Friday, July 30, 2010

Hatred in the Aisles

My still quick reflexes for an old fart kept my legs from mangling by a cart in the Roslindale Stop & Shop a short time ago. It was not propelled idly by an inattentive shopper or even a helpful, but too short, kid. Instead a hostile, angry and racist older black woman came right at me.

Sure enough, we forget or at least compartmentalize when we don't have to deal with obvious racists regularly. After 21 years in Jamaica Plain and one here in Hyde Park — both very racially and culturally diverse Boston neighborhoods —I don't experience or witness much of that.

There was no question this woman wanted to hurt me and why. I was a couple of feet from the front of my cart, ready to load in some greens. The cart was against a veggy display. She cut across about six feet of tile, veering hard left directly toward me, leaving me no exit and no way to avoid her.

First she glared and sneered as she aimed at my legs. I dipped into my t'ai chi background to touch the front of her cart as it came into contact with me and divert it just enough to keep it from smashing my legs.

That further enraged her and her racism became obvious. She swore about white people and said they were always pushing around black folk. She remained furious.

The three women with her, ranging from perhaps 50 to 17 were likely a daughter and granddaughters. They sort of looked down, but it was quickly obvious that this was not new behavior by the matron of the family.

Trying to give granny an out, I said pleasantly, "God bless you." In return, she literally spit back, "No, God bless you!" as a clear curse. They left and I could hear her continuing to defame white people.

I did get an odd chuckle of recognition though. A black friend from way back had warned me of angry, elderly black women. The stockier they are, he'd say, the more evil their evil eye and the more likely they'd be willing to have at someone verbally and physically. This crazed shopping lady was exactly what he'd warned me to avoid.

Of course, like the good UU I am, I look for the lessons here. I not only ask my three lads what they can learn from an unpleasant experience or error, I ask myself.

First, I'm glad I could retain my equanimity. She was spoiling for a physical and verbal confrontation and literally bruises and blood. She picked the wrong white guy for that.

Next, I do recognize home-turf advantage. The American Legion Highway store is patronized and staffed almost entirely by African Americans. It's much more comfortable for racists to act out when they perceive they are the norm. I rather doubt she would have pulled the same antics in the Dedham S&S.

Moreover, I felt for the trio with her. It has to be tough to regularly accompany a bigot, kind of watch out for her and be associated with her acting out.

Regionally, I regret how the allegedly liberal and open Boston area still has its onerous share of racists, of all races themselves. When I moved from the South first to New Jersey for high school, some time in Cambridge in college, a decade in Manhattan and the past three decades here, I was initially surprised at the racial tensions and negativity in Yankee lands. Yet in all those places, the locals were quick to scold me for my Southern roots, contrasting them to the enlightened Northern places. They seemed truly oblivious.

I found again and again that this was naive or disingenuous or both. Boston as a whole has never gotten over its own sordid history and racism and largely segregated sub-neighborhoods.

Here today I found that old brick back in my bag. It wasn't the classic North End teen slurring passing black Bostonians. It wasn't even snooty Brahman remnants running down others on race, class or schooling. It was an old bigot with absolute no reason to dislike me, feel threatened by me or certainly feel justified in physically and verbally assaulting me.

I would wish her peace and freedom from hate. However, she's likely rounding off her life and may simply be who she is for the rest of it.
Well, God bless her, regardless.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Everybody Loves Clinton (oh, and Lynch)

In a hip-to-hip crowd in the Local 7 Ironworkers hall in Southie, if anyone carried disdain for former President W.J. Clinton, that was buried real deeply. It seemed everyone in the crowd, as well as on the dais, was there to praise and cheer for Bill.

The rally was for MA 9th CD Rep. Stephen Lynch, but the smooth, silver-headed Clinton held the day. Several second and third-tier state pols spoke in favor of re-electing Lynch, as a lead-up to his presentation. That was place holder opening act skits while he and Clinton finished a fund-raiser in the adjacent room.
When the serious duo came — first Lynch and then Clinton — it was all Bill all the time. You're think the rally was for Clinton and Lynch was brought in to fluff the crowd for him. Lynch praised Clinton's presidency mightily and repeatedly, then Bill took over and did the same. He eventually got back around to saying how important it was to keep Lynch in office.

Shades of White

Race and other demographics hadn't seemed much of an issue in this primary so far. Sure Lynch is Irish American and D'Alessandro Latino, but no one has made a deal of it.
I was in the hall packed with maybe 500 folk when the campaign ran a few video clips praising Lynch. Suddenly in the last one, an older black man appeared. As with all the others, he chanted the glories of the incumbent.

Who knows where my brain was, other than not in the moment. I scanned the room several times and moved to get good views. I didn't see a single black face. There were a few Latinos, mostly the purple-shirted service-workers union set. Plus there appeared to be two Latinas in serious business sheaths. They could easily go from work to cocktails and were likely pol staffers from their look and jewelry.
That brings to mind the district's demographics and its likely effects. Although the rally was in South Boston, it was not limited to that neighborhood. Lynch's people pushed it on his website and Facebook page. While it was more convenient for a Southie resident to go to the Summer Street office to pick up a ticket, outlanders from elsewhere in the district (including me) managed it.

To the composition questions at hand, South Boston is one of the whitest areas of the city, at about 87%, with about 7 to 8% Latino, 4% Asian, and 3% black. That contrasts with the whole city at 56% white, 23% black, 16% Latino and small numbers Asian and other.

Interestingly enough, the sprawling, elongated district is not so different from Southie. It runs about 79% white, 8 to 9% black, nearly 5% Latino and nearly 4% Asian. Moreover, in contrast to Lynch's strong emphasis on his union background and worker support, the 9th is only 17% blue collar, with 69% white collar and the rest in that amorphous tech/service/agrarian lump of gray collar workers.
The hall today was disproportionately white and union workers by appearance and what they cheered. You might suppose his heavy emphasis on the blue-collar vote would not have played well with the 9th's demographics. Yet, he snagged the special election victory in 2001, then won terms in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.

He loves the history of being the son of an iron worker, then one himself. In reality, he had higher visions early, as evidenced by his becoming Local 7 president. He did that other collar work in getting a technical degree from Wentworth, a law degree from BC, and a masters from Harvard's Kennedy School. His ambition and accomplishments should let his talk the tongue of anyone in his district.

Stealth Mac

I didn't hear the name of Lynch's Dem primary challenger, Mac D'Alessandro, once during the rally, either from the dais or even in the crowd. Yet he was there in several guises.

Before anyone spoke, the purple shirts brushed through the crowd. Maybe a dozen 20-somethings mingled wearing their t-shirts with SEIU/NAGE for Congressman Lynch on the back. No irony was lost in the message that included D'Alessandro's most recent employer. It could be that the two will split labor votes from a variety of angles.
In the opening acts, MA Rep. Marty Walsh made an odd, even irrational, and only slightly veiled attack on Mac. "You don't see Republicans running against their own," he disingenuously said. "That's the wrong message." He said we should not elect someone who "doesn't know that the district's all about." Perhaps another view of his comments is that incumbents think all incumbents, surely including Walsh, deserve re-election, per se.

Amusingly enough, when Clinton gave the final speech, his first remarks ground Walsh's argument to powder. In fairness, he likely would have been more politic about had he not been in the fund-raiser room when the original aired. Clinton seemed to relish memories of his own primaries and generals. He lead off saying politics was a contact sport and you needed to be ready to mix it up if you played. He said there should open debate and people should stop whining.
On the other hand, Clinton didn't seem fully aware of the primary contention. He spoke of aiming for a Lynch victory in November. Odd that.

What the Guys Pushed

In the intros:
  • MA Sen. Jack Hart used several rhetorical devices, favoring epistrophe. His recurring phrase was "with that kind of moxie." He depicted Lynch's votes and positions as independent and courageous.
  • Guy Glodis, Worcester sheriff, plugged himself as running for MA auditor, but briefly. He said that Lynch taught him to remember the underdog and that pols were there to take care of those who can't take care of themselves. He claimed Lynch had "emerged as a national leader for upward mobility and economic prosperity."
Afterward, there was lots of dead air and downtime before the main act. The campaign didn't pipe in spiffy music (we did get to leave later to Bruce's The Rising; so they had CDs). The time and space provide eavesdropping. People were talking the same junk we all do of weather, vacations, other people...and not politics. Given the anti-/pro-Clinton chatter on his FB page, I thought the former President might be in the air.
Lynch himself was refreshingly humble when he arrived. He honestly recognized that Clinton was far more famous and introduced and praised him, acknowledging who was the main act today.

At two points he asked rhetorically whether this was still Clinton country. Those brought the loudest, strongest responses of the day. He presented a Sun King-level history of Clinton's eight years at the helm — undoing Republican waste and deficit spending, growing the staggering economy, getting and keeping us out of war and on and on.

For himself, Lynch spoke of his origins in the Old Colony housing projects and his iron worker start. He said that the proudest moment of his public life was his election as union local president, an honor and sign of respect from his peers. He depicted himself as finding dignity in hard work and translating that into his Congressional career as, "I went there to stand up and fight."
Clinton came on to boisterous accolades and picked up the common-man theme, noting that Lynch understood hard work. Then, he dawdled and meandered in what was not his most focused and brilliant oratory. In fairness, he has likely just pummeled and cajoled the donors behind the wall at length. He may have used his best material and a lot of energy.

To his credit, he did acknowledge the obvious — he was repaying Lynch for supporting and campaigning for Hillary Clinton when she ran for President. He noted that the secretaries of state and defense are two officials who are not allowed to campaign for others. "So, you're stuck with me."
Bill did wander about his topic considerably. Like Lynch, and more, he spent a lot time on the glories of his administration. He was quick to blame previous Presidents for the folly of Reaganomics, in the form of "eight years of trickle-down economics on steroids" when the Republicans had both the White House and Congress.

When he got beyond his own accomplishments, he did have some contemporary messages. His most serious was that health-care costs ruin our economy. He said that if we got those under control, we could fix the rest of our economy, including job creation, in a flash. He referred to other industrialized nations as "our competitors," saying their citizens paid perhaps a ninth of what ours do for proportional health care.

At a couple of closing points, he got to reasons to re-elect Lynch. First, he noted that he understood the anti-government/anti-incumbent drives. "I don't blame people for being mad and wanting to vote against everybody," he said. He also got a bit philosophical and dramatic in saying that those facing joblessness and home loss might feel, "Stop the world. I want to get off. Give me one thing I can control."
He urged the audience to talk with someone new every day. He said to warn them that if they vote against good incumbents or don't vote, "you will get exactly the result you don't want."

Clinton stood still and used his arms, hands and face expressively. He did ramble verbally though, even bringing in the cliche of Willy Sutton saying he robbed banks because that's where the money was. He did return to Lynch's cause often enough though to make his pitch.

As we broke up, a clump of five women his age who had been seated in the small bleachers behind where I stood came together. One stopped the others for attention. Twice, for effect, she said her piece, "I don't care what you say. He's a good looking man."

PM Followup: Chris Lovett posted the BNN tape on the rally with some salient points. I counted six MSM video cameras and at least one serious telephoto long-lens still camera.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lynch's FB Page Sparks

Divisiveness aside, the chatter on U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch's campaign FB page has to be good for him. Even Bill Clinton haters are engaged in a simple event invite.

His folk posted a notice that the former President would be in Southie at a fund-raiser leading into a rally. Looking through 22 comments early this morning suggests:
  • His people are reading his page
  • Many are surprisingly conservative for Boston (but not South Boston)
  • Clinton still hits people's buttons
I paste redacted comments below. The last names are gone (available on the FB page). I left the typos and casual language as befits the medium. I looked at the posters' FB pages and plugged in my estimates of age and such as reference.

What They Thought

Walter B.
you just lost my support.
Male, late middle age, white. No location. Activities: Going to Concerts, Pistol shooting, Kayaking, Riding My Harley.

Donna B.
Great news!
South Boston
Female, 40ish, white

Bettyanne L.
Good team I would vote for Clinton again in a a second We never had it so good when he was in office
Female, 40ish, white, likes Dropkick Murphys

Stephen F.
Well you will probably be looking at Hillary running, not Bill..
South Boston hometown, claims Chihuahua residence

Donna C.
Female, 40ish, white
Very liberal, works on a state rep campaign

Bettyanne L.
Your right but if I had to do it all over I would vote for him again Get out who we have we need to

John G.
President Clinton? nex tyou will ask OBAMA to Help you. Stepthen you lost my vote. Clinton is the main reason for this recession
No public info on background other than schools (Bunker Hill CC 1989)

Bettyanne L.
Stephen you will do just fine if people decide not to vote for you...You do what you beleive is right thanks to Bush and now Obama (Trash) ..We r seeing the toughest times ever..Hang in there buddy good choice you cant please everyone You will have more for you than against you watch and see...:-)

Joseph M.
Ronald Reagan is why we are in this recession. Clinton didn't do anything to help it along though.

I am definitely voting for Stephen Lynch even if he has a hack like Clinton campaigning for him.
Male, white, 30-40, arts and business degrees. From Dot to Milton

Steve L.
Steve,You have my support and friendship always (AKA Loyalty) BUT I would not attend this event. This"lieing president" was/is a fraud in the John Kerry et al tradition. Good Luck anyway !
Male, 50s, white, works for commonwealth

Bill W.
Who's bringing the cigars?! I agree with Mr. Long. Bill Clinton doesn't have a speck of integrity left.
Male, 40ish, white, Cambridge

Cheryl D.
I'm sure there are lots of us who would go ... its a difficult timeof day though.
Female, 50s, white

Jan V.
There are alot of former presidents that did much worse than what happened with President Clinton...and you cant count them on one hand.

Bill W.
Please , this guy is a disgrace and embarassment to our country.
Male, 50s, white, strong Irish-American identity

A bunch of us will get over there early for this one. When a President of the United States comes to Boston to endorse a Congressman in a primary race, it speaks volumes about the type of leader that the is.

This event is not about President Clinton or his political philosphy. It is about Congressman Lynch and his body of work that draws the attention of a former President of the United States. The ability that the Congressman has to convey the thoughts, emotions, and unique character of South Boston and the 9th CD to National leaders including our current President is valuable to this region and I look forward to being there to witness that ability on Thursday.

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
---Thomas Jefferson
Male, white, Foxborough, heavy enough to be indeterminate age, pyrotechnics company

Jan V.
i like him...good luck donna..wish i could be there. Met President Clinton once before, Linda and I at the Park Plaza...its exciting....Course, meeting President Reagan or president bush would have been much more exciting....yuck

Dennis C.
At least Clinton knows what we all have knowed for all these years. Steven Lynch is an honest hard working guy who works in the best interest for all of his district.
Male, 50s, white, South Boston

Bill W.
Ok, how about this my good friends! Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 for being a liar and a pervert! He will always be both of those. He can't take that back. Now , what if he offered your daughter a cigar?! I support Stephen Lynch but... please distance yourself from this pervert.

Sharon B.
Female, white, 50ish, Boston

William D.
Bill Clinton was still one of the best presidents we have ever had. Would you rather have the liar Bush back. There are other presidents who have done worse than Clinton. Lewinski was a grown woman she could have said NO, this does n...ot make the man a pervert. Bush should have been impeached for being a liar as well. At least when Clinton lied it didn't cost the country $747.3 billion. (estimated costs of the Iraq War). Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 19, 1998, and acquitted by the Senate on February 12, 1999. The charges were largely partison.
Male, white, Greennville, S.C., hometown Quincy, 30-40

Bill W.
I love the way your liberal blindness blames it on a young female intern. Tell that to your wife. I suppose you have a daughter that you would trust with men of such great integrity. That statement about "no" shows your ignorance and disrespect towards women.And stop hiding behind that term partisan. It's way overused and inaccurate. It's a favorite of another liar friend of the working class, Barney Frank

William D.
I said nothing about blaming it on the intern. All I was stating is that she was a willing partner in the whole scheme of things. Although the way their whole "relationship" was wrong, they were both willing partners. I find it ironi...c that the man who started the whole impeachment procedings mr gingrich, later confessed that he had an affair out of wedlock. Yes what he did was wrong, but you say daughter like she was 5 years old. She was a grown woman, she knew what she was doing. They both did.Partisan may be overused, but it can't be denied. If the House was democratic controlled there would have been no impeachment by the house.

What Can We Learn?

Supporters of his Dem primary opponent, Mac D'Alessandro, may wonder how Lynch has been re-elected several times when he seems so conservative. Perhaps the flavor of over half those comments is a good indication.

Everyone commenting seemed to be white and middle aged. In other words, they share Lynch's personal profile.

Most have very strong opinions, particularly related to Clinton. While they are not in the highest voting percentage group, their passions suggest they will bother to cast in the primary. Moreover, that they commented and discussed so actively on just an event posting bodes well for the campaign. He has the attention of this group.

Both Clinton respecters and dissers indicate Lynch support. Two (Walter B. and John G.) are the exceptions, claiming this appearance cost their votes. One could surmise in a month and a half they would find other emotional bases for staying with Lynch.

Lynch is older than D'Alessandro. He isn't the savviest new-media user. Yet, his FB site seems effective. Mac has loyal supporters and a cheering section on his version, but he can't count on the Lynch campaign's incompetence.

Disclaimer: I have noted here and on Left Ahead! that we have invited Lynch to join us for a podcast repeatedly. The campaign has so far blown us off. We did get Mac though and hope for a bookend before the primary. Of course, we also hope for a Dem-candidate debate or two.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

D.C. SSM Ruling May Inspire

The most brutal tool in anti-gay/anti-equality box disappeared — at least temporarily — last week in D.C. The District's highest judiciary, the Court of Appeals, rejected a ballot initiative aimed at overturning legalized same-sex marriage there.

Delightfully enough, the strongly worded 81-page judgment in the 5 to 4 decision came down firmly against discrimination. Wingers have been gaming the system for some time using spurious let-the-people-vote ploys. This court didn't bite and didn't buy.

My favorite legal expert, NYU Professor Arthur S. Leonard, provides analysis. The crux is in the decision where the majority write they are bound by anti-discrimination law as well as Council authority:
Because appellants’ proposed initiative would authorize, or have the effect of authorizing, discrimination on a basis prohibited by the Human Rights Act, it was not a proper subject of initiative. Therefore, the Board acted lawfully in refusing to accept the initiative on that basis. (page 53)
The front man for the anti-SSM effort in D.C. is Bishop Henry R. Jackson Jr. of the Hope Christian Church, Beltsville, MD. Not surprisingly, he says he is a conservative Republican. His group's first effort was to stay implementation of SSM in March after the District Council had approved it. Courts denied that.

The legal beagles and funds for this quixotic effort are from the odious Alliance Defense Fund.

This is not precedent and not binding outside of the District. However, with other recent judicial and legislative trends, it suggests a growing courage and fairness among the usually timid judiciary. The laughable claim of wingers of activist judges legislating from the bench invariably comes only when they don't get their absolute way from courts. Having tried lawmakers, referenda/ballot initiatives and courts, there is much keening when they can't bludgeon the other side.

Here, they are likely to try and to fail appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. Unfortunately for them, as a Washington Post editorial suggests, this is not a U.S. Constitutional issue, rather a local one. When Second-Amendment folk got the D.C. handgun ban overturned, it was on the national-interest. Lackaday for the anti-SSM folk, as the editors put it, "There is no constitutional issue of national import or circuit split in the Jackson case. The court should decline to hear the matter and respect the District's right to home rule. "

Naming Evils Tames Them

Here indeed may be the D.C. Court of Appeals significance. The anti-SSM folk scream for states rights in defining marriage when it suits them and not when it doesn't.

The position of the MA Family Institute in their latest email is:
Until the District gives its people a voice, Bishop Harry Jackson's team is determined to bring the issue to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, the next--and final stop--in preserving the principle of self-governance that this city is supposed to symbolize. Do what you can to help Stand for Marriage and Alliance Defense Fund fight this agenda--starting with prayer for their team.
Prayer won't be enough here. Despite their bag of states who started one-man/one-woman marriage definition laws and amendments even before MA legalized SSM, even they tacitly admit the legislative and judicial trends here. The larger world as well as various U.S. States and now the District are edging toward individual liberties and honoring equality over discrimination — even for those homosexuals.

It may be decades before Texas and Florida allow marriage equality. Yet here and there and over there, we continue to bend toward justice in that arc so aptly described by Rev. Theodore Parker. The brutal tool of the emotionally founded ballot initiative has caused terrific personal, political and economic damage. I delight when a court or legislature limits these to justifiable purposes instead of discrimination.

Naming evils, as the D.C. Court of Appeals did, helps tame them. Moreover, courts and legislatures are finding the guts to say the obvious — there's no benefit to different-sex marriage from forbidding SSM. When anti-equality folk say they aren't bigots because they want to discriminate against SS couples, they increasingly hear, "Yes, you are."

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Small Biz, Small Beer

Our Great Recession should prompt us to shelve one of our great fantasies — that U.S. small businesses are still the driver and salvation of our economy.

I confess that in my long-ago days at Inc. Magazine, I would write and say how wonderful our readers were. I would also let the sources run off about how their companies and their industries were unique, in problems, opportunities and most of all in contributions to the nation. That was all delusion, fluff and fnord.

On one hand today though, MSM, bloggers and some government sorts have started saying the obvious aloud. That is American businesses have not carried their load and have not done their part in healing our economy. They haven't hired, expanded or even tried to return to previous employment levels.

The most obvious signs of this are the multi-billions and even trillions of cash big companies keep warm in their nests. Despite frighteningly low interest rates of return, big companies are worse than banks at risking anything. They are absurd arguments that would support Scientology's engram hypothesis. They've been burned and are damned if they'll risk anything, even if it puts more money in more hands to buy more stuff to grow the country.

Let's be plain about small businesses though, whether you use the 15, 50 or 500 employee benchmark. With a few exceptions, they have not stepped up. They are not showing the Inc. or even the John Wayne ideals. They are not showing guts, risk taking, concern for fellow Americans or any of that.

We hear much whining about banks not lending money for small-biz use. Instead what appears to have happened is that banks understandably are more demanding of applications than when they were fools lending a decade ago.

As a result, small business sorts may have to present a more detailed and grounded business plan for a loan and even shop around for banks that are sick of their money sitting stagnate. If that's too much to ask of business owners, perhaps they need to give their companies to their kids or employees who might show some gumption.

There's some fascinating reports on what small businesses are not doing as from:
The current status remains. Businesses, including our allegedly heroic small ones, have not done their parts. They want more customers, more orders, more cash flowing to them. They are not risking, not hiring, and not acting to their billing.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Paywalls as Tombstones

Some newspapers seem intent on hugging themselves to death, diminishing their audiences to nothing. After a couple of decades of watching the internet creep its way into every aspect of our lives, publishers big and small have run about flapping their figurative skirts squealing they had to monetize every aspect of their businesses.

Stupidly enough, this recently has turned often to paywalls, charging online visitors to see anything or read a single article. In a few cases, like the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal — whose articles can help people make money — they are successful. (I went on about that six months ago.)

In the main though, it's just dumb in almost all cases. They end up decreasing their audience, making their properties less desirable to advertisers and subscribers alike, and trivializing and minimizing their content.

As the ultimate print alter kaker Rupert Murdoch continues with plans to put paywalls everywhere he can. Little publishers more and more frequently seem to identify with him instead of their readers.

I've attended video god Steve Garfield's Boston Media Makers regularly for a few years. One lesson he's learned and repeatedly hits us with is to share the small to get big benefits. In his case, he is the nation's leading video blogger, author of the new definitive how-to book on it (Get Seen), consults for pay widely, and is a popular speaker. He gives it away to get those paying gigs.

On his site and others, including Rocket Boom and YouTube, he is a relentless and brilliant self-promoter. Going to any of his areas for free video makes viewers hungry. Some then pay him to make videos or teach them how. Others buy his book.

He decidedly does not live in terror of giving something for free. Unlike too many publishers, he lives in this century.

Not Yours!

My most recent awareness of this came when I wanted to check something on two papers' sites. One was local, the Winchester Star, and one from my distant past, the Hampshire Review in Romney, West Virginia. Both have installed highly restrictive paywalls...which is to laugh. Both need to look elsewhere instead of driving away their few readers.

For the Star, click on any headline and get a demand for a subscription instead of a view. That would be $24 for a year of online access, a more outrageous $60 for the digital edition by email, and the high end as befitting a privileged community of $88 for the physical paper in your mailbox. For the RE-vue as they say down there, you can get a truncated version of the weekly as a PDF for $13.95, the whole thing as a PDF for $24.95, or the actual paper mailed for $36.50. You can also send an email to start an order of $3 for a single, specified week's issue.

I have a bit of history with the Review. I spent my summers and holidays in Romney with my grandparents. Every Thursday morning before dawn, the egg and butter lady as well as the Review guy would open the unlocked back door to the kitchen to put their deliveries on the kitchen stool. The paper was a nickel. Everyone got it.

I also knew the now editor, Sallie Ailes See. She inherited the editorship from her father John, who got it from his father-in-law. She is invested literally and figuratively in the paper. She was not an ambitious or rapacious child and even had a full career as a public school teacher before her father retired and handed off the paper.

In both cases of the small papers, they just don't know what to do. They don't get it. Further, I see that the Review expects its audience to send it news, news tips, school news, business news, photos and videos. They might use them, but won't pay for them. That's the old one-way paywall and a terrible business model.

In fairness, neither community has breathtaking demographics. They serve small pubics with limited advertising potential and pretty much fixed subscription potential locally. Winchester's rich, but wee.

One approach to real or feared advertising declines would be to offset these with fees for online access. They can look longingly at the FT and WSJ, extrapolating their own increased cash flow. What the big financial kids have though is something to sell, something that offers a tangible return. Get the premium content from the financial rags, make some money and applaud yourself for smart investment. Spend anything at all for the local rag and you know you are a sap.

Of course in the relative bubble of a wealthy suburb or that of orchard country, parochialism is expected and seems desirable to many. Visitors may be tolerated, if viewed suspiciously, whether they arrive physically or digitally.

Registration and even cookie-based counts are a manageable bit of pain. Those mechanisms do require a little setup and management. However, they really aren't more trouble for the publisher than buying a turnkey payment system or paying a web developer to do the same. The differences are in philosophy.

Fear of the Free

The puerile fear that someone somewhere might somehow get something for free underlies much of paywall strategy. Phrasing it as, "we have to monetize this," may let the publisher pretend this is strictly a business decision. However, you can also look it like a restaurant charging for a bread tray or condiments. The small costs of doing business are often the seamless amenities that take a customer's visit comfortable. As such, they are much cheaper than advertising or other ways of attracting and keeping customers.

The localized dailies and weeklies are bound to fail in their ham-fisted paywall attempts. We can sympathize as they envy papers who can justify fee-to-view models, at least for their premium content. Yet the fact remains that the little guys are being lazy.

Think Steve Garfield. He gives away plenty, daily, and enough to get huge audiences. As one indication, he has 21, 462 followers as of this morning on his Twitter feed. Those are people he an point to all his content, free and pay.

If a Winchester Star or Hampshire Review wants to play this game, its publisher and editor can't dig back down into the same old dirty bag. These papers have to offer new and better products. They have to give away the online version and entice the audience with products they want to buy.

Local gossip is fun and we all enjoy it, but it's not enough for $24 or $88 a year. Where are the videos, features, maybe software or beyond? Publishers need to stop hugging themselves to death. Make it worth people's time and money to buy the premium content they won't be able to find anywhere else.

Get with the program!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lefty Legal Guy Calls for DOMA Appeal

My favorite legal analyst, NYU Law professor Arthur S. Leonard, has kept on the decisions invalidating DOMA in our U.S. District Court. He makes a strong, multi-pronged argument for the Obama administration to appeal.

A key component is that until either ruling voiding the Defense of Marriage Act withstands appeals at the federal level, its findings are not precedent for other cases. He also explains why the limited pleading in the Gill case will remain restricted to the plaintiff's filing unless it wins on appeal.

A bit scarier is the call for the feds to push for clarity on the 10th Amendment finding in the court here. As Leonard writes, "Judge Tauro's reasoning, while well-intentioned and reaching a happy result in this case, does not stand on firm precedential grounds, and seems to fly in the face of Supremacy Clause jurisprudence that goes unmentioned. " With many different laws reliant on the administration's presumption that federal needs trump states', that can't go unsettled.

Leonard has little sympathy with those who yell for Obama to let the rulings stand. I also wonder whether they have a strong overlap with those in the LGBT and lefty communities who have been terrified for any aspect of same-sex marriage to go to federal courts.

Instead of begging for a bye on the appeal, Leonard would like the appeal to go ahead. Meanwhile and more important to him would be lobbying Congress to repeal all of DOMA. Both houses have bills doing that in the works.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tobin Heads to New Battleground

As we expected, Boston City Councilor John Tobin was a good guest on Left Ahead today. He spoke openly and fully on nearly everything, personal and political alike.

Head over to Left Ahead through the link above to play or download the show or click here. It runs about an hour.

He's remarkably straight ahead. His only equivocation is whether he'll pursue his nearly life-long (since first grade) drive to become Boston's mayor. He honestly doesn't seem to know whether moving from city hall to VP of city and community affairs with Northeastern University will change that.

He did speak on numerous issues, including:
  • How the mayor and other councilors took his resignation
  • How he and two long-term friends dickered on which would run for his seat
  • Duties of universities and other non-profits to Boston
  • Free Wi-Fi for citizens as a civil-rights issue
  • Why universities should adopt one or more public schools
  • PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes)
  • His early political-race loses
  • How he and Mayor Tom Menino settled disputes over the years
  • Who would tell him when he had stupid ideas
Tobin's move promises much. Short-term, there's the excitement of a special election (not yet scheduled) with numerous challengers, including the Tobin-endorsed Matt O'Malley. Then in short order, I expect to hear Tobin being as active and innovative down on Huntington Avenue as he has been in town.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Tobin Talks Beyond City Hall

This podcast should be fun. Boston's most prolific and innovative city councilor, John Tobin joins us on Left Ahead! for our weekly show. It streams live on BlogTalkRadio at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.

You can hit LA or BTR later to listen or download the show. Oh, yeah, and it will be our iTunes area as well.

As the councilor who seemingly does not sleep — full-tilt in city hall, running comedy clubs, active hubby and dad, church volunteer — he has long been the big idea guy. He proposed the most and most innovative legislation. In fact, he became famous for doing Boston versions of things the General Court should have done, sometimes shaming the big kids on the hill into action.

I"m sure we'll talk about the scramble to fill his seat, plus what his absence means. He'll surely tell us what this may do to his long-held mayoral ambitions. Of course, we'd love to know what he sees for Northeastern's role in the city, including the implications for the other major schools in this academic area to Cambridge and beyond.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tobin or Not Tobin

The Ula Café in upper JP has become one of City Councilor John Tobin's favorite constituent meeting joints. So that was an apt location for chatting with Matt O'Malley this morning.

I'd known him before in his MassEquality life as well as his recent job running Steve Grossman's campaign for MA treasurer. Now that Tobin has resigned starting next month to take a VP slot at Northeastern, O'Malley was first to say he was running for the district spot.

Tobin's shift and O'Malley's run have caught the local imagination mightily. David Bernstein over at Talking Politics seems to run one or two related items daily. The local papers have kept pace. In fact, I got to Ula first and picked up Bay Windows, The Bulletin, and the JP Gazette to skim. Each had a front-page article on them. Bay Windows had good background, centered on O'Malley's time as MassEquality political director. The print Gazette addressed O'Malley's likely contest with Tobin's chief of Staff Dave Isberg. Now the online update talks up the additional candidacy of former councilor and mayoral candidate Maura Hennigan's brother, James Hannigan III, for Tobin's seat.

It seems Isberg decided not to run, contemporary with Tobin endorsing O'Malley. The other John, that is At-Large Councilor John Connolly, also endorsed O'Malley. The Johns are unquestionably the legislative leaders of the body and their blessings should be quite a boost to O'Malley.

Over at Left Ahead, we'll have O'Malley on shortly. If Hennigan stays in, we'll likely invite him as well. The Tobin seat is key for several reasons. First, it covers two very active voter neighborhoods, JP and West Roxbury. Second, Tobin has been tireless in constituent services and communications as well as proposing legislation.

Today was a re-framing meeting. O'Malley had settled into Grossman's campaign guy for me and now he's a stand-alone. By the bye, he claims that Grossman understood, gave him his full support and was well situated with existing staff for the race to the September primary.

O'Malley does not shy away from such topics as the JP/WR differences. Among the most obvious is JP's 50% white residents to WR's 84%. The latter tend to be more politically and socially conservative in contrast to JP. He says he has lived in both, knows both, and sees no reason for anyone to play one neighborhood off another.

While some councilors dine off, or rather get re-elected repeatedly just off, constituent services, O'Malley intends to stick is neck out with positions and platforms. He did note that he has directed constituent services, including a stint with a D.C. councilor doing just that. However, he will be talking up his planks of education, public safety, environment and property taxes. He'll join us on Left Ahead when he's ready to detail is proposals in each area.

Not surprisingly, his tack sounds like Grossman's. The would-be MA treasurer came on our podcast with a full platform of specifics and a call for an expanded activism by the office. O'Malley appears prepared to do the same for himself. The this-is-what-I-got-show-yours attitude should liven up the campaign for the special election (not yet scheduled).

We local wonks have not gotten over Tobin's walking away from his well-entrenched and active council role. Particularly as he made it plain he want(ed)(s) to be Boston mayor and that he had intended to run in 2013. Being a university VP would make that between hard and impossible.

On the other hand, O'Malley has long coveted a council seat, and run for one twice. Tobin just couldn't pass up more money, a more relaxed schedule, and knowing him, I suspect a change from nine years of a certain sameness. Amusingly though, Tobin still runs comedy clubs and shows, is an active hubby and dad, and who knows what else. He may not know how to goof off in the way ordinary mortals do.

For his part, O'Malley couldn't pass up what is likely an excellent shot at playing the newer, younger, and who knows, maybe even better John Tobin.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Lawyerly Analysis on DOMA Case

As always, Arthur Leonard, NYU law professor, does not disappoint. His analysis and projection of the twin U.S. District rulings invalidating DOMA are here. My comments on the rulings with links to them are here.

He provides a bit more background than other sources. Plus and of high interest to me, he breaks down the appeals sked and some of the players.

The feds have 60 days from July 8th to appeal, that would be the first full week of September. Possibilities before then include:
  1. Congress repealing DOMA, making its invalidation moot.
  2. The Justice Department would try what failed in California, asking for a stay of implementation because legislation on the act was pending. Leonard does not think that effort in the DOMA case is far enough along to convince any judge.
  3. Justice could do nothing and let DOMA be invalidated without further fighting. I figure that's logical but not likely to happen with such an emotionally and politically loaded subject.
  4. Justice could appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals (that includes Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire).
Leonard knows of those folk and breaks down the robed ones.
There are six active judges on the circuit, and three senior judges who continue to sit on some cases. Of the active judges, two were appointed by Clinton (Democrat) and one each by Presidents Ronald Reagan (Republican), George H.W. Bush (Republican), George W. Bush (Republican), and Barack Obama (Democrat). Thus, the active circuit judges are evenly divided among Democratic and Republican appointees. The three senior judges were all appointed by Republican Presidents: Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals does not have an extensive history of rulings on LGBT rights issues.

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Double Chomp Out of DOMA

The Defense of Marriage Act got a long-overdue double dope slap yesterday in Boston. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro declared parts of DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution.

He found in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management that it violated due process and thus the Fifth Amendment. In the linked Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Department of Health and Human Services, he found that it arbitrarily federalized a state power, thus violating the Tenth Amendment.

You can find the basics, the LITE coverage, in today's Globe. A beefier piece with some analysis and appeals projections appears in the NYTimes. Personally, I look forward to NYU Law School Professor Arthur S. Leonard's take it on when he gets a chance to write it up on his site.

What's Next

To get down to it, we speculate on appeals. Clearly the anti-LGBT forces will not slink to their lairs in awe of Tauro's legal reasoning. Even though the fairly timorous Obama administration mounted a weak defense of this openly discriminatory act, it did something. Now we can expect it to appeal each of these decisions.

Tauro wrote his dual decisions to clarify the underlying issues and make it harder for First Circuit Appeals judges to miss his points. He danced a bit on the federal powers issue, but in the main he called it accurately.

Amusingly enough, he slashed, burned and flushed the pathetic emotional arguments of many anti-gay sorts. They were not specific government defense claims, but Tauro cited the crazy ones, like marriage is only for procreation, and stomped on them with specifics.

We can nevertheless expect the feds to come at his judgment with assertions that their duty to mind our dollars trumps the Constitution. That would be in such cases as where a legally married veteran wants his husband buried beside him in a federal cemetery. Massachusetts OK'ed that, but the government says it will strip millions from the commonwealth's money if it wasted federal dollars by providing this benefit when DOMA is in force.

There were no state-to-state comity issues in these two cases. The parts of DOMA that permit, even encourage, states to reject another state's legal marriages presently remain. However, the huge questions of whether the feds can use its big money stick to deprive spouses and children of homosexual couples for no good reason was the basis of Tauro's decisions yesterday.

There will be appeals. There will be high-volume emotionalism by winger media and groups. There will be a year or two at least of regrouping and re-arguing. The huge issue of whether the feds can mess in domestic relations at the state level will be in the middle.

What He Wrote

Tauro is a crisp, reasoned writer. He is not one of those cowardly judges who writes in the this-but-that tone. For example, among his many powerful statements is one with two peachy-keen citations (see Gill, page 37):
In sum, this court is soundly convinced, based on the foregoing analysis, that the government’s proffered rationales, past and current, are without “footing in the realities of the subject addressed by [DOMA].” And “when the proffered rationales for a law are clearly and manifestly implausible, a reviewing court may infer that animus is the only explicable basis. [Because] animus alone cannot constitute a legitimate government interest,” this court finds that DOMA lacks a rational basis to support it.
He lists several places in both decisions in which the clear intent of DOMA is such discrimination.

To DOMA section 3, the judge ripped into the circuitous wording. The act admits states can determine who's married in each. Yet, it claims a Congressional, national interest in "...defend(ing) the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage." Tauro seems disgusted at the lack of scholarship in making sweeping claims for that alleged traditional marriage.

Moreover, he concludes (Gill p. 24):
But even if Congress believed at the time of DOMA’s passage that children had the best chance at success if raised jointly by their biological mothers and fathers, a desire to encourage heterosexual couples to procreate and rear their own children more responsibly would not provide a rational basis for denying federal recognition to same-sex marriages. Such denial does nothing to promote stability in heterosexual parenting. Rather, it “prevent[s] children of same-sex couples from enjoying the immeasurable advantages that flow from the assurance of a stable family structure,” when afforded equal recognition under federal law.
On the next page, he adds:

But more generally, this court cannot discern a means by which the federal government’s denial of benefits to same-sex spouses might encourage homosexual people to marry members of the opposite sex. And denying marriage-based benefits to same-sex spouses certainly bears no reasonable relation to any interest the government might have in making heterosexual marriages more secure.

What remains, therefore, is the possibility that Congress sought to deny recognition to same-sex marriages in order to make heterosexual marriage appear more valuable or desirable. But to the extent that this was the goal, Congress has achieved it “only by punishing same-sex couples who exercise their rights under state law.”
Repeatedly, he returns to equal protection. The product of the panic pot of the last decade, DOMA far exceeded federal authority with spurious claims of national need and interest. To wit, on page 28, Tauro writes that "the government's argument assumes that Congress has some interest in uniform definition of marriage for purposes of determining federal rights, benefits, and privileges. There is no such interest."

I suspect this will be the core of appeals against yesterday's ruling. The feds have over 1,100 regulations and laws that provide benefits based on marital status. Tauro ruled that at least as far as Massachusetts is concerned, the feds suddenly have to be fair and recognize marriages in SSM states for benefits pruposes. An appeal would necessarily require the government to say it really has a need to continue to discriminate openly against legally marriws same-sex couples. I expect it to do so.

Underlying the Gill case too is the well-established law and case law that the U.S. Constitution "neither knows nor toleratsd classes among citizens" (page 19). That is particularly damning in that DOMA exists to create just such an artificial distinction. In that, Tauro provides detailed analysis and concludes (page 21) "...this court is convinced that 'there exists no fairly conceivable set of facts that could ground a rational relationship' between DOMA and a legitimate government objective. DOMA, therefore, violates core constitutional principles of equal protection."

Similarly with the Commonwealth case, the issues are much narrower, but the tenor now familiar. Our AG sued to assert that DOMA forced MA into a conflict with its laws by mandating that it discriminate against and set up classes among its citizens. Here, medical benefits as well as those such as funereal ones fell under such mandates.

AG Martha Coakley charged that the feds far exceeded their power in forcing the state to discriminate against its legally married citizens or lose millions in federal funds. We common folk might call such action extortion; she did not.

The gist of the MA argument is that the states get all the powers that the Constitution does not assign to the federal government, particularly as covered in the Tenth Amendment. Trying to find some, any, justification, the federal government argued that it was only trying to spend our money wisely, so it had such powers that affect benefits, including who is married, regardless of state law.

In his judgment on this case, Tauro included a long passage (Commonwealth, page 25) from a case that specifically defined this spending tack:
In South Dakota v. Dole,136 the Supreme Court held that “Spending Clause legislation must satisfy five requirements: (1) it must be in pursuit of the ‘general welfare,’ (2) conditions of funding must be imposed unambiguously, so states are cognizant of the consequences of their participation, (3) conditions must not be ‘unrelated to the federal interest in particular national projects or programs’ funded under the challenged legislation, (4) the legislation must not be barred by other constitutional provisions, and (5) the financial pressure created by the conditional grant of federal funds must not rise to the level of compulsion.
The feds have played loose with this approach before. They are invested in such control and I suspect the Tenth Amendment issue will be the hardest fight. Times are tight and they may well claim fiscal prudence. Unfortunately, if they try to do it both by setting us citizen classes and by taking prohibited powers, they have a damned hard sell.

In Commonwealth (page 27), the judgment is unequivocal:
And so, as DOMA imposes an unconstitutional condition on the receipt of federal funding, this court finds that the statute contravenes a well-established restriction on the exercise of Congress’ spending power. Because the government insists that DOMA is founded in this federal power and no other, this court finds that Congress has exceeded the scope of its authority.
On the next page, he concludes:
That DOMA plainly intrudes on a core area of state sovereignty—the ability to define the marital status of its citizens—also convinces this court that the statute violates the Tenth Amendment.
Congressional sorts seem as a group to hate to hear they may not be the bosses of the world. Yet, that's one role of federal courts, including the SCOTUS.

The decision gets a bit historical on this issue. Tauro cites pre-founding-fathers colonial control over marital statue (page 30). He also calls directly to the current SCOTUS on the next page with, "That the Supreme Court, over the past century, has repeatedly offered family law as an example of a quintessential area of state concern, also persuades this court that marital status determinations are an attribute of state sovereignty."

In fact, Tauro finds that DOMA actually strips Massachusetts of statehood, that is its ability "to fulfill its role in the Union" (pp. 33-34). The extortion-like call to do DOMA or lose millions by not discriminating was the core of Coakley's original filing.

Tauro wraps up this angle with (page 36):
This court has determined that it is clearly within the authority of the Commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages among its residents, and to afford those individuals in same-sex marriages any benefits, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of their marital status. The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and, in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment. For that reason, the statute is invalid.
He did his best to frame the appeals. He seems to have left out detailed discussions of other areas where the feds have nibbled away at states' rights in determining such benefits as immigration permission. We can be sure that any vigorous appeal will claim necessity in snatching those rights.

He managed to keep very complex law to under 40 pages in each decision. He telegraphed and then iterated the points he'd make. Tauro left little parsing room. The game is afoot.

Friday Update: The Washington Post runs a follow-up saying the Department of Justice is poring over Tauro's rulings and that other AGs may be considering their own DOMA challenges. Particularly as this goes to an appeal in the First Circuit, the principles become larger and more relevant to other states, such as the other four plus D.C. who have legalized SSM.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

DOMA Doomed (Temp.)

Delightfully, but not astonishingly, the U.S. District Court here in the gay-marriage-friendly commonwealth finds the obvious. Sure enough, DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) violated equal protection.

Federal Judge Joseph Tauro agreed with the MA AG contention that DOMA spits on the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That it, it took powers of the states and federalized them.

As recapped in Bay Windows, this was a double-down day, in the Gill case, Tauro also found that the same invidious act violated due process (5th Amendment). Honest to God, the scofflaw gay-bashers need to get a handle on history!

I'll go into details as I see the decisions. Meanwhile, be sure that even though the tepidly moderate Obama administration has little stomach for defending DOMA, this is likely to head up to the Supremes. If the SCOTUS decides to take this, we could finally get the action a brave President would have demanded two years ago.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Time for Church Credibility

Even my Roman Catholic friends have stopped. From our distances, there's no resolution to that church's self-created crises. Every chance archbishops all the way up have had to be wise, honest, and well, Christian, on big issues, they have failed.

Well, the Pope's not stupid is one stereotypical comment, as though position proves prudence. Alas, the big guy behaving stupidly repeatedly at length damns by deed.

As a non-Catholic, I had no intention of drawing any blood least until the Belgium thingummy. The official Vatican reaction to raids there on RC offices as part of criminal probes rouses me though. It illustrates too clearly how troubled the thinking of the church hierarchy remains. They seem willing from Benedict down to destroy it all.

About sexual abuse by RC clerics, it has too long been obvious that nothing works until priests and nuns face any necessary criminal charges and penalties. The Vatican's attitude that some expanded form of the uniquely U.S. manifestation of separation of church and state protects their pedophiles is worse than stupid. In an era when the only growing areas for the church, as in Africa, demand such rights as marriage for clergy, there's much more at stake than keeping perverts out of jail or trying to minimize civil judgments.

A detailed history of the Vatican's role in this all appears in today's NYTimes. If you click that, be sure to also visit the interactive timeline on the current Pope's involvement.

Of prime importance in the article is that the authority and mechanisms from dealing with clerical abuses have been in place since 1922 — just not used. Moreover, bishops from various countries specified problems general and specific as well as spoke and wrote calls for action...before everything arrived where we are now.

So, there you have it, the Vatican down through at least archbishops stakes out a position that church law is all that is required. Unfortunately for this position, we aren't square in criminal and civil terms if a prelate counsels a transgressor or reassigns a child abuser. There should bes no wink, wink allowed.

With the figurative flapping of cassocks and search for smelling salts, RC officials decried Belgian judicial officials seizing national-archive records and even police searching two cardinals' tombs for hidden documents. In the end though, it may be particularly good that the Belgian authorities were so heavy handed. This could well highlight the limits of church authority over criminal conduct.

Here's a huge religious organization that has failed to police itself for centuries. When we hear their top administrators say, "Trust us. We have this under control," even my Catholic chum roll their eyes.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Flow-Through Icelandic Marriage

A quiet beneficiary of Iceland's new legalization of same-sex marriage was proponent Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, Her relationship's legal upgrade suggests what will be in store in numerous U.S. states when they get their acts together.

A couple of weeks after the law change, she and long-term partner Jónina Léosdóttir filed for the automatic change from registered partnership to married. The request was validated 6/28. That was scene, no ceremony and apparently no cake.

Despite the bizarre winger claims that SSM will disrupt the world and cause chaos at local registrars and their equivalent, the Icelandic example should be the norm here when and where it becomes licit. This is someone's business because Sigurdardóttir is head of state. Here's hoping the same happens soon at a state near you.

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