Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Health-Care Circus in Beantown

While he's not the only villain in the General Court, Senate President Robert Don't-Call-Me-Bobby-Anymore Travaglini is the team coach. They have lost another big one, big time.

Now the impotent, indolent legislature is scrambling to try to save millions in federal Medicare funds by passing some, any health-care scheme. They should call the likely result health we-don't-care. Hundreds of thousands of uninsured Bay Staters were left out because Bobby's kids can stand up and act.

They have pissed off quite a few, voters, bloggers and everyone on top of the citizens they spit on again. If you'd like to get riled yourself (and you should), start with Left in Lowell, where Lynne calls for Travaglini's replacement with a real lawmaker.

Get references to all the disgusting details from Under the Golden Dome's collection.

While the thousands of citizens suffer and struggle, stumblebums under the gold leaf are not likely to quit in shame. They have been here before.

Consider the horse we here ride most often. Nearly four years ago, May 7th 2002, Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Thomas E. Connolly saw the clear conflict between the constitution and marriage laws here. Someone had to decide whether same-sex marriage would be legal. While he ruled against the Goodridge petition at that level, he stated that the legislature need to handle it...damned fast.

Bobby's kids scratched their bellies. What they did not do was act. It became clear that he and most of his Hill buddies wanted the court to decide and take any heat.

It was November 18th 2003 when the Supreme Judicial Court found the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. It gave the slugs in the garden on Beacon Street a stay of 180-days, six months, half a year, and like that "to permit the Legislature to take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this opinion."

They basically ordered the General Court to act — finally, at long last. The best the legislators could come up with in that time was asking the Court if civil unions would be okay. No was the answer on February 4th 2004.

Then, rather than show some gumption, they stalled (after the fact of SSM) by trying a Constitutional Convention process. They chose the option that everyone hated, no marriage, but civil unions. By the time that measure came to its second and decisive vote, it was swamped and sank.

Meanwhile, thousands of same-sex couples married. Life went on. The chaos the bigots predicted never occurred.

Amusing sideline: The dumbest of the anti-gay groups still like to say that same-sex marriage is not legal in Massachusetts, because the General Court did not specifically authorize it with a law. They need to consider in a government such as a state's or the United States with separation of powers what happens through legislative inaction.

So, here we are one more time. There a dozens of such examples of our inert General Court. In case, you didn't notice, the legislators have not acted on the big issues since either.

This month, it was health care. At least they have fired up enough people that they may have to fix it soon.

What does it take to get these clowns to do their jobs?

New Evil in Olympia

As we do in Massachusetts, Washington State voters face another spite-filled and vicious abuse of the ballot-initiative process. We have our anti-same-sex-marriage amendment proposal slithering its way into the General Court shortly. They face a similar effort to overturn their law extending legal protections to homosexuals in housing, employment, lending and so forth.

Ours has angered many beyond the gay communities. Those who respect the intention of citizen initiatives to correct egregious legislative blunders certainly would like to halt the misuse by extremist groups as we have seen here and see now. They want a halt to the fraud we saw recently from hired-gun signature gatherers, further perverting the initiative process. Many of us understand how representative government is supposed to work and know that calls to "let the people decide" is a cowardly cop-out from those who should lead.

Washington has an extra wrinkle. The vast majority of their mean-spirited, expensive, time-consuming initiatives come from a professional, Tim Eyman. He has made and continues to make a fortune misusing the check supposedly reserved for citizen groups.

According to an article in the Seattle Times, some locals there are tired of seeing other citizens jerked around in the process. To wit:
Some legal and political experts say it's inappropriate. Voters can be arbitrary, they say, as reluctant to take away rights as they are to grant them. And they may be too easily swayed or too burdened by biases to make fair decisions on matters crucial to people's lives.

"After all, what are rights if they can be voted up one year and down the next?" said Brian Silver, a Michigan State University professor of political science.

Voters are notoriously stingy in mirroring the rights they enjoy. There, it used to be the Native Americans, the Chinese, women, blacks and on and on. Creating an equitable society does not come from plebiscites. We are not that evolved as a species.

The polls throughout Washington say people support gay rights. The locals look to the recent experience in Maine. The horrid Christian Civics League of Maine and a small group of fundies tried to overturn the gay-rights protections overwhelming passed by the legislature and happily signed by the governor.

This time people had advanced enough that they rejected the initiative. The polls say Washingtonians will too.

We have ranted more than once (five times at that link) about how this abuse sucks resources and attention from what the citizens need. Letting a plebiscite decide on minority citizens' rights has a stinking, shameful history in this country, and in many others. The process most decidedly needs exemptions to protect us from us.

It is not secret now that ballot initiatives need reform throughout the nation. They can serve good purposes, but not like we have seen in Boston and Olympia.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Little Rowdy in Rhody

Down in Providence, changes occur. Yeah, yeah, they'll get to it.

Like a mouse peeking out the hole, ducking back, peeking, ducking, the same-sex marriage law-to-be is trying yet again. This time, they don't expect to pass it, but following a big public rally this month in favor, they sure would like it out of the House Judiciary Committee for a vote.

Of the 14 committee members, six are co-sponsors. With the governor, senate president and house speaker opposed, the bill faces a battle, even as the polled public favors it. Otherwise in the committee, it's a toss-up whether two other members can separate their religious feelings from civil rights and contracts.

If it does get to the legislature, its fate is unknown, according to pro-SSM and gay House Majority Leader Gordon Fox. "Whether it's a good idea to move the bill out of committee only to run into a stone wall on the House floor or in the Senate, he said it was too early to say."

Rhode Island's clocks run a little slower and even the calendar pages flip on their own schedules.

And Shrub Slams Partners

The just-as-good folk will have to look skyward and hum again. The state just announced that while it extends medical coverage to domestic partners, for those folk, this is taxable income. It is not for married couples.

That exquisite Catch-22 is the favorite of the practitioners of schadenfreude. No, you can't get married, but we'll treat you equally legally otherwise. Oh, by the way, this set of rights and benefits is only for the married, and (bwa ha ha) you're not married.

This is what Providence Journal writer Bob Kerr called, The Love Without Marriage Penalty. "A bunch of people are not left facing a serious financial hit that they couldn't see coming...They thought they were equal, only to find out they were just sort of equal."

To his credit, the prime sponsor ro R.I.'s Domestic Partner Benefits Law, Rep. Gordon D. Fox, will try to correct the oversight. He and his forces had not anticipated a federal IRS tax ruling aimed squarely punishing domestic partners with discriminatory taxation. Gordon says that this week he will introduce a bill to offset the penalty.

So, back to the House Judiciary Committee, the domestic-partnerships-are-fine folk have something else to chew.

Deval in the Apse

Sometimes, they fairly post themselves. Yesterday gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick preached at an African American church in Dorchester. Same-sex marriage was -- ta da -- the non-issue.

Boston Globe reporter Scott Helman did his best to keep SSM the theme of the story. It was worth a mention, specifically Patrick said that he is for equality, including for gays, and there are far more important topics for the election and beyond.

However, what the article does not explicate is that he was both gutsy and smart (two traits seemingly lacking his is two opponents) by facing his vulnerability here directly.

From the pulpit, Patrick dealt head-first and quickly with the subject, "I'm going to step into sensitive territory here, because some have tried to discredit me and divide us over the whole question of gay marriage. Don't let that happen."

The Greater Love Tabernacle Church's Rev. William E. Dickerson II agreed to let Patrick speak. He said that this was not necessarily an endorsement of Patrick's candidacy and that personally he still believed "in traditional marriage."

However, from the outside, this was a refreshingly open-minded and equality-oriented attitude in contrast to the handful of charismatic and exclusionary ministers in the community.

Post Patrick's pulpit pitch, parishioners agreed that they saw far more important concerns, particularly to the Black community. They agreed with him that poverty, murders, AIDS, homelessness and others are far more pressing and poorly addressed.

As Patrick put it, focusing on small divisions while not hitting the real issues "has been one of the reasons why so little gets done in American politics today."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Beyond Buried Boomers

The United States again marches in the middle of the humanity parade. For same-sex marriage and living liberty instead of mumbling support, we follow. Yes, the underdeveloped nations trail even us, as do the theocracies and dictatorships. Yet, shall we ever return to our origins and promises of leading the world in rights and freedoms?

...likely not until my generation is scattered on the beaches and ever so slowly decomposing in our embalmed, interred glories.

As one near the beginning of the Baby Boom, it is difficult for me to admit such an obvious failing of my peers. The disturbing truth is that, pix in your history book aside, most Americans from their late 40s to 60 are only a little more liberal than their parents. You see it in their attitudes towards gay-rights and SSM. The clear implication is that when the last of my generation is rotting, this nation will have a shot at catching up to other liberty-oriented democracies.

A fine analysis of this appeared in a Seattle Times opinion piece earlier this month. This "generational disconnect on homosexual rights...was on full display the past couple of weeks as gray-haired legislators and salt-and-pepper-bearded pastors tried to deny a law that granted gays and lesbians the rights heterosexuals and minorities have long enjoyed."

In Washington state, it was the Republican Gen-Xers who were the swing vote in passing the long-overdue gay-rights bill. We are likely to see that repeated and amplified. Fact is that in poll after poll, those in their 30s and 20s aren't threatened nearly as much by gays and don't see what the fuss is about SSM.

Unfortunately, Gen-X and Gen-Y folk in the main are not spiritually superior and enlightened. They simply don't carry the baggage that their parents and grandparents did and do. They grew up well after it was illegal to refuse to hire a Black American or to pay a women exactly half what a man would get for the same job. We still let churches, some non-profits and private organization be their old bigoted selves, of course.

The Settle Times piece includes:
What the defenders of virtue do not understand is the role marriage has played in the lives of younger generations. The "sanctity of marriage" has become a meaningless slogan when used to perpetuate morals in an age of divorce. We either grew up in a divorced family or had numerous friends whose parents' marriage habits were like those of dating, middle-school kids. Gays and lesbians certainly could do no worse.

Is the institution of marriage really going to suffer if gays and lesbians are allowed to make the decision to marry? Not a chance. Religious institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church, would not have to condone state-sanctioned marriage.

That is a level of common sense that is common in the younger of us, but not in the Boomer-dominated state and federal legislatures.

If you haven't noticed, sociologists can point out that the Boomers are really, for the first known time, a split generation. The standard measure was 20 years per generation, but those of us born within a decade of WWII's end differ from those who came later.

The 20s and 30s sorts may also not know that the things we were most famous for -- protests, drug use, open sex, acid rock -- were not universal. The vast majority of us never went to a protest, never dropped acid, dated traditionally, and in general never participated in the stereotype except as stunned observers. With the aid of theatrical memory, many early Boomers allude to these behaviors as though they did them. Cut them some slack, by cracky.

So that majority now makes our laws. These reflect our upbringing by the WWII folk, a strong, highly moral, unequivocal belief in a freedom-loving nation that does what is necessary to protect itself and spread its ideals. Unfortunately that brings the WWII prejudices and self-righteousness...and worst of all, that do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do hypocrisy .

We don't have to leave the Boston area to see and hear bigots and hate-mongers. Yet, I think of a family friend, a godmother to one of our sons, who was for years the sole woman Democratic Senator in Idaho. She fought the good fight as a Boomer.

Boise, the capital and seat of the big university, is a traffic island in an 8-lane highway of arch-conservatives. Betsy was like a zebra hitched to the Clydesdales. As a liberal, she did her job, but with difficulty. She stood out.

We don't have enough Betsys nationally or in our states. While the rest of the First World marches on by us, we'll get our reasonable majorities in those bodies, but likely not until the ground is tamped on more Boomers.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Marks of the Inane

The legendary mark of Cain has a double counterpart in the marks of the spiteful and inane. The hallmarks of the legislators who have joined the anti-same-sex-marriage, anti-gay forces are:
  1. Abusing ballot initiatives to let the majority vote on civil rights of a minority.
  2. Attempting to subvert the government's separation of powers.
Those traits are so un-American that it seems most of us would dismiss them as both ignorant and hateful. Yet as we continue to see in Massachusetts and this week in Maryland, these are highly emotional issues. Fear can trump brains.

We can't play the dumb-Southerner card on this one. Our own benighted Rep. Emile Goguen still pretends that the General Court will hop on his bill of address to remove the four Supreme Judicial Court judges who ruled for same-sex marriage. You can read the entire set of addled rants from his supporters at two small groups at Article 8 Alliance and MassNews.

A psychologist friend of mine has noted that one can have the oddest obsessions. Yet no one will ship you off for treatment so long as you can function in your daily life.

Of course, we have the more crazed set pushing the effort for a 2008 vote to pass an amendment rescinding same-sex marriage. It is one thing for a celibate pope thousands of miles (and centuries) away from here to express his theological opposition to same-sex marriage. It is quite another for anti-rights groups, pandering legislators and local clerics to combine in efforts to replace civil contract laws with their religious beliefs.

Now, in Baltimore, their version of Goguen is braying his nastiness. Delegate Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (right), a Republican (shock) will file a resolution to impeach a judge who ruled unconstitutional the marriage definition in that state.

Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock "must be removed from office for misbehavior in office, [willful] neglect of duty, and incompetency," Dwyer announced.

His filing would need the support of two-thirds of both houses. One other Maryland judge was removed, during the Civil War. He met the legal requirement of not being able to perform his duties by falling asleep and being drunk in court.

Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe said, "There does have to be come cause. They can't just not like you."

Not surprisingly, Dwyer is a sponsor of the current effort to get a DoMA amendment on top of the state's definition of marriage as one man and one woman. He can't wait for the appeal of Murodck's ruling. He has control issues. He fears the judicial system. In short, he is unamerican in not liking our form of government. This is the second mark of the inane.

Not everyone interested in the case is as irrational and emotional as Dwyer. An ACLU attorney there, David Rocah, noted that there is "a tendency, especially lately among legislators, to think that judges who disagree with them have committed some wrongdoing, and the solution is either, therefore, to take issues away from the judiciary or get rid of the judges, and that's a profound threat to the rule of law in this state and around the country."

On the plus side, such fear-mongering and abuse of the public crosses the edge for most of us. These are the forces that push the pendulum back to the side of fairness and the old American love of liberty.

The Dwyers and his counterparts here initially get praise from the lowbrows in their districts. While this understandably encourages and emboldens them, they can't seem to check themselves once they get hysterical. When most voters hear the rants and see how far these clowns would go to strip rights from fellow citizens, it's, "Whoa, you jackasses!"

Pulling the reins can't come soon enough.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A New Red Hat in Boston

At least one made-for-TV movie will be due Sean O'Malley. It remains to be seen whether the title will be:
  • Friar Fix-It
  • The Reluctant Archbishop
  • Firebrand to Functionary
This week's nomination for elevation to cardinal says much about Pope Benedict. What it means for Boston, and to Massachusetts, and particularly whether the RC Church's heavy-handed political maneuvering will continue remains to reveal itself.

Ancillary to Boston Archbishop O'Malley being one of the 15 red-hat boys has been speculation — as well as a past less weighted with managerial and political chores. After coming here almost three years ago, he has found himself mired in both types of chores. As he did in Fall River, he arrived like the hired gun to clean up the town. Both cities had sexual abuse scandals and disgraced former prelates.

Lately, he has been ham-fisted both with abuse victims and with pro-gay and pro-same-sex-marriage advocates, in and outside his archdiocese's churches. He is unquestionably a penny-pincher, known increasingly for trying to minimize payouts covering decades of clerical abuse and bishops' complicity. While that makes perfect capitalist, business sense, he allegedly is here to heal a sick see. Browbeating the victims and failing to accept the church's responsibility are not very curative.

As for ordering his bishops to tell their priests to collect political petition signatures at masses, disgraceful. Merely claiming that parishioners did the actual handling of the paperwork does not clean O'Malley's hands. He is hypocritical in the extreme -- keep your laws off my church, but, oh, we're in your government.

Benny's Boys

Sean's cardinal elevator ride surprised some papal observers (vaticanologist doesn't seem to be a word). First, he hasn't cleaned up his dirty little town yet. Parishioners are pissed and protesting (and having pray-ins and sleep-ins) because of closed churches. The sex-abuse cloud still rains daily on O'Malley's rein. Money is tight and disgruntled sheep are not bringing their treasures to the chancel.

In addition, as with its port, population, business, and even Chinatown, Boston remains a second or third-tier town. We have a high percentage of Catholics, but the absolute tally is not impressive.

Yet, the 15 cardinals picked did not follow the traditional choices. For example, an astounding omission was the Archbishop of Paris. Generally, important cities get a cardinal.

Pope Paul VI set the standard at 120 voting cardinals. Benedict maxed this with his selections. (By the bye, cardinals can't vote for a new pope after they are 80.)

O'Malley was one of the two controversial ones. The other was Hong Kong's Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun, a vocal critic of the mainland. "A lot of dioceses that typically get appointments didn't," said Zen. "This shows his priority for China."

Benedict said that he was showing the universal nature of the church with his group. Indeed, they were from France, Venezuela, Italy, Poland, South Korea, Spain, and the Philippines. Also, even though some think Americans are overrepresented in the College of Cardinals, he named another, Archibishop William J. Levada. That was a logical pick though, because he replaced Benedict at papal enforcer, a.k.a. prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Whence and Whither Sean?

The Boston Herald wonders whether O'Malley can parlay his red hat into greenbacks. Traditionally, cardinals bring in the bucks in capital campaigns. However, "any financial impact would be marginal" in this case, according to John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. "There is something psychological for Catholics about a cardinal; he is simply seen as a higher order of life. But a highly effective archbishop may raise more money than a modestly effective cardinal."

The Globe played it that Boston suddenly has a permanent Archbishop. Even though doctrinally limbo is out, that's a good description of O'Malley's position.

As the article puts it:
"Boston and O'Malley have to make this marriage work," said James M. Weiss, an associate professor of church history at Boston College. ''It's no secret that O'Malley has expressed discouragement and that lay leaders, clergy, and the local media have expressed unhappiness with him, but this is the Vatican saying to him, 'You're not moving,' and to local Catholics, 'You have to work with him.'"
Likewise, a Notre Dame history professor, R. Scott Appleby, said that the pope clearly expects O'Malley to finish cleaning up Bernie Law's mess.

Oddly, very oddly, enough, in contrast to Cardinal Law's flabby handshakes, sales personality and extreme ambition, O'Malley was as humble as any other Capuchin Franciscan friar before he was ordered to one battle scene after another. He's been a remarkable turn-around manager and to hear it told, he never asked for power, position or attention.

Given his druthers, he wears that itchy sackcloth and would sleep on a pallet or the floor. This again is in contrast to Law, who was much more like Friar tuck and a lover of food, drink and physical comfort. Meanwhile, O'Malley has kept to his vow of poverty and the attitude that goes with it.

While we in Boston still don't trust the bishop who closes churches, forces politics into the pews, and nickels and dimes abuse victims, he was very different in Washington, D.C. in the 1970s and 1980s. According to the Washington Post, our steely politician is at heart a populist progressive.

He headed that archdiocese's Latino outreach. He even moved into a slum apartment complex, where he led protests to help the tenants, by fighting eviction, tossing drug users, and getting District help in purchasing the complex.

Padre Sean, as some call him down there, is still an object of admiration to them. A former board member of the archdiocese Spanish Catholic Center said of his elevation, "There were cries of jubilation throughout the city today."

When he first arrived here, it looked like he was bringing his good-friar personality. For example, he sold the archbishop's mansion to provide money for abuse settlements.

Then, like milk left on the back porch, he turned.

So, Benedict is hard. Will his recalcitrance keep O'Malley playing the devil here?

The best alternative is from author George Weigel. He imagines that this vote of confidence from the pope can mean "even greater authority and capacity to get on with the reform of the church in Boston."

We actually should know sooner than later. The sex-abuse settlements are reaching a crucial point. Also, that mean-spirited, unchristian, and undemocratic call for an amendment to overturn same-sex marriages here is heading into the General Court. We'll see either the godly friar or the oh-my-God politician at work.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Brief Hiatus

While recovering from an accident, I shall post infrequently, maybe not again until Monday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Atavistic Attorney Away

Don't let the door slam your butt on the way out, Chester.

The photo left (by Mike Adaskaveg) is actually rather flattering of about-to-retire Boston lawyer Chester Darling. His physical appearance should not be an issue, but he has been the epitome of the cliché that nasty on the inside can mean nasty outside.

There are a couple of ways to look at the 76-year-old. His own would be that Darling was the darling of the extreme right. He portrays himself as a crusader for the First Amendment, for freedom and for limited government. He likes it when people liken him to St. Jude, patron of hopeless causes.

To many though, he represents both the worst of the legal profession and the basest abusers of democracy. He figuratively wrapped himself in the flag while beating minorities. He fostered anti-gay attitude and action. He was hypocritical in wanting the government to interfere for his bigoted aims but not to protect those he disliked.

On one occasion, he took devilish delight in 1998 in representing the Gay and Lesbian Community Advocates of Lawrence. The irony was not lost on him, who was infamous for using the First Amendment on the other side to prevent gays from marching in the private South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade. While the Lawrence case was an extremely rare effort to help gays, he made much of it as proof that he was for principle, not against anyone.

In the Boston Globe's coverage of Darling's last day in court, other highlights (or lowlights) of his career include:
He railed against buffer zones that protect abortion clinics from protesters. He successfully defended a Woburn minister's right to whip his son with a leather belt. He sued the town of Lexington for refusing to display a Nativity scene on its public green. He sought to overturn race-based school admissions policies.
He had his own forever-tiny organization, Citizens for the Preservation of Constitutional Rights Inc. He hoped it would be the conservative (I'd say reactionary) opposite of the ACLU. His apparently defunct Website for it was julyfourth.net.

He aligned himself with the most reactionary Massachusetts groups. These include C.J. Doyle's Catholic Action League of Massachusetts and the Article 8 Alliance. He has done his best to overturn same-sex marriage. He likes the inane and wrong-headed argument that the SJC decision legalizing SSM here somehow wasn't legal because no bill became law. That works for those who read the how-a-bill-becomes-law brochure handed to sixth graders, but not for anyone who went through civics 101 and learned about branches of government.

Even as he hid behind the First Amendment and blustered about rights, Darling crafted a career around his lost causes. He was forever trying to limit the freedoms of this group or that, while saying he was really for free speech all the while. He would repeat "freedom of association" when what he meant was freedom to discriminate.

He leaves a sad legacy of divisiveness. Fortunately, he was out of tune with this century and much of the last one, both in legal terms and cultural ones.

I have mixed feelings about the immediate catalyst for Darling's overdue retirement. His macular degeneration has virtually blinded him. From experience with my mother, with a minister closing in rapidly on 90, and others, I know how the mentally active readers and writers despise the quick closing of their visual world. My mother was a three-newspaper-a-morning reader. She had heart and lung problems, but said they were nothing compared to not being able to read a book.

To his credit, Darling said that he expects to write, maybe a memoir or a novel. Carrying on in physical adversity is virtuous.

As for novels, I suspect that would be Darling's forte. One from him would have obvious good guys and villains. There would be a clear conflict, and of course, the hero will save the day. It would make decent fantasy escapist reading. Then again, so should his memoir.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Herald Heralds Bloggers

There is a short hit in today's Boston Herald on bloggers covering politics. The gist is that we are covering stuff that the lumbering mass media are slow to notice.

Kimberly Atkins quotes David at Blue Mass Group and me, along with Cyndi Roy, the state Democratic Party's communications director. We like the headline best — Blogs change face of state politics.

Atkins tees off from the hoo-ha about the DP suddenly seeking justification from their house lawyer to allow Chris Gabrieli an easier time of getting a shot at the state convention of getting on the ballot. The amusing angle is that Roy won't back off on her assertion that everything was kosher with the instant reinterpretation for a fat cat, despite being ridiculed and taken to task by numerous party activists and bloggers, including Lynne at Left in Lowell.

That's the difference between right, righteous and self-righteous.

Asking for SSM, Again

We tell our kids, "Ask. The worst you can hear is no." In that spirit, perhaps 1,000 couples nationwide (except in Massachusetts), may have asked their local officials for marriage licenses. Just as many of these same-sex couples got a rejection. For some it was the third year they made his statement.

The gentle protest has been part of Marriage Equality Week. This year it was on Valentine's Day eve day. Smack.

Connecticut's couple made perhaps the strongest statement. Many gays there feel the figurative warmth of same-sex marriage from neighboring Massachusetts. Few have registered for the newly legal civil unions.

"We're asking not for special rights," said George Chien at a news conference. "Separate is not equal. Our relationship is not second class." He stood in Hartford with his partner, Julio Flores.

No one expects a town clerk to suddenly become a radical enabler by issuing a license. Yet, asking is important.

Couples also asked in South Carolina, according to Michael Drennan of the South Carolina Equality Coalition. This is the third year that the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement organized the event.

The result is rejection — and media coverage. The largest TV station in the capital, Columbia, plus newspapers were there. On the other hand, The State, the big newspaper in Columbia, does its best to downplay this. They had a short schedule, written by the religion editor, and no follow-up. That'll show them rascally varmints!

Others are not blind. News is news.

Drennan noted to us:
I have also been told that CNN ran a story on it in their local segment & that they used an interview with me.

There is a lot of work to be done in South Carolina but there are also great stories like the student body of USC Columbia elected an openly gay male student as president of the student body last year. This year another gay male student is running and his chances look good.
This process of changing minds was slow in Massachusetts and now reinforced by the naturalness of the results. Clearly it can be tougher in a Red State. Yet, the preponderance of the small can help affect changes.

As Drennan wrote, "I would also say that all of the great things happening in MA helps us here to open people’s minds to the fact that the sky will not fall if you extend rights to GLBT people. So keep up the great work!"

Monday, February 20, 2006

Florida to Throttle Amendments

Massachusetts (particularly right here) laments the abuse of the ballot initiative process. Half the states have such a process, which everywhere becomes subverted. Now, 1318 miles away, another state is poised to do something about it.

In Florida, even the GOP is sick of narrow interests passing initiatives and getting constitutional amendments on the ballot. These often commit a state to expensive and to discriminatory actions.

In the Bay State, we have seen recent repeated attempts to write marriage discrimination into the constitution for the first time ever. The initiatives' backers are political groups that suck susceptible voters into their vortices, down to the murky bottom. They get aid from unprincipled legislators who are ever willing to say "Let the voters decide" rather than lead and take responsibility.

In a fascinating twist, burned businesses have pressured Republican legislators into trying to make it far less easy to foist special-interest amendments on the Sunshine state.

Here, we found plenty of fraud in the most recent anti-same-sex-marriage initiative drive. Yet, the process has gotten as far as the first of two required General Court votes. Yet our inert legislators seem afraid to do more than add modest fines for such fraud, when what we need is initiative overhaul.

Well in Tallahassee, it looks as though they are about to get it. There, it was driven by the success of a socially progressive increase in the minimum wage. This fired up the business community, which in turn inspired the legislators who are beholden to it.

Note: The monkey's paw aspect of this in Massachusetts is the same. When we clean up the dirty initiative process that the ultra-right has been using successfully, progressive initiatives will also be harder to get to vote. Fair is fair.

The Florida reform would include:
  • Making paid signature gathers attest that they are registered voters.
  • Making them wear pins identifying them as paid collectors.
  • Fine fraudulent gatherers.
A second, related bill reappeared. It would restrict constitutional amendments to subjects already in the document.

"Special-interest groups have hijacked Florida's unique initiative process by hiring out-of-state professional signature-gathering firms," said fraud-bill sponsor Republican Majority Whip Sen. JD Alexander.

This effort couples with last year's one that shortened the time signature gatherers had. This is already cutting both ways. The GOP lawmakers are trying to keep progressives from preventing them from gerrymandering their districts. However, in the short term it seems to have prevented anti-gay, anti-SSM Florida4Marriage from getting an anti-SSM amendment on the November ballot.

Perhaps this will give our General Court a kick in the butt.

Considering Mr. Peanut

Christ(of His mercy infinite)

i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because

unless statistics lie he was

more brave than me:more blond than you.

                         — e.e. cummins

I am not as good as Jimmy Carter, and neither are you. Rather than deter us from socially progressive behavior, that should inspire us.

The depth and persistence of disdain for former President Carter continues to astound and disappoint. We must assume that he continues to embarrass the greedy, the cowardly, the self-interested, the bigoted, the lowest common denominators, both in and out of government.

We are a nation that took one of our vilest leaders, the odious R.M. Nixon, and rehabilitated and reconstituted him as a statesman, when he had only slithered back into our consciousness to increase his wealth and further inflate his ego. Likewise, the majority of the country clings to fantasies that the failed presidency and disastrous economic policies of Ronald Reagan were somehow heroic and sensible. His entrenchment of bloated tax-and-spend government alone should send him forever to the inner rings of historic hell.

Do we so identify with these base bipeds? Must we scorn those who show us how to act and praise those whom we fear reflect our real thoughts?

The Gen-X and Gen-Y sorts are likewise trapped by historical clichés. The Entitlement Generation used to be applied fairly by sociologists and historians to the end of the WWII and all of the Korean War folk, the AARP set. Indeed, it was "We fought a war, you owe us forever ...subsidized mortgages, never-ending, ever increasing Social Security and Medicare benefits that always outpace inflation...blah, blah." Ironically, it was this set who called their own Boomers the Me Generation. Recently, from nowhere in particular, the Boomers have responded to whining younger Americans by shifting that Entitlement phrase to them.

Despite the sacrifices that Boomers and younger generations have made and continue to make, the oldsters do not want to share in any lessening of their own entitlements. The silly slurs the Boomers and Gen-X and Y types fling are meaningless in the face of the debts they face to pay for the excesses of the Greatest Generation.

So, the 20 and 30 somethings have a shameful default of I-wasn't-even-born-yet when discussing recent U.S. history. That's as lame an excuse for mindless behavior and ignorance as any, ever. Yet, Jimmy is right in there. Young adults grow hearing of a worthless presidency.

Pick up or click to an encyclopedia, even Wikipedia, to cruise Jimmy's gubernatorial and presidential pluses and minuses. The plus side definitely wins. In addition, he lived his faith in a way that shames other nominal Christians, in and out of politics. He was socially progressive in the extreme — no discrimination against anyone by color, sexual orientation, or otherwise. In addition, he was the only Democrat who was successful internationally. He also understood protecting the planet when the rest of us were popping beers and tossing styrofoam.

Along with Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Jefferson, Jimmy Carter was decidedly one of the brightest presidents we ever had. Yet, he was unable to get his own party to pass national health-care. Also, his term saw rapid inflation.

A key factor that Gen-X and Yers do not often hear is that Jimmy was the only outsider in the modern Presidency. He so favored human rights, fairness to the poor, and other Biblical ideal that he did not play the political games (much like some Boston mayors and Council presidents). That was in fact his fatal flaw and undoing. He did not compromise enough, did not promise enough to get the pigs at the trough to look up often enough. He did the same as governor of Georgia. Right trumped expedient every time.

Even now, he has been unrelenting in the past 25 years. Brokering peace agreements and truces where others fail, building houses for the poor (with his own hands), speaking for the least connected here and abroad. As my mother used to say, for crying out loud in a bucket, what else do you want?

Other ex-Presidents seek adulation and wealth. Jimmy has done good his whole life. At 81, he apparently sees no reason to stop.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Not All Dems Dumb

Sprouting from the recent dirt of secretive policy shifts to allow the successful tycoon/failed politician a shot at running for governor are some intriguing ideas.

In particular, over at Progressive Bay State Bloggers in Yahoo Groups, Michael Wilcox and Shari Sachs are kicking this can a little farther down the road. As many us in the past couple of days have, he calls the incestuous, insular party leadership's explanation of its end-run around Deval Patrick "a smokescreen."

More to the point, she suggests:
  • That this latest clumsy ploy is "one of a line of little conflicts which will hopefully culminate somehow or another, in a sea change in party leadership."
  • Activists "should think about what we can do to organize with the DP."
  • Maybe a wiki to document and act as a citizen and media resource for such problems.
  • Creation of a "(very lightweight) press relations office which works to push these sorts of stories out into the press."
  • Dump ex-officio delegates.
She offers one goodness after another.

It's not like the DP leaders get rich off doing it, but they sure do love —— and abuse —— the power. It's past time for us bystanders to stop standing by.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Mass DP Brings the Hammer Down

The Massachusetts Dems' Minister of Propaganda, no, that's Communications Director, Cyndi Roy was rather intemperate today. She more than matched John Bonifaz' outrage with her own indignation.

However, her responses in short to this blog and at length on the Democratic Party site are revealing, and occasionally amusing.

Her main blog post is a near masterpiece of emotion and illogic with a veneer of support from a lawyer. Think how bad the PR is when your only argument is from your paid legal help.

In case you're just observing this windstorm, key points are:
  • The DP just had over 100 caucuses at which it elected delegates to the party's June convention.
  • Outsider Deval Patrick skunked long-time DP guy, Attorney General Tom Reilly in number of pledged delegates for governor.
  • The DP leadership appears to want an established member, under the assumption that he or she would have the best chance to reverse over a decade of GOP governors here. In short, go with what hasn't worked before.
  • This coincides with rich guy, venture capitalist Chris Gabrieli's stirrings that he wants to run. He is 0 and 2 for statewide office. He wants the DP to go with what hasn't worked before.
  • At the convention, 500 elected delegates can present a petition to nominate someone who didn't go through the caucus process. The white knight rides on from stage left.
  • The DP looked at options and got their house lawyer to analyze the rules. His interpretation is that the delegated appointed by the DP leadership -- state officials, Ward and DP functionaries, and inclusionary folk who applied to go too -- are as much "elected" as the ones the caucuses elected.
Well, that's one, bizarre, way of looking at the rules. It's legalese and not what the thousands who participated in the caucuses understood. I recall delegates at the Ward 19 caucus remarking that they had been inclusionary add-ons before and wanted to be "real delegates."

In short, the DP has long had two classes of delegates, but suddenly it wants to pretend that there was no "rules change" by this end run.

For a hoot, check Roy's blog, pretentiously entitled just The Truth. (It seems like she should add an MP3 with trumpets and TA DA!)

She is imperious throughout, ending with cascading fits of illogic and emotion. She writes:
The Democratic Party has always been proud to be the Party of inclusion. Not allowing all delegates to sign papers is essentially creating a second class of delegates. Why would we want to turn to one of our minority, disabled, or youth add-on delegates and say, "sorry, you weren't elected at caucuses so you can't participate in this process."? It's not right.

Speculate all you want about why the ruling was made the way it was. But you have the truth and legal ruling in your hands.

Now can we please get back to winning this governor's race?
In other words, if you dare, dare to challenge the DP position, you want to kick the disabled and insult the delegates of color. Shame.

The fact that this line has nothing to do with the subject at hand makes it all the more memorable.

She follows that by dismissing this sudden, Gabrieli-courting ploy. In effect, the message is don't worry your pretty little head about it, honey. Get back to DP work. It's OK.

Cut me a thin slice.

I've been hearing that the DP here is out of touch and far too clannish. Nothing coming out of it recently suggest otherwise.

Exing Ex-Officio Delegates

Big up, ssachs! Over at the DFA Cambridge blog, the common-sense solution to the delegate sleaze is in plain electrons.

Several of us have fetched, kvetched and moaned about the undemocratic Democratic Party types gaming the system for Chris Gabrieli. The truth from the blog is:
Get rid of ex-officio delegates. Throw 'em out of the convention, every last one. If they want to drop in and join the fun, give out a few hundred visitor's passes by lottery or something. If they want to vote, they're going to have to earn it the "hard" way, at the caucuses.

No, the caucus process won't be very difficult for someone who's won a general election. But in some cases, it will serve as a sort of check-in with the local base as well. If you're a elected official who can't win a delegate's seat at your local caucus, you're gonna have one heck of a time getting those same folks to work the phones for you come Election Day.

Hot stuff...right on, and like that.

Bloggers Missed the Money?

No drooling in anticipation, bloggers. Keep your job and look elsewhere for economic freedom. Over at Slate, Daniel Gross makes a very convincing argument that even as small as it was, the blog bubble has popped.

Intangibles, oh yeah. Freedom of speech, sure. Self-righteousness, absolutely. Money, well, he says if you haven't clicked, you blew it already. Blinked? Too damned bad.

"(A)s businesses, blogs may have peaked," he writes in the Moneybox section. Among his warning signs are:
  • Magazine Cover IndicatorTime and other big-city and national maggies have featured blogging and blog giants like Google. Traditionally, this has been a prognosis of trend death.
  • Smart Guys Cashing Out —— Smart market timers like Bob Pittman made money on blogs and sold before a crash. When they sell, crashes follow.
  • Excited Dinosaurs —— Big media buys into something new after it is stale. That's another sure indicator of a down slope.
  • Gullible Latecomers —— He cites Pajamas Media, the right-wing collaborative that raised venture capital to come in, too late, according to Gross.

The whole piece is worth a read and has lots of links so that you can evaluate his material. Read it and giggle or weep or both.

Enjoy your new media (we do), but don't max out any credit cards in anticipation of your new-media fortune.

Dem Rules Shift Still Stinks

Well, as expected, there was more on the state Dems changing who could petition for an instant candidate at the convention.

John Bonifaz is a passionate guy. Some could argue on this case that he was exaggerating to call this a rules change rather than an interpretation. Maybe, but his quacks like a duck.

Party regularly, particularly those who have attended caucuses for many years are used to keeping the right to petition at the convention and put an interloper up for vote. Now, following the causes, the party hacks decide to let the ex-officio delegates help bypass the normal process.

Over at the Blue Mass Group, David wonders in passing whether the fix was in for rich dude Chris Gabrieli, but says that's unknowable. More to the point, he notes, "most of these rules are bullshit, anti-democratic ways to ensure the continued power of the hackocracy."

This has to be deeply disheartening to the party soldiers and lieutenants who support the party, and who also like to play fair.

The comments to Charley on the MTA's posting that David reacts to say a lot -- like " I am telling you. Insiders are not going to allow Patrick to win. It is a club and only one of them will be allowed to win. It is sad," and "So Gabrieli can go 0-3? This Deval supporter will NEVER EVER again have anything to do with Gabrieli again after this attempt by him to have the rules "bent" to get his name on the ballot. It's a waste of time and money on his part. And it says to the rest of the electorate that the DEMS are disorganized.

Just when you think that cliques can't get any more arrogant, pow!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

WTF Dems?

Stunned is the word. If the press release Secretary of State candidate John Bonifaz put out is accurate, the Mass Democratic Party has slimed its way into GOP ethics territory. Apparently the leadership has changed the rules that would permit rich dude Chris Gabrieli to get on the ballot with a petition of unelected delegates.

In an affront to the party slogan The strength of the party comes from the strength of its people, perhaps they should change it to Everything and everyone for sale — Mass Democrats.

Bonifaz puts it:
"I have no issue if people want to play by the rules. Party rules allow for a previously undeclared candidate’s name to be placed before the convention for statewide office provided that a petition for such purpose is signed by at least 500 of the ‘elected convention delegates.’ But, here, we have party insiders trying to subvert the process just after the completion of the statewide caucuses. This kind of action should be opposed by anyone who believes in fairness and transparency in our primary election process.

"Last night, members of the Democratic State Committee supporting this move tried to mask it as merely an ‘opinion’ interpreting the existing rule. That dog won’t hunt. The phrase, ‘elected convention delegates,’ by the literal meaning of those words, refers only to those delegates elected to the state party’s convention at the caucuses. It does not refer to ex-officio members, such as members of the Democratic State Committee, who are non-elected designated delegates. I urge the Democratic Party’s rules committee to come clean and reverse this action. The integrity of our election process must be protected."

So, what the murmers about Deval Patrick's strong showing have said appear to be true. He's not the machine candidate. So the party will subvert his candidacy. This sleazy move apparently will do just that.

We cruised the party sites and blogs...nothing. Probably tomorrow, we'll see more. The first look is like peeling back the Tupperware from the bottom fridge shelf. Yuck, this stinks!

Pissy and Pertinent

Mariposa at Beyond 495 and Adam at Talking Politics are having a revealing spitting contest. It cuts to the pith of the Democratic side of the governor's race here.

Disclaimer: I agree with Mariposa and commented as much on Adam's post.

She's not in the mood or position to play detached analyst. She's a long-term party activist out in the hustings, doing the bell ringing, phone calling and folding chair warming in meetings.

Adam is looking at the Chrissy come lately Gabrieli ploy of trying to hop into the race after the caucuses as maybe a good thing. Susan says you have to respect the voters and the process.

I'm harsher than that. Gabrieli looks like another rich guy dilettante. Besides, he's already lost two elections. He needs to prove he can win anything, or he should take a hike.

Regardless, the two views at the blogs above are revealing. He is theoretical and she has the nitty gritty. Among them, they represent many Democratic voters in Massachusetts. You already know which one I think is right.

Deval: 7 from Column A

We are hip-boot deep in the mire and detritus of gubernatorial campaigning. Oddly enough, the mass media do not seem to have noticed that only one announced candidate has positions. Months ago, Deval Patrick put his neck on the block with strong, specific programs in all major areas.

The others have spoken only in the vaguest terms and no more have programs for Massachusetts than a hotdog cart has a dinner menu. You could make due, but why should you?

As the only game in town, Deval's HQ has workable programs on display (these open PDFs) in:

As place holders, the scant material available from Kerry Healey's site and Tom Reilly's offers little insight. For example, crime – against, jobs –– more, and like that. Neither has a single coherent plan.

We were going to compare and contrast, but the Munchkins in the race haven't anything to make it worthwhile yet. Meanwhile, we built a grid and shall update it in case either Kerry or Tom thinks it might be time to state a position for the voters. Deval's program has been out so long and is in sufficient detail that the little guys could have nitpicked, copied, adapted, or bettered parts of it. They have grossly insulted the electronate by continuing to stress their personalities, as they are.

Deval's column contains only a few highlights of his program in each area. The bottom Reason to Elect is a cutesy recap by us.

CitiesRestore local aid to pre-2000 levels; lower property taxes; update public school aid; leverage state power to lower costs of electricity, health care and insurance; multi-year budgets; reward communities who build affordable housing; upgrade and expand public transit.
Public/private for low-cost mortgages to keep brains in stateVague; fiscal responsibility
CrimeExpanded community policing; top-down leadership in coordinating local, state and federal crime efforts.
Target gangs, more money (but no new taxes), death penaltyTarget violent criminals and repeat offenders
EconomyActive conservation education and rebates; tax benefits to renewable energy production; support stem cell research; shorter state permits and approvals for business; state funds for new enterprise startups; economic stimuli including workforce development; statewide WI-FI; higher minimum wage.
Lower income taxes to 5%; keep business taxes lowVague; create jobs
EducationMore early childhood education for 3 and 4 year olds; match school day to work day; adequate space, funding and teachers for lower class sizes; state coordination of after-school programs; find and reward outstanding teachers; rework school funding to provide adequate resources; broaden student assessments beyond MCAS; bond program to develop and expand state higher education.
Early ID of problems, longer school days, school until 18More investment; target math and science; close achievement gaps
EnvironmentRepair sewers, storm drains and other infrastructure; excise and sales tax credits for energy efficient purchases; enforce power-plant regulations; fully fund Dept. of Environmental Protection's cleanup efforts; (also see Economy).
? Nothing yetVague: new, cheap and clean energy sources
Health CareHealth Access and Affordability Act; change MassHealth (Medicaid) eligibility; assess employers who do not offer healtinsurancece; guarantee catastrophic coverage for everyone; negotiate bulk prescription drug purchases; reduce administrative complexity and cost of patient records management by modernizing info systems; use public-health experts to identify the causes for racial and ethnic health-care gaps; prevention througimmunizationsns, health and nutrition counseling, HIV/AIDS prevention and substance abuse education; public hearings before rate changes and other health-care increases.
? Nothing yetBlack box; more affordable, more access to insurance
Reason to ElectSmarter than the other guys; has a visionSo government isn't single partyFrom humble stock and works with everybody

The closest they come to a one-on-one-on-one comparison is crime control. They all have strength and history here. Tom's is more local to Massachusetts as a prosecutor and then to Olympus as attorney general. He has reason to dislike the bad guys. Deval is a lawyer, an assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, and pro-bono guy. He has reason to want the good folk to win and the underclasses to have protection. Kerry's is largely academic experience. She got a governmnt degree and was a law and public safety consultant. She bills herself as the point person for the commonwealth's anti-crime effort.

Tom can talk a good law-and-order line here. Kerry is winging it and really has done very little except talk. Deval requires that you believe he can make all levels of law enforcement work with him.

This category is a tossup. The other topics aren't even close at this point.

How come the local rags and airwave cowboys aren't demanding that all three candidates put something on the table? We want more from Tom and Kerry. Neither has yet to give us a reason to vote for him or her.

We endorsed Deval.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

SJC Indecisive on Out-of-State SSM

Deadlines? The SJC don't need no stinking deadlines, particularly on deciding whether out-of-state gay couples can marry here. It has notified lawyers that it won't meet the 130-day target for ruling on the matter after the October 6, 2005, oral arguments.

An AP piece notes that the same-sex-marriage ruling came 250 days after arguments. The lawyers are cool, taking the announcement in stride. The president-elect of the state bar association, Mark Mason, said, "it could be due to a multiplicity of issues, including the court's own backlog."

The case arose when eight homosexual couples sued after being denied marriage licenses here. Capt'n Brylcreem, a.k.a. Gov. Willard Mitt Romney, ordered the enforcement of a bigoted 1913 law still on the books and designed to keep interracial couples from wedding if their marriages would be illegal in their home states.

The whole background on the delay and 1913 law is in an article on the Springfield Republican site.

Many folk, including we humble bloggers, have drawn attention to Romney and Attorney General Tom Reilly's sudden awareness of this racist law. Using it against gay couples stinks.

A further level of irony is that Romney and Reilly and now maybe the SJC seem to be overly cautious of respecting other states' laws, in the spirit of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. The joke's on us now because so many states are passing DoMA legislation targeted at Massachusetts marriages. They are supported by then-President Bill Clinton's worst expediency in his tenure, the federal DoMA law that permits states to thumb their noses at marriages legal elsewhere.

They tell Massachusetts to shut up and sit down and we say, "Yes, sir."

Clearly what needs to happen is:
  • Overturn this vestigial, racist law.
  • Marry out-of-state couples when they meet our existing requirements.
  • Look with amusement if they go home and ask for full-faith-and-credit recognition.

Buy Nothing Year

On beyond Cambridge...on beyond the commune...We(s)t Coasters are planning on new underwear in 2006 and little else. De-buzzing the shopping devils in your head is what San Francisco's The Compact is about.

The group is starting with 50 professionals and is willing to suck us all into their vortex of sense. They have two principles only:
  1. Don't buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)
  2. Borrow or buy used.
The second may be less endearing for your friends, coworkers and relatives than the first.

The Left Coast being what it is, they let you check the details and progress on the Yahoo group and on its blog. However, they admit to atavism, naming the group after the Right Coast's Mayflower Compact.

According to a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, this incarnation comprises around 50 execs, teachers, engineers and others who would normally be big consumers.

They were more than tired of stupid economic decisions and purchasing that led to destruction of the environment and oppression of the emerging world countries. According to high-tech marketing guy John Perry, "We're people for whom recycling is no longer enough. We're trying to get off the first-market consumerism grid, because consumer culture is destroying the world."

A typical Q&A on the blog runs:
What about new shoes for children and folks whose professional lives call for a great deal of walking (i.e., dogwalkers):

Acceptable as needed. The shoe exception has been made to support health and safety. It's not a loophole to buy Manolos. (And some of us throw orthopedic concerns to the wind for ourselves and our children, purchasing "like-new" used shoes.)
The aims this year "more or less prioritized" include:
  • To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step that, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact.
  • To reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er).
  • To simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact).
So, would the 12-year-old do with no new PS2 games this year? Hmm, maybe he'd swap with other glazed eyed youths. Maybe he'll stomp and say, "Why do I have to do this too?"

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Going for Broke and Back

Showing the resourcefulness of the minority, gay-rights and same-sex-marriage supporters in South Carolina have been hitting the audiences attending Brokeback Mountain. In a state that slams every open door it can to keep gays down and SSM out, there aren't many theaters with the guts to run that feature.

An article in the Charleston Post and Courier even calls the Terrace on James Island, just below Charleston Harbor, "one of the Lowcountry's edgier, artier cinemas." It was one of the cinemas that showed the film.

On a recent night, Melissa Moore and Becky Shannon were handing out brochures opposing November's DoMA amendment to the state constitution. Their literature was from the S.C. Equality Coalition.

The article notes:
Defeating the ballot measure is an uphill fight. There's a nationwide push by pro-family groups to pass laws preventing what they see as immoral coddling of homosexual groups and their issues. In South Carolina, the ballot measure passed both houses of the General Assembly in 2005 by combined votes of 131-4.
In the unscientific sampling of the reporter that night.
  1. A local man "stuns Moore by saying ambiguously 'that sounds reasonable' to either the measure or her argument against it, then turning down a brochure and heading into the theater...He would not oppose civil unions, 'but maybe we ought to hold short of calling it marriage.'"
  2. Another man claimed outrage at an attempt to legislate morality.
  3. A third said he would read the literature.
  4. Three women in the company of men would not comment.
  5. One woman took the brochure and said, "If it had been a man and a woman, everybody in the theater would have been in tears." She said she was straight and very discomforted by the movie, and that she'd probably "trash" the brochure.
It looks like slim hope come the election. As the Coalition's chair, Linda Ketner, put it, "We are conservative in South Carolina but we are fair. And this is not fair."

She figures that the good guys would need 500,000 votes to defeat the amendment. She assumes that at the minimum, 6% of the state is gay. So, "if each one of those voters gets one family member, friend or co-worker to vote against, then we win. I think we have a chance."

Note: The state League of Women Voters reports as of the last presidential election that there were nearly 3 million of voting age, almost 2.2 million registered, and just short of 1.4 million who voted. With more than two-thirds of both houses in favor, the voters need only approve this by a majority and send it to the legislature for ratification and inclusion.

Waffling Willy Weld

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld is as pink as a high-Apgar baby. Yet, he is as changeable as a chameleon politically.

He's been claiming evolution. How very fortuitous for him that this development:
  • Has him tacking hard to the right.
  • Includes sudden realization that he's no longer for same-sex marriage.
  • Coincides with his efforts to become the New York gubernatorial candidate of the Republican and the Conservative Parties.
Speaking at the annual N.Y. Conservative Party conference, he really tried to blend in. Three other lickspittles sought the endorsement of the 150,000 member party. It is desperate for the best candidate. It has to get 50,000 votes to stay on the ballot.

Willy told them, "I would veto any bill that legalized same-sex marriage in this state."

According to the New York Times, he then mealy mouthed that avowal with, "I do favor equality of rights in terms of owning property, visitation rights, that sort of thing. I think aggregation of those is what we mean by civil unions." Spoken like a lawyer...and politician. Eh?

Like the rest of his party, chairman Michael Long remembers Weld as pro-choice and pro-SSM. Willy has tried to blend in on abortion by saying that he'd now demand parental notification. So there.

Long provided qualified praise, calling the SSM switch "evolution of philosophical change." He added, "I encourage anybody who wants to change their position to become a supporter of good decent values. I would hope he would continue to move in the right direction. He's on that road, I would hope he stays there."

We believe that qualifies as a warning.

Predictably, the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda was less kind and equally ominous. "My sense is that New Yorkers don't like politicians who nuance their answer," said Alan Van Capelle. "That's not how you win elections in New York. It's shameful that across the border he supported that right, but in New York that banner seems to have disappeared."

Of course, those picky Democrats called our ex-governor "desperate" and said he was "flip-flopping" on SSM. They noted that he favored court-ordered SSM when he was in office in Massachusetts from 1990 through 1996.

The Daily News noted that Willy has "a struggle" to catch candidate John Faso, a N.Y. righty favorite.

Bounce for Deval

Now, who said New Englanders can't talk about money? Up in Lowell, Lynne puts it plainly and strongly.

Voters are getting shortchanged. Deval Patrick came into the party caucuses dreadfully underfunded, a newcomer with little to show...except a solid, electable platform when the other guys have nothing.

He skunked Tom Reilly and the smattering of unannounced Dems. Now, he needs more cash to bring meaningful progressive polices to Massachusetts.

Check Left in Lowell and click the Caucus Bounce logo. It will take you to Deval's site and take us to a better commonwealth.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Nordic and the Dead

Damn that modulating ocean breeze off Boston Harbor! JP seldom gets the snow of Lincoln or Lexington, as though the weather gods say, "Hmmm, there's 128. Let's drop it here."

Yesterday, we could ski out the front door, down our little hill and right up and into Forest Hills Cemetery. It's almost always quiet there, what with the corpses so outnumbering the quick. In intermittent white-out snow, it was the ducks and I. They swam and I skied.

Normally, we head to the Franklin Park golf course. Whether I got solo or with the family, there are few others around. Most locals and quite a few SUV-types from the near burbs come to the arboretum. That makes it like a shopping mall. The same pasty faces, the same fancy togs, and even cell-phone users on skis do the arboretum. It's Newton come close.

Franklin Park though is quieter, less crowded, and of course less wooded. It has lots of hills of various grades, long straights, a stone bridge, woods on the edges, and a huge warning bell to ring.

Where it differs though is that it is a microcosm of Boston's racial divides. Franklin Park is still in the mind of most Bostonians a black park. In reality, it was much more so when I first began visiting it in the late 1960s. Then, it has open roads by what is not a running way beside the golf course. Drug dealers and car thieves did their nefarious do there and physical harm was common.

There used to be one Roxbury before Boston annexed it over in 1868. It ended up with part of Back Bay and South End, and all of today's Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and West (a.k.a. White) Roxbury. On the JP and Roxbury side, there's still a lot of the rox, really puddingstone conglomerate often 20 or more feet above ground level.

Franklin Park has changed considerably. The surrounding neighborhoods have stabilized and drugs and gangs are less in evidence North and absent from the Park. The central golf course is a gem, both low priced and a racial bridge. On a typical sunny day, it's common to see foursomes various ages and races thrown together for a mutual pleasure and getting along just fine.

However, while the zoo has a lot of white customers, most Bostonians tell us that they think Franklin Park is too dangerous. We are surprised and benefit in having such a beautiful woods and park in warm weather and a free ski resort almost to ourselves in the winter.

Ironically though, I have seen only two black skiers on the golf course in the 17 years I have gone there. One was a friend I brought with me. Cross-country skiing is pretty much a white sport. There are quite a few black downhill ski clubs and associations, but no black cross-country ones I can find.

It's like one person in the air and one in the water when I do interact with black folk using the park on snowy days. They invariably are running on the adjacent path, which has been scraped. We pass and call out. Sometimes, a woman will say, "That looks like fun," but I never see her on skis the next year.

Well, today, there were neither black folk nor white folk in the cemetery, no living ones anyway. However, there were a few geese and maybe 100 ducks, swimming in the little lake in the middle.

I slid to the edge of Lake Hibiscus to watch them. Initially, they quacked their ducky warning quacks and got ready to fly. When I stood still, they went back to feeding.

It brought me back to a conversation with boss lady Cheryl of Arrowhead Acres in Uxbridge in December. Following a Globe piece saying it was the place to buy a Christmas tree, we bought that and dragged the two kids who would rather be doing anything else to where we could pick a tree for them to kill for us.

At the end, the tree murderer brings the victim to a pavilion to place it in an absurd needle-shaking machine (which the college kids sometime use on each other) and netting for the trip home. While we waited, we chatted with Cheryl about her abutting petting zoo. The garish Chinese pheasants were walking and chattering like they didn't know it was in the 20s F.

Cheryl said the ducks were more amazing. They don't feel the cold in their feet and legs. Their bodies, of course, are fat insulated and have super feathers that act as waterproof fur-like coats.

Back to the cemetery, nearly all the ducks were in the shallow water, with a few on the nearby ice. They repeatedly went bottoms up to feed. All those swimming were frosted with perhaps a half-inch of snow. As Cheryl said, these guys had no sense of discomfort from the gelid water.

Any day that provides such a crisp image is a good one.

SSM Sandlappers

Well, it's not exactly a race through the jungle wearing your meat suit, but doing same-sex marriage rights in South Carolina takes some conviction and guts. In a different century, I attended college there and found long hair and an earring got me in plenty of fights. Standing up to chant for Marriage Equality week in Columbia is a step up.

According to a short in The State, which many of us in J-school used to refer to as The Snake, the week's calendar only manages two events:
  • TODAY:10 a.m.— group of same-sex couples will gather at the Richland County courthouse to attempt to get marriage licenses.
  • THURSDAY:7 p.m. — Town hall meeting on marriage equality, Room 231, Gambrell Hall, USC campus.

The local UU (of course) fellowship hosted an interdenominational rally for marriage equality. Let us assume that no Southern Baptist ministers rallied there, but many dudes and dudettes from the nearby university did.

So far, the LeftyBlogs posters there haven't covered the events. Maybe they'll do the two events and haven't gotten their coverage of the service up there. Let's hope it's not because they don't care or have written off the pending vote.

This is a tough year. Not only has South Carolina not passed gay rights legislation, but it is trying to put a DoMA amendment in its constitution through the November 7th election. Details are at the South Carolina Equality Coalition.

It's weird enough being in Massachusetts, where many still muddle civil contract and civil rights with religious beliefs and rituals. Mind your own business is not likely to cut it in South Carolina.

Deval Patrick is the Choice

Let's get serious. We endorse Deval Patrick for governor of Massachusetts.

From the beginning of his campaign, he has spoken straight, honestly and in detail of what he wants for the commonwealth and how he would do it. In contrast to the other announced candidates, he has put his full platform in public.

On the major issues of education, health care, the economy, energy, the environment, and cities and town, he offers practical and progressive goals and methods.

Unlike our do-nothing, non-visionary governors of recent years, Deval has a road map and is headed in the right direction. This isn't even close. No one else deserves serious consideration.

Many bloggers already see the light and have the hope.

You can help make Massachusetts make the right choice by contributing to Deval's campaign. Do that here.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Yawn of SSM

Bless the chilly little hearts of the delivery guys. In the blizzard, the Herald either didn't make it or was so early that it is invisible, but the Globe and Times got here and to the doorstep. We're glad we tip the carriers.

A usually enjoyable and sometimes moving Sunday Times piece is the Modern Love column. Unfortunately at first peek, today's looked grim. Its editor, Daniel Jones, was musing pre-V Day on what he has seen as trends in the letters and submissions.

He is logorrheic and far less interesting than the real-people with real stories. However, there was a nice touch on same-sex marriage. Number five in his list of ten observations is:


Critics of gay marriage predicted the unraveling of our moral fiber while some supporters went so far as to proclaim that gays might revitalize marriage in the same way they've gentrified run-down neighborhoods. But dispatches from the gay marriage front tell a far more ordinary story, that of devoted couples eager to affirm their life-long commitment, have children for whom they can provide a loving home, and claim legal rights and benefits.

Once hitched, they seem to engage in the same dull arguments about the inequities of sexual desire and domestic drudgery as hetero couples. So what's the difference? As far as I can tell, only this: Whereas today's straight mothers often face chronic criticism of their housekeeping and parental skills from their own mothers and mothers-in-law, gay fathers seem to get a pass on both, or at least are subjected to a different standard, and may be urged by their mothers to relax or even take a nap.

Just so. We have seen that theme in this blog and many other places. More and more too, we find that politicians and ministers who have come around from anti-SSM to marriage-equality thinking say that and go a bit farther. Once they see that a good marriage is just that, no more and no less, that changes everything.

New Chance for Goguen

Rep. Emile Goguen, DINO from Fitchburg, finally gave it up yesterday. He had been saying he probably would not run for reelection and made it official.

He's 72, had health problems and seems tired. As he put it, "Over 40 years in this business is enough. It's time to get new blood in here."

Actually, he is a dinosaur as well as a DINO. Publicly, he has devoted far too much of his emotion and efforts to negative efforts. He's against gays, gay-rights and specifically same-sex marriage. He has sponsored one ill-conceived and ill-timed bill after another to prevent or overturn same-sex marriage, and even to oust the four judges who mandated marriage equality in Massachusetts.

The pity is that otherwise, his frail heart seems to be in the right place. He has founded and maintained social services in Fitchburg, out of pocket, out of time and involving public and private support. Just think of what he might have accomplished in the General Court if he did not have those blind spots and dealt with helping instead of hindering.

Well, he has another act to go here. When he returns full-time to his town, he can devote himself to good causes. Maybe he can balance the scales.

Photo: Robert Spencer for The Washington Post

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Elephant Tricks

In case you were in a drug-induced state or otherwise not paying attention in the 1980s, be very aware that Reagonomics did not work then, the pathetic variation that Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey is trying won't work here, and borrow-and-spend policies of current President George the Lesser are at this moment destroying the futures of our children and grandchildren.

Vastly oversimplified, yet still frighteningly accurate, the theory is that you can spend more money as a government and pay lower taxes as a (wealthy) citizen. On the federal level, the key is to give the richest 1% of us tax cuts and subsidies. They will then create new jobs and the spending of the lackeys working for them will pay for the difference and then some.

There's lots of hemming and hawing by Republican legislators, by conservative, if you pardon the expression, think tanks, and even by some Democrats sucked into the fantasy. We're not supposed to well on the obvious drawbacks. We're not supposed to think of borrowed money as a deficit. We're not supposed to confuse borrowing as any form of taxation.

The excellent Rolling Stone piece, The Deficit Lie, details how it's working for Americans with annual incomes over $1 million and not working for the homeless and for students. In addition, the proposed $2.77 trillion federal budget can only justify further increasing tax cuts for the rich by eliminating and reducing social programs for the working poor, veterans and other non-wealthy subgroups. A Washington Post column, Fantasy Budget, nails it by quoting newspaper writers nationwide calling George the Lesser on his lies and omissions.

This has come home this week with news of the highest trade deficit of all time. Then on Wednesday, the real accounting to date for the Iraq invasion passed $300 billion.

Blood and Bucks Note: Having backed the nation into a corner from which we cannot retreat, Bush and chums leave debt and death. Not even considering the tens of thousands of Iraqis, we have a current U.S. body count of 2,257 as of yesterday.

As for the White House's financial responsibility, the New York Daily News recalls that the $300 billion figure had come up before:
...White House officials said there were no regrets about humiliating two top aides who had accurately predicted the war's cost.

Retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki and White House economic adviser Larry Lindsey had pegged the cost of the war at $200 billion. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it would cost only $50 billion.

Lindsey was fired and Shinseki was shunted aside. Budget director Josh Bolten paused yesterday when asked if they were owed an apology. " I don't think so. The costs of the war are what they are," he said.

There you have it, boys and girls. Don't worry you silly heads about it.

Even adjusted for inflation, we have the largest government per capita of all time. We have the greatest debt of all time. Billions of those newly borrowed bucks are going to efforts to reduce the liberties that the terrorists want to take from us. We don't need terrorists to do that to us; we have an executive branch in Washington to do it for them.

It took a decade to undo Ronny Reagan's disastrous borrow-and-spend, borrow-and-spend practices. But he was an amateur compared with Bush.

The only good that can come of this is if the majority of Americans comes to and realizes that endless spending while decreasing income doesn't work, hasn't worked and can't work. It is the fantasy of borrow-and-spend Republicans.

The bills are due. There is no one else to blame it on. Say it with me, borrrow-and-spend Republicans are wrong.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Don't Let Friends Drive IE

Get Firefox!
I keep Internet Explorer hidden on my various boxes, but use the vastly superior Firefox. There are a very small number of sites that are sooooo 20th Century that they require IE.

A new report provides yet more proof that you want to use Firefox. The short of it is that protects much better against spyware.

More specifically, two University of Washington professors had Web crawlers hit 45,000 sites. They then "cataloged the executable files found, and tested malicious sites' effectiveness by exposing unpatched versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox to 'drive-by downloads.' That's the term for the hacker practice of using browser vulnerabilities to install software, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes not."

Because they started with unpatched versions of both browsers, the pair won't just say Firefox is safer. I have no doubts from experiential knowledge. For example, I keep on isolated PC at home that two kids use. They frequently use security patched OS and IE on it. When I run the sphere and Adair checkers on my systems, that box invariably has large numbers of sphere and sometimes malware installs. The two I have that are almost exclusively Firefox machines have one none if I have not used IE and a few if I have used IE.

Regardless, Firefox has many more features (like the indispensable tabbed browsing). If you haven't switched, click up top here today...now.