." He was still unhappy but quickly more verbal. GM notes that both children had arrived gaunt and pale. Even their skin color changed, to the point where the doctor's office didn't recognize them.

There was no tension with the existing daughter. She was fine with a sister, but in particular had always wanted a brother.

The wrinkle was in the boy's fondness for things frilly. He liked to dress up in girls' clothes. Mommy and GM quickly became aware this was not transvestism. Rather, he said he was a girl.

They took him to a therapist, who asked among other questions, "Have you always felt like a girl?" John replied, "No, I've always been a girl."

While Mommy and GM are quick to point out they just love the children and want to do what's best for them, let us note their wisdom and equanimity as well. They did not flip out, did not scream at or hit John, did not do the gender-identity version of trying to convert a lefthander, and did not demand that he live double school/home lives.

Starting wearing dresses at home and being very saddened by having to wear a boy's suit for his adoption ceremony, John left no doubt about identity. Willing to present as a girl at school, as Jen, meant simultaneously being honest and risking what came from classmates and teachers.

Trouble from Above


Both Jen and her sister are shorter and slighter than many peers, but neither lacks courage. Jen has retained and expanded her friends, says GM, who noted with pride the attitude of the younger sister to the few students who would taunt on the playground. "She protects Jen. She'll get right between her and children on the playground. She'll say, 'Don't call her a boy. That's my sister.'"

Jen insisted on going to school in dresses. The therapist supported this and told Jen to use the girls room when no one else was there. Mommy and GM met with teachers and the principal several times to let them know what would happen. The principal even met with Jen in her office to prepare.

Then the letter arrived. It seems one parent had complained about Jen using the girls room. "The school was going to pursue legal action if (Mommy) didn't punish her for this," said GM. "Plus, they were going to follow her around school." GM and Mommy weren't about to punish Jen or accept separate and unequal treatment.

Jen had gone from a problem child to a student of the month. She loved school and had lots of friends. Now, said GM, "Jen came home crying saying she can't use the bathroom, 'because I'm making them uncomfortable.'"

In the closest thing the school came to trying a compromise, the principal said Jen would have to use the nurse's office restroom. While GM and Mommy heard this and thought they could frame it as their idea and something special. Unfortunately, the principal presented this as a mandate to Jen before letting them know what was up. Thus, Jen felt punished and tried to go the dayswithout using any restroom.

More to Be Done


Jen loves school, but short-term, she's not there. Until arrangements are in place and there is a clear understanding, she's being home schooled. Oddly GM and Mommy had some experience with this years before in a previous school with the first daughter. She was diabetic and the school would not medicate her as needed for her health. They resolved that and got her back in.

Likewise, the aim her is to get Jen back in class with her friends, who GM says are fine with the transition. Meanwhile, GM and Mommy have been in contact with a GLAD lawyer as well as counterparts in two other states. The school will receive guidelines on how to deal with a transgender student.

GM seems singularly well organized and a formidable force. She and Mommy had also kept detailed records of the entire process, including all communications and meetings. They are more than willing to do their parts to make this work as smoothly and pleasantly as possible. They also have not stopped reading and speaking with people who understand they physical, psychological and legal aspects.

Their attitude includes that a transgender student going to school in a dress, "is not going to be the hardest thing she'll go through."

In fact, their surprise came when they had to confront their own related issue. First it was from the older daughter, the one who had always wanted a brother. As John transitioned to Jen, GM said, "She cried and said, 'I'm losing my brother!' That's when we realized we were losing him too." All had known John as he joined them and blossomed from the sad, autistic boy they first new into the happy Jen who loves school and is popular. "We've had to grieve John, " said GM. "John no longer exists."

Instead, Jen is ready to get on with her life. Mommy will see that her name is changed legally. Moreover, at this point it seems that sexual reassignment surgery is somewhere in the more distant future.

While Jen was initially unclear on genital anatomy, she knew she had a penis. When Mommy explained how girls and boys differed, Jen said, "Mommy, why do I have to wait? Can't you just cut off my penis, so people will like me?"

For those who would say such things as homosexuality is a lifestyle or in this case transgender is a choice that weird adults make, let us consider the reality of the latter with Jen. She is a child who has known early on what her true gender is. She hurts no one and wants to get on with her life and to develop as any child. Her grandmother, mother and sisters will do their part. It is a small enough thing to expect everyone else to let her go about that life.

Cross-post: This appears also at Harrumph!



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