Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And Now V-Bloggers

I'm not at all sure how bloggers talking politics can be called Beyond the Rhetoric, but there you have it. That pre-election chatter by Jim from Saint Kermit, the Green-Rainbow co-chair and two of us bloggers is on video.

If you just can't stand not seeing us holding forth, click away here. This is a stream or 72MB download. This page has names and the players and action.

To prevent you from getting too excited, I have included my candidates for silliest thumbnail of each of us. Unfortunately, Ryan is too normal looking on the thumbnails page.

Thanks are due again to Jim Henderson and to Mike Benedetti and the rest of the WCCA crew. Saint Kermit wants to host more political roundtables after the election. Bless 'em.

Note 12/12/12: WCCATV dumped these files and broke the links. The link here is in the internet archives.

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Shameful Epistles

Flexing muscle by local bishops is the political equivalent of senior water aerobics. Yeah, yeah, it's exercise, but yawn.

The latest posturing is the four local bishops sending political letters to each parish urging personal lobbying of legislators before the November 9th Constitutional Convention (ConCon). Of course, the vote that everyone is watching is whether to advance an amendment leaving existing same-sex marriages legal but prohibiting further ones.

Under orders from our jolly friar, Archbishop and Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the other three link with a loose federation of evangelicals who would impose their religious beliefs in this area of civil-contract law. The Boston Herald runs the wire recap and the Boston Globe has a more localized version.

If the bishops are as effective at this as they are getting their parishioners to eschew birth control and divorce, the amendment will go down in flames, sputtering.

The real questions will relate to the new reality of commonwealth politics following the election two days before. Even though the new legislative and executive branch members won't warm their leather chairs until January, there's the future and next elections to consider.

We know that at least three of the nastiest, most anti-gay, anti-SSM legislators are retiring or lost in the primary. We are certain to see these and others replaced with pro-SSM ones. We can reasonably expect marriage-equality favoring governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in office.

We can certainly assume that Sean's kids and their allies in the General Court will continue to take their best shot at stripping existing rights from homosexuals. They are happy to overlook that the majority of the state has accepted and favors SSM. However, the wavering legislators surely have not.

We predict that this hateful amendment never gets on the 2008 general-election ballot. The question is whether it loses at this ConCon or next year's.

Cue the fanfare as we anticipate some reason and fairness from the ballot initiative process. We expect and shall do our own lobbying of the new administration and legislature for reform and fine-tuning. The original idea of a check on bad legislation is a solid one. However, as we have seen in California and elsewhere as well as locally, perverting these initiatives to serve discrimination against minorities or creating unfunded mandates is unacceptable.

At the least, we need to prevent any such effort from the left, right or anywhere that would permit plebiscites on anyone's civil rights. Those need to be off limits and matters for the three branches of the government. Deval Patrick got it just right saying civil rights are never fit topics for initiatives.

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Ballot Questions: Different Temperatures

For the impatient, we say vote Yes on the three statewide ballot questions next week.

None of them heals the sick nor raises the dead. We are not passionate about any, but one question just makes sense and two deserve trials.

Homework: The compulsive sorts should scan the commonwealth elections page on them. Questions 1 and 2 are pretty obvious from the summary. We advise reading the separate details on Question 3. Finally, the Boston Globe has a set of links to pro and con sites for Question 1 here.

Fruit of the Vine

Question 1, permitting food stores to sell wine -- if locally permitted -- is too easy. Yes.

This pits the regressive oligopoly of liquor stores against big and small groceries for this single category. We can certainly understand why the former wants to keep these restrictions. That's what capitalists are about. They fear and fight anything that may decrease their revenue.

The argument they use have been disingenuous though. We can look to most of the nation where this has been the norm for a long time, in some places since the repeal of prohibition. The three results opponents claim do not occur. Specifically:
  • Convenience stores will widely and quickly get local permits, their clerks won't be able to screen purchasers, and teens will get wine easily. In fact, few kids even want expensive, lower alcohol wine; local governments aren't about to permit stores staffed and frequented by teens, C-stores can train for ID checking (or lose that permit in a flash), and many kids determined to get drunk already can get plenty. The horses have left the post on this one.
  • This will lead to an increase in drunk driving. There seems to be zero evidence of this anywhere. It's sad that the anti forces have drafted the grandfather of Melanie's Law subject to say that limiting places where wine is available will somehow prevent drunk driving. The prohibition argument has never worked.
  • This will drive the tenuous mom-and-pop liquor stores out of business. That's not at all what has happened anywhere else. For a comparison, think something else that specialty stores -- like bakeries -- sell along with grocery stores.
Basically, this law would let adults buy bottles of wine at groceries and a few C-stores. It is a slight convenience for consumers. It works nationwide without the threatened problems.

All of that written, we note that it is likely a fantasy by Stop & Shop and their ilk that this will mean lower prices for consumers. Some liquor stores may increase their wine specials, but if you want a real choice, you'll still go to them for that and for cases. They'll still get the seasonal and party business and will retain their regular customers. Grocery stores have tiny margins on groceries and make their profits on non-foods, like toothpaste and soon wine. They will most certainly not undercut liquor stores. They'll offer a mediocre selection of moderately priced wine and make a little more profit than they did.

One from Columns B and C

Question 2 would permit fusion voting, whereby a candidate can be on the ballot under multiple parties for an office. All votes for that candidate count toward a final tally. This doesn't solve big problems and likely won't get much use. However, it is increasingly popular elsewhere and was used here until 1912. There are those who feel very strongly that this would give voters who are dissatisfied with two major parties meaningful chances to elect their candidate while still making their views know. Try Mass Ballot Freedom for an overview and for a FAQ.

The biggest objection is silly -- that this would confuse voters. Well, itty boo. In terms of what voters must adapt to in our elections, this is way down the list of messing up a race by confusion. The ballot questions like these three are much more confusing.

What we really need -- in addition -- is instant runoff voting (IRV). This lets voters rank their choices and when there is no majority for a candidate, the ranking determines the winner, without forcing voters back to the polls for a follow-up election.

That would be more confusing than fusion voting, but a more meaningful reform.

These are not at all exclusive. We would support both. Meanwhile, Yes on 2.

Diaper Union

The most complex and nuanced Question 3 is whether to allow the state's private child-care providers to sort of unionize. We say yes, that this should provide a marginal improvement in care, assuming that enough day-care providers agree to the change after the initiative passes.

Fortunately, we don't have to go in depth in the advantages, a recent post by a provider on Blue Mass Group does that.

The crux of the pro argument is that providers can agree to organize to negotiate with commonwealth agencies on all regulated aspects of care. If enough want to do this, they will have a weak union-esuqe negotiating body. It can't strike or violate regulations, but there is a modest increase in clout with the bureaucracy, with an arbitration safety valve on the end.

Those opposed seem to be entirely on the regulatory side. It is a standard anti-union attitude about not wanting outsiders to interfere with their paternal, pat-on-the-head expertise. That's not convincing.

Yes on 3 to give the providers the option of helping create this system and have a voice in their business.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Fat Chance, Fat Man

"But she's...fat!"

That's a common judgment and insult in this century and the end of the last. Even with the gangly heroines of Sex and the City permeating our culture, it's not only the big (if you pardon that word) slur of one woman on another.

Lately though, as the Sunday New York Times covers, somatotype seems to have become destiny in much of America. The alternately amusing and reflective piece by NYT science writer Gina Kolata ridicules some of the most recent related hysteria.

She points to scholarly guess-timates of how much an extra 10 pounds of weight costs the nation in car and airline gas mileage, and even how that contributes to pollution and global warming.

The most obvious trend in recent decades is that real or perceived overweight is stigmatized. Many of feel free to insult openly even people who are quite healthy and those who have low body fat, but because of high muscle mass rank as obese on such pseudo-measures as the body mass index (BMI).

Some scholars propose taxes on fast food and meals purchased at drive-in windows. Kolata cites "an annual meeting of the Obesity Society, one talk correlated obesity with deaths in car accidents, and another correlated obesity with suicides. Dr. (Eric) Oliver (U. of Chicago political scientist), who attended, said no one in the crowd of at least 200 questioned whether the correlations were really cause and effect. 'The funny thing was that everyone took it seriously,' he said."

"People are out scouring the landscape for things that make obese people look bad," said Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. "This is like, let's find another reason to scapegoat fat people."

Even otherwise rational folk can get caught up in group think on such memes. It's not very far from being uncomfortable seeing a morbidly obese man to stereotyping anyone who is not an ectomorph naturally.

We note the obvious irony of the last century. Until a short time ago, secondary sex characteristics were big stuff. Women should have obvious breasts and hips, men massive shoulders and arms.

This came to mind just recently when a high-school classmate was writing on the class reunion site about just such matters. He's still scrawny. Back then, he tried everything he could to gain weight and put on some muscle mass. As a true ectomorph, he never could. Now, he is bragging about his weight, belt size and how he can wear his HS clothes.

The pop culture is quite different now. Even the thin through illness can be fashionable. Nancy Reagan's long-term treatment for anemia doesn't get much coverage. Many point to her frail frame as enviable.

The main medical establishment has jumped on this shift with seeming glee. The BMI, for example, is a great tool for lazy physicians. Rather than evaluating a patient's body fat or doing a meaningful analysis, they can look to what is fundamentally a height/weight chart that even insurance company laugh at. With the BMI, many muscular people are considered fat and many thin looking people with high body fat and low muscle mass are seen as ideal.

Some researchers have little patience for the pop fake science aspects. Among those studying the real problems and looking for ways to make us healthier are:
Among the most salient points of these and others is that there's lots of information about the effects of obesity. The most startling consistent finding is that the skinniest of us tend to die first. You can, in fact, be too thin, too thin for your own good, too thin to live.

You can go to any of those sources above or the places they can point you to for research. A nice overview is Campos. He's read all those tables and methodologies so we don't have to. He became obsessed with the hysteria on the subject and reviewed hundreds, maybe thousands, of studies. The gist of the longevity findings include:
  • The thinnest die first
  • The morbidly obese are next.
  • The very thin follow.
  • The pretty fat are next.
  • The ideal follow them.
  • Those classified medically as 5% to 10% overweight live longest
Of course, pop culture has another view. Most of us are uncomfortable around the heaviest and we are willing to believe that every additional pound brings increased health risk.

It's surely unlikely that we as a nation will ever return to those Colonial days when only the wealthy could afford to get fat. Then big-and-tall (as the euphemism goes) men were desirable and admirable.

Yet the silliness of telling muscular athletes that they are obese and knocking on death's door is too far the other way. Likely when the Baby Boomers die in sufficient numbers we'll see clearly from this large demographic that we're left largely with that those charts say are moderately overweight adults.

An unfortunate aspect is that meanwhile the efforts to get us to eat healthier is muddled by this stigma. There are people who are never going to fit the ectomorphic ideal even when they are at their healthiest weights. There are many, particularly the poor, who either do not know what are good foods or know and cannot afford to buy them for their families.

Insulting the chubby doesn't do anything other than increase the self-righteousness score of the nasties insulting them. In fact, Kolata reports that the research indicates that stigmatizing the fattest leads them to eat even more.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Hard Ones -- Nov. 7th

Massachusetts is about to get out of its crouch at long last. The excitement of progressive (but still not left enough for me) Deval Patrick has blinded us to the tricky issues down-ticket and on the ballot questions.

As my late mother might have said, "For crying out loud, get to the polls and elect Deval!"

Then what?

We have some serious choices that could have less dramatic, but still far-reaching effects. Consider particularly:
  1. Which offices merit a protest vote?
  2. Those confusing ballot questions, particularly fusion voting.

Just Say, "Somebody Else"

We shouldn't even think about a protest vote for governor. Deval Patrick is progressive change. The paramount good in this election would be putting him in office. Likewise, Tim Murray's the person to champion the revitalization of cities and towns that the platform promises.

However, down ticket presents some conundrums and philosophic challenges.
Good Pol/Untrustworthy: Not statewide, but illustrative of the problems is the Second Suffolk Senate Dianne Wilkerson/Samiyah Diaz contest. Wilkerson has been a strong advocate for marriage-equality/women/poor. Yet she can't seem to tell the truth, pay her taxes or otherwise manage her life. We don't trust her. Diaz, on the other hand, irritated many of us by running both in her Republican slot and in the Democratic primary. She may have cost reform candidate Sonia Chang-Diaz the primary. She has good politics, but nowhere near as solid as Wilkerson's and no one believes she'd be as effective, at least in the short term. Votes for her are for honest politicians. This is a tough call. Wilkerson needs a moral rehab, something she's not likely to get.
Bad Politics/Right Party: Then there's George Bush toady and heavy hawk U.S. Rep. Steve Lynch. He's up against Republican buffoon Jack E. Robinson, who is fabulous at losing elections. Lynch successfully ducked debate with reform/anti-war candidate Phil Dunkelbarger and won the primary over 3 to 1. Lynch should go down flames, but his slot is particularly tricky. He may be a DINO and Bush lickspittle, but on the big issues -- other than Iraq -- he should vote for Democratic Party positions in a new majority House. This is likely moot. He'll crush Robinson. So a protest vote here is in the garbage. The chance to toss the bum came and passed with the primary. Ninth District voters have quite a stigma for supporting his re-election.
Sure Loser/Side Benefits: The Green-Rainbow and Working Families candidates, and to a lesser extent independent Christy Mihos are among third-party candidates who don't seem to have a chance, but who offer that hmm factor of being thought-provoking. Over at Secretary of State, for example, the Green's Jill Stein has a reform platform in contrast to incumbent do-nothing Bill Galvin. He crushed the real reformer, John Bonifaz, in the Dem primary. This contest would have a good argument for a protest vote. From another angle, Rand Wilson says he has no thought of winning, but he asks for votes to get 3%, which would put his Working Families Party on the ballot in the next election.

We'll make some endorsements down ticket and on questions shortly.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lily Pod MP3 Up and At 'em

Yesterday's Saint Kermit session in Worcester is available on podcast here. Jim was perking, electrons were flying and here we are in the 21st Century. Damn, that was fast.

Additional teaser mention is here at Blue Mass Group. Pour a drink, click away and hear four of us progressives gassing.

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Pulling Oars in Another's Boat

Over at Mass Revolution Now!, Andy starts a nice commentary on the recent New Jersey marriage-equality ruling with some navel gazing. There he is, holding forth on homosexual rights and related issues, and is what can only be described as straight.

In solidarity with my heterosexual lefty fellow traveler, I note that:
  • When I lunched with Bay Windows editor Susan Ryan-Vollmar, she said that she and her crew were a bit surprised to discover that a marriage-equality advocate would be heterosexual, and as old as I am.
  • At Chris Cagle's going away party in August, there was one of those What?! moments. We still have two boys at home and my wife was tired. So she skipped it. I think everyone else at the party was gay, but that didn't come up at all, until...I was in the open kitchen talking with hosts Whit and Joe. Maybe 30 guests were handy -- it was where the wine and booze were. We were talking away, personal, blogs and politics. Then I said something about my wife and he reflexively shouted, "YOUR WIFE!" It was a classic movie moment as everyone stopped talking and whipped their heads to look at us. He composed himself and then said what several others commented separately later how he read this blog and had always assumed I was gay from its politics.
Not to trivialize Andy's introspection, but he shouldn't fret. Assuming that your blog allows comments (or that you out yourself at public parties), people are more than willing to tell you if they think you're off base. If enough say you don't know enough to comment, that's a message.

The bad thing would be if you were holding forth condescendingly. No matter what the group, if you see yourself as the necessary savior for those who can't help themselves, grow up and deflate that ego!

I can outfret Andy too. When I was just out of journalism school, I ran a Black newspaper, the weekly in South Carolina's capital, Columbia. I'm as WASPy, honky looking as possible, down to blond hair (what there is left). No one would mistake me for African-American, unless they consider Chief Justice Margaret Marshall one.

My Andy moment there came early and I got it out of the way. A board member (all Black board) spoke to our college newspaper banquet, saying they were struggling and could use some help. When I left school, I went to him and said that I wasn't sure what I would do next and I'd like to volunteer. He looked at me for a long time before saying, "What we really need is an editor in chief."

My single thought was like Andy's. Would that be right for a white guy, long-hair, earring and all, to run the weekly for the Black community? Well, unlike Andy, I had seven board members letting me know that it certainly would be.

They were fine with it. I had a job to do. The staff and Black community members had no problem. The only questions I got were from people like the governor's press secretary and the few journalists who had not met me before. The white guy from the Black newspaper, what's that about?

Whatever you're blogging on or campaigning for, if your head is pointed right and you don't see yourself as God's gift to your cause, do it. Do it right. Do it intensely.

Spend a very short time rolling around any doubts or guilt. Then get over it and on with it.

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Kermit and the Lily Pods

Just down Worcester's Main Street from Woosta Pizza (true), WCCA public-access hosted us for a pending podcast yesterday. Ryan at Ryan's Take and Saint Kermit join us in making the session available in a day or so.

Comment Request: Before I prattle, leave a comment here about whether you'd appreciate podcasts as part of Marry in Massachusetts.

Jim Henderson (not quite Jim Hensen) and a crew of five or so have quickly become aces at video and podcasts. Ryan, Lynn, Susan and several others of us have jived about just maybe doing some together or separately. We talk, while they do.

Yesterday's was more elaborate than mortal bloggers need, but it whetted our egos and geekiness. The station simultaneously broadcast our half hour live and recorded it. They'll stream it themselves, as well as providing Saint Kermit with video and separate audio to convert to an MP3. The latter is what Ryan and I are likely to make available directly or by link.

In contrast, the minimum setup would be a microphone and software to convert audio into a format like MP3. There are a couple of free or cheap services that let you do this by calling on your phone. While it would be even more tasteless than the shouting babblers recording every inconsequential motion or thought into a cellphone call, you could record your podcast political commentary while you walked the pavement or sat in the food court.

Yesterday, Jim moderated a discussion of pre- and post-election issues -- the campaigns, candidates and what we expect to happen at the ConCon and in the next administration. That's more than a half hour would allow, but this is not the first of these that Jim has organized and led. He watched the time carefully as it flipped by on the monitor and edited his topics on the fly.

In addition to him and we two bloggers, state Green-Rainbow co-chair Luc Schuster sat with us. He's the only real politician, as an elected Cambridge School Committee member.

Jim's a Green too (hence Saint Kermit) and all four of us identify as progressives. So, it would seem that the discussion might lean too heavily to the third party or that we would each nod in turn as some other lefty spoke.

Fortunately, we differ enough on candidates and issues that we didn't agree on everything. Even where we were pretty much aligned, we had varying takes on what this would mean for the election and afterward. As for Greens, the discussion did mention them more than MSM articles would have (15% as opposed to 1%). In as much as we dealt with what we thought the effects of related topics -- Working Families Party, protest votes, and Question 2 about fusion voting -- there's a lesson for those who only consider the two majors.

We'll let you see if you think this is worthwhile. You can tell the Saint Kermit people what you'd like to hear and see. They are always on the lookout for good interview subjects and discussion topics.

Meanwhile, do you want to have podcast options on this or other blogs?

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Letters, Lots of Letters

Waaaaay back when there was a Steve Allen Show, the host would sometimes sit at a desk with the New York Daily News. He'd jam a porkpie or "PRESS" hat on his head, read the irate letters and pound his fist on the desk.

We have our local versions here, more now that our papers have online comments.

If you haven't had enough comment on the New Jersey marriage-equality decision, check what the New York/New Jersey readers have to say here -- and there are many hundreds and building.

Comments range from the curious and sensible:
What is incredibly interesting about the "“judicial activism"” vs "“legislators duty" is the sudden and incredible faith shown by those who hail the proper route of getting things done through legislation as being the correct way to win rights and recognition.
To befuddleddled apples-and-oranges:
Marriages are made under God's laws. To use the fact the love of a same sex partner is alright by God, he'’ll understand, but you are living in sin. Marriage is define in the Bible of a man and a women. The Bible is not outdated for the present times. No Civil or states(US or state supreme courts) laws will supersede Gods; laws. Another example is divorces. Once a man and women are married by God'’s law (not state) you cannot divorce. You can seperate, but to have sex outside of the marraige by God, is adultry. Now the question is can same sex marriages commit adultry? If so, where in the Bible that it says so.
To the appearance offended:
Gays should not be allowed to get married. It goes against religions of all sort and it is looked at the wrong way. I dont want my kids to grow up in society where my kids think it is ok to be gay because it is not. Gay couples look bad next to each other. please people dont let it get out of hand.
And many laissez faire or supportive:
Yes! They should have all the rights guranteed in the constitution for all people. Many same sex couples have been together in spirit and in body for most of their lives. It is for political reasons that they have been placed in the dustbin of the nation for so long.
And many, many decrying the separate but equal possibility of civil unions as legislative game playing.

Clarifying Art: The Times also runs an eludicating graphic of where same-sex couples have rights, any rights. Observe the gaping middle.

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SSM Final Word in Olympia

Wednesday, the Washington State Supreme Court did the expected and refused to reconsider its narrow (5-4) rejection of same-sex marriage. It is particularly rare for this court to reconsider any decision.

This is as far as it goes in courts there. No appeal is possible.

The tiny chance had been that the majority judges might re-read the strong and reasoned dissents to their emotional rejection. Not this week.

Local Paper Tie-In: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial on the matter recognized that Jersey's court didn't have to deal with a DOMA-style law, but still cheered them over the Washington court. On that coast, the editors add, "Court rulings notwithstanding, the Legislature should act to end the inequity in civil liberties for gay couples."

The same day, George the Lesser railed against the New Jersey Supreme Court that mandated marriage equality there, either by full marriage or a legally identical structure.

"I believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman. I believe it's a sacred institution that is critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families, and it must be defended."

Incurious George, of course, had no specifics on defense. Maybe he can use some of the National Guard as they return from Iraq, those who live, that is.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Killer Keller

We have been known to disparage Channel 4/WBZ pol guy Jon Keller. We need to praise him for his work last night at the debate.

We've called him Jonny LITE and such, but were surprised to read some blog accounts saying he handled this poorly. Instead, he reined in a rowdy bunch of rubes and kept things flowing.

Before starting, he had the unenviable task of cleaning up from his stations' elephants. They refused to join with the large MSM group in the previous debates. So, he was left:
  1. Following close behind the recent debate.
  2. Trying solo (without reporter backup) to produce meaningful, fresh questions.
  3. Wrangling that foursome who are clearly out of patience with each other.
Keller obviously watched the past few debates with the rest of us. He warned them up top not to talk over each other.

Then he enforced it. He didn't use a gavel or shout for a candidate to be quiet, but he reined them in better than the past couple of moderators.

Here is a major problem we find with Kerry Healey. She is fond of pointing out that she went to a public high school before Harvard and that she worked to help the family during high school.

Somehow, she came out of that (if those depictions are accurate and full) as a princess with a bad attitude. You can watch her color up, stiffen up even more than normal and pounce when anyone dares, dares I say, to challenge her generalizations or her twisting of their own comments. She plainly is not one to re-evaluate herself easily or accept criticism.

Beyond that, she has the debating style of a private-school boy. She habitually talks over people, shouts at them, and repeats herself when they try to speak. She is loud and iterative as a way of trying to silence her opponents. That's not what they teach in public school. Perhaps she picked that up at Harvard.

So, as usual, she was the primary offender and breaker of the rules. Deval Patrick was clearly irritated after several of the debates where she acted out so badly.

Let us pause to consider a favorite Black Eyed Peas lyric snippet (from Where is the Love on the Elephunk CD):
What's wrong with the world, mama
People livin' like they ain't got no mamas
Was it only the morning before this debate that the Boston Globe ran a fluff piece about Healey and her mom, Shirley? It seemed to be straight PR trying to soften the image of the Baroness of Beverly. Yet, we still have to wonder how she was raised.

Keller was firm, if a little slow, from stopping all the candidates, but particularly Healey from abusing the rules and good manners. He's been the best at this so far.

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Cartoon Candidates

It's official. I've OD'ed on gubernatorial debates and the four Massachusetts candidates. Last evening, watching the penultimate preening and posturing, I transcended (or descended).
It started with Kerry Healey. She still looks like an afghan hound, long snouted and pointy. But suddenly that move-by-itself hair focused. Hula...skirt. The woman has a hula skirt on her head.

Then before I could stop myself, from left to right from her, I saw:
  • Christy Mihos as a gray Chia Pet.
  • Deval with his intermittent glowers as a temple dog.
  • Grace Ross with her big spectacled roundness as Mrs. Potato Head.
Help me. There's another televised debate on November first. Clear these distracting images, please.

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SSM: Too Late the Alarm

As the analysis of yesterday's New Jersey pro-marriage-equality ruling begins, Salon is running a nice angle by Glenn Greenwald, lefty lawyer and author. He contends that despite the sudden shrill shrieks of right-wingers, they won't be able to rally new troops to vote against liberal candidates in 10 days.

Among his conclusions are:
  • Yet, aside from the limited and seemingly inoffensive nature of today's ruling, the Republicans' ability to milk the issue of gay marriage generally seems to be waning. [Greenwald cites 20 bans approved since 1998 by as much as 75%, dwindling to 2004 in Oregon with 57%.]
  • But this year, polls show much weaker support for these referendums.
  • Given the public's growing acceptance of civil unions, and even its weakening opposition to gay marriage, it seems doubtful that the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision will be of much use to Republicans -- either in galvanizing their dispirited base, or in changing the minds of those intent on throwing them out of office.
Even though the New Jersey Supreme Court stopped just shy of mandating marriage for same-sex couples who want, the predictable (and apparently very tired) screams went out. Greenwald notes:
Despite the New Jersey court's refusal to go that far, religious conservatives immediately sounded the alarm over the decision. Hugh Hewitt misleadingly announced that "the imperial judiciary imposes same sex marriage in New Jersey," while James Dobson of Focus on the Family urged his followers to vote on Nov. 7, warning them that "nothing less than the future of the American family hangs in the balance."
Anyone who would buy that babble seems to already have a closet full of it.

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Can of Candidates, Yet Again

Last evening's next-to-last televised debate was incessantly annoying, like rubbing a little Tabasco into an eye by mistake. Damn, I'm sorry I did that. Now I just have to wait.

There was little remarkable. Republican Kerry Healey almost kept her cool. She was a pressure cooker, just simmering quietly along until she couldn't stand it anymore. Hisssssss.

She clearly was chastened by realizing after seeing her poll numbers -- comparative to other candidates and her own disapproval ratings -- going the wrong way. Somehow slander, allegations, mud slinging, and attack ads didn't work for her. They were magic for so many Republicans in so many places, but not here and not now. Itty-boo, Kerry-poo.

Even with all that throttling, she just could barely bottle it in for more than six minutes at a time. Everybody was using fungible numbers, including her, but again and again, she'd try a junior high debating trap. She'd frame a question that made no sense in context and challenge all three competitors.

For example, she of the unfunded 50-points program, took her ask-the-others question to pick up on Independent Christy Mihos' Proposition 1 to turn 40% of revenue to cities and towns. To him, she said that he wanted to do that immediately and how could he manage it. To Democrat Deval Patrick and Green/Rainbow Grace Ross, she wanted them to concur with this proposal and define how they would accomplish it.

Mihos pointed out that it would be phased and that she was out of line and mischaracterizing. She was rolling though and tried to get the other two to explain how they would implement another candidate's platform. Huh? They didn't bite; it wasn't their baby.

She blew up several times, but in contrast to her previous fits of self-righteousness, this was a much calmer evening.

Unfortunately, toward the end, she got delusional. She began claiming that Patrick had to raise taxes, he just had to. All three have proposed more than is in the budget, he no more than others. The Republican chant of "Democrats mean higher taxes" gives the other candidates each in turn the chance to remind her that her administration has seen huge increases in fees and property taxes with huge decreases in local aid. She always loses that one, but can't stop herself.

Her only real desperation came out of the blue, she announced true gossip, a.k.a. B.S. She said that there was lots of buzz in the State House. She just knew it. The Democrats were saying, apparently as one (buzz...buzz...buzz) that they could hardly wait for Deval Patrick to be governor so that he could rubber stamp all their wasteful bills.

Throughout the hour, the others were less evident, and each looked better in contrast to her for it. Mihos was singularly quiet for him. He attacked Patrick a little once or twice and Healey four or five times.

Patrick was irritated by Healey's craziness and illogic, but in the main answered calmly. He also has a compulsion. He can't help himself from Clintonizing by complimenting Healey when he can, by getting along. There may be worse habits than being gracious, but these debates are probably not the best place to practice them. On the other hand, this behavior will come in real handy dealing with the big dangling egos of legislators, a skill neither the governor nor lieutenant governor has managed in nearly four years.

At the end of the dais and at the end of her time on stage, Grace Ross was solid with one glaring problem. Her solution to everything was soak the rich, increase their taxes. None of the candidates has been nasty enough yet to point out that her plan would drive the entrepreneurs and executives out of state, perhaps because they don't see that she has a shot. She has additional ideas and should air some others.

I'd like to vote tomorrow (for Patrick) and avoid the next 10 days of more of the same.

Tags: massmarrier, Massachusetts, governor, Deval Patrick, Kerry Healey, Grace Ross, Christy Mihos, debate

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Joy in Jersey: Peek at Gay Marriage

Whether anyone calls it marriage or something else, the New Jersey Supreme Court is indifferent. In its ruling today, it held that equal rights under its constitution mean just that.

The legislature in Trenton has six months to amend the marriage laws to enable same-sex marriage or perfect a civil-union model. We're strongly betting on the former. With a small bit of attention, they surely learned from the fumbling and hiding by our governor and senate and house leaders who have yet to get around to the same order from our highest court.

There will be much analysis following this, here and elsewhere. A few of the highlights of the 90-page ruling follow. Note also that in our opinion:
  • As we have been predicting, New Jersey laws are similar to Massachusetts' in defining marriage as a civil contract, so this decision was likely.
  • The next most likely candidate is Rhode Island, which does not forbid SSM.
The New Jersey court did not order immediate implementation of SSM, not really. However, the majority decision did everything short of kicking the legislature into doing just that.

According to the ruling, the gig was up right at the top -- state constitution Article I, Paragraph I:
All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.
The court said that the facts were never in dispute -- seven same-sex couples were not allowed to marry. So, the decision came strictly to matters of law. Unlike those justices quivering in their robes in Washington and California, these did not twist the law to suit their emotions or those of voters.

Let courts who care for law and equality heed this ruling.

The questions of law here too were "whether committed same-sex couples have a constitutional right to the benefits and privileges afforded to married heterosexual couples, and, if so, whether they have a constitutional right to have their relationship recognized by the name of marriage."

The court also drew on the standard adapted by the U.S. Supreme Court in construing the 14th Amendment for due process on the meaning of what makes a fundamental right. As today's ruling notes, "First, the asserted fundamental liberty interest must be clearly identified. In this case, the identified right is the right of same-sex couples to marry. Second, the liberty interest in same-sex marriage must be objectively and deeply rooted in the traditions, history, and conscience of the people of this State."

Here, the basis of the court's unwilling to order the immediate implementation of marriage appeared. The ruling says, "Despite the rich diversity of this State, the tolerance and goodness of its people, and the many recent advances made by gays and lesbians toward achieving social acceptance and equality under the law, the Court cannot find that the right to same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under our constitution." This carries over in the decision, as the mandate for equality is paramount, but remains modestly tempered by the option to extend marriage or to replicate all of its privileges, protections and limitations by some other structure. Hence, the court stood on the threshold with the new spouse, but did not enter fully.

Here was perhaps the court's clearest statement of equality and civil rights. In stark contrast to other waffling decisions recently, it did not say that it was enough that the old way a man and a woman being the only marriage form. Instead it noted:
  • The 1912 state marriage statues limiting marriage to heterosexual couples were written without considering any options, and "Times and attitudes have changed."
  • At the local and national level, laws that discriminated against homosexuals have been struck down or overturned.
  • Article I, Paragraph I embraces "the fundamental guarantee of equal protection." That led the court to consider "whether same-sex couples have the right to the statutory benefits and privileges conferred on heterosexual married couples."
  • A 1992 state amendment made sexual orientation a basis for protection against discrimination, thus codifying this as a protected category. In 2004, domestic partnerships were included.
  • Discrimination on sexual orientation is also prohibited in criminal law and public contract law.
  • The recent The Domestic Partnership Act "has failed to bridge the inequality gap between committed same-sex couples and married opposite-sex couples."
  • "There is, on the one hand, no rational basis for giving gays and lesbians full civil rights as individuals while, on the other hand, giving them an incomplete set of rights when they enter into committed samesex relationships. To the extent that families are strengthened by encouraging monogamous relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, the Court cannot discern a public need that would justify the legal disabilities that now afflict same-sex domestic partnerships."
  • New Jersey laws concerning same-sex couples "are more in line with those of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut than the majority of other states."
Another judicial éclat in the ruling was the dismissal of the wheezing discriminators' cliché of changing the nature of marriage by expanding it. The "issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people."

Let us praise clearheaded jurists.

The resolution was thrown to the legislature. However, it was done as the Massachusetts court did, not the California one. The direction was "To bring the State into compliance with Article I, Paragraph I so that plaintiffs can exercise their full constitutional rights, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes or enact an appropriate statutory structure within 180 days of the date of this decision."

Were I in the legislature there, I would mark well the ruling's comment on the next step. The justices wrote several times that they were not mandating marriage per se, but implied strongly this would be the easiest and most sensible way to conform to the constitution and the ruling. As they put it:
The Legislature could simply amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples, or it could create a separate statutory structure, such as a civil union. Because this State has no experience with a civil union construct, the Court will not speculate that identical schemes offering equal rights and benefits would create a distinction that would offend Article I, Paragraph 1, and will not presume that a difference in name is of constitutional magnitude. New language is developing to describe new social and familial relationships, and in time will find a place in our common vocabulary. However the Legislature may act, same-sex couples will be free to call their relationships by the name they choose and to sanctify their relationships in religious ceremonies in houses of worship.
We read that as an extremely firm suggestion to amend the marriage laws for SSM.

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Joy in Jersey: Gays Can Wed!

Marriage equality lives in New Jersey, as well as Massachusetts!

Massachusetts has a buddy again. One of the breadbasket of the colonies approved same-sex marriage through the New Jersey Supreme Court decision today.

The Lewis v. Harris case has dragged on for four years. Seven same-sex couples, including five with children, sued for the equal protections and benefits freely given to mixed-sex couples.

Let us dance a small civil-rights and marriage equality jig in their honor.

Analysis shall follow. Read the decision here. First look at the whole decision here.

Key factors include that this is a strong affirmation of marriage equality. The court gave the legislature the option, as the Massachusetts high court did of amending marriage laws or trying to implement something with all the rights and protections. We're betting heavily on marriage, and quickly.

Meanwhile revel in the finding:
Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed samesex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to samesex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.
As the Supreme Judicial Court here ruled, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered, "To bring the State into compliance with Article I, Paragraph 1 so that plaintiffs can exercise their full constitutional rights, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes or enact an appropriate statutory structure within 180 days of the date of this decision."

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Joy in Jersey?

The New Jersey Supreme Court expects to release its same-sex-marriage ruling at 3 p.m. today.

The four-year-old case involves seven same-sex couples who have been partners for up to 35 years. They sued for the right to marry. Five of the couples has children and their suit requests equal protections available for couples and their children under marriage.

The state appellate court ruled against them in June 2005 by two to one, but because of dissenting opinions, the case went to the state Supreme Court to resolve the issue. New Jersey is one of only five states without a law or constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

Background: What, you say you want background while you are awaiting the analysis? Lambda Legal has it in bite sizes and enough documentation to choke a whale, if it had a neck. Check the Lewis v. Harris page here.

Pro and anti-SSM forces have pledged legislative fights if they disagree with today's outcome. As reported by the Bergan Record:
  • Pro: Steven Goldstein, head of New Jersey's leading gay-rights group, Garden State Equality, said, "If we win the case, we continue to fight in the courts of political and public opinion to protect the decision from a state constitutional ban on marriage equality, and if we lose the decision, we immediately pivot toward passing marriage equality legislation."

  • Anti: John Tomicki, executive director of the N.J.-based League of American Families said, "If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court, it will obviously be a good, and constitutional, vote, but if the majority of the court overturns both lower court decisions, then we will encourage the immediate hearing and passage of the constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man/one woman --– already filed by Sen. Cardinale -- so that the public can express its will about the definition of marriage."

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Massachusetts Needs a Treat

Locally and nationally, this could be an early Christmas (for those who participate in such). After so many years in Massachusetts of a know-nothing executive branch and a do-nothing senate, Deval Patrick offers the promise -- and threat -- of patching and replacing the broken commonwealth. We dare hang out our political stocking in hopes of edging into the majority in D.C. as well.

In both locales, the long-time majority has disgusted enough Americans, stolen enough from them, and in Congress and the White House's case, caused the deaths of thousands too many of us in unnecessary wars. Here we have a chance at a strong victory, what the Republicans like to call a mandate. In D.C....nu? We may get a bare majority in the House. The Senate could well remain in the mire.

While none of that surprises after over a decade of a nation forced into decline, the local poll results for Deval Patrick over Kerry Healey has us as hopeful as a Red Sox fan in the pre-season. Dare we hold for a November 8th victory jig at dawn?

The various polls have Patrick up 24% or more. Without Healey having a brother as the governor, we have a likelihood of a fair election.

Assuming Patrick's victory, we see him with a ton of work:
  • Righting an economy that has stagnated while the country recovered.
  • Ringing alarm bells -- a normal one for House Speaker Sal DiMasi and a super-loud one for the timorous, snoozing Senate President Robert Travaglini.
  • Restoring local aid to foundering cities and towns.
  • Building a transportation infrastructure that supports growth instead of sucking revenue away.
  • Giving the public reason to feel safe and to see their children getting an adequate education.
That's the start.

How much dare we hope for in two weeks? What can we do to make it happen? Oh, yeah, I remember:

Get Your Butt to the Polls November 7th

Absolutely and under no circumstances take the outcome for granted!

Tags: massmarrier, Massachusetts, governor, polls, election, Deval Patrick

Monday, October 23, 2006

Kinky – No Eighth Dwarf

Wringing her bony hands, Kerry Healey frets over the third-party and no-party gubernatorial candidates. It's bad enough that she trips over her nearly blank résumé and lack of platform.

That Loki of a candidate, independent Christy Mihos taunts her right into her veneered hair. Then the much smarter hippy type Green/Rainbow Grace Ross calls out her big promises/no revenue pledges. Woe to our North Shore Bobblehead, when three candidates put the lie to her puffery simultaneously.

Even she has become aware that the joke has shifted. During the campaign for Democratic gubernatorial nominee, the big, swinging liberals and the DINO went at each other, spending down their funds and delighting our Baroness of Beverly. It is far less amusing to her when she sees her moderates skipping to Christy's, not for a Slurpee, but to vote.

How could it be any worse?

Well, Kerry, you might be running for governor in Texas. That's how.

Imagine you are the smarmy incumbent Republican Rick Perry. You have five other candidates daring to challenge you. Your only hope is that they draw enough of the liberal and moderate votes from each other to let you sneak in with a plurality. Several have moderately long shots at what should have been your easy re-election.

One of those candidates has turned from novelty to contender, that being Independent Kinky Friedman, formerly backed up on his CDs by his Texas Jewboys band. The others are:
The two without links don't seem to have a Website or a chance.

Kinky though, has as much a platform as the other guys. Check his site. It starts glibly with "Why the Hell Not?" but then details what he'd like to accomplish.

Strayhorn too is a lesser contender. She is more honorable, more honest and smarter than Perry. Of course, the Republican Party refused to support the woman who calls herself "one tough grandmother." She turned Independent out of indignation.

Check the Financial Times for a good profile of Friedman...and those others. Check Juanita's (The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc.) for updates on Perry and his buddy Tom DeLay. Be aware she does not appreciate Kinky's, well, kinkiness. Finally, for Kinky in person and video on the race, try the Texas Monthly feature page on him.

The FT says Bell asked Friedman to step aside -- "There's a chance he is going to be a spoiler." In response, Kinky said his supporters don't normally vote. Get lost.

University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray agrees with Bell. The interlopers "are likely to break up the anti-Perry vote," he said. However, Strayhorn has been mainstream Texas for a long time and figures she can pick up most of those against Perry.

Back in Boston, Deval Patrick is not going to be chain smoking cigars and cracking dirty jokes, as Kinky does. I doubt Patrick owns a single cowboy hat.

Kerry Healey may moan about the utter unfairness of anyone running against her, much less a Democrat with a real CV and fleshed-out platform. Next she can turn to keening over Mihos and Ross dogging her.

Believe me, KH. It could be worse.

Tags: massmarrier, Massachusetts, governor, Kerry Healey, Deval Patrick, Texas, Kinky Friedman

M.L. Carr's Deputies

Ex-Celtic player and coach M.L. Carr sure seems warm and empathetic. However, in his only political mention of the afternoon yesterday, he tied gubernatorial candidates to his main theme.

"I don't know Deval Patrick and I don't know Kerry Healey, but neither of them is being a role model right now. If I met them, I'd tell them that."

Speaking at the nearly four centuries old First Church in Roxbury, he made it plain there was serious work to do to save Boston and the larger world from violence. Yes, the after-school programs he intends to replicate in many urban areas will help, but that's not a whole solution by any means to him. He figures it all starts by building people up, not name calling or labeling, taunting or insulting.

His WARM2Kids (as in We're All Role Models to Kids) program holds lots of promise for teens most at risk. Carr is not about to be satisfied with providing places to be with character-building activities in the most dangerous 2:30 to 6 p.m. hours.

Guess Who's Coming to Church

Years ago, a female minister announced to my church board that my anti-sexist stands qualified me as an honorary girl. Today, M.L. Carr looked over an almost entirely white audience and said that he was deputizing us all as African-Americans.

That actually was a very cool save for what must have been a jolt to him.

Perhaps we can pause to wonder as Carr and seemingly the only Latina there, who rose to ask later why 1) the audience was almost entirely middle-aged white people and 2) the church was not filled with Black and Latino area residents. Carr was speaking on preventing violence and reversing its causes. He was in John Eliot Square, but honestly, the folk before him looked a lot more Newton and Wellesley than inner city.

When the church first opened in 1632 and was rebuilt in 1804, its parishioners reflected Roxbury, white ladies and gentlemen. Today, white people come for meetings and to volunteer or staff the numerous programs that the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry offers, largely for people of color.

Carr knows that kids doing drugs and carrying guns may be more common in Boston's Black neighborhoods, but he made it plain that this is about all kids. Quite a few teens in wealthy suburbs have the same problems.

Likewise, he came down really heavy on domestic violence. He works with prevention programs, has testified in Congress for funding, and does these presentations almost non-stop around the country.

To the Latina's question, he admitted that he was disappointed that Black families were almost absent yesterday. We're not surprised, the group that invited him is from the very white UU churches. Those that support the UU Urban Ministry are largely in wealthy towns. When we signed in, we saw mostly Needham, Weston and the like in the Town column.

It made us wonder why they didn't mention it to him. Surely they are not so self-unaware that they don't know who their parishioners are.

On the other hand, if the flyers like the one we picked up in a Brookline UU church only went to such places for distribution, the audience composition should be no surprise. A couple of Black women spoke in the question period. That Latina even said that she heard from a white friend about the presentation.

We would hope that if such an event occurs again that the Urban Ministry folk would put up a few posters in the largely Black neighborhoods. Some residents would come for the same social-action motivation as those who did today. Some might come to hear a famous basketball player. Either way, the good message gets a wider hearing.

Marching Orders

Carr's deputizing quip was worthy of a skillful preacher in a surprise situation. Those gestures may be just that or there may be power in naming, as in dubbing a knight. Carr certainly spoke, or perhaps preached, as though we should do the right things.

Carr's message was simple, powerful, and maddeningly daunting. He wants kids and parents alike to change their attitudes and behaviors. It is a call well suited to us do-gooders -- no cry for the government to fix it and no pretending that self-reliance by the underclass will solve things.

Many would say it is utopian, but in fact and in history, such seminal restructuring has been the only real effort that created lasting change short of violent revolution. Think abolitionism, women's suffrage, withdrawal from Viet Nam, and finally getting voter acceptance of gay-rights in Maine.

I think of the segregated South I knew as a child and where I visit today. Integration was only real and meaningful when cultural shifts made it okay and even mandatory to call racists on their remarks and prevent harmful acts. In Boston, we lag behind many Southern cities in our integration of housing as well as employment. Everybody has quite a ways to go, but attitudinal shifts have been far more pervasive and convincing than laws in the process.

Carr's jovialness stops at violence, down to the everyday level. He told of his own troubled youth, of long-term domestic violence against his sister, about his best friend's teen son gunned down. He sees a culture that trivializes and celebrates violence on the streets and in the home.

As far as he's concerned, the WARM solution is to call it. Call it from the joke level up; he doesn't laugh at gender jokes and tells people why they're wrong. Call it by not participating. Call it by telling people sexist jokes, taunts and labeling are out, and battering women is never acceptable. Call it most firmly by taking a stand when you discover the problems.

It may be easier for a 6' 6" jock, but maybe not. What he says is that he doesn't care if he gets sued. If he finds out a kid is doing drugs, he wants to talk to the parents about it.

Looking to cops or other government officials is a typical solution, one that seldom has any real or lasting effects. His answers are tougher to act on, but are likely more meaningful. If you want the system to change, you have to work for systematic changes. That seems evident, but he expects us all to do it...now.

He says it's exhausting, but that it has become his real work. He suggests people do what he does. Go until you get tired, take a little rest, then do it some more.

If you want to see what he's about, check the WARM site. In particular, look at the book he and his son are distributing, as are many other groups. It is available online here. Coaching Boys into Men Playbook (girls version in the works) tells about situations adults can run into or overhear, and then what they can do to act as role models and give alternate behavior.

Multi-Level Changes

Even without the audience he expected, Carr is not relying on his presentations to do the job. His WARM is setting up those after-school programs at JCCs, Ys, and similar kid-safe gathering spots. The target communities will know and use those, even if they missed the presentations.

At the beginning of his talk, he spoke of his own troubled youth. His very religious parents trusted his siblings, like his brother who became a minister, but to hear M.L. tell it, if there was a fight or other trouble in Wallace, North Carolina, his father knew that his son would be there and causing it.

Carr remembers hearing his parents almost nightly praying for him. "That used to drive me crazy," he said. A white guy in the small town, Davis Lee, took his hand, told him he could do a lot more with his life, and started him in basketball. By the bye, Lee is a poultry guy and still contributing liberally to Carr's philanthropic efforts.

Carr said that people called him bad all the time and he thought as a kid that he had to go out and do bad things. As a result of Davis' faith (and his parents') in him, he says he learned that those labels are terrifically damaging.

He called on his new deputies to do what he must ask of all his audiences. The job is to take the hand of one teen, help him or her through the tough years, and when they are in good shape, ask them to do the same when they are adults.

He doesn't ask the impossible, just the hard and effective.

Tags: massmarrier, Roxbury, violence, M.L. Carr, UUUM

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Healey's Double Dog Dare

We have been trying to keep from additional comments on Kerry Healey's childish and ill-bred behavior at this week's gubernatorial debate. We might have been able to, if only she had not resorted to playground taunts after the event.

As Kim Atkins over at the Herald euphemistically put it, Healey "intensified her push for a one-on-one debate showdown with Deval Patrick." In plainer talk, she played the snide bully with the implication that he was yellow if he didn't meet her one-on-one. Nyah, nyah.

I guess she's finally a real Republican. She wants to change the game when she's losing.

The little candidate who hasn't and couldn't was so firm at the beginning that all candidates appear at all debates. She clearly figured she could work that to her advantage. Now after a couple of months of dirty tricks, dishonorable tactics, slimy ads, and innuendo that insults the voters even more than Patrick, she has changed her mind-ette. Now, she says, the only manly thing that Patrick can do is to change the rules to what she wants.

In her letter, ostensibly to Patrick, but really a straight PR gambit handed to all media, Healey includes the taunt, "You have never struck me as someone who backed down from a challenge, so I'd be surprised if you chose to stand on the sidelines now."

It is to laugh and I hope Patrick is getting his jollies from her desperation. He has met her repeatedly, at shared appearances, as well as at the multi-candidate debates. She ran from every chance before the primaries to go head-to-head or appear with the others. He has never stood on the sidelines. Instead, she chickened out for months.

Now when her campaign is looking thousands of feet into the bottom of the Grand Canyon of Never Was, she gets the mano a mano religion.

I'm delighted that Patrick was too secure to bite on that. She put herself where she is. She never had the experience, wit or credentials for the job. Her campaign is all about lies, rumor and slander. Now she suddenly is whining for a new advantage.

I may have to consider her for a Chihuahua of Retribution Award.

Tags: massmarrier, Massachusetts, governor, debate, Kerry Healey, Deval Patrick

Saturday, October 21, 2006

First Nemesis Award

In a spasm of cosmopolitanism, we name a Canadian as the first recipient of our Nemesis Award, a.k.a. the Chihuahua of Retribution.

This will go to annoying, yapping, nipping person or group who causes unnecessary noise and irritation through illogical carping and blaming.

Our winner is Stonewall, Manitoba's Kevin Kisilowsky. This 36-year-old intends to sue to Canada's highest court if necessary. The sock he's chewing on and worrying is that his province won't let him act as a marriage commissioner (roughly equivalent to our justice of the peace) unless he complies with the law by solemnizing same-sex weddings if asked.

Let there be yelping.

It seems that our winner is not only an ex-junky biker, but that he owes his new life to his conversion to Jesus. As an evangelical Christian, he told the Winnipeg Sun, "I refuse to. To me that is laying down and dying. Stand up for your rights."

Wait, you say. Doesn't the Canadian law permit clerics to restrict their solemnizations to those that fit with their religious beliefs?

It certainly does, but if he were a minister rather than a government agent, he wouldn't qualify for today's award. Consider:
  • Kisilowsky is a sheetfed press operator professionally, not a cleric.
  • He seems to have made no effort to become a minister.
  • In his own lengthy, rambling statement, he considers himself a member of an unofficial outreach program in which "I been 'appointed' by the church as a missionary."
  • Under that non-authority, he wants the rights afforded to ministers, not the requirements applied to agents of the government, who cannot selectively obey laws and regulations.
  • He claims that the Canadian Charters of Rights and Freedoms gives all citizens protection and that he deserves the same as ordained clergy.
Is that something nipping at your ankles?

His Tory MP likes the story and gave a speech using his sad little case as proof of the evils of same-sex-marriage legalization. MP James Bezan features these remarks on his site here.

He stresses that Kisilowsky told them up front in 2004 that he would only marry Christian couples and others to whom he felt qualified "to minister to," even though no church thinks he's qualified to minister to anyone.

After getting his government commission, he saw the law passed legalizing SSM. Bezan and Kisilowsky's solution is to let those who will marry gay couples and not force these government agents to do so if they didn't want to.

Alas, our poor chihuahua has not convinced the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. They dismissed his case. Now he's headed toward courts and hopes to yap there early 2007. As Bezan puts it, "...government is now going to have to explain a glaring contradiction in its policies on same-sex marriage. It's going to have to explain why religious organizations, such as churches and their clergy, have their religious freedoms protected but not individuals such as Kisilowsky."

Call us anti-yapper, but we doubt that government lawyers will have a problem differentiating between government agents and ordained ministers.

That won't stop our award winner though. In his statement, he wrote:
Kisilowsky mugIf I were to marry homosexuals I would be making a public statement that I am willing to sacrifice communion with God in order to bow down to ungodly and worldly demands...The Manitoba Provincial Government picked this fight. The biker in me will shove back hard, but I did look to God's word when searching out what he would have me do. I found it in the book of 1 Samuel where we see the story of David and Goliath. It was there that God spoke and said "Kevin, when a giant picks a fight with you….throw a rock at his head". Bring it on!
While he's waiting for his two minutes in court, Kisilowsky might exercise his Christianity by thumbling through the New Testament. He might even get to Matthew 22:21 or Mark 12:17 or Luke 20:25, all of which include, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."
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Friday, October 20, 2006

Candidates Have No Clothes

Put your coffee in a safe place and go to the bathroom first. Ed Prisby's take on last night's gubernatorial debate is that funny. He can put you in Depends.

For our boring recap with pointers to truth and knowledge head here.

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Snarling, Sniping Would-Be Governors

TV is supposed to be about entertainment and last evening's four-way gubernatorial debate was a decent comedy even if it didn't rise to good drama. Let's think a frenetic Looney Tunes featurette but not House. We had a lot of slapstick but no cures or big resolution.

Read-All-About-It: What, your TV and radio simultaneously punked out? You had to take meals to invalids yesterday evening? You don't need a reason or excuse. If you missed the debate, you can't capture the emotion, but you can read the transcript here. If you want every nuance, see and hear the video here.

You could smell and touch the desperation pouring out of Republican Kerry Healey. Despite Democrat Deval Patrick's I'm-smart-but-still-nice compromiser persona, her response throughout was to overplay her entitled, rich lady self. Too bad for her. Even when she was making decent points, she came across as strident, rude, and well, a bully. She was the stereotype of the ill-behaved male politician.

Disclaimers: We endorsed Patrick in early spring and continue to see him as the best hope in that office. We also spent enough of our childhood where good manners are important to find Healey increasingly offensive, enough to question whether she could deal effectively with legislators or others in the executive branch.

The rush reviews are telling:
  • Over at the Herald, Ste. Kim Atkins scored it a tie. "Both Healey and Patrick landed solid political blows -- Healey questioning Patrick'’s tax arithmetic and the aforementioned 'come down off your high horse'” zinger Patrick launched." Kim promises a story today.
  • The Globe lead editorial is not favorably impressed with Healey debate performance or before. "We believe that Healey's negative attacks will backfire, and the tension was evident last night between her desire to tear her opponent down and her need to establish a positive reason for people to vote for her."
  • Both the Globe and Herald editorial writers agree with the other three candidates that Patrick alone has stuck his neck out of property tax reduction, so he alone has to be more specific.
One way or another, the bulk of the debate was about money, money, money. If it was education, how were we going to get enough cash in for decent school and afford to fund more charter ones? All four accused each other of making unfunded and unfundable promises.

The evening's Zeitgeist was unlike previous ones. There was tension, hostility and defensiveness.

Mihos is the (very effective) jester, who seems to pride himself on pushing his couple of points (he's here for the long-haul, he knows how to create jobs, and has that Proposition 1 to increase local aid). It's not much, but his delivery is great, particularly calling the other candidates on what he sees as contradictions.

Green/Rainbow Grace Ross has hit her stride. These are the scrapbook days. She was cocky and had the air of a peer with the others. Her funding scheme seems wildly unrealistic, but that didn't stop her from pig piling on Patrick when the others claimed his tax-reduction plan was not displayed in sufficient detail.

That was a key skirmish of this debate and the one we'll likely hear the most about from the three also-runners in the next couple of weeks and at the November 1 final debate.

Last spring, Patrick took a mega-risk with a fully fleshed out platform. The other three still don't offer those. (Witness the very recent answer from Healey -- a 50-point, toilet-reading set of short idea-ettes. Pooh.)

By offering his platform early and in unusual detail for a governor's race, Patrick opened himself to such sniping, stealing, denigration and nitpicking. It took the others a surprising time to do all of that, even when they could not offer anything as complete or promising. Patrick put his pies in the window sill and the knaves are feasting.

To us, Healey was an absolute ass last night. She talked over and shouted down others, concentrating on Patrick. It is the hallmark of those with the weakest position to be loud and repetitive. That works in prep school debates (she must have pick that style up on the banks of the Charles). Instead here, she came over in what is apparently her true personality, one not suited to getting legislative tasks done.

Stealth Meme

Healey gave birth to a full-blow monster yesterday. It will be voter buzz. Those who found Patrick vague, Ross utopian, and Mihos one-trick will continue to do so; no minds changed there.

Healey got a big gooey cake from NECN's Allison King who asked her to distance herself from Romney's trash talking of the commonwealth. Healey dropped it big time, messy big by refusing to answer.

The be-pearled North Shore Dame, who tries to browbeat Patrick with the idea that is hers -- a no-new-taxes pledge, refused to take her best chance to distance herself from our POTUS-envying governor. Big and messy.

The exchange reveals plenty:

KING: Ms. Healey, in his frequent out-of-state travel. Governor Romney has often made Massachusetts the butt of jokes. These are comments that many feel have not only disparaged the state but may also hurt the state's ability to attract business and new citizens. Would you take this opportunity to publicly criticize Governor Romney for the potential harm he's done to the state and would you call on the governor to cease and desist?

HEALEY: Let me just say that I love Massachusetts. I love it in a way that someone who chooses their state loves it. And I came here back when I was going to college. I had the great opportunity to come here to go to college and I have to say that it impressed me as a place that has fantastic history looking at this hall. You can see and feel the history of this state. It has families where generation after generation live in the same town, stay together. I love Massachusetts. I'm going to work to make it a better place and I will never criticize it.

KING: And would you call on the governor to cease and desist.

HEALEY: I think he's probably heard your message loud and clear.

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