Sunday, June 29, 2008

SSM Sermon

Sermon, Same-Sex Marriage: More and Less Than Ritual, delivered on 6/29/8 at First Parish in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nice Guy, That Killer

Never say guilty seems the phrase that covers most of us. No brother, neighbor, classmate or coworker would do this or that heinous deed, eh?

That attitude is alternately described as delusion, denial or just American optimism. We saw it here in unbelievable form as the parents of convicted uxoricide and infanticide felon Neil Entwistle canonized him unabashedly. As long as it stays on YouTube, you can see them in action here at about one minute in.)

As a parent, I certainly understand reveling in the gross and nuanced virtues of my boys. Yet, I cannot imagine the neurosis or denial that would force me to fantasize total innocence and even martyrdom with overwhelming evidence before me. Must there not be compassion if not empathy for the victims and their families?

For those who have not followed our local sensationalism, Entwistle received life without possibility of parole today for the double shooting murders of his wife and tiny daughter two years ago. Commonwealth law requires an automatic review by the Supreme Judicial Court in such sentences. Moreover, there is already talk from his lawyers of an appeal based on the judge's refusal to permit a change of venue farther from the scene of the crimes.

From the Mouth of Parents

We can hope we won't be in the circumstances of being relatives or neighbors of mass murderers. The questions to them from outsiders, aloud or stifled, is invariably, "Didn't you know? Couldn't you have helped prevent this?"

Neil Entwistle's mom and dad, Yvonne and Clifford, seemed to be the only people in the courtroom who believed the convoluted fantasy of wife Rachel blowing away 9-month-old daughter Lillian Rose and then somehow contorting her arms to shoot herself from the top of her skull as she lay dying with a bullet deep in her chest that had passed through her child.

Is it virtue to think the best of your child? Does that mean always denying the worst even when it is the only rational conclusion?

Consider Yvonne's short post-trial statement:
We know that our son, Neil, is innocent, and we are devastated to learn that the evidence points to Rachel murdering our grandchild and then committing suicide. I knew Rachel was depressed. Our son will now go to jail for loving, honoring, and protecting his wife’s memory.
Likewise, Clifford blamed our justice system and mentioned the victim's family spokesman Joseph Flaherty:
From the moment that Joe Flaherty said, and I quote, "All we need now is the right jury pool," we knew Neil would not receive a fair trial. We will continue to fight for our innocent son with the hope that one day justice will prevail, and our little granddaughter Lilly may rest in peace.
Together, they continued that theme in a sentencing day statement that included:
We chose to respect America by not being dragged into pre-trial propaganda as this trial was for the courtroom only. Unfortunately, America did not respect us back and has not given our innocent son a fair trial.

He Would Never...

That pair are not the only ones who deny the horrific, even to refusing to accept the possibility of guilt. In seems almost invariable that rapists, murders and others we from a distance use monster to describe find familiar defenders among family and acquaintances.

People are quick and sincere to call such people nice, friendly, helpful and good neighbors. Initially even cannibal murder Jeffrey Dahmer had neighbors who said, "He was shy, a little withdrawn. But not real bizarre...he never bothered anyone."

See a Slate piece citing these. It suggests that a big factor is a CYA attitude to exculpate those who knew the evil person.

Moreover, we have to ask how much of this is stereotypical American optimism, seeing others as basically wholesome and moral, as we like to see ourselves. Beyond this too we have to wonder how much this is compounded by understandable faith in our sense of reality and our character judgment. These are precepts that guide our daily actions and thoughts. It is tough, real tough, to admit such fundamental failing.

If we nod to, work with or chat and even drink with a crazed killer, what does that say about us? Are we so un-insightful? Are we incapable of discernment? Are our powers of observation so weak that we sense nothing? Have we failed in our day-to-day ability to understand those around us?

Personal Responsibility

To see a more rational alternative, let's switch to a much milder set of crimes. Just yesterday, the police chief in Georgetown, Texas, faced up to his daughter's behavior. David Morgan's 18-year-old was caught high with a very large amount of marijuana. She responded to being stopped by assaulting the arresting officer. She spent six days in jail and will face a lot of charges.

Rather than deny anything, claim innocence or framing, or say she never would have done any of this, Chief Morgan said:
I am deeply saddened by the arrest of my daughter, Samantha Morgan, by the Georgetown Police Department. We all want to think we are the perfect parents, and our kids are the perfect children. Regardless of our professions, our children are still susceptible to societies issues and problems.

I wear two hats; one as a parent, and the other as the Chief of Police. As Chief of the Georgetown Police Department, I commend the officers involved in this case. They performed their duty and held my daughter accountable for her behavior, just as they would any other citizen. As a parent, though she is an adult, she will always be my daughter and I will always be there for her with love in my heart. While this incident is unfortunate, I hope that some good can come from this for her benefit.
We can't know what his reaction would have been if she had killed people. However, such candor and willingness to deal with reality is refreshing. We live in times when every convincted felon is innocent and every accused murder, abuser, kidnapper and rapist is falsely accused. Surely we can't look to a trend of criminals taking responsibility and trying to atone, but at least not everyone is into denial and deceit.

It remains understandable when parents do not want to accept that their child has committed dreadful crimes. It is understandable too when people we really didn't know turn out to be people we really didn't know, and we can't believe their inhuman conduct.

However, what is not understandable is when a preponderance of evidence proves what we do not want to believe that we can't be open to the obvious.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wisdom? Globe: Not Yours!

The birthday box from New Mexico arrived yesterday, including a sheaf of Corporate Curmudgeon columns. Like scones popping with raisins, those clips brim with wit and business savvy — stuff to amuse and stuff you can use.

The Boston Globe decided you don't need those. Instead, they run their tired set of cliché mongers and shameless local boosters. Along with the other major daily, that paper is desperate for black ink. In that effort, it is dropping the good stuff and buying out the good writers. We get the junk food but not the sustaining goodies.

Dale would fit in with the edict from Inc. Magazine founder Bernie Goldhirsh. He was brilliant, but a befuddled character, sometimes pressed to translate his instincts into useful words. When I worked there, he used to tell our all-hands meetings things like, "I want an MBA education wrapped in the cover of my monthly magazine." Unlike Globe columnists who tell you how to scold a coworker who uses too much bad cologne or touting local companies, Dale's weekly piece is a concise, often amusing and very readable business-school lecture.

Tepid Disclaimer: I apparently was instrumental in getting the Globe to rent Dale's work, with a one-person email, letter and telephone campaign. Afterward, he sent me a free copy of his The Laughing Warriors book. You'll have to buy your own.

We had access to his work from January 2006 through this April. The business editors (Caleb Solomon to Shirley Leung about a year ago) apparently use the failure-prone network-TV trick of shifting Dale's columns. By moving him to the new Sunday classified circular (pretending to be a business supplement), they effectively buried the column out of sight. I suppose, like broadcast bozos, they gambled that sacrificing a popular feature would boost ad readership elsewhere. Certainly too as business sorts they should know that the tens of dollars a week for a great column is a ton more effective than paying a staff columnist, a boring, predictable staff columnist.

You have surely noticed the Globe similarly flounders with its Sidekick and other special sections. Honk. Wrong. When something continually doesn't work, stop doing it!

I'm likely one of the few in our burgh who gets these columns. They appear in both major New Mexico dailies in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. My sister clips and sends them. Many end up in the hands of friends who likewise don't care for the local pap but do like solid brain food.

If you were a regular reader wonder what happened, you might address a note to the business editor over there, Shirely Leung. I get my Dauten fix on the side. How about you?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How Strict California Refs?

If the anti-marriage equality sorts can ever be said to operate in good faith, that may apply to their ballot initiative effort to put an constitutional amendment before California voters in November. Yet, they love their gotcha! politics and this time, it may be they who end up on the wrong side of process.

They started this effort before the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. While their intent is certainly malicious, they did try to get it on the ballot. The rules include gathering signatures with wording the secretary of state's office approves, wording that accurately reflects the impact of any changes.

Subsequently, the court decision has substantially altered that. There are impacts, particularly to existing laws. The suit by pro-equality sorts calls for a do-over for the signatures to give voters a chance to decide accurately.

As usual, I turn to the NYU law professor/expert Arthur S. Leonard. He's been on this situation.

Under California law, initiatives are pretty much a steamroller that generally don't stop after they qualify for the ballot. No one, not governor, legislature, secretary of state nor attorney general can pull one off the ballot. That takes a court order.

According to the secretary of state's report on 91 years of these, through 2002 (page 9 of the 115 pager):
  • 1,187 ballot initiatives circulated
  • 290 qualified for the ballot
  • 3 were removed by court order
So the odds for the pro-equality petitioners are very long. Leonard writes that it's "hard to say" how the high court there will rule. However, he adds that he was favorably impressed by the two-pronged argument.

First, the high court not only invalidated the family code one-man/one-woman marriage wording, it ruled that in this case, homosexuals were a suspect classification legally, with marriage as a fundamental right. They specifically deserve legal consideration as a group. Thus, would stripping them of an existing right be more than a simple amendment, be a constitutional revision? As Leonard writes, "...this proposed initiative, unlike those that have survived judicial review in the past, works a direct deprivation of a fundamental right on a class basis."

If so, rules much more akin to the Massachusetts initiative ones would kick in. Normally under California's lax initiative and referendum rules, a simple amendment is an up or down, simple majority at the ballot. If the court rules this is a revision, however, each house of the state legislature would have to approve the revision by a two-thirds majority. Then it would go on the ballot. Alternately, it could pass at a constitutional convention and then by plebiscite to take effect.

This is still more relaxed that Massachusetts' version that requires passage of identical wording in two consecutive years. However, the additional requirements certainly would be enough to kill this.

Leonard concludes, "I’m certain that Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Counsel and the others who were working so hard to try to prevent the Supreme Court’s decision from going into effect will do their darndest now to submit persuasive arguments as to why 'the people' should be allowed to vote to deprive their fellow citizens of a fundamental right along suspect classification lines...One hopes the court sees through that argument and decides that only the more deliberative process of the legislature or a constitutional convention should be the mechanism for this question to be addressed further by California."

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Love Apple Horror

Perhaps we should have always known better. Tomatoes are in the nightshade family, plants with poisonous parts, including belladonna.

Yet, we don't tend to chew on the leaves and stems that hold the toxins and if we do, we don't have enough to get ill. So we have BLTs and salads with lots of red or yellow tomatoes. Yummers.

The current nationwide fear of this wonderful fruit, this essential berry, is simultaneous a little understandable and a lot silly. Over at my Harrumph! I confess my daredevil tomato purchasing and consumption from the Haymarket.

If you can handle the truth, be aware:
  • Food poisoning is common.
  • We get it all the time (over 500 U.S. deaths a year from salmonella alone).
  • Salmonella comes from bird and particularly mammal feces on veggies and fruits.
  • There's no practical way to prevent critters from dumping on your food in the field.
  • Rinsing produce doesn't necessarily neutralize or remove toxins.
Our bodies usually process salmonella and we get over it fine with no medical care. Of course, that's true of the majority of minor conditions we rush to doctors or ERs for as well. If you are delusional enough to think all your food is safe, you'll probably believe your doctor can cure everything you get — or even diagnosis it.

We shouldn't kid ourselves that there's no risk from the mundane.

Salmonella can generate fever, cramps and diarrhea. We get those quickly when exposed — one third to three days later. Most of the time, we're fine within a week on our own. Sometimes, it becomes a verifiable condition, salmonellosis. That can add nausea, vomiting and chills. This can kill the very young, very old and already ill.

In other words, it's like a lot of other gastric or respiratory, bacterial or viral conditions. Most of the time, it can be bad for a short time and the marvelous machines we wear deal.

That's no solace for anyone who gets really sick or even dies. On the other hand, the sudden recent panic over a few dozen folk hospitalized over bad tomatoes is delusional. It's not like our food system is otherwise safe and dandy.

We all have to eat. Many of us, certainly I, really enjoy food. We shouldn't kid ourselves that there's no risk from the mundane.

We are at vastly higher danger levels whenever we get in a car, walk the street, or ride a bike than when we put a slice of tomato on our tongue. All those are things we do all the time.

I have two mycology books and am a certified master gardener. Yet, I don't go picking wild mushrooms for my omelets. Many people worldwide die from that every year, even those who have a lot of experience for decades. On the other hand, my risk taking includes tomatoes that I buy from the Haymarket and those I grow myself. Bring on the love apples!

Every step I stride and every breath I take has its risks.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Two Can Plea At This (CA) Game

Fill it up...another court please.

Out there on the left coast, wingers seem to love ballot initiatives and lefties play by the legal rules. A bunch of equality-minded folk are asking the California Supreme Court to stop the November initiative that would outlaw same-sex marriage there. The arguments are:
  1. The signature petitions and docs filed read that there'd be no change to state law. Following the decision to mandate SSM, that's not true. This would require a do over for signatures with clarity.
  2. The initiative seems to revise rather than amend the state constitution. Moreover, it would revise it to legalize something the high court there has found unconstitutional.
It is somewhat amusing that the other side on this issue and on equality and rights in general is normally the one making precise legal arguments instead of broad ones. While this suit can appear picayune at first look, it is really only asking that the anti forces play by the well-defined rules.

I have long had my own issues with California's overly easy initiative system (or the flamethrower of populism in my terms). There is terrific latitude in getting any harebrained scheme on the ballot for a simple majority vote. Given that, you'd think even the anti-gay forces would obey the few requirements.

As part of the let-'em-vote mentality, the secretary of state, Debra Bowen, doesn't have much control. She has to certify on the basis of number of valid signatures. She'd can't stifle an initiative that is patently unconstitutional without a court order. That's what this suit tries to do, put the brakes on a scam before it rushes into the constitution with the force of law.

For its own bluster, the anti folks' spokes-lawyer, Alliance Defense Fund's Glen Lavy said,"This is just another attempt to force a radical political agenda upon the people of California. The opponents of marriage are willing to use any means necessary to impose their will."

Yup, it must be them homosexuals with a political agenda using any means to impose their will on the people. Winning multiple times in the legislature and then in the highest court sure is sneaky.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Maine Anti Freezes

A gleeful tip of the toupee to MassResistance Watch where Bud posted the news that the main Maine anti-gay/anti-marriage equality folk have thrown in the lobster bib on overturning gay rights.

After several successful ballot initiatives to reverse the very basic and benign anti-discrimination in housing and employment for gay citizens, the paradoxically named Christian Civic League of Maine will take what few marbles it has left elsewhere. According to the Bangor Daily News, that particular dwindling party of nasties admits the state's citizens have moved on. It was only able to get about a tenth of the 15,000 signatures necessary by January to try again to strip existing rights from citizens, and a third of the target they set for themselves short-term.

"We're pulling the plug," said CCL Executive Director Mike Heath. Oddly enough, his site has been real quick to update with such important news as models in windows at an Augusta lingerie shop, but this hasn't been decorated enough to make it apparently.

The ignoble aims of the group included:
  • Repealing protections for homosexuals in credit, education, employment, housing and public accomodation.
  • Barring the AG from using state funds for civil-rights teams and public school programs.
  • Reaffirmed that Maine marriage can only be between one man and one woman.
  • Forbidden adoption by gay couples.
  • Prohibited civil unions.
  • Prohibit issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
All together a very loving, Christian package, no?

Bud also includes a mention that Lexington's Mad Dad doesn't seem to have enough star power or any power. He visited Puerto Rico to attend anti-gay rallies and push an absolute ban on SSM there, including tighter strictures on civil unions or anything resembling marital rights. It failed.

Together, those two brights are not definitive. However, they do suggest that some people are tired of hate mongering and limiting the freedoms of others for no good reason. The overkill seems to be a big factor too.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rope-A-Dope in Second Suffolk

As much as Sonia Chang-Diaz takes it to her, State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson sits tight. The long-term Second Suffolk pol may not know how to file her taxes or update her web presence. She does seem to know that Chang-Diaz is going to have to rip the senate seat out of her hands.

Wilkerson nearly did lose it two years ago. She didn't bother to get the 300 signatures for a spot on the ballot. She ended up in a messy sticker campaign, which Chang-Diaz nearly won.

That's one lesson finally learned. This year, Wilkerson's campaign turned in 10 times the required sigs. "I wanted to dispel any notion as early in the process as possible of just how serious I am about this race," she said in atoning for last time.

This race fascinates me. We had Chang-Diaz on for a podcast at Left Ahead! two months ago. The rematch is well worth watching for several reasons.

Sonia Who?

Last time, 15-year Senator Wilkerson was deeply established while Chang-Diaz was a school teacher who seemed to appear suddenly. Sonia's strong challenge made her background and her positions much better known. Now she comes in as the smart, knock-out Latina who almost beat the old hand.

She (and her campaigners including her mom) still have to ring every bell in the geographically large district, but she is much more of a known quantity.

Rascal Queen

This race is clean as old v. new. Both candidates have strong liberal to progressive goals and platforms. Wilkerson has a big advantage in bringing in projects with money for the district for years. Chang-Diaz says you can get all that without the scandal and ethics problems.

The question comes whether voters who have paid attention want to wink at yet another unethical Boston pol, as long as she delivers the goods. This devil-we-know answer could well be yes. However, no one can say the choice wasn't plain.

Chang-Diaz is going to have to convince enough voters that she can also deliver. She doesn't have Wilkerson's record. Then again, she doesn't have Wilkerson's scandals on record either.

From my perspective, I just wonder how long it would take Chang-Diaz to mesh with the senate and administration to become effective in the way Wilkerson has.


Wilkerson knows she holds the seat firmly. Her non-campaign reflects that brightly.

Her website is from the past election. The only other presence so far is her stolid legislator page. Even on her campaign site, she plays it very safe — no issues, no apologies, no promises. She stresses only the cash she's brought in.

In contrast, Chang-Diaz has a fully formed site. She defines her positions, in no small part because she can't do the I-delivered-the-bacon list. She told us at Left Ahead! that she'd bring the battle of ideas to Wilkerson and continue to flesh out the issues with more and more specifics until the senator has to respond.

Affinity Program

Then there's the sometimes whispered and sometimes shouted racial issue. Wilkerson and her supporters are not shy about blowing the race trumpet. That's been a safe bet for years. Many precincts are heavy with black voters, who have come out in greater percentages for Wilkerson than other voters have for opponents. They likely accounted for the 767-vote difference last time.

As the Globe reported on this aspect:
"That's an extra dynamic for many people in the African-American community that this is our only African-American Senate seat," said political consultant Joyce Ferriabough. "It plays heavily when Roxbury and Mattapan come out super-deep for Dianne."
At the moment, Wilkerson is the only black state sentator here. If the opponent were a pasty-faced Brahmin, that might be a more powerful election argument than against a Latina in a city with a large and growing Hispanic population. Chang-Diaz has shown no inclination to stress her Hispanic and Asian roots or pit Latinos against blacks. Wilkerson may do that for her.

Both are liberals. Both are women. We'll find out this time how effectively Wilkerson can play her race again or whether she relies heavily on her delivery tab.

Even though she a generation apart from the stereotypical Boston pols, Wilkerson shares many of their traits. It may be that she can still pull the wink, wink, I may be shady, but I'm one of you act. We've seen that here for many decades from others of different cultures and races. It has often worked.

Chang-Diaz portrays herself as a stronger populist and a reformer. There's bit of subtlety to the contest, but it's a test for the voters.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

California SSM Bright

Click below to see and hear another snatch of the humanity of equal rights. George Takei, a.k.a. Star Trek's Sulu, and his long-term partner Brad Altman were among the first same-sex couples to marry in California.

He flashes the famous Vulcan hand greeting. "May equality live long and prosper!"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Anti-SSM Hail Mary Grounded

Without comment, the First Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected the tortured effort to delay same-sex marriage in California. The aim of the Liberty Counsel suit was to halt SSM until after the November election, which will include a state constitution amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

The state's highest court, the Supreme Court, mandated SSM a month ago and it took effect late yesterday.

I'm betting that having many hundreds and maybe thousands of same-sex residents marry in the next five months will help defeat the amendment.

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SSM OK in Norway

Norway's parliament approved full same-sex marriage with clarity on related topics today. Specifically:
  • Homosexual couples have full marriage equality
  • Lesbians have access to artificial insemination
  • The national Registered Partnership Act was repealed, with registered couples to get the option of converting to marriage
  • Homosexual couples must be evaluated and treated equally as adoptive parents
  • Lesbians' children have the same legal rights as others
On the church front, most Norwegians (maybe 85%) are Lutherans. That church there is split on same-sex marriage. The government gives them the option of solemnizing SSMs, but does not require it. The new law will continue that. The position of the Lutheran church is that at the moment this is up to individual parishes how they view and deal with the issue.

However, it may take up to two years for a gender-neutral liturgy to emerge from the church. Meanwhile, couples have the option for a civil marriage with a church blessing.

It must be increasingly scary for the anti-gay hardliners here. More civilized nations with advanced social systems go to SSM. They live the equality we talk.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Big Brother Needs a Poke in the Eye

In comparative government classes as well as MSM for the boomers, a frequent distinction was freedom. The cliché often ran that in the Soviet Union, everything not explicitly permitted is forbidden, while here everything not specifically forbidden is permitted.

Alas, today's youth cannot allow themselves that fantastic ideal. The Greatest Generation, the Entitlement Generation (a.k.a. the Silent Gen.) and boomers have managed to let pseudo-patriotism knock us way down the liberty tree. Those in other nations used to envy us our freedoms. We can understand why they're not so sure anymore.

You would think that the WWII and Korean Police Action sorts would abhor what restrictive affronts have befallen our traditional freedoms, our separation of powers and our Bill of Rights. You'd be wrong. The nefarious Bush administration and its abettors largely get praise and support from those who fought the big wars.

George the Lesser himself is a boomer. He is a disgraceful example for the rest of us. With the steady clucking support of the capons in Congress and the Supreme Court, he has used post-9/11 culture to flip America into a Soviet mentality.

Today's assumptions are:
  • If you don't OBEY Big George, you are yielding to terrorists intent on destroying America. Forget that yielding to him is destroying America.
  • If you don't have anything to hide, our spy agencies and Homeland Security should be able to violate all your privacy and freedoms to (don't laugh now) keep you free.
  • Torturing Americans and non-Americans alike, then stripping them of any liberty or due process is okay. It (somehow) preserves liberties and due process for the rest of us.
Back to the not so thrilling days of yesteryear, among the paradoxes and ironies of the 50s and 60s ideal were:
  • Those freedoms were for a select group, not as limited as ancient Athenian citizens, but still more or less for adult whites.
  • Returning troops didn't bring their devotion to liberty home. They got their housing, education and other benefits without then pushing for rights for women, blacks and others. Freedom stopped at their checking account.
  • Quickly, paranoia about communism trumped domestic freedoms of speech and association.
We used to take comfort, deep comfort, as a nation that we might not be perfect, but we were by far the best of what was out there. No country had our liberties and respect for its citizens. Dagnabbit.

Instead, George the Lesser's presidency has given new and terrible meaning to the eyes of Texas are upon you. Our government has previously unacceptable powers to spy on us -- you and me. Through kidnapping, torture, unreasonable search and seizure, and violations of the entire Bill of Rights, we have become the enemy of freedom, the dictatorship to avoid.

Where are the freedom loving Americans? Where at the liberty supporting legislators? Does the most recent Supreme Court decision calling for an end to GITMO violations of the Fourth Amendment signal a change? If the Congress and courts and presidency no longer understand and love liberty, have they no sense of decency?

It is fearsome to look at recent history, particularly the past seven years. How quickly we have abandoned the ideals that boomers grew up hearing and learning and living. Now we must ask whether even such a wishy-washy liberal as Barack Obama bolstered with a bigger majority in Congress can and would reverse these disgraces.

That America we boomers grew up believing in is noble and worthwhile indeed. Our jaded parents taught us that much more than they lived it. Yet, we hold those ideals as a generation because of the words if not the deeds.

I suggest if a time to rectify the errors of the recent past is to come, it should be in November and afterward. With the support of the seemingly awakened young voters and the inculcated idealism of the boomers, we have a decent shot at walking the right path.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Calilfornia Daisy Chain: Everybody Panic!

It's garbage time in the Golden State. The third-string subs from Florida, the Liberty Counsel, have come in after the home team got its insurmountable lead. Similarly, this is the old grasping at straws.

The California Supreme Court mandated same-sex marriage. The anti-gay/anti-marriage equality forces have a state constitutional amendment on the November ballot to stop these marriages. Meanwhile they are understandably panicked that hundreds, likely thousands, of SS couples will wed, starting Monday. That would mean voters would have to strip their fellow citizens of existing civil rights. This considerably dims the ballot initiative's prospects.

To show how desperate the anti folk are, Liberty Counsel's filing (on their own, they have no standing in the state) for the Campaign for California Families headed to the 1st Court of Appeal with three absurd arguments. The alleged high point of the 33-page petition is a middle-school quality diagram purporting to prove that the high court had legalized not only SSM, but polygamy and polyandry at the same time.

Back on planet Earth, a couple of legal types responded pretty dryly to this grasping at straws:

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera called Liberty Counsel's filing "absurd." "I am not aware of a process in American law that enables parties to effectively appeal a higher court ruling to a lower court," Herrera said.

Vik Amar, a professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Davis, said it was unlikely the lower court would go against the will of the state Supreme Court. "It would be an abuse of discretion to ignore the clear statement made by the Supreme Court when they turned down the stay and grant one now," Amar said.

The hair-on-fire petition has three laughable arguments:
  • The Supreme Court's order does not mandate the immediate issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and this court should act to prevent the constitutional and legal confusion that would result from such action.
  • This court should stay the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples to prevent a violation of federal and state law by opening the door to de facto polygamy and polyamory.
  • This court should stay the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon remand so as to preserve separation of powers by permitting the legislature and the people to exercise the roles granted and reserved to them under the California Constitution.
I'm particularly fond of trying to invoke affected laws and regulations. Just hold off a decision until the legislature and any regulatory bodies involved align all their statutes and rules. Of course, that would give any one of these bodies effective veto power — in clear violation of constitutional separation of powers — by inaction.

In addition, the Supreme Court there has already dealt with the petition to delay implementation until after the November election, rejecting it quickly and clearly. Filing these requests in the lower court that already took its beating in the SSM ruling is sad indeed, in the pathetic sense.

Surely though, even the Liberty Counsel nasties can't believe what they presented in the following selection form the petition. The don't-say-we-didn't-warn-you assertions are laughable scare tactics as well as terrible legal arguments.

Since neither the Supreme Court nor the Court of Appeal has declared unconstitutional the myriad of other statutes regarding marriage, local government officials do not have the power to issue marriage licenses until the legislature addresses these statutes. Liberty Counsel asks that the Court of Appeal order that no marriage licenses be issued to same-sex couples until the language cited by the Supreme Court is stricken by the legislature and until there is a judicial determination that the other statutes are unconstitutional.

From the petition, the daisy chain of satanic lust and depravity includes:
The diagram above illustrates how a group of six people could legally form a polyamorous and polygamous relationship if the Supreme Court’s ruling is implemented without legislative action. Couples A and B, C and D and E and F could each enter into civil unions in either Vermont or New Jersey (civil unions 1-3). One member of each civil union could then “marry” a member of one of the other civil unions in California.

I would love to be a banana slug on the window when the Appeal justices get to the diagram and claims.

For those who are truly pro-family and pro-marriage, that is, the winners in the Supreme Court decision, this has to be reassuring. The Dark Side is out of legal arguments and ideas. It's garbage time. As in our struggle here against the last-second amendment to overturn SSM, the effort now is to defeat the initiative in November.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yes She Can

"You're not my child anymore!" or how about, "Don't tell you grandmother. It would kill her!"

Not so long ago, parents might wig out on their kids who came out to them. It was not what we would call loving and supportive.

We have a different century and another kind of guy as governor here. Over at Bay Windows, Laura Kiritsy profiles Deval and Diane Patrick's daughter Katherine.

A year ago, when the legislature denied the amendment to stop same-sex marriages here, she had not come out to her parents, but she said she had never felt prouder of him. "So, for someone so publicly to fight for something that doesn't even affect him was just like, 'That's my dad,' you know?"

There is a public and political veneer on her coming out as well as the issues many children and parents face. She said they had to come to terms with the public nature of such revelations. Facing considerable media intrusion herself, Diane would like to avoid any of her children feeling "answerable to the public."

Diane also recalled the sit-com moment of coming out, as in oh-that's-all? Katherine wanted to speak to both parents and ask an aunt to leave. Diane's mind raced through a list of the potentials, as parents are wont to do. "When her daughter made the big rveal, Diane almot burst out laughing out of sheer relief."

Check out the profile for details and vignettes — and what makes Deval cry.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Marrying Friends, California Style

No, you don't get a badge. Not yours. Then again, becoming a volunteer deputy marriage commissioner in California is bound to be real popular real soon.

Same-sex marriages start in less than a week there, late on June 16th. Some of those — to my way of thinking and experience, the most fun and satisfying — will be performed by a friend or relative. I bet many SS couples will appreciate the personal aspect more than using a minister, justice of the peace or civic official.

California seems to have copied and adapted the long-standing Massachusetts designated one-day solemnizer thingummy. We've been doing it here forever, but California's implementation makes it quicker and easier. Both are a one-day/one-couple authorization to declare a pair married and legally sign the license for recording as official.

California goes us better by:
  • Location. Our One Day Marriage Solemnization requires specifying at application time where the marriage will occur. It must be there. Their Deputy Commissioner of Marriage Program lets the event happen anywhere in the state.
  • Frequency. Here, one-day solemnizers can only perform one marriage in a calendar year. There, one can apparently churn 'em out.
  • Delay. It's not that they don't trust us (maybe it is), but it goes through the governor's office (don't tell anyone, but it's actually bureaucrats in the secretary of state's). They do cursory checks to avoid immigration and bigamy scams. Getting your certificate can take a week or even two. In California, you stride into the local registrar's office (if they participate), fill out the papers and get your own authorization. In contrast, El Dorado county warns of its version of delays — a 15-minute how-to instruction and if you don't make an appointment first, up to two hours at the office.
On the other hand, ours is statewide. Any adult can apply over the Net. California is easing into this as county officials decide to participate. Right now, that includes counties of Alameda, El Dorado, Los Angeles, Napa, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, and Sonoma.

Also, theirs is slightly more expensive, typically $40. Ours is fixed at $25.

I've solemnized two marriages for long-term friends. More than more stereotypical weddings, everyone mists up or wetter. It is definitely special to have someone who already knows you and loves you do the deed.

In 2003, I solemnized a marriage
for a straight couple in pre-Goodridge days. She and I had known each other for over 20 years and her beau had wanted to marry her for decades longer. Meanwhile, they had gone about life, and in and out of marriages. Four decades in the making, this was moving for all of us.

The next year, I performed the ceremony for two men
, one who had gone to college with me and remained friends over the decades. He's godfather to one of my sons. We had attended their civil union in Vermont the previous year, but local with all the family, friends and coworkers, and in this case full legal marriage, is considerably more powerful.

It's a bit of a pain to get your paper. It is unquestionably worth doing so.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dennis the Menacer: Impeach!

Right but that quixotic or moral or both?

Dennis J. Kucinich, U.S. Rep. from the Land of Cleve, got messy again yesterday. He introduced his often threatened impeachment motion against the sitting President. Certainly far more upset than George Bush the Lesser was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In a speech on the House floor, he "accused Bush of executing a 'calculated and wide-ranging strategy'" to deceive citizens and Congress into believing that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States." He got as far as a formal resolution to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney last year. House Republicans were ready to mix it up on that one, confident they could humiliate him in their victory, but the body killed the resolution before it got that far.

Legally and certainly morally, he's on solid ground, but I don't know of anyone who thinks he has a chance. That is in no small part because of Pelosi. She has frequently stated that "impeachment is off the table." That has annoyed and angered many of us who clearly see the crimes that the head of the current administration have committed and the thousands of lives and billions of dollars lost. Many lefties, libertarians and others who care more about law and morality than party loyalty have decried her stance.

We have to wonder what this will mean under an Obama administration with Pelosi still running the house. Would he do the right things or play the same mealy-mouth politics she has?

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Twist the Presidential Lens

Suddenly, it's time to focus. The three, and now two, major party Presidential candidates have been in soft focus for a year and change. Considerable sharpening will likely decide the election.

Writing today largely on Barack Obama, the Financial Times' Clive Crook says it well:
His greatest electoral weakness will probably not be inexperience, nor the fact that he is black. Washington’s most experienced politicians have little to boast about and voters know it. Racism exists, but he came through the Wright storm stronger. The charge that sticks is vagueness. Appealing as the message of change and hope may be to a country with a low opinion of its politicians, it will not be enough. He will be challenged to make his policies – on Iraq, on Iran, on the economy and healthcare – more detailed and specific. He will need to answer, if not with exhaustive blueprints then at least with a mastery of the issues, clearer priorities and a franker recognition of the costs and benefits than he has shown so far.
That's applicable to McCain as well, as it was for Clinton. While their elves of spin in their campaigns — as well as many of their supporters — claimed that unlike the others, their positions were clearly annunciated and distinctive. Balderdash.

In fact, at the primary stages of such a campaign, they'd likely have been foolish to be too specific. That gives the other side too big a target to pick at and find fault. McCain is not gold here. His laughable and overly general economic and foreign policies won't stand and won't help him as is.

Now, it's show time. So far, the GOP ads are down and dirty, standard lying attack fare. Fortunately, we have debates and debate-like events coming up.

McCain is almost certain to regret his chant of Obama being devoid of ideas, details and substance. In fact, the Bush LITE associations of McCain will require a lot more than waving hands and saying he didn't agree with everything that President said.

Yet, so far the MSM likes the idea that Obama is the vague one. It shouldn't take long to put the lie to that. It will be fascinating to see how McCain acts as it becomes plain in debates who's the fluff spreader.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hillary Fully With The Program

Well, shut my mouth. Hillary did good in her concession speech today. I had lots to do, with number two cost unit's graduation and number one's birthday; when I returned, Big Brown had not done his thing, but Hillary had given an inspired talk.

Regular readers here and listeners on Left Ahead! know that I've been impatient to see Obama and McCain mix it up. I don't have to list all the reasons George Bush the Lesser's administration has crippled America. As Hillary's impending loss became more and more inevitable, I criticized her for maybe or likely harming the main effort.

I rather doubt she'd care a whit that yet another blogger praises her now. I'm happy to do so anyway.

Today's speech was one of her best, ever, on any topic. She showed the wit, graciousness and clarity of purpose largely absent from political orations. Her overt and unmodified calls for support for Obama to defeat the Republicans was spot on and unambiguous. She likely turned a lot of unhappy supporters in the necessary direction.

The weakest part was the first two minutes. She bragged on herself, as Southerners say. That's understandable too. Her ego is smaller than her husband's, but not by much. Yet, even there, she ended up iterating the big, progressive goals that only stand a chance with a Democratic prez and a more Democratic Congress. This should be one of those twice-a-century shots at progressive reform, one in which we can join her, as she put it, "on the front lines of democracy, fighting for the future."

Her speech's very high highlights included:
  • Flat out admission of defeat -- "...I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him. And I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me."
  • Lauding the winner -- as Obama has for for some time for her, she laid out his virtues, like "strength and determination, his grace and his grit."
  • Coupling herself in the battle with Obama -- "...this optimism that Senator Obama and I share and that has inspired so many millions of our supporters to make their voices heard. So today I am standing with Senator Obama to say: Yes, we can!"
  • Pointing to common ideology to justify support -- she restated her platform, but not egotistically. She reminded the audience of the wide range of common goals she and Obama share. That could make a transition to supporting him much easier.
She failed in only one major aspect in the speech. When people ask me or comment on one of my blogs to the effect of "You Obama supporters won. What else could you want?" Identifying that aspect and answering that question seems obvious. She absolutely should have said she was releasing her delegates. She didn't have to tell them to vote for Obama at the convention, but freeing them would have shown the conviction of her call "to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me."

It took her quite awhile, and a couple of tries, to get around to conceding. She may get to the delegate thingummy before August.

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The Og Makes Hay

He doesn't make the cut though. Jim Ogonowski admitted last night that he and his mini-team had blown the easy effort to get on November's ballot against U.S. Sen. John Kerry.

You wouldn't know it from his website, where news is noise, static. His News section leads with See You in November, his supporter reassurance. He stated he had over 22,000 signatures, more than double the 10,000 required.

Honk. Wrong. Thank you for playing.

Instead, the Puffy White Hope of the Massachusetts Republicans, also supported and touted nationally, ran out of jive.

He emailed his list thus:
I have made my decision regarding the future of this US Senate race. Clearly, we had some issues this week regarding signatures. Mistakes were made along the way. But, any good military officer knows that when you are in command, the responsibilities are yours alone. The buck stops with me and I take that responsibility. There has been and will continue to be a lot of Monday morning quarter-backing and people trying to figure out what happened. But, the truth is, it doesn't matter. We could play that game all day long. But, the facts are the facts. For a variety of reasons, we did not meet the signature requirements. And at this time, I have decided not to pursue this endeavor.

I provide a sincere thank you to those that stood by me. I am sorry that we did not succeed. I ask for patience as my family and I move forward.
We all could have done with the Republican cliché of "mistakes were made." However, after about two weeks of coverage in MSM and blogs calling on this, we did finally peel off the scales.

So, this is as good a time as any for commonwealth GOP sorts to consider:
  1. Do we play Don Quixote by pretending the wee minority of Republican candidates (Jeff Beatty in this particular case) will win this time or next or next, and then slowly expand and rebuild the party?
  2. Do we work within the cold reality that most conservative pols are registered Dems, and vote on ideology?
  3. Do we accept that this is largely a wishy-washy liberal state with some high-profile pinko types up top?
The Og was supposed to be a great example of the first option. Having come close to beating high-name-recognition Dem Niki Tsongas, he was the next great thing. That's definitely past tense.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Trying to Trick the Supremes

Take a quick peek into the devious mind of winger lawyers. In the fruitless but continuing appeals of the Mad Dad's kiddie early reader case, I had wondered what happened to the loudly announced plea to the U.S. Supreme Court. Having sat through a couple of appeals hearings, I was virtually certain the Supremes would not touch this with a 9-foot Czech. Yet I hadn't seen the decline-without-comment notice.

Turns out that they just filed the appeal request. You can read the 41-page writ of certiorari here. The mentions of possible supporting cases are here in the 111-page appendices. If you've forgotten your appeals-courts terms, that means asking the Supremes to think about letting them present (beg) for reconsideration.

The two couples in this comedy lost badly at the U.S. District and Appeals courts. A read of the writ doesn't look any better for them. The law firm, Denner Pellegrino, LLP, dug up lots of extraneous case law, but they didn't add anything of substance. The original trial judge, Mark L. Wolf, already waved off the same assertions the writ makes, and did so point by point.

The tortured and melodramatic twisting of the facts didn't cut it at either U.S. court level. I can't for a second believe our high court justices will do much more than chuckle and sigh. I expect they'll blow this off easily after the defendants file a response. Then, it's back to a futile effort by the plaintiffs at Massachusetts court in the case they still won't accept defeat.

For the Supremes to take this case on, they have to accept that one of the three questions are real and significant legal issues. (Actually, this is almost certainly the work of Robert S. Sinsheimer, the trial attorney from the firm on this case.) These are, from the writ:
You can quickly see why this case is so risible and why the trial and appeals judges had no problem ruling against the plaintiffs. For example:
  • Indoctrination. In court and filings, the plaintiffs has consistently, even relentlessly, defined what we would all exposure to reality as indoctrination. They say that even to hear that there are homosexual couples with kids and legally married same-sex couples is indoctrination and propaganda. The Mad Dad seems to believe that. When Chief Judge Wolf pointed out that mentioning the law of the land is plain old education, that set the tone.. Plaintiffs put their real argument on picture and early-reader books that comply with the diversity regulations of the local and state schools. They claim that showing drawings of happy SS couples and their kids interferes with religious practice. Here both justices in their decisions told them they were free to teach their kids whatever religious principals they wanted and free to disagree with the diversity curriculum. In fact, that's a normally expected duty of parents. You'd think that self-identified conservative Christians would have it no other way. The justices did not see any constraint on their freedom of religion.
  • Hybrid rights. The major ploy in the writ is on pages 26 and 27. There seems to be a hope that if plaintiffs claim that there is a conflict at the U.S. Circuit level, the Supremes should feel intrigued enough to look at the case. This involved the relatively complex concept that if one federal right is not enough to justify a suit, a combination of a couple together may be. The justices who already handled this case said no go.
It's a long shot but maybe their only chance to pound on the third argument. As the writ tries to draw the Supremes, one cited case's "use of the phrase 'hybrid situations' leaves open a complex and fundamental question begging for this Court’s resolution: how and to what extent the Free Exercise Clause continues to support parents’ fundamental rights to raise their own children in a complex pluralistic society." That's a pretty cynical appeal to the Supremes vanity and power.

Unfortunately, the plaintiffs' assertions of absolute rights of parents to determining what their kids hear in school has been met so far with incredulity. Neither the law nor case law supports what is in effect parents' dictation of curriculum. Chief Judge Wolf for one told the parents to go ahead and teach the kids religion to suit them, but don't expect the school to do whatever you want. There are private religious schools and home schooling for that kind of extremism.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Even Bitter May Enter Barack's Door

Who'd have thunk it — some chunk of Hillary Clinton's supporters will let spite rule. We don't yet know how many may 1) write in Hillary in November, 2) vote for John McCain, or 3) not vote. They are dropping all pretense of being progressive or liberal, or voting for the good of fellow citizens in lifting the crushing weight of the failed GOP machine.

As a big fan and daily reader of the Financial Times, I'm not surprised their coverage and commentary has continued to be the best. Papers, broadcast and bloggers are shamelessly overlapping each other analyzing how Hillary's camp blew her certain candidacy. We can let such now meaningless supposition drop until we have the distance to make useful judgments than can help future lefty seekers. With everyone buzzing about how she'll endorse Obama Saturday, what she'll do is far more significant than what she didn't right now.

I already surmised that some Dems will act like Republican in their vitriol. There are GOP sorts who refuse to support McCain, claiming he is too left for them. Our version is that set who can't vote for the guy who beat their champion. Some will volunteer for McCain. At least short term, some will choose something other than beating the Republicans, as reflected in Pew Research Center trends.

Of course, the suddenness of having to face Obama's victory is likely a short-term shock for many. This wound is very fresh, very large and very painful.

Punditry would have it that some who now swear anyone-but-Obama (exclamation point appropriate) are:
  • Racist and wouldn't vote for a black or mixed-race person
  • Sexist and wouldn't vote for a man who defeated their woman
  • Never liberal or progressive anyway
  • Concerned with self-absorbed voting for someone most like them, regardless of collateral damage to the nation
A solid subset speaking to media have said they would only vote for an Obama-with-VP-Clinton ticket. From here and from the FT in London, Hillary has pretty much ripped that possibility from her and her supporters. Her intractable and unrealistic behavior in these waning days of the campaign pretty much show she's not VP material. As the FT editorial puts it:
The clincher, though, is that Mrs Clinton seems psychologically incapable of serving as Mr Obama’s deputy – before or after the election. Her conduct this week proves it. She could have made it difficult for Mr Obama to refuse her the VP slot by delivering a gracious, unifying concession speech. Instead she declared herself the moral victor and the stronger candidate, occluded Mr Obama’s success, and set about demanding the vice-presidential nomination as of right. Now, if Mr Obama takes her on to the ticket, he will look weak; if he does not, he will offend her supporters. The second is regrettable, but much the lesser evil.
With the angry and hurt supporters reeling, several questions arise:
  • When Hillary concedes Saturday, will she make a sincere effort to inspire her troops to shift to Obama?
  • How many Hillary folk will bolt?
  • When she gets offered Secretary of State or something else other than VP, will she use her power for good leading up to November?
Regardless, Obama suddenly would have to abandon his realistic views to ignore that some Hillary supporters are simply gone. That is unfortunate for all of us who want to begin reversing the disastrous politics, policies and economics of the recent past.

However, I think we'll manage just fine, thank them very much. In fact, those who now cling to the concept that without the votes of the disgruntled and bitter Hillary supporters, Obama is doomed, doomed, doomed. They, in fact, sound a lot like the patronizing Geraldine Ferraro recently saying Obama better be nice to her, in effect to know his place, because she could raise money for him, if he behaves like she demands.

Another fact is that Obama has a much more effective ally in beating McCain. That's McCain. He's a volatile oral stumblebum. Once the one-on-one starts and the issues are before people, the highly emotional fellow with the questionable record and Bush LITE positions will be a terrific help to the Dems. Campaign rhetoric aside, Obama will not be running against Clinton and McCain in November.

Whether it is one in 300 or one in 10 Hillary fans who desert the party for the November vote, they'll make the difference between winning solidly and winning huge.

Meanwhile, back to the FT, while everyone else is autopsying Hillary's diseased campaign corpse, Chrystia Freeland wrote the definitive piece on the lasting and meaning "real lesson for women." She nails the solid accomplishments of Hillary's race.

First, she distinguishes Hillary's relative dynastic, privileged and inherited political power from leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel who "were elected to run Group of Seven high-income countries under their own steam." She argues that a Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton dynasty swapping would be both undemocratic and "a flawed triumph for feminism." "For one thing, where marriage and paternity have put women into power it is hard to be sure they have broken glass ceilings for the rest of us." Instead, this might "reflect the importance of political clans more than that of girl power."

Instead, Clinton's remarkable race shows that "a woman could be tough enough to serve as commander-in-chief." As Freeland wrote:
In the final stretch of the race, Mrs Clinton let the country see her grit, stamina and indomitable will. It was the most effective pose of her chameleon campaign, partly because it was the most authentic. By showing that she has what the irrepressible strategist James Carville did not have any scruples in dubbing the “cojones” to rule, Mrs Clinton has made the path to the White House a little smoother for the next woman who attempts to ascend it. Her demonstration effect is sure to extend more widely, too: Mrs Clinton’s highly visible example makes it more plausible and more socially acceptable for Americans in every field of endeavour to imagine women at the top.
Freeland urged Clinton supporters not to diminish this by "paint(ing) her as the female victim of another patriarchal onslaught." Instead, "Mrs Clinton has been defeated in this year’s quest for the White House, but by proving that a woman can be tough and applauded for her muscle, she has scored an important victory for American women."

Not everyone can be that big and that wise as to revel in Clinton's accomplishments, at least not yet. When we are deeply disappointed, it's hard to take a longer and wider view. History will. Perhaps when we all get over picking nits with this not-quite-victorious effort, we can say what until recently seemed impossible, "Sure, a woman can win the Presidency."

In my lifetime, the White House exclusion list was long. It used to include Roman Catholics. It may or may not still include Jews and many non-whites. Hillary and Barack's showings have put women and black or mixed race Americans in the running. That's long overdue and is well worth building on and celebrating.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Two CA Pro-Marriage Calls Today

In two separate decisions, the California Supreme Court ruled:
  • Four to three not to reconsider its decision to legalize SSM
  • Seven to zero not to stay the implementation of same-sex marriage starting June 17th
The reconsideration decision mirrored the original margin.

In practical effect, this is a blow to the anti-marriage equality folk hoping for passage of a ballot initiative for an amendment banning SSM and not recognizing those marriages conducted elsewhere.

One of the chief among those nasties is Mathew Staver, legal director of Liberty Counsel and attorney for the Campaign for California Families. His comment combined the homosexual agenda and activist judges slurs — today's ruling, he said, "reveals the political agenda of a handful of judges."

He may not be helping the effort to pass the amendment by adding, "
If any same-sex marriage licenses are issued before November, the passage of the constitutional amendment will make them invalid and invisible." As much as Californians love their ballot-initiative control over government, they'll now have to consider stripping existing rights and "unmarrying" fellow citizens.

The role pro-equality groups
Equality for All and Equality California will include making that plain to voters. Along the line, it could become obvious to many that the opposition's stance is 1) anti-marriage by restricting it, 2) anti-family and adoption, and 3) redefining marriage by trying to change what has always been and is in California a civil contract into a religious ritual registered civilly.

Right now, the initial polls on the amendment are split favor/oppose. I'm hoping common sense, compassion and love of American liberties will win the day. The opposition's empty threats that something bad will happen if homosexuals can legalize their relationships has proven false repeatedly. They need to feed the hungry and otherwise go about Biblical edicts instead of trying to hinder and harm.

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Another Republican Failure in Massachusetts

As my chum Elias over at Chimes at Midnight noted two weeks ago, if you can't get a couple of clipboards working at the grocery store, you can't manage your campaign much less office. In his terms:
Y'know collecting signatures is just a basic political skill, you get a few volunteers to stake out the local Stop-n-Shop and in a few weeks yer on the ballot as a bona fide candidate, it is a no brainer. So if Ogonowski can't coerce or simply pay for the foot soldiery to get his signatures free and clear, it is a damning indictment of basic competence as an aspirant for public office.
So Jim Ogonowski, the Puffy White Hope of the local and national GOP, is a master of lethargy and incompetence. The Og has been what passes for campaigning against long-term U.S. Senator John Kerry for months, allegedly raising over $400,000 with the help of the likes of former Gov. Willard Mitt Romney.

Despite his repeated and loud bluster about having plenty of signatures, on the last hour to turn them in, he was 30 short of the 10,000. That was without challenges by anyone, particularly fellow GOP senatorship stalker Jeff Beatty. According to coverage in today's Boston Globe, "His only option now is to seek relief in court, where he can press his case that some local officials lost his signatures, as he asserted to Galvin's office yesterday. Or he could try to mount a write-in or sticker campaign, an extremely difficult task in a statewide race."

I suggested here a few times that he really didn't want it. Most likely, he also knows he'd stand as much chance of surviving that race as a clump of grass in a field of goats.

Yet, he let the local and national Republicans humiliate themselves in praising him. The National Republican Senatorial Committee still as of this morning shows only the Og as running against Kerry. They've known for months that Beatty is serious, that he is actively campaigning as a Republican, and as of the qualification period that he had over 17,000 signatures.

The Og was bound to lose. However, in doing so, if he had anything like his strong showing last year against Niki Tsongas for the U.S. House seat, he'd have helped himself and the wee band of merry men we call the Massachusetts Republican Party.

Truth be told, to you out-of-area types, Republican politicians here are nearly all hiding in the Democratic Party. Numerous observers have noted for decades that this is a three-party state — Liberal Democrats, Conservative Democrats, oh and also a few Republicans. Those who elsewhere would call themselves Republicans know that to raise funds and be elected, they do best by flowing on the wide Democratic River. That often leaves us voters wondering if they are looking at a DINO or the real thing in a race.

So far, none of the local or national GOP leaders who stood up for the Og has commented on his silly failure to qualify. For his part, the Og continued the ignoble right-wing role of refusing to take responsibility for his blunders. To the issue of Beatty ready to challenge some of the signatures, the Og ranted, "The ease of which my opposition has distorted the facts and has created lies and innuendo to attempt to keep me off the ballot just illustrates why most Americans do not trust politicians and why Congress has such a low approval rating. He wants to resort to gutter politics, character assassinations, legal maneuvering, and questionable tactics."

[In an unusual moment of fairness on my part, I agree with many that Hillary Clinton has acted similarly. This is not exclusively a Republican act. For the past couple of months, she blamed her blowing a huge lead on sexism, the media, dirty tricks and on and on. While analysts say she made a long series of serious tactical and strategic errors, she has yet to take any responsibility.]

So this is a time when the state GOP said in effect, "We're not dead yet!" The Og, through what appears to be simple laziness and bad planning, brought in a front-end loader full of dirt for the grave. He wouldn't have beaten Kerry, but a strong vote would have been great for GOP fund raising as well as inspiring other candidates.

On the other hand, we have quite a history of Republican Governors. If that didn't and doesn't inspire hidden Republicans to speak up, stand up, chip in, and run for office, I doubt relative success by a grass grower from Dracut would.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Obama Class Picture Time

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I kicked you in every place that could hurt. I sucker punched you. I dissed you into dirt. Now kiss me.

Sorry, but I just saw the reports that Hillary Clinton has suddenly gotten all kissy face with Barack Obama, putting out the word that she wants to share the Democratic ticket.

In my time, but a lot of years ago, I had some crazy girlfriends. This situation seems to be a real flashback. Hillary's asking Barack to take pictures together and sign her yearbook with loving words.

I fundamentally remain a southerner. I believe in civility, even in the face of the hostile and ill-bred, but cut me a very thin slice of that baloney. Barack has been pretty civil and it's certainly good that he may face this choice, rather than I doing so.

I'm not so sure such a ticket would be a disaster, although blogs and newspaper opinion pieces seem nearly unanimous in saying so. I do agree with the accompanying judgments that the combination of both Clintons in place in a new administration would bring heretofore unknown complexity to governance. An ex-president hanging around and insinuating himself sounds like great sitcom material, but not efficient administration.

If Hillary is in fact serious about negotiating to be the vice presidential candidate, how Barack handles the test could well indicate the sincerity and depth of his compromise and unification talents. Better him than me.

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Fall Fireworks Out West

The game is officially afoot in California. It promises to be at least as nasty as the Presidential race.

Yesterday, the ballot measure that would define marriage in the state constitution as between a man and a woman only got certification for November. It had a healthy cushion, with over a million signatures. It needed 694,354.

The amendment is a single line, reading, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." It would become state constitution, Section 2, Article I, Section 7.5.

For sticker shock, estimates are that this fight could cost $30 million and many thousands of paid and volunteer hours on both sides. Much of that will be from the funnel organization This group would look familiar to those of us in Massachusetts where an anti-gay/anti-marriage equality organization created a nominally separate arm to raise money and fight a specific battle. In California, this is the California Family Council. Both have Ron Prentice as head.

Similarities in the attacks are clear in Prentice's statement:
The vast majority of research continues to state that California’s voters favor keeping marriage as it is, protecting its historic definition between only a man and a woman. The November ballot will give opportunity for citizens to respond to the State Supreme Court’s decision, by solidifying traditional marriage in the California Constitution. Californians are a tolerant people. But we also know that marriage is between a man and a woman, as the voters reaffirmed just a few years ago.
That is tenuous at best and won't go unchallenged. In legal reality, the court there found, as our high court did in Goodridge, a fundamental conflict. The state mandates equal treatment, including for homosexuals. In California, the one-man/one-woman wording inserted in the family code following a 2000 ballot initiative conflicted with that and had to go.

I hope that the pro-equality folk are able to make it plain that the other side is trying to redefine marriage, replacing the state's civil contract with requirements to adhere to religious precepts. Voters are likely to be irritated if they realize they are being jerked around and lied to by theocratic types.

Absolutely nothing now or in the foreseeable future keeps any couple from layering their particular religious ritual over the civil contract that makes them legally married. The question should best be framed whether they want the church in their personal business.

Among coastal differences are:
  1. California doesn't have any laws restricting out-of-state couples from marrying there. This could increase the number of same-sex couples marrying and returning home. This particularly freaks the anti-equality types. Of course, they said this would happen when Massachusetts SS married couples moved or the few out-of-stater SS couples who can legally marry here (think New Mexico and Rhode Island) would cause this effect and increase suits elsewhere.
  2. California anti folk thought they had settled this eight years ago. Yet times change, civil unions and SSM elsewhere are working great and harming no one. Plus many voters in their 20s and 30s think the old cranks need to get over their problem with GLBT people.
  3. Representative government is on the side of equality here. In addition to the court decision, the legislature has twice passed pro-SSM laws. Moreover, the governor has held to his position when he vetoed the law twice — when the high court okays SSM, it's fine by him. Now, he and other players like the attorney general and secretary of state are on board.
  4. Taking away rights is loaded. It is much easier for voters to deny rights than strip existing ones. SSM should start this month. By November, hundreds or even thousands of SS couples will be legally married. Straight married couples are likely to think hard about such an anti-marriage amendment.

Schadenfreude is always high on haters' agenda.

In an update to Samuel Johnson's observation that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, let us note that the ballot initiative fills that need for deceit. The anti folk have broadly lost this battle and have fallen back to the last trench.

Californians love their ballot initiatives. These are the most populist in the nation, constructed to allow down-and-dirty appeals to the emotions. This style turns the state into a gigantic town meeting, with no accountability. It is more like mob rule than reasoned decision making. California has been caught by this numerous times, legally and financially.

So far, the other side, epitomized by Equality California, is not showing their hand. On that website, there are low-key calls for donations, volunteers and coming out. That will be changing as the anti forces get nasty.

I have no doubt that Prentice's people are gloating. Immediately, they have soured the joy people have been feeling anticipating SSM beginning there on June 17th. Schadenfreude is always high on haters' agenda.

Collateral factors to the amendment vote will have to wait. I turned to my favorite expert on related legal issues, NYU law professor Arthur S. Leonard of Leonard Link. He suggests that we'll have to wait for the state supreme court until well after the November vote.

If the amendment loses, there's required involvement. He adds that as we saw here, pleas to the court before such votes tend to be on the certification process not the constitutionality of the amendment. He wrote, "Generally, courts tend to be predisposed against unnecessarily deciding constitutional issues."

Instead, on both coasts, we have seen the usual bogus claims of activist judges and legislating from the bench. Of course, as the records and rulings clearly show, those are decidedly untrue. The high courts in both states have been far too slow to act. In both states, they only ruled when wide conflicts with equality laws forced them to do so. When they did, it was during their required duty of aligning laws and resolving obvious conflicts.

The reality is a tougher sell than catchphrases and unsupported claims. The anti folk will have a much easier time getting their simple-minded message out to voters.

It will be fascinating if anxiety producing to discover whether Californians would rather formalize theocracy in their civil laws or stay in the 21st Century and affirm liberty and equality.

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