Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is Gay Marriage in the (VT) House?

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas doesn't seem to know how to pick a fight. After a big show last week announcing that he'd veto any SSM bill that appeared on his desk, he heard today that the House followed the Senate. Its Judiciary Committee that held the hearing on the matter voted to bill onto the House floor with an eight to two favorable endorsement.

The closest thing to a nod the anti-marriage equality was a throw-away. The committee put in an amendment making double dog sure that anti-gay clerics and other preacher types who claim that SSM violates their creeds won't be compelled to solemnize homosexual marriages.

That is a fascinating myth that the anti folk love to drag out, despite that being the case nationwide already and clearly within our Bill of Rights. Apparently the committee is willing to shut them up with the unnecessary. Would that it were always so easy.

The Senate approved the bill last week. Douglas made his veto call. No one seems to be publishing a tally of whether the House will have 100 of 150 votes for an override.

Either way, Douglas is a sure loser here. If he vetoes and there aren't 100 votes, he's gone from mush-mouthed and indecisive to anti-civil rights and anti-homosexual in the first civil-union state. If he vetoes and is overridden, he doesn't come off as his fantasy hero standing up for principle. Instead, he's that clod who turned a rights discussion and issue into an emotional plea. Either way, that's not likely the type of governor who wins re-election again up North.

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New England Looking SSM Good

To school bus drivers, governor is a nasty term. The device that limits the bus' speed can make for slow going. That's an apt parallel to three of four New England states that could legalize same-sex marriage. The top elected official wants to slow or prevent SSM in Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

This is a crop that New Englanders have sown for a long time. The six states have tended to slightly or moderately liberal Democratic legislatures, very often offset in the voters' minds by a conservative Republican. Somehow the idea seems to be that if everyone running government is even a little left leading, something terrible will happen.

This is what we around here put in the common-sense category. That's another way of justifying an emotional decision with no solid basis.

However, like the bus device, having a refractory or reactionary head of state does slow down changes. Moving slowly politically remains a virtue here. By the bye, to many of us progressives, the assertion that Massachusetts is filled with extreme left-wingers is amusing. Social and financial conservatism still characterize the nominal Democrats, voters and pols alike.

This winter and spring have been an exciting period for same-sex marriage rumblings if not earthquakes. Two of the six states have SSM, three are considering it, and one is waiting for the walrus of no to run into his term limit wall in two years.
Podcast Note: Lynne, Ryan and I shall discuss SSM in this region today on our Left Ahead! podcast at 2:30 p.m. live or on LA later. There will likely also be some choice words about UMASS Chancellor and former U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan.
On SSM, this blog has numerous recent posts about legislative consideration in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The latter is the only one with a marriage-equality friendly governor, Jim Baldacci.


Maine has also rocketed from struggling against strong anti-gay forces who used ballot initiatives to roll back even basic legal protections for homosexuals in employment, housing and elsewhere. Now there's a real possibility of passing SSM this year. Baldacci would certainly sign that.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is at the opposite extreme. While the legislature is majority positive to marriage equality, Gov. Donald Carcieri has done and will do his utmost to hamper homosexuals in general and prevent SSM in particular. For a few examples, he vetoed domestic partnership death and retirement benefits for government employees and in a 2004 court case considering whether R.I. had the right to grant a same-sex divorce for a marriage recorded in Massachusetts, he went overboard.

He spent $15,000 tax payer funds to file an amicus brief railing against both SSM and civil unions. As the state ACLU report notes, "Most notably, the brief opined that recognizing same-sex couples (whether through marriage or civil unions) "could be disastrous for future generations" and "would have profoundly detrimental effects [upon] families, children and society."

Carcieri is a Republican who runs into his term limit in 2010. The legislature figures they don't have veto-override margins and won't even try until he's gone.


The Green Mountain state has dominated SSM news here for weeks, holding public hearings after years of discussion and public study. Of course, it was the first state to legalize civil unions, in 2000. It's been thinking about SSM, and apparently watching Massachusetts and Connecticut, since.

The Senate passed SSM 26 to 4 and the House is about to vote. It seems certain to pass there, but then what? Gov. Jim Douglas announced he thinks civil unions are just swell (what else could they want after we gave them that?) and that he'll veto the bill. Pro and con sides are calling, writing, visiting and lobbying the lawmakers non-stop. This is the region's biggest TBD this season. No one seems to know if the override numbers (100 of 150 if all are present) are in the House.

New Hampshire

The Granite state is similar, although they got to SSM consideration a lot quicker once they started studying and talking. In both states, right wingers and fundies are wailing that this is happening so fast with so little consideration. Both of course have had years of open study and hearing as well as legislative committee work and debate to get here.

Yet, here too Gov. John Lynch (oddly a socially conservative Democrat) is the governor in both senses of the term. He is OK with civil unions, but he tries to inject emotion and religion into the marriage-equality debate. He opposes SSM.

In Lynch's case, he has no term limits, although along with Vermont, New Hampshire is the other state that elects its top dog every two years. He may be a little cautious about vetoing an SSM bill (he won't say in advance), but in his mewing way, he repeats that personally he believes marriage must remain limited to a man and a woman.

Year of Who Knows?

So, in R.I., the governor will do his damnedest to hamper homosexuals, individually and as couples. The legislature is likely to remain gutless on SSM until he leaves.

In Maine, they have moved very fast. They may well take a breather for another year before passing the bill. They could surprise us though, as they have advanced steadily since GLBT folk there came out, seemingly in toto, to their neighbors, church members and coworkers.

Vermont and New Hampshire are iffy. The lawmakers say yes, the governors say no, and it may come to hard-fought every-vote-counts lobbying.

As impatient as I am, this has been an exciting and optimistic year. We could use another big state, like New York, New Jersey or even an overturn of Prop 8 in California. However, two or more in this region would do just fine.

That six-by-twelve (all New England states legalizing SSM by 2012) seems increasingly possible. Politically and even graphically, it would be a big old thumb in the eye of a nation that is slow to move to marriage equality.

It began here and let it continue here.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pro-Equality Vermonters Eying Override

Finally...someone in the Vermont same-sex marriage struggle in the House is showing some guts. We all like numbers and are most comfortable with things we can touch and count, be they income or votes. Yesterday, someone was at last willing to start the counting.

The Free Press reports both the mush mouth and the strong statement. Until last afternoon, both pro- and con-SSM folk spoke like supporter and sponsor House Speaker Shap Smith. "We will have the votes in the House to ensure the bill passes, and I need your help to make sure we have the votes to override any veto."

Likewise individuals and organizations on both fronts beseeched their minions to call and write legislators and the governor.

Then with the vote imminent, it finally came to dueling predictions on whether there are the necessary 100 of 150 House votes to override the governor's promised veto:
  • Anti-marriage equality coordinator Rev. Craig Bensen, who has coordinated opposition to the bill, said he doesn’t think supporters can reach 100 votes. “We see the veto as sustained and we see them seeing the veto as sustained."
  • Pro-marriage equality David Zuckerman "said the House is 'easily past 75 votes,' which he characterized as a 'tremendous accomplishment' over previous years. 'We may not be quite to 100 votes yet, but I can tell you just yesterday I spoke to Republican legislators who say they are struggling with their decision. We will get 100 votes in this chamber.'"
The lobbying, cajoling and horse trading will continue up to the vote and maybe beyond if the passage margin hovers around 100.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Babies As Shields

Watching and listening to many hours of pro- and con-same-sex marriage testimony before the Senate and then House committees in Vermont, I was struck by the effeteness of the anti side.
Source Note: The Burlington Free Press covered the whole process fully. Click around that site and the Vermont Freedom to Marry one for many clips of the public and legislators.
Nearly all anti-SSM testifiers were consumed with marriage as being almost solely for the purpose of biological procreation. There's a side door to this argument that cries, "Think of the children." The idea is that if same-sex couples have children by artificial insemination or adoption, the resulting kids will "be robbed" of knowing their biological parents and grandparents.

Those are specious at best. There are far too many opposite-sex marrieds (or shacked up couples) who either:
  • Did not form a relationship to have children.
  • Do not want to have children.
  • Are unable to have children by age, sterilization or other physical limits.
  • Have adopted children.
  • Have children with artificial insemination, surrogacy or other medical help.
The related assertions about the nature, purpose and heritage of marriage, as well as its worth to society, insult many. Both gay and straight couples who fall into any of those broad classes of what the anti folk deem inferior have every justification to be angry.

Yet what is most telling about this testimony is that it has shifted from the previous untenable God-told-me claims. Some of the voters not affiliated with lobbying and other special interest groups did conflate religious ritual and civil marriage; they are just dumb.

What the alleged subject matter experts for the con-SSM side returned to in Vermont though was the marriage-is-for-making-babies posture. That appears to be a real retrenching, just short of surrender.

Several of the legislators were typical of what many voters must be like as well. They said they were adopted or knew couples who used artificial insemination or knew many couples who had no intention of having kids. These of course were true of both opposite and same-sex couples.

If the last, best defense the anti-marriage equality types have is procreation, six-by-twelve (all New England states with SSM by 2012) is at hand.

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NH House Blesses Gay Marriage

If it's spring, it must be time for same-sex marriage in New England. Vermont's House will likely pass it into law tomorrow. Today, action is in New Hampshire.

The House there approved SSM today, 186 to 179.

The state approved civil unions two years ago. The bill now goes to the Senate.

While Gov. John Lynch does not favor SSM, he has not said whether he would veto a bill if passed.

The Portsmouth online papers carry an AP follow-up, which includes:

Democrats hold a 14-9 edge in the Senate, but Senate Republican Leader Peter Bragdon, of Milford, said GOP senators will work to kill the legislation.

State Republican Party Chairman John H. Sununu criticized the House vote as an "attempt by the liberal Democrats in the Legislature to impose their San Francisco agenda on the state of New Hampshire."

Like so many anti-equality folk, Sununu was never a respecter of process.

Vermont: Who's Counting?

If anyone has reasonable estimates of Vermont House member's marriage-equality votes, no one is playing that hand. When befuddled Gov. Jim Douglas announced in a surprise yesterday that he's vote the bill, the political barnyard came alive with noise and action.

The anti-gay/anti-SSM crowd heaped praise on him. Both sides exhorted their supporters to flood the House members with calls, letters, emails and visits to influence the vote.

Surely Vermont Freedom to Marry, GLAD and others have been tallying the House likely votes. Even with a solid veto-override majority in the Senate, getting 100 of the 150 members of the House present in an override attempt has always been iffy.

We have to wonder whether the good guys or the Dark Side knows how close that vote will be and hesitates to let the enemy know. Otherwise, is that not the way this game is played up North? Regardless, I'll watch for numbers and projections. Meanwhile, Bay Windows' has joined everyone else in projecting only that the bill will pass the House.

As it has been throughout, the absolute best coverage is in the Burlington Free Press. They are acting like a real newspaper. Today's issue, for example, includes:
Podcast note: The above audio link is not working for me. The previous one I listed yesterday still does.

To the override question, they quote House Speaker Shap Smith saying he didn't know how Douglas' position would affect the vote, nor did he know if there were 100 votes for an override. Likewise, former Rep. George Schiavone, who is lobbying against the bill, said an override is "within shooting distance."

The paper says the potentially tally is close. "A veto override can be difficult to predict, as members might vote one way on the bill but then support their party caucus on an override vote. Democrats, Progressives and independents together have 102 members in the House. Republicans have 48 members."

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vermont Governor Will Veto

In Montpelier, Gov. Jim Douglas turned his back on the people and their legislature. Squarely facing the bigoted past, he said he'd veto the same-sex marriage bill already passed by the state Senate and well on its way through the House.

The Senate certainly has more than the 20 of 30 votes to override. We won't know until the 150 members of the House vote if there will be 100 there to finish bring marriage equality to the original civil-union state.

Vermont Public Radio has a podcast of Douglas' statement this afternoon here.

There is a lot of mealy-mouthing and B.S. there. Key in his remarks is:
But like President Obama and leaders on both sides of the aisle, I believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman. As you know, it's been a policy of mine not to announce whether or not I will veto a bill before it reaches my desk. But during these extraordinary times, the speculation about my decision has added to the anxiety of the moment and further diverts attention from our more pressing issues, and I cannot allow that to happen. For these reasons and I believe that removing any uncertainty about my position we can move forward more quickly beyond this debate, I'm announcing that I intend to veto this legislation when it reaches my desk.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Vermont Closing in on SSM

The Vermont Senate seems smarter than its Massachusetts counterparts. The speeches today were toward advancing the same-sex marriage bill there and they were better than we are used to hearing here.

The 30-member body voted to move it to its third and final reading tomorrow by 26 to 4. It should pass in what is traditionally a pro forma vote then.

The Burlington Free Press is doing a great job of live streaming coverage and then analyzing the discussion and results. For today's remarks from the stream, head here. The most moving and profound remarks were from bill sponsors, particularly Senators John Campbell and Richard McCormack (both Windsor-D).

The closest thing to real controversy today was an amendment proposal from Sen. Kevin Mullin (Rutland-R) to delay it all for a non-binding referendum, which would push out the bill for at least a year. That lost 19 to 10.

The bill has been through discussion on and off for years. The concepts of SSM have been the subject to two major and prolonged public studies with hearings. The current bill has been through detailed and very open testimony and hearings, which resulted in the Senate Judiciary Committee recommending it to the whole body 5 to 0.

After it passes tomorrow, it still faces the same hearing/reading/debate/vote process in the House. Everyone there, including Speaker Shap Smith, expects it to pass. However, there it gets more interesting and tenuous.

Gov. Jim Douglas is squishy on his opposition to SSM. He claims he feels marriage is between one man and one woman. He won't say if he'll sign the bill after it gets to his desk. He won't say if he'll veto it. He won't say if he'll let it become law without acting.

The legislature has 30 Senators and 150 Representatives. A veto override requires two-thirds of each house — 20 in the Senate and 100 in the House. Until the House votes, no one is sure whether there will be 100 votes there.

Douglas is a real attention hound. He'll get plenty.

Tuesday No-Surprise Add: The Vermont Senate did pass the SSM bill, by a voice vote with what the Free Press reported was "By a voice vote with a few barely audible no votes..." Now the House repeats the Senate procedure, starting its Judiciary Committee hearing on the matter today.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

New England on SSM Edge

Perhaps because the hearings have been so public and the short-term advance so solid, I've been excited about Vermont's same-sex marriage bill. We have more coming regionally. Look for:
  • Mainers are certain to have SSM bill hearings (April 24) and likely to vote on their bill LD 1020. This legalizes SSM and wipes out the state DOMA wording. By the by a tepid bill (LD 1118) mildly upgrading civil unions will go on the table too, with the idea of keeping everyone quiet and polite. Fat chance.
  • A little West, New Hampshire is a bit constipated and indecisive. Their bill to legalize SSM (HB 0436) was deadlocked in committee last week (10-10). It will still go to the full House this coming week for debate, but without recommendation. For a preview of that, read the linked article and see the heavy-handed religious lingo flung in the Judiciary Committee hearing.

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Financial Princes Have no Clothes

We should all slap our thighs and roar at the calls to keep the hyper-talented and super-knowledgeable financial pros in place. These princes are not only without clothing, but they also are deformed and missing essential parts.

The financial plays, both big and small, have long been in a black box to nearly all of us...and we have been fine with that. Perhaps a better analogy is a camera obscura, where the image of reality comes though a pinhole and we can sort of make out the reflection of reality.

The truth is, hardly any of us know enough and have the time to devote to making larger financial decisions. Rather, our minds want and our hearts need to trust that:
  1. Those making the calls affecting our savings, or disposal income, and the financial health of our employing companies are brilliant and highly competent
  2. Surely our financial well-being is far better trusted to them than free options, such as indexing to the Dow.
This is akin to needing to have absolute faith in the brain surgeon before the anesthesia mask covers our nose and mouth. We must trust the pro to do the right thing, perfectly.

Alas, we suddenly have become an untrusting nation. Virtually all of us with savings and retirement accounts know those moneys have plunged 30% or 50% or more in value.

We focus on AIG giving bonuses to the boobs who managed us into economic failure. Yet we don't seem willing to see the professional nudity and ugliness of the money managers. It's time, or past that time.

Over at this weekend's Financial Times, Christopher Caldwell has a relatively dispassionate take on the mob mentality of us disgruntled types. While he concentrated on the illogic of crushing the overpaid managers, he also writes, "The case for huge executive salaries in the financial sector has crumbled with the financial system."

Just so.

Yet, our deep emotional need to believe that financial magi exist in large enough numbers to run the show again remains. So, we buy into the absurd fantasy that we need to praise our naked princes and never say the obvious about their failings. That would be like letting the orderly perform our brain surgery.

Instead, we accept what the big investment banks and other financial houses claim. They tell us we need to be very afraid that if they don't pay huge salaries and huger bonuses, these sorcerers will fly away, leaving us impotent and poor.

Of course, this is similar to sports corporations, particularly baseball teams, paying juiced old boys in tights tens of millions a year to maybe be good enough to please the fans with playoff victories. That's ticket inflation and worse for fans. Plus many of those investments return poorly or fail completely.

So it is in the financial world. There are a scant few real stars who do out perform others, most years at least. Yet, the vast majority of the money princes do not. They blunder, their (and our) portfolios founder, and they are too dull witted to avoid the worst plunges.

I am much less afraid that these long-term over-rewarded princes take their alleged brilliance away than that they remain. The financial houses wail that their knowledge could walk if they do not continue to receive their tribute. Yet in reality, they are playing the same game at much higher stakes in pretending that if only we leave our present and future in the hands of these magi, all will be well and we shall return to a never-ending growth spiral.

Far better would be some candor here. The houses and their princes are primary proponents of free markets and the power of capitalism. Then let them live it.

The obscene bonus structures are built on short-term profits and far too easily achieved (and often meaningless for the customers) milestones. Instead, let the high rollers have to add real value to their portfolios, measured both in obvious profits and in sustainable value added.

Those are harder to measure, but they are far more meaningful to the shareholders and investors. Using such metrics would mean the end to the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars of salary/bonus/options packages too many of these pros have known for too long.

Make them prove they can rebuild the value they lost through their inattention and dumbness. Let them fix their houses' troubles before claiming the bonuses. Make them earn their millions by producing, not just by breathing.

If those of us who still have jobs were as lame at what we do as these princes have been, we'd have been on the street long ago...with no reference letters. Moreover, their failures affect far too many. We should not fear letting the knowledge of the proven incompetents go away. It did not serve them or us well.

That utopia should vanish into history. Our financial princes are naked and hideous in the main. We need to reward those who actually are brilliant and competent and not the bunglers.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Vermont OKs SSM to Full Senate

Vermont is headed to legalizing same-sex marriage, the version upgrade from their pioneering but now tepid civil unions. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the SSM bill unanimously.

The next steps are:
  1. Vote by the full Senate, expected next week as early as Monday, 3/23.
  2. Vote by the House, where it is also expected to pass.
  3. Action or inaction by Gov. Jim Douglas.
Jimbo wanted it to go away. He remembers the rancor of the 2000 fight for civil unions. The anti-gay types have never forgotten and won't. He likes to say he's against SSM, but won't promise to sign, veto or let it pass by ignoring it.

I'd hate to be his waitress while he decides from a menu.

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Guilty Rich Guy for Chuck Turner

This evening, you can nosh and gnash with Chuck Turner...for a minimum contribution of $25. Philanthropist by spousal inheritance, David Ludlow, of JP is giving it up for the indicted-for-corruption Boston City Councilor.

Details are on Turner's defense site and and at Open Media. Overlooking the White Stadium side of Franklin Park, you'll have access to Turner, Mel King, and "beer, wine, many Hors d’Oeuvres, a chicken and a fish entre." (The promo is sincere but replete with typos.)

Ludlow is a quiet, but big-time, giver to many causes. His wife's death in a climbing accident 13 years ago left him with a multimillion dollar trust fund. He belongs to a group that vows to give at least 50% of their annual incomes to charities and other good causes.

He describes his late wife as an "anti-racism activist." With control of the fortune, he turned to lefty causes, including founding Social Justice Education.org.

Today's event promo includes Ludlow's reasoning:
As I hope you know, he is innocent of accepting a bribe for procurement of a liquor license. As you know well, he is a most generous, self-sacrificing servant for the people of Boston and has been a leader in the fight to end poverty in Boston. I believe that large numbers of Boston’s poor can not make it out of poverty without him. With his great courage, knowledge, skill and ability I believe that they can make it out of poverty, but only if we stand up and stop the attacks from the defenders of unbridled corporate power.
As an aside, the Turner site and this promo ask that checks be to Committee to Re-elect Chuck Turner. That doesn't seem wise or legally clean, particularly as Turner is facing charges and in his statements he admits he may not have been 100% scrupulous in accounting for his contributions. In fact, he says that if he accepted the $1,000 from a businessman, he figured it was such a campaign contribution. That would have been double the legal maximum per person and would have required recording and filing.

Regardless, Turner with dead-animal entrées anyone?

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

SSM Bill Vote Likely Tomorrow

Word in from the Burlington Free Press is that the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee has enough input and will vote on the same-sex marriage bill tomorrow, Friday, March 20th. As the paper put it:
In the wake of Wednesday's big public hearing, a week of testimony and hundreds of e-mails and phone messages, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to revise and vote on the same-sex marriage bill Friday morning.
Gov. Jim Douglas is still playing childishly coy about it, repeating his previous non-statements. He will say he thinks of marriage as between one man and one woman. He will not say if he'll veto the bill when it passes. His puerile response seems intended to keep all eyes on him — "I'm going to do what I think is right."

FP reporter Nancy Remsen concludes, "I guess we can feel safe in predicting he won't sign the bill. Would he let it become law without his signature or veto it? What are the political consequences of letting it become law versus a veto? Does he need to care?"

Friday Follow-Up: The FP has a detailed analysis, also by Remsen, in Friday's edition.

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No Middle Ground in Vermont Hearing

With more action than a tennis tournament and about the same amount of volleying, day three of the Vermont SSM bill played this-but-that for most of two and one-half hours. The live stream last evening pulled me in and held me as strongly as a whirlpool.

No one can honestly hold that last evening's stifled pro or con-SSM views. It was tit for tat. With over 1,000 attending in various rooms in the building and sharing a live feed for those not in the Judiciary Committee's room, there were more speakers than time. That let the committee line up one from each side in turn...for hours.

Live-stream note: This week, the Burlington Free Press is running the Senate hearings on the SSM bill off its front page. Those considerate green-mountain folk have been holding these from 6 p.m., so those testifiers and voyeurs alike can participate.

Pic note: Art is from singularvortex.com and claims no rights. It's nice though.

The tenor of the evening was largely country civil. Only a couple of the anti-equality sorts were unable to restrain themselves. One woman did scream repeatedly about her unwillingness and inability to accept homosexual relationships. She was pathetic.

Unfortunately, the hearings illustrated two on-going issues:
  1. Many anti-gay sorts are still angry and disappointed from their 2000 loss that legalized civil unions.
  2. As I have held many times here, there will be neither acceptance nor compromise from the anti-gay, anti-SSM, anti-marriage equality people. They think differently and rely much more on emotion.
I had imagined that long-term positive experience in Vermont, Massachusetts and elsewhere would mollify, perhaps even enlighten, the anti side. Not so.

Last night too, many anti-SSM folk fell into circular reasoning — their own whirlpool. Asserting that marriage was only between a man and a woman, they triumphantly concluded that this proved that marriage could never expand to SS couples. Huh?

Many also played the redefinition card. Some held that Party A/Party B lingo on a license somehow ruined marriage for everyone. Others said that if those dreadful homosexuals were allowed to marry, their own marriages would be cheapened.

More befuddling was the constant reference to God's law. The conflation of various religious rites with the state licensing and solemnization of marriage was the theme of the anti side yet again. Despite hearing repeated pro-SSM folk noting that the gay and lesbian couples were not asking, much less demanding, that any church perform its own ritual on top of the marriage, the anti testifiers again and again said the marriage was the religious ritual. It would have been good if the pro-SSM witnesses had been plainer and more repetitive about the rite being irrelevant to legal marriage, the icing and decorations on the cake as it is.

I can't even dignify those who contend that marriage is for procreation exclusively wrought by a penis releasing sperm into a vagina. That's so untrue and so disrespectful of the millions of straight or gay couples who choose not to reproduce, who cannot reproduce, or who adopt or use artificial insemination. The spurious argument that a child not being able to finger biological grandparents spoils all is inane beyond belief.

Most confusing was the mingling of church-and-state talk. Some anti folk threw in a mention of respecting the U.S. and Vermont constitutions here, going on to say we were founded on Christian principles and that marriage was what the church said it was. The big fat fact that this doesn't square with legal marriage can be damned, with all of us progressives and liberals.

I ended up the long evening tired and a bit saddened. It does appear that this bill, with a third of the legislature signed on as sponsors, will sail into port. Then the somewhat cowardly Gov. Jim Douglas may veto it, may sign it or may let it become law by not acting. He really is being silly about this and seemingly insipid in his avowed wish that people would just leave civil unions in place, go away and be quiet.

It might be close on a veto override, which would take a two-thirds majority (of those present). There would be a level of politicking the state has not seen since 2000. Perhaps a better analogy was the plebiscite on the state lottery in 1976. That is the last such initiative that went to the voters. The current anti-SSM folk are making noises for such a vote, but Vermonters are not Californians and they don't rush or even walk toward the polls for such.

From here, it's very likely that this bill will pass and perhaps even it will become law this session. If the latter happens, the anti-gay types will give new intensity to disgruntled. Frankly, this group may well die off before they develop the humanity and compassion to accept same-sex marriage.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Delusional in Vermont

Just when you thought anti-gay/anti-SSM folk couldn't be more delusional, you get set on your heels. Today's example came from the on-going Vermont Senate hearings on bill to move from civil unions to full same-sex marriage beginning September.

Let us consider the cruel and clueless concepts of Stephen Cable, founder of Vermont Renewal. We can't be sure whether that really exists, by the bye. The website is empty even though the org is years old. Cable is registered as a lobbyist in the state (source of the mug). Mostly it seems though he acts like our local MassResistance. He shows up at marriage-equality rallies and legislative hearings to rattle his can of doom of the horrors that will befall Vermont if it enacts SSM.

Forget for the moment that he said the same things before the state legalized civil unions in 2000. The facts that many are helped and no one GLBT or otherwise is harmed, either there or even in that Massachusetts place.

Cable was not one of the two anti-SSM sorts who testified on the first day. One of those bored with pseudo-science, while the other has a lot of sexual fixations and a total misunderstanding of marriage.

Instead, on day two of the hearing, Cable reacted to speakers from two business group heads who favored enacting SSM. He didn't seem to like hearing that most business owners saw the shift as good for the state. Rather, he went from the groups' reported reality to his fantasy, as the Burlington Free Press paraphrased him, "...there are plenty of other business owners who oppose same-sex marriage. Some of them are afraid to say so publicly because supporters of the legislation are swift with retribution."

Then he got absurd with, "Proponents of gay marriage are very good at voting with their wallets and we are not because we’re traditionalists who don’t want to hurt anyone."

After hearing the first day specifics of what homosexual couples gained from civil unions and would gain from SSM, he glazed over. Instead of seeing that he want to hinder and harm gay and lesbian couples, he holds that he's the nice guy.

An imagined GLBT boycott of anti-SSM businesses would hurt someone, but his malicious attempts to deny marriage equality, with its legal and social benefits is okay. It must be nice to be a guy like that, doing evil and seeing himself as virtuous.

There's likely no reasoning with his sort. The answer seems to be the one that Vermont legislature has come to — do the right thing and move one. The Cable guys will eventually catch up.

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Three for the 3rd

Listen over at Left Ahead! for some insights from and about 3rd Suffolk District House candidates. We've done two on our podcast and have a third up next week.

The counters show a lot of listeners and downloaders, both on our side and our BlogTalkRadio one. As our Ryan Adams is quick to ask, "Why aren't the local papers doing their version of this?"

Next Tuesday, we have Aaron Michlewitz as guest. He was House Speaker Sal DiMasi's fixer, the aide in charge of constituent services. Conventional politics suggests this is a big leap ahead, by people he helped, people who know people he helped and on and on.

You can listen to the live stream Tuesday, March 24th at 2:30 p.m. You can also catch it later at the same URL or head over to Left Ahead! to use our player or download the MP3.

In the past two weeks, we had Susan Passoni, who owned the South End in her bid for Boston City Council. She's a serious progressive. Then yesterday, Ryan Higginson spoke with us. He is not a professional pol and is pushing civic engagement and community involvement as essential to solving our biggest problems.-

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Green Mountain Marriage...Maybe

Vermont is about to pass a law legalizing same-sex marriage. The governor seems poise to veto it. There are no numbers yet on whether the pro-marriage equality legislature can override that.

Nine years after becoming the first state to legalize civil unions, most of its legislators figure it's past time to upgrade to Marriage Real for homosexual couples. As in Massachusetts, Connecticut and other domestic partnership and civil union states, Vermont did not suffer following it 2000 advance. The crazy talk about mass exodus from the state, the collapse of different-gender marriages, confused and parentless children are just church coffee hour babbling, and the stuff of made-up pseudo-research.

Now this session, both the House and Senate have been around the state and as a group are ready to do the civil rights thing at last. Yet, Gov. Jim Douglas has remained in that silly camp of we-gave-them-civil-unions-what-do-they-want-now. Late last year, he said, ""I think the current civil union law is sufficient. It accords equality of rights to Vermonters in terms of their relationships and I think we should leave the law as it is." He added, "I never indicate what I might do when a bill gets to my desk, but I've been quite clear that I don't support the legislation."

He may be swayed by this week of hearings in the Senate's judiciary committee. The anti-SSM folk are there, but in diminished numbers and support. Some of them have been testifying that the nearly the whole state is against SSM. Some call for a plebiscite instead of a law. They all seem to repeat the discredited claims of disaster to families and marriages. Ironically, the pro-SSM side has many speakers specifying the differences between civil union and marriage, legally and socially. The harm on this issue is all one way — hampering same-sex couples just because they are same-sex couples.

Regardless, you can read and hear for yourself. Just after one full day of testimony, the Burlington Free Press as a solid set of articles, starting here. Bay Windows has good background.

What you really need is Vermont's Freedom to Marry folk's testimony clips here, which I highly recommend. Check out the playbill here. You'll find out who's consumed with anal sex and the mechanics of marriage consummation. You'll see who pushed pretend research and tortured stats as proof of, well really of nothing. Then there's a phalanx of pro-SSM subject matter experts.

It's fun stuff and the week has just begun.

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A Cork in Chuck Turner

So, is it true you've been in withdrawal with no news about Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner? Well, Adam over at Universal Hub has the big needle ready for you. He compiled the new docs in the case to ease your pain.

The Turner troops have not responded...yet, but they surely shall. The news is that Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman of the U.S. District Court here cuffed the obstreperous pol. He granted the prosecution request to stifle Turner from going public with any discovery material in his bribery case.

The simultaneous keening of woe-is-me and racism must already be filling Turner's lungs. On the face of it, there's some cause.

Prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, does seem to suffer a bit from DA syndrome. He seems to see himself as right and righteous, and anyone he charges as guilty, guilty, guilty per se. It is unfortunate as both current defendants with linked charges that he:
  1. Did not wait until he also had evidence on some non-African-American crooks. He got the only black state senator, Dianne Wilkerson and Turner.
  2. Did not take the time to build a great instead of merely good case against Turner.

Those seem sins springing from the arrogance of a self-defined crusader.

Start with Hillman's St. Patrick's Day eve decision. It's only five pages of meat and as clear and concise a legal document as you'll see this month.

His decision details the inequality in permitting Sullivan to distribute pix of the pols grabbing the dough they did not report while ordering Turner to stop his melodramatic spewing of evidence to counter the obvious. In no small part, Turner lost this motion because he so heavily overplayed his hand in rallies, press conferences and media appearances. He's never been subtle and never been shy, but his theater suggests he may not be anywhere as bright as his I-have-a-Harvard-degree cutout suggests.

Hillman cites at length a U.S. Supreme Court case [Seattle Times v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 104 S.Ct. 2199 (1984)] whose findings detail conditions under which discovery material protective orders do not violate defendants' First Amendment rights. Those on are page three of Hillman's ruling.

Here, Sullivan's people has a much better sent of arguments (see Adam's other references). On one hand, Hillman agrees that the release of pix of the pols taking cash "...while clearly permissible, added little to the establishment of probably cause and may have served to ratchet up the publicity." I would add that this is more of Sullivan's version of petty drama.

Yet, Hillman continues, "However, that does not mean that the defendants can engage in a ‘tit for tat’ in the media. Such conduct would only result in a escalation of charges and countercharges that would infect the fair trial rights of all parties." This is where a calmer and out-of-character Turner would have bided his time and played the unfairness card at the trial or plea level. He just couldn't do it.

The emotional aspects aside, what seems to have swayed Hillman to Sullivan's side is that there seems to be a ton of sensitive discovery information. Some of it involves unrevealed grand-jury witnesses. On top of the likelihood that these data might serve to intimidate corruption witnesses, the ruling found:
Additionally, the government has argued persuasively that given the sheer volume of materials, requiring it to redact all sensitive information would not only be time consuming, but would render many reports incomplete and, in all likelihood, would result in protracted discovery disputes. The government also argues that there is information not germane to the case which would generate media interest and cause needless harm to the defendants and innocent third parties.
In other words, he didn't want any opportunity to clog up the prosecution and didn't trust Turner's side to be honorable.

Yet, Hillman expects and enabled the bluster to continue minus discovery stuff. As he wrote, "...the proposed protective order is narrowly drawn to cover only discovery and that it does not prevent the defendants from discussing information learned from an independent source."

That would be a more thoughtful and measured public argument with less drama. That robs us of much of Turner's entertainment value in the name of fair trials for Wilkerson and Turner. Once she cuts her plea deal, we'll see how he and his attorneys play it.

Next Day Follow-Up: Tip of the toupee to Universal Hub's Adam for checking Turner's main website. The councilor says he'll run again but step down by 2012. It reads like it has hidden unnoticed there awhile, saying he'd wait until February to discuss agenda.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Plethora of Places to Pray

Boston seems to have a higher concentration of particularistic churches than elsewhere. These are houses of worship that are either unique or belong to a small denomination.

Many here are in storefronts and often are imported remnants by immigrants. For example, a settlement from a West Indies island might bring a pastor with their specific religion who preaches in their first language. There will then be enough tithers to support a wee church.
Background Book: A comprehensive study of such churches in the Four Corners area of Roxbury is Omar M. McRoberts' Streets of Glory: Church and Community in a Black Urban Neighborhood, from the University of Chicago Press. He also judges that these churches end up conflicting with redevelopment and social services efforts.
I walked around Mattapan and Jamaica Plain to return with some shots of the fronts of churches on Blue Hill Avenue and Washington Street below Egleston Square. I have not visited them nor arrived during services to photograph parishioners. That seems intrusive, but I may get over that.

Meanwhile, I'll post a few shots from time to time.

These churches seek affordable spaces. That can be a storefront or unused building. Some seem parodies of the grand, steepled, wooden structures on town commons in New England. Others are colorful and cheerful on their own.

Today's may have fallen fallow while I got around to posting it. The Apostolic Church at 1290 Blue Hill Avenue had an active website, but it is parked at the moment. Its registration runs through December 18th though. I'll keep tabs and try to get by at the service hours listed to satisfy my curiosity.

The site was www.tacboston.org. Yet that did not work for me, while www.tacboston.com did. Both are inactive now. The registrant for the former was and is Pastor Michael Jolaosho.

Off the latter site, the TAC unedited tenets included:
  • The unity of Godhead and the Trinity of the persons therein.
  • The utter depravity of human nature, the necessity for Redemption, and the
    Eternal Doom of the finally impenitent.
  • The Virgin Birth, Sinless Life, Atoning Death, Triumphant Resurrection,
    Ascension and Abiding Intersection of our Lord Jesus Christ, His Second
    Coming and Millennial Reign on Earth.
  • Justification and Sanctification of the Believer through the finished works
    of Christ.
  • The Baptism of the Holy Ghost for believers, with signs following.
  • The Nine Gifts of the Holy Ghost for the edification, exhortation and comfort of the church, which is the Body of Christ.
  • The Sacraments of Baptism by immersion and of the Lord's Supper.
  • The divine Inspiration and Authority of the Holy Scriptures.
  • Church Government by Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers,
    Elders, Deacons and Deaconesses.
  • The possibility of falling from Grace.
  • The obligatory nature of Tithe and Offerings.
  • Devine Healing through Obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ and Faith in His Name and merit of His Blood for all sickness, diseases and infirmities.

What, you want more? How about the rules of conduct:

  • Never come to the House of God without praying before coming [Matt 6;6, Eph 6;18]
  • Be in your seat at the commencement of the service, you will be a good example to those who are late and neglectful
  • [Gen 22;3, Psalm 108;2, Proverbs 8;17, Songs of Solomon 7;12]
  • Bring your children with you to the House of God. Relatives and servants also have souls. It is your duty and privilege to take care of them. [Matt 19;14, Exodus 20;10, Acts 10;24, John 1;41-45, Gen 18;19]
  • Make your Pastor your personal friend. His sympathy, support and counsel are needed by you. Constantly pray for him. [1 Thessalonians 2;7, Joel 2;17, Matt 2;7, Rom 15;30, 11 Corinthians 1;11, Eph 6;19, Heb 13;17]
  • Make the church your spiritual home [Acts 2;46-47]
  • When conversing on the hearths, never speak disrespectfully or criticizing of God's servants or their ministrations in the presence of your children. If you sow the wind, you may expect to reap the whirlwind [Gal 6;7, Proverbs 22;8, Hosea 8;7]
  • Enter reverently; pray feverently, listen attentively; give praise from a grateful heart and worship God in the Beauty of holiness [Ps 118;27-29, Eccl 5;1, Rom 12;11, James 1;19] "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise, be thankful unto Him and bless His name'-Ps 100;4
For UUs, who hesitate to sing "wretch like me" in Amazing Grace (generally substituting "soul like me"), tenet two is a bit much — The utter depravity of human nature, the necessity for Redemption, and the Eternal Doom of the finally impenitent.

While raised as a Christian (Methodist) and with most of my adult life as a UU, I don't see my past or present religion, I don't see my religion past or present in the admonitions and exhortations of TAC.

Clearly, that was not my church. However, it is or at least was a place of community and worship for others.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Science Ammo in Divorce War

Already featured in WorldNetDaily, where the hysterical classes reload their outrage and self-righteousness weapons, the North Carolina home school lady is the manufactured martyr of the moment. This one will be handed around like an infant at a family reunion.

Wingers in general and both parents-rights and home-schooling groups specifically have already made this a cause. To them, it's a binary example of the evil done by those who hate religion or at least fundy Christianity.

Pertinent background:
  • Parents of three, Thomas and Vanessa Mills in North Carolina, are finishing a nasty divorce.
  • She alleges adultery and he that she belongs to a cult.
  • Wake County District Court Judge Ned Magnum's initial finding included moving the children (10, 11 and 12) from home school to public this fall.
  • The children had been testing very well in core subjects, but the mom uses what she says are biblical teachings, which means among other things creationism instead of evolution or both.
  • Before his written decision, Magnum asked parents to make suggestions for how to handle the school issues.
This is not exactly clean or simple. Neither parent will compromise.

Various winger sites see this otherwise. Most do the standard accusations of Godless liberals forcing religious parents to surrender their rights — those from both the Bible and the Constitution. Some were quick to call in their posts and comments the bugbears of Hitler, fascism and of course activist judge.

Several brought up the more nuanced slurs against Thomas. For example, this is a wallet issue, that he really wants the kids in school so Vanessa could go to work and make his alimony payments lower.

The judge is surely sorry he ever got this case. With two recalcitrant opponents, he seems to be the only one entrusted with 1) enabling the divorce and 2) deciding conditions for the children. He won't comment before he issues a final decision (and I bet he'll avoid doing it afterward).

On the face of the facts, we might suppose:
  • Magnum overstepped in weighing religion in his educational decision.
  • Millses could have cut a deal, such as ensuring the kids got both faith-based pseudo-science and accepted theories and facts.
  • There's substance to both the adultery and cult allegations affecting Magnum's reasoning.
Wingers apparently have no interest in fairness here. The reports and blogs are crazy with assertions and emotional calls.

Fortunately, the children should be okay in this. Vanessa has the home-school stuff down pat. If in the unlikely case the judge lets her continue, he'll surely inject a modicum of sanity and require a mix of science lessons. If they go to public school, mom can augment what they learn to keep their achievement levels high, as well as keep the fundy stuff in their ears and before their eyes.

Normally courts hold that parents can teach their flaky and irrational beliefs in home schools...so long as the kids pass required tests. We don't know from a distance what makes Magnum think Vanessa requires intervention. Meanwhile though, she gets the screamers' support. We can be pretty sure that Liberty Counsel or similar winger law groups are contacting her to offer appeals for free. This makes for great sport for them.

Adult can be such creeps, particularly in custody battles and divorce proceedings. It looks good that there is at least one mature and reasoned person in the mix, even though neither parent is.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

L'alcool est mal, as the French hear

Disdainful is the tone of today's wine column in the Financial Times. The French minister of health and sports, Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, is coming heavy against wine.

She co-mingles her two portfolios. The sports part of her job is youth centric. She spares nothing in health. She's taking on prescription drugs (she had a doctorate in that field), cell phones (cancer), cigarettes, obesity, SIDS, AIDS and much more.

Our stereotypes suffer here. The casual French family sharing wine daily at meals, including with their children, is integral to French literature, cinema and, well, experience. From picnics to restaurants, wine in particular is integral to the nation, or was.

In the distant and not so distant past, the business of wine production and sales produced omnipotent lobbies. The FT's Jancis Robinson laments today's weakened and watered down (pun intended) versions of vintagers and vintners.

Think of the children!

Morally armed as she was in anti-smoking in cafés, Bachelot holds her shield of office between wine and the children. While it is difficult to hold that the idea of forbidding youths under 18 from drinking is bad, there is a conflation of evil here.

France does not have the earned reputation of say a Russia. There are numerous alcoholics and the French love to blame any physical problem on their livers. However, there is no equivalent to the vodka dominance and its concomitant levels of violence, unemployment,, divorce and early death.

Instead, the French have or had long been an epitome of the classic rule of moderation. The idea that children could sip small amounts of wine with a meal, as their parents enjoyed a few glasses has worked for centuries. The sudden calls for abstinence and claims that alcohol, any amount of alcohol, is a crime against your body and brain are new.

In reality, unlike the United States and Sweden for two examples, France does not have a serious problem with tippling teens. Perhaps Bachelot is just in prophylactic mode.

Where France does have a problem is in adult poor judgment, specifically drunk driving. The consistent findings are that 45% of fatal car accidents there involve a drunk driver.

Yet, it is the industry of wine and not the proven problem in the ministers sights. As Robinson writes:
In France, one of the few voices to speak out against what he calls the "hygienists" and their calamitous effect on the wine business is journalist Jacques Dupont of Le Point, but the vintners themselves seem almost resigned to their demonisation by France’s powerful health lobby.
Abstinence campaigns haven't seem to work anywhere. However, the FT reports that wine sales are down in France. That could be temporary or it could signal a shift to hard liquor, at least among younger adults.

Among the numerous little jests here are:
  1. Research all around suggests a glass or even two a day makes adults healthier
  2. Messing with the national heritage often has deleterious effects in odd ways
  3. Delivering another blow to the economy right now does not seem savvy
Moreover, some economists have admired France for production of high-end consumables. While the U.S., German and other countries seemed to concentrate largely on durable goods, France exported goods that were meant to be used up and replaced.

Here, we liked to make track-mounted motorized tractors (bulldozers) with lifespans of decades. Typical French exports were wine, cheese, perfume and other ephemera. Drink 'em, spritz 'em on, eat 'em...and it's time to get more of the same or similar.

The French make passable construction equipment. Where's the fun in that? Would Bachelot convert her country into another Germany? Oops, that's a bad example with all that beer swilling.

I'd rather not see a teetotalling France. Strict enforcement of drinking and driving, on the café and bar owners as well as drivers seems reasonable. Taking the goblet from everyone's hand does not.

As Robinson quotes wine broker Charles Sydney, "The French don’t seem to respond well to being asked to change their behaviour or their attitudes, but they do respond to being fined."

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Southie Befuddles Mayor Hopefuls

Welsh lad Maewyn Succat was enslaved and taken to Ireland, where he eventually became St. Patrick, after escaping and returning. We impassioned provincials here imbue his name with the quartet of holiness, things Irish, fun, and up-yours-ness.

Here, we've managed to turn the wearing of the green into the swearing at the gays. The Wacko Hurley team in Southie won the right to be petty and discriminatory from the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet how odd that the parades in Ireland don't have any problem with GLBT marchers.

Oh, the joy of being so wrong so long and find it a source of identity and pride!

This year, Ethan Jacobs over at Bay Windows did his expected excellent job of covering the Boston mayoral candidates' stances. The me-too Globe's John Drake did a weak cover today.

The short version is that Mayor Tom Menino will do his usual work the crowd from the sidelines thing (seemingly politically effective). Sam Yoon will march and bluster about the anti-gay unfairness. Michael Flaherty will plead Irish-Americanism and personal tradition to march. Kevin McCrea will boycott the event after his meditative enlightenment.

The big surmise on the coverage is in this year of a mayoral election, who's helped and who's hurt by the parade decision. In reality, the stress might be better placed. South Boston is no longer monolithic politically and as such does not sway elections like the bad old days when it wrested the voting power from the WASPs on the other side of the channel. This could well be the last year anyone gives a shamrock leaf about it.

As much as I admire Sam Yoon (smartest guy in City Hall in my view), he's not showing insight or courage here. He plays the martyr saying that because he wrote a protest letter to the anti-gay parade forces, he'd been forced to be the butt end of the parade as punishment. Aww. Yet, he marches.

BW quotes him this as, "When I’m elected mayor I will invite the GLBT community with rainbow flags to march behind me in my mayoral contingent, and we’ll see what happens." That fails the leadership test badly. Do it or don't. Finessing the rules confuses people — they expect plain talk from a mayor.

Kevin McCreaMichael FlahertySam Yoon

Flaherty is equally weak, trying to avoid the issue by saying he's been marching in it from childhood. Well, he used to wear diapers too.

The more potent whiff here is of McCrea. He says he thought about it for a long time and he told BW:
My position would be I’d love to sit down with the parade organizers and say, look, it’s 2009. I’d love to march in the St. Patrick’s parade and I’d love to march with my gay friends, and let’s break down the walls and allow the gays to march. If they continue to exclude gays I won’t march in the parade. If they include gays then I would love to march in the parade.
That level of insight and coolness may hurt him with the anti-gay forces, but there are a ton more equality minded Bostonians. It looks like a smart gamble for a small to medium sized pot.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Graffiti Cops as Barney Fife

As Barney Fife, the literal and simple-minded cop on The Andy Griffith Show so often said, "Nip it in the bud." In this case, it's been BPD detectives as Barney and they are coming in with a scythe to cut down dandelions.

They are spilling their coffee and sputtering epithets over pop artist Shepard Fairey. Their drama queen antics included arresting him on the way to a reception for his current show at Boston's ICA. Then they tried to manufacture another 30 or so charges of vandalism because some of his poster-style art appeared at various area locations. Despite a total lack of evidence that he had anything to do with it, they try to shift him from his self-declared street artist to a major threat to our way of life.

All you really need to see to understand our defenders of public order appears in his arrest affidavit on the first week of February.

Somebody please make them stop being so foolish.
Art Note: The accompanying art is a chunk from one of his posters visible on his site. I claim fair use to give a little sense of what he does.
Yeah, yeah, he disobeyed some civil regulations and laws. Yet he is by far one of the least frequent and harmful offenders. Politicians, local bands, lost-pet searchers, yard-sale holders and many more deface public and private property more often and to greater degrees than he. They are also very easy to trace, with the names, numbers or websites on the glued or taped postings and markings.

They just leave them and walk away, defacing lamp posts, street signs, fences, buildings and more. Yet, our noble detectives seem baffled at how to confront and arrest these serial vandals. Pity they haven't noticed the tens of thousands of cases or arrested any of them or even ordered them to retrieve and clean up their vandalism.

No, according to their affidavit, they went after the hard core, the true career criminal, that Fairey. According to our protectors:
  • He is a "known graffiti vandal"
  • At various arrests, he gave more than one variation on his name
  • Posting his art has led "victims and community activists " to call the police on him (victims?)
  • He "has become an idol to members of the gram subculture based on the popularity of his 'OBEY' tag and his constant defiance of placing the tag on others' property without there (sic) consent."
  • He has said he intends to keep his street art creation up
The cops are seeking prosecution under commonwealth law 266:126A. That carries a $1,500 or year in jail, although it is really designed for graveyard desecration and wanton destruction of property, not the dubious conceptual art.

Let's grant that Fairey is arrogant and wealthy. He admits having 14 arrests in various places. According to his taped interview shown at the ICA show, he considers that a cost of doing business. He wants to maintain his rebel facade. Hell, that sells posters and shirt and lockets and whatever.

He even uses his own melodramatic term for sudden art, bombing. As close as he gets to philosophical is discussing his arrests as, "It's just going to happen when you bomb as much as I've bombed." What a tough guy, eh?

Because of my leg injury, I had not seen his show. I lived in the Manhattan during the Andy Warhol era and worked at MOMA for a bit. I'm not all that hot on pop art like this, but I do know the difference between spray painting a subway or store window and putting a high-concept mural on a blank brick wall. Each may literally fit various graffiti laws, but one is possibly defensible and demands some professional prosecution, not Fife bluster.

We did the ICA today. Their wheelchairs are vastly more maneuverable than Brigham & Women's. Our cost center two was on a break from U Rochester and he wanted to see it. He had not been aware of the arrests and certainly not of the hyperventilating affidavit.

I carried my subtext and my questions into the exhibit silently, plus that baggage of indifference to pop art. Plainly the Boston cops have to play Barney Fife in making as extreme an example of Fairey as they can. They are fairly constipated in hearing him say in effect, "Come get me, coppers. I do graffiti!"

Literal cops don't do ambiguity

Beyond that, what's under the surface here? It didn't take long to see it. Moreover, one wall has a discussion of Fairey's art and meaning. It makes a high-minded allusion to phenomenology. "The process of letting things manifest themselves...they might be right before the eyes, obscured...taken for granted, muted by abstract observation."

In another room, a Fairey quote on the wall puts it more simply. "I use figures in my work who I feel are used and abused as symbols, but without telling the viewer how to feel about them."

That flatness and wishy-washy presentation is essential to Fairey. Much of his work has obvious no-war and help-the-helpless messages, but he's no towering activist leader. He gives some classes of profits to various charities, but he is a canny businessman artist. Moreover, his videos and interviews in the exhibit indicate that he's no driving intellect or philosopher.

He is a draftsman and craftsman. He's spectacularly good at what he does. He works like a coon hound on the hunt. He has a great time at it. He has a full family life with wife and two daughters. He is teen-immature in wanting to play the rebel with his street art.

We seem headed to a dénouement here in Boston. He appears guilty of a couple of illegal murals or posters. The cops' skirt-flapping pretense that he's a monster who must be stopped, stopped now and stopped for good won't help any prosecutions though. They'll be hard pressed to find a judge as simple-minded as they have been.

After analyzing multiple rooms of Fairey's work as well as hearing him on video, I see the real issue here is one I have returned to a few times on this blog. The cops are trying to be Barney Fife literal; in fact, they seem to be incapable of doing otherwise. Fairey on the other hand has a high tolerance for ambiguity, which is what he asks of his patrons, the public and likely in this case, a municipal judge. The too, too literal cops don't do ambiguity, sorry.

It's likely that a city judge won't buy into the art for its own sake defense any more than the screaming fantasy that Fairey is a menace to the vulnerable residents here.

It seems like the top police guys would have cut down the volume on this case, if they couldn't find a brighter officer to handle it. They didn't and it's Mooninites all over again.

It's embarrassing to be in a fairly large city with hick cops. We've been at policing longer than any other U.S. city. We haven't gotten it right yet. Surely we have officers who can handle abstracts, don't we?

This is headed for Fairey getting a fine and maybe probation. The trumped up charges with no evidence will go away. Again, our cops play Barney Fife. That's what they should have nipped in the bud.

Fine the clown, come to terms that gets him to take his act elsewhere, and get him to pay for cleanup. Then go solve some crime that will keep me safe.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boston Cops Keep Comedy Coming

You would have thought that Boston police would have learned a bit, an eeny bit from being the nationwide punchline with their Mooninite fiasco. Nooooooooooooooo. At the state and local level, DA, city and state cops and such hold their LED toy panic was totally justified, dude.

Now they are determined to reprise their asininity in the Shepard Fairey poster prosecution. Today, they are piling unproven and unprovable accusations on the California artist. Apparently like the original red-nose-honking arrest of him on his way to an ICA reception, they do this because they can.

They had a tiny bit of cred on the first arrest and charge because the city's graffiti cop isn't very effective and he did make a public display of getting at least one guy. Well, good on him but give it a rest. In fact, go to any phone pole or street sign in JP. Get the politicians, lost-cat searchers and others with dozens or hundreds of posters on the same couple of blocks to clean up their acts or face charges. There's lots of petty graffito folk out there who leave their names and contacts and who can't deny they did the deed or ordered others to do it.

The attempted pig pile (pun intended) on Fairey this time is laughable...and many will be laughing at our cops. As his local lawyer, Jeffrey P. Wiesner, told the Globe, "I've never seen less credible evidence presented for a criminal charge.'' No one saw him do the alleged 31 posting of his work nor claims he told anyone to put them up.

It is embarrassing for the city, yet again. The talk show people and MSM still use Boston as a punchline for the LED panic. Now, we are surely in for it once more.

Give it that rest, BPD. You're looking incompetent.

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