Monday, December 29, 2008

Craig's Celebrity in Crapper

Alas, U.S. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) has run out of his 15 flushes of fame. While even Jesus' maybe image in food products, clothing and architectural features gets a shrine, the monument to the formerly famous toe-tapper is monumental no more.

According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, interest dwindles in his airport arrest site. Toilet tourists are so 2007. People no longer seek out the stall where the pol polled police.

The two flashes for the flusher seem to have been a skit on the Daily Show and a bid of $5,000 for the stall. The humorless Minneapolis bureaucrats didn't allow Jon Stewart's team to film inside the stall walls, nor did they accept the bid.

Moreover, after Craig had allegedly peered into the neighboring stall of a cop and repeatedly reached his hand (only in the non-gayest way, of course) under the wall, no privacy modifications have happened. "The restroom looks exactly as it was when the senator was arrested," said Patrick Hogan, director of public affairs for the Metropolitan Airports Commission. "Why spend tens of thousands of dollars, when the problem had dissipated due to the publicity over the senator’s arrest?"

You'd suspect that if a taco with an allegedly holy sort-of image deserves a shrine and high eBay bid that Craig's seat of shame would too. I bet if he'd chosen a stall in a less frequented location, he'd be set for infamy. Instead, this arrest occurred in the busiest john in the airport. Pervs come, pervs go. Vice charges happen. Craig, it seems is all too common.

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Kicking Prop 8 Dirt

The Mass Family folk know how to leverage even tangentially related themes and event. They figure they can make a buck on California's Proposition 8...and rub the pro-equality folks' noses in it at the same time.

They don't have the announcement on their site yet. The link in their email news blast is, shall we say, impotent. The news is that on Saturday, January 10th, they are sponsoring the Celebrate Prop 8! fundraiser.

For only $18, you can figuratively kick the GLBT folk around the hall. You can still make your nap time too. This is earlier than the early-bird special, running from noon to 2:30 in Quincy, California Massachusetts.

I never cease to be astonished that these malevolent bozos insist they are pro-family. In this particular instance, they state, "The passage of Prop 8 was a critical win for family values. While radical homosexuals show their true intolerance across the country with violent, disruptive and hateful protests, we want to show our support for those who stood up for marriage."

Back in the real world, the Prop 8 supporters aimed to stop same-sex marriages in California. They are also attempting to nullify the 18,000 or so already legalized. These are many of the same folk who would outlaw adoption by single adults or sames-sex couples. In other words, they are anti-marriage, anti-family and willing to let kids linger in orphanages or foster homes.

So, there's a chance to celebrate the misfortune of others and the stripping of existing rights from fellow citizens. That sounds like the makings of a real party.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Prey and Pay

Make it stop. Evil doers seem to have increasingly fallen into a delusory atonement...all with the abetment of the legal system.

How much cleaner and easier it seems to have become for major transgressions against individuals and the public to buy your way out. How much neater and simpler to attorneys general and prosecutors to take the check and say, "All square."

Consider just recently:
  • The commonwealth's Ethics Commission fined the governor's economic development aide $10,000 for sewing up the $350,000-a-year presidency of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council and using his state position to give that group's members tax breaks. He neither lost his job nor paid an onerous fine. Of the $10,000, he did not beg forgiveness and admit guilt, just saying, "I'm glad to have this matter resolved. I have a great job and I love coming to work every day to lead an organization that represents not just jobs and growth opportunities, but most importantly improving the lives of patients."
  • On a corporate level, Exxon Mobil bought off prosecution for a major diesel-fuel spill in Everett. It paid $6.1 million to settle a criminal charge. Because its management and operations folk did not maintain equipment, leading to the pollution, it also will have a court-appointed monitor there for three years. The clods who didn't do their jobs will remain unnamed and unpunished.
  • Ex-State Senator Dianne Wilkerson may be facing corruption charges, but she already bought her way out of charges that would have sent many of us to jail. She admitted to not paying income taxes for multiple years, civilly she fought and lost a trial that she stiffed her condo association and wrote them repeated bad checks, also she cut a deal with AG Martha Coakley for repeated campaign-finance violations. She too paid fines and wouldn't have spent a month in a halfway house if she hadn't also violated curfew.
  • In the most extreme of the recent bunch, Powers Fasteners paid $16 million to Boston and Massachusetts for dropping manslaughter charges from a tunnel ceiling-tile collapse that killed JP resident Milena Del Valle. Here again, this was tit for tat. There will be no prosecution of the company as a legal person nor any effort to identify responsible people at Powers.
Those are not unique, rather typical. At light and heavy, this behavior has occurred for ages.

Indulgences as they took detailed form in the middle ages required that a sinner:
  • Repent of a specific sin
  • Confess the sin
  • Pay a penalty
The back story includes the assumption that Jesus dying on the cross for all of us already brought us forgiveness for nearly everything. We just needed to complete the cycle.

In infamous reality, of course, in the medieval world and still somewhat now, people would and did buy indulgences. Rather than listening to specific liturgies, attending retreats or performing other acts of penance, folk let money be their atonement. Some even paid upfront.

With cynicism and expeditiousness, attorney generals, prosecutors, regulators and elected officials tamp down morality and legality alike. They'll take the clearly achievable. They'll do a Dick Nixon and proclaim victory by compromises and sellouts.

No doubt, it is easier to fine an offender rather than pursue an investigation and trial. The alleged enforcers can and do claim then that they swung the hammer of justice and exacted penalty and repentance.

Instead, we see fines for major corruption and campaign-finance violations equal to NFL penalties. Patriots' Wes Welker got a league penalty of $10,000 for a four-arm-flap snow angel beyond the end zone. Granted politicians get less pay on average, but that fine would be a major one for their corruption charges.

Yet, we simpleminded bluenoses remain unconvinced. What does a small or even moderate fine do? Do we have any fantasy that this will prevent others, or even the same evil doers, from repeating or varying their crimes? When the penalty is far less that what would compensate the victims, how would that dissuade the malefactors?

Swindlers and politicians do not use guns or even threat of violence. They do not commit petty drug offenses that bring long prison terms. They have enough money and buddies with money to afford more justice than someone from the low or middle classes.

The most cynical among us can say, "That's the way the system works." It doesn't have to and the message from the likes of our governor and incoming President should be that justice demands more than what someone can get by with and what is easy to negotiate with a defense team.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chuck Turner All In

William Ramsey Clark, Esq., will be 81 tomorrow. Apparently he'll celebrate by association with our own Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner. The latter is under indictment for extortion and lying to the FBI. The former seems to be leaving the stage very poorly.

In this era and this season of high-priced theater tickets, we should thank Turner. As drama queen extraordinaire, he presents his show for free.

I am sure I would not want to be a passenger when Chuck drives. It must be at high speed and right next to the canyon drop off. In this case, he chose a both famous and infamous lawyer. For a pissant case that either is or isn't simple bribery, yoking himself to a one-time anti-war humanitarian turned war-criminal defender is a look-at-me-right-now decision Turner is almost sure to regret.

As the Herald quotes local defense guru Robert George, this is a "high stakes gamble." He added that Clark's involvement"on behalf of any criminal defendant is a high-profile endorsement of a person’s innocence, (but) this was the defense attorney for people such as Saddam Hussein, which some people may take the wrong way."

I'm not huge on Wikipedia, but the entries for Clark and some of his more reviled client are rife with references and detail. For your amusement check:
The list of Clark's clients includes, Nazi concentration camp commandant Karl Linnas, Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana (eader in the Rwandan genocide), and contract killer Joe "Mad Dog" Sullivan.

In fairness, he was generally on defense teams for the worst of his clients. He also took on clients who were prosecuted for their anti-war activities here, as well as Lori Berenson, nabbed in Peru in a political incarceration. His few cases like those are overwhelmed by his choice of mass murders and war ciminals. Defending the unpopular client doesn't make one an Atticus Finch.

In Turner's instance, we can set aside his flair for the melodramatic. Instead, let's ask what the devil was he thinking? It almost has to be that the higher the profile of his prosecution, the greater his chances of prevailing.

He shouldn't count on it. Consider:
  • Milošević — Indicted 1999 and finally to trial when captured in 2002. A flood of witnesses to his genocide and war crimes was sure to bring conviction. He sicked, maybe exacerbated by the stress, and died in prison.
  • Karadžić — Finally captured after a long-term fugitive life. He is in the Hague awaiting his trial. He too faces many witnesses and much evidence of heinous crimes against humanity in killing thousands of Bosnian Muslims.
  • Hussein — Convicted of and hanged for his crimes.
So, Turner is not up for capital crimes. With the current indictments, at worst he'd face short-time prison and a few thousands of dollars in fines. Yet, it seems as though he would have gone with a better track record from his legal horse.

Many laugh at Turner for this theatrics, yet no one seems to question his guts, just his judgment. In advance of a public announcement today of his latest elevation (farther to fall, though) of this case, Turner's defense site includes:
Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General and recipient of the 2008 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, will be in Boston on Wednesday, December 17 to voice his support in the defense of Chuck Turner and demand that the government immediately drop the frame-up charges. He will focus attention on the role that the US Attorney’s office and the FBI has played in the politically motivated prosecutions that are taking place not just here in Boston but throughout the US. Ramsey Clark charges that that US Attorney Sullivan and the FBI have violated their constitutional duties and must be held accountable for their actions.
So, there you have it, brinkmanship at its plainest. I don't think he has the hand to deal. He thinks so.

Perhaps what attracted him was Clark's high profile, as high as Turner's ego. Perhaps instead it was Clark's comments that align with Turner's own to date. As the lawyer's Wikipedia entry reads:
On March 18, 2006, Clark attended the funeral of Slobodan Milošević. He declared: "History will prove Milošević was right. Charges are just that: charges. The trial did not have facts." He compared the trials of Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein by stating: "both trials are marred with injustice, both are flawed." He also condoned and justified Hussein and Milosevic's brutal regimes and their anti-American policies in which Clark described Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein as "both commanders who were courageous enough to fight more powerful countries."
Afternoon Follow-Up: Clark's charge into town (and charges) are well detailed at PolitickerMA. He not only called Turner's indictment racially and politically motivated, he tried to turn tables by calling for an investigation of U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan. Clark further called for "a moratorium on any further action until a new and independent prosecutor can come in here and review this whole matter." As a lawyer and former AG of the nation, he might know more about how criminal cases advance. Meh.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Non-Political Posts...This Way

In this festive season — nothing like dying plants and freezing rain to catalyze joy — those looking for my non-political rants can head to the sibling blog, Harrumph!

Too much politics here you say? Consider:

For those who claim I babble about nothing but politics, click to find other objects of my interest.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Idaho Ho Ho from Larry Craig

The most graceless of us are incapable of self-awareness and what to most folk would be obvious moral behavior. Let us take special note of soon-to-be ex-U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho).

This has been an annual celebration, including last year's Craig in the Box Keeps Popping Up. Come next month, after 28 years in one Congressional chamber or the other, he'll be back home, wrangling poodles or whatever he favors to pass the time.

As if to construct his own public stocks and keep himself displayed in his shame, he has set up a defense fund. The Fund for Justice (stop that snickering!) couldn't pay for half a week of legal fees yet. Then again, Craig will soon have lots of time to devote to this.

Actually, I suspect he'll continue his quixotic crusade to pretend he wasn't cruising in the Minneapolis airport john. I have been seeing in Idaho papers and blogs that people predict that his latest effort to withdraw his disorderly conduct plea in that case would end it. He got the Minnesota Court of Appeals to consider his risible claim that peering into a stall occupied by a man for two minutes, then tapping his foot to get his attention and repeatedly displaying his hand under the stall were protected free speech.

To heighten the amusement, let me note that the ACLU continues to support Craig. It has an agenda that apparently does not include increasing the seasonal merriment. They claim that the Minnesota law that the police used in their toilet-stall sting is too broad.

Sting operations can, if you pardon the expression, suck. Yet, the conduct law coupled with the Craig written guilty plea makes this truly an odd case for the rights organization to join.

December 9th, the court disagreed with Craig's claims. In an unpublished opinion (don't try to cite it for legal precedence, per another law, Sect. 480A.08, subd 3 [2006]), a three-judge panel of the court denied his request to withdraw his plea. That included a finding that the law was not too broad. People reasonably expected privacy on the toilet seat. "Offensive speech may be prohibited as intrusive when the 'captive' audience cannot avoid the speech," wrote the probably seated judges.

The rest of us with normal social graces would have taken our lumps on this one. Despite hoots from many, he continues to insist he is not gay and has never had sexual contact with males. He frequently mentions his beard wife Suzanne, with whom he has not bred, although he cites "our children." Whether he is homosexual and closeted or not is far less relevant than his getting caught wiggle-fingered in the airport pissoir, and then taking a month to consider the response before choosing guilty and paying the fine.

In the Idaho Statesman's Washington bureau, Erika Bolstad has been on the investigation, including the defense fund. She detailed the $4,645 he reported in his October filing (those reports are not online) for the fund he had registered on September 12th. Bolstad reported that his lawyer, Billy Martin, opened the fund in June. Craig has subsequently gotten scolded by the Senate ethics folk for using campaign funds for his legal expenses but then got permission to register and use the new fund.

His fund site is amusing on its own. It uses that spooky, skeletal portrait that is also on his Senate site. It is a single web page, with an email link but no phone, an address for mailing checks to, wording about how your donations are limited to $10,000 per year and other restraints, and a single button at the bottom to link to an online store-style credit card or PayPay system.

Apparently the $10,000 has not been a problem yet. There seem to be some chums kicking in at the housewarming-gift level. As Bolstad put it, "Most of the donations to Craig's expense fund range from $50 to $300." At the high end, one couple (Vicki and Franz White of Star) gave $1,000, another (Larry and Marianne Williams) $500 and one other (neighbors Joseph and Elizabeth David) $250. The others were tokens so far.

The consensus is that, come January, Craig will back off this absurd innocence routine. I bet otherwise.

Some fish when they retire. Idaho is one of the world's best places to do that. Others pretend to exercise on the golf course. I say that if Craig has been willing to show such graceless jive about his behavior and sexual orientation for so long, he won't be able to leave it alone.

He has a month, until a few days before he is out of office, to file an appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court on some picayune legal point. I'd put money on that failing, likely in the form of the high court refusing to waste its time on it at all, but I would be surprised if he didn't try.

As thoroughly and as long as he has made himself the object of ridicule and disdain, he has a real side. Agree with his positions or not, he has a long list of real-life bills that he has supported or introduced.

It is his broad delusional self that has brought him so low.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Genitalia-Based Religion by Huckabee

Relentless champion of marriage equality Jon Stewart did it again and did it right on his 12/9 segment with Mike Huckabee. The Daily Show host again out-reasoned and out-humanized the former Arkansas governor and likely repeat GOP Presidential candidate.

That's particularly important in that before a large audience, Stewart showed us how it should be done. We who favor and demand equality can get excited, emotional, angry challenging those who want to prevent or remove rights from homosexual couples. Instead, Stewart gently, but steadily, poured acid on the thin surface before him.

Huckabee is the dangerous sort of anti-gay/anti-equality spokesman. His sangfroid and joviality combine into a semblance of reason and compassion. He will speak the nastiest ideas while looking pleasant and speaking calmly, as though his rants were reasonable in their modulation.

Consider some of their exchange as below. This is the heart of it, but do click over to the whole segment, which is under eight minutes.

Huckabee: Even anatomically, the only way we can create the next generation is through a male-female relationship. For 5,000 of recorded human history, that's what marriage has meant.

Stewart: (He noted that Huckabee's time-line went to the Old Testament), where polygamy was the norm, not a heterosexual relationship between two couples (sic; I'm sure he meant people) who choose each other. Marriage has evolved greatly over those 5,000 years from a property arrangement, polygamy. We've redefined it constantly.

(He added that it was only when courts and laws intervened that interracial marriage was legalized here). It strikes me as very convenient to go back to the Bible and say, "Hey, man, we got to look at the way they define marriage."

Huckabee: If we change the definition, we really have to change it to accommodate all lifestyles. There's a difference between the equality of each individual and the equality of what we do, and the sameness of what we do. Marriage is under our law a privilege, not an absolute, divine right.

There's a big difference between a person being black and a person practicing a lifestyle and engaging in a marital relationship...

Stewart: I think the difference is what you believe gay people are and what I do...I'll tell you this, religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality...and talk about a lifestyle choice, that is absolutely a choice. Gay people don't choose to be gay.

I think it's an absolute travesty that people have forced someone who is gay to have to make their case that they deserve the same basic rights as someone else.

You keep talking about, geez, it would be redefining a word and it seems like semantics is cold comfort when it comes to humanity. And especially someone such as yourself who is, I think, an empathetic person.

Huckabee: Words do matter, definitions matter, and I think we have to be very thoughtful before we're going to under an entire social structure. Let's face it, the basic purpose of a marriage is not just to create the next generation but it's to train our replacements and it is in the context of 23 male and 23 female chromosomes coming together at the point of conception to create the next human life.

Stewart did not get into the common fallacies Huckabee iterated, except to point out that over the now clichéd and very false "5,000 years" society has altered the definition and limits of marriage constantly. He also noted that polygamy was the Biblical norm and that marriage was not a sacrament even as an option until 700 or so years ago.

Nor did he get into the silliness about procreation as the basis for sexual and emotional relationships. Precluding the unable and unwilling from marriage would eliminate most straight couples from consideration. In addition, Stewart didn't deal with adoption, medically aided pregnancies and such for either straight or gay couples.

However, in the end, he got to what I call genitalia-based theology. Stewart noted that Huckabee's talk was about sexuality, not theology. Bishops and bigots alike do the parts-fit-together jive to the entertainment and reinforcement of their believers. We who speak out for marriage equality see and hear such nonsense regularly.

Stewart's approach is a good one for us to take to heart and mind. The Huckabees are irrational about this. They use very simple-minded and illogical arguments in the main. Instead of flinging facts back into their emotion, we should keep our focus on key points such as:
  • Marriage is not immutable and has constantly evolved for millennia.
  • Religion is a lifestyle choice, while sexual orientation almost never is.
  • Denying gay couples marriage protects nothing and no one.
  • Marriage as an institution has been troubled for many decades. Encouraging loving couples to wed makes sense as well as being humane.
Don't be that mad guy. Be Jon.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hasty Bush Sing-Out from Lawyers

Just in the rare possibility that you don't pore over the comments on posts here, a singing attorney left a winner yesterday on the GOP fabulists one. I'll embed the vid below.

It's a good-riddance wish from Matt Farmer (yeah, for real) from the Blue State Cowboys in Chicago. They bill themselves as Chicago's Most Litigious Band. Listening seems to be free and there are additional goodies on their site.

In the country tradition of get-lost songs (extraordinarily well deserved in W's case), the lawyers sing:
(Matt Farmer)

Well, for eight long years we’ve been payin’ your rent
But now your lease done run
And all our money’s been spent
So pack up your bags
And take a last look around
At how you drove a great nation straight into the ground

And don’t let the door
Hit you in the ass on the way out
Don’t bother with the goodbyes
Just make sure that you stay out
There ain’t no need to call
No need to write
We don’t even need you to turn out the light
Just crawl back to Crawford, brother
Promise that you’ll leave us alone

Every step of the way, your story’s been the same
Just cruisin’ through the world
On your daddy’s name
You had the oilmen friends
You had the Skull and Bones
But it never would have happened if your name was Jones



Slam dunk, privatize, deregulate
Tax cuts, trickle down
The politics of hate
Flag pin, waterboard
Intelligent design
You were handed your throne by just five of the nine


Huge thanks to Farmer and his chums for the 3:24 of giggles in a tough time...and the freedom to spread the joy.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

GOP Tricksters and Fabulists

Oo, ah. Watch closely as Bush reaches deeply into a balanced budget and extracts a huge recession! Look carefully as Condi and W. use prestidigitation to transform their lies and blunders into — Ta da! — faulty intelligence.

The Bush administration of magical fools have not even left the stage, but they're performing all the way out. They're strutting, not slinking, stage right.

In our glee to see these malicious incompetents off, we shouldn't lose sight of the less obvious forces at work. It is far too easy to note accurately that they, particularly Bush, have the fantasy that they can frame historical assessments of the past eight years. Somehow, Nixon the Evil did recast himself as a statesman, but he at least had foreign-policy achievements as a basis.

More insidious than trying to game history is the underlying lying, for the next Presidential election.

Already, our own smarmy elephant, Willard Mitt Romney, is raising money and doing well in polls (third behind Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee for 2012). He's hired staff and consultants too.

The next GOP go will depend on magic that John McCain lacked the skill to perform. Sure, the next candidates must separate themselves from the chaos and failures. Yet, to keep the core of the party's voters, they can't reject even the most disastrous Republican ploys. Those would include:
  • Tax cuts are sound financial policy that grow the economy
  • What's good for big companies is good for America
  • Borrowing and spending hundreds of billions and calling it defense is sustainable
  • Invading other countries will make us safe from terrorism
  • Redacting the Bill of Rights is the American way
  • Empowering the Executive Branch at the expense of the other two is good government
  • We can win every war and our economy will always return to an endless growth spiral if left alone
You really, really have to want to believe, beyond self-delusion, to accept that package.

Consider just a few examples of the 2012 harbingers. President G.W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would have us believe they were fooled into a trillion-dollar misadventure in Iraq by bad spy reports. Karl Rove, Bush's long-term chief adviser, holds that it was not bad ideas, merely a campaign-fund disparity that caused McCain's loss. On the economy, Bush's current ploy is that all the bad stuff that led to the terrible stuff took place before he was in office — not his fault or that of his party.

Shameful Links

Bad advice. Bush puts the onus on invading Iraq on the "intelligence failure" falsely claiming Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the will to use them. Rice regrets reliance on "flawed intelligence" leading to the invasion of Iraq.

Economy? Not Mine. Bush has tap danced around the GOP Presidents' total financial failures. Then in his recent ABC interview with Charlie Gibson, he did the rich-kid finger-pointing avoidance thing:

GIBSON: Do you feel in any way responsible for what's happening?

BUSH: You know, I'm the President during this period of time, but I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so, before I arrived in President, during I arrived in President.

I'm a little upset that we didn't get the reforms to Fannie and Freddie -- on Fannie and Freddie, because I think it would have helped a lot. And when people review the history of this administration, people will say that this administration tried hard to get a regulator. And there will be a lot of analysis of why that didn't happen. I suspect people will find a lot of it didn't happen for pure political reasons.

Some of us bloggers and MSM types note (with unconcealed glee) that his time-line would place the blame on his father's administration. We can also add that he avoids the judgment that without great help by external economic forces at home and abroad, Reaganomics and its variants destroy economies.

Trust Us. More obviously for the regrouping of the GOP, Rove's outrageous spin on the loss to Obama is a call to return with vengeance and hope. He would hold that they didn't lose because their policies and plans were bad, rather they were just outspent. Hence, donate more next time and we'll show those filthy liberals!

Tricksters and fabulists

Let us not conflate the honorable and politicians. The battle for 2010 Congress seats and the 2012 head office are underway. It certainly was long before November, when McCain's weakness and Bush's irredeemable failures were too obvious.

Again, Democrats, even in their centrist and quivering kneed totality, have to try to rescue the nation from the other party's economic failure. Moreover, unlike previous administrations in which the GOP at least did a better job with foreign affairs, we face disdain, distrust and hatred from much of the world as Bush's legacy.

Already to hear their advance tricksters and fabulists tell it:
  • The economic problems were inherited, not the GOP's fault, and caused by companies not by government
  • We can, in fact, have guns and butter, regardless of they way it looks now (and in the past 20-plus years).
  • The tragic loss of thousands of American and tens or hundreds of thousands of others', plus the towering debt, was justified.
  • Republican politicians and bureaucrats are wise and pure of heart. Incompetent spies fooled them into bad actions (which continued for seven years unabated).
  • Give rich people more money and tax cuts, and they'll do the right thing by the rest of us.
  • Give the GOP enough money, and they'll not only smack down the Dems, they'll make American perfect again.
One astonishing take is that some voters, many in fact, will buy into that bundle of crap. Republican magical thinking is certainly much easier to deal with than the adult bearing of responsibility and working to fix problems. Another astonishing take is that we'll hear such absurdities repeatedly for the next four years.

Meanwhile, Dems will be busy trying to keep America afloat and steer it into calm waters. Some group of them must act as a truth squad though. If we as a nation are not to repeat stupid, incompetent and delusional blunders of recent years, the bad and terrible ideas need constant exposure.

Republicans need more than new candidates. They need workable ideas instead of fantasies.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Barry Stole My Election Money!

Republicans in general and John McCain in particular can learn from Uncle Scar in Lion King. Let us pause to reflect, "Life's not fair, is it?"

Karl Rove revivified the certain GOP kvetch of the campaign. In the Wall Street Journal, he wails like a drunken college freshman feeling lonely. We'll be hearing more of this for the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. Life's not fair. Barack pushed me down and took my campaign funds!

Early on, McCain repeated what came to be the strangest complaints of the long, overly long campaign. He tediously whined that 1) Barack Obama was piling up more contributions than he, 2) voters and media types liked Obama better, and 3) Obama made the smarter/less honorable decision not to stick to public funding (á la the McCain/Feingold Act of 2002 — yes, the same McCain).

His org even ran TV ads likening Obama to Britney Spears and such flashy celebrities. McCain's not very hidden subtext was plain in the is-he-ready-to-lead tags. This whole area may have been McCain's worst misjudgment of his drive, at least until he named his idea of a ready-to-lead vice president.

For McCain's blunder, consider what he thought he was saying, "Everyone likes Obama better and gives him more money." How could he and his advisers not know that this means, "Everyone likes McCain less and wants Obama to be President"? McCain turned himself into Charlie Brown, with no help at all from the Democrats.

In Rove's dizzying spin, only Obama's money edge decided the election. It was "the Obama/DNC juggernaut" that "buried Mr. McCain on TV." Rove picked his stats carefully, as in by the state (Indiana) that McCain ceded and where Obama outspent him the most (nearly 7 to 1 by Rove's estimation). He also left off the many millions of hidden, soft Republican funds spent around McCain to elect the ticket. That would in fact severely undercut the money argument.

Regardless, the amusing aspect is that Obama likely did have a larger ad budget. He certainly organized and had organized for him a much bigger, better, wider and deeper volunteer organization. Put another way, this is yet more celebrity proof when more people wanted to give their time as well as money to elect that other guy.

For decades. Republicans have been the money party. The rich white folk in Congress and the Administration look out for the rich white folk in the nation. The most political money went to keep that huge and dirty machine working. The GOP had the money and won the Presidency and control of Congress the most.

It wouldn't be Rove without hypocrisy and irony, of course. He ends his WSJ piece with, "Mr. Obama's victory may show the enduring truth of the old Chicago Golden Rule: He who has the gold rules." This from the man who has a history of buying elections and undercutting democracy by any means is sweet.

Life was fair when Republicans get the most money. Life's not fair when they don't. I don't think I have the time or energy to feel sorry for McCain and Rove.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Marriage Equality Arc

Okay, for any of us who have had a breather, the game is back afoot. Marriage equality remains a key civil rights issue. Same-sex marriage will be fully realized, even in this very socially conservative nation.

There is no better moment than now to reflect again on the ideas of that old Transcendentalist, abolitionist, Underground Railroad leader, Unitarian reformer Rev. Theodore Parker. He engaged in many seminal struggles that would not find quick resolution, not in a ballot initiative nor in a court decision nor in some mystical and sudden enlightenment of the masses. Not even knowing that many of his causes would not resolve until after his death dissuaded him.

The frail minister died at 49 in 1860. He didn't even live to know the emancipation of the slaves here.

Parker is surely best known now for his inspirational long view. The well redacted version by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is what many of us know — The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

That carries the sentiment. Of course, as a liberal preacher, he could not have been quite as precise. His wordier original was, "Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice. Things refuse to be mismanaged long."

That illustrated as well his humility. Yet in this thought, he clearly was and is right.

I keep the idea in mind and it helps me from being discouraged at setbacks like the passage of Prop. 8 last month.

We saw it with gay-rights in Maine and SSM in Massachusetts. In both states (among other examples), conflicts continued for several years before the public joined the legislatures and courts in saying in effect, "What's the matter here?" The rest of the industrialized world has largely gotten beyond creating second-class citizenship for groups. Only here do we continue to debate such civil rights or pretend that voting on them is a matter of democracy.

On both coasts, with each vote, even by plebiscite when it came to that, the arc has bent more toward justice. If the California courts don't overturn Prop. 8, there surely will be another ballot question and almost as certainly, it will finally favor equality as it did in Maine when it came the third time.

We can look at those who would deny or strip rights from fellow citizens as misguided, nasty or cruel. Doing so may make us feel superior and wiser, but it does nothing to deliver those rights.

Instead, Parker's view is the clearest one. As he did his entire short life, we must work toward justice, knowing that we are helping our universe bend further where it is going.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Loitering in Chaos Alley

Finally! Red Mass Group has a post I can link to. Click on over for a brief, LITE but still telling Q&A with Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute.
Boner Note: This post has a dead link (extraneous quote at the end of the URL) to the first in this What Happens Next series by garrett3000 — an interview-ette with resigned commonwealth GOP head Peter Torkildsen. You probably shouldn't bother; Torkildsen makes no predictions and says largely that the party needs more social moderates to thrive. If you want to see that, use this link.
To me, MFI is most decidedly on the wrong side of history, morality and humanity. Mineau is not about to concede that.

A typical citation on this blog ridicules their absurd predictions of disaster following gay-rights and same-sex marriage. Simply being obviously wrong again and again does not seem to deter Mineau and similar folk, as the RMG answers show too plainly. In that way, MFI seems like a doomsday cult, one that does not specify the date of THE END.

Then too, such groups have clearly dwindled in number, contributions and influence. Having repeatedly lost efforts to overturn SSM here, they no longer get the crowds of bused-in protesters. It's a sure bet that many who gave them money for years for anti-gay/anti-SSM causes don't any more. Even they eventually see the pattern of failure even if their emotions remain.

So, the Mineau on record seems too like an old Confederate sympathizer. Instead of the South rising again, it will be Republicans, social conservatives, and anti-gay forces.

Mineau reports:
  • The state of Massachusetts politics is "Despicable!...ultra-liberal Democrat agenda controls everything."
  • The local Republicans have largely "deserted our principles."
  • MFI will throw itself into fighting the bill to protect transgender rights.
  • SSM will not stand. "We sincerely believe that this is a radical and delusional social experiment that will ultimately fail when people see the tragic results on the traditional family and most of all, children."
The latter is the crux and why I link to it.

First, it was if SSM starts, Massachusetts will spiral down immediately, the good people will leave (Atlas Shrugged, anyone?), and marriage will virtually end here. Then it was all those things will happen soon. Then, chaos and disaster will happen...just you wait and see.

Meanwhile, of course, after four years, our divorce rates are one of the very lowest in the nation (even lower among SS couples). More kids are being adopted, expanding the number and percentage of stable families. We have increasing numbers of straight and gay marriages, making us about the best state for the institution in the country. It looks like SSM is pretty damned great for marriage.

So, Mineau waits and watches. He says at least that he expects tragedy. It appears he'll have to wait a long, long time.

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Effusive Chuck (Sort of) Talks

Last evening, Chuck Tuner was one of his two selves on BNN-TV's Talk of the Neighborhoods. He left the outraged, illogical Chuck somewhere and showed with the let-me-teach-you-how-to-think one.

The City Councilor has claimed since his arrest on extortion and lying to the FBI charges last Friday that he can't talk, details at least. Of course, we all know he cannot not talk. That's his skill, his craft, his need, his style.

It worked pretty well. While saying again that he can't telegraph his defense, he telegraphed his defense. He makes a lot of stuff up and he tortures reality mightily, but he is so charming, so open and seems so sincere doing it.

Not There Note: BNN doesn't seem to put its archives up. Its sibling NNN at BU offers selective ones, plus Chris Lovett's excellent blog. Nothing appears yet, but if Turner's segment does, I'll link to it here.

The short of it is that I can see the possibility that the feds rushed this and that Turner has a shot at either walking or converting this to the old campaign-finance violation routine. If you don't mind a slightly disturbing image, consider that he might tap dance away.

He was on the show about a half hour yesterday and had no problem finally stating that he was innocent of the charges. His denial included:
  • He and his staff see lots of folk, but don't recall businessman Ron Wilburn, the cooperating witness.
  • If (a word Turner used many times) Wilburn was in his office as the tapes show, his appearance was a cameo, fleeting as Turner said, also several times.
  • If Wilburn did really slip him $1,000 and there's no corresponding tape proving Turner inspired that money transfer, it wasn't extortion, no quid pro quo.
  • If Turner took $1,000 from Wilburn, the worst you could call it would be a campaign-finance violation, not a crime.
There was no indication in the FBI charges that Turner told anyone that he would do deeds for cash. In this case, it would have been ensuring or at least expediting a liquor license for a not-yet-open nightclub. If the FBI has tapes of that, Turner is hosed. Then again, if they did have such proof, it should have been in the affidavit.

Our own Andy of Mayberry.

Individuals can't contribute more than $500 a year to a candidate. Plus each contribution of $50 or more must be specified with the Office of Campaign Finance. It looks like he'd have until either December 3 or January 20th to include an August contribution, depending on how it would be classified.

Seeing ex-Senator Dianne Wilkerson's bungled contributions and filings in the press and her subsequent plea bargain with commonwealth AG Martha Coakley, we all know the drill. Over $500, return the excess. Agree not to misfile or skip filings. Pay a fine. Present a plan for compliance. Coakley's a law enforcement officer the way Andy Taylor of Mayberry was.

For his part, Turner made it clear to host Joe Heisler that he expected the same from Coakley, if things are as they seem, that he took $1,000 from that guy. He was jovial, but still in the prove-the-crime or get-out-of-my-face mode. He was convincing.

On the other hand, Heisler was fawning and not only with Turner. He had two other guests on for a few minutes at the end, minister and activist Bruce Wall and South End quasi-politician Kevin McCrea. Heisler defined all guests as old friends and busted no chops. He assumed integrity among those before him. It was bar stool reportage.

However, he kept coming around eventually to the unanswered question of the evening, is the city system per se corrupt. The horse that McCrea rides when he tries (so far unsuccessfully) to become a Council himself is corruption. The idea includes that short election cycles require constant fund raising for campaigns and that the closed-door-deals culture at local and state levels encourages exchange of favors or money for favors.

We have a damned good idea of how Turner will defend himself at a probable cause hearing, scheduled at the federal (Moakley) courthouse for December 10th. Unless the FBI has more goodies in its bag, he may (again forgive the image) skip out of the building.

To the larger issue of how you keep politicians clean, that's less clear. McCrae and Wall are among the many pushing for open meetings, particularly any that deal with such lucrative arrangements as liquor licenses or construction projects. Put the public in public hearing and public meeting.

We could also use an AG with some guts and crusading attitude (Teddy Roosevelt comes to mind). Coakley isn't one of those and the last guy, Tom Reilly, wasn't either.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Chuck Turner as Abe Simpson

Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner is only 68, but today on the plaza, he seemed much, much older. He had an embarrassing Abe Simpson moment, lots of contradictions, and a single, massive failing.

You wouldn't know any of that from the crowd. He had them an hour before he shuffled onto City Hall Plaza. When he did show and speak, all he had to say were keywords to feel the bricks quake. Oppression ... media ... rights ... constitution ... Feeney ...

His game of hating-the-media was just that. He stood before a rack of over a dozen mics, with a comparable number of news video cameras on tripods in a semicircle. His nearly an hour today was for and about the media, disguised as an address to his supporters.

My takeaways include:
  • His huge blunder was never saying directly or indirectly that he was innocent.
  • His clown skit was blaming the media when he paraded around in the pre-dawn with his fly open.
  • His stupidity was in speaking to the unfairness of losing his committee roles, only to come around 20 minutes later saying Council President Maureen Feeney had the power to take them and he accepted that, which he clearly did not.
  • His foolishness was repeatedly blaming the MSM for everything evil.
You needn't take my word for anything. He lured enough media into his sideshow that you can see and hear it yourself. Pick your favorite paper or broadcast outlet. For detail, head to, say, WBZ Radio, which has his whole rambling speech as well as Feeney's rejoinder.

Turner may drag out the process beyond the ability of others. I can imagine the progression of presumed innocent to innocent until charged to innocent until indicted to innocent until put on trial to innocent until found guilty to innocent until all appeals are exhausted to innocent until sentence served to innocent until all requests for pardon are exhausted. Turner started with the reasonable request not to be condemned as guilty in the MSM when he hasn't even been indicted. Yet, he quickly turned today's scheduled Council session into a witch hunt and trial. He had asked his supporters to meet on then plaza and go with him to the chambers and demand a public hearing instead of a closed session.

In light of all that, Feeney's postponement of the session seemed sensible. However, Turner characterized it as nefarious. Her statement started, "It has been clear to me that Councilor Turner and his supporters are prepared to turn this session into something it is not. This body is not and will not become a stage for political theater."

Those of us who recall such clown princes as Dapper O'Neil, Jim Kelley and Fred Langone, and know of such legends as James Michael Curley and others may quibble with Feeney's recollection if not her intent. The Council has long been the stage for hams and their histrionics. In fact, Turner is not that good at it. He is prone to polemic. Today, I lost count of the number of times he used oppression, oppressed and oppressor.

Feeney claimed credibly that the Council was on new turf. They hadn't had Councilors headed for indictment and certain trial for felonies. Their vague rules and the spongy city charter aren't much help, which is where Feeney wanted to head today. The rules don't cover such cases, pointing instead to the latest version of Robert's Rules for things they don't cover; those say a body can punish members, including expelling them. The charter has a section (17), which is queerly broad:
The city council shall be the judge of the election and qualification of its members; shall elect from its members by a vote of a majority of all the members a president who when present shall preside at the meetings thereof; and shall from time to time establish rules for its proceedings. The member eldest in years shall preside until the president is chosen, and in case of the absence of the president, until a presiding officer is chosen.
Either way, what is stated is that Feeney is the boss of committees. She can appoint, reassign or remove folk for any or no reason.

The Council has long been the stage for hams and their histrionics.

Unfortunately, Turner made an ass of himself on the bricks on that today. Earlier he had claimed without basis that his office had lost its computers and phones. Some media and blogs picked up on that. He hasn't made an apology for that accusation (trial in the media, as the expression goes). He was right though that he had lost his committee chairs (Education, and Human Rights) and seats.

Even on this, Feeney explained what was behind his hyperbole.
  • She had temporarily suspended his committee roles because he has been arrested on several felonies.
  • She asked the city lawyers what to do and what they could do.
  • She scheduled the session for the Council to discuss how it should act in any such case.
  • She said that if Turner is indicted, which I think he almost certainly will be, she'll appoint a fact finder to make a recommendation to the whole Council.
She added that she "appreciates(s) his concern about due process" and that there would have been "no discussion, debate or vote on his fitness to serve." Moreover, she said, "Today, I will empower the City Council Committee on Rules and Administration, of which I am chair person, to investigate these questions of qualification and report back to the full body."

All of that is far less crowd pleasing than claims he was locked out of his office or found guilty by Feeney and punished by being made committee-less. His folk were there for just such claims, to judge by what made them cheer or chant.

To the Abe Simpson moment — and it was a long one — Turner took what could have been a humanizing and sympathetic experience and twisted it into another rant, to ill effect. According to him, a TV station was outside his house with its truck at 4:30 a.m. It filmed him with an open fly and reported that he should be ashamed. He used that as yet another chance to vilify the media. Instead of making light of the stress that led him to leave the house a spot indecently, he blamed the TV crew for his inability to zip himself. For someone whose arrest charges include several counts of not taking responsibility for his actions in lying to the FBI, that was probably not the best tack. He sounded more like 98 instead of 68 years old.

For the serious stuff, the crowd that grew from a few dozen to probably over 200, without including media, Turner was all victim, all oppressed, all wronged. To those of us who'd like to reserve judgment, he didn't help.

He claimed that the judge in his Worcester arraignment forbade his speaking of details of his case. He claimed that his defense attorneys said he was not the lawyer and should not present his defense to the public or media.

He either extrapolated those far too broadly or he's in a lot more trouble than it looks from the outside. He never once said what you'd expect and what is certainly allowable under the requests of the judge and his lawyers. How about, "I am innocent. I have never taken a bribe or extorted money from anyone"?

The innocent, the guilty who want others to consider that they might be innocent, and even those who are unsure whether their actions or words constitute crimes are wont to claim innocence. I was left wondering what it means that he did not and would not do so. That was not very reassuring to constituents or other city voters.

He had an odd audience, but then again, it was 2:30 p.m. on a Monday. He had a contingent of what appeared to be older, unemployed black supporters. They were obvious by their large posterboard signs all with slogans in the same large green marker block lettering. There was a larger contingent of 30 to 60 something lefty-looking sorts. Some handed out fliers for the Green Rainbow Party (Turner's registration). Others had one with info.

The latter included a URL for That is a real and new (as of Saturday) site. The registrant is secret. It has the look of a legal-defense shell site. That doesn't even whisper plea bargain.

On the plaza, the media dominated hours before the scheduled 2:30 show. Down at the Congress Street level, a battery of jolly coppers stood near their choppers...just in case. They weren't needed.

Amusingly enough, after stoking the folk to assemble them, and then repeatedly calling out the media, the investigators, Feeney and others, Turner talked the group down. He alluded to his Creator, cited the Golden Rule, and said his chanting minions shouldn't act the mob. They should show respect and decorum.

They seemed to as they tagged along with him to the door of City Hall, where he entered and only a handful of them did. There'd be no storming the Bastille today.

The next shot is three or four miles south, at his district office at 51 Roxbury Street, Wednesday at 10 a.m. He made it sound like it would be a review of the glories of his 10 years in office. The new site bills it as a rally as well as a press conference though.

I hope by then that someone makes it plain to him that if he wants deniability and believability that he'd better start asserting innocence.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Two Crooks Are More Than Enough

Let this not be the eclipse of black pols in Boston. City Councilor Chuck Turner follows ex-Senator Dianne Wilkerson with extortion and lying to the FBI indictments. We simply don't have enough elected officials of color to lose them in bunches.

Since Wilkerson's arrest, many have speculated who'll be next. Today, David Bernstein in his Talking Politics blog is asking for best guesses. It's grim humor, but not uncalled for, considering the circumstances. We can all recall in September and October how Wilkerson repeatedly campaigned on "This district is not for sale!" It looks now that she meant that she is the only one who can sell out the district.

I sincerely hope that these two sets of charges are the end of this mess. Minority communities in Boston and all of eastern Massachusetts need better representation, ideally by officials they can identify with and trust. That trust has suddenly become crucial again.

Many of us noted that Wilkerson came to office by saying "We can do better" about then Senator Bill Owens, a convicted felon. Now she's moved onto her own irony scale.

Over in yesterday's Bay State Banner, Deputy Editor Dan Devine put out a call for commentary on the Wilkerson events and causes. That would be a comment on his blog, letter to the editor or email. I put in my own about her resignation as another indication that we need more black and other minority officials.

I do hope that this is not the Republican-izing of minority legislators and other elected officials here. The old elephant party has reduced itself to sounding like Uncle Scar in Lion King — "Life's not fair, is it?" They give voters no reason to support them and then whine when they lose. They are cameo players while their role is played by conservative Democrats.

I stopped myself from speculation about whether other black, Latino or Asian-American pols might be dirty. I came up short immediately thinking of Rep. Willie Allen. I do like her and I want her to be clean. I thought of her only for her strange comments during the recent campaign at a candidate forum. She spoke well of Wilkerson, saying she had advised her. Allen also said that Wilkerson taught her that grabbing pork for her district is the way politics is played here. I hope that's the outer limit of what she learned.

May these two be the only politicians of color brought down. In theory of course and despite witnesses, video and tape recordings, both Wilkerson and Turner may never be convicted. I'm not betting on that.

What I am counting on is that if these two go down, the communities they represent will want to replace them with honorable public servants...and will then watch more closely and skeptically. There are already too few elected officials of color. They don't need to disappear the way Republicans have.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prop. 8...Zipping Right Along

Both sides apparently are looking for a win in the court challenges to Prop. 8 in California. The ballot initiative that redefined marriage, this time back to one-man/one-woman, there won on Nov. 4th with 52%.

This afternoon, the state Supreme Court agreed to decide three constitutional issues related to it. These are:
  • Does amending the constitution for this constitute a simple amendment or is it a weightier revision, which would require bicameral legislative approval?
  • Does it violate separation of powers by limiting judicial review?
  • What is the effect, if any, does it have on the roughly 36,000 who married since legalization of SSM in May?
By agreeing to hear the suits (apparently in a manageable lump to simplify this for everyone) the court is not promising a Christmas present. In judicial time, this is fast. All parties with standing will have until January 21st to submit their briefs. That likely means oral arguments in March. A decision should not be any earlier than June.

The San Francisco Chronicle collected the hopes of the various involved groups. Among those who want to stop SSM, an attorney for the sponsoring group, Protect Marriage, was confident the vote will withstand a challenge. Andrew Pugno said, "This is a great day for the rule of law and for the voters of California." He was pleased that the court refused to stay implementation of the amendment pending trial.

On the other side, various interests, including the city of San Francisco (and 10 other cities and counties) hope to have the court invalidate the vote. City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, "This goes far beyond same-sex marriage. It's about equal protection of the law for all Californians."

Equality California has more background. Arthur Leonard has his first take on it as well.

The Supreme Court's May decision ends up not being the key factor in the suits filed on narrow legal points. Then, the court defined homosexuals as a suspect class deserving legal protecting, which formally turned the marriage issue into a civil-right one. Before this, the state legislature had twice passed SSM, only to have the governor veto the new law. Now having lost repeatedly at both legislative and court levels, the anti-marriage equality side has all of its intent riding on the upholding of the initiative vote.

As in our podcast yesterday, when Ryan held forth on the intensity of public protest nationwide against this initiative vote, it certainly got people's attention, and likely not in the way the anti-SSM forces wanted. Stripping existing rights from any group of citizens seems on the face of it as un-American as you can get. Interestingly enough, the suits the high court there will hear in March attack just this brutal process that permits that.

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Deval Preview for Barack

Chums Deval Patrick and Barack Obama have so many parallels the similarities are not even worth cataloging. Perhaps the President Elect has had the spare moments to reflect on — and plan on avoiding — Patrick's obstructions.

Locally, the Deval version of a progressive river has trickled instead of swept us along. In addition to their sharing considerable politics and philosophy, Barack can like look to the same sort of roadblocks.

Deval has and Barack will face the same, but differing, what sales types call opportunities.

The Money. The progressive agenda each campaigned on takes cash from all its sources — continuing government income from taxes and elsewhere, enabling legislation, bonds and so forth. Neither chief executive can appropriate funds solo. At best, he'll get what he asks for. At second best, he can use or alter the use of existing appropriations. Otherwise, it's game playing with the legislators to deal.

One key difference here is that Deval entered a game underway in which a primary rule is we won't raise taxes. That has proven wildly imprudent as the General Court, often in concert with the previous Republican governors deferred essential expenses repeatedly. Each time increased the cost and didn't make the need vanish. Now infrastructure improvements and maintenance have become absurdly high as a result.

Barack's version will be turning the great ocean liner of expenses. It has been sailing along since in an unbelievable borrow-and-spend party for eight years. Even when Bill Clinton showed how to balance a budget, the current President has seen no need to and Congress went along. Couple this with the two-front war expenses and cap it with the recent ongoing financial chaos.

Barack has to lead us toward financial stability before anyone will support progressive goals. The exceptions may be the twofers — a New Deal-style investment in jobs that helps the economy at the same time. All but the stupidest of us must have learned that the trickle-down fantasy of giving rich people more money does not create jobs or help the broad economy.

Deval has a bit of an easier set of demands. He can't do anything meaningful for the national or world economies. The closest he can come is fostering high-tech and green companies and industries here that help with energy independence and licensing like the early software and computer industries. On the other hand, he was already in a money pinch before this fall's international and national crises.

The Pols. Deval certainly got the worst gang to rumble with. The General Court is a snake pit with entrenched vipers. Everything he promised and then proposed has been a fight, battles he has lost more often than won.

A complicating factor is that despite a nominal huge Democratic majority, Patrick struggles constantly with the real second party — not Republicans, rather the Democrats in Name Only (DINOs). They are often anti-progressives and socially conservative. They typically represent small cities, suburbs and exurbs. Each of these either opposes progressive goals on principle or wants some bacon to bring home for a vote.

The real roadblock has been with the leadership, particularly the local satrap, a.k.a. Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi. He repeatedly held up enabling legislation for progressive programs, programs that could have had financing in place and even been totally in motion before the current money crisis. He has been the worst of those who promise no new taxes, while letting necessary expenses soar.

Barack will need all his Democrats, plus a few Republicans, in each chamber to redirect expenses. Getting us out of Iraq will save many billions, perhaps one or two trillion, mid- to long-term. Yet, he has already made it plain in his debates and speeches that he wants bold strokes as well. He wants Congress to accept deficit spending, but only as investments. Big projects, like FDR-style jobs programs, should put money in workers' pockets and provide paychecks for those presently without. This flows back into the economy. Unlike the fantasy of giving the biggest companies and wealthiest individuals huge tax cuts and subsidies, and then believing they'll create new American jobs and companies, Barack's style of investment has a proven record here and elsewhere.

He and Deval face the same problem and promises they made running for office. Each claims to have a great record of bipartisanship and getting differing sides to work together. So far, Deval really hasn't proven that ability in the harsh Massachusetts political environment. Barack has a similarly demanding set of legislators. However, he also has ground-level pressure from a fearful public and wants and demands action on financials and on his progressive pledges.

Back in Massachusetts, it appears as thought DiMasi may be on his way out soon. A new speaker may play nicer, but again, that will fall to Deval to prove he can work with difficult people here. In Washington, it remains first things first for Barack.

The Vultures. Many want both Deval and Barack to fail. Even before Deval was in office, conservatives and regressives fairly drooled in predicting failure. Some didn't want change. Some wanted to keep or get power. Some wanted to see the Democrats do no better than the Republicans. A few were just ideologues who wanted anything progressive to tank.

Barack can expect the same as Deval here. They'll sit like tukey vultures in the field, eager for any stumble. They'll conveniently forget how long the previous "management" took to screw things up and go ah-ha! when correction and reversal are not immediate.

This schadenfreude vulture group may actively hinder Barack or some of it may be content to gloat and point fingers. I think Barack will likely be as calm about these characters as Deval has been.

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Dianne, Last Guest to Leave

Today's Globe and Herald sites report that now ex-Senator Dianne Wilkerson resigned. Click on the image to see for yourself.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

As Maine Goes...

Mainers lack Southern graciousness and Midwestern timidity, but they remain a hard sell on fundamentals. Whether it's high fashion or the latest in politics, Portland and even Orono aren't where trend spotters congregate. As famous as the state used to be as Presidential bellwether, it still means quite a bit when its residents move together.

I predict that this year or next, we're going to see a lot of meaningful marriage-equality action up North.

Some of the most serious nasties up there are asthenic miniatures of their former anti-gay growlers. Yet, the state is small enough and traditional enough that it never leads the social vanguard.

There's a slim chance though that the legislature could pass same-sex marriage. It is statistically possible; Equality Maine tallies 23 of 35 senators and 82 of 151 representatives as pro-marriage equality.

However, leaping from the 2004 form of domestic partnership to SSM would not be easy. For a bit of history, Mainers overturned pretty basic gay rights (minimal anti-discrimination wording in credit, education, employment, housing and public accommodation) on ballot initiatives. This June, however, citizens soundly rejected a new effort to undo the work of the legislature and governor in this area. Going the Massachusetts/Connecticut route may be too fast.

On the other hand, the group who led the anti-gay forces has fallen badly out of favor. The Christian Civic League of Maine tucked itself under the wing of Focus on the family and changed its name to Maine Family Policy Council. It can no longer raise the funds or primitive outrage among the locals. Not only did its Doomsday prediction for SSM-tainted Massachusetts prove totally wrong again and again and again, but Mainers came out to friends, congregants, co-workers and others, revealing themselves to be the same likable and similar peers, as they were when folk assumed them straight.

For fellow travelers, the fundy churches are pretty small and weak as a group. Moreover, the Roman Catholic one, under Portland's Bishop Richard Malone is not big or powerful either, certainly a wan version of Massachusetts God/politics machine.

Pic note: The image is from an uncopyrighted site, but apparently by Lois Czerniak. The bishop was blessing a two-nun hermitage — a baked goods and prayer shop, replete with on-line store and Super Hot Sauce -- "many people tell us it's by far the best they've ever tasted!

His smallish influence doesn't stop him from trying to remain the opinion former. He decries SSM, although someone needs to tutor him on the grammar of using quotes for slurs. For example in the link, he puts "same sex" in quotes instead of "marriage." He need to remember whom he's trying to insult here.

In his recent homily on the subject, he falls back on the old your-sexual-organs-prove-my-point argument. A man and a women fit together sexually. This can lead to babies. That's God's intent and all you need to know.

This theology by genitalia is a subset of what I heard at the winger The Future of Marriage lectures yesterday. The procreation thing is much like "it's only common sense" and such that you say when you don't have real reasons and refuse to think about the question. It also overlooks that gay and lesbian couples can adopt, or have aided child creation as straight couples do, or choose not to have children, also as many, many different-sex couples decide.

In addition, the anti-SSM crowd likes to have the reproduction thing several ways. For one it says that homosexuals make up a tiny fraction of us. For another, if we permit SSM, birth rates will plunge, imperiling the future of humanity. In reality, a far greater controller of births is different-sexed couples who cannot or will not make babies. Coupled with the high divorce rate for that group, there are areas that the what-God-intends folk need to concern themselves with instead.

Once you get up with the colorful cassock crowd, you don't see to get a lot of dissent. The bishop doesn't even has a wife to keep him alert and honest. To his credit, he doesn't pretend as many other anti types do that modern marriage predates formal society, going back many thousands of years. Yet, he does assert that a couple of verses of the gospels directly translate into a totally analogous definition and support for a form of marriage that has only been common for a couple of hundred years. Also, perhaps understandably considering his profession, he conflates the civil contract we have always used in America and which we inherited from England and Europe with his church's rituals.

Seemingly cynically, he uses an infant's baptism to insinuate his politically based homily. He led with, "Marriage, as it has been known and lived for millennia, is under attack in our country, and now, in our own state." He claims that the diocese "has been unwavering in its support of hospital visitation rights or the sharing of health insurance benefits between household members, people choosing to live together whatever their sexual orientation. That only seems fair. However, to insist that complementarity of sexes is a fundamental prerequisite for marriage is not to be unfair." In that vein, he works to the zinger in citing "the Catechism of the Catholic Church, stating the Church’s authoritative teaching when it declares that homosexual persons “…must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

We must assume that to support marriage on the bishop's terms, we can and must discriminate against homosexual couples. After all, his homily delineates among types of discrimination.

We can look to him as well as the previous opponents of gay rights and SSM. Both draw from the same well of weak arguments and unsupported claims. I can't surmise whether marriage equality will come before the Maine legislature this session or the next, nor how those chambers will act on it. I can say with some assuredness that the anti-equality forces will have to do more than pretend civilization ends if a couple whose genitals don't plug in just so get married.

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