Saturday, December 31, 2005

Burden the Barren Bear

What of the childless fundy couples?

It must certainly be terrible to be a homosexual man or woman in a church in which the preacher or priest condemns you to hell. How awful it must be too to be a straight, married couple who cannot or chooses not to have children. You also are unnatural and lumped in with the hellbent homos.

Imagine sitting in the pew hearing that you are excluded from the love of your God, from the rituals of your church, and from the fellowship of your congregants. It may be a matter of biology, but you are not worthy because you have not procreated according to God's plan.

This past year was as bad or perhaps worst for such slurs. Following Massachusetts permitting same-sex marriages, the clerics who claim to speak directly for their God and the professional lobbyists in the same track have railed against married homosexual couples.

Only the idiotic and those who believe in miraculous asexual human reproduction could suppose that a pair of men or a pair of women could procreate unaided. Then again, what of the many childless heterosexual couples? What of those who try IVF and fail, or those who adopt, or those who just don't want kids?

painting of Adam and Eve cast outOf course that is equally true with millions of straight couples. We humans are akin to cars in that way. We have hundreds upon hundreds of essential systems. The smallest malfuction or malformation can prevent us from realizing our full potential in one aspect or another.

Yet, to hear James Dobson, Gilbert Thompson and other hatemongers tell it, those incapable or unwilling to fulfill a specific verse of Genesis (1:28) are doomed and godless. How dreadful that must be to sit as a childless couple in a fundy church, particularly if you have tried your best, or should be say your damnedest.

We have to assume likewise that straight marrieds who adopt are failures before the Lord too, as the haters say of same-sex couples. One must wonder whether it is better for the tots to sit in foster care or orphanages with only each other instead of being reared by a pair of homosexuals or a barren straight couple.

Biblical note: Genesis 1:27-28 in the New International Version reads,
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
There you are, the evangelical heterosexual married, childless and therefore a failure to God. Well, at the very least you have clearance to have at each other sexually without fear. Sex is not supposed to be for pleasure, but if you are giving it your best Genesis 1:28 try, who can blame you for turning off the TV and turning on each other?

Ah, only the godless could ask how dare these pompous pulpit buffoons berate others. The fraternity of fundy ministers is filled with adulterers, with those who cruise gay men and boys, with those who rent prostitutes, with those who father illegitimate children. But they have met their own conditions, they have certainly procreated and they have at least one family with a mom and a dad.

So, is the next step for them to assert that straight marriages that produce no offspring are invalid, to put quote marks around their marriages? Are those who choose not to have children damned? Are the infertile cursed? Are the couples who adopt likewise unworthy of God's love and protection, be they straight or that other thing?

Shakespearean note: Antonio in the Merchant of Venice said:
Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Closet Jesuits?

Uh oh, Archbishop O'Malley, word coming from Springfield is that you have thinking priests there – a large majority of them. That could spell trouble from the diocese known for Dr. Seuss and Indian motorcycles.

It turns out that only 1 in 5 local RC priests signed the ballot initiative petition for stopping same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. Don't they know when to check their brains at the door?

According to the Springfield Republican, 31 of 154 active local priests signed up. Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, and Archbishop Sean O'Malley told them they should sign.

It is public record who signed and by inference, who did not. Reasons for priests not signing, with sources, might be:
  • Priests in general and gay ones in particular might not want to support an anti-gay measure. (East Longmeadow Priest James J. Scahill)
  • An "acknowledgment that same-sex unions are among people willing to make public commitments of genuine love." (Scahill)
  • Civil v. religious; Massachusetts isn't asking RC priests to "sacramentalize" same-sex unions. (Scahill's personal reason for not signing)
  • Priests really, truly signed, but their signatures ended up on a petition that was wholly disqualified. Oh, yeah, right. (Petition organizer Larry Cirignano of Catholic Citizenship)
  • A silent protest against the petition contents. (Aaron D. Toleos, director of

Barney Blasts Bad Blood

Our dude in D.C. took advantage of a slow-news/no-news day to talk about maybe running for the U.S. Senate, but mostly about the wasteful stupidity of the pending effort to try yet again to put a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in Massachusetts to a vote. Rep. Barney Frank's interview hit the wires last evening and is in the papers today, including here at the Washington Post.

Barney Frank head shot
Subtlety would be wasted on anti-SSM, anti-gay zealots. So B.F. did not spread any B.S. on the QT.

"Basically, they're disturbers of the civic peace," Frank told the AP. "We now have social peace in Massachusetts. They're the ones who want to stir it up. This is a non-issue in Massachusetts."

May we have an Amen?

Frank predicted that the anti folk's effort to get this on the 2008 ballot will bring unnecessary rancor over an issue already settled. "I think by 2008, people will say, 'Do we really need to have an angry, divisive debate over a non-issue. The question for the 50 legislators is: Do they want to make this a front-page issue again, leading the TV news?" He was referring to the 25% of the General Court would have to approve the measure in two successive sessions, 2006 and 2007, to put it on the ballot.

That is the key question of the session. Accompanying ones include:
  • Is this the kind of business that the General Court should spend its effort and time pursuing?
  • What do legislators risk in a state that polls with increasing majority in favor of SSM?
  • Have the plug nasties alienated voters to the point that this initiative has no chance?
  • Will politicians run or sneak away from this to avoid linking to a loser?

Men and Women and the Net

The Pew folks have done it again, this time on how gender differences show up in Internet usage. The 54-page PDF file is How Women and Men Use the Internet.

There’s a very granular discussion of everything from eBay to medical self-help to porn to religion. Of course, we went looking for politics and blogging.

The short of it is that men are much more likely to use the Net for news and research, including politics. Stereotypes find bolstering from every angle. For example:

• Women are huge on emailing family and friends.
• Men get all kinds of information from sports to politics to weather.
• Send email (men 88% to women 94%)
• Support for personal or medical problem (men 50% to women 66%)
• Get spiritual info (men 25% to women 34%)
• Get news (men 75% to women 69%)
• Get financial info (men 56% to women 34%)
• Download a program (men 48% to women 31%)
• Listen to radio online (men 38% to women 20%)
• Do an online auction (men 30% to women 18%)
• Trade securities (men 20% to women 6%)
• Visit adult sites (men 21% to women 5%)

Asked where the Net helps a lot, the biggest distinctions were in keeping in touch with family and friends (women 57% to men 42%) and in pursuing hobbies or interests (men 43% to women 31%)

Of more interest here is what they are doing online politically. Men and women were pretty close in using the Net to get political-campaign news (men 60% to women 56%) and in reading blogs (men 29% to women 25%). Likewise, their growth rates in accessing political news from 2000 through 2004 were similar – men 46% to women 40%.

However, walking the talk was quite different. Pew found in 2001 that 84% of online folk belonged to some online group or organization. In general, a smaller percentage of women belonged across the board. For political groups, it was a dramatic men 27% to women 17%.

The aftermath of September 11th highlighted gender differences too. After the attacks, a lot more men (30% to 25%) used the Net for information gathering, while more women (56% to 50%) used it to “connect with people they needed to reach.” In this period, men turned more to political sites (13% to 9%) and to discussion groups (12% to 8%).

For technology, men are more likely to maintain websites (16% to 11%) and a blog (11% to 8%). However, in a survey of teens last year, boys and girls helped others with blogs equally (32% to 31%) and girls were more likely bloggers themselves (22% to 17%).

Pew found that “(y)ounger women are more likely than younger men to be online (and) older men are more likely than older women to be online.” More black women than black men are online, more single men than single women, more married women than married men, and more men with kids or without kids under 18.

Projections would be amusing and likely inaccurate. Can we assume that the girls who blog and instant message will continue to dominate Net usage as adults? Probably not. Can we project that men will continue to do more information gathering while women keep at the people-connection tasks? Probably.

For right now though, the figures show that men are more likely to read blogs and find political news and opinion. They are also more likely to put politics into action online through joining and likely through contributions.

Maybe that’s no surprise to the major parties and special interests. It is a bit sobering when you consider that the right wing sites have a head start in shaping opinion online.

Let’s see the Dems, liberals and progressives get their message out more and better. Then, if they can only figure out how to provide sites with features that fit the ways many women use the Net…

Stupor Stop & Shop, 2 of 2

This is continued from part 1.

In France a supermarket, supermarché, is often just twice the size of an American 7-Eleven. That’s all the super Europeans generally want or need.

In Dorchester, with the address of Mass Avenue instead of Allstate Road, the super duper S&S brings more confusion to its shoppers. The first weekend of the new store, I had a bit of trouble getting in, but not because there were more shoppers than usual. There was less God just as much my-gosh as stepping into Notre Dame in Paris. Shoppers entered by the expanded produce area and blocked others in their amazement at the relatively minor differences.

Inside, once you career past the gawkers, the footprint is not so much bigger or varied. Yet, to us humans, small distinctions are big conversation.

In the pattern of the new S&S stores, this one has an aisle of office supplies stocked by Staples. It has a full aisle of non-foods, or crap you don’t need as one might put it. Then a third of the last frozen-food aisle is the Go Lean Crunch and other mass-market health-food labeled food.

You’d think navigating such differences would be like stepping over the puddle that appears at the corner after the rain. You’d be wrong.

Two elderly women who didn’t seem to know each other passed in opposite directions in the canned fruit and veggy aisle. One turned to her peer to say, “I can’t find anything in this store.” The other replied, “Yeah. I used to be able to do my shopping in less than an hour. I’ll never get out of here today.”

And the Gen-X, Gen Y and Boomer types were similarly befuddled. Some ran their carts into frozen food standalone cases. Others just stopped at an aisle and blocked and gawked.

Amusingly to someone who writes his shopping list in the order those items appear in the store aisles, this upgrade required no change. The fish, seltzer, dairy and everything is in the same order. In fairness to the humanoids with carts, it is a mirror image of the store a football field away, but for crying out loud in a bucket, the food from start to finish is in the exact same order!

So now, tell me again how much more advanced we are than other simian creatures. Forgetting the smart and pacific cetaceans, we are allegedly the leading edge of mammalian evolution, right? If you are properly fundamentalist, we are like God, created in his image and the highpoint of his work, right?

Tell me again how the human brain is such a marvel that the least of us are multitaskers. We can drive and use our cellphones…without daily fatal accidents. We can load Word, Outlook and a browser at the very same time. Aren’t we wonderful?

Truth to tell, most of us are pathetic single-taskers. We can load three programs at the same time, use one or two in a half-assed fashion and goof up repeatedly. Most of us can handle input sequentially.

Likewise, we are susceptible to simple-minded political slogans and sound-bite reasoning. Not too much complexity, please. We’re human.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Maine Goes Mainstream

Yesterday with a shrug, Mainers became the last New England state to have basic anti-discrimination protections for homosexuals. The long-overdue and hard-fought tweaks to existing laws extend protection in credit, education, employment, housing and public accommodations by forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation came into force.

There was no hoo-ha or joy in the streets. Equality Maine sent its 2,000 members an email reminding them of the date that the laws take effect. The email included how to file an action in case of discrimination. Yawn.

In October, Maine Human Rights Commission Executive Director Patricia Ryan predicted few cases using the new law. Writing in the Bangor News, she had a few choice words for the anti folk:
Opponents have frequently claimed that protection against discrimination is a "special right" for gays and lesbians. As the one responsible with enforcing Maine's anti-discrimination laws, I can assure you that nothing is further from the truth. These are not "special rights." They are basic human rights that are, and should be, guaranteed to everyone.
That seems so commonsensical and humdrum. Yet, to the anti-gay campaigners at the Christian Civic League of Maine, the Maine Grassroots Coalition and a group of fundamentalist preachers, this was a horror to be prevented at any cost.

Those groups found that they seem to have strained the tolerance that voters have for their vitriol and deceit. They had promised dreadful occurrences in Massachusetts when gays began marrying here. That nothing bad and much good happened did not faze them.

Now in Maine, the Fright and Spite Circuses predict that ordinary citizens will be prosecuted for the most innocent act or comment that someone might consider anti-gay. They have predicted that ministers will be forbidden from speaking freely from the pulpit. They have repeatedly predicted that Maine will be forced to accept gay marriage, and soon, and then those dreadful things that should have happened in Massachusetts will happen there.

Those doomsayers must figure out how they can attack now, and not coincidentally keep themselves in business. The state voted 55% against discrimination. So they have to estimate whether they can raise the interest and funds for their next windmill tilt.

That could be an amendment forbidding same-sex marriage. That would be a hard sell. Not only does Maine already have a one-man/one-woman definition on the books, but the governor and legislature think an amendment is a spiteful waste of time.

The Civic League's usually loud executive director, Mike Heath, had little to say this week. He told one newspaper that he was not sure whether his group would try the amendment. He said, "We'll be deciding sometime after the new year."

Meanwhile, the Chicken-Little group's press release speaks volumes. The deluge is at hand to them, as in:
In the coming months and years, as the apostles of unreason and disorder uphold pleasure as man’s highest good, society will continue to unravel at an alarming rate, and the havoc they have wreaked will rise up as a witness against them.

We fully expect the push for sodomistic “marriage” to begin at once. Indeed the call for “full equality,” a code word for sodomistic marriage, is already being heard among gay rights organizations in Maine. Such a development does not represent social progress; rather, it is a giant step backwards, for it heralds the imminent demise of the family, the institution on which all other institutions rest.
Perhaps Heath and his ilk can make the resolution to try to do something useful instead of destructive in 2006.

Stupor Stop & Shop, 1 of 2

South Bay, Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts is not a Fort Point Channel or even a Beacon Hill in terms of trendiness. Yet, locals have enough to confuse them now and suddenly.

In case you stay in whites only areas of Boston, you may never have been to this blue-collar pass-through parking lot. It has the middle and lower-middle class pleasers – Target, Marshalls, Home Depot, Toys R Us, Old Navy and like that, as Kojak used to say. It has a slightly elevated profile very recently too because it is home of the largest of the Super 88 oriental supermarkets, the ones that dare to defy the Blue Laws and open on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Now it is also in that most vicious of merchandising games. No, it’s not bait-and-switch specials, nor even promoting a holiday three months in advance.

The shocking truth is that the anchor grocery, Stop & Shop, is offering too many choices and befuddling the cart rollers.

S&S had a perfectly fine, quite large enough, Super S&S. It just replaced that with an even more super Super S&S 100 yards across the parking lot.

To visit is to see how little evolving humans have accomplished and to know that multitasking is a self-delusion for nearly all of us. It is not just the grandfatherly and anile who are stunned and overloaded by options. They are the most obvious because of their slowness, but teens and older share their dysfunction.

Over a decade ago, the elderly began asking me or anyone who looked their way how to find the predictable among the cornucopia. “Can you just show me where the corn flakes are?” is a typical plea.

These are the same folk who clutch their carts with cliff-hanging grips. God forbid they leave their gathered goods even five feet away. Their cart, their very own cart, must stay within reach. Otherwise, who knows what might happen. The evil polo-shirted employees might return their boxes to shelves. Another customer might make off with their treasures.

Continued tomorrow in part 2.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Out West, Ennui

Looks like the Golden State should rent Sean O'Malley. The Boston Archbishop will forever be known as the crucial factor in getting enough signatures on the anti-same-sex marriage petition in Massachusetts.

Maybe his father confessor will forgive him.

Meanwhile, on the We(s)t Coast, those who confuse religious rites with civil rights are not doing so well. The LA Times wraps up the anti-gay year and notes that two of the Fright and Spite groups just announced that they failed to get enough voter interest to put anti-SSM initiatives on the 2006 ballot.

This may be a harbinger for Massachusetts as well. While our own anti forces got their signatures (again with the RC Church's complicity), voters here too want to get on with their lives.

The ballot initiative thingummy is way overdone and all but the dullest of citizens are seeing this abuse of democracy for what it is. Let us hope and work toward this leading to a reform of ballot initiatives to return them to their role as checks against horrid legislation.

In the Golden State, Tuesday's deadline came without forgiveness to It gathered less than half the 598,000 signatures to advance a ban on SSMs. has admitted it cannot raise enough money to bring in hired-gun signature gatherers (apparently a must for petitions that aim to strip citizens of rights).

The state Supreme Court has a pending case on whether existing limits to one-man/one-woman are constitutional, but they won't settle that until 2007. So, many on various sides are waiting and watching. Of course, the legislature voted to legalize SSM this session, only to see Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger veto it. Thus, the legislative leg of the stool is missing. The elected lawmakers are willing to join Massachusetts in equal marriage.

Representative democracy can be such a shock and disappointment to the control freaks.

As such special interests are prone to do, the to major anti folk are spitting at each other. They compete for funds, volunteers and supporters. For example,'s Randy Thompsson called's "competing measure weak and invit(ed) voters to abandon it in favor of his. 'People want true blue marriage protection. They don't want petitions they've signed to just sit in an office instead of being turned in,' he said."

In general, voters on both coasts seem tired of the vitriol and trash talk. Here, they tell pollsters SSM is the law of the land. They'd like lawmakers to do something meaningful instead of revisiting this issue.

The anti forces in California may have similarly undermined themselves. Coming up on six years ago, voters passed Proposition 22, which inserted one-man/one-woman wording into the family code. That's a pretty thin strand to hang an anti-SSM campaign on, particularly after seeing how well SSM works here and civil unions in Vermont. Making voters look at this again seems to have finally backfired.

Old Year Chuckle

There's a nice yuck over at the Good as You blog. We just became aware of this strongly anti-discrimination but still funny site.

For example, while we fret over the vicious petition drive just certified, there's a bit of humor to be mined:
The president of, "claims that of the 120,000+ queer marriage ban-seeking signatures recently certified by the Massachusetts Secretary of State, over 70k came from Catholic churches. Which totally explains why so many of the petitions begin with the introduction, 'Forgive me father, for I have signed.'"

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Logrolling Beyond 495

Way out Northwest, beyond I-495, above Rte. 2, tickling the New Hampshire border, Mariposa has made her power known.

With less drama, you can say that she got a nice love note for Christmas that speaks to the influence of some bloggers, particularly those savvy on local politics. Do check out her report on a blogger article in the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.

The local rag has some insightful comments on her blog as well as the sharpening profile of political blogs in its Blogging on the rise by Kyle Alspach. So, in this post we have a mirrored recursion. The newspaper reports on bloggers reporting on local issues and other bloggers linking to the reports on reports and this reporting on the reporting on all of that.

The article gives examples of local blogs that:
  • Center on specific issues.
  • Are quasi-official fora for citizens' comments.
  • Cover broad governmental developments locally.
  • Are interactive Web spots for individual politicians.
It also accurately notes that crosslinking between Beyond 495 and this blog helps spread ideas and news across regions.

It also cites Fitchburg City Councilor Ralph Romano, who has his own blog. "The mainstream media used to choose what to emphasize or de-emphasize. Now, even a small story can become very big based on blogs."

I think Kyle will have to mouse on over to LeftinLowell, where Lynne has made herself a must-read for voters and politicians alike. Mariposa looks headed to filling the same type of niche.

They are inspirations to us all.

Non-Scientific JP Sigs

I did get through the Knowthyneighbor database enough to gather the 500 Jamaica Plain Dark Siders who signed the anti-SSM amendment petition. If you want to see if your name or that of anyone else you know is there, click away. It's cooking now.

Surely both sides are analyzing the demographics of the petition signers. They'd like to know which neighborhoods and towns are favorable and unfavorable to their position, as well as which groups within each are likely to vote their way.

In a very unscientific scan of the 500 JP results, I can hear such gears clicking. Here, I see that the percentage that signed was a little over half the statewide average –– about 1.2 percent to about 2.2 percent signed, raw populations, not voters or likely voters.

JP is a variegated blob of a made-up community. Unlike most Boston neighborhoods, it was neverr a separate town and today shows considerable variety, surely the most in Boston. There are snooty, rich, WASPy areas, long-term Irish-American ones, poor Latino immigrant staging grounds, dangerous housing project areas, and more. We can all qualify for a 02130 tee-shirt.

A scan of the Filthy 500 shows a disproportionate share of Latino names, mostly from poorer neighborhoods. There are a smattering of EasternEuropeann and Asian names, but they would not begin to represent their share of JP population.

It's likely that sociologists, pollsters, political groups and politicians can draw their own conclusions. How Catholic, how Hispanic cultural, how this, how that will all factor into where campaigners put their time and money. It's likely also that legislators will scan their areas and see how representative the signers are of their voters, which in turn would help determine how they will stand when this amendment comes before the General Court next year.

My scan looks like the poor, less educated voters from Catholic and evangelical, traditional backgrounds signed. If they were convinced or coerced by priests and peers, they likely represent diminishing returns. There aren't a lot more to pick from those trees.

If my quick reading on JP is any indication, the Spite and Fright Circus folk have a long way to go to convince mainstream voters to go their way.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Incessant Buzzing

Lampreys sucking on the shark's belly or that damnable mosquito that returns to your ear lobe. The most annoying critters are the ones that keep that their tiny minds on their parasitic tasks.

The political equivalent has become the fundies who nip, bark and bite at equal rights, particularly for gays and most particularly for same-sex marriage. When they lose in the legislature or courts or by gubernatorial action, they come from another angle. Bite. Bite. Bite.

Persistence is overrated.

In a year-end straightening effort, I'm recycling maggies and rags in my office and elsewhere in the house. One had a hidden treasure by David Mamet headlines The Burden of Faith. (Unfortunately, not much of this fluffy journal is online and this article is not.)

First, know of the matrix for this little gem of a think piece. A constantly surprising delight to those of us who still touch paper is Salon's bonuses. Pay for premium and they regularly notify you of free maggy subs. I think this is where this came from. Best Life is true toilet reading, short, easy-on-the-mind articles, bits of health (it is off Rodale Press), a little fashion, a pretty woman, and the LITE philosophy.

Mamet's fits the latter. He could write for Scholastics kids' newspapers. This but that...on one hand.

He's onto intelligent design as a tool to get to fundy v. thinking issues. As he put it, "Perhaps more useful than the statement 'The Bible is true' is the statement 'The Bible exits to make us ask, "What is true?" Evolution and intelligent design are both true. They are each true in a different way. The first is true, as it is scientifically verifiable...There are also great truths that may not be objectively proved: A Bach fugue is superior to a Wrigley's gum jingle, but there is no way in which the scientific method may be applied to prove this truth..."

He does a variation of there-are-no-atheists-in-a-foxhole. Human beings forced (or politically manipulated) to choose science or religion may elect one camp or the other and live under it banner. Everyday life will be little affected by the choice of camp (the dying agnostic will still pray, and the financially confused businessman fundamentalist will still refer to his calculator before his Bible).

The current national debates over evolution, school prayer, and gay marriage are not moral debates (as the Right would cast them); nor are they, as the Left holds, legal debates. They are a contest between two ways of perceiving the truth.

He calls the contest artificial and writes that (n)either reason nor belief will solve the conflict."

There we differ. I think these lampreys of fundamentalist will be knocked loose enough times that eventually the nation can swim free. Unfortunately they are tenacious. We have seen the silly laws and amendments put up like so many beach umbrellas to keep the sun and wind away, or in this case to keep them queers out of town clerks' and justices of the peace's offices.

Yet nationwide and worldwide, the winds and tides of change and fairness blow and flow. Why are they so slow and patient?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Another Thursday in Washington State – Yawn

You don't need to be an original 13 colony to have quaint in America. Take Washington State. Its Supreme Court issues decisions on Thursday. Yours didn't come around this week? Tough. Maybe next time.

Thousands of same-sex couples are more than just anxious. Another week went by. There's no action before the year turns. So, it will be some time in early 2006 that they find out if they can do that Massachusetts thing, join this century, be legal, be married, be protected.

If the court ruled in their favor this week, gay couples would become married on Christmas Eve. There's a present of equality.

This is a precursor for what is likely in numerous states. A suit by eight couples has been through the win/appeal process all the way, starting in August 2004. Waaay back then, King County (Seattle's) Superior Court Judge Wiliam Downing ruled in their favor, saying that (like Massachusetts) Washington has a constitution that permits and does not forbid homosexual marriage.

A month later, a Thurston County court ruled similarly.

The appeals by the counties and state plodded to the top court. They rest on arguments related the Washington constitution, Article 1. Section 12., which reads:
No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations.
This is legally similar to Massachusetts' in that it is so New World, so American that what is not forbidden is allowed. It seems like we built a nation on that principle.

Also, as in Massachusetts, the real question is to whom can clerks issue marriage licenses? If some Thursday, the six men and three women, rule in favor of issuing licenses to same-sex couples, a queue of same-sex couples is immediately ready to sign up.

At the same time, on their predicted 18 hours notice, Equal Rights Washington has a program of celebratory events schedules. And, of course, anti-SSM forces would plan to begin a Massachusetts-style drive to amend the constitution.

Deval's Man in the Mountains

Gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick has a clear-writing chum in Michael Forbes Wilcox, his Berkshire County campaign coordinator. He has a nice set of Tom Reilly dope slaps in the form of comparing Mitt and Tom and Deval.

In reaction to the Globe's Joan Vennochi's claim that Deval is too liberal to get elected, MFW puts a slightly oversimplified table before the viewer. It's a definite hmmmm producer.

From here, Reilly is pretty Republican and too cowardly to put out positions yet. Deval has a lot of ways to differentiate himself. Take Wilcox' first go:

Death PenaltyRomney FORReilly FORPatrick AGAINST
Lowering Income Tax RateRomney FORReilly FORDemocratic Legislators AGAINST
Cape Wind ProjectRomney AGAINSTReilly AGAINSTPatrick FOR
Equal MarriageRomney AGAINSTReilly AGAINSTPatrick FOR
Continuing in IraqNeocons FORReilly FORPatrick AGAINST

Deval's mountain man concludes:
Right now, Deval Patrick's biggest challenge is name recognition, but if he can get his face (and his message) in front of enough voters between now and next September, I think we will see an end to the myth that being liberal is somehow "veering left" in Massachusetts.

SSM "Diaper" Bag

Buried in a simultaneous amusing and informative article on being gay in the holidays, a Bay Windows report has solid suggestions for same-sex married couples traveling to nestle in the warm bosom of family.

The short of it is not only with family, but in accommodations and in case of emergency, the marriage may not be recognized. So:
For LGBT people and their families traveling out of state, there can be more important issues than family angst. Couples in Massachusetts may feel relatively secure with their marriages and second-parent adoptions, but if they travel to one of the 39 states with either a statute or constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage they may be in trouble. Particularly in the event of a medical emergency LGBT people could face legal difficulties in defending their right to make decisions for their spouses, partners, or children.

Karen Loewy, an attorney for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) said no matter what the law says in a given state, same-sex married couples are likely to find that there is no uniformity to whether their relationships are respected or not. She said some people will likely treat them as married while others will not.

“It would be naïve to suggest that the marriages are going to receive the respect they deserve in every circumstance. I think couples are going to find a real mix of experiences from private entities [and] public entities,” said Loewy.

She recommended bringing a marriage license or a certified copy of it for those couples who are married. But given the uncertainty around whether they will be recognized, she also recommended bringing a host of other documents, including powers of attorney, health care proxies, wills, living wills, relationship agreements, partnership agreements, and birth certificates and adoption decrees for any children they might have. She said when traveling out of state both married and unmarried couples should take the same precautions.

“There are going to be circumstances in which these marriages face discrimination, and in order to provide protections in those circumstances I think married couples and unmarried couples may stand on the same footing in the need for other documents,” explained Loewy.
Ho and ho and like that, baby.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Galvin Enumerates

Following yesterday's op-ed by Secretary of the Commonwealth candidate, John Bonifaz, the current Secretary Bill Galvin hopped on his keyboard to defend his own procedures. His letter in today's Globe, in its entirety, reads:

Galvin investigated petition

December 23, 2005

I AM writing to correct false information in the column ''Fraud taints antigay measure" (op ed, Dec. 22) relating to the pending initiative petition on marriage rights.

The author falsely claims that I did not investigate accusations that some voters were misled into signing the marriage petition believing that it was a petition relating to the sale of wine. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have vigorously investigated these allegations. A comparison, initiated by me of certified signatures appearing on both petitions, revealed that of the 123,356 signatures filed in support of the marriage petition only 14,288 appear on both petitions, leaving 109,068 signatures when only 65,825 signatures were needed.

Fairness, honesty, and accuracy in counting are critical in the conduct of elections. Although I personally oppose banning gay marriage because I have seen no adverse effect from it on society, I must protect the rights of voters to petition, even if I disagree with them.

WILLIAM F. GALVIN, Secretary of State Commonwealth of Massachusetts
While we had one anonymous naysayer on yesterday's post, we hold that the issue is not that we need a suddenly liberal light in the Secretary's office (and head). The bad guys played by the rules.

What should be plain includes:
  • This is a hateful and immoral initiative effort.
  • AG Tom Reilly had several chances and excellent legal reasons to forbid gathering signatures for it. He did not and appears both clueless and gutless.
  • The initiative process is badly used and abused by commercial and political special interests to the detriment of the commonwealth.
  • We need real reform now, so that we can return the initiative to its original, democratic purpose as a check on legislators run amok and voting agog.
  • We all need to check the signatures at Knowthyneighbor, so that legislators and the AG can measure the final extent of the fraud.
The Forces of Odium got their signatures. They played the game by its current rules. They will get their one or maybe two votes before the General Court in efforts to put this spiteful amendment before the voters in 2008.

We need to work to see that they don't even get that 25% of the 200 members of the General Court. That's a very small percentage. You could probably get a quarter of them to vote make straw boaters the official hat of Massachusetts. Legislators need to know that they should not associate themselves with this loser, losing effort.

Meanwhile, write your local paper, visit your legislators, and tell them that ballot initiatives need serious reform in the next session. They'll have this nasty example right before them as a reminder.

South Shore Angst Over

You can forget. In New England, you can forget how reactionary whole sections of American can be. In Boston, you can forget how the obvious becomes the considered. In a UU or UCC church, you can forget how more mainline folk wrestle with things we’re over.

It is actually refreshing to read that in Hanover, Massachusetts, the First Congregational Church voted to permit same-sex weddings – two years on. It wasn’t like it ended up being divisive. The vote was about 89% pro. On the other hand, they have been thinking and talking about it since AD 2003.

Mirible dictu!

The church’s pastor, Rev. Donald Remick, issued a statement after Sunday’s cathartic vote. “Our church has grappled with the issue for the last two years. Though conversations among the church leadership, Bible study forums, sermon and newsletter articles we have talked and listened to each other and sought the Will of God.”

Wow. That’s process, as clerics like to say.

There may have been a bit of catch-up involved. The more liberal United Church of Christ in town had its first gay wedding this fall.

The relieved reverend’s report also included:

Within Christendom, this issue continues to engage strong debate. The best, brightest and most devoted Biblical scholars cannot come to a consistent consensus on the meaning of the original language and context of the half dozen related Biblical passages. However, every scholar and every individual has deeply held convictions that their view is absolute and sacred.

Well, if he says so.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bonifaz Stumbles Out

Secretary of the Commonwealth candidate John Bonifaz is trying, but he blew today’s op-ed in the Boston Globe. He wants to put the Secretary into a morally superior and legally questionable role in the current anti-same-sex-marriage petition drive.

His call is for Secretary William Galvin:

  • To withhold certification of the signatures
  • Do not take town and city clerks’ certifications
  • Contact individual signers to see if their names should be on the petition

Certainly, this petition process is driven by odium and spite. As assuredly, the paid and volunteer signature gathers coerced, badgered and tricked some into signing. Disgracefully, our area RC Bishops and Archbishop politicized their religious services to aid the ill-willed reactionaries driving this initiative.

And yet, Bonifaz is clearly playing cheap politics here and not doing a good job.

We may well endorse him eventually. His accomplishments at and credentials from the National Voting Rights Institute are very promising. Now, he has to show that he can do the right thing for Massachusetts.

Quite simply, it is the process, not this single petition, at fault here. Bonifaz has opened himself up to accurate criticism that he does not understand the law or process. He clearly wants to raise his profile in campaigning for the office, but this is a clumsy way to pop out of the trenches.

The town and city clerks have the responsibility to certify their local signatures or disqualify them. The Secretary may not second-guess them, except in those cases where voters notify his office about specific fraud.

The AG could have and should have prevented the signature drive. He chose not to and may lose a court battle over this.

That written, we contend that this system is broken. The Secretary, Attorney General, Governor and General Court should get the analysis and fixes underway.

Let’s start with:

  • Ballot initiatives have a noble purpose of acting as a check on terrible legislation.
  • Narrow political and business interests have usurped the process.
  • Penalties for fraud in the process are very low.
  • Numbers of signers and legislators required for a ballot are far too few.
  • Hired-gun signature gathers put the lie to citizen participation.
  • Adhere to the laws that say initiatives cannot overrule a court decision and cannot follow similar ones within three years.
  • Town and city clerks can be overwhelmed and do a poor job when flooded with petitions.
  • There is no mechanism for verification, even with fraud is provable, as in this case.

A decent analysis can turn up others and provide a list of remedies to consider. Let’s get this in the works before we end up in ballot hell, like California. Pushing for such reform is something meaningful that Bonifaz can do.

Tim B-L Tries Blogging

Merry Christmas, WWWebbies and happy holidays, bloggers. The WWW creator, Tim Berners-Lee, figured he'd finally join the rest of us and make his present in electrons.

Check his unassuming and chatty blog here.

The guy who put the glue in GUI for us browsers writes at the end of his second post:
By the way, this blog is at DIG, the Decentralised Information group at MIT's CSAIL. I intend it to be geeky semantic web stuff mostly. For example, it won't be for W3C questions which should really be addressed to working groups.

So thanks for all the support, no need for more general 'thank you' comments! Thank *you* all.

Sig Check Glitch

Pout. Fume. Moan.

We've been waiting to see whether anyone forged our names on the anti-same-sex marriage petition in Boston. Knowthyneighbor has been on top of this for months.

The database is so popular — excellent — that we cannot run our queries – stinky. It barfed on the cable repeatedly, even just after 5 a.m. today.

So, many of us are checking. It may be frustrating, but we do have a week and change to note our fraud. Check back with the site if you can't get it working.

You have until January 6th (but don't wait that long). It's important to register every fraudulent signature to show both problems with this petition set and the inadequate controls on ballot initiative petitions in general.

Do it for all of us.

Maine Chits Filed

Protecting Maine's anti-discrimination-against-gays law cost the two sides about $1.5 million, according to the papers they filed with the state. Unless you sell advertising slots in media, that seems money down the sewer, money that could have served a good purpose.

On the other hand, it is small beer in ballot questions, even by Maine standards. The folk hassling over tax caps combined for twice that a year ago. Also, the very interested parties driving the Southern Maine casino question spent over $10 million in 2003.

On the plus side, there will be the conversational value over the long winter and quite a few self-writing sermons at fundy churches.

The Maine Won'’t Discriminate side collected and spent about three times that of the Dark Side, lead by the ironically named Christian Civil League of Maine'’s Coalition for Marriage and the Maine Grassroots Coalition. MWD put in about $1.1 million and the others about $412,000.

Now the losers get to claim it was just money talking (with no mention of why people in and out of state would rather donate to equal rights rather than freedom to discriminate). They can do a Red Sox fan thing –– if only the Yankees hadn'’t outspent them...there'’s next year.

The CCL is off to Augusta, peering at teen lingerie models in store windows, offended this time at heterosexual activity. There'’ll be lots of cold days to say what if about the last campaign.

Back in the Bay State, we can'’t get too upset now about the cost of the pending anti-same-sex-marriage amendment fights. These may well drag over two years and cost many millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of otherwise productive labor hours. That is a hate tax that returns again and again for more.

Like Maine, at the end we'll be able to calculate how much was wasted to fight efforts to discriminate in the name of morality. It'’s not going to speak well of the ballot initiative process or of those misusing it here and now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Further Fitchburger

A source for Rep. Emile Goguen tentative announcement about not running for re-election is in his local paper.

He told the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise that he'll say for sure in February.

Over at Beyond 495, word is "Susan Koeck, who ran unsuccessfully against Goguen in 2004 is looking to run for this 3rd Worcester seat again in 2006 whether Goguen retires or not." She told the newspaper that she'd step aside if she thought there was a better candidate.

Two locals considering running if Goguen quits are Fitchburg Mayor Dan H. Mylott and City Councilor Stephen DiNatale. The latter got the most votes in the last Council race. Goguen called him "...a knowledgeable individual, very intelligent, a good electable guy."

DiNatale's Website makes him look like a typical constitutent-services guy. That's certainly part of being a state rep, but says little about his political philosophy otherwise.

Mylott ran unopposed last time, which may say more about no one wanting the job in a declining city than anything. His site does have positions, although they are small-city specific. Crime: against; parks: keep 'em nice; business growth: sure. Cracker barrel wisdom:
A sense of character is missing from Fitchburg and we seem to be losing it more and more. Dan stands as the people's candidate for Mayor with a mission of building a city of character by leading it with strong character.

Left and Right Coast Nasties

The plug nasties on both coasts are continuing relentlessly to make sure same-sex couples don't get the benefits that straight ones do. In California, one anti-SSM group sued to make sure a Massachusetts marriage doesn't earn benefits in San Jose. In New York State, four conservatives are trying to make sure New Rochelle strips domestic partners of health benefits.

These Spite and Fright Circuses of lawsuits and anti-gay groups love to claim that homosexuals have a dreadful agenda to destroy the nation. Yet what happens typically as we see here is that they are schadenfreude practitioners, intent on making others suffer or have less than they do. They deserve a special ring in hell.

Out West, the Proposition 22 Legal Defense & Education Fund got a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge to back them. The suit was over a city council vote that expanded benefits comparable to heterosexual married couples to city workers who married legally elsewhere, regardless of sexual orientation.

Judge Mary Jo Levinger wrote in part, "`to recognize all marriages of city employees certified by other jurisdictions is contrary to California law and is therefore pre-empted. Furthermore, only marriages between a man and a woman may be recognized by the City of San Jose." One of the nasties, ex-councilman Larry Pegram, said his group wanted to make sure the city didn't recognize same-sex marriage in any way.

Similarly, the chairman of the New Rochelle Conservative Party, Joseph Rossini, and three other ill-willed souls reveled in the catch-22 situation. One, Peggy Godfrey, said that continuing health benefits to domestic partners was "politically pandering" to gays. "Homosexuals don't have marriage rights," she added. Illogically, Rossini said that "I don't think taxpayers should be paying for people to be living together outside of marriage."

Joe, they are working within the system as best they can. Cut 'em some slack.

Mayor Tim Idoni said the practice was "fair and equitable to all employees of New Rochelle." They have been offered since mid-May. Two employees have requested the benefits, at a cost of about $14,000 to the city.

This should make for good arguments. The policy offers the benefits to any registered domestic partner, not just homosexual ones. The convoluted anti side seems to be stuck with its circular argument.

Golden Dome Goodness

We are unworthy of Mariposa at Beyond 495. Way up and out there, she posted her Christmas present to us in electrons. The evil elf of Fitchburg, the curious Rep. Emile Goguen may not run for re-election.

The infamous Fitchburger would join his anti-gay and anti-same-sex-marriage buddy Rep. Phil Travis in retiring. There's no guarantee that the backwaters won't dredge for like-minded replacements, but we can hope that reason prevails.

With all his free time, perhaps he can backtrack over his legislative career...and find where he left his brain and his compassion.

Initiatives Up and at 'em

Seven proposed ballot initiatives got approval to proceed toward 2006 and 2009 votes from the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office. The anti-same-sex marriage one has company with such diverse measures as banning greyhound racing.

See a clickable page about the current measures here.

The next step for the anti-SSM one is to go before the next session of the legislature. If it receives 50 votes (a quarter of the General Court), it must do so again in the following year to get on the 2008 ballot.

The text of the proposed amendment is:
This proposed constitutional amendment would require the state and local and county governments to license and recognize only those marriages that are between a man and a woman. It would prohibit future same-sex marriages, but would allow continued recognition of those entered into before the adoption of the proposed amendment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Activist Judge, Not!

No matter what your politics, you gotta love U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III's attitude. He ruled today against intelligent design being taught in a Pennsylvania school district.

While very patient for many weeks listening to both scientific and emotional testimony, he got to act out in his decision. It is 139 pages long. You can get excerpts on the wires, news sites and papers.

Be sure you check out his conclusions, beginning on page 136. It includes the not too subtle:period monkey trial cartoon
Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board'’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
I like this guy.

Irish Hate and Humor

It hurts to admit it, but even the fundies are more fun in the U.K. The first same-sex union had verbally hateful protestors, but lots of yucks too.

The event occurred in Belfast, because Northern Ireland has the shortest waiting period. The Times Online was there with the very amusing coverage.

For a taste, consider:
Seventy guests packed one of the campest buildings in these islands (the City Hall is nicknamed “the Wedding Cake” for its Rococo flourishes of Victoriana) as Shannon Sickels and Grainne Close exchanged rings and vows...

But Northern Ireland’s fundamentalist streak ensured that the “Save Ulster from Sodomy” brigade — mostly members of the Rev Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church — were outside singing hymns and hurling abuse such as “sodomy is a sin”, “you’re going to Hell” and “filth, filth, filth”.

Happily for the couple on their big day a counter-demonstration soon formed, with humour as its main weapon. Two satirical interlopers infiltrated the anti-gay ranks wearing garish sports jackets and toothbrush moustaches but no trousers, carrying their own placards as an antidote to the religious tracts being paraded in Donegall Square.

These read “Bring back slavery” and “Earth is flat”. There was so much laughter that even the moral indignation of the Christian fundamentalists seemed on the verge of giggles. At times it seemed that the excitement generated by the first occasion on which a same-sex couple could legally commit themselves to one another would descend into a punch-up. That it did not perhaps speaks volumes about how much this once dourly Presbyterian city, where playground swings used to be chained up on Sundays, has changed.

Read it all.

Presidential Pushing

Even before the current Bush, Bill Clinton had several bouts of I'm-the-boss toying with rights. Same-sex marriage certainly is a key one. He came on heavy with federalism/states rights issues on that in 1996 with his Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA).

The two key concepts there are:
  • States can define marriage any way they want.
  • To the Feds, marriage is one man with one woman.
So, he sort of managed not quite to strip states of the rights to regulate marriage, while actively encouraging them to follow his ideal of straight only. As a result, states started passing laws and amendments limiting marriage, partnership and other rights homosexuals could have, including stripping some benefits and partnership rights they already had. Also, the Republican Congress tried twice (2004 and 2005) to pass an almost certainly unconstitutional Marriage Protection Act prohibiting the U.S. Supreme Court from hearing any challenges to DoMA.

In the end, many conservatives, both in D.C. and at home are willing to turn their backs on their centuries old tradition of states rights. They would cede the basic right of a state's legislature and courts to regulate marriage to an overarching set of federal laws.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Shall We All Be The Enemies?

Let's say it while we still can. The White House Republicans are anti-freedom. They are authoritarians. They are paternal in the extreme. They may well be watching you already.

The arbitrary and secret enemies lists are back and George the Lesser doesn't care who knows it and who doesn't like it. The NY Times and Washington Post have been spreading the ink and electrons about this for some time and are heavy into this week.

Today's excellent Post feature Pushing the Limits of Wartime Powers has the history and status of the civilian spying and Bush's arrogant and deceitful defense of it.

You've heard it before, from Dick Nixon when he had his own enemies list, and now from Bush. In case you didn't know who was watching you in what ways, the Post recaps:
Since October, news accounts have disclosed a burgeoning Pentagon campaign for "detecting, identifying and engaging" internal enemies that included a database with information on peace protesters. A debate has roiled over the FBI's use of national security letters to obtain secret access to the personal records of tens of thousands of Americans. And now come revelations of the National Security Agency's interception of telephone calls and e-mails from the United States -- without notice to the federal court that has held jurisdiction over domestic spying since 1978.
You have also heard the justification's before. As the Post continues, the Bushies shamelessly try to justify these unAmerican activities:
Defiant in the face of criticism, the Bush administration has portrayed each surveillance initiative as a defense of American freedom. Bush said yesterday that his NSA eavesdropping directives were "critical to saving American lives" and "consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution." After years of portraying an offensive waged largely overseas, Bush justified the internal surveillance with new emphasis on "the home front" and the need to hunt down "terrorists here at home."
So, there we have it again. People can't fly and won't be able to find out why or have the due process our Bill of Rights states. Any American, singly or in groups, can be subject to arbitrary surveillance without search warrant or having to show probably cause. Use the word terrorism and strip away rights and freedoms we have taken for granted.

It looks like the rampaging authoritarians in Washington and Virginia have finally gone too far. The House and Senate have many members trying to distance themselves from such anti-liberty tactics, and are demanding investigations and changes. Turning America into a police state in alleged efforts to keep it free is worse than simply illogical.

The Brokeback Why

Hollywood takes the national temperature constantly. The big studios don't want and think they can't afford to lead too far. So what does the release of and crowded theaters for Brokeback Mountain mean?

The lead op-ed in today's New York Times by Frank Rich has it right on. (Insert grousing here. I get Times Select as a newspaper subscriber, but such clear insight and good writing should be freely available from papers.) The link for Selectees is here.

As Rich puts it:
Without a single polemical speech, this laconic film dramatizes homosexuality as an inherent and immutable identity, rather than some aberrant and elective "agenda" concocted by conspiratorial "elites" in Chelsea, the Castro and South Beach, as anti-gay proselytizers would have it. Ennis and Jack long for a life together, not for what gay baiters pejoratively label a "lifestyle."

But in truth the audience doesn't have to be coerced to get it. This is where the country has been steadily moving of late. "Brokeback Mountain," a Hollywood product after all, is not leading a revolution but ratifying one, fleshing out - quite literally - what most Americans now believe. It's not for nothing that the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage vanished as soon as the election was over. Polls show that a large American majority support equal rights for gay couples as long as the unions aren't labeled "marriage" - and given the current swift pace of change, that reservation, too, will probably fade in the next 5 to 10 years.
It's what we experience in Massachusetts and Vermont, what they are getting to Canada, and have transcended in the Netherlands. We suspect Texans will take longer to accept reality. Pity for them, but they are used to following the elephants in the parade.

Dems Need to Dish

Caution: Pro-Democratic, pro-democratic rant follows.

A week before Christmas and we know who's naughty (dirty, dishonest). It's George the Lesser and his gang of fellow travelers in the executive and legislative branches. Let's hear it now, through the next presidential election cycle.

At least from Ronald Reagan's time, Republicans in power have a sodden record of the un-nice, undemocratic and unAmerican. There should not be a day or hour that the Democrats miss listing the disgraces.

Conservatives have played on the optimism, on the emotions, and on the fantasies of the voters. What we have to show for it includes:
  • A pit of national debt and economic stagnation
  • Successive generations anticipating lower living standards than their parents and grandparents
  • A bloated government infrastructure that spends on programs that do not benefit the needy
  • Fewer freedoms than any time in memory, even when Tricky Dick Nixon plied his dirty deeds
The bitter irony is that because of the long-time emotional tricks of these rampaging elephants, far too many Americans for far too long have believed the lies and supported the conservatives. They have been promised the opposite of what they got.

George the Lesser aside — and we can only anticipate when he will be cast aside — Dems need to said it loud. Ronald Reagan's presidency was a disaster. His Regonomics is a deceit that Georgie has revisited with the same desperate and destructive results.

Say it from the Senate. Say it from the campaign.
  • You cannot have guns and butter.
  • Borrow-and-spend economics destroys our economy.
  • Borrow-and-spend economics steal from the Boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Y and beyond.
  • Pushing narrow religious standards into law is unAmerican, hell, against the pilgrims and pioneers who founded this nation.
  • Cherry picking rights for certain citizens in undemocratic and unAmerican.
  • Spying on citizens' books, mail, calls, and contact is unAmerican.
  • Claiming that the increasingly unsafe nation you shape can only be kept safe by stripping rights is unAmerican.

Even Randist Alan Greenspan has finally admitted that our Republican-driven trade deficits, deficit spending and crushing national debt mean disaster — for both the United States and the world economies.

Republicans and their conservative minions have become the horde of anti-Americans.

We Boomers grew up recognizing that the WWI and WWII generations put themselves totally on the line to provide secure, free democracy. (They also paid their bills.) The legislative and executive efforts in Washington and many states since Reagan's time have tried their damnedest to reverse the accomplishments of those heroic millions.

The Democratic officials and candidates have to call it as it is.

It was a lot of years ago (1928) when Al Smith was the Democratic Presidential candidate. He said, "The American people never carry an umbrella. They prepare to walk in the eternal sunshine."

The conservatives have played on that for decades now. Deficit spending, unwinnable imperial wars, tax gifts to the wealthy (who do not use the money to stimulate the larger economy), and limiting the rights of women, gays and minorities are the legacies.

Speak it. All of those are dirty, failed, unAmerican policies.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

One Harper Harping

Even the allegedly very smart Canadian Tory leader Steven Harper nods and stumbles. In the current campaign, some of our Northern neighbors thought he did the bright, if not the right, thing in putting the same-sex-marriage issue out to air.

Lately though, he is sputtering along with his campaign. His party is trying to claim that a majority of Canadians want a vote in the Commons to revisit the issue. Without evidence, he says SSM has damaged the nation. Oddly enough tough, poll after poll reveal that what the majority want is to get on with their lives, to leave homosexual couples to do the same, and for the government to deal with pressing issues instead.

That all sounds like Massachusetts.

In his efforts to unseat the Liberals, led by Paul Martin, in next month's election, Harper has had to soft-pedal his absurd promises of overturning SSM. Apparently the only legal way to do that is to overrule a portion of the nation's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That would be akin to picking one of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights Amendments say stopping using it (think no freedom of religion, for example). Canadians are as fond of the Charter as we are of our Bill of Rights. Even hinting at playing with it has burned Harper.

Now he has been reduced to courting the right-wing voters by continuting to promise SSM action, while saying he'd never use the opt-out clause of the Charter. That's basically impossible and to many, he looks like an ass.

In an effort that makes him more moke-like, Harper also tried the inane tactic the anti-SSM folk here in Massachusetts have taken. He claims to be thoroughly opposed to same-sex marriage, but he'll make sure that any existing ones remain. Huh? That is as risible in Boston as in Montreal.

In theory, Harper could win without raping the Charter. He might also fly with his arms. To do the former, he would have to win votes in both houses of Parliament, including the Liberal-controlled Senate. Next the national Supreme Court would have to support the vote and reverse its previous position that SSM is legal. When Tory leaders fly unaided...

Now there are 37 days before the election. The minor parties are scampering about, nipping first at Martin, pointing to the financial scandals from the previous Liberal administration. Then they turn to attack Harper. We can be assured that behind the displays they are seeing what deals they can get if they align with either party. Liberals would need only one of these parties to have a scant majority.

Martin has his other problems, particularly the trade rift with the United States. He is vulnerable. If Harper is as smart as he claims to be, he'll leave the SSM issues alone and go after the biggies. So far though, he seems to think the anti-gay vote is crucial. Whether he has already alienated them by promising to leave the Charter alone remains to be seen. We're betting he has. Meanwhile Martin gets to play the card that, unlike Harper, he'll never try to divide the citizens.

For final giggles, Harper got caught a couple of times in recent debates. In Vancouver, he responded to how he could react if one of his two children were gay. He said, "It's the job of a parent to always lover our children. I love mychildren and will love them for all their life." Hmmm, hard-line it is not. Then he must have made his handlers shake when he called French the nation's second language.

Canadian politics is simply more fun.

Thinking Spooks

My disclaimer for a recent post on the USA PATRIOT Act goes back a few years. Well, more than a few years...I'm a blogger alter kaker.

Let us step back in time to the thrilling days of yesteryear. There are rednecks, FBI agents, and 25¢ cans of beer. Those who know my wispy, cotton-candy head now may find it hard to believe that I once had long, blond waves — and even back then an earring. Today, you could go into any bar in rural Massachusetts or Idaho and see a lot of blue-collar conservatives who look like that. It was not the norm in South Carolina in the Viet Nam era.

Foolishly choosing to pay my own college way and hiding from the military, I combined summer lifeguard savings with a state academic scholarship and swim-team meal ticket and dorm fees to do just that. That ended up meaning the first Land Grant college (1801) with the first separate college library (1803) and one of the first journalism schools in America, the party school, the University of South Carolina.

A big, blond hippie who wrote pinko college newspaper columns was, shall we say, obvious there and then. It was not exactly a boy named Sue, but I did learn to deal with unpleasant right-wingers in both verbal and physical confrontations. Crush 'em like worms, said I.

However, two experiences in an apartment near campus come to mind immediately when I think of those who take liberties with my liberty. It was the same location and invasions from the left and from the right.

One evening, I returned home. When I opened my door, I found I chum standing there with a revolver pointed at my small intestine. It was the relatively well known radical Brett Bursey. Not only was he prepared to defend himself paranoically from the cops with his pistol — after breaking into my apartment — he had also tied my sheets together to let himself out of the second-floor window if necessary to escape. Recognizing me, he decided not to shoot me, but he left out the front door, leaving me to unknot my sheets.

J. Edgar Hoover pictureSome months later, I returned from a class and saw that the door was open. This time, it was two FBI agents whom I recognized. They were reading my correspondence (pre-email, remember). When I entered, they were as cool as Mission Impossible characters. They dropped the papers and without a word, pushed past me.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a decade later when I asked for my FBI records under the Freedom of Information Act, there was no record. Newspaper chums had verified that I was among the people the spooks followed and photographed at an anti-war coffee house as well as on campus and in demonstrations, but no record. One must wonder how many paper shredders the protectors of our national security must wear out in a decade.

As a minor player in these dramas, I have long ago lost patience with those who would protect America by harrying Americans.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Paying for PATRIOT

Think back to when a doctor didn't know what was going on with you or a family member. The doctor said to take some painful and expensive, and maybe unnecessary, test. If anyone pushed back or asked for a reason, the doctor would say, "Well, you can do what you want, but if you don't take this test, you're robbing us of the only good diagnostic tool we have."

There is the current Bush administration and usually its Republican Congress. They have worked very hard — and incompetently — to make us less safe and less secure. Along the way and until today unfettered, they have both openly and surreptitiously worked to strip us of our long-loved and assumed rights and freedoms.

By a disturbingly small margin, the U.S. Senate came down on the right side of Americanism today. It rejected closing the debate on the speciously named USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism, hardy har). George the Lesser needed 60 votes to force a vote in the Senate. The vote was 52 to 47, with two Democrats going to the Dark Side and five Republicans being moral.

In contrast, the House renewed this assault on American liberty Wednesday 251 to 174. Then again, that body has the deserved reputation as the more puerile and emotional of the chambers.

All the papers and wires are carrying the story. The Washington Post recapped the effect of the law:
The Patriot Act, approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, made it easier for the FBI to conduct secret searches, monitor telephone calls and e-mails, and obtain bank records and other personal documents in connection with terrorism investigations. Critics said the proposed renewal would do too little to let targeted people challenge national security letters and special subpoenas that give the FBI substantial latitude in deciding what records -- including those from libraries -- should be surrendered.
The obvious and unanswerable question is what are these bozo Congressmen thinking or drinking? They can say that real freedom is letting any crackpot get a gun without a permit or waiting period. Yet, it is okay to spy on, lie to and even physically abuse Americans and visitors. That's not the way the WWII folk raised their Boomer kids. We don't buy it.Bandito picture

In a beautiful synchronization, the NY Times broke the story that our what-me-worry? and what-me-think? President authorized the ultra-secret National Security Administration to intercept and record or copy the calls and emails of possibly thousands of Americans without showing cause. [Search warrants? We don't have no warrants. We don't need no stinking warrants!]

That may sink into the skulls of even the most mindless of the Administration's supporters.

Let us be thankful that the Senate may have queered George the Lesser's authoritarian anti-democracy. May it be a trend and may the House get its house in order.

Dark Side Petition Hordes

Good on MassEquality. They are going to cull the 147,000 signatures to put an amendment to rescind same-sex marriage on the 2008 ballot.

They do not expect to find 81,000 fraudulent signatures, which would nullify the petition drive. However, according to an article in Bay Windows. "MassEquality expects to find numerous examples of fraud, and the organization hopes that will discredit the effort to pass the amendment."

Conga-rats: BW interviewed then political director, Marc Solomon. The board just promoted him as the new head of the organization, with the title Campaign Director. It couldn't happen to a more driven and efficient guy.

Citizens using and MassEquality only have until January 6th to protest fraud. And they can't even get to work until the Secretary of State releases the lists, maybe at the end of this week.

His take on the doomed effort is:
The overall goal is to highlight that the integrity of this process is being undermined and to show that our opponents will really stop at nothing to advance this very extreme and very mean-spirited amendment. And that includes paying out-of-state signature collectors who use deceptive and sometimes fraudulent means to gather signatures.
We here have our own overlapping concerns. With ballot initiatives increasingly used here, in California and the other half of the nation where they are legal for commercial (big pharma, for one) and narrow special-interests (as in this case), it's time to return the tool to its original purpose.

A good count on how dirty this effort is should spur the legislature to examine paid petition signature gatherers and other questionable aspects of the process. That should also open the larger issue of how we can tame or at least train this initiative beast.

Yes, citizens should have a final word on irresponsible legislation. But letting crackpots crack the pot we share works very poorly. California ended up robbing the poor and middle-class, telling students that their education was unimportant and underfunded, and on and on. Also, the sleazy and dishonest anti-gay efforts in Maine and here highlight the kinds of abuse we should prevent.

It's a call to Senate President Bobby Travaglini (oops, he's Robert now that he graduated from City Council). Let's get a joint legislative committee examining this process.

This time around, we saw that the anti-SSM forces lost in a General Court vote and immediately started an almost identical drive, in clear violation of the spirit of ballot initiatives. Likewise, indecisive AG Tom Reilly pretended that the new one does not violate the commonwealth constitutional prohibition against trying to overturn judicial decisions.

We state it now, even though the existing format for ballot initiatives would benefit left-wing special interests as well, the current methods are dirty, illogical and of no service to the citizens. Clean 'em up. Straighten 'em up.

Re Clarkson Recap

One of the great speakers at our BlogLeft Massachusetts gathering, Frederick Clarkson, did us a double favor. In a Daily Kos post, he not only recapped some of his remarks, but he expanded on what we can expect as the Goth and Huns sweep into our commonwealth to pound on same-sex marriage.

He makes it plain how the odious James Dobson fits into this drive. As Clarkson starts his piece:
Even as gay and lesbian civil rights have dramatically progressed in the past few decades, there is no question that the religious right has mounted an organized and often, hate-infused backlash movement. The particular wedge issue for the religious right these days, is marriage equality.

Marriage equality promises to be one of the central issues of our time. I live in Massachusetts, where an antimarriage equality amendment will probably be on the ballot in 2008.

It will change political life in my state forever.

Give him a read. It looks like stormy seas.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Reilly Tries Roots

Like an kid with ADHD, our Mitt Romney has turned away. We won't miss his ineffectual governorship, but hey, Capt. Brylcreem is a caricaturist's dream. Tom Reilly has the turtle look, Deval Patrick is baby-faced, and Kerry Healey does the bobble-head doll thing, but none of them is as smarmy as the Captain.

Brylcreem adRomney's announcement that he would not run for re-election was non-news after he had all but said it for most of the year. Yet, it lets loose the dogs.
  • Healey can campaign openly and try to pretend she has been doing worthwhile things in a worthless office.
  • Reilly will be able to present himself as the only real chance to keep yet another Republican from keeping the commonwealth government inert.
  • Patrick gets his one, big, long shot at proving that he's not just a slick kid from Chicago.
Even before the Captain's formal withdrawal, the two Democrats were elbowing each other. The best preview may be in this week's Bay State Banner. Reporter Yawu Miller followed each as he made his best pitch in Roxbury.

Note: This link will be good for the week only.

Interestingly enough, both can appeal to the folk in African-American neighborhoods and in the Snooton and Swellsley fiefdom's. Reilly plays the commonwealth's action guy, who understands how to make things happen. Patrick is a much better speaker and he has a real platform that he has not been afraid to present to praise or potshots. Neither Reilly's indecisiveness nor Patrick's relative Blackness seems to hamper him.

Reilly had his peanut gallery of 40 when he showed at the Merengue Restaurant. He played the deep roots in the city in general and Roxbury in particular, an obvious contrast to newcomer Patrick. He is also working the State House Black Caucus for support.

At Reilly's side were former Suffolk DA Ralph Martin (Republican but well respected in minority communities), a couple of former assistant AGs, and State Representatives Marie St. Fleur and Marinie Torres. It was a feel-good time, during which he stressed his ties to Roxbury leaders.

Patrick, on the other hand, pulled in three times as many folk at the Freedom House, including a bucket of Black activists and folk representing Councilor Chuck Turner and Rep. Byron Rushing. His intro was from a tag team of Rep. Gloria Fox and Sen. Dianne Wilkerson. The latter said, "He's the best man for the job. He's going to bring the diverse communities together."

Patrick turned his presentation into his usual Q&A. Reilly hesitates to put positions out, at least yet, choosing to talk about his AG service.

The article notes, "While Patrick'’s credentials as the head of former President Clinton'’s Civil Rights Division have gotten his foot in the door, Patrick has had to make up for what he lacks in local connections with an aggressive schedule of town meetings." That's exactly what he's been up to for months.

The recap of their pitches included:
Patrick'’s message resonated with the crowd at Freedom House as readily as did Reilly'’s at Merengue. While Patrick'’s address outlined his proposed policy initiatives, Reilly focused his on his record as attorney general –— supporting Lynn'’s voluntary desegregation program, in-state tuition rates for the children of undocumented immigrants, fighting for public charities to benefit from the sale of the Boston Red Sox and other public policy victories.
This may be the race we wanted for Boston mayor, real choices and real issues.

They Have Theirs

Perhaps the prime social directive of kindergarten is to share. As kiddies grow beyond their anal and oral phases, teachers tell and model the nicety and necessity of equitable distribution of assets, physical and temporal.

So how is it that and when do we lose this, or do some of us feel so entitled that we never get the message?

We see it in education, business, politics, taxation and every aspect of adult life.

The ivy curtain of exclusion and retention of advantages suits those in power. For many such families, their advantages gelled in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries, prior to income taxes, anti-trust legislation and such levelers. Yet, descendants of the earlier wealthy still dominate the legal profession and legislatures at state and national levels. Of course, they take care of their own, their families and their peers.

The absurdity leads to cultural fantasies. You can see this in the trivial, such as the Good Genes dating service, with its implication that it is your genetic makeup that makes you an Ivy League student or grad and you will only be happy and pass along your superiority through breeding with other such beings. You can see it in sadder instances of

The attitude is hardly different when expressed in gerrymandered electoral districts. Here the aim may not be to keep every cent for those already wealthy. Rather, incumbents want every advantage – fair or unfair – to help them keep their office and power.

The effect in Boston as well as in Texas is to segregate by race and class, minimizing the possibility that the other might get representation in proportion to their population. That’s sharing in action and should be the American way. Let us pause to laugh up our sleeves.

Now Tom DeLay’s extreme gerrymandering to deliver control of the state government to Republicans faces U.S. Supreme Court examination. Texas conservatives may or may not have to share and be fair. Regardless, the nation gets another chance to see how down and dirty the I’m-keeping-mine attitude is in action.

Here in Boston too, we look at districts long skewed to keep the power in a few neighborhoods. Black and Latino citizens should have much higher representation than they do. It would be specious to suggest that there are no good candidates or that they don’t run. The facts are that from City Council level up, Boston districts lump far too many non-White voters at every economic level into relatively homogeneous districts. They give them near total control in very, very few districts.

An equitable districting would spread out the Black and Latino voters and their influence at the polls. That would be sharing, power, democracy, and governmental resources.

The first go-round for commonwealth legislative offices after a redistricting effort produced almost no Latino candidates. Shamefully, Democratic Party officials said that proved that voters were happy with the likes of then House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran. Far more likely, it will take several election cycles to make people think they have a shot at the formerly closed spots.

A year ago, the Sudbury Town Crier wrapped up the situation and promise nicely:

It doesn't have to be like this. In some states, notably Iowa, a nonpartisan commission draws the district lines. It is prohibited from programming the voting habits of residents or the home addresses of candidates into its computer. Instead it concentrates on creating compact, coherent districts that keep communities intact and provide fair representation for minorities…

…There's no guarantee, of course, that the representatives in (Massachsuetts) districts will follow the suggestion of their constituents, and even less chance that the legislative leadership will listen to them. While few citizens may understand the power of redistricting, incumbent legislators understand it all too well, and people with power don't generally give it up without a fight….

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Leftists and Technology

In light of the BlogLeft Massachusetts gang, I remembered a sermon I co-preached. It was on technology. I was for it and the minister was against it. That was 17 years ago, before the Web, but I fear many liberals are still in that technology v. people trap.

As many people have noted, U.S. conservatives, organized and individual, were way ahead of us lefties in using the Net and Web for political purposes. They still are.

Back in 1989, many liberal organizations and a lot of liberal ministers and church goers honestly spoke of how dehumanizing technology can be. To many, it was are you for people or for computers?

I chaired the board of the downtown church at the time. One of my projects was moving the staff from typewriters to computers. I had owned computers for a decade, was a frequent USENET reader and contributer, and loved BBSes. I found amazing information through Veronica and Gopher.

Note: If you are too young to know any of that, I don't want to hear about it. Go to Wikipedia or a book and get smart. It's how we got to the Web. Modems were there first and for a long time.

Anyway, I knew a lot of ministers, UUA bureaucrats and social-action folk who would rant about bad computers were. My complaining to the minister made him tell me to say it from the pulpit. He scheduled a sermon where we gave our views.

I preached several times there and suspect that the pulpit is the tallest in the city. The church can seat over 900. Being up there reminds me of when I'd dive off a five-meter tower. I was way up there and felt very alone.

I told the congregants that it was their choice whether a computer robbed them of interaction with other humans or added another dimension. I said it was how you found and spread information to people you might never know or meet.

The minister stressed that he was old school (30 years my senior) and was most comfortable with what we now call wetware. He needed to see and touch people, to watch their body language and hear their tone. He was afraid of computers.

Ironically, by the time he moved on from that church, he had his first computer. I ended up being his unpaid IT consultant. I had him writing and revising sermons and jumping to research in libraries all over the globe. Omnis flux, dude.

Now I wonder whether too many leftists see blogging and Net technologies as that minister used to — inferior to human interaction, instead of a supplement.

It's one thing to be a computer user. Virtually all Gen-X and Gen-Y Americans can rip through Microsoft Office apps, use email, instant message and find their sites on the Web. So how is it that the Republicans are the ones who use these and other technologies better than we do? One answer is that being a user/luser is a hell of a lot different from understanding how to get the most from a technology, how to make it do your bidding.

We have access to the same tools. Fortunately, catching up to Web-based technologies is a matter of days or weeks and not years.